Archive | mystery

Review: ENDANGERED by Lamar Giles

The one secret she cares about keeping—her identity—is about to be exposed. Unless Lauren “Panda” Daniels—an anonymous photoblogger who specializes in busting classmates and teachers in compromising positions—plays along with her blackmailer’s little game of Dare or . . . Dare.

But when the game turns deadly, Panda doesn’t know what to do. And she may need to step out of the shadows to save herself . . . and everyone else on the Admirer’s hit list.

Some of you may remember that I read Mr. Giles’s Fake ID a year or two ago and wasn’t too pleased. There were a good number of things I liked, which is why I picked up Endangered, but I was still wary over my disappointment in the female characters. Hooooo-ly cow, does Mr. Giles take care of that concern in Endangered. Continue Reading →

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Mini-Reviews: I’M GLAD I DID and THE THIRD TWIN

Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and songwriting legend Cynthia Weil’s extraordinary YA debut opens the secretive doors of the Brill Building-the hit factory that changed history. Part Mad Men, part Grace of my Heart, part murder mystery, I’m Glad I Did is a coming-of-age story at an unforgettable cultural tipping point: the summer of 1963.

JJ Greene, a gifted 16-year-old songwriter, defies her lawyer parents by secretly applying for a job in the famed Brill Building-the epicenter of songwriting for a new genre called rock-n-roll. But their warnings about the evils of the music industry prove far darker than she imagined when she finds herself at the heart of a cover-up that involves hidden identity, theft, and possibly murder. 

This book is such a sad trombone. It started beautifully, packed to the gills with 60s flavor and music business lingo. I felt like I had legitimately traveled back in time! But oh, how this book dragged. The writing really needed a couple more edits, the pacing was really wonky, the love interest liked the heroine because she wasn’t “like other girls,” and the plot… Let’s just say the plot wasn’t much of a surprise, and it certainly didn’t deliver what the cover copy promised. If you’re going to hype a book set in the “cultural tipping point” of America, give me some culture that’s tipping! The consequences in this book were at next to nothing, both on a societal and an individual level. I wanted something with bite and instead felt like I was being gummed to death.

Note: I received a review copy of this title from the publisher for review consideration.

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Identical twins. Identical DNA. Identical suspects. It’s Pretty Little Liars meets Revenge in this edge-of-your-seat thriller with a shocking twist.

When they were little, Lexi and her identical twin, Ava, made up a third sister, Alicia. If something broke? Alicia did it. Cookies got eaten? Alicia’s guilty. Alicia was always to blame for everything. The game is all grown up now that the girls are seniors. They use Alicia as their cover to go out with boys who are hot but not exactly dating material. Boys they’d never, ever be with in real life.

Now one of the guys Alicia went out with has turned up dead, and Lexi wants to stop the game for good. As coincidences start piling up, Ava insists that if they follow the rules for being Alicia, everything will be fine. But when another boy is killed, the DNA evidence and surveillance photos point to only one suspect: Alicia. The girl who doesn’t exist. As she runs from the cops, Lexi has to find the truth before another boy is murdered. Because either Ava is a killer…or Alicia is real.

I’m torn on this one. On the one hand, it’s a thriller, and I have a hard time with thrillers because I guess EVERYTHING in advance. It’s a blessing and a curse. Also, I had a hard time getting engaged because Alicia and Lexi are pretty awful people for much of the book. “Oh dear, you might die? Sorry, dearie.” I also think the plot would have been much cooler as a New Adult novel.

On the other hand, once the plot really ramps up, I was feeling sufficiently tense. The consequences of this book stretch far beyond death. Death is a one and done type of threat, but Lexi faced being jailed for horrific crimes that she didn’t commit. Her life would have been RUINED. Honestly, there was a point where I was convinced she’d never be able to clear her name, so points to you, Ms. Omololu!

Note: I received a review copy of this title from the publisher for review consideration.

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Review: MASTERMINDS by Gordan Korman

Eli Frieden lives in the most boring town in the world: Serenity, New Mexico. Only thirty kids live in the idyllic town, where every lawn is perfectly manicured and everyone has a pool and a basketball hoop. Honesty and kindness are the backbone of the community. There is no crime in this utopia.

Eli has never left town…. Why would he ever want to? But everything changes the day he and his friend Randy bike to the edge of the city limits. Eli is suddenly struck with a paralyzing headache and collapses. Almost instantly, a crew of security—or “Purple People Eaters,” as the kids call them—descend via helicopter. Eli awakens in the hospital, and the next day, Randy and his family are gone.

As Eli convinces his friends Tori and Malik to help him investigate Randy’s disappearance, it becomes clear that nothing is as it seems in Serenity. As the clues mount to reveal a shocking discovery, the kids realize they can trust no one—least of all their own parents. So they hatch a plan for what could be the greatest breakout in history—but will they survive? And if they do, where do they go from there?

Mark this book down to the power of a good title. I’d never read a Gordon Korman book before, but honestly, there are few words that are better Shae-bait than “mastermind.” (“Thief” is probably #1, in case you were wondering.) Continue Reading →

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Review: TRUST ME, I’M LYING by Mary Elizabeth Summer

Julep Dupree tells lies. A lot of them. She’s a con artist, a master of disguise, and a sophomore at Chicago’s swanky St. Agatha High, where her father, an old-school grifter with a weakness for the ponies, sends her to so she can learn to mingle with the upper crust. For extra spending money Julep doesn’t rely on her dad—she runs petty scams for her classmates while dodging the dean of students and maintaining an A+ (okay, A-) average.

But when she comes home one day to a ransacked apartment and her father gone, Julep’s carefully laid plans for an expenses-paid golden ticket to Yale start to unravel. Even with help from St. Agatha’s resident Prince Charming, Tyler Richland, and her loyal hacker sidekick, Sam, Julep struggles to trace her dad’s trail of clues through a maze of creepy stalkers, hit attempts, family secrets, and worse, the threat of foster care. With everything she has at stake, Julep’s in way over her head . . . but that’s not going to stop her from using every trick in the book to find her dad before his mark finds her. Because that would be criminal.

I am such a sucker for con stories. Honestly, all a description needs is a whiff of a con, theft, or other form of illegal trickery to lure me in like blood to a shark. Of course, since I’m such a fan, con stories can be hit or miss for me. In this case, Trust Me had the dubious distinction of being both a hit and a miss. Continue Reading →

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Review: EVERY BREATH by Ellie Marney

When James Mycroft drags Rachel Watts off on a night mission to the Melbourne Zoo, the last thing she expects to find is the mutilated body of Homeless Dave, one of Mycroft’s numerous eccentric friends. But Mycroft’s passion for forensics leads him to realize that something about the scene isn’t right–and he wants Watts to help him investigate the murder.

While Watts battles her attraction to bad-boy Mycroft, he’s busy getting himself expelled and clashing with the police, becoming murder suspect number one. When Watts and Mycroft unknowingly reveal too much to the cold-blooded killer, they find themselves in the lion’s den–literally. A trip to the zoo will never have quite the same meaning to Rachel Watts again…

Pretty much everyone knows the story of Sherlock Holmes. One crotchety, antisocial, brilliant private investigator (Holmes) teams up with one long-suffering, good-natured medical doctor in need of adventure (Dr. John Watson) and together they solve crime, usually in Victorian England but sometimes in modern-day London or even New York. In this case, however, the part of Holmes is being played by James Mycroft, an antisocial, brilliant teenage boy who teams up with next-door neighbor Rachel Watts, a good-natured but tough teenage girl, in Melbourne, Australia, of all places.

Every Breath will make the fifth version of Sherlock Holmes that I’ve engaged with and therefore had some pretty high expectations to meet, especially with half the blogosphere exploding over the ship that is Wattscroft (Mycroft + Watts). What if I didn’t like it? What if Mycroft irritated me? (Canonically, Holmes is a jerk and not a good shipping element.) What if the mystery fell flat? What if Watts was whiny? WHAT IF I DIDN’T SHIP IT?!

Spoiler alert: I SHIPPED IT. Continue Reading →

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Review: KILLER INSTINCT by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Seventeen-year-old Cassie Hobbes has a gift for profiling people. Her talent has landed her a spot in an elite FBI program for teens with innate crime-solving abilities, and into some harrowing situations. After barely escaping a confrontation with an unbalanced killer obsessed with her mother’s murder, Cassie hopes she and the rest of the team can stick to solving cold cases from a distance.

But when victims of a brutal new serial killer start turning up, the Naturals are pulled into an active case that strikes too close to home: the killer is a perfect copycat of Dean’s incarcerated father—a man he’d do anything to forget. Forced deeper into a murderer’s psyche than ever before, will the Naturals be able to outsmart the enigmatic killer’s brutal mind games before this copycat twists them into his web for good?

With her trademark wit, brilliant plotting, and twists that no one will see coming, Jennifer Lynn Barnes will keep readers on the edge of their seats (and looking over their shoulders) as they race through the pages of this thrilling novel.

I was a bad, bad blogger back in September. Stacks of books waited patiently in my queue, assured that I would get to them soon. Releases dates loomed. But what did I do? I CHEATED on them with a November book—THIS November book.

Note: This is a review for a sequel, so there may be spoilers for the previous book. Continue Reading →

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Review: THE SCANDALOUS SISTERHOOD OF PRICKWILLOW PLACE by Julie Berry

There’s a murderer on the loose—but that doesn’t stop the girls of St. Etheldreda’s from attempting to hide the death of their headmistress in this rollicking farce.

The students of St. Etheldreda’s School for Girls face a bothersome dilemma. Their irascible headmistress, Mrs. Plackett, and her surly brother, Mr. Godding, have been most inconveniently poisoned at Sunday dinner. Now the school will almost certainly be closed and the girls sent home—unless these seven very proper young ladies can hide the murders and convince their neighbors that nothing is wrong.

The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place is a smart, hilarious Victorian romp, full of outrageous plot twists, mistaken identities, and mysterious happenings.

Oh, don’t mind me. I’m just over here giggling like a tiny child. Honestly, I wasn’t sure how I would like SSoPP. I wasn’t a fan of Ms. Berry’s YA novel, but other readers seemed to really enjoy this new adventure. Also, come on. Seven prim and proper Victorian schoolgirls don’t just try to solve a murder but also hide it? This has “Shae” written all over it!

Continue Reading →

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Mini Reviews: THE HALF LIFE OF MOLLY PIERCE and MY LAST KISS

You take it for granted. Waking up. Going to school, talking to your friends. Watching a show on television or reading a book or going out to lunch.

You take for granted going to sleep at night, getting up the next day, and remembering everything that happened to you before you closed your eyes.

You live and you remember.

Me, I live and I forget.

But now—now I am remembering. 

For all of her seventeen years, Molly feels like she’s missed bits and pieces of her life. Now, she’s figuring out why. Now, she’s remembering her own secrets. And in doing so, Molly uncovers the separate life she seems to have led…and the love that she can’t let go.

The Half Life of Molly Pierce is a suspenseful, evocative psychological mystery about uncovering the secrets of our pasts, facing the unknowns of our futures, and accepting our whole selves.

Of all my upcoming reviews, I really wanted this to be a full-length review rather than a mini review. Unfortunately, the twist in this book was ruined for me literally from the moment I knew the story existed. It’s a solid twist, and I enjoyed watching the pieces fit together, but it robbed the story of its shock and also colored how I perceived literally everything. I don’t want to ruin the book for you like it was ruined for me, but I can’t talk about what happens separate of why it’s happening, as there was never a point when I could see those two points as distinct and apart.

Also, I remember very little of the book anymore. According to my notes, I felt bad for one character who cannot be named (spoilers), and loved Clancy and Hazel (whoever they are.) I do think that Ms. Leno handled Molly’s situation tactfully and realistically (as far as I can tell; no personal experience here) and that the prose was solid. I just wish it had made more of an impression on me.

Note: I received a review copy of this title from the publisher for review consideration.

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What if your last kiss was with the wrong boy? 

Cassidy Haines remembers her first kiss vividly. It was on the old covered bridge the summer before her freshman year with her boyfriend of three years, Ethan Keys. But her last kiss–the one she shared with someone at her seventeenth birthday party the night she died–is a blur. Cassidy is trapped in the living world, not only mourning the loss of her human body, but left with the grim suspicion that her untimely death wasn’t a suicide as everyone assumes. She can’t remember anything from the weeks leading up to her birthday and she’s worried that she may have betrayed her boyfriend. 

If Cassidy is to uncover the truth about that fateful night and make amends with the only boy she’ll ever love, she must face her past and all the decisions she made–good and bad–that led to her last kiss.

Unfortunately, My Last Kiss also failed to make much of an impression on me. It certainly wasn’t bad, and I enjoyed myself while I was reading it, but it’s not a story I’ll revisit. I kept waiting to be grabbed, to really connect with Cassidy and care about how and why she died. Instead, the closest I got to caring was the way I ached for her poor siblings. She was the dead one, but they were the ones who would have to live with the hole in their family.

Actually, Aimee, Cassidy’s bulldog of a friend, was far more interesting than Cassidy herself. Aimee is the friend who spearheads the amateur investigation into Cassidy’s death and puts together the clues of what happened that night. I really would have liked to have seen the story from Aimee’s POV, especially as she starts to doubt the word of everyone, even her closest friends. The tension does ratchet up as the story progresses, but the ending was too chaotic and messy for my taste.

Note: I received a review copy of this title from the publisher for review consideration.

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Review: NEARLY GONE by Elle Cosimano

Nearly Boswell knows how to keep secrets. Living in a DC trailer park, she knows better than to share anything that would make her a target with her classmates. Like her mother’s job as an exotic dancer, her obsession with the personal ads, and especially the emotions she can taste when she brushes against someone’s skin. But when a serial killer goes on a killing spree and starts attacking students, leaving cryptic ads in the newspaper that only Nearly can decipher, she confides in the one person she shouldn’t trust: the new guy at school—a reformed bad boy working undercover for the police, doing surveillance. . . on her.

Nearly might be the one person who can put all the clues together, and if she doesn’t figure it all out soon—she’ll be next.

I read the bulk of Nearly Gone during a perfect day. I was at the beach with my family. It was maybe 75 degrees out, the temperature kept in check by a light sea breeze. The sky was a brilliant blue, and the air was filled with the lulling roar of the surf. It was, as I said, a perfect day, and I spent a good three hours completely oblivious to it all. Guys, I read Nearly Gone from cover to cover, then looked up and had to remind myself what day it was and why my toes were covered with sand. Continue Reading →

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Review: HIGH & DRY by Sarah Skilton

Framed for a stranger’s near-fatal overdose at a party, blackmailed into finding a mysterious flash drive everyone in school seems anxious to suppress, and pressured by his shady best friend to throw an upcoming game, high school soccer player Charlie Dixon spends a frantic week trying to clear his name, win back the girl of his dreams, and escape a past that may be responsible for all his current problems.

Quick recap for those who haven’t memorized my reviews from time immemorial. Last year, I read Bruised by Sarah Skilton and was floored by how much I loved it. Straight contemporary fiction, especially those involving issues, is not my thing. NOT. MY. THING. But Ms. Skilton completely drew me in to Imogen’s world, and I enjoyed my stay immensely. So of course I wanted to read High & Dry, and of course I was terrified that Ms. Skilton wouldn’t be able to keep the magic going. But she did. Not only did she SURPASS my love for Bruised, but she inspired me to sit down and write a gushy email immediately after finishing, which I almost never do. Continue Reading →

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