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review 2017-05-31 09:59
Review: One of us is Lying
One of Us Is Lying - Karen M. McManus

I received a copy from Netgalley

 

This is a brilliant mystery that keeps the reader guessing right until the end. I had my suspects, and still turned out to be wrong. I watch a lot of crime drama so I’m usually quite good and guessing the killer, but I didn’t see the twist in this one coming at all. (Admittedly by the time I got to 80% and all my guesses were still wrong I did skim to the last few chapters to find out who it was, then went back and read it properly). Still managed to really surprise me.

 

It’s not the fluffy “Breakfast Club” retelling with a mystery aspect I was expecting. It’s a gritty novel full of secrets. While it’s filled with your typical mix of high school clichés – the jock, the brain, the dangerous but hot dude, the nerd, the princess – each character has their own secrets and well fleshed out personalities behind the cliché façade.

 

All of these characters, who don’t really know each other, they may have one or two classes together but have different friends, and they don’t hang out really. They wind up in detention because a teacher catches them with cell phones in a class where cell phones are not allowed. The phones are not theirs. Of course the teacher won’t listen. By the end of detention, the nerd, Simon, is dead.

 

Simon was notorious for running the school’s unofficial gossip app, posting students secrets. As the police investigation deepens, posts are revealed that contain damning secrets about each of the students that could ruin their reputations and possibly chances of their futures for certain characters.

 

Each one reacts differently. There’s a great sense of diversity among the characters, and I love how they all dealt with things and showed immense emotional growth over the course and came together to defend each other and solve the mystery. Nothing is as it initially seems and truths slowly start to come out creating big changes for different characters. No one is really who they are first seen to be.

 

The twists are really good.   I’m being vague, I know, but I don’t want to spoil anything.

 

It’s a really good read and I definitely look forward to more from this author.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Penguin Random House UK Children’s for approving my request to view the title.

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review 2017-04-18 20:59
Review: Last Seen Leaving
Last Seen Leaving - Caleb Roehrig

 

I snagged a copy of this one from Netgalley when it was a Read It Now title. I do rather enjoy YA mysteries. I’m a sucker particularly for missing person mysteries. The plot of this one drew me right in. The mystery aspect was what kept me reading.

 

Overall, I just didn’t like the main character Flynn much. I found him annoying and boarding on obnoxious. He had zero personality, and seemed kind of self-absorbed. Which is not exactly unusual behaviour for a teenage boy. He was so wrapped up in his own issues he barely noticed the problems his girlfriend January was having.  January had a friend at the toy shop she worked at, Kaz, who was a few years older. All of course the reader hears from Flynn in the beginning is what an ass Kaz is.

 

Kaz actually turned out to be my favourite character in the whole novel. Who is nothing like Flynn first assumes. As the novel progresses I found as a reader I had a lot of empathy for January, who has lived most of her life in the same town, has the same friends as Flynn, and then her mom married some up and coming Congressman who was fabulously rich and had a certain image to maintain and an asshole of a wayward son of his own, Anson. January was forced to move from her comfortable existence into this new world of fabulous rich political people where January and her mom were supposed to dress and act a certain way. While her mom lapped it up, January not so much.

 

As the novel progresses through flashbacks of conversations and moments that happened between January and Flynn, the reader learns about some of the problems that January was having with her situation, the ones that she told Flynn about. As Flynn starts looking deeper into January’s disappearance himself, he learns about a side of her he never really knew. Which makes him feel confused and guilty.

 

There are lots of questions and very little answers and information and everything new Flynn learns is something surprising. Flynn’s other major conflict throughout the novel is he’s gay and struggling to deal with it. He doesn’t seem to want to really accept it. Kaz is a big help here, and part of what makes Kaz such a wonderful character. He was a voice of reason and someone who really seemed to want to help Flynn and cared about him.

 

While Flynn himself…urg. I just found Flynn dull and boring and hard to connect with. He seemed very two dimensional.

 

The mystery of what happened to January was enough to keep my interest to the end of the novel, and to be fair, I didn’t guess who the bad guy was. There was a twist at the end – which was kind of a bit unbelievable to me, but left a possible question hovering.

 

Just an okay one for this reader.

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review 2017-01-23 18:22
City of Saints and Thieves
City of Saints & Thieves - Natalie C. Anderson

I received a copy from Penguin's FirstoRead.com

 

The initial premise of this novel is nothing particularly original. Tina’s mother has been murdered, the police haven’t done anything and she’s hell bent on revenge. What gives this book an edge and makes it stand out in the YA mystery genre is its setting. The novel takes place in a city in Kenya and villages in the Congo. It’s raw, it’s violent and scary and incredibly well written.

 

Tina’s mother is a maid in the house of a very rich man who lives in Sangui City in Kenya. Tina lives there with her baby sister Kiki, and finds herself befriending the rich family’s son, Michael. When Tina’s mother is murdered, Tina runs away. Kiki is safe in a convent school, while Tina is on the streets and becomes part of the city’s most ruthless gang, the Goondas. Her quick thinking and small physique and some other talents make her a great thief and she toughens up, surviving in hard circumstances. The scary leader of the Goondas, a mysterious and very dangerous man, offers Tina the chance at revenge and blood against the man she believes murdered her mother.

 

As Tina puts her plan in motion, nothing is as it seems as she uncovers secrets and lies, and finds herself working with her old friend Michael – she believes it is his father who is responsible while Michael swears blind it’s not. Michael inserts himself into Tina’s investigation which yields more questions than answers, more danger and thing about Tina’s past and her mother come to light, things of course Tina never knew, which takes Tina, Michael and Tina’s technical whiz friend Boyboy who’s also helping out of Sangui City into the jungles of the unbelievably dangerous Congo.

 

It’s unflinching and brutal as Tina digs into her mother’s history. She’s smart, tough and wiry and never gives up no matter how hard or seemingly impossible everything looks. She’s just as brutal as the boys and men she has to work with, yet at the same time, she does have some softer moments. Just little things that make her human rather than just hell bent on revenge. Her resolve never really waivers until some really hard truths come to light about the truth of what happened to her mother in the villages in the Congo. There’s war and atrocities going on around them, and people who could be trusted may not be what they seem.

 

It’s very twisty turny, I never guessed who the killer was. I had several theories and all were wrong. Though in a way when the truth is revealed, you kind of find yourself thinking (or I certainly did) should have seen that one coming! but never did. It’s very harsh and not a comfortable mystery read at all.  But it’s so different in its setting and characters and it’s certainly a very compelling read. It did drag a bit in parts of the plot, and some of the characters weren’t as fleshed out as Tina was, but the slowness of the plot does pick up.

 

Lots of dark secrets and lots of emotional impact.  Tough, but very good.

 

Definitely an author I would love to read more from.

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text 2016-12-16 15:44
One Was Lost
One Was Lost - Natalie D. Richards

I received a copy from Netgalley.

The premise of this one sounded interesting enough, a group of teens on a senior field trip wind up stranded in the woods, spooky things start happening, teachers go missing and they're being stalked by an unknown figure who writes strange things on the arms of four of the kids. Dangerous. Darling. Damaged. Deceptive. With no clue what's happening, stranded from their classmates by bad weather, and suspicions mounting, the kids must pull together and figure a way to get to help and safety.

Kind of reads like a cheesy teen survival movie. It's certainly got all the right elements, and the plot was fairly fast paced. Only once it got to the reveal it was more eye rolling than shocking, at least for me anyway. The other problem I had with it was there are no depth to any of the characters. The main character Sera is sensible enough with a snarky tone, and clearly has some sort of a past with one of the boys on the trip, Lucas. Rich boy Jude has a clear attitude problem, ditzy Melanie and Hayley seem to be into drama, and quiet Emily doesn't seem to say much at all.

But there's no real reasons explained for anyone's attitude. We get a little insight into Jude as the novel progresses and there are a few flashbacks as to what happened with Sera and Lucas, some sort of a potential romance that didn't go very far, and Sera backed off. All that's mentioned is something to do with her mother and not wanting to repeat her mistakes.

More questions than answers. Once the spooky things started happening, the suspicion and tension builds fairly quickly, though it seems everyone is quick to point figures without much evidence. And while they're trying to figure things out with scary shit going down Sera and Lucas seem to be inexplicably drawn to each other. Cue more eye rolling from the reader. The romance felt forced and unnecessary, though in a way I can understand wanting someone to cling to in an increasingly dangerous situation.

There is a fair bit of background on Lucas's character, but almost nothing on Sera herself. Though to be fair, stupid romance decisions that can be blamed on teen hormones aside, Sera is pretty logical and fairly sensible for the most part.

Spoilers, but these bits really irritated me

 

There was one stupid scene where she hears something at night whilst in the tent and thinks it might be bears in their camp. And she goes OUTSIDE in the pitch DARK to see what's going on. Leaving her tent-mate Emily asleep inside the tent. For fuck's sake.

 

One teacher is missing, presumed dead after an icky find and the other is alive but appears ill, and all they want is a grownup who can help get them sorted, so it becomes all about waking the teacher and getting him on his feet. Sensible, no? Though once the teacher is awake enough to get his bearings and not being sick, once he doesn't immediately believe every word they tell him they start thinking he's the one responsible.

(spoiler show)

 

There's also a story about a girl who died in the woods many years ago on a trip similar to theirs.  Deemed an accident when kids went partying in the woods, but there are hints there may be more to the story. Never really explored until the end.

Which in typical teen horror movie fashion, turned completely stupid. At least, it did for me.

Kind of a blah read for me in the end. Interesting premise, not so great execution. Would have liked some more character depth and background info filtered into the story.

Thank you Sourcebooks Fire and Netgalley for approving my request to view the title.

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review 2016-11-14 11:36
Review: The Secrets We Keep
The Secrets We Keep - Deb Loughead

Review: The Secrets We Keep

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

The premise of this mystery was what intrigued me when I read the synopsis on Netgalley and put in a request. On reading it, I must admit I was rather disappointed and found it rather dull. There was nothing wrong with it per say, other than the main character’s horrible best friend and said BFF’s appalling boyfriend, but it just didn’t work for me.

 

The novel starts with an assembly for a boy who died during a party under mysterious circumstances The death has been officially ruled as an accident, however, the boy’s mother a pushy lawyer doesn’t believe so and is demanding anyone who knows the truth come forward. Our main character Clementine is nervous – she was there that night and has a secret, her former best friend Ellie knows about and is blackmailing her so she can keep going out with an older boy with a dangerous reputation her mom wouldn’t approve of. Clementine reluctantly agrees.

 

Clementine was kind of spineless and annoying, Ellie was a flat out bitch who took advantage and manipulated everyone around her and had a way of making Clem feel guilty or bad when she tried to find some backbone. As the novel progresses Clem learns that she’s not the only one with secrets relating to this party where the boy died. Clem and Ellie lied to their parents about where they were the night of the party – the old you tell your mom I’m at your house for the night and we’ll tell mine you’re at mine. Which makes things worse for her never ending guilt.

 

She also finds out the boy she’s had a crush on forever – whose name I have already forgotten – was there and may be involved. He always used to be a nice guy but has recently seemed to fall with a bad crowd and become meaner and hotter with preppy popular girls clamouring after his attention, yet it’s Clem who manages to get through his façade and get to know him on a more personal level. They both have terrible feelings of guilt for their own parts and try to figure out what they should do about it.

 

As the novel progresses Clem does finally find her spine when she learns Ellie’s secrets. Ellie continues to lie and manipulate things to her advantage. Though when Clem finally learns the truth –I found myself really disappointed with the conclusion. It was sort of like – after all that Clementine goes through to find these answers – that’s it?!? Kind of dull and boring.

 

It’s pitched as YA though the tone of the characters came across at least to me as very young and that tone didn’t work for me. It was interesting enough that I was intrigued at least to find out how it ended, but I didn’t really like it that much to be honest. Just not for me.

 

Thank you Netgalley and Dundurn Press for approving my request to view the title.

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