Tag Archives: mystery

Blog Tour & Review – Ninth House (Ninth House Series #1) by Leigh Bardugo

There’s something to be said about writer’s like Leigh Bardugo, who storm onto the young adult scene and create one of the most memorable universes in recent memory. It also takes a lot for young adult authors to then transform their work into something more “adult.” I am very excited to be a part of Raincoast’s blog tour for Ninth House, as I think Leigh Bardugo does an amazing job of bridging her reign as Queen of YA and moving into the realm of adult fiction.


Title: Ninth House (Ninth House Series #1)

Author: Leigh Bardugo

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?

Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I have been waiting forever for this book. When it was originally announced I remember how excited I was over a new Leigh Bardugo book that also focus on Ivy League Secret Societies. Ivy League schools often have such rich histories surrounding them, with some having more “cult-like” behaviours than others.

Alex Stern is a woman who has been granted a full-ride to Yale. Given her horrific upbringing of losing her family and being hospitalized, Alex questions the choice, but decides that she’s going to accept her new life on Yale’s terms. But why her? And what is secretly going on behind the scenes?

Ninth House is a wonderful mixture of fantasy and mystery clashing together. Bardugo has crafted a fantastic urban fantasy setting with the use of Yale and the other Eight Houses, and there’s something to be said about how she has masterfully crafted so much in a world that feels both unfamiliar and familiar at the sametime. Alex is also just an intriguing protagonist to follow as well — she’s difficult, unhinged, and pretty fearless to be honest. Darlington is another wonderful character who made me feel so much together out the story, and I am glad his POVs were included to add another layer to the story.

My main complaint with this book is that it starts out very slow and it’s a slow-burn overall. It’s the kind of book that builds layers and put down a lot of foundation, but once the story has it’s momentum, it’s not fast-paced, it still meanders at a pace that is only giving you tidbits of information at a time. For it being a story of dark magic and secret societies, I think the pace works well in its favour, but I wish it had built just a wee bit quicker. My other complaint is also I think I like as well – the ending is a tad abrupt, kinda rude, and is a bit of a smack in the face. I have to wait for the next book, and the last hundred pages of this book were just SO GOOD.

If you are expecting something like the Grishaverse, you will be disappointed in The Ninth House. This book has it’s own unique vibe, with characters who are not easy for readers to attach onto. By the other side of it, The Ninth House has a lot of great twist and turns for both fantasy and mystery lovers alike, and I think it’s weirdiness works completely in its favour. You won’t find anything like Ninth House out there, and that makes it a wonderfully devilish read.


Please check out these other stops on our blog tour!

ARC Review – People Like Us by Dana Mele

Title: People Like Us

Author: Dana Mele

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Kay Donovan may have skeletons in her closet, but the past is past, and she’s reinvented herself entirely. Now she’s a star soccer player whose group of gorgeous friends run their private school with effortless popularity and acerbic wit. But when a girl’s body is found in the lake, Kay’s carefully constructed life begins to topple.

The dead girl has left Kay a computer-coded scavenger hunt, which, as it unravels, begins to implicate suspect after suspect, until Kay herself is in the crosshairs of a murder investigation. But if Kay’s finally backed into a corner, she’ll do what it takes to survive. Because at Bates Academy, the truth is something you make…not something that happened. 

Huge thank you to Miss Print’s ARC adoption for this review copy.

Molly’s Review:

I always love a good boarding school mystery and I’m a huge fan of ugly pretty people doing ugly things stories. So this sounded right up my alley. And I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this!

First I want to talk about the representation in this book. This book has a bisexual (note: I think she’s bi. I could be wrong. There weren’t any real labels used in the book other than I think once it was said that the BFF, Brie, is gay. I am open to correction if I am using the wrong term) MC and there is ZERO mention of this in the book summary/ marketing. So this might fly under the radar which would be a shame. The way that the MC & her sexuality was written was so well done (at least I thought so, I could be wrong, I’m reading from the perspective of a heterosexual woman). There isn’t any huge “this is how I came out, I’m bi, I’ve been with both males & females etc.” explanation. Instead it’s just… there. It’s who the MC is. She’s clearly in love with her BFF (who we do find out is queer when the BFF’s girlfriend is mentioned) & the way the two interact with each other just shows it. At first I wasn’t sure if the MC was queer, just really REALLY close with her BFF or if there was going to be some unfortunate queer-baiting. That was NOT the case thankfully. We instead find out that the MC is bi through mentions of her relationships and seeing her interactions with both people she’s in love with (an ex-boyfriend and her current BFF) and a potential new love interest (another girl at school). There are a few mentions of how she discovered her sexuality, but it was never the focus. And I liked that. I liked that she was just who she was and that the author didn’t feel the need to explain. I would love to see more of this in YA & books in general.

The actual murder-mystery of this was really good too. I had my suspicions and there was a twist that I didn’t see coming (it wasn’t AS impactful as some of my favorite twists, but it was still not something that I saw coming, which I liked). The writing in this was really good at times and then other times I thought it could have used a little editing. And there are parts in the book (like the Thanksgiving break) that I thought were unnecessary… until I got to the end of the book. I really liked the characters that were fleshed out, but I felt that maybe some of the side characters could have had a bit more depth. I also thought it was odd that towards the middle the revenge scavenger hunt was just kind of… forgotten. There was a ton of build-up and then nothing until we started to get answers later on…

Overall I think this was a really good book and I think fans of Kara Thomas or Abigail Haas would really enjoy this book!

ARC Review – Busted by Gina Ciocca

Title: Busted

Author: Gina Ciocca

Rating: ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Marisa wasn’t planning to be a snoop for hire—until she accidentally caught her best friend’s boyfriend making out with another girl. Now her reputation for sniffing out cheaters has spread all over school, and Marisa finds herself the reluctant queen of busting two-timing boys.

But when ex-frenemy Kendall asks her to spy on her boyfriend, TJ, Marisa quickly discovers the girl TJ might be falling for is Marisa herself. And worse yet? The feelings are quickly becoming mutual. Now, she’s stuck spying on a “mystery girl” and the spoken-for guy who just might be the love of her life…

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Busted is in some ways, my kind of book. I am a sucker for teen private eye’s and stories about where cheaters never prosper. Our heroine in this book, Marisa, is a young investigator with a website that is out to help teens at her high school who are suspecting that their partner may be a cheater.

If I am being honest, this book was pure candy for me. It’s fun, cheeky, and when it goes to some darker places, it’s got all the melodrama. Like, all of it. Kendall is crazy and overeager, TJ is the ‘mysterious boy”, Jordan is a jerk, the list goes on. Each of the characters has a trope that they follow to some extent and if you are looking for deep characterization, Busted is not it. This is a very plot-driven story, but I wish the characters outside of Marisa had been fleshed out a bit better.

Still, this was a fun read that really is a love-letter to Veronica Mars in so many ways, and I appreciate that. There’s parts of this book that felt crazy, silly, even immature at times. Yet, I couldn’t stop reading this book because Bustedmade me trash for it. I am a sucker for ugly people doing ugly things, and perhaps that why this book hooked me the way it did. For all its imperfections, I still happy want to recommend this book because I feel like there is going to be readers out there who won’t mind teen meladrama or candy factor.

Guest Post – The Winnowing by Vikki VanSickle

If you’ve been around the Canadian middle grade and YA blog tour circuit, you’ve likely encountered Vikki VanSickle along your travels. Easily one of the most passionate people I’ve ever met in my book blogging travels, she’s become not only an amazing source for up and coming middle grade and teen titles, but she’s also a caring individual whom when I see her in public, I love spending time with. Vikki is creative, confident, caring and kind.

Hilariously, her latest book The Winnowing is none of those things. But I still love her and this book any ways. On this leg of The Winnowing blog tour, Vikki shares with us one of her key resources that helped in the process of writing The Winnowing.  This book is unlike anything I’ve seen from Vikki before, and wow is it a roller-coaster!


MYSTERIES OF THE UNEXPLAINED, A Guest Post from Vikki VanSickle

I have always loved a mystery. A dedicated Nancy Drew fan, I graduated from mysteries about lost lockets and broken clocks to UFOs and ancient prophecies. The Mysteries of the Unexplained is an encyclopedia of unsolved mysteries and unexplained phenomena compiled by Readers’ Digest in 1982 (my birth year! Coincidence or conspiracy?!) All the usual suspects (ghosts, aliens, Nessie, Bigfoot) are here, but I also learned about spontaneous human combustion, famous prophecies, lost civilizations, and much, much more.

The book was a flea market discovery that I spent hours reading and re-reading. Arranged in categories with tantalizing titles such as “Beyond the Walls of Time,” “Unearthly Fates” and “In the Realm of Miracles,” it inspired countless stories and fuelled a life-long interest in the bizarre and the otherworldly. When you’re a kid it feels like adults know and control everything. How intoxicating to realize there are great mysteries that may never be solved. It changes the power dynamic and frees you up to think big and dream even bigger.

I still have my original copy and I find myself consulting it if I get stuck in a logic snarl or need a little bit of inspiration. More often than not what ends up happening is I will get lost in these incredible stories and look up an hour later having done no writing, but stoking my imagination all the same.


About the Author

Vikki VanSickle is the author of the acclaimed Clarissa books, including Words that Start with B, Love Is a Four-Letter Word and Days that End in Y. Vikki’s most recent middle grade novel, Summer Days, Starry Nights, has been called “summer reading at its best” and was a finalist for the Red Maple Award. After obtaining an MA in Children’s Literature from UBC, Vikki’s career began in bookselling at The Flying Dragon Bookshop, which earned her the 2011 CBA Young Bookseller of the Year award. Currently Vikki balances writing with her duties as the Marketing and Publicity Manager for Young Readers at Penguin Canada. Vikki lives with a cat named Barb who would prefer not to have to share the house with a sasquatch. — Bio supplied by publisher.

ARC Review – The Winnowing by Vikki VanSickle

Title: The Winnowing

Author: Vikki VanSickle

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Marivic Stone lives in a small world, and that’s fine with her. Home is with her beloved grandfather in a small town that just happens to be famous for a medical discovery that saved humankind — though not without significant repercussions. Marivic loves her best friend, Saren, and the two of them promise to stick together, through thick and thin, and especially through the uncertain winnowing procedure, a now inevitable — but dangerous — part of adolescence.

But when tragedy separates the two friends, Marivic is thrust into a world of conspiracy, rebellion and revolution. For the first time in her life, Marivic is forced to think and act big. If she is going to right a decade of wrongs, she will need to trust her own frightening new abilities, even when it means turning her back on everything, and everyone, she’s known and loved. A gripping exploration of growing up, love and loss, The Winnowing is a page-turning adventure that will have readers rooting for their new hero, Marivic Stone, as they unravel the horror and intrigue of a world at once familiar but with a chilling strangeness lurking beneath the everyday. 

Huge thank you to Scholastic Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I want to preface this review by saying a couple of truths: I am a wuss who is easily spooked. I love things that can’t entirely be explained.The Winnowing is such a departure from VanSickle’s previous, more contemporary novels. This is her foray into science fiction, and her love letter to the strange and whimsy.

I will not lie, I was hesitant to read this book even after talking with Vikki at a conference we were both attending. I love her contemporary middle grade novels, I read If I Had a Gyphon during my storytimes, but this book was different. Vastly different. Thankfully, I had prepared myself for this book by watching Stranger Things earlier this year andThe Winnowing is an interesting middle grade novel to say the least.

This is a book about a world where children can be born with powers. If unwinnowed, these powers can manifest into something much more dangerous. To be winnowed is a rite of adolescent passage, it’s an attempt at normalizing. The problem is that the world Marivic and Saren live in, is one that is anything but. Marivic in particular also holds the key to a larger mystery in the story in regards to her family, the town of Darby and the school her mother worked at which was obliterated. The blurb on the back of the book gives you just enough information, but it’s definitely a book that is good going blind into.

What I loved about this book is how unexpected some of the twists and turns were. Some were a little obvious, but I found myself buying into so much of what was happening to these characters,
I was so invested in the atmosphere of the story — it is creepy and uncomfortable. Marivic and her friends felt very believable, their flaws felt real, and I truly felt for them on this journey. My favourite character in the story was Gumps, Marivic’s grandfather. He’s everything I love in a curmudgeon-y old man. A grump who is secretly loving and a little overprotective.

With the circumstances that occur in this novel, you see incredible growth in these characters. Every single one of them. The children in this story are all forced to grow up very quickly given the situation regarding the world and the process of the winnowing. In a lot of ways, these kids are robbed of their childhood and that was so heartbreaking. Marivic in particular shoulders a lot of burden in this story and she’s forced in a lot of ways to think and act more mature than someone normally her age. This is written very well because you can see she’s wrestling with both her circumstances and her actual age and what kids her age should be doing.

There’s a lot of weird and strange in The Winnowing. It’s the kind of book for people who love the X-Files, Stranger Things, Are You Afraid of the Dark?. While two of the references I’ve mention date me, I think they are accurate to what one can expect when reading this book. It’s weird, mysterious, atmospheric and wondrous. I love seeing authors jump out of their comfort zones with genre, because sometimes an experiment can blossom into something extraordinary.

Late to the Party ARC Review – The Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head (The Curiosity House #1) by Lauren Oliver & H.G. Chester

Title: The Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head (The Curiosity House #1)

Author: Lauren Oliver & H.G. Chester

Rating: ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: The book is about, among other things: the strongest boy in the world, a talking cockatoo, a faulty mind reader, a beautiful bearded lady and a nervous magician, an old museum, and a shrunken head.

Blessed with extraordinary abilities, orphans Philippa, Sam, and Thomas have grown up happily in Dumfrey’s Dime Museum of Freaks, Oddities, and Wonders. Philippa is a powerful mentalist, Sam is the world’s strongest boy, and Thomas can squeeze himself into a space no bigger than a bread box. The children live happily with museum owner Mr. Dumfrey, alongside other misfits. But when a fourth child, Max, a knife-thrower, joins the group, it sets off an unforgettable chain of events.

When the museum’s Amazonian shrunken head is stolen, the four are determined to get it back. But their search leads them to a series of murders and an explosive secret about their pasts.

Huge thank you to Harper Collins Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I recognize this book has been out for two years already, but I always feel obligated that when I get an ARC from a publisher, even if I haven’t read it right away that I always give it a review. I LOVE Lauren Oliver’s middle grade books, and I would argue that those are her better works over her YA offerings. The Spindlers was imaginative, Lisel & Po has remained a favourite to this day, and then there is The Curiosity House series, which is unique to say the least.

What I enjoyed about The Shrunken Head is that it has this old timey vibe to it, from how the murder mystery elements are set up, to even the whimsical side of the narrative. It also builds of the old circus tropes from a bearded lady, to mind readers, and even a talking bird. There’s a lot of weird and whimsy in this book, and I will argue that that is what makes it so engaging. The Shrunken Head takes so many crazy twists and turns for a middle grade story that it easily keeps the reader engaged.

I will say that the kids took awhile to grow on me. I feel like they just weren’t as fleshed out compared to characters in Oliver’s other novels. This isn’t a bad thing, but it did damper my enjoyment at times because I found it so hard to connect to the children. On the opposite end, I loved how ridiculous the adults were in this story. They were extreme and utterly crazy.

While I wasn’t in love with this first installment to the The Curiosity House series, I still want to read the rest of them. I feel like this series has the potential to grow into something that is truly special, and I look forward to reading on and seeing what the next adventure has in store.

ARC Review – The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr

Title: The One Memory of Flora Banks

Author: Emily Barr

Rating: ★★

Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Flora Banks has no short-term memory. Her mind resets itself several times a day, and has since the age of ten, when the tumor that was removed from Flora’s brain took with it her ability to make new memories. That is, until she kisses Drake, her best friend’s boyfriend, the night before he leaves town. Miraculously, this one memory breaks through Flora’s fractured mind, and sticks. Flora is convinced that Drake is responsible for restoring her memory and making her whole again. So when an encouraging email from Drake suggests she meet him on the other side of the world, Flora knows with certainty that this is the first step toward reclaiming her life.

With little more than the words “be brave” inked into her skin, and written reminders of who she is and why her memory is so limited, Flora sets off on an impossible journey to Svalbard, Norway, the land of the midnight sun, determined to find Drake. But from the moment she arrives in the arctic, nothing is quite as it seems, and Flora must “be brave” if she is ever to learn the truth about herself, and to make it safely home.

Huge thank you to Penguin Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I feel very torn when I think about The One Memory of Flora Banks. On one hand, it’s a very compelling story about a young woman who has been in a near vegetative state who is unable to make new memories, but on the other side of it there is something very frustrating on a whole as to how this book presents itself.

First of all, this book is compulsively readable. The writing isn’t anything spectacular, but Barr does this great job of making the read want to turn pages and keep going. The repetition, though I understand why it was there, drove me kind of bonkers at times and I found myself going “Yes, be brave, Flora. We know this already!” many times. Again, this book is like a YA version of Mr Robot or Momento, but it lacks the visual cues and punch that those stories provide because it’s in text form.

I won’t lie, I did feel sorry for Flora through the entire story, but I also found myself annoyed and angry how the story moved or progressed. Sometimes it felt like it was meandering, and sometimes it would go at a rapid pace. I’ll be frank in that I hated the Drake parts of this book (up until the end any ways) given that Flora repeats and repeats and repeats how she kissed “Drake” and we’re supposed to take that at face value from an unreliable narrator. When I got to the twist, I wasn’t surprised in the slightest because I had figured it out pretty quickly, so I think that also hindered my enjoyment a lot as well.

I will say, I did like the ending to a point. Learning about Flora’s brother, Jacob, was actually some of my favourite bits in the story. When Flora was thinking about or trying to understand Jacob’s motives, I found that’s when the story hit its stride with me and I constantly wanted to know more about what was happening and why Flora’s family behaves the way they do. When the book was about Flora trying to find Drake to get her memory back, it fell into that trope I hate which is that “boy fixes girl.” I hate that trope, and while I understand why it exists in this story, I still found myself angry by it. There are better ways to give characters agency, and in YA, the boy shouldn’t always be that factor.

I love unreliable narrators, and I adore books when I need to put my thinking cap on to try and put pieces together. Sadly, The One Memory of Flora Banks left me more annoyed than satisfied. I feel like there will be readers out there who will gobble this up and it be their jam, but for me personally, I struggled to find any connection with this story.