Thursday, June 22, 2017

True Crime Thursday: True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa



This is Michael Finkel, a journalist. He was let go from the New York Times for falsifying information in a story about the chocolate trade and the working conditions of those employed to pick the cacao beans.


This is Christian Longo.  He was arrested for the murders of his wife and their three children.


What brought these two men together was the name Michael Finkel. While on the run from the law in Mexico, Longo impersonated Finkel, a journalist whose stories he had read and admired.

Finkel is hiding away at his home, disgraced after the truth about his chocolate trade story came out. When he receives a phone call from another reporter about Longo using Finkel's name, Finkel himself sees it as an opportunity to write another great story, this time one that is completely truthful. But as he gets sucked in by Longo's charms, Finkel begins to realize just how blurred the line between truth and lies can be.

This is an absolutely fascinating read. It is a murder mystery, as readers learn about the case along with Finkel. It is a psychological study of two men brought together by lies and the desire for redemption. It is a look at the relationship between journalist and subject, and where that relationship can shift and change into something resembling friendship-and the struggle to understand feeling kinship for a man who may have committed a horrible deed. And in the end, it is an examination of what it truly means to tell the truth and to tell a lie, to others and to yourself.








Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Review: The Hole



Title: The Hole
Author: Guy Burt
Publication Date: May 28, 2002
Genre: Horror/Psychological/Suspense/Thriller
Recommended If You Like: creepy reads, psychological horror

The Book:

Five students descend into a secret room on campus, locked in by a fellow student as part of what they believe will be the greatest prank yet. But when no one comes to let them out, they begin to realize they might be part of a far more terrifying psychological experiment instead.

What I Liked:

This is a creepy, suspenseful, gripping read. Burt uses flashbacks of "the Hole" expertly to both lead the reader on and keep them guessing.

The last chapter adds a whole other dimension to the story, and was definitely a major twist. I thought it was really clever-I love an ending that has me thinking back through the book to see what I missed and how everything fits.

Anything I Didn't Like?

Some of the sections moved really slowly, especially some of the flashbacks in "the Hole" early on in the story.

So...?

This is a really quick read-it just took me a few hours-and a gripping, scary, interesting one. It's worth picking up. The movie version is really good, and is actually one of those very rare occasions when I prefer the movie slightly to the book.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Review: The Sleep Room



Title: The Sleep Room
Author: F. R. Tallis
Publication Date: May 15, 2015
Genre: Gothic/Psychological/Suspense/Paranormal/Horror
Recommended If You Like: haunted asylums, stories with psychiatry, gothic-style horror, ghost stories

The Book:

A young psychiatrist gets the chance to work with his idol at an isolated asylum out in the countryside. He is especially interested in The Sleep Room, where young women are kept in an almost-perpetual state of sleep in an attempt to cure their seeming neuroses. But when mysterious things keep happening all around him, he is forced to consider that there may be more than meets the eye in this world.

What I Liked:

This is one creepy, suspenseful book! I'm automatically interested in ghost stories, and when they are set in an isolated asylum, especially one with a mysterious room, I'm doubly interested.

And the last chapter is mind blowing! It's one of those that made me gasp out loud when I read it.

Anything I Didn't Like?

The ending was amazing, but the rest of the book was just okay. It moves a little slowly, and then the last few chapters (besides the last one) feel rushed on their way to a conclusion.

So...?

This is by no means a bad read, it's a good one, just not a great one until the very last chapter.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Review: Dead Famous




Title: Dead Famous
Author: Ben Elton
Publication Date: Sep. 1, 2005
Genre: Mystery
Recommended If You Like: reality shows, mysteries that are very unique, locked room mysteries, the killer is one of us mysteries

The Book:

Contestants are locked in a house for a Big-Brother style British reality show called House Arrest. But then one of them is murdered, and even though the murder itself was caught on camera, the police find themselves in the middle of a complicated, twisted case they may not be able to solve.

What I Liked:

I watch a lot of reality TV (though not Big Brother), so I loved a mystery that was centered around a reality show. Elton does a brilliant job of playing around with the reality show contestant stereotypes and the tropes surrounding putting on and editing reality television.

I especially loved this mystery because not only is it set in a reality show, but because of the type of reality show, it becomes a locked room/the killer is one of us mystery, my favorite.

Elton uses flashbacks, the footage the country saw, and the unaired footage the production company kept back brilliantly to build suspense.

Anything I Didn't Like?

This was a re read for me, and it didn't quite hold up as strongly the second time through. I can't really put my finger on why, because I definitely enjoyed the re read a lot,

So...?

I would definitely recommend this book. It is a fun, clever, gripping read-I flew through the re read of it in a little over a day.


Saturday, June 17, 2017

Review: Dis Mem Ber



Title: Dis Mem Ber
Author: Joyce Carol Oates
Publication Date: June 6, 2017
Genre: Short Stories/Psychological/Gothic/Suspense
Recommended If You Like: dark and twisty, stories exploring the psychology of women, short stories that pack a punch

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:

In this collection of seven short stories, Oates explores the darker side of human nature, through the psychological lens of various women protagonists and narrators.

What I Liked: 

I always enjoy Oates' short story collections. Her stories always have an eerie edge to them, frequently verging on gothic or even supernatural horror. She draws inspiration from everywhere, big and small-from a girl looking back on the car rides with her uncle, to tales surrounding widows, to a story based on the true tale of Elisa Lam.

Anything I Didn't Like:

It's not something I don't like, it's more just a heads up, that Oates stories don't frequently have a resolution nicely tied up in a bow. She leaves her readers' imaginations working, which actually makes the stories scarier.

So...?

I definitely recommend this short story collection, but it is not for everyone. These stories are dark, and twisted, and scary.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Reviews: Hospitality and Homicide, and The Missing One




Title: Hospitality and Homicide
Author: Lynn Cahoon
Publication Date: May 16, 2017
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Recommended If You Like: bookstore mysteries, small town settings, romance with your mystery

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:

Jill Gardner not only owns a bookstore/coffee shop, but she also can't seem to help herself when it comes to getting involved in local mysteries. An author comes for a signing, but finds himself a prime suspect when a murder is committed that exactly mimics one in the first draft of his new book. Jill must try to figure out the truth behind the murder, keep her business going, and decide where her relationship with her police boyfriend is heading.

What I Liked:

Jill is a great lead character, surrounded by lots of interesting supporting characters. Her romance with Greg is one to root for as well.

The setting is a great one. I love small town mysteries, especially ones set in a bookstore.

The mystery was a well-plotted one, with the ending solution being a complete surprise.

Anything I Didn't Like:

There's not much to not like about this series. It has good characters, mystery, and setting.

So...?

If you're a cozy mystery reader, I would definitely recommend this series.


Title: The Missing One
Author: Lucy Atkins
Publication Date: Feb. 3, 2015
Genre: Fiction/Psychological/Mystery/Suspense
Recommended If You Like: female-centered fiction, nature-centric fiction, secrets from the past, books exploring family

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:

Kal has never felt like she truly knows her mother. When her mother passes from cancer, Kal is determined to discover the secrets of her mother's past. Taking only her son, leaving her possibly-cheating husband behind, Kal sets off to British Columbia. She heads to a remote island where a woman who once knew her mother lives, a woman who sent postcard after postcard simply stating "Thinking of You".

What I Liked:

I love a book about secrets from the past, and this definitely had plenty! I really liked the way Atkins used flashbacks to heighten the suspense and the mystery.

Atkins has also clearly done her research on orca whales-there is a lot of fascinating information about them contained in this story.

Anything I Didn't Like?

This book could have been shorter. I have absolutely nothing against long books, but this was one that felt too stretched out. It would have benefited from a little editing in that regard.

Some of the secrets were a little too predictable as well. I was able to call one of the biggest ones from pretty early on.

So...?

This was a good read, but not one I would say you have to run out and get right now. If you ever get to it, it's enjoyable. (It's one of those where rating it is tricky-I would give it 3 stars, because it is good, but didn't enjoy it as much as I have enjoyed other 3 star books.)


Saturday, June 10, 2017

Review: Half-Price Homicide



Title: Half-Price Homicide
Author: Elaine Viets
Publication Date: May 3, 2011
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Recommended If You Like: career-centered cozies, strong female protagonists

The Book:

Helen Hawthorne has had to take a string of jobs to stay under the radar of her ex-husband, who was handed half of her income in an unfair divorce decree. Her current job is working at a consignment store that caters to the elite who don't have quite as much money as they would like.

But when a customer is murdered in the store, Helen finds herself once again thrust into the police's spotlight as a prime suspect. She must solve the crime to free herself from suspicion.


What I Liked:

I really enjoy this series!

Helen is a great leading character, strong with a sense of humor. The concept is a strong one, with Helen in a different job each book, which really keeps things fresh and interesting. The romance is definitely one to root for, as are the main characters.

Anything I Didn't Like?

I did feel like Viets tried to fit too much into this book. Some of the side plots felt way out of left field, and some of the minor characters verged on caricatures, and I suspect this was because there was just so much going on.

Also, just a heads up that if you haven't read the earlier books in the series, there are some spoilers for earlier plot points in this one.

So...?

While this wasn't the best book in the series, it was still a good one, and this is still a cozy mystery series I would absolutely recommend.