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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

Book Review

Book Review: Shakespeare No More

Shakespeare No More is  great historical murder mystery by Tony Hays. In this novel, Simon Saddler, visits his estranged friend William Shakespeare only to be told that he believes he is dying from being poisoned. After Shakespeare dies, Saddler embarks on a quest through England to solve his murder.

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In this novel, Hayes references the not-so-popular conspiracy theory that William Shakespeare was murdered. Though the historical accuracy of this is very suspect, this particular novel was a delightful read. Shakespeare is depicted in a believable (probably accurate) way of being smug and philandering. His friend Saddler begrudgingly visits him and later tries to solve his murder. There are many imagined and historical figures in this novel, but everything seems very real. While I can’t say that I felt transported to 1600s England, I enjoyed this book nonetheless. I do prefer a bit more history in my historical mysteries, but this was a fun read with colorful, interesting characters.

This would likely appeal to Shakespeare-lovers and historical mystery lovers who are okay with glossing over historical inaccuracies for the sake of enjoying the narrative. The characters really were great and the pacing was fast, so this might even appeal more to those who have more of an interest in historical settings than in history itself.

Book Review

Book Review: Meet Your Baker

Meet You Baker by Ellie Alexander is a great debut in a fun, entertaining cozy mystery series. This book follows Juliet Capshaw, a heartbroken cruise ship employee, who moves back home to help her mom run the family bakery. Once there, she becomes entrenched in the small-town politics of the community’s most theatrical as one board member of the local Shakespeare festival is found dead after eating at their bakery.

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I love a good cozy mystery series. The mystery genre is my favorite, and I love trying to solve the mystery along with the protagonist. However, mystery novels can tend to be pretty formulaic. The difference between a mediocre mystery series and a great mystery series is the character development. Just because the plot has formulaic elements, this doesn’t mean the characters all have to be stereotypes that we’ve all read over and over again. This bakeshop mystery series is an example of a mystery series that has been handled correctly! The protagonist Juliet does have some qualities of most mystery heroines (unlucky in love, living in a small town, trying to find herself) but she had enough interesting quirks and qualities to set her apart from the other standard heroines. She has more depth and backstory than most, and this really enhances the novel and will hopefully continue through the whole series.

Cozy mystery lovers are sure to love this one, but I also think this is a good starter cozy mystery for someone who wants to give the genre a try but who has been worried that they might be too fluffy or formulaic. This is one with a wider audience appeal, and it contains a wonderfully diverse cast of distinct characters who came alive on the page.

 

Book Review

Book Review: The Art Forger

Title: The Art Forger

Author: Barbara A. Shapiro

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Quick Takeaway: I read this for a book club that I lead for the library. While it did meander at times, I enjoyed it overall and we were able to have a great discussion for our book club.

Who Should Read This? This is a great read for art lovers and those looking for a mystery that focuses more on character than plot.

Review: While this is a mystery, it is not very traditional. I absolutely love mysteries, but I was much less interested in the mystery aspects of this book than I was the central characters. The main character Claire, a professional art forger whose career is legally forging famous art for commercial purposes, is commissioned to forge a famous stolen painting. The circumstances under which she is asked to perform this task are suspect, but she finds herself falling for the enigmatic art dealer Aiden Markel  who may not be as he seems.

I really enjoyed the character of Claire. She was sympathetic and she was really put through a lot of relatable tragedies. She is a very talented artist, but she has a terrible reputation in the art world, and she struggles to overcome the decisions she’s made.

I also really enjoyed learning more about the process of painting, especially the process of forgery. I’ve dabbled in abstract painting but only as a hobby, so I felt like this was a really interesting learning experience about the world of art, especially classic art.

Final Thoughts: I don’t think this book will appeal to everyone. If someone loves a good traditional mystery and has little interest in learning about the creation of art, this may be a bit of a letdown. However, if you’re more interested in character and you’re fascinated by art, go ahead and give this one a try!

Book Review

Book Review: Where’d You Go, Bernadette

Title: Where’d You Go, Bernadette

Author: Maria Semple

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Quick Takeaway: Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple is a fun, quick-paced domestic mystery. When 15-year-old Bee’s mother Bernadette Fox goes missing, Bee makes it her mission to uncover information about her mother’s mysterious past in order to try to find her.

Who Should Read This? Anyone looking for an entertaining read about a flawed mother who deeply loves her daughter. Anyone who adores quirky characters.

Review: This is such a fun book. I loved the quirky characters and the incredibly interesting scenarios that unfold. Bernadette is a flawed, but vastly interesting character who tries to be a good wife and mother, but she frequently fails because of her own mental state and her propensity to be a bit selfish. Bee, her daughter, is highly gifted for her age, and she has a very close relationship with her mother. Her quest to find her mother once Bernadette goes missing is really incredible. There were a few things that didn’t seem quite believable. For instance, while it is understandable that Bee is mature for her age because she is so gifted, some of the revelations she has and things she says still feel they don’t naturally come from someone with so little life experience. Also, some of the ways that Bee uncovers information about her mother seem just a little too convenient. I could see this bothering some people, but it didn’t really bother me because I was just enjoying the book so much that I was willing to overlook those things. Still, if you don’t allowing a bit of suspension of disbelief, you might not find this as enjoyable as I did.

Final Thoughts: This book is just so fun. It’s a quick read, and I think you should give it a try if you want to be entertained by a fun mix of quirky characters and interesting plots.

Book Review

Book Review: Big Little Lies

Title: Big Little Lies 

Author: Liane Moriarty

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Quick Takeaway: Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty is by far one of the best books I have ever read! I read it shortly after it came out, and I’ve made it my mission to force as many friends as possible to read this book.

Who should read this? Anyone looking for a quiet contemporary mystery about female friendship and motherhood.

Review: This is a fantastic book. It is fast-paced and  incredibly engrossing. It revolves around three women who become friends while their children are all attending the same kindergarten class. Readers know from the beginning that, by the end of the school year, someone is going to die in a tragic incident at the school trivia night. The book is peppered with snippets of interviews from parents and faculty at the school event. While this may initially just seem like a gimmick, it is actually a really effective device that not only adds humor to the narrative but also adds depth to minor characters and propels the mystery forward as readers continue to wonder who will die – will it be one of the mothers, the teacher, a spouse, or someone completely unexpected?

My favorite character, by far, is Madeline, a divorcee who is trying to come to terms with the difficulties that surround co-parenting. Her attempts to manage her turbulent relationships with her daughter and ex-husband were really emotionally moving as well as really funny. She was both likable and believable.

I don’t want to give away too much of the mystery as I don’t want to be responsible for spoiling anything, but I would like to give one warning. This book does touch on the issue of domestic violence. It is not overly graphic, but certain scenes have the potential to trigger someone who is prone to being triggered regarding this subject matter. It is handled well, is not gratuitous, and it does serve a clear purpose in the book, but I just wanted to put this warning out there just in case.

Final Thoughts: I think that this is an incredible book by an author who is continuously improving. Her last three books were really incredible, and I’m so excited that she has another one coming out in 2016! This book has a really wide appeal, and I think that lovers of mysteries, contemporary fiction, and women’s fiction will all really appreciate this book. Also, I hope that any male readers are not turned off by the themes of motherhood and female friendship. I think that the depictions of human interactions and relationships in general should appeal to all readers, and I think that all genders will find the book engaging.