Monday, March 26, 2012

What if your past was no more than a house of cards?

Beautiful Lies
by Lisa Unger

Genre: Adult Mystery/Thriller/Suspense

Review: Unger's breakout novel, published in 2006. This book is as compulsively readable as a novel by Laura Lippman. It reminds me of Inception in the sense that the rug is pulled out from beneath the main character' feet. She can never look at the world in the same way again. Ridley Jones is a magazine writer who saves a young boy; her fame brings her: a mysterious love interest, a newspaper clipping, and a photo of a woman who looks exactly like her. Will she believe in the beautiful lies or search for the truth? 

Song to Read By: "Part of Me" by Katy Perry

Author Website Read "Lisa's Own Words" under "About."

The sequel to Beautiful Lies is called Sliver of Truth, but I have not yet read this book. Currently I am reading Die for Me by Lisa Unger (review to come soon).

Friday, March 23, 2012

An Atmospheric Historical/Detective Mystery

A Death in Vienna
by Frank Tallis

Genre: Adult Historical Fiction/ Detective Fiction: Mystery

Review: Inspector Rheinhardt and his colleague Max Liebermann do more than play the works of Schubert together. They solve crimes in turn-of-the-century Vienna. Max is an early psychoanalyst/psychiatrist and Rheinhardt calls on him for his keen insight into human behavior. How will they solve an "impossible" mystery involving a locked door, a disappearing bullet, and a medium known for her beauty as much as for her spiritualist skills?

I loved the descriptions of Vienna and the side-notes about the history of psychology. An intriguing first book in what will be an absorbing series!

Warning: Parts of this book were slightly scary and creepy, including the autopsies. Not children, teens, or the faint of heart! 

Song to Read By: "Hungarian Dance" #1 by Brahms (this song was mentioned in the book)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

High-Tech Hacker Suspense!

Come and Find Me: A Novel of Suspense
by Hallie Ephron

Genre: Adult Fiction/Suspense

Review: Since her boyfriend fell off a mountain, Diana, a reformed hacker, has become agoraphobic. When she steps outside, she gets panic attacks, but when her sister goes missing, she must push her boundaries and make friends outside of OtherWorld, the virtual world she has retreated to in order to conduct her business and find human connection. Her new job running security and protecting medical clients from hacking is hitting a wall, and she's about to find out who is behind mysterious Volganet, but her life will be at risk. Didn't understand all the hacker stuff, but a fun, fast read.

Song to Read by: "Hang a Sign" by John Ralston:

Monday, March 19, 2012

Family Story, a Father's Confession

Long Drive Home
By Will Allison

Paperback edition

Genre: Literary Fiction, Adult

Hardback edition

Review: I started reading this book at Barnes and Noble on Friday. After reading the first chapter, I didn't want to leave. Luckily, this book arrived at the library on Saturday. I devoured this book in one day. The novel is written in a letter/confessional style, with excerpts from a letter from father to daughter. The father was well-rounded, and I sympathized with him even when he did stupid things. As his life spirals downward, his love for his daughter always shines through. 

This book exhibits there is hope for realistic, literary fiction, that it can be down to earth and engaging, once again.

Song to Read By: "Still Fighting It" by Ben Folds: 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Blackthorn Winter--YA Murder Mystery!

Blackthorn Winter
by Kathryn Reiss

Genre: YA Mystery

Review: In the artist's village of Blackthorn, rain falls and murder surrounds. Teenager Juliana is moving from California, away from her father, with her mother to England, along with her "twin" siblings Edmund and Ivy. Juliana is adopted, but she doesn't remember much of her past. This book follows two mysteries: the memory of Juliana's past and a murder in town. Juliana investigates, jeopardizing new friendships and love interest Duncan. I couldn't solve the mystery and the characters were interesting and well-developed. The antics of Edmund and Ivy were funny, and the romance between Juliana and Duncan was sweet yet realistic. 

Author website

Song to Read by: "Down in the Valley" by the Head and the Heart:

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Best. Thriller. Ever. Read

Before I Go to Sleep 
By S.J. Watson

Genre: Psychological Thriller/Mystery/Adult Fiction

Review: Thrilling. Absolutely Terrifying. Completely Chilling. 

I finished this book just past midnight, nerves jittery, adrenaline rushing through my veins. Absorbing. The pages flew by. I looked up, and 40 pages had gone by.

 The book follows Christine as she begins writing in a journal in an effort to improve her memory, which had been destroyed years earlier. She has a rare form of amnesia. This book had me reflecting deeply on memory and identity. Who are we without our memories? Of friends, family, faces, everything we've learned in school?

Author's debut novel. One of the best thrillers I've ever read. 

Song to Read By: You will be so immersed in the book you wouldn't hear or notice music if you wanted to.

The Winter Sea of Scotland

The Winter Sea
by Susanna Kearsley

This is one of my favorite book covers ever!

Genre: Adult Fiction, Historical Romance

Review: Totally absorbing. Do you want to be fully immersed in another era, fascinated with the concept of genetic memory. We follow writer Carrie as she struggles to write her next book. At the ruins of a castle, Slains, in Scotland, she begins remembering a woman named Sophia who lived during the Jacobite rebellion period, around 1700s-1708. This book has classic restrained historical romance and modern romance, plus tons of intrigue/mystery/facts. Kearsley did it again! She surprised me completely with two twists at the end!

A little background: Initially, I didn't really care about the Jacobite rebellion. I didn't even know what it was, honestly. However, in this book, I became interested in the story of the "Stuarts" those who supported King James returning to the throne of Scotland. King James was denied the throne of England which many thought was rightfully his because he was Catholic. For more background information, check out this BBC website:

Song to Read By: "Home" by Mumford and Sons:

Monday, March 12, 2012

Time Travel and Beautiful Cornwall Scenery!

The Rose Garden
By Susanna Kearsley

Genre: Historical Romance, Fiction

Review: The main character is mourning the death of her sister; she returns to the happiest place of their childhood, Trelowarth House, Cornwall. They played there among the rose gardens, the Wild Wood, and the cliffs of Cornwall, where smugglers hid goods in damp caves. As she returns, she settles in to start a tea room with friend Susan and catches up with old friends, but she starts disappearing into the past, where she falls in love with the mysterious Daniel. There are a few twists at the end that I did not expect, and the story itself was extremely absorbing. 

Note: If you love Kate Morton or Diana Gabaldon, you will enjoy this author and her books!

Author Website:
She shares photos of the real locations that inspire her writing!

Song to Read By: "Strawberry Wine" by Deana Carter:

Book 3 of Sherlock Files: Fun Times and Mystery!

Book 3: the Sherlock Files: 
The Case the Time Forgot
by Tracy Barrett

Genre: Middle Grades fiction/mystery

Review: The third book in the series is even more engaging than the first two. A friend at school, Karim, asks Xena and Xander to investigate an Egyptian water clock and a missing amulet that is meant to stop time every 50 years (for his grandfather). Their journey brings them to the Timekeeper's Museum and the Big Ben clock tower, among other places. They must solve hieroglyphs and find clues to beat a mysterious person who is following their trail. There is one more book in the series, but young readers won't want it to end.

Song to Read By: Egyptian techno dance song:

Thursday, March 8, 2012

A Strong Follow-Up in Middle Grades Mystery

The Sherlock Files Book 2:
The Beast of Blackslope
by Tracy Barrett

Genre: Middle Grades Mystery

Review: The cover of this book looks overdramatic, but I enjoyed the book once I started reading. The bro-and-sis sleuth team of Xander and Xena Holmes open their casebook to find out Sherlock Holmes has visited the tiny village where they are vacationing, Blackslope, England. After hearing a strange howl, they set out to investigate. Once again, the book is well-paced, with a nice change of setting (including castles, dark woods, and a country manor). Xena and Xander have great dialogue/banter that kids will enjoy. 

Song to Read By: "Beauty and the Beast" song from the film:

A Fast-Paced Middle Grades Mystery!

The 100-Year-Old Secret
by Tracy Barrett

First in the Sherlock Files series
Genre: Middle Grades mystery

Note: I am using this book to teach a 5th grade English unit about mysteries. 

Review: A fun introduction to this mystery series. Xander and Xena are a bro-and-sis sleuth team, ages 10 and 12. Each has a special set of skills (encyclopedic memory, athleticism, acute hearing). They find out they are relatives of Sherlock Holmes and inherit his casebook of unsolved cases. They just moved to London from America and set off in search of a lost, fictional painting. Clearly has elements of mystery, including clues and red herrings. You can read this book in 2 hours or less. Short, fast-paced chapters. 

Author website:

Song to Read By: Sherlock Holmes film soundtrack "Opening Theme" by Hans Zimmer: