All Book Reviews by Genre: Mystery

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest
Larsson, Stieg
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Now that I’ve finished the third book in this series, I realize it falls into the “trilogy conundrum” of having a strong, standalone first part, followed by two sequels that rely on each other to finish out the story. Heck, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest should have just been Part 3 of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo since it completed the story arc started back in book one. I had my suspicions this book would continue from the exact moment where The Girl Who Played with Fire ended. After all, there were a ton of loose ends, and the story ended abruptly.

Part of my issue with this book was that it was primarily tasked with tying up all the subplots from the first two books. However, it still felt like it needed to spend time on new storylines that didn’t add much to the overall plot and were only there because the main character wasn’t able to do anything interesting. I also didn’t particularly like how some of these story elements concluded, as they felt unfulfilling (the resolution of the conflict with Lisbeth’s father stands out in particular). Overall, these two qualms made the book drag on longer than I think it should have.

There were still some positive elements in this book, including the trial of Lisbeth Salander. In fact, this coup de grace was by far the most entertaining section of the entire trilogy. I also appreciated the tension created early on when Lisbeth was in the hospital, as well as the action in the Epilogue that tied up the very last loose end of the trilogy. In the end, I still think this trilogy was a good read. It’s just that its final volume
felt a little bloated and distracted at times.

A mostly satisfying conclusion to the original Millennium series, I give The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest 3.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
Storm Front
Butcher, Jim
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Strom Front serves as a stellar introduction to the exciting world of Harry Dresden. The first book in a long series of great books, Storm Front showcases Butcher's writing prowess. The story is full of interesting characters, well developed story, gritty mysteries, and the overarching wit of the main character. Storm Front is at once entertaining, humorous, and occasionally touching. It is one of those books that somehow becomes glued to your hands and only relinquishes them upon arrival at the back cover.
Overall, the book will most definitely be an enjoyable read and make picking the next three to four books to read an easy choice (although I recommend not attempting more than a few in a row for the sake of variety).

Reviewer's Name: Evan
Genres:
Four Dead Queens
Scholte, Astrid
2 stars = Meh
Review:

This book was not for me, but I think a lot of young adults will really love it. The following is essentially a laundry list of my issues. First, the worldbuilding was pretty weak. The fours quadrants are fairly reminiscent of those in Divergent, but they rarely interact and the farming sector basically works on Amish rules while the technological sector has holographs and advanced biosuits and all sorts of stuff. It does not make a ton of sense. And neither does the “queenly law” or really anything to do with the rules the palace or kingdom operates under – it all seemed pretty transparently created to serve the story that was written. Moving along. The characters really left something to be desired. Most were one-dimensional. The main character, Keralie, couldn’t make a good decision if her life depended on it and falls squarely into the snarky and ostensibly clever thief trope. We do get to hear from the queens a bit, but as I knew they’d end up dead and we only spent a little time with each of them, I didn’t find that it added to the story. And, of course, there is instalove between Keralie and our extremely boring male lead, Varin.

Some components of the book are pretty enjoyable. I think the premise is really cool (if executed poorly). The first queen’s murder took me a bit by surprise, and was deliciously gruesome. There were a few twists that I didn’t see coming. I quite liked the last 50 pages or so – the author, a debut, clearly has some really great ideas. Unfortunately, they didn’t come together in this book, though I’d try another book by this author pending favorable reviews.

TLDR: Readers who loved The Red Queen and Divergent will probably enjoy this one as well. I couldn’t get past the weak characters and worldbuilding, but I think a lot of readers will likely devour this one nonetheless. For me, it was just ok. 2 stars.

Thanks to Netgalley and G. Putnam’s Sons for the advance copy which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. Four Dead Queens will be released on 26 February.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
The House with a Clock in Its Walls
Bellairs, John
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Do you like mystery stories with a bit of payback! well then this is the book for you. and the best part is this book has ghosts and magic! so please read about this epic quest to find the one clock that was once lost long ago. Magic!

Reviewer's Name: Chess
The House with a Clock in its Walls
Bellairs, John
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

There is evil afoot in this book about a fat young boy whose parents both died in a car accident leaving him to live with his strange uncle who lives in a mansion with secrets. An uncle being driven insane by a clock's incessant ticking countered by a strange neighbor who makes excellent chocolate chip cookies. The adventure is just beginning. Into a cemetery, are the dead rising? A car chase all across the county and an eclipse of the moon. A house that grows defenses? Windows that change on their own? Read this book and find out not just what the evil is, but to determine which is better, the book or the movie?

Reviewer's Name: Rachel
The Girl Who Played with Fire
Stieg, Larsson
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Despite some of its weaknesses, some of which were due to my reading it via audiobook, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a great book. In its sequel, The Girl Who Played with Fire, some of these weaknesses were addressed, but others manifested in their place. Again, these faults might be attributed to the audiobook format, but are fairly minor when considering how fantastic the story is as a whole. In fact, I probably like The Girl Who Played with Fire more than its predecessor. Of course, part of this was how events in the first book carried over to influence the plot of the second.

In the first book of the Millennium series, I didn’t realize just how much sex was in it. This was mostly because of the rape scene that made everything else seem tame in comparison. In this book, the sex is still there, but there’s so much of it at the beginning that it starts to become distracting. At least when book one included it, it was generally through the guise of a budding friendship. This time, it felt more like the author was trying to hammer home the point that the two main characters were sexually liberated. Other than that, it was also a little challenging to keep track of the timeline, since it jumped around a bit when it followed different characters. This is perhaps a limitation of the audiobook format.

Overall, though, the plot of The Girl Who Played with Fire is superb. Uncovering the past of our favorite, titular character was a great way to continue a series that started with such an engaging and enigmatic figure. With less mystery present in this volume, the twists are still believable and entertaining while also focusing more on the action that centers on Lisbeth Salander’s desire to remain as disconnected as possible.

A fantastic follow-up to a great book, I give The Girl Who Played with Fire 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
A Study in Charlotte
Cavallaro, Brittany
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

A new take on Holmes and Watson, two teens in an American boarding school bond over their family's shared history. Both of them are descended from the infamous Sherlock Holmes and his infamous partner Watson, and they find a way to live up to their history. They become detectives of their own stories when they are framed for murder. Thrilling and exciting, the story of Charlotte and Jamie kept me captivated with every turn of the page. I am sure readers who enjoy mystery and romance alike will enjoy it. Recommended for ages 15+
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Settare R
Genres:
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Larsson, Stieg
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

For many years, I was hesitant to read this book, mostly due to a few intense sequences that I saw in the David Fincher film adaptation. I wasn’t sure I wanted to be subjected to them in book form any more than I had been already. Fortunately, these scenes were quite a bit more tolerable in the book, mostly because the descriptions weren’t nearly as visceral as watching them on the big screen. I’m only now kicking myself for waiting this long to read such a fantastic book. While the book and the movie diverge in a few spots, I can see the reasoning behind the differences.

When it comes right down to it, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a showcase for its titular character. Lisbeth Salander is tough, smart, and an overall entertaining individual to follow. While it takes quite a while for her to become involved in the main plot, at least the Mikael Blomkvist sections are still interesting enough to carry themselves until that point where the two characters join forces. I did find the distinction between these two characters’ plotlines a little hard to follow early on, but that’s likely an artifact of listening to the audiobook version.

I did find it a little odd that the book essentially starts with the introduction of Mikael’s investigation, only to take almost half the book to start it. Granted, this allowed plenty of room for both Mikael and Lisbeth to be developed as characters, but it felt a little like a sudden realization that the primary focus of the plot wasn’t addressed up until that point. Additionally, I did like the framing of the book around Mikael’s Millennium problems, especially with the much more thorough ending that tied everything up with a nice little bow.

A great book with fantastic characters, I give The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
Awards:
Ink and Ashes
Maetani, Valynne E.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

I love this book! I am in 7th grade and this book gave me goosebumps and look behind me when I'm turned around in fear of the "evil" characters in this book. (Granted, I get scared very easily). Ink and Ashes tells the story of teenage girl Claire Takata, and her horrifying experience that was brought upon her by her dead father's passing and his sketchy life. This story perfectly blends mystery and Japanese culture, and is one of the most unique mystery books I have ever read. I highly recommend this book for mature middle school readers who don't read much mystery and want to "test the waters". However, all kinds of readers from 6th grade and up would enjoy this book! Don't hesitate to try it out!

Reviewer's Name: Anna C.
Awards:
The Paragon Hotel
Faye, Lyndsay
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

1922. Alice James finds herself on a westbound train with two bullets in her stomach and $50,000 worth of counterfeit cash. On the run from the mob, she befriends a black porter who saves her life by taking her to his doctor friend in the only black hotel in Portland, Oregon. When a mixed race child goes missing from the hotel, the residents panic as KKK activity in Portland has been escalating. This excellent novel switches back and forth from the events leading up to Alice’s shooting and then her experiences at the hotel after arriving.

Alice James is one of my favorite characters in recent memory – she’s flawed, but self-aware, whip-smart and most importantly compassionate. Her empathy gets her into the trouble and she knows it, but she’s the sort who is willing to sacrifice herself for the greater cause. The supporting characters, especially Blossom, are equally flawed but lovable, especially as their truths slowly come to light. I’m a sucker for a 20s setting, and we get a lot of the good stuff here, especially linguistically. Our Alice has quite the endearing way of explaining herself in 20s style aphorisms.

In addition to being a charming read, the book covers some really important issues around race, gender and sexuality. The author has a deft enough hand at covering these issues that she manages to make the commentary work for the 20s as well as present day. If you decide to read this book, you’ll laught, cry and rage along with the characters at the injustices handed to them based on their gender, race or sexuality. My one complaint is that the middle sagged a bit – this is book that’s largely focused on character development and the mystery really just served to get Alice to learn things about her new friends.

I don’t read a lot of historical fiction, but the promise of mob-excitement, mystery and racial commentary brought me to this book, and I’m so glad it did. Richly drawn characters and a fascinating setting pretty much guarantee that most fiction (historical or otherwise) readers will enjoy this one, and I’ll be pre-ordering a copy for my mother. 5 stars – I adored it.

Thanks to Netgalley and G.P. Putnam’s Sons for the advance copy, which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. The Paragon Hotel goes on sale on 08 January, but you can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
The Shadow of the Wind
Zafon, Ruiz
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Wonderful mystery reminding me of Umberto Eco. "Anyone who enjoys novels that are scary, erotic, touching, tragic and thrilling should rush right out to the nearest bookstore and pick up The Shadow of the Wind." Really amazing depiction of characters and setting in early 20th century Spain. Captures feeling of fear caused by Spain's political environment and war and aftermath when villainous police. Can't put down type of read.

Reviewer's Name: S Andrews
Awards:
The Astronaut's Son
Seigel, Tom
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM A GOODREADS GIVEAWAY***

While the modern landscape for space exploration is expanding in ways that are very exciting, it’s interesting to read a story set in the early 2000’s that actually accomplishes something that hasn’t happened in decades: landing on the moon. And yet, this part of the plot of The Astronaut’s Son takes a minor role when compared with the primary thrust of the story. Sure, I would have thought that there would be plenty of things to occupy an astronaut’s time in the lead-up to a significant accomplishment, but apparently, there’s plenty of free time to explore the validity of a conspiracy theory.

I’ll admit that I never thought that there would be Nazi sympathizers in the space program, but The Astronaut’s Son brings up a few interesting and perhaps semi-plausible ideas. These are explored via the main character’s investigation as to whether his father’s sudden death would was truly due to a health condition that could affect him during his own mission, or if it was due to more sinister circumstances. Despite not ever seeming to deliver straight answers, the journey was still exciting and entertaining. The story may be fictional, but there did seem to be some deep-seated elements that had the possibility of being true, thus helping to suspend my disbelief.

Some of the other subplots, like the birth of a child and numerous characters’ marital infidelities, were interesting for character development, even if I thought they would have affected the main plot more than they did. After all, wouldn’t it be more interesting if there wasn’t even a genetic link between the main character and his father after all? At any rate, I was certainly blown away by this book at first, and it wowed me with its writing and style. However, if you think too much about it, you’ll start to realize there are some holes in it that can’t entirely be covered up, regardless of its entertainment value.

An interesting and perhaps plausible exploration of Germans and Jews in the space program, I give The Astronaut’s Son 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
Al Capone Does My Homework
Choldenko, Gennifer
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Al Capone Does My Homework finishes off an amazing book series to read. This book is action packed and includes gambling, stolen belongings, and counterfeit money. Al Capone plays a surprising role in this story and saves someone's life. Moose's relationships with his friends are further developed in this novel, and his father is promoted which puts Moose's family in even more danger. This book is spectacular and filled with action. It is a very good closing to the series and gives all readers a different perspective of Al Capone.

Reviewer's Name: Miles
The Clockmaker's Daughter
Morton, Kate
2 stars = Meh
Review:

This story centers around an impassioned artist and his dreams, a mysterious murder, an enchanting English manor and all that went on their throughout its many years, a ghost that stands outside of time witness to it all, a vanished girl, an archivist and her discovery of a priceless artifacts, and how what went on there all those years ago effects who she is today.

In the past, the 1860’s to be exact, this story begins with a talented artist Edward Radcliffe and a group of artists that spend a summer at the house of his dreams Birchwood Manor. But shortly after arriving a mysterious murder is committed, a priceless artifact disappears and one of the women vanishes. A hundred years later in the present an archivist, named Elodie, finds a satchel which contains an unrelated photograph and a sketchbook that contains a drawing of Birchwood Manor. As she digs deeper into the mystery she is pulled into a story that has her questioning her past and who she truly is. This beautiful atmospheric mystery spans the length of time, and is told by the many voices and people all living within and around the Manor’s walls.

Before I go any further, first, let me say this. Kate Morton is the master of atmospheric beautiful Gothic mysteries and I am a big fan of hers and have loved every one of her past books. Her intricate and deeply rooted stories her beautiful prose, and her enchanting settings are the reasons why she is simply one of the best in her genre. That being said, this work, was a bit of a disappointment. While all the elements of what I love about Kate Morton’s books were there; an intricate story steeped in history, an old vast English manor with a secret or two to hide within its walls, old families with long pedigrees, a family mystery, an enchanting setting, this book fell short for me mainly because of its intricacy and complexity. I also believe the ending was a bit weak. I really wanted to love it, I just couldn’t.

Morton, I believe, really attempted to tell a challenging story, but simply had to many voices trying to tell it. While I like a good dual timeline novel, this one, with at least four voices and timelines was simply too much. There were times that, because of how she bounced around among the numerous timelines, when I got completely lost in which timeline I was following. This combined with how many characters and voices there were throughout the novel, made the story overall a whole lot less enjoyable. I’ll admit, this story took me a good while to get through and I do recommend, if reading this, keeping a list of who everyone is and which timeline goes where. It’s definitely a book you have to think through. That being said the story itself was beautiful and it makes me wonder, if it wouldn’t be better as an audio book where each of the voices are sounded out. Overall a 2.5-3 star read for me. However, if you are a Kate Morton fan and if you love atmospheric Gothic mysteries, I couldn’t count this one out, I would still give this one a go, just maybe as an audio book. Place your copy on hold today!

Thank you to Netgalley, Atria books, and Simon and Schuster for a DRC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Reviewer's Name: Tawnie
The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
Turton, Stuart
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Finished this book at 2 a.m. (thanks a lot Mr. Turton!). Freaking amazing! I don't even quite know how to classify it - and I don't want to give anything away so I won't even try. Let's just say that it is like reading a REALLY good murder mystery through a kaleidoscope, shifting perspectives constantly to allow everything to eventually come together. I would suggest just letting the first half of the book just wash over you without trying too much to figure it out - otherwise it would get frustrating. And keep track of the characters - that is very important (and there are a lot of them!). Wow, just wow.

Reviewer's Name: Krista
Genres:
The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
Turton, Stuart
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Every day at 11pm, Evelyn Hardcastle is murdered at Blackheath, her family’s estate and her childhood home. Aiden Bishop has eight days to solve her murder. Eight of the same days. The day repeats on a loop, but each day for eight days, Aiden occupies a different body. His only escape from the never ending loop is to solve her murder.

Wow. This was a fantastic, kind of trippy thrill ride. The only thing I can really think to compare it to is The Magus by John Fowler, and that’s only in the sense that both you the reader and the main character really have absolutely no clue what is going on. Unlike The Magus, though, (almost) everything is revealed by the end of the book and it comes to a mostly satisfying conclusion.

Even if it were just a closed door murder mystery, it would still be good. The mystery itself was twisty enough to keep the reader constantly on their feet. I guessed one thing, but most of the elements of the mystery were a total surprise when they were revealed. It’s deliciously complex. The addition of the eight different perspectives along with the fact that everyone is unreliable really added to the story. Add to that the fact that someone is killing off Aiden’s hosts, and the book becomes nearly impossible to put down. I actually had to stop reading it before bed because I was staying up too late (just one more chapter!). There were a few world building things that were left frustratingly vague, but I think that was by intention, so I can’t complain.

This genre bending book will screw with your head in the best way possible. I’ve never read anything quite like it, and I really loved the reading experience. I think a lot of people will enjoy it – mystery lovers, those that enjoy high concepts and general fiction readers are going to love this one. I certainly did! 5 stars.

Thanks to Sourcebooks Landmark and Netgalley for the eARC, which I received for review consideration. The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle will be available for purchase in the US on 18 September 2018. You can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Awards:
We Were Liars
Lockhart, E.
2 stars = Meh
Review:

We Were Liars is a mysterious young adult novel about a wealthy family who spends every summer on their private island. The story focuses on the main character, Cadence. After Cadence suffers a head injury during one of the summers, she cannot remember almost anything from that trip to the island. The next summer things are very different and Cadence has to try and remember why.
This book is quite a page-turner. As Cadence slowly remembers more and more details of the mysterious summer when she suffered her head injury, it is nearly impossible to put the book down. However, not all page-turners are necessarily great books. The story of We Were Liars may have been intriguing, but the content was not very substantial. There didn’t really seem to be any morals, and if there were, they weren’t very clear. Things just happened throughout the story, and although it was a mystery, nothing was truly deep or thought-provoking. The ending was shocking, but after thinking on it I thought, “That’s it?” I think that the drama of the story tricks you into thinking it’s a deep book, but the longer you think on it the more shallow it becomes. Basically, this book is purely entertainment, which is not all bad, but it was one of those books that after I read it, I thought about how I could have used my time differently.
Overall I would not read We Were Liars again, but it wasn’t a terrible book. If you are looking for a book that is just entertainment and won’t make you think much, this is the book for you. If you are looking for an exciting mystery novel, I would say look elsewhere.
Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: Ashlyn P.
Genres:
Bring Me Back
Paris, B.A.
2 stars = Meh
Review:

I slogged through 200+ pages of tedium to reach an absolutely ridiculous conclusion. This will be the last time I see Paris.

Her books have gotten progressively worse. I would lump her in with Ruth Ware. Modern day "thriller" writers who are popular. Why, I do not know.

Reviewer's Name: Alfred Weber
Awards:
The Death of Mrs. Westaway
Ware, Ruth
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

2 1/2 stars. It was a fun Gothic-type novel, but nothing really memorable. If you just need something light to read with not too much substance (I call them "chewing gum" books), you may enjoy this title. This is my 3rd Ruth Ware novel to which I've given 2 1/2-3 stars so I think I'm done with her books.

Reviewer's Name: Krista M.
Awards:
Beneath
Smith, Roland
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The book beneath fallows the story of a teenage boy trying to find his older brother in the abandoned subway systems of New York City. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes suspense books. I would maybe read this book again but for me it was just a one time read.

Reviewer's Name: Ashlyn H
Awards:

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