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.