Book Review

Book Review: Where They Found Her 

It’s rare that I come across a mystery novel where I feel more engrossed by the lives of the living characters than I do the circumstances surrounding the dead characters. Usually, I’m flipping pages as quickly as I can read them to race to the end to find out if I’m right about who did it and why. Recently, I read a different kind of mystery, one that I read so slowly in order to fully absorb the complicated lives of all the many characters: Where They Found Her by Kimberly McCreight.

22693182

Now, there definitely is some tough subject matter in this book. The overall premise is that the dead body of a baby is found in a small college town, and as the facts about what happened come to light, a whole lot of other secrets come to the surface. This book is told from several different perspectives, which I think has become quite the trend in fiction. It really worked in this novel, and the multiple narrators helped me to really get to know and understand where the characters who coming from.

If I had to pick a main character, I would probably pick Molly – a young mom and journalist who recently suffered a miscarriage. Throughout this book, Molly’s sections explore motherhood and the many ways that guilt can arise for mothers. I found her to be flawed in a great, believable way. She seemed like a real person suffering from grief and loss and trying to figure out how to survive and move on. She doesn’t always make the right choices, but she is very endearing and she learns a lot about the world and herself throughout the novel.

One of my other favorite perspectives was Barbara. I felt like I learned so much about her as the book progressed. She might have been one of the least likable characters, especially at first, but I felt like I really understood her by the end. That’s not to say that she transformed into a more likable character. Rather, I understood why she did the things that made her seemed unlikable, and that enabled me to have more compassion for her and real people that I know who are kind of like her. It’s easy to judge people who come across as very intense and controlling, but this behavior often stems from deep insecurities or learned patterns of behavior from parents or other figures present in childhood.

I know I say this in almost every book review, but I don’t want to give too much away about the plot. While I was surprised by the revelations at the end, and I felt like they didn’t all quite seem believable, I found the ending to provide a very satisfying conclusion. I was actually quite sad when the book was over because I was so enjoying the reading experience. I guess this means that I should definitely pick up another book by this author (and I plan too!)

Advertisements
Book Review

Cozy Corner: White House Chef Mysteries 

While I review all genres of books on this blog, one type that is near and dear to my heart is the cozy mystery genre. These mysteries are characterized by amateur sleuths (often librarians, bakers, retired women, etc) and they have little to no violence, sexual content, or profanity. The murders always take place off scene, and the setting is often idyllic (despite the fact that a murder has occurred). I think that one of the reasons I’m so drawn to these books is because I know they’ll have a happy ending. Life is hard and sometimes I just need a guaranteed happy ending in my life. I’ve mentioned some cozies here among my other reviews, but I thought I’d start having a regular, expected “Cozy Corner” segment. The first series I want to review is the White House Chef Series by Julie Hyzy.

2261571

The first book in this series is State of the Onion. I love the pun-ny titles! (I think my favorite title is either Buffalo West Wing or Eggsecutive Orders). The series follows Olivia Paras, a chef in the White House who has an uncanny knack for stumbling upon murders. One highlight of the series is that it’s a bit more action-packed than other cozies. I liked the fast-pace and the fact that there were some moments where I genuinely worried about the character even though I was certain that everything would work out in the end – it is a cozy after all.

Olivia is a great protagonist. She is career- minded and has to have some introspection as to whether or not she has time for romance in her life. She is a hard worker and is very competitive in the cooking arena, but she still has a soft side and cares deeply for her friends. This is not only a protagonist that you can root for, but she is also someone with a lot of potential for growth over the course of the series. While some characters in cozies (ahem – Stephanie Plum) never seem to grow as people, Olivia is one who seems to learn something about herself in every book.

I think that cozy lovers will naturally love this series, but this one could also appeal to people who like action/adventure with their mysteries. The White House is also a really cool setting, and I feel like I learned some interesting details about how it is structured and some details about the traditional role of the First Lady. Overall, I’m happy to recommend this to anyone looking for a quick escape from reality!

Book Review

Book Review: In a Dark, Dark Wood

I haven’t been blogging as much because I went through a period of illness mixed with a busy school schedule, but I’m excited to be back online. While I was recovering, I read a really fantastic book: In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware.

23346377

This was a really exciting read, and I felt like I just didn’t want to put this one down. I needed to know what was going to happen next. This book is largely divided into two parts: for the first half, you’re trying to figure out who was murdered and for the second half, you’re trying to figure out who committed the murder. This one is filled with twists and turns and unreliable characters.

I had a few problems with the main character of Nora, but unfortunately I don’t think I can write about most of them without giving too much away. Overall, she did feel a little too contrived. She seems as if she was written to be too deliberately unreliable, and I think that this did take away from the story just a bit too much. Still, while I wasn’t thrilled by the lack of character depth, I was entranced by the plot and I would recommend this to anyone looking for a plot-driven mystery.

Book Review

Book Review: Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century

I work in a library, and when a patron came in ranting and raving about Anne Perry committing a murder, I thought maybe she was confused. However, after I googled it, I discovered that Anne Perry had helped to commit a murder when she was just 15 years old. To learn more about this situation, I read the book Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century by Peter Graham.

16277504

I must say that this story was fascinating. Back in the 1950s, Perry was known by her birth name Juliet Hulme. She and her friend Pauline had a bizarrely close relationship and together murdered Pauline’s mother. In this book, Graham did a great job at showing how their home lives and psychological issues might have contributed to what they did. He shows many factors that could have led to the murder and also discusses what happened to both women after they were let out of prison. Hulme served five years in prison because she was minor and then was reinvented as Anne Perry and became a wildly prolific author of murder mysteries.

After learning more about the situation, I’m not sure if I’ll be able to read another Anne Perry book. I feel like I’d just be distracted by thinking of her life and wouldn’t be able to separate that from the fiction. What do you think? If one of your favorite authors committed a horrible crime, would you still be able to read his or her works? I’m very curious!

Book Review

Best Books of 2016!

To be completely honest, I felt like I didn’t read as many masterpieces in 2016 as I have in previous years. I had several readings slumps where I just didn’t like anything, but some gems did still appear! Here are the top 7 books I read in 2016:

1. The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

25781157

This contemporary fiction novel follows the lives of four siblings who have to restructure their lives after the nest egg that they were expecting is suddenly threatened. Read my full review here!

2. Peach Pies & Alibis by Ellery Adams

15741975

This is the second book in this cozy mystery series which centers around a witch who bakes magical goodies. It’s a fun bit of fluff that I found more engrossing than the average cozy mystery.

3. Love Your Enemies by Sharon Salzberg

18243877

I’m sure we all have that one person in life who grates our nerves. This self-help nonfiction book helped me change my perspective and find compassion instead of irritation.

4. The White Magic Five and Dime by Steve Hockensmith

18579805

This was a great mystery about a tarot-card reading con artist who has to solve her mother’s murder while considering whether or not she’s making the right choices in life.

5. Girl Online by Zoe Sugg

22510983

This was such a fun bit of YA fiction. It centers around an anxiety-ridden blogger whose worst fears are realized when her online persona becomes public.

6. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

77203

I know I’m late to the party on this one, but I love it. This one is historical fiction about a family in Afghanistan. It was heartbreaking but beautiful.

7. Murphy’s Law by Rhys Bowen

383512

I really enjoyed this book that launched a historical cozy mystery series about an Irish immigrant. I appreciated that, while still cozy in tone, the series has been dealing with a few darker issues. I’ve only read the first three books so far, but I’m very curious to see where everything is headed.

I’m very excited for 2017! I have a lot of reading and writing goals, and I hope I’m able to share some great content with all of you. Have a lovely rest of your 2016!

Book Review

Book Review: Guilt by Association

In the interest of full disclosure, this blog post is going to be biased because Marcia Clark is one of my personal heroes. She has gone through so much in her life, and she is just a fascinating person. If I could meet one “celebrity” I would definitely choose Marcia Clark.

Guilt by Association is the first novel (but not the first book) by Marcia Clark. It was followed by three others in the series as well as a few short stories, all of which center around the main character LA Deputy District Attorney Rachel Knight.

10137884

For those who don’t know, Marcia Clark was the lead prosecutor during the O.J. Simpson Trial. If you haven’t heard of that or don’t know all the details, PLEASE go watch American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson immediately! You may wonder why I think Marcia Clark is so awesome even though she lost the trial. Failure is a part of life. Marcia not only endured a massive disappointment when she lost the trial, but she had to deal with being completely maligned by the press and public. So much of the criticism was about her being a woman in a man’s world. She went through hell publicly , and she came out the other side. She chose to never prosecute another case, and who can blame her after all that she went through? But she didn’t give up on life. She used all of her legal expertise and her eye for detail and became a best-selling author.

Now, back to the actual book I’m reviewing: Guilt by Association. In this first installment of the series, we get to know the character of Rachel Knight really well. She is smart and determined and has an eye for detail – just like Marcia Clark. She even has an eerily similar job to Marcia Clark and often has to deal with high-profile cases. Is Marcia Clark’s character perhaps overly autobiographical? Maybe for some, but I loved that she’s writing what she knows. To me, it really works because she clearly understands the legal system and Rachel Knight, as a character, is well-developed. She’s tough but not invincible. She’s feminine when she feels like it. She endures disappointment and fear. She’s Marcia Clark, and she’s all of us.

In this novel, Rachel finds the dead body of a trusted colleague next to a prostitute. As she investigates, will she uncover her colleagues innocence or guilt or something even more sinister? I thought that the mystery was very engaging, and I enjoyed both the plot and the character development. However, something that might turn off other readers is that there is a lot of description that can, at times, be considered extraneous. I happen to like tiny details like this because I think that they still serve to set the scene and make everything feel real, but I do think it’s a valid criticism from others since the details often aren’t crucial to the story. I think this all boils down to preference. So, if you like a well-detailed legal thriller, give this one a try!

Book Review

Book Review: The Woman in Cabin 10

I just finished the book The Woman in Cabin 10, and  I thought it was pretty great! This has been a really hot book at the library where I work. After seeing this book cross my path so many times, I just had to see what the hype was all about.

28187230

This novel is by Ruth Ware, who wrote the much-acclaimed novel In a Dark, Dark Wood. Regrettably, I haven’t yet had a chance to read that one, so I can’t compare the two. Still, after reading The Woman in Cabin 10, I’d definitely be happy to read another mystery by this author.

I don’t want to give too much away about the plot because this is, after all, a mystery and I don’t want to spoil anything. Basically, it’s about travel journalist Lo Blacklock who scores a dream assignment to cover a tiny luxury cruise ship for the magazine she writes for. While there, she sees a woman thrown overboard. However, when she reports the murder, no one believes her and there are no missing passengers. What follows is an exciting, tense mystery.

I’ve read a lot of reviews that compare this book to The Girl on the Train. I don’t think this is really a fair comparison. First off, the main character in this novel was way more likable than any of the characters in The Girl on the Train. The tone of the book also felt way different to me. The Woman in Cabin 10 seemed much more fast-paced to me, and I will say that it kept me far more engaged. I found The Girl on the Train to be a more convoluted version of Gone Girl (which I loved) but I think that this book really stands on its own. The structure is way different, the main character is more likable, and it was much easier to follow.

One thing that I really liked about the book was how it used email and news articles and blog posts and other social media to show how information and misinformation travel in this day and age. It also added to the mystery because it revealed information that I wasn’t always sure I could trust. Again, I don’t want to say any more lest I spoil something.

Overall, I definitely think this is worth a read if you want a thriller or non-cozy mystery. I would avoid it, however, if you are about to embark on a cruise. In that case, wait until you return home safely before giving it a try.