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review 2020-03-17 08:38
‘Twisted Secrets’ is the perfect escape room mystery for your quarantine reading: ‘The Breakfast Club’ + Agatha Christie + CLUE
All Your Twisted Secrets - Diana Urban

RELEASED March 17th, 2020 

Links to buy the book on via the author’s site - dianaurban.com

 

 

Six teens are invited to a scholarship dinner, only to discover it’s a trap. They’ve been lured to a dining room and locked in with a bomb and a syringe of poison, along with a note instructing them to pick one of them to die….or they all will. The book retraces the events of the last year, flashing back to each character at times that reveal various connections between each of them and all kinds of twisted secrets. Who could have known how they were all connected and how will they choose who will die?

This is a smart contemporary, perfectly combined with mystery, a whodunit that keeps you guessing until the end. The cast of characters has been compared to that of ‘The Breakfast Club’ (only one of the best 80’s coming-of-age teen movies ever); the queen bee, the star athlete, the stoner, the loner, the valedictorian and the music geek cover just about all the usual cliques and stereotypes you’ll find in American high school. Over the decades of movies and books, they haven’t really changed that much but this story felt fresh.
As the teens’ stories are revealed through their past timelines, multiple themes are focused on such as bullying, mental health issues, drug abuse, and suicide. While this makes clear that these things could be triggering, I want to say how skilled author Diana Urban was in writing such complex issues into such a thrilling book. So much action happens over a relatively short period of time and in a small space with a lot of characters, and it takes some really crafty writing to pull that off. Having worked in film, and doing continuity on set, I pictured a lot of these scenes in my head while reading and marveled at how complex it is to write scenes like them to build action within such tight parameters.

If you like classic mysteries like those by Agatha Christie, this is a perfect read.
If you love the board game (or the super fun 80’s movie) CLUE, this book is for you. I really enjoyed the ensemble cast of characters.
If you need a book where the characters are feeling just as shut inside and claustrophobic as you during this virus quarantine, then this is definitely THE book for that. And you will pass the hours by way too quickly because this will just suck you in. The most fun to be had while ‘stuck’ in one (imaginary) room.

‘All Your Twisted Secrets’ is a brilliantly written, smart mystery that I couldn’t put down once I started it; I truly hope there’s so much more to come from Diana Urban! Easily a 5 star read.

 

ABOUT DIANA URBAN
Diana Urban is an author of dark, twisty thrillers. When she's not torturing fictional characters, she works in digital marketing for startups. She lives with her husband and cat in Boston and enjoys reading, video games, fawning over cute animals, and looking at the beach from a safe distance. 

Source: www.goodreads.com/book/show/41443369-all-your-twisted-secrets
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review 2019-05-25 22:06
Story about two teen boys surviving a life of poverty, abuse, and neglect is depressing and eye-opening; friendship and the subject of the death-penalty make it emotional
We'll Fly Away - Bryan Bliss

What a sad, depressing, and eye-opening read. It’s interesting that the author calls this his ‘death-penalty’ book, but I’ll definitely agree with it also being a book about friendship and loyalty, as well as one about child abuse, alcoholism, and neglect. So much is also about poverty and as a result, the loss of hope. The two teens in the story, Luke and Toby, don’t have much to look forward to in their lives, or ways to cope, and this feels very desperate and is difficult at times to read. It paints a very grim portrait of impoverished middle America.
I commend the author on writing a book about two teen boys, which doesn’t happen often within the young adult genre. But it’s ultimately heartbreaking. I’m grateful to my Litsy Postal Book Club group for picking this, otherwise I may not have read this emotional YA novel.

Source: www.goodreads.com/book/show/35959354-we-ll-fly-away
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review 2019-05-23 17:56
Outstanding LGBTQ novel encompassing immigration, grief, PTSD, and has a sci-fi twist; this debut is an easy 5-star
The Grief Keeper - Alexandra Villasante

I can already say that this will be on my list as one of my top and most impactful reads of the year (and it’s only May). I’ve not read too many books lately that can bring me to shed both happy and sad tears, as well as make me drop my jaw, and cause me to put the book down for moments so I could collect my thoughts. And although the title would suggest that ‘The Grief Keeper’ is filled with sadness, it also brings with it a bright message of love and hope.

 

The novel opens with seventeen-year old Marisol being interviewed in a federal border detention center, having just crossed into the U.S., after fleeing El Salvador with her younger sister Gabi, afraid for their lives after the death of their brother Pablo. She has dreamed for years for a life in the States, perfecting her English, and getting lost in the imaginary world of her favorite TV show ‘Cedar Hollow.’ When it looks like her asylum request will be denied, and a new and curious opportunity to have it granted arises, Marisol will do just about anything for her and her sister to make that happen. And that’s by becoming a ‘grief keeper.’

 

Debut author Alexandra Villasante has written an expertly crafted novel about the complexities of immigration, grief, sexual orientation, PTSD, depression, and, new love. There are even more nuanced topics woven in  such as attitudes towards immigrants (legal and otherwise) being hired to do menial jobs in this country, our political climate, and how the LGBTQ community suffers in other countries (ie which would cause a young girl like Marisol to flee her home).

This story gives so many deep, complex topics to talk and think about but at the core there is this beautiful story about Marisol and Rey (grieving her own brother) who are discovering their relationship with each other, including Marisol who would never have been allowed to explore this part of her back in the country she has fled. Persecution of LGBTQ youth and ‘conversion by rape’ is brought into the spotlight and from this story of family and migration, I was enlightened and educated.

 

This is a novel about connections as well as grief, and Villasante sheds light on PTSD, and gives new meaning to the idea of taking someone else’s pain away so they don’t have to suffer. There are serious moral and ethical questions to the procedure that’s used so that Marisol will absorb Rey’s grief and pain (this actually brings quite a futuristic aspect to a very realistic story, which I really liked) and shows the extent that Marisol will go to gain entry to the U.S., and it’s heartbreaking.

 

I read this book and I felt so many different emotions, and the very fact that it’s able to envelope immigration criticism, discussion on sexual identity, loss, classism, plus a loving sister relationship, AND a sci-fi twist, make it a VERY special book. I think it belongs on every school and YA library shelf everywhere and I hope many people will pick it up, even if it’s initially because of the insanely gorgeous cover (thanks to Kaethe Butcher and Kelley Brady), and that they end up holding it close to their hearts.

 

*Trigger warnings/mentions: sexual assault, suicidal ideation, violence, bombing, PTSD

 

RELEASE DATE: 6.11.19

 

 

 

Source: www.goodreads.com/book/show/34522727-the-grief-keeper
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review 2019-04-18 20:52
Vega puts a modern spin on the classic haunted house tale in teen horror novel 'The Haunted'
The Haunted - Danielle Vega

Hendricks is undoubtedly living in the house of many a person’s nightmares, and at least one little girl’s death, and as the new girl in town, she seems to be finding this out gradually through her friends at school. Steele House doesn't seem to be an ordinary house by any measure, and not only is it hiding a dark secret, so is Hendricks, one that sent her family packing from Philadelphia and to this tiny town of Drearford.

 

Once her family moves into Steele House, which is being renovated, she finds a new group of friends right away (to her surprise). Hendricks begins to craft a new social life out for herself, involving both the popular guy at school, but also the boy next door, who is also the brother of the little girl who died. She soon finds there are new and far more powerful ghosts than the ones in her past that she has to deal with.

 

This is a pretty basic horror novel, a classic haunting tale that author Danielle Vega has written for teens, and it's perfect for those who might be somewhat cautious about stepping into the genre.

The main character Hendricks embodies all those insecurities and anxieties felt when starting at a new high school and she has a lot of baggage from her past, the very reason the family has had to move. I appreciated these parts about the story, as well as the very real conflict she has with whether she should fall in with cliques at school, but because they couldn't be dealt with very deeply that conversely also frustrated me a bit. The parents also happen to be totally absent from Hendricks' world most of the time, which is pretty convenient (and actually pretty irresponsible).

 

As far as the very descriptive scenes that involve the haunted Steele House, these are vivid and full of horrible paranormal evil that will conjure up images that will stick with you. There's also a very deep-seated reason for the evil that resides in the house and it's actually very sad. I appreciate that Vega tied the narrative together at the end, even though it was quite an abrupt ending.

As an author, I think she has great instincts for what works well to both scare and satisfy, understanding that real life is a bit messy and not perfect. It's kind of why the ending left me with a punch to the gut.

I read a lot of horror fiction and love a great scare, so I love finding creepy books that suck me in; this is a quick YA 'haunted house' read, perfect for a spooky weekend.

 

*I also would have fallen victim to Steele house myself thanks to the cat at the beginning that draws little Meredith into the basement (even though everyone should know the first rule in horror is ‘don’t go into the basement’). But…kitty!!!!

Source: www.goodreads.com/book/show/40818627-the-haunted
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review 2019-04-16 23:32
Heart-wrenching, raw, and incredibly honest portrait of self-harming and recovery in 'Girl In Pieces'; it was emotionally hard to read but this book is so VERY important
Girl in Pieces - Kathleen Glasgow

I'm going to dare to reveal a bit of myself in this review because it absolutely affected my reading.
I had the early reader’s copy for this brilliant book for a few years before I could bring myself to read all the way through it, and I even started it once and couldn’t continue, shelving it for at least a year or so before picking it up a second time. It was an intense and very difficult read for me because of the subject matter, and I got through it after reading Kathleen Glasgow’s excellent second book ‘How to Make Friends with The Dark’ which was almost as difficult for me to read, and equally amazing. Together, these two books encompass so much of my own experience it’s heartbreakingly uncanny, and I was lucky enough to even let Kathleen know this when I met her at her own book signing here in Seattle recently.

I’ve been that ‘girl in pieces’ like Charlie, like the many young women out there hiding their scars from others, under clothing or bandages, caused by cutting, burning, or whatever ‘needed’ to be done in that painful moment. It was a long and very hard journey for me to heal enough from depression, grief, anxiety, self-harming behavior, and PTSD, to where I felt I could cope with life again. The book is honest and gritty, and since Kathleen knows exactly what this all feels like, she understood what I meant when I said it took me a few years to get around to reading this; in the author’s note, she writes that it took her nine years to get this book onto paper. But she’s here. I’m here.
This book is actually about hope, and that’s honestly why I really want many many young women, girls, to read this.

 

When I read ‘Girl In Pieces’ my journey and all sorts of things came back to me, and yes, this is why the book was so hard to read; it brought up thoughts and feelings I hadn’t had for years. I know that’s what will make it hard for others to read too. The cover is a trigger warning or just a plain trigger itself; I don’t know that anyone seeing that will have any doubt as to what this book is about. While the subjects within are difficult to read about, those who understand them stand to benefit the most.
It takes a boatload of talent to tackle all kinds of really difficult issues: drug abuse, sexual abuse, abandonment, parental neglect, grief, suicide, self-harming (and foster kids in her next novel), but Glasgow does a lot in this one book. Some reviews point out that there’s 'too much' in this one book but that’s the point; self-harming is rooted in deep pain borne from many issues, it doesn’t happen out of a vacuum. Many of these issues collide and Glasgow writes about them from her depths of her soul, from her personal experience.

There are a number of different characters in the book (the deeply wounded Charlie, the toxic Riley, counselor Casper, Charlie’s mom, a number of different friends who play varied roles in Charlie’s life along the way), and they’re all memorable and painfully vivid, often uncomfortably so. And Charlie's awkwardness, fear, pain, and bravery can be felt on every page. It's hard and absolutely heart-wrenching to read but it's incredibly worth it.

 

I'll end this by saying that some readers won't 'get' this book at all, others desperately need to read it and will likely have a hard time with it. But this book will reach some people and it will resonate deeply with them. When a book can touch you deep down it can stay with you forever. But scars and memories stay with you forever too, no matter how far in the past, and this story is a reminder of that.
Thank you, Kathleen Glasgow, for writing this book. I wish I'd read this a long time ago, even if I'm not sure I would've been ready. But I'm glad it's out there in this big wide scary world.

 

 

 

 

 

Source: www.goodreads.com/book/show/29236380-girl-in-pieces
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