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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.