Thursday, April 12, 2018

Vacation Mini Review Roundup!

I was just on Spring Break (and am leaving for New York tomorrow for my cousin's wedding) and got a lot of reading done! I didn't quite get to all the books I brought, but here's reviews for the ones I did :)



The Blind by A.F. Brady

A story about a troubled psychologist and her mysterious patient, this book was an okay read. I had trouble connecting with the characters, and while the plot was suspenseful enough to keep me turning pages, I was able to call a lot of the major twists.

Lies She Told by Cate Holahan

The lines become blurred between fact and fiction when a writer finds herself and her husband as prime suspects in a case that strongly resembles the novel she is currently writing. I really enjoyed how the lines were so blurred that I would sometimes become confused whose story I was reading-it was a really effective technique given the main plot. There were also some good twists and turns that had me really surprised.

Lie to Me by J.T. Ellison

This book started out strong, with a note left by a wife to her husband, suggesting she just needs to get away for a few days. But there are secrets under the surface of what seemed like a perfect marriage, that slowly leak out. I really enjoyed the twists and turns that left me really surprised. But I felt the book felt a little too long, and the ending felt too pat and not in keeping with everything we had learned about the characters.

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris

I'm so glad I finally read this book I had heard everyone raving about. It definitely lived up to the hype for me. It's the story about a seemingly perfect marriage, with a slow build that is so creepy it made my skin crawl. The use of flashbacks is so effective in building suspense. There are so many authors trying to make this exact plot work, and Paris is definitely at the top of the list for authors who know how to work this story line the right way.

Soulmates by Jessica Grose

This book was centered around a clever idea, a woman who sees in the newspaper one day that her husband, who left her to join a mysterious spiritual retreat, has died in a possible murder suicide. She has always struggled to let his memory go, and now she feels the compulsion to find out just what happened to him, and to understand just who he was and what their relationship truly meant. But the ending kind of drove me crazy. I see where Grose was going with it, but it just didn't seem to fit, at least to me.



What have you been reading recently?


Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Review: The Perfect Nanny



This book is the definition of chilling. Slimani tells readers in the very first sentence exactly what the end of this story is going to be, but somehow manages to keep the suspense at both a slow burn and a fever pitch.

On the surface, this is the tale of a family who hires a nanny, Louise, when the mother goes back to work. They hire a nanny who their children love, who keeps their house clean and cooks meals their friends are envious of.

But all is not what it seems.

Slimani is masterful at ripping off the facade, of showing what it is that truly boils under the surface of a human being, especially one in a determined role of subservience. Louise is family, but she's not. She is loved, but she's not. Louise seems perfect, but she's not. Besides the chill of what you know is coming from sentence one, there is also the chill of the way the characters treat each other, the way humans can treat each other. And then there is a scene with a chicken carcass, and that's all I'm going to say about that so as not to spoil anything, but it just might be one of the eeriest, creepiest, most haunting things I've read in a long time.

This is a quick read, not just in length, but because this is a book that will not let you put it down.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Mini Review: The Man From the Train



In The Man From the Train, James (with research assistance from McCarthy James), tackles the unsolved ax murders that shook America in the early to mid 1900s. Using his statistician background, James analyzes the crimes to prove they were part of a series, committed by one man, and then tells you who that one man was.

This is an amazing, fascinating, gripping read (I read the last 300 pages in one sitting). James' previous true crime book, Popular Crime, is one of my all-time favorites. He has a really unique take on true crime because of his mathematics background-but don't worry if you aren't a math person (I am not in any way a math person), because James' doesn't throw formulas at you. He uses his skills to analyze data and present a solution that no one has come up with before. James' also has this fantastically wry writer's style, that will have you giggling at times, even in the middle of a true crime book.

I would definitely, 100% recommend this book. And I would also 100% recommend that while you're picking this book up, get James' Popular Crime.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Mini Review: Dead Girls Don't Wear Diamonds



Nora Blackbird comes from old money, but that money is essentially gone thanks to her parents' indiscretions. Now she works as a society columnist, attending parties and fundraisers with the still-rich. And she's also possibly dating a man who may be a mobster--at least, his family are. Add in the wife of an ex-boyfriend being found dead at the bottom of a pool, and Nora's life has gotten plenty complicated.

This is such a fun cozy mystery. Martin's storytelling reminds me some of Janet Evanovich and her Stephanie Plum series, outlandish characters that work so well, a tough-as-nails heroine juggling love and stopping criminals, and a great sense of humor pervading the mystery. I'm definitely going to be reading the rest of this series.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

One Goal: A Coach, A Team, And The Game That Brought A Divided Town Together



Full disclaimer first: The author of this book is my cousin. That said, I would have wanted to read this book regardless, and I would have loved it regardless. It's thought-provoking, uplifting, and inspiring, and a fascinating read.

One Goal tells the true story of a high school soccer team, where Somali refugees not only play alongside boys whose families can trace their Maine lineage back generations, but play as a band of brothers. They weather cruel words thrown at them by opposing teams' fans and by people who live in their own town, even by a mayor who asks that Somalis stop coming to "his town". Through all this, they are a team, who stick together, play together, and win together. They are led by Coach McGraw, who never gives up on them and loves them as his own, who inspires them to greater heights than they ever thought they could reach.

This is a book that is desperately needed today. In a time when there are so many divides between people, when there is once again a politician calling for refugees to stay away, we all need to be reminded that we are stronger together.

You will not be able to stop rooting for this high school team, and for the inspiring lesson they, and Bass, impart.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Review: Into the Thinnest of Air



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: Into the Thinnest of Air
Author: Simon R. Green
Publication Date: March 1, 2018
Genre: Paranormal/Supernatural/Mystery
Recommended If You Like: a healthy dose of the paranormal and supernatural with your mystery, locked room mysteries, creepy country inns, local legends

The Book:

When Ishmael Jones' partner Penny is invited to the private reopening of a infamous inn, they learn of the legend behind it, that the previous owner poisoned all his dinner guests while his wife and child disappeared. But when people in the present start disappearing, what began as a dinner among old friends turns into a frightening and possibly supernatural locked room mystery.

What I Liked:

This is a creepy book with a lot of suspense. I'm always a sucker for a locked room mystery, especially one tinged with a horror aspect, and this story definitely delivers on that end. The ending also packs quite a punch, and is not one I saw coming.

Anything I Didn't Like?

I have to admit, I almost put this book down within the first two pages, because the strangeness factor behind the main character, Ishmael, just seemed so, to put it bluntly, weird. I hadn't known what the premise behind him was (and won't say it here to avoid spoilers), which is a good thing, because I wouldn't have picked up the book otherwise. It's not a bad or nasty thing, it's just not at all what I expected when I picked up a mystery.

So...?

I'm definitely glad I kept going with this book, because it ended up being so full of suspense, and horror aspects, and mystery. And that ending was really well-done. Get past the premise of the main character and you're in for a clever mystery.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Why Turtles All the Way Down Means So Much to Me



There are times when you pick up a book at the exact time you need it. This was one of those times, and this was one of those books.

In John Green's Turtles All the Way Down, we meet Aza, a sixteen year old consumed by anxiety and obsessive compulsive thoughts, feeling forced by her own brain to focus on the bacteria that surround her and the bacteria she knows are inside her, an absolute all-consuming compulsion that compels her to reopen a cut on her fingerpad over and over to make sure it is clean and not infected.

When a billionaire goes missing, on the run because of shady things he's done with his money, Aza finds herself and her best friend drawn into the mystery, because of the reward, but also because of Aza's past connection with the fugitive's son, Davis. As Aza is drawn into the seemingly infinite and and completely overwhelming spirals of her own mind, she struggles to hold onto herself and the relationships she has formed.

Aza is so so painfully and amazingly real. Green has done a masterful and important thing by making her the first person narrator of her own story. I needed and need Aza, as I am sure so many readers did and do. I picked this book up not only because of glowing recommendations from people I care about, but also because I needed it. I am in the midst of my own work on my own anxiety disorder and depression, especially following the loss of my beloved dog, and while it is nowhere near where Aza finds herself, there is still so much in the book I could relate to, so much I needed to hear put into words. Green understands it so well because he's been there, and is still there, and this allows him to write with such honesty. He tells a story that needs to be told, because it makes all of us out there who can relate feel and know we are not alone. And that there is nothing to be ashamed of, no need to hide--a best-selling author has put out a best-selling book that tells our truth--and who we are is important, and valid, and makes us no less than anyone around us.

It is so rare to find a book that you keep nodding your head along to, that you feel every word in your heart, that resonates so strongly, and that makes you feel uplifted in your soul. This was one of those books for me. I recommend it with my whole heart, and with my spiraling, but beautiful, mind.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Review: Grit



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.

This book is a bit of an enigma to me. Not much really happens, but yet it's interesting enough to keep me reading.

In Grit, we meet Darcy, who everyone in town loves to spread rumors about and call the "town slut". But she's fine hiding behind the gossip so she doesn't have to think about the truth-what happened to her cousin Nell, her missing best friend, and herself, on the Fourth of July. Then someone nominates Darcy for Bay Festival Princess, and she can't hide anymore.

This book moves around through Darcy's everyday life, raking berries during the summer to try to earn extra cash, spending time with her family, interacting with boys and friends. But while on the surface it seems like a story that is meandering around, knowing that there is so much simmering under the surface kept me turning pages. French drops lots of small, almost hidden, hints that add up to subtle foreshadowing about what is to come, and there's this overarching sense of depressing dread that makes this book so atmospheric.

I don't see myself rushing out to read more of French's work, simply because there are so many other books in this genre that are already demanding my attention. But if you are looking for a quick, highly atmospheric almost haunting read, with a slow build and some real emotional punches, this would be a good one to pick up.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Review: Muffin to Fear





Muffin to Fear by Victoria Hamilton first grabbed my attention on the shelf because a) it's a cozy mystery and b) it involved a ghost hunting TV team coming to the protagonist's inherited castle (Also because it was an entry in the series from 2017 and in such great shape for only costing me $1 at the thrift store!). Merry Wynter, newly married baker, returns to her home, Wynter Castle, to discover her best friend Pish hosting the cast and crew of Haunt Hunt, a paranormal investigation television show. They are at the castle to film because they feel the many murders that have occurred there have a strong possibility of having left some residual spirits lurking. But this is a group with a lot of residual drama lurking among themselves, which will out itself in homicide.

The first few pages I wasn't really sure I was going to enjoy this book, namely because Hamilton got so caught up in dropping unsubtle innuendos about the narrator's honeymoon. But once the characters got back to the castle, and the drama with the ghost hunters began, I was hooked. I'm always in it for the mystery (and I'm also fascinated by the paranormal and paranormal investigation teams), and this was a good, gripping mystery. I didn't even notice how long it took to get to the first murder, because the dramatics were building up so fascinatingly.

The reoccurring cast of characters and the strength of the plot means I will definitely be coming back for more of this series!


Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Review: The Wolf




In Wolf, readers meet Jessica James, a graduate student with a nightmare of an adviser, who stumbles on his dead body after he refuses to give her back her thesis. This draws her into a web of conspiracy on campus and a case of missing paintings, leading her into contact with frat boys and the Russian Mafia alike.

My favorite thing about this book was the cast of strong female characters. This is a group of women who do things on their own terms, who refuse to be held back or to bow down to anyone. They look out for each other and for other women, all while kicking butt and taking names.

This is also a funny mystery, which I always enjoy. Oliver throws in everything and the kitchen sink, and it works because she uses an irreverent tone when writing about the society she has placed her characters in.

This is a unique mystery, with unique characters that are a lot of fun to spend some time with.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Review: A Whisper of Bones



Title: A Whisper of Bones
Author: Ellen Hart
Publication Date: February 27, 2018
Genre: Mystery
Recommended If You Like: family drama, LGBTQ+ main characters, secrets from the past

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.

The Book:

What do you do when you remember someone from your childhood, but your family denies that he ever existed? In Britt Ickles' case, you hire Jane Lawless, private investigator. Jane starts on the case, but a set of bones found in a garage after a mysterious fire complicates matters even further.

What I Liked:

Jane is a compelling main character. She is smart and resourceful, but still human, as she tries to figure out what she should do about an ex-love who now is back in her world due to a life-threatening illness.

I also love the premise. The idea of someone denying the existence of a person that you absolutely remember is really eerie, and makes me want to know more.

Anything I Didn't Like?

Hart just tries to fit too much in. There is so much going on, so many subplots, that the mystery suffers. I felt like the solution to the mystery was telegraphed too early, so there wasn't really a lot of suspense. And while I appreciated one of the twists, there was just so many stories flying at me simultaneously that it got sort of lost in the crowd.

So...?

This is by no means a bad book, it's an okay book with a lot of potential that never got realized. I think if Hart had decided what the focus was, and built from there, the book would have been a lot stronger.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Reviews: The Last Mrs. Parrish




In The Last Mrs. Parrish, Constantine (actually the pen name of two sisters writing together) tells the story of Amber, a woman who feels no one sees her and is determined to be seen. She covets the life of Daphne, married to a rich and handsome husband, and does everything in her power to take that life for herself, including becoming the best friend Daphne can rely on. But it might be better for Amber to stay in the shadows, as she has a past with the ability to end all her power plays and bring her down.

I wanted to love this book. I've heard so many good things about it, it's all over book lovers' social media accounts, and it seems to be the book everyone is talking about. So when I finally made it to the top of the extensive hold list for a copy from the library, I was really excited.

The first part had me hooked. While Amber is highly unlikable, that is the point. Her scheming ways, the hint of something from her past lurking just out of view, the possibility that she will be found out, the possibility that she will get everything she wants...I flew through Part 1.

And then I got to Part 2.

While I absolutely appreciate a big twist in a book (actually one of my absolute favorite things to discover in a book I'm reading), the twist still has to make sense. It has to be rooted in some way to what has come before. It can't be shocking just to be shocking.This twist, while definitely surprising, felt out of left field to me.  Then Part 3, while satisfying in many ways, also felt a little too neat and tidy for what had come before.

This book definitely had potential, and it was by no means a bad read. It kept me turning pages quickly, wanting to know what was coming next. But I've read a lot better. If you are looking for a book with these kinds of themes-love triangle, jealously, replacement-pick up The Wife Between Us instead, which spins a twist that will make you gasp out loud but still makes sense when you look back.


Monday, February 12, 2018

Review: Truly Devious




Stevie Bell loves mysteries and true crime. They fascinate her and help to calm her anxiety. So when she is admitted to Ellingham Academy, she knows exactly what she wants to do-solve the decades old mystery of Truly Devious, who kidnapped the founder's wife and daughter, leaving a taunting poem behind.

But when death comes back to Ellingham, Stevie is faced with the fact that she may have to solve a very current and dangerous mystery as well.

First things first-I love so much that the protagonist is a girl with anxiety, who also loves mysteries and true crime. It was so great to have a lead character in a story who I feel so much commonality with. Johnson really depicts aspects of anxiety so well, and glimpses into Stevie's mind ring so true.

To add to this, this is a great story. The mystery is so suspenseful, and the characters feel like real people. Interestingly, the flashbacks to the original crime were actually a little less compelling to me than what was happening in the present day. As much as I want to know the solution to the original crime (and I really do), I felt so drawn in by the present day characters,

The only downside to this book is that it looks like the second book in this trilogy isn't coming out until 2019, and I can't wait that long! If the rest of the trilogy is as strong as this first entry, those will be three books I will be needing to have on my bookcase.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Review: Right Behind You



Title: Right Behind You
Author: Lisa Gardner
Publication Date: January 31, 2017
Genre: Mystery/Thriller/Suspense/Psychological
Recommended If You Like: family drama, mysteries with action

I received a copy 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.

The Book:

Some might find it ironic that Sharlah is on the cusp of being adopted by two people involved in law enforcement. After all, eight years ago her older brother, Telly, killed their drunk and abusive father with a baseball bat. While he did it to save Sharlah's life, they haven't seen each other since the incident.

But when a spree shooter seemingly goes on a rampage, and video footage captures Telly on the scene with a gun. Sharlah must face her past, face her brother, and decide what their future holds.

What I Liked:

This book had a lot of suspense. Flashbacks to eight years ago kept me wondering what had truly happened that night and what it meant about Telly and Sharlah. The search for Telly in the present was well-plotted out as well, involving everyone from trackers to profilers, which also kept the suspense up. There was one particular twist near the end that, even though it was small, had me gasping out loud with how well Gardner had tricked me.

I also really liked the relationship between Sharlah and her soon to be adoptive parents Quincy and Rainie. While these are reoccurring characters in a series I had not previously read, I still felt very invested in them and their story.

Anything I Didn't Like?

The ending got a little confusing for me. It felt like Gardner had all these ideas for directions the story could go and put them all in. I appreciated that she wanted to take the idea of a "family drama" and really run with it in a unique direction, but the last third of the book could get hard to follow.

So...?

This is a gripping read that will keep you in suspense. I wish the ending was a bit stronger and a bit clearer, but this was still a book I couldn't put down.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Book Photography!

On top of loving to read books, I love to take pictures of them! I've gotten even more into this with my new phone, that comes with a really amazing camera.





If you'd like to see more, and/or keep up on what I'm currently reading and photographing, you can find me on Instagram as bookkeepersapprentice . If you have a book instagram account, please let me know, I'd love to follow you!

Friday, February 2, 2018

Review: Good as Gone



When Julie Whitaker, kidnapped from her home when she was only thirteen years old, seemingly returns to her family, it seems her parents and sister can finally begin to heal. But then a private detective begins to feed the flames of doubt Julie's mother, Anna, has already been feeling. If this woman isn't her daughter, who is she? And why would she be pretending to be Julie?

Gentry has created a very suspenseful story. From the first chapter, when readers witness Julie's kidnapping through the eyes of her younger sister, Jane, we are given a look into a tale both tragic and twisted. While one aspect of the story moves forward, the other moves back in time, multiple perspectives upping the mystery.

The one downside of these clever writing choices is that the book can occasionally get confusing. I had a hard time sometimes keeping track of what was happening and to whom. But I think this confusion was purposeful, and makes sense given what readers later learn about the characters and their lives up to that point.

This is the second book in a row I have read dealing with child abduction, and one among many out there that have offered a fictionalized take on an all-too-real subject. But Gentry has created a unique story that will keep you guessing and have you unable to stop turning pages.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Review: The Marsh King's Daughter



In The Marsh King's Daughter, Dionne deftly and deeply explores the bonds and breaking of families, through the unique lens of a narrator who is the daughter of a kidnapping victim and her kidnapper.

Helena has formed a family of her own, with a new last name and a past she has hidden away. She is the daughter of a woman kidnapped and held captive for years, and the kidnapper. But when her father escapes from prison, Helena must confront her past and all her father taught her, because she is the only one who can track him down.

Dionne does a really good job of alternating between past and present to build suspense. Readers learn of Helena's upbringing and all her father taught her about hunting and tracking, and then see her put those skills to use in a high-stakes chase of the self-same father.

What is particularly compelling about this book is how much Dionne makes you think as she spins a highly suspenseful tale. Helena's father was not only a kidnapper and captor, but a brutal one, but he was also the only father Helena ever knew. Helena's mother seemed so passive and meek during Helena's childhood, but she was also a woman forced to live as wife to the man who had stolen her from her life. Helena must figure out what she feels about the people who created her, and what this means for her future with the family she has chosen.



Sunday, January 28, 2018

Review: Genuine Fraud



Title: Genuine Fraud
Author: E. Lockhart
Publication Date: September 5, 2017
Genre: Young Adult/Suspense
Recommended If You Like: Lockhart's stated influences--The Talented Mr. Ripley and The Man in the Rockefeller Suit, stories told backwards

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.

The Book:

This is the tale of Imogen. And Jule. Who may be who they say they are. Or maybe not. Who you may be able to trust. Or maybe not.

What I Liked:

Once this book gets going, it is a good read. There are a lot of twists and turns that caught me unawares, which is always enjoyable for me.

Anything I Didn't Like?

Unfortunately, this book takes quite a while to get going. I found it slow moving and very confusing in the beginning, and the confusion did not abate as much as I would have liked as the story progressed. The idea of a story being told backwards is a very clever one, but the way Lockhart handles it makes for a lot of flipping back and forth trying to figure out what is going on.

So...?

I had such high hopes for this book, because I loved We Were Liars. That's the reason I kept reading, but this was not the followup from Lockhart I was so hoping for. The last half of the book bumps the rating up to 3 stars for me, but I wouldn't blame people who didn't keep reading past the first half.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Review: The Devils You Know


Title: The Devils You Know
Author: M.C. Atwood
Publication Date: October 3, 2017
Genre: Horror/Supernatural/Young Adult
Recommended If You Like: creepy houses, resilient teens, supernatural horror

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.

The Book:

Boulder House is a house of legends and secrets, beginning with its original owner, who may have spread a curse, and continuing with the whispers that surround it to this day. When a local high school organizes a field trip to the site, five very different teens find themselves pitted against evils far deeper and darker than they could have imagined.

What I Liked:

I loved the premise--I love creepy reads, haunted houses, and mysterious legends. This book had pretty constant suspense and horror, which is what kept me turning pages.

Anything I Didn't Like?

Unfortunately, I didn't like essentially everything else. I understand that one of the points of the book is the seemingly-cliched characters' secrets being spilled and their true selves being revealed, but the cliches are just so cliched, and the secrets and"true selves" also just so cliched, as to provoke eye rolls. As these characters are so completely the center of the story, it was something I couldn't get past.

So...?

This book has been described as "equal parts Cabin in the Woods and The Breakfast Club", but to me at least, it is missing both the meta cleverness of the first and the smashing of stereotypes of the latter. The only thing that kept me turning pages (besides that I was reading it for a few challenges) was that it is truly scary. This book had such a clever premise, but sadly the execution fell far short.



Thursday, January 25, 2018

Review: Lie With Me



Title: Lie With Me
Author: Sabine Durrant
Publication Date: December 29. 2016
Genre: Psychological Suspense
Recommended If You Like: unlikable and unreliable (but fascinating) narrators, highly surprising twists and turns, the past coming into the present

The Book:

Lies have always led the narrator's life, and gotten him to where he is. But when lies take him on what should be an idyllic holiday, he begins to realize his lies may have finally caught up with him this time.

What I Liked:

The ending! The ending completely shocked me, and I loved it for doing that.

What's really impressive is that Durrant has created an unlikable narrator who didn't turn me off from reading the book. I wanted to keep going on the journey with him, find out if he was going to be able to redeem himself, and find out what was going to happen to him.

Anything I Didn't Like?

This is another book that runs a little slow for my tastes. I love a good slow build, but not when my interest starts to wane some.

So...?

This is book that takes you on a journey, with an unreliable narrator who you just might feel for, and an ending twist that will absolutely surprise you.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Review: Friend Request



Title: Friend Request
Author: Laura Marshall
Publication Date: September 5, 2017
Genre: Psychological Thriller/Suspense
Recommended If You Like: social media stories, secrets from the past, explorations of friendship, creepy stories with slow-building suspense

The Book:

When Louise gets a Facebook friend request from Maria, her world stops--Maria is dead. Or at least she's supposed to be. One online notification sends Louise spiraling back into her past, forced to confront her actions and face the fear that everything that happened back then may be about to be revealed.

What I Liked:

I really liked the way Marshall explored social media, the idea of presenting our best selves and spinning our identities online. This is a really topical subject, and I enjoyed the way Marshall created such a suspenseful story around it.

And this was a suspenseful story. There's a slow build with a major eeriness factor that had me constantly wondering just what was lurking on the next page. Plus the twist at the end had me completely surprised!

Anything I Didn't Like?

The slow build occasionally felt a little too slow. And while it's, ironically, hard for me to put into words exactly why the writing style felt a little lacking to me, it did. I'm hopeful that is something that will develop as Marshall gets more books under her belt, as her ability to come up with a twisty plot is definitely already there.

So...?

You don't need to rush out and buy this book right away, there are definitely some stronger showings in this genre, but the plot twist at the end is really great. Marshall clearly knows how to plot a good story, and how to create a real sense of creepiness in her psychological tales, and I strongly suspect with time everything else will tighten up to match her current strengths.


Thursday, January 18, 2018

Review: Lady Killers



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. 

In Lady Killers, Telfer tells the true stories of fourteen female serial killers from history, ranging from groups of women who banded together to poison the men in their lives, to a woman who kept finding her way to elderly men and their money. Telfer has a wonderfully wry writing style, and manages to find moments of subtle humor amidst the darkness, making her book very accessible, while never losing sight of her subject matter.

I have read a lot of true crime, and I hadn't heard of many of these women. And that is one of Telfer's main points. That whatever media existed at their time marveled at how a woman could commit such heinous crimes, and then history promptly forgot them, proclaiming every time that this was the first female serial killer.

I would absolutely recommend this book for true crime readers, as well as people interested in history and women's studies.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Review: The Woman in the Window



So far I am two for two on my gift card purchases! I used my second gift card from my students to buy this book as soon as it came out, and I am so glad I did-this is up there with The Chalk Man as favorite reads of 2018-a title I suspect they will hold on to all the way through to December 31st.

In The Woman in the Window, Anna Fox hasn't left her home in ten months, too afraid of the memories in her head and the world outside her door. She watches old movies and the neighbors she can see through her window, until one night her world expands for the worst as she witnesses something horrifying. When no one believes her--and she's not even sure she can believe her own mind--Anna sets out to figure out the truth.

This book is amazing. The suspense is tangible, building slowly into a crescendo. Twists and turns keep coming, and while I suspected one, I never guessed the magnitude of it. And the end twist! It made my jaw drop. Like The Chalk Man, those last few pages left me reeling, but made perfect sense looking back.

The Woman in the Window may have a lot of pages, but it flies by. I definitely recommend getting a copy of this book as soon as possible.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Review: Another One Bites the Crust



Title: Another One Bites the Crust
Author: Ellie Alexander
Publication Date: January 2, 2018
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Recommended If You Like: baked goods, fun characters, small town settings

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.

The Book:

When Jules' Capshaw is hired by her close friend, Lance, to provide the baked goods for his over-the-top Elizabethan extravaganza, she becomes a little concerned that he may be having a nervous breakdown. But when his lead actor is found murdered, and Lance becomes a prime suspect, Jules will have to go behind the scenes to solve the mystery and save her friend.

What I Liked:

I really enjoy this cozy mystery series-the characters are unique, fun, and lovable, and the setting is a place I want to go visit (and eat some of Jules' baked treats!). Jules makes a great protagonist and narrator, and is a well-developed and complex character who readers can't help but root for.

I also loved that this entry in the series was so focused on the theater. This meant Alexander was able to get even more fun Shakespeare references in, and I enjoyed all the behind the scenes scandals and drama.

Anything I Didn't Like?

While the solution to the mystery was a good one, I wasn't a fan of the fact that there was no way readers could solve it before the denouement. The clues needed weren't provided up until the big reveal.

So...?

This is a really fun cozy mystery series, one I would definitely recommend.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Review: The Chalk Man


It's rare that I get to buy a book the day it comes out, but thanks to gift cards from my students, I was able to hit up one of my favorite independent bookstores. 

I thought a long time about what books I wanted to buy. 

And I could not be happier that I picked The Chalk Man. Though it is only January 11, I have already found one of my top books of 2018.

The Chalk Man is absolutely brilliant. Tudor tells the story of Eddie, whose childhood code of chalk men was corrupted when it was used to lead him and his friends to a dismembered body. Now a grown man, his past is brought into his present when he and his friends begin receiving chalk messages again--and when one of them goes missing and is found dead. 

This book absolutely flies by. I read it in about 24 hours, staying up in bed turning pages until I had finished. It's so well-written, the alternating between the 1980's and 2016 used brilliantly to up the tension and suspense. The twists are so good, especially the final twist that made my jaw drop and still has me stunned. 

Get your hands on a copy of this book. I suspect it will be on many favorite lists of 2018.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Review: Just Between Us



Title: Just Between Us
Author: Rebecca Drake
Publication Date: January 9, 2018
Genre: Psychological Suspense/Thriller
Recommended If You Like: exploring the bonds of female friendships, examinations of domesticity, multiple narrators, suspense with twists

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.

The Book:

Alison, Sarah, Julie, and Heather, four mothers and friends living in the suburbs, seem to have perfect lives. But underneath each of their veneers are secrets and lies, hidden until one becomes too big to handle and envelops them all. Each must decide how far they are willing to go to protect their friends and the lives they have created.

What I Liked:

This is a very suspenseful book. There's a slow, chilling build up that keeps you flipping pages, knowing something big and terrible is coming. Drake does a very nice job with foreshadowing, dropping little bits of information throughout the text that makes you think you know what's going on, before she turns it all on its head.

Anything I Didn't Like?

I had a hard time really liking or connecting with the main characters. I just got really frustrated with some of the choices they were making, and with what I was guessing about their true characters and motivations.

So...?

This is definitely a gripping story with a lot of suspense, twists, and turns. I may not have loved the characters for the people they were, but I was caught up in their story and had to find out what was going to happen to them.






Monday, January 8, 2018

Review: Elephants on Acid and Other Bizarre Experiments


Sometimes you just need to re read a fascinating, fun favorite. This was one of those times, and this is one of those books.

Boese writes about the bizarre. In this book, he expounds on various scientific experiments over the years, that range from if people are more attracted to each other when terrified on a swaying bridge, to the titular exploration of just what elephants are like when dosed with LSD.

Some experiments are questionable, some are gross, some are famous, some are barely still remembered, but all are fascinating. You'll fly through this book, helped along by Boese's wry writing style, and come out knowing a lot more bizarre facts than you did going in.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Review: Disappearance at Devil's Rock



Title: Disappearance at Devil's Rock
Author: Paul Tremblay
Publication Date: June 21, 2016
Genre: Horror/Psychological Thriller
Recommended If You Like: a side of ambiguity with your horror, creepiness that creeps up on you

The Book:

Tommy Sanderson, a teenager, has gone missing. As his mother and sister frantically try to discover what has happened to him, mysterious things begin to happen all around them. Diary pages full of terror appear seemingly out of nowhere, neighbors report seeing a shadowy figure lurking by their windows, and Tommy's family feels his presence in ways they can't explain.

What I Liked:

Tremblay is a master at creating an almost unbearably creepy read. The suspense in this story builds slowly, but just quickly enough to get readers hooked and unable to stop reading.

The use of diary pages is a great device. Readers learn important information along with Tommy's family, which contributes to the tension as well.

Anything I Didn't Like?

While I really liked the idea of the diary pages, attempting to read them was more difficult than I would have liked. Because the font is set as to mimic tight, cramped handwriting, I found myself having to really work hard to decipher them (especially as I knew they contained important information).

The motivations of some of the characters, as well as the ambiguity of the ending, didn't really work for me as well. They felt like plot devices as opposed to choices that really served the story.

So...?

Tremblay is a talented writer, there is no question about that, and he has created another gripping story here. But whereas the ambiguity utilized in A Head Full of Ghosts (Tremblay's previous book) worked brilliantly and added to the haunting nature of the story, here it feels thrown in because it worked so well in the first book. Read A Head Full of Ghosts first. Then read Disappearance at Devil Rock. While you'll love Tremblay's first book, you'll simply like his second.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Review: The Fact of a Body


In The Fact of a Body, watching a tape of a convicted murderer turns everything Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich thought she knew, believed in, and had buried away on their respective heads. 

Ricky Langley has committed unspeakable acts, and seeing his face while working at a law firm deeply opposed to the death penalty, has made Marzano-Lesnevich realize her stance against execution may not be as firm as she had thought. This causes her to not only research Langley's case, but to delve deep into her own family history, to see how the secrets from her own past have brought her to the present moment.

This is one of those books that is both incredible and difficult, hard to read about subjects written about with impeccable craft and gripping motion. Marzano-Lesnevich has taken the true crime genre and merged it with the memoir genre, creating a hybrid that will break your heart as it draws you in, refusing to let go.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Review: Carrie



Carrie tells the tragic tale of Carrie White, a teenager bullied mercilessly by her peers and abused by her mother. When a cruel prank turns a kindness on its head, it triggers a horror that takes over the town.

This is a truly terrifying book. The opening scenes of how Carrie is treated by those around her are horrifying enough, but the ending scenes are some of the scariest passages I have ever read. Even knowing where the story was going (having seen the movie quite a few years ago at a sleepover-and being absolutely terrified by it then) didn't make the book any less compelling or frightening-in fact, it might even have made it a scarier read.

I especially liked King's use of (fictional) mixed media, from book excerpts to over-the-wire reports and interviews. They brought another depth to the story and upped the suspense. 

This is definitely not a light read (though it is a quick one), but it is a gripping one, a book you will not be able to put down.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Review: Monkey Mind




There are some books that really resonate with you, that are exactly what you need to be reading at the moment you are turning those pages.

This is one of those books for me.

Some personal information is important here. I have an anxiety disorder, and reading is something that helps to relax me. So when I can find a book that speaks truth about what I feel, it's really special for me.

Smith is someone who has been there, and continues to be there, and on top of that, he writes really well. I found myself nodding as I turned pages, feeling understood and inspired. He writes about his life and experiences, but he expands on his personal stories to make them universal truths.

Smith is honest, and heartfelt, and true. He has written the kind of book I want to give to people to help them understand what it feels like to live with anxiety, and that I want to keep on my shelf to revisit whenever it is needed.