Book Recs: The "Crime Fiction Month" Edition

The other day, as I was fighting tooth and nail to get into a Crime, Mystery, and Suspense class, the professor asked me why I love and choose to read so many crime fiction novels. After a momentary “deer in the headlights” reaction to being put on the spot, fearing that whatever came out of my mouth next was going to make or break my chances of adding the class, I quickly spit out a hopefully intelligent-sounding, or at the very least, coherent answer. That question stuck with me for the rest of the day though, and the answers began to come more and more easily. Why do I love the crime fiction genre? I love how each book mirrors a complex puzzle that requires brainpower to solve, and the experience of getting to play detective (police procedurals are a decided favorite of mine). I love getting duped by the “final twist” in a well-plotted novel, and then noticing in hindsight the breadcrumb trail the author has left that leads you right to the answer. I love reading about the psychologically unsound (strangely fascinated by serial killers), and exploring what motivates humans to commit acts of murder (and,or other crimes). I love the feeling in the pit of my stomach as the suspense builds, and the spike of adrenaline when I arrive at the moment of truth. And honestly, I think I just love crime (but seriously…I actually have an Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice Technology).

Because of my affinity for crime fiction, and in honor of the spooky month of October, I’ve decided to share some book recs from authors who are continually killing the game, and who have kept me falling in love with the genre.

JO Nesbø, THE HARRY HOLE SERIES

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@mixedbagofbooks review from 2016: “Jo Nesbø has a way of weaving together very complex stories (with complex, human characters), slowing building up suspense, clues, twists, etc. and then sucker punching you with the climax, one that you rarely, if ever, expect. I was trying to explain the entirety of NEMESIS to my friend and it proved to be a rather difficult task; Nesbø's stories are filled with not only multiple storylines (which tie together in brilliant ways) and fully developed characters, but also include so many intricate details that it is nearly impossible to convey Nesbø's genius. I finally just told her she had to read the whole Harry Hole series for herself because I was not doing it justice with my incessant rambling. I will say the same to you guys: if you like crime fiction, specifically Nordic Noir, add these books to your TBR immediately, you will not regret it!!”

Rec on how to start the series from 2016: “I started with THE SNOWMAN (book 7 in the Harry Hole series) to get a feel for Jo Nesbø and to decide if I was willing to commit to reading the whole series (it will be an 11-book series come May 9, 2017) and I can honestly say it was probably the BEST work of crime fiction I have ever read. After finishing THE SNOWMAN, there was no question that I was ready to commit to Harry Hole for the long haul. I decided to start from book 1, THE BAT, and (as I previously mentioned) I am now on book 4. Most Jo Nesbø readers recommend starting at book 3, THE REDBREAST; the first two books (THE BAT and COCKROACHES) have a bit of a different feel and arguably do not give readers the compulsion to obsessively read the rest of the series (as the later books do) so I agree with this recommendation.”

Nesbø’s Next Release: KNIFE, pub date: July 2019, Knopf (the anticipation during the wait for this one just might kill me, tbh).

(Actual cover has not been revealed yet)

(Actual cover has not been revealed yet)

TANA FRENCH, THE DUBLIN MURDER SQUAD SERIES

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@mixedbagofbooks review from 2016: “To celebrate New Years Eve, I wanted to post about one of my favorite authors of the year: Tana French! The books of the DUBLIN MURDER SQUAD series were some of my favorite reads of 2016!! French's novels read like exceptional literary fiction, while also including some of my favorite aspects of police procedurals and psychological thrillers. I love her prose, her characterization, and how each story is personal in some way to the lead detective/protagonist. I absolutely LOVED getting to know supporting characters, and then getting to read their stories in later books of the series. I highly recommend reading these books in order for that reason, but they can definitely be read as stand-alone novels if you are not looking to start a series.”

French’s Next Book: THE WITCH ELM (standalone), pub date: 9 October 2018, Viking (I guarantee this one will be just as incredible as the books in the DMS series… been waiting TWO YEARS to read a new book by French)

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RILEY SAGER, FINAL GIRLS

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@mixedbagofbooks review from this month (October 2018): “I’ve only read the first few chapters of FINAL GIRLS by Riley Sager and it already has me hook, line, & sinker 🎣 . Safe to say, Sager is a new favorite author of mine. This one has a darker / gorier / scarier vibe than THE LAST TIME I LIED, but I have a feeling it will be equally as jaw-dropping in its greatness.” Alright, so technically I have not finished this one and I have finished THE LAST TIME I LIED (and absolutely loved it), but because of how thrilling FINAL GIRLS is so far and its slasher-film vibe, I think it is more of a perfect October book recommendation. I have no doubt it’s going to be getting a rave review from me. Check out the ‘Book Club Picks’ tab of the blog for more information about FINAL GIRLS and to find out how you can read along with us this month!

Sager’s Newest Release: THE LAST TIME I LIED, pub date: 3 July 2018, Dutton (read my full ‘five iced almond lattes’ review of this one under the ‘book reviews’ tab)

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KARIN SLAUGHTER, THE WILL TRENT SERIES

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@mixedbagofbooks review from February 2018: “I finally finished THE KEPT WOMAN by Karin Slaughter! I would say it is either a close second or tied with CRIMINAL as the best book in the series. I think these two are particularly great because they are very personal stories for Will Trent... adds a lot of suspense and emotion to the books. This one made me feel sick to my stomach for him at times. I also cried during one of the final chapters lol (I cry pretty easily, but still). When I first started the book I would have never imagined it going in the direction that it did... it is a super twisty plotline with a lot of players. Slaughter did an exceptional job tying everything together and delivering several insane reveals throughout the last half of the book. I was sitting in class waiting for it to start and I had an epiphany about what one of the big twists probably was… actually gasped out loud and just stared into space while I let it formulate in my brain (probably was served some looks). Anyways - this series is a must-read for crime fiction lovers out there!! And I haven’t even mentioned the best news: THE KEPT WOMAN ended on a cliffhanger sooo there will eventually be another book in the series. Definitely going to preorder that sucker.”

Slaughter’s Newest Release: PIECES OF HER (standalone), pub date: 21 August 2018, William Morrow (Disclaimer: I have yet to read one of her standalones, and I do not know if Slaughter plans to write another book in the Will Trent series, but based on my experience… I’d say any book written by her is a must-read).

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PETER SWANSON, THE KIND WORTH KILLING

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@mixedbagofbooks review from March 2017: “Similar to my experience with HER EVERY FEAR [another book by Swanson], this book was not at all what I expected - it was SO much better. I give it five stars. I cannot even tell you how many jaw-dropping moments there were for me in this book. Chock-full of twists and intriguing storylines and characters - I was one hundred percent hooked the entire time… THE KIND WORTH KILLING also switches point-of-view between characters, but unlike HER EVERY FEAR it is written in the first person narrative. It also switches between time periods, which takes a little to get used to, but is necessary to the mysterious/suspenseful nature of the storyline(s). If you are a fan of Gone Girl or Girl on the Train, then you will LOVE this book!! I personally liked it better than both; without giving anything away, I think this is the case because of the likability of one of the central characters. While HER EVERY FEAR's twist/premise is dark and rather gruesome (which I liked), the twist(s)/premise in THE KIND WORTH KILLING is dark, but the actions of most characters are backed up by a kind of skewed "moral" logic that is SO interesting and smart - nothing is black and white, good or bad, right or wrong necessarily. I am rambling even more than my last post, but seriously guys: move this to the top of your TBR list.”

Swanson’s next release: BEFORE SHE KNEW HIM, pub date: 5 March 2019, William Morrow (consider this one ‘click click’ preordered)

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Alright, I have a case to solve… I mean, a book to read, so that’s all for now, folks. I hope this post has inspired you to don your detective caps and go on a [dead] serious (possibly never-ending) crime fiction kick with me this month!

A Mixed Bag of Book Recs

When I started my #bookstagram account, I tried to pick one genre to primarily post about, but soon realized that I am all over the place when it comes to my reading choices (hence my insta handle). However, there are a group of genres I tend to read from the most, and I have compiled a list of my go-to recs from each of those for you below:

CRIME FICTION

Harry Hole Series by Jo Nesbo

Dublin Murder Squad Series by Tana French

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

Will Trent Series by Karin Slaughter

The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson

ROMANCE

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover

One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay

LITERARY FICTION

The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne 

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

CLASSICS

Jane Austen's Completed Novels (not including Mansfield Park)

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

Stoner by John Williams

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

YOUNG ADULT

The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

To All The Boys I've Loved Before Trilogy by Jenny Han

Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson 

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

 

And last, but certainly not least:

THE HARRY POTTER SERIES by J.K. Rowling

(I read Sorcerer's Stone in 4th grade and it is the reason I fell in love with reading, so this series will #always hold a special place in my heart)

 

**This list is 100% subject to change as I continue to be introduced to new favorite reads

 

 

 

 

@mixedbagofbooks takes NY

I visited NY in mid-August and was once again struck by the feeling that I never wanted to leave (despite the extreme humidity, which had me dripping in sweat to the point that it wrinkled one of my dresses). I never feel more alive, confident, or smiley than when I am strolling the streets of NY (or sitting on the subway or in one of the countless adorable cafes)... And this is only partly because of my propensity to have "Welcome to New York" by T-Swift on repeat while doing so. But seriously... I am already counting down the days until I graduate from UCLA and can make the move to the East Coast. The purpose of this last visit was to see my dear friend, Evan Butler, who selfishly left me in CA to attend NYU (not bitter at all). He gets the photo cred for the shot of me in Central Park below, and I have to say... it captures my personality perfectly: sweaty & awkward.

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As a fellow English major and avid reader, Evan (and his lovely boyfriend, Liam) were thankfully down to help me cross off some of the places on my bookish must-see list. Here were my top four favorites:

1) STRAND BOOKSTORE

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Strand Bookstore is definitely a "duh," must-see spot for book lovers. Said to house 18 miles of books in its Manhattan location (and they ain't lying), it is impossible to see all that they have to offer in one visit (or in two, from my experience). They not only have four floors of books of every genre you could possibly think of, but also an array of tote bags (my favorite), pencil pouches, pens, pins, mugs, socks, magnets, glasses... you name it, they have a bookish version of it. Prepare to walk out of there spending a lot more money than you intended when you walked in the door.

2) THE MYSTERIOUS BOOKSHOP

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Evan had to work one of the days during my visit, so I had to learn to navigate the subway on my own in order to "sleuth around" The Mysterious Bookshop in the Tribeca area (big win for this anxious / directionally challenged individual). Crime fiction has always been one of my go-to genres, so this store was particularly thrilling to me, let me tell you! Picture this: floor-to-ceiling (all crime fiction) books, Beauty and the Beast-esque ladders, a door with crime scene tape and a sign that reads: "nobody shoplifts from a store that knows 3,214 ways to murder someone." I felt right at home.

3) THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY (THE ROSE READING ROOM)

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The last time I visited NY, The Rose Reading Room at the NY Public Library was one of my most highly anticipated places to visit, and to my great chagrin it was closed when I tried to see it (twice). Needless to say, I was over the moon when it was open this time, and even more so when I discovered it was worth the wait. It is definitely the most gorgeous, intricately detailed (and marbled *drool*) library I've ever seen, and the Rose Reading Room is probably one of the prettiest rooms I've ever been in. (Seriously thinking about eloping there one day). I am lightweight jealous of the people who get to read / study / work in there on a regular basis. 

4) BOOKS ARE MAGIC

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For this NY trip, Books Are Magic of Brooklyn was my most highly anticipated place to visit, and I am happy to report that it exceeded all expectations. It is a magical bookstore, to say the least #badpun. It had such a great selection of books (many signed by authors who have visited the store), the decor is gorgeous, the booksellers are incredibly helpful and nice. And don't forget the mural outside, which makes for the best, and possibly the most awkward, photo ops.

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There are SO many bookish sites I have yet to see in NY -- already making my must-see list for the next trip -- but for now: I highly recommend adding these places to the top of your must-see list! (Also visit Milk & Honey cafe in Brooklyn... it is the spot that made me fall in love with iced almond lattes #neverforget).