Summary: When Najwa Bakri walks into her first Scrabble competition since her best friend’s death, it’s with the intention to heal and move on with her life. Perhaps it wasn’t the best idea to choose the very same competition where said best friend, Trina Low, died. It might be even though Najwa’s trying to change, she’s not ready to give up Trina just yet. But the same can’t be said for all the other competitors. With Trina, the Scrabble Queen herself, gone, the throne is empty, and her friends are eager to be the next reigning champion. All’s fair in love and Scrabble, but all bets are off when Trina’s formerly inactive Instagram starts posting again, with cryptic messages suggesting that maybe Trina’s death wasn’t as straightforward as everyone thought. And maybe someone at the competition had something to do with it. As secrets are revealed and the true colors of her friends are shown, it’s up to Najwa to find out who’s behind these mysterious posts—not just to save Trina’s memory, but to save herself.
Review: Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. But I did actually end up listening to the finished audiobook that I borrowed from my local library. I didn’t love this book like I thought it was going to. I thought that it was lacking in a few of my favorite things about mystery/thrillers. There was a real lack of suspense and little to no stakes for the story to just go “ha ha no one did it?” It felt like nothing happened the whole book. A murder mystery should have the stakes slowly raised and I feel like that didn’t happen. It felt like we just did a character-by-character investigation with a backstory with each of the characters. I honestly could have gone for a little info-dumping over the oversharing that I feel like we got with this story. I still liked the idea of a competitive scrabble community. I’m sure this is something that exists out there and I love it. Really niche hobbies like this are really interesting to me. I really liked how the main character had turned her love for scrabble into an incredible vocabulary. I did like Najwa. The way that she thought was really engaging for the story. She’s the reason that I finished the book even though I didn’t really love the story. I did I love the casual mention of putting her hijab on and things like that which we get a few times in the book. While I didn’t love this one, I think it was an issue with my reading lately, and not the fault of the story. I will still be recommending this one in the future.
Summary: Pip is about to head to college, but she is still haunted by the way her last investigation ended. She’s used to online death threats in the wake of her viral true-crime podcast, but she can’t help noticing an anonymous person who keeps asking her: Who will look for you when you’re the one who disappears? Soon the threats escalate and Pip realizes that someone is following her in real life. When she starts to find connections between her stalker and a local serial killer caught six years ago, she wonders if maybe the wrong man is behind bars. Police refuse to act, so Pip has only one choice: find the suspect herself—or be the next victim. As the deadly game plays out, Pip discovers that everything in her small town is coming full circle . . .and if she doesn’t find the answers, this time she will be the one who disappears. . .
Review: I absolutely devoured the first two books in this trilogy, so to say that I was excited about the third is an understatement. As Good As Dead follows Pippa as she is once again solving a mystery. I don’t really want to share too many of the plot details (read the summary above for those if you want them.) I chose to listen to the audiobook for this book just like I did for the first two books in the series and I just cannot recommend the audiobook enough. The cast for this series really does a stellar job telling this story and I loved that we got some more of the full cast and podcast elements that we didn’t really get in the second book. High fives all around to the narration team for this book. The plot of this book was an interesting one. Pippa is back to solve another mystery, but that mystery leads in an opposite direction from the first two books. I think that was the strangest thing about this story compared to the first two. In those, Pippa is solving a murder and finding a missing friend, but in this one, she’s trying to solve a mystery to “save herself” and that mystery turns dangerous and wild about halfway into the book. The events in the second half of the book were a wild ride. They almost felt out of character for Pippa but the author made it so easy to understand how Pippa had gotten to the point she’s at where she’s making these choices. That sentence was incredibly vague and if you haven’t read this book it was probably confusing. But Pippa in this book is absolutely not the same Pippa we got to know in book one. She’s dealing with some serious PTSD and trauma, and not really coping with any of it very well. She’s convinced herself that she just has to solve one more mystery and she will go back to who she was before, which is absolutely not how stuff like that works. I think the character growth and development was really well done, but I do wish we’d gotten to see Pippa actually deal with some of her stuff outside of talking about her attempts with therapy that occurred between books two and three. Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Pippa has changed so much in this series, it was incredibly compelling to see how those changes affected the choices she made in this book. I still think it’s interesting the way the mystery is sort of opposite from the mystery in the first book (and only people that have read this one will know what that means, sorry). I will definitely be reading more books from Jackson in the future.
Hi, lovelies! I’m back for the final installment of my genre-specific recommendations to gift to your fellow book lovers. I’ve chosen contemporary for today’s genre, but that’s sort of in a broad sense because it’s going to be both mystery/thrillers and realistic fiction. I had plenty of realistic fiction to recommend, but I read a lot of popular mystery/thrillers so I don’t have many underrated recommendations for that genre. Let’s start with the few mystery/thrillers that I do have for this list.
Surrender Your Sons by Adam Sass “Connor Major’s summer break is turning into a nightmare. His SAT scores bombed, the old man he delivers meals to died, and when he came out to his religious zealot mother, she had him kidnapped and shipped off to a secluded island. His final destination: Nightlight Ministries, a conversion therapy camp that will be his new home until he “changes.” But Connor’s troubles are only beginning. At Nightlight, everyone has something to hide from the campers to the “converted” staff and cagey camp director, and it quickly becomes clear that no one is safe. Connor plans to escape and bring the other kidnapped teens with him. But first, he’s exposing the camp’s horrible truths for what they are—and taking this place down.”
I Hope You’re Listening by Tom Ryan “In her small town, seventeen year-old Delia “Dee” Skinner is known as the girl who wasn’t taken. Ten years ago, she witnessed the abduction of her best friend, Sibby. And though she told the police everything she remembered, it wasn’t enough. Sibby was never seen again.At night, Dee deals with her guilt by becoming someone else: the Seeker, the voice behind the popular true crime podcast Radio Silent, which features missing persons cases and works with online sleuths to solve them. Nobody knows Dee’s the Seeker, and she plans to keep it that way.When another little girl goes missing, and the case is linked to Sibby’s disappearance, Dee has a chance to get answers, with the help of her virtual detectives and the intriguing new girl at school. But how much is she willing to reveal about herself in order to uncover the truth? Dee’s about to find out what’s really at stake in unraveling the mystery of the little girls who vanished.”
All The Bad Apples by Moira Fowley-Doyle “The day after the funeral all our mourning clothes hung out on the line like sleeping bats. ‘This will be really embarrassing,’ I kept saying to my family, ‘when she shows up at the door in a week or two.’ When Deena’s wild and mysterious sister Mandy disappears – presumed dead – her family are heartbroken. But Mandy has always been troubled. It’s just another bad thing to happen to Deena’s family. Only Deena refuses to believe it’s true. And then the letters start arriving. Letters from Mandy, claiming that their family’s blighted history is not just bad luck or bad decisions – but a curse, handed down through the generations. Mandy has gone in search of the curse’s roots, and now Deena must find her. What they find will heal their family’s rotten past – or rip it apart forever.”
YA Realistic Fiction
The Year They Fell by David Kreizman “Josie, Jack, Archie, Harrison, and Dayana were inseparable as preschoolers. But that was before high school, before parties and football and getting into the right college. Now, as senior year approaches, they’re basically strangers to each other. Until they’re pulled back together when their parents die in a plane crash. These former friends are suddenly on their own. And they’re the only people who can really understand how that feels. To survive, the group must face the issues that drove them apart, reveal secrets they’ve kept since childhood, and discover who they’re meant to be. And in the face of public scrutiny, they’ll confront mysteries their parents left behind—betrayals that threaten to break the friendships apart again. A new family is forged in this heartbreaking, funny, and surprising book from award-winning storyteller David Kreizman. It’s a deeply felt, complex journey into adulthood, exploring issues of grief, sexual assault, racism, and trauma.”
The How and the Why by Cynthia Hand “Today Melly had us writing letters to our babies… Cassandra McMurtrey has the best parents a girl could ask for. They’ve given Cass a life she wouldn’t trade for the world. She has everything she needs—except maybe the one thing she wants. Like, to know who she is. Where she came from. Questions her adoptive parents can’t answer, no matter how much they love her. But eighteen years ago, someone wrote Cass a series of letters. And they may just hold the answers Cass has been searching for. Alternating between Cass’s search for answers and letters from the pregnant teen who gave her up for adoption, this voice-driven narrative is the perfect read for fans of Nina LaCour and Jandy Nelson.”
Golden Boys Beware by Hannah Capin “Jade and her friends Jenny, Mads, and Summer rule their glittering LA circle. Untouchable, they have the kind of power other girls only dream of. Every party is theirs and the world is at their feet. Until the night of Jade’s sweet sixteen, when they crash a St. Andrew’s Prep party. The night the golden boys choose Jade as their next target. They picked the wrong girl. Sworn to vengeance, Jade transfers to St. Andrew’s. She plots to destroy each boy, one by one. She’ll take their power, their lives, and their control of the prep school’s hierarchy. And she and her coven have the perfect way in: a boy named Mack, whose ambition could turn deadly.”
Hope and Other Punchlines by Julie Buxbaum “Abbi Hope Goldstein is like every other teenager, with a few smallish exceptions: her famous alter ego, Baby Hope, is the subject of internet memes, she has asthma, and sometimes people spontaneously burst into tears when they recognize her. Abbi has lived almost her entire life in the shadow of the terrorist attacks of September 11. On that fateful day, she was captured in what became an iconic photograph: in the picture, Abbi (aka “Baby Hope”) wears a birthday crown and grasps a red balloon; just behind her, the South Tower of the World Trade Center is collapsing. Now, fifteen years later, Abbi is desperate for anonymity and decides to spend the summer before her seventeenth birthday incognito as a counselor at Knights Day Camp two towns away. She’s psyched for eight weeks in the company of four-year-olds, none of whom have ever heard of Baby Hope. Too bad Noah Stern, whose own world was irrevocably shattered on that terrible day, has a similar summer plan. Noah believes his meeting Baby Hope is fate. Abbi is sure it’s a disaster. Soon, though, the two team up to ask difficult questions about the history behind the Baby Hope photo. But is either of them ready to hear the answers?”
Echoes Between Us by Katie McGarry “Veronica sees ghosts. More specifically, her mother’s ghost. The afterimages of blinding migraines caused by the brain tumor that keeps her on the fringes and consumes her whole life haunt her, even as she wonders if it’s something more…Golden boy Sawyer is handsome and popular, a state champion swimmer, but his adrenaline addiction draws him to Veronica. A girl with nothing to live for and a boy with everything to lose–can they conquer their demons together?”
How the Light Gets In by Katy Upperman “Since her sister’s tragic death, seventeen-year-old Callie Ryan has basically given up. Her grades have plummeted, she’s quit her swim team, and she barely recognizes the people her parents have become. When she returns to her aunt’s run-down coastal Victorian one year after Chloe’s death, Callie resigns herself to a summer of guilt and home renovations. She doesn’t expect to be charmed by the tiny coastal town or by Tucker Morgan, a local boy brimming with sunshine. But even as her days begin to brighten, Callie’s nights are crowded with chilling dreams, unanswered questions, and eerie phenomenon that have her convinced she’s being haunted. Will Callie be able to figure out what her sister is trying to communicate before it’s too late?”
Deposing Nathan by Zack Smedley “Nate never imagined that he would be attacked by his best friend, Cam. Now, Nate is being called to deliver a sworn statement that will get Cam convicted. The problem is, the real story isn’t that easy or convenient—just like Nate and Cam’s friendship. Cam challenged Nate on every level from the day the boys met. He pushed him to break the rules, to dream, and to accept himself. But Nate—armed with a fierce moral code and conflicted by his own beliefs—started to push back. With each push, Nate and Cam moved closer to each other—but also spiraled closer to their breaking points.”
No Place Like Here by Christina June “Ashlyn Zanotti has big plans for the summer. She’s just spent a year at boarding school and can’t wait to get home. But when Ashlyn’s father is arrested for tax evasion and her mother enters a rehab facility for “exhaustion,” a.k.a. depression, her life is turned upside down. The cherry on top? Ashlyn’s father sends her to work with a cousin she doesn’t even know at a rustic team-building retreat center in the middle of nowhere. A self-proclaimed “indoor girl,” not even Ash’s habit of leaving breadcrumb quotes—inspirational sayings she scribbles everywhere—can help her cope. With a dangerously careless camp manager doling out grunt work, an overbearing father trying to control her even from prison, and more than a little boy drama to struggle with, the summer is full of challenges. And Ashlyn must make the toughest decision of her life: keep quiet and follow her dad’s marching orders, or find the courage to finally stand up to her father to have any hope of finding her way back home.”
The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake “The Larkin family isn’t just lucky—they persevere. At least that’s what Violet and her younger brother, Sam, were always told. When the Lyric sank off the coast of Maine, their great-great-great-grandmother didn’t drown like the rest of the passengers. No, Fidelia swam to shore, fell in love, and founded Lyric, Maine, the town Violet and Sam returned to every summer. But wrecks seem to run in the family. Tall, funny, musical Violet can’t stop partying with the wrong people. And, one beautiful summer day, brilliant, sensitive Sam attempts to take his own life. Shipped back to Lyric while Sam is in treatment, Violet is haunted by her family’s missing piece—the lost shipwreck she and Sam dreamed of discovering when they were children. Desperate to make amends, Violet embarks on a wildly ambitious mission: locate the Lyric, lying hidden in a watery grave for over a century. She finds a fellow wreck hunter in Liv Stone, an amateur local historian whose sparkling intelligence and guarded gray eyes make Violet ache in an exhilarating new way. Whether or not they find the Lyric, the journey Violet takes—and the bridges she builds along the way—may be the start of something like survival.”
We Speak in Storms by Natalie Lund “It’s been more than 50 years since a tornado tore through a drive-in movie theater in tiny Mercer, Illinois, leaving dozens of teens — a whole generation of Mercerites — dead in its wake. So when another tornado touches down in the exact same spot on the anniversary of this small-town tragedy, the town is shaken. For Brenna Ortiz, Joshua Calloway, and Callie Keller, the apprehension is more than just a feeling. Though they seem to share nothing more than a struggle to belong, the teens’ paths continue to intersect, bringing them together when they least expect it, and perhaps, when they need it most. Both the living and the dead have secrets and unresolved problems, but they may be able to find peace and move forward–if only they work together. A beautifully told, haunting yet hopeful novel about pushing past the pain, facing the world, and finding yourself.”
The Art of Losing by Lizzy Mason “On one terrible night, 17-year-old Harley Langston’s life changes forever. At a party she discovers her younger sister, Audrey, hooking up with her boyfriend, Mike—and she abandons them both in a rage. When Mike drunkenly attempts to drive Audrey home, he crashes and Audrey ends up in a coma. Now Harley is left with guilt, grief, pain and the undeniable truth that her ex-boyfriend (who is relatively unscathed) has a drinking problem. So it’s a surprise that she finds herself reconnecting with Raf, a neighbor and childhood friend who’s recently out of rehab and still wrestling with his own demons. At first Harley doesn’t want to get too close to him. But as Audrey awakens and slowly recovers, Raf starts to show Harley a path forward that she never would have believed possible—one guided by honesty, forgiveness, and redemption.”
All Our Broken Pieces by L.D. Crichton “Lennon Davis doesn’t believe in much, but she does believe in the security of the number five. If she flicks the bedroom light switch five times, maybe her new L.A. school won’t suck. But that doesn’t feel right, so she flicks the switch again. And again. Ten more flicks of the switch and maybe her new stepfamily will accept her. Twenty-five more flicks and maybe she won’t cause any more of her loved ones to die. Fifty times more and then she can finally go to sleep. Kyler Benton witnesses this pattern of lights from the safety of his treehouse in the yard next door. It is only there, hidden from the unwanted stares of his peers, that Kyler can fill his notebooks with lyrics that reveal the true scars of the boy behind the oversized hoodies and caustic humor. But Kyler finds that descriptions of blonde hair, sad eyes, and tapping fingers are beginning to fill the pages of his notebooks. Lennon, the lonely girl next door his father has warned him about, infiltrates his mind. Even though he has enough to deal with without Lennon’s rumored tragic past in his life, Kyler can’t help but want to know the truth about his new muse.”
These are my recommendations for those readers in your life that love realistic or hard-hitting fiction, or mystery/thrillers. I added these to this list because these are all books that I absolutely loved. I also never see anyone talk about them, so please buy them for your loved ones and spread the word of these wonderful stories.
Summary: A slick, twisty YA page-turner about the daughter of a con artist who is taken hostage in a bank heist. Nora O’Malley’s been a lot of girls. As the daughter of a con-artist who targets criminal men, she grew up as her mother’s protégé. But when mom fell for the mark instead of conning him, Nora pulled the ultimate con: escape. For five years Nora’s been playing at normal. But she needs to dust off the skills she ditched because she has three problems: #1: Her ex walked in on her with her girlfriend. Even though they’re all friends, Wes didn’t know about her and Iris. #2: The morning after Wes finds them kissing, they all have to meet to deposit the fundraiser money they raised at the bank. It’s a nightmare that goes from awkward to deadly, because: #3: Right after they enter bank, two guys start robbing it. The bank robbers may be trouble, but Nora’s something else entirely. They have no idea who they’re really holding hostage…
Review: The Girls I’ve Been was exactly what it says in the summary. It was a twisty and slick story that follows Nora. Except before she was Nora, she was Ashley. And before that she was someone else. She was raised by a con woman that trained Nora to behave in a certain way to get money from powerful and wealthy men. We learn slowly about all of these girls that Nora has been (which yes, is where the title comes from. And yes, I loved that.) While we’re not learning about Nora’s past, we’re in the present where Nora, her girlfriend, and her best friend are currently in the middle of a bank robbery. I really liked Nora. Her backstory was horrible but in a way that you can’t look away from. Learning about her past with her mother and how she ended up living where she was now with her sister was fascinating. But the bank robbery parts of the story were equally compelling. I like how Sharpe managed to make both parts of this story just as interesting. Nora was a character that had been through so much and her past was perfect to get her and her friends out of the situation they were in. But for being in the middle of a bank robbery, the story was surprisingly emotional. Her best friend, Wes, who is also her ex-boyfriend, knows about Nora’s past. But Nora’s girlfriend, Iris, doesn’t know anything about it. Nora and Iris haven’t been together very long. In fact, Wes had only just found out about their relationship (which added some great emotional tension). I honestly loved all three of these friends so much. They each have their own issues, but they all sort of bond over them. They learn so much about one another and their friendship only grows stronger. Overall, I devoured this story. I listened to the audiobook and I really liked the narrator (who I believe is the author, Tess Sharpe). I loved the chapter headings that shared all of the items they’d collected and potential plans, as well as, plans they’d tried and had failed. I saw a review that talked about this being a story about a morally grey bi girl and I love that so much. I am going to be reading more of Sharpe’s books in the future, for sure.
Summary: What was it like? Living in that house. Maggie Holt is used to such questions. Twenty-five years ago, she and her parents, Ewan and Jess, moved into Baneberry Hall, a rambling Victorian estate in the Vermont woods. They spent three weeks there before fleeing in the dead of night, an ordeal Ewan later recounted in a nonfiction book called House of Horrors. His tale of ghostly happenings and encounters with malevolent spirits became a worldwide phenomenon, rivaling The Amityville Horror in popularity—and skepticism. Today, Maggie is a restorer of old homes and too young to remember any of the events mentioned in her father’s book. But she also doesn’t believe a word of it. Ghosts, after all, don’t exist. When Maggie inherits Baneberry Hall after her father’s death, she returns to renovate the place to prepare it for sale. But her homecoming is anything but warm. People from the past, chronicled in House of Horrors, lurk in the shadows. And locals aren’t thrilled that their small town has been made infamous thanks to Maggie’s father. Even more unnerving is Baneberry Hall itself—a place filled with relics from another era that hint at a history of dark deeds. As Maggie experiences strange occurrences straight out of her father’s book, she starts to believe that what he wrote was more fact than fiction.
Review: Here are five things I liked about Home Before Dark:
I really liked that the story was told in alternating chapters. We follow Maggie, present day, but we also get excerpts from her father’s book (which is heavily talked about by Maggie in the present-day chapters). I thought this was a creative and interesting way to tell the story. I think it worked right up until the big reveal about the book.
Along with how the story is told in both the present and the past, I thought it was really interesting how things that were happening to Maggie and Maggie’s actions were mirroring and reflecting many of the things that had already happened (or were claimed to happen in her dad’s book) in the past.
I was surprised to find that I actually sort of liked that I had no idea what was the truth and what wasn’t. I don’t usually like books where I don’t actually know what’s going on. But Sager did an excellent job keeping up the mystery and the suspense until the big reveal. I spent most of the book flip-flopping between firmly believing that the ghosts were real or that they were definitely all made up.
I listened to the audiobook which has two narrators. I liked both narrators. The male narrator that read Maggie’s father’s book did a great job and I will absolutely be seeking out more book narrated by him. I liked the narrator for Maggie as well. I think she did a great job telling the story and keeping up the emotion and suspense.
The big reveal. I liked it because like I said above, I went back and forth for the entire book between believing and not believing that the ghosts were real. So, to finally have confirmation one way or another was almost a relief. I liked how things all played out to put it vaguely so that I don’t spoil anything.
Overall, I really liked this book. I’m not surprised since I’ve liked all of Sager’s other books I’ve read. I also discovered (partially because of this book) that I really like the ‘but are the ghosts real or not’ trope for horror and mystery books. I would definitely recommend the audiobook for this one to any audiobook fans, but I’m sure the physical or digital book was just as good.
Summary: After the first season of her true crime podcast became an overnight sensation and set an innocent man free, Rachel Krall is now a household name―and the last hope for thousands of people seeking justice. But she’s used to being recognized for her voice, not her face. Which makes it all the more unsettling when she finds a note on her car windshield, addressed to her, begging for help. The small town of Neapolis is being torn apart by a devastating rape trial. The town’s golden boy, a swimmer destined for Olympic greatness, has been accused of raping a high school student, the beloved granddaughter of the police chief. Under pressure to make Season Three a success, Rachel throws herself into interviewing and investigating―but the mysterious letters keep showing up in unexpected places. Someone is following her, and she won’t stop until Rachel finds out what happened to her sister twenty-five years ago. Officially, Jenny Stills tragically drowned, but the letters insists she was murdered―and when Rachel starts asking questions, nobody seems to want to answer. The past and present start to collide as Rachel uncovers startling connections between the two cases that will change the course of the trial and the lives of everyone involved. Electrifying and propulsive, The Night Swim asks: What is the price of a reputation? Can a small town ever right the wrongs of its past? And what really happened to Jenny?
Review: I’m going to make this a list review because I’m once again feeling a bit burnt out on reviews. But I really loved this book. So, I still want to get a review posted for it. Here are five things I liked about The Night Swim.
I really liked the audiobook. We got a few sound effects and such for the chapters where Rachel was narrating her podcast. There was also more than one narrator. I think the audio was just all around well done and did a great job keeping me engaged in the story.
This book covers some series topics like rape and sexual assault. I think it did those things really thoughtfully and kindly. But it also did them realistically, which was heart breaking at times.
I really loved how the past of Hannah telling her sister’s story and the story of the present were woven together. I think this worked really well as a storytelling device. It’s not always a good way to tell a story, but it really worked for this book.
I liked Rachel. She loved creating her podcast, but she didn’t love the fame that came with her success. I thought her desire for anonymity was really interesting compared with how well her podcast did. I liked her as a character as well. She wasn’t really the focus of the story, but it’s told through her perspective so we got to know her and a bit about her past.
The pace of this story was excellent. I think because it’s about tough topics, I was immediately sucked in. But it was the way the story was told with the characters and the two different timelines that really made it feel fast paced. I listened to the audiobook in one sitting.
Overall, I would (and already have) definitely recommend this book. I wouldn’t recommend it for just spooky season either. I think this would be a compelling and interesting story any time of year.
Suummary: In Gold Coast, Long Island, everything from the expensive downtown shops to the manicured beaches, to the pressed uniforms of Jill Newman and her friends, looks perfect. But as Jill found out three years ago, nothing is as it seems. Freshman year Jill’s best friend, the brilliant, dazzling Shaila Arnold, was killed by her boyfriend. After that dark night on the beach, Graham confessed, the case was closed, and Jill tried to move on. Now, it’s Jill’s senior year and she’s determined to make it her best yet. After all, she’s a senior and a Player–a member of Gold Coast Prep’s exclusive, not-so-secret secret society. Senior Players have the best parties, highest grades and the admiration of the entire school. This is going to be Jill’s year. She’s sure of it. But when Jill starts getting texts proclaiming Graham’s innocence, her dreams of the perfect senior year start to crumble. If Graham didn’t kill Shaila, who did? Jill vows to find out, but digging deeper could mean putting her friendships, and her future, in jeopardy
Review: I’ve been really liking the ‘what I liked/what I didn’t like’ format that I’ve been using for some of my recent reviews. So, I’m going to continue that with today’s review.
What I Liked:
I liked Jill. She was a main character that I felt I could be invested in. She’s a senior at Gold Coast Prep. She’s a Player (Gold Coast’s ‘secret’ society). But when questions arise about who actually killed her best friend, Shaila, Jill’s point of view changes. I liked that she didn’t just accept the status quo. She thought for herself, even if that meant upsetting her friends.
The mystery of who killed Shaila was a good one, in my opinion. I didn’t guess the twist until just a few pages before it was revealed.
I liked the setting of Gold Coast and all the parts of the story that surrounded the Players.
The story goes back and forth between the past and the present as a way for us to get to know Jill and her friends and the things they’ve been through since Freshman year. I liked this, mostly.
I listened to the audiobook for this one and I’m very glad that I did. I liked the narrator. I think she did a great job telling this story and keeping me engaged.
What I Didn’t Like:
I didn’t like pretty much any of the characters aside from Jill. Other than maybe Graham’s sister (I can’t remember her name). I liked her. But all Jill’s friends at Gold Coast we’re pretty terrible, honestly.
I liked some things about the story going back and forth between the present and the past, but I think because I was listening to the audiobook it wasn’t always clear when these jumps were happened. There were often clues I could pick up on, but I would have preferred a clearer distinction.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. I’m looking forward to Goodman’s new release that I’m waiting for from the library. I liked the prep school setting. I think the ‘secret’ society was fun. But really, Jill made this story what it was, I think.
Summary: Three best friends, a lake house, a secret trip – what could go wrong? It was supposed to be the perfect prom weekend getaway. But it’s clear something terrible happened when Claire wakes up alone and bloodied on a hiking trail with no memory of the past forty-eight hours. Three went up the mountain, but only one came back. Now everyone wants answers – most of all, Claire. She remembers Friday night, but after that… nothing. And now Kat and Jesse – her best friends – are missing. That weekend changes everything. What happened on the mountain? And where are Kat and Jesse? Claire knows the answers are buried somewhere in her memory, but as she’s learning, everyone has secrets – even her best friends. And she’s pretty sure she’s not going to like what she remembers.
Review: I honestly remember little to nothing about this book. So, after refreshing my memory a bit by reading some reviews, I’m going to share what I liked and what I didn’t.
What I Liked:
I liked the pacing. I read this book in an afternoon while I was on vacation and it was wonderful. I wasn’t bored or easily distracted. I was interested in the story and it kept my attention.
I enjoyed the suspense. Claire doesn’t have any memory of what happened ‘that weekend’ and the suspense of not knowing, getting small details slowly revealed, was really well done in my opinion.
I actually liked Claire. Her friends were pretty awful. But I liked Claire.
That Weekend covered some heavy topics (such as domestic violence, death, and abuse.) I think these topics were all covered thoughtfully and with care, all except for that horrible twist at the end.
What I Didn’t Like:
This book was incredibly forgettable. I’m writing this review about two weeks after having read the book and I had to go and read other reviews to remember anything about this book (aside from the fact that I really didn’t like the twist, but I still don’t remember what that twist was?)
Okay, I just read reviews until I found a really detailed one that jogged my memory about the twists. I liked most of them. But right at the end, there’s a horrible incest twist that is completely unnecessary and just awful. I would have liked this book so much more had that bit just not been included.
Claire’s “friends” Kat and Jesse were awful. The two are dating, but Claire’s been in love with Jesse for years. Kat is a horrible best friend and I just didn’t really like either of them.
Overall, I wanted to like this book more than I did. There were some twists that felt like they were purely for shock value and others that I thought were pretty good. I would say that I have mixed feeling about this book, but I don’t really remember it enough to actually care.
Summary: Avery Grambs has a plan for a better future: survive high school, win a scholarship, and get out. But her fortunes change in an instant when billionaire Tobias Hawthorne dies and leaves Avery virtually his entire fortune. The catch? Avery has no idea why–or even who Tobias Hawthorne is. To receive her inheritance, Avery must move into sprawling, secret passage-filled Hawthorne House, where every room bears the old man’s touch–and his love of puzzles, riddles, and codes. Unfortunately for Avery, Hawthorne House is also occupied by the family that Tobias Hawthorne just dispossessed. This includes the four Hawthorne grandsons: dangerous, magnetic, brilliant boys who grew up with every expectation that one day, they would inherit billions. Heir apparent Grayson Hawthorne is convinced that Avery must be a con-woman, and he’s determined to take her down. His brother, Jameson, views her as their grandfather’s last hurrah: a twisted riddle, a puzzle to be solved. Caught in a world of wealth and privilege, with danger around every turn, Avery will have to play the game herself just to survive.
Review: I was not expecting to like this book as much as I did. I thought there was going to be some fantasy or magical element, but I wasn’t disappointed by the fact that there wasn’t. The Inheritance Games is a delightfully mysterious story that follows Avery as she learns that she has inherited the fortune of Tobias Hawthorne, a man that she has never met. The only stipulation is that she must live in Hawthorne House for one year before she can receive this inheritance. The downside of moving into a big mysterious mansion? The other people that live in it. This starts the riddles, puzzles, and occasionally, nonsense that Avery must deal with. Tobias Hawthorne had two daughters. One of his daughters has four sons. These four, Tobias’s grandsons, will be Avery’s biggest challenge. I liked the characters. I think they were all well developed and interesting (even the ones I didn’t like). It was never really clear who was on Avery’s side, or at least, who didn’t completely despise her. I think the mystery of this story was so well done. It’s a series, so there’s definitely some things that didn’t get answered, but I felt like enough of my questions were answered for me to feel satisfied. I think the Hawthorne grandsons were absolutely fascinating. Each of them had such different reactions to Avery’s new place in their lives. I think Barnes did an excellent job of leaving little bits and pieces of the truth for the reader to put together. There’s so much to make theories and guesses for and I really enjoyed this part. At times, it was easy to even doubt Avery. The one thing I didn’t like was the romance aspect of it. It seemed like insta-love, which isn’t a trope that I care for. I think the romance absolutely was not needed in this book. I think the relationship could have stayed completely platonic, or if anything could have been a one-sided attraction. I don’t think the romance really added anything special to the story and I didn’t care for it. Overall, I absolutely had a blast reading this book. I read it in one sitting and I could not put it down until I got to the last page. I really enjoyed the characters, even the bad ones. I liked the mystery. It kept me interested and wondering what the truth behind Avery getting the inheritance. I am very eager to get my hands on the sequel later this year.
Summary: Welcome to Amontillado, Ohio, where your last name is worth more than money, and secrets can be kept… for a price. Tress Montor knows that her family used to mean something—until she didn’t have a family anymore. When her parents disappeared seven years ago while driving her best friend home, Tress lost everything. She might still be a Montor, but the entire town shuns her now that she lives with her drunken, one-eyed grandfather at what locals refer to as the “White Trash Zoo,” – a wild animal attraction featuring a zebra, a chimpanzee, and a panther, among other things. Felicity Turnado has it all – looks, money, and a secret that she’s kept hidden. She knows that one misstep could send her tumbling from the top of the social ladder, and she’s worked hard to make everyone forget that she was with the Montors the night they disappeared. Felicity has buried what she knows so deeply that she can’t even remember what it is… only that she can’t look at Tress without having a panic attack. But she’ll have to. Tress has a plan. A Halloween costume party at an abandoned house provides the ideal situation for Tress to pry the truth from Felicity – brick by brick – as she slowly seals her former best friend into a coal chute. With a drunken party above them, and a loose panther on the prowl, Tress will have her answers – or settle for revenge. In the first book of this duology, award-winning author Mindy McGinnis draws inspiration from Edgar Allan Poe and masterfully delivers a dark, propulsive mystery in alternating points of view that unravels a friendship… forevermore.
Review: McGinnis’ books have been hit or miss for me. I either absolutely love them or I don’t really like them very much at all. The Initial Insult was one I really, really enjoyed. It was dark and gritty. It was inspired by Edgar Allan Poe and that absolutely comes through in the story. It follows Tress and Felicity in alternating chapters. Tress and Felicity were best friends, but then Tress’s parents disappear late one night while they were giving Felicity a ride home. Felicity doesn’t remember what happened. She didn’t see anything, but vaguely remembers being carried away from the car. Since then, she’s become one of the popular girls in high school. She also has seizures that she doesn’t let anyone know about. I thought it was really interesting to see how Felicity deals with this. She uses drugs and drinks to excess. While I didn’t like Felicity for most of the book, especially after we flashback to story after story of her not handling things with Tress well, it was hard not to feel for her. She’s been pushed this way and that by her mother, her friends, even by Tress. The way her story ended was definitely shocking and I am very eager to see what will happen with her in the next book. Tress was a very unlikable character as well. But in a different way. Her parents went missing and she was sent to live with her grandfather. Her grandfather owns an exotic animal zoo (think Tiger King). It’s certainly an adjustment for her, moving from a stable home with two parents to a trailer on land with incredible dangerous animals that she’s now been enlisted to help take care of. To say that Tress is unhappy doesn’t accurately explain her feelings. She has never gotten over her parent’s disappearance. This is what fuels Tress to trick Felicity into the basement and question her about what Felicity remembers from that night. I think this story was a wild ride. It had so many different things going on, but it wasn’t too much. None of the plotlines took away from any of the others. I loved how dark this story was. Tress was a really dark character. She did illegal things to make money. She essentially tortures Felicity, who used to be her best friend. But also, I sort of loved her. The way the story was told was really well done. We start in present day, leading up to the Halloween party where most of this story happens. But while Tress is questioning Felicity, we get flashbacks into the past that show us both Tress and Felicity’s points of view in these moments. I thought McGinnis did an incredible job getting me to like both of these terrible girls. They’re so different from one another, but they’re both terrible. Overall, I really enjoyed this. I think anyone that likes dark books will like this one. I loved the way the story was told, the characters, the mood and tone of the story. I loved it all. The ending matched the rest of the story by being totally wild. Also, I just have to mention the chapters from the panther’s point of view. They were weird and I completely loved them. I definitely recommend this one.
Summary: Pretty and popular high school senior Andie Bell was murdered by her boyfriend, Sal Singh, who then killed himself. It was all anyone could talk about. And five years later, Pip sees how the tragedy still haunts her town. But she can’t shake the feeling that there was more to what happened that day. She knew Sal when she was a child, and he was always so kind to her. How could he possibly have been a killer? Now a senior herself, Pip decides to reexamine the closed case for her final project, at first just to cast doubt on the original investigation. But soon she discovers a trail of dark secrets that might actually prove Sal innocent . . . and the line between past and present begins to blur. Someone in Fairview doesn’t want Pip digging around for answers, and now her own life might be in danger. This is the story of an investigation turned obsession, full of twists and turns and with an ending you’ll never expect.
Review: A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder follows Pippa Fitz-Amobi in her senior year of high school. She’s working on her senior capstone project. She has decided to solve a murder, though that’s not what she tells her school officials. Five years ago, Andie Bell was murdered. Her boyfriend, Sal Singh, committed suicide and confessed to killing Andie. So, case closed, right? Not so much since Andie’s body has never been found. Pippa remembers Sal fondly. He stuck up for her against bullies. He was best friends with Pippa’s best friend’s sister, Naomi. She doesn’t believe that Sal could have done this. So, she decides that she’s going to prove he’s innocent. I have to mention that I listened to the audiobook. This is relevant because of the format of the story. This book is written with journal entries that Pippa writes for her capstone project. These entries include transcripts from phone and in person interviews that she’s done with people to gather evidence. So, these interviews are narrated with a full cast. There’s one narrator that tells the story, Pippa’s chapters and journal entries. But there are so many other narrators that read parts of interviews and other things. I think this was such a great audiobook. If you liked Sadieby Courtney Summers, you will probably like this audiobook also. Now, Pippa. She’s an extremely smart girl. School and homework is basically her whole personality. She also is very family oriented. I loved the bits of the story that included her parents and her younger brother. She has a step-father that is Nigerian who she sees has her father. I believe this to be a big influence to why Pippa stands up when she sees racism or other discrimination. I think some may see this as her being a ‘white savior’ which I can understand, but I just didn’t see it that way. I think Pippa was raised to stand up for what is right and that’s what she did in this story. I thought it was really interesting to see Pippa, branded as a ‘good girl’, cross all kinds of lines (blackmail, cat phishing, breaking and entering) to find the truth about what happened to Andie. We see this mystery sort of unravel her and it was fascinating. I usually liked to read YA mystery/thrillers because they’re easy and usually a bit predictable. This book wasn’t either of those things. It talks about racism (Sal was Indian, so in this small town it’s easy for everyone to think that he killed Andie. There are some pretty racist things said about Sal.) There is the death of an animal, which was upsetting because it didn’t really add anything to the story. I don’t think it needed to happen. There’s talk of drugs and characters being drugged. But the twists and turns were not ones that I expected at all. I think the plot and writing was so well done. Also, I learned just before writing this review, that the US version of the story was changed so that the story took place in Connecticut instead of the UK (where the author is from and where the UK version takes place). I just don’t see why that was necessary and I think the book would have been even better had it not been changed. Overall, I really enjoyed this story. I definitely think the audiobook had something to do with that. I think all of the characters were interesting and added something to the story. There were so many little pieces that were put together to make this mystery what it was and I loved it. The suspense and wonder were really well done. I also have to mention Ravi, Sal’s brother, who helps Pippa to solve this mystery. I liked that they worked together. I also liked that Ravi called Pippa out when she was doing too much. I also liked that they had a bit of a romance, but not so much that it took away from anything else in the story. If you like YA mystery/thrillers, you should definitely listen to this audiobook.
Summary: Nine months. Two weeks. Six days. That’s how long recovering addict Sophie’s been drug-free. Four months ago her best friend, Mina, died in what everyone believes was a drug deal gone wrong – a deal they think Sophie set up. Only Sophie knows the truth. She and Mina shared a secret, but there was no drug deal. Mina was deliberately murdered. Forced into rehab for an addiction she’d already beaten, Sophie’s finally out and on the trail of the killer—but can she track them down before they come for her?
Review: Far From You is a mystery/thriller that follows Sophie. Sophie was in a car accident and as a result has pins in her leg and lives with lifelong pain. After the accident, she’s prescribed pain killers and becomes addicted to them. Now, flash forward and it’s been four months since her best friend, Mina, was murdered. Everyone thinks it was a drug deal gone wrong, but Sophie has been sober for almost a year and Mina never would have enabled Sophie to get more drug anyway. Sophie is sent away to a rehab program, which she doesn’t need. The story starts with Sophie getting ready to get out of rehab. Sophie is determined to figure out who really killed Mina and why. But the story isn’t told chronologically. This was the only thing I really had trouble with. I listened to the audiobook, so the narrator jumping all around the timeline was confusing. It was hard to keep up with where in time things were until we got a bit of context, but in the beginning of the story I wasn’t familiar with all of that important context. So, I felt a bit lost. But once I got a grasp of the story and who was a part of the past and then the events of the present. I thought it was done really well. I liked this slow reveal of the story. I liked that we got to see Sophie’s struggle with addiction (well, I didn’t like it. But I appreciated it for her the development of her character). It felt like we got the whole story of Sophie’s struggle, not just the after. We got to know what Sophie’s relationship with Mina was like. We got to know Sophie before she was addicted to drugs. We felt her anger and her grief after she lost Mina and subsequently lost everyone else in her life too. I think the mystery of who killed Mina was a really compelling one. I definitely didn’t guess the truth behind what really happened. I think the story told so well. The mystery was built up slowly, giving us time to know and care about the characters. It was full of slow build up that led to excellent action scenes. Overall, I really liked this book. I think Sophie was a character that I could root for. She was determined, but we also learned what exactly made her so determined. We learned about her love for Mina. I couldn’t help but feel for Sophie. After all she’d been through with her recovery, people not believing that she was sober was devastating. I highly recommend this book and I will absolutely be looking to read more of Sharpe’s book.
Debut author Angeline Boulley crafts a groundbreaking YA thriller about a Native teen who must root out the corruption in her community, for readers of Angie Thomas and Tommy Orange.
As a biracial, unenrolled tribal member and the product of a scandal, eighteen-year-old Daunis Fontaine has never quite fit in, both in her hometown and on the nearby Ojibwe reservation. Daunis dreams of studying medicine, but when her family is struck by tragedy, she puts her future on hold to care for her fragile mother.
The only bright spot is meeting Jamie, the charming new recruit on her brother Levi’s hockey team. Yet even as Daunis falls for Jamie, certain details don’t add up and she senses the dashing hockey star is hiding something. Everything comes to light when Daunis witnesses a shocking murder, thrusting her into the heart of a criminal investigation.
Reluctantly, Daunis agrees to go undercover, but secretly pursues her own investigation, tracking down the criminals with her knowledge of chemistry and Ojibwe traditional medicine. But the deceptions—and deaths—keep piling up and soon the threat strikes too close to home.
Now, Daunis must learn what it means to be a strong Anishinaabe kwe (Ojibwe woman) and how far she’ll go to protect her community, even if it tears apart the only world she’s ever known. Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and the Publishers for approving me for this eARC in exchange for an honest review. The Firekeeper’s Daughter, as the summary says, is a young adult thriller about a Native teen who witnesses the murder of her best friend by her boyfriend that was addicted to drugs. Daunis is no stranger to loss. She’s lost her father, her uncle, and her GrandMary isn’t doing very well. She’s lived a hard life. But she’s so strong because of that. She has such a big heart. But I think my favorite thing about Daunis was her brain. She’s so incredibly smart. I liked following her as she put the pieces together of the investigation that she’s helping the FBI with. Seeing her use her knowledge of the tribe and her culture to figure out what and who was bringing drugs into her community. It was a heart wrenching story about a community being changed by drugs, about losing friends you never thought would be involved, and how betrayal can come from those you thought closest.
I loved learning about Daunis’s experiences being Native. It was really interesting to see her life as an outsider that everyone knows isn’t really an outsider. The community she is a part of is one that has issues, like most, but is filled with so much history and culture that I really enjoyed reading about it.
I feel like I’m not accurately explaining how much I loved this book. It was heart wrenching, but I absolutely could not put it down. I definitely recommend this book to anyone that loves a good YA mystery/thriller. I had so many theories about what was happening and was almost never right. The story was complex, with several different things going on in the story. Daunis had family issues, there was the investigation, but there was also the question of her future and college and why she didn’t play hockey anymore. I think this was all tied together wonderfully, it wasn’t too much for one story, it was all connected. I really cannot say enough good things about this book. This is a new release you don’t want to miss.
Milly, Aubrey, and Jonah Story are cousins, but they barely know each another, and they’ve never even met their grandmother. Rich and reclusive, she disinherited their parents before they were born. So when they each receive a letter inviting them to work at her island resort for the summer, they’re surprised . . . and curious.
Their parents are all clear on one point–not going is not an option. This could be the opportunity to get back into Grandmother’s good graces. But when the cousins arrive on the island, it’s immediately clear that she has different plans for them. And the longer they stay, the more they realize how mysterious–and dark–their family’s past is.
The entire Story family has secrets. Whatever pulled them apart years ago isn’t over–and this summer, the cousins will learn everything. Review: The Cousins is a young adult thriller that follows three mostly estranged cousins that work on their grandmother’s island resort, a grandmother none of them have ever met. I’ve read and loved all of McManus’s other books and The Cousins was no different. The big difference with this book was that all of the theories that I had while reading were completely wrong.
This story takes place on an island off of Cape Cod (which is where I grew up, so I was instantly sold when I started hearing places I knew.) This is the island where their parents grew up, and the place they were disinherited from, with one message, “You know what you did.” So, when the three cousins, Milly, Aubrey, and Jonah, are invited to work at the resort for the summer, everyone is surprised.
I really enjoyed this book. I loved watching Milly and Aubrey learn more about one another and develop an actual relationship aside from seeing one another at the family reunion. I thought their friendship was well done and though Milly and Aubrey were very different people, they learned about one another and about themselves. I think the character growth all around was excellent, but the growth came with the developing relationships. Milly learns about herself and grows from her interactions with Aubrey. And it was the same for Aubrey. Being around Milly and their growing friendship, she learned to be more confident. Then there’s Jonah. His part of a story was a little weird and I can’t talk about most of it because of a spoiler. So, all three cousins have secrets, but Jonah’s is the worst for the situation they are in. I liked all three of them and I think they were all distinct and well-developed characters.
As for the story and plot, I did not see the big twist coming. I had many theories as I was reading (well, listening as I read this via the audiobook). I think McManus did an incredible job of leaving the reader wanting more, wanting to know all of the secrets, and keeping them invested in the story with little bits and pieces before the big reveal. I also really liked that we get Milly’s mom’s point of view, Allison, but as a teenager growing up on the island (sort of.) We get the story of what happened that final summer before they were all disowned. I think that added a great element of suspense with the alternating chapters of that final summer.
Overall, this was a slower paced story than her previous books. I really enjoyed it. The suspense and mystery was well done, slowly revealed, but not one that I predicted. I loved the characters. Despite all being related, they were all very different. I just as a whole really liked this book. It’s one I’ll definitely recommend in the future.
Lo Blacklock, a journalist who writes for a travel magazine, has just been given the assignment of a lifetime: a week on a luxury cruise with only a handful of cabins. The sky is clear, the waters calm, and the veneered, select guests jovial as the exclusive cruise ship, the Aurora, begins her voyage in the picturesque North Sea. At first, Lo’s stay is nothing but pleasant: the cabins are plush, the dinner parties are sparkling, and the guests are elegant. But as the week wears on, frigid winds whip the deck, gray skies fall, and Lo witnesses what she can only describe as a dark and terrifying nightmare: a woman being thrown overboard. The problem? All passengers remain accounted for and so, the ship sails on as if nothing has happened, despite Lo’s desperate attempts to convey that something (or someone) has gone terribly, terribly wrong. Review:
Ware’s books have been pretty hit or miss for me, but I enjoyed this one. It was interestingly formatted. The story starts with our main character, Lo, experiencing a break-in and assault (she’s hit by the intruder with her bedroom door) in her own apartment. This leaves her really unsettled. Her significant other is out of town and she doesn’t really have any other sort of support system. So, she’s obviously struggling after this event, but just days later she sets off for a week on a luxury cruise for her job. She’s not as excited about this cruise as she should be. Especially when she hasn’t slept more than a few hours at a time since the break-in.
The first night she spends aboard this luxury (but small!) cruise ship, she thinks she hears the guest in the next room (that she met before dinner) thrown overboard sometime during the night. She calls the head of security and they work together to try and figure out who went overboard. But when all the staff and guests are accounted for, the mystery remains. Instead of doing the job Lo was sent on this cruise to do, she becomes a little obsessed with solving the mystery of what she heard and saw.
While this story progresses following Lo, we also get a bit of outside information in the form of emails sent to Lo that she never received. We also, once the story gets going, start getting news articles that up the suspense of the story and bits and pieces of social media from Lo’s loved ones. I really liked this method of storytelling. We’re getting the beginning of the story and what we think is the end of Lo’s story, but the middle is a mystery. I think telling the story this way was a really effective way of keeping the reader in suspense and really wanting to know what was going to happen next.
Overall, I enjoyed this one. It was mysterious and suspenseful. The main character was one that I had a lot of empathy for. I really enjoyed the creativity of the story too.