Monday, March 27, 2017

Review: The Mystery of Hollow Places



Title: The Mystery of Hollow Places
Author: Rebecca Podos
Publication Date: January 26, 2016
Genre: Young Adult/Mystery/Suspense/Psychological
Recommended If You Like: strong female characters, complex families, mysteries with psychological underpinnings

The Book:

Imogene's parents met when her father, a forensic pathologist, brought her mother in to identify a body. Her father became a famous mystery writer, and her mother left them behind. Now Imogene's father is the one who has left, and she decides she must use all she has learned from his books to find him and solve the mystery of her mother.

What I Liked: 

Podos has a beautiful writing style that really flows, and lends an almost surreal quality at times to what is definitely a strong mystery. I wanted to know what happened to Imogene's parents, why they left, where they were, and what Imogene would find.

Imogene is a very strong character, that you can't help but root for. Podos made me feel invested in the choices Imogene made, and what would happen to her.

Anything I Didn't Like?

There really wasn't anything I didn't like. This was a strong entry in the young adult mystery genre.

So...?

I would definitely recommend this book. It's a well-written, compelling young adult mystery that will have you invested.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Review: Ill Will



I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my opinion of the book or my review itself.

Title: Ill Will
Author: Dan Chaon
Publication Date: March 7, 2017
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Psychological/Thriller
Recommended If You Like: experimental writing styles, multiple perspectives, crimes from the past colliding with crimes from the present, psychology

The Book:

Told from multiple perspectives, this is the story of a crime from the past that occurred during the Satanic Panic, as well as crimes occurring in the present that may be committed by a serial killer known by the moniker "Jack Daniels".

What I Liked:

Chaon does a really great job of exploring what exactly truth means for each character. Is it okay to lie on the witness stand if you still really think the accused did it? How do we lie to ourselves? To our friends and family? Do we rewrite our own pasts to make us feel more comfortable with our choices?

The mysteries are definitely intriguing and kept me interested. And the twist to the present mystery caught me completely by surprise, which I absolutely loved.

Anything I Didn't Like?

Sometimes it seems like Chaon gets too experimental, almost as if he is doing experimental for experimental's sake. Some pages have three different perspectives running in three different columns all on the same page, which was used too frequently and got confusing towards the end, taking me out of the book. There are also sentences that just end, with words missing. I'm not sure if these are typos or if this is what Chaon intended, but there are a lot of them and it is distracting.

So...?

While I like my mysteries completely resolved, I still enjoyed this book, It's definitely different and interesting, and the mysteries will keep you guessing and keep you invested.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Review: Murder in Plain English



I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my opinion of the book, or my review itself.

Title: Murder in Plain English: From Manifestos to Memes-Looking at Murder Through the Words of Killers
Authors: Michael Arntfield and Marcel Danesi
Publication Date: March 7, 2017
Genre: Non-Fiction/True Crime
Recommended If You Like: true crime, literary analysis, critical thinking

The Book:

Arntfield and Danesi look at true crime and the culture surrounding it through the lens of literary analysis.

What I Liked:

As a former English major (in college), and someone who reads a lot of true crime, this book seemed tailor made for me, and it did not disappoint. This is a unique, well-researched take on a subject that has already had a lot written about it.

Anything I Didn't Like?

I did feel the book occasionally got off track and meandered a bit, but this happened pretty infrequently.

So...?

I would definitely recommend this book for anyone interested in true crime, and/or literary analysis, and who is looking for a fresh take on the subject.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Review: This Is Our Story




In This Is Our Story, Elston spins a tangled, eerie web of a story about secrets, lies, and the ties that bind us.

Everyone has heard about the River Point Boys. The five friends went into the woods to hunt, and when the hunt was finished, one of their own lay dead.

Kate is a high school student who works in the district attorney's office. She's already emotionally involved in this case for reasons she doesn't want to discuss with anyone, let alone her mother and her boss. Determined to get to the bottom of what truly happened, Kate starts digging deep, with possibly dangerous results.

I had been wanting to read this book since I first heard about it, and Elston did not disappoint. The book is nicely layered, with twists and turns I did not see coming. The characters are complex, and Kate is a character I definitely found myself cheering for. Elston's use of interview transcripts, and missives from a mysterious second narrator, make the story even more interesting.

This is a young adult mystery done right. I definitely recommend this read.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

What We're Reading Wednesday: March 15, 2017, and Some Mini-Reviews!



My school is doing a reading competition this month, and teachers' minutes count this year! So here's what I'm reading this Wednesday!


I've been wanting to read this book since I first heard about it, and it is living up to everything I hoped it would be! It's such a good, eerie young adult psychological mystery.


I'm starting this one tonight as my before-bed book. It's another one I've been wanting to read for quite a while, and I got my hands on a great hardcover copy at a used book sale.



I love P.D. James, and this is the first in her series featuring a female detective.



These are my current Kindle reads. The first seemed so completely up my alley I had to read it. And the second is actually the first in a cozy mystery series I started reviewing last week.

What are you reading?


                                                                   ************



I've had this book on my shelf for a while-it's an early reviewer book that didn't actually come in the mail until many months after it was supposed to-and my school's reading competition has bonus points for reading a book about basketball, so I was inspired to pick this up finally and get some extra points for my classroom!

Price tells the story of his year spent attempting to train his body and mind to be able to dunk a basketball. Along the way, he reveals personal stories about his and his family's life, as well as delving into the history of basketball, and jumping in general. 

As a huge basketball fan, I found this book most interesting when it focused on the basketball aspect of things, but in general, this was a good, quick read, with some real impactful emotional moments.




I knew I had to have this book the moment I heard about it, and reading it definitely lived up to my expectations. 

Ricca tells the true tale of a woman detective who took on the case of a missing girl, and ended up taking on her city as well. Ricca also explores the all-important question of how such an important, influential woman could be so little-known nowadays.

This book is fascinating from a true crime viewpoint, but also in the ways it explores the societal and cultural norms of the time. I highly recommend this read.


Sunday, March 12, 2017

Review: Crepe Factor



I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my opinion of the book, or my review itself.

Title: Crepe Factor
Author: Laura Childs
Publication Date: October 4, 2016
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Recommended If You Like: cozy mysteries, settings as characters, mysteries that make your mouth water

The Book:

It's the holiday season, but scrapbook shop owner Carmela has just seen a man die at her feet. The victim has ties to both the restaurant scene and the local environmentalists, and Carmela's ex is a prime suspect.

What I Liked:

I loved how Childs made the setting of New Orleans absolutely come alive. It made me want to visit there right away, and eat eat eat!

The characters are also very vivid, and Childs does an excellent job of making each character unique and memorable.

Anything I Didn't Like?

The title didn't really make sense. Crepes don't come into the book at all to my memory.

The solution to the mystery seemed a bit out of nowhere, but Childs did still make it work.

So...?

I've enjoyed the other books of Childs' I've read more. This one was enjoyable, but merely okay.


Saturday, March 11, 2017

Review: The Whole Art of Detection



I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my opinion of the book, or my review itself.

Title: The Whole Art of Detection
Author: Lyndsay Faye
Publication Date: March 7, 2017
Genre: Mystery
Recommended If You Like: all things Sherlock Holmes

The Book:

Faye has crafted a collection of short stories centered around Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson. These stories cover the early years of Holmes' career, through his supposed death and return, all the way through to years after he has resumed his life in London.

What I Liked:

Everything! The mysteries are fantastic and varied, and read just like the original canon stories do. Faye truly has a gift for capturing Doyle's spirit and voice within her takes on the tales.

I especially loved the more personal glimpses we get into Holmes' and Watson's hearts and heads. Holmes' return from the dead, and its emotional effects, is really examined here, in a beautiful way that is true to the original characters.

Anything I Didn't Like?

I absolutely loved this collection. I want to run out and own it right now so I can put it on my Sherlock Holmes' shelves. There was nothing I didn't like.

So...?

I highly recommend this book for any and all Holmes' fans.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Review: Bradstreet Gate



I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my opinion of this book or my review itself.

Title: Bradstreet Gate
Author: Robin Kirman
Publication Date: April 5, 2016
Genre: Mystery/Psychological/Suspense
Recommended If You Like: college settings, ambiguity, complex characters, philosophical ponderings wrapped in a murder mystery

The Book:

Three people enter Harvard as undergraduates, thinking this is the key to making their lives perfect. But an overly charming professor and a murder on campus shake their worlds to the core. As they graduate and grow into adults, the events from those four years continue to reverberate through every facet of their lives.

What I Liked:

I really liked Part 1, and the first half of Part 2. The mystery is highly intriguing, the characters are complex and interesting, and the writing style is excellent. Starting in modern day and flashing back to the events from the past creates a real sense of suspense that made me have to keep reading.

Anything I Didn't Like?

From the second half of Part 2, through the end of the book, I just didn't love it. The mystery I was promised gets lost in the characters' ponderings, and the story really seems to just sort of meander along.

 I'm someone who always wants a mystery resolved, and not having any resolution to this mystery really left me unsatisfied. Reading an essay by the author located in the back of the book, it does seem this was exactly the intention, but it's not an intention I really enjoyed.

So...?

To me, this definitely isn't the next The Secret History (one of my all-time favorite books), as some of the blurbs tout it as. This is not a bad book by any means, but the potential of the beginning of the book just seems to peter out about halfway through, and the non-solution left me unsatisfied.

I think Kirman was just trying to do too much. Honestly, if the murder hadn't been included at all, I think the book would have been a tighter read. The author's purpose could definitely have been achieved using the other relationships, dramas, and revelations within the pages.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Review: Never Missing, Never Found




Title: Never Missing, Never Found
Author: Amanda Panitch
Publication Date: June 28, 2016
Genre: Young Adult/Mystery/Psychological/Suspense
Recommended If You Like: twisty young adult mysteries, use of flashbacks, amusement parks

The Book:

Scarlett escaped from her captor once. Determined to put the past behind her, she is now working at a local amusement park. But when another girl goes missing, Scarlett starts to question the choices she made all those years ago.

What I Liked:

I'm going to jump right to the ending-the ending twist is amazing! This is another fantastic twist that made me gasp out loud and flip back pages to see how Panitch pulled off flipping her whole book on its head.

Panitch has a really nice writing style, that flows well and builds suspense for her story. She writes a unique take on a plot (missing girl) that has been written about a lot.

Anything I Didn't Like?

While I loved the ending twist, I did feel the very end came across as a bit melodramatic and didn't necessarily fit with the rest of the book.

So...?

I would definitely recommend this book. It's a quick, suspenseful read with a fantastic ending twist.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Review: Bel of the Brawl






I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my opinion of the book or my review itself.

Title: Bel of the Brawl
Author: Maggie McConnon
Publication Date: March 7, 2017
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Recommended If You Like: cozy mysteries, strong female protagonists, wedding-themed cozies, vivid settings

The Book: 

Bel is a chef for weddings at her family's estate, but murders keep happening around the happy events. This time, its the groom who has died, and a waitress and ten thousand dollar tip that have gone missing. And remains have been found on the island where Bel's best friend disappeared many years ago.

What I Liked:

This was a great cozy mystery. The characters are vivid and unique, as is the setting. There are a lot of twists and turns, and a budding romance as well. The crime from the past, that of Bel's missing best friend, is really intriguing.

Anything I Didn't Like?

I wanted to know more about Bel's best friend's case! But that is not a fault of the author, rather a plus in her book, as it means she has me hooked for more books in this series.

I didn't like that the solution to the previous book in the series was mentioned in this book, thus giving that ending away before I could read it.

So...?

If you like cozy mysteries, I would definitely recommend this one. It has all the hallmarks of a great book of this genre-unique characters, a vivid setting, and a compelling mystery, plus something that has you hooked in and needing to read more.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Review: Meet Your Baker




Title: Meet Your Baker
Author: Ellie Alexander
Publication Date: December 30, 2014
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Recommended If You Like: food, small town settings, coffee, cozy mysteries, characters you can relate to, strong female narrators

The Book:

In this fun start to a cozy mystery series, Juliet "Jules" Capshaw has returned to her hometown, nursing a broken heart. She settles back into working at her family's bakery, Torte, but her healing time is interrupted by the discovery of a dead body in the kitchen.

What I Liked:

Juliet is a strong, capable, and complex narrator and protagonist. She is easy to relate to and root for, as she works to find her place in the world.

The supporting cast of characters are unique and vividly written. Even though there is a large cast of characters, I had no trouble remembering them and telling them apart.

The mystery is a very intriguing one, with a lot of twists, turns, and red herrings. I definitely didn't guess the ending!

Anything I Didn't Like?

My only complaint would be that Juliet sort of stumbled into the solution to the mystery, rather than solving it herself necessarily, but it was her hard work and detection skills that moved things along.

So...?

I actually read a later book in this series before this one, and enjoyed that one as well. This is definitely a series I see myself returning to in the near future.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Review: The Amateurs



I've become a little wary of Sara Shepard's books. I started and got hooked on both her previous series, Pretty Little Liars and The Lying Game, only to give up on them a few books in when they got too outlandish for my tastes or simply lost my interest.

But from the minute I heard about her new book, The Amateurs, I knew I had to give it a try. It's centered around a website where online amateur sleuths attempt to solve cold cases, something I am fascinated by the idea of. A group from the website gets together in real life to try to solve one of the most famous and perplexing cold cases, that of a missing and then murdered teenage girl, but find things reach far further than they had ever anticipated.

This is a good read, and a quick one. I definitely found myself drawn in and wanting to know what happened next. The characters are compelling, as are the friendships and relationships forming between them. A few of the more minor characters verge on stereotypes that can feel overused, such as a crazed possible stalker female, but on the whole the characters are well-developed

And that ending! It is an amazing ending that left me gasping, and absolutely having to read the next book in the series. Shepard did an amazing job of hiding the truth right under her readers' noses, and it plays out brilliantly.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Review: A Study in Scarlet Women

Apologies if I don't update this as frequently as I typically do for the next few weeks. I've been having a lot of pain in my shoulder and neck, and finally went to the doctor this week. It turns out I have a pinched nerve and possibly slipped disc, which, among other things, means I can't carry hardcover books around (so I'm reading them at home with the book propped up on piles of pillows), and have to be careful on the computer. 



I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my opinion of the book or my review itself


Title: A Study in Scarlet Women
Author: Sherry Thomas
Publication Date: October 18, 2016
Genre: Mystery
Recommended If You Like: twists on the Sherlock Holmes canon, strong female protagonists

The Book: 

Charlotte Holmes refuses to mold herself to society's expectations of who a lady should be. Forced to fend for herself, she becomes entangled in the mysteries society tries to hide from the light of day.

What I Liked:

Sherlock Holmes is my all-time favorite literary character, and I am always intrigued by twists on the canon. I really enjoyed the nods Thomas gave to canon stories and characters, especially in the last chapter.

 I also love strong female protagonists, and Charlotte is very much her own woman. And while she is strong and brilliant, she is also human, allowing her to be easy to relate to as well.

Anything I Didn't Like?

There were way too many characters for me to keep track of. I got confused, especially towards the end, with who was who, and how they were connected. This affected my enjoyment of the solution of the mystery, because I wasn't sure I understood it all.

So...?

I had really high expectations for this book, given the positive reviews and accolades I had seen it getting, as well as the subject material. And it just didn't live up to them for me. It's by no means a bad book, but the mystery gets lost among the multitudes of characters and double (and even triple) identities.

I don't plan to be in a rush to pick up the rest of the series, though someday I might return to it in hopes that the author has tightened up the story lines and characters.