Tag Archives: mystery

ARC Review – The Great Shelby Holmes by Elizabeth Eulberg

28260589Title: The Great Shelby Holmes

Author: Elizabeth Eulberg

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Shelby Holmes is not your average sixth grader. She’s nine years old, barely four feet tall, and the best detective her Harlem neighborhood has ever seen—always using logic and a bit of pluck (which yes, some might call “bossiness”) to solve the toughest crimes.

When eleven-year-old John Watson moves downstairs, Shelby finds something that’s eluded her up till now: a friend. Easy-going John isn’t sure of what to make of Shelby, but he soon finds himself her most-trusted (read: only) partner in a dog-napping case that’ll take both their talents to crack.

Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

What a refreshing surprise The Great Shelby Holmes was! This is one of the best homages I’ve encountered when it comes toSherlock Holmes, and making his work accessible to younger audiences is even better! Plus it’s written by Elizabeth Eulberg? I believe we have a winner.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when The Great Shelby Holmescame through my mail box. I love a good mystery, and I also loved that this mystery focused on dogs. I am a sucker for dog stories too! I also think it’s wonderful that Eulberg decided to have Watson be a young black boy who had recently moved to Harlem, and I found his voice to be utterly delightful. I think this story does a great job of capturing the personalities of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson and transferring them into the souls of two eleven year old kids.

I also loved the way that Watson constantly debated between being a part of the mystery and trying to make friends. While the dognapping in the book is the main mystery, there’s a larger mystery looming in regards to Shelby’s character not actually having friends and Watson trying to make friends being the new kid in town. This larger aspect of the book was completely well thought out and done, and I loved how Shelby and Watson’s relationship is so organic from the start. I think Eulberg also did a great job with the main mystery as well, and for middle graders in particular, she offers some good twists and turns to keep the reader guessing. And the dog show at the end of the story? Easily the most hilarious part.

I absolutely loved Shelby and Watson’s first adventure, and I can only hope Elizabeth Eulberg writes more for this and turns it into a series. It’s just such a joy to read, and I loved the characters and the mystery that can in this book. If you love middle grade mystery, you need to check this little gem out.

And can I say that I loved that Shelby’s English Bulldog was named “Sir Arthur”? As an English Bulldog owner that gave me way too much joy.

ARC Review – Smash & Grab by Amy Christine Parker

27272262Title: Smash & Grab

Author: Amy Christine Parker

Rating:  ★★★★

Synopsis: LEXI is a rich girl who loves a good rush. Whether it’s motorcycle racing or BASE jumping off a building in downtown Los Angeles, the only times she feels alive are when she and her friends are executing one of their dares. After her father’s arrest, Lexi doesn’t think twice about going undercover at his bank to steal the evidence that might clear his name. She enlists her hacker brother and her daredevil friends to plan a clever heist.
 
CHRISTIAN is a boy from the wrong side of the tracks. The local gang has blackmailed him and his friends into robbing banks, and he is desperate for a way out. When the boss promises that one really big job will be the last he ever has to do, Christian jumps at the chance for freedom. In fact, he’s just met a girl at the bank who might even prove useful. . . .
 
Two heists. One score. The only thing standing in their way is each other.

Huge thank you to the publisher for letting me read an advanced copy of this book!

Molly’s Review: 

I REALLY enjoyed this book! After falling into a little bit of a reading slump I needed something fun that would really drag me into the story and not let go. I didn’t want anything TOO heavy and this was just the perfect balance. I LOVE heist movies and books, so I went into this with high hopes and was not disappointed.

Lexi and her crew are thrill seekers. They’re young rich LA kids who have issues with their families and they all deal with these issues by doing crazy and wild stunts. The book starts out with them jumping off a building. I really loved how Lexi and her gang had actual problems and not just rich kid problems. Lexi’s dad is in jail and her mother is falling apart. Lexi’s friends (while not the MOST fleshed out group of side characters) are all personable and facing their own issues. We see glimpses of things that all people face: abusive parents, un-accepting parents, etc. This made the book feel real.

I also liked that Lexi was and wasn’t a stereotype. She’s a typical rich, blond, beautiful LA chick but she is also pretty bad ass. She holds her own and stays true to herself. She uses her looks and charm when she needs to, but she isn’t vapid and vain, nor a mean girl. I really liked that she didn’t quit fit any mold when she really could have.

Christian is the other voice in this book. It is a dual POV book, but the author does an AMAZING job with the two voices. I was never once confused as to who was speaking and that really helped me enjoy this book even more (because I do NOT like dual POV books with alternating chapters). Christian is from the hood and he and his own crew of friends are bank robbers. They were strong-armed into doing the robberies by the local gang which has ties to a much larger Mexican gang. Each friend is working the jobs to help their families/ save people they love. It’s all very tragic and makes them not really BAD guys. Christian was an interesting character; he’s smart, of mixed race so he doesn’t always feel like he fits in with the rest of his crew, and he cares deeply about doing the right thing even when he’s forced to do the wrong thing.

Christian and Lexi cross paths multiple times and sparks fly. They end up joining forces to rob the bank that Lexi’s dad used to work for… to help prove his innocence and to set Christian free. There’s a lot of double crossing, some kissing and swooning and some high action moments with crazy stunts. I very much enjoyed this book and would LOVE to see it as a movie.

ARC Review – Unrivaled (Beautiful Idols #1) by Alyson Noel

26116460Title: Unrivaled (Beautiful Idols #1)

Author: Alyson Noel

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Everyone wants to be someone. Layla Harrison wants to leave her beach-bum days for digs behind a reporter’s desk. Aster Amirpour wants to scream at the next casting director who tells her “we need ethnic but not your kind of ethnic.” Tommy Phillips dreams of buying a twelve-string guitar and using it to shred his way back into his famous absentee dad’s life. But Madison Brooks took destiny and made it her bitch a long time ago.

She’s Hollywood’s hottest starlet, and the things she did to become the name on everyone’s lips are merely a stain on the pavement, ground beneath her Louboutin heel.

Huge thank you to HarperCollins for sending me a copy of this book for review!

Molly’s Review:

So I wasn’t going to read this book when I first heard about it. The author alone put me off it (I wasn’t a huge fan of some over her previous work) and then I saw the huge international deal that it got and I was like ‘whelp, here comes the hype monster”.

Yet somehow this book hasn’t really been all that hyped up? It arrived with a fancy VIP invitation attached to it and then I read the synopsis and I thought it sounded like the type of ugly-pretty-people stories that I like. So I gave it and try and I liked it.

But I still don’t get it. This book is another Pretty-Little-Liars-Gossip-Girl-The-Lying-Game types and there’s nothing really special or important about it. It’s a fun read about the seedy night life of LA and there’s little bit of a mystery to it and a lot of brand name dropping, but other than brain candy it’s not like AMAZING.

But I did like it?

I totally think that people who love Gossip Girl or Pretty Little Liars will really enjoy it. But much as with those books (oh I also think fans of the 90210 TV reboot would love this too) they aren’t much more than a beach read (but hey, summer is coming!!!)

So grab a copy and take it to the beach and enjoy it for what it’s worth.

ARC Review – The Girl I Used to Be by April Henry

23018249Title: The Girl I Used to Be

Author:  April Henry

Rating:  ★★

Synopsis: When Olivia’s mother was killed, everyone suspected her father of murder. But his whereabouts remained a mystery. Fast forward fourteen years. New evidence now proves Olivia’s father was actually murdered on the same fateful day her mother died. That means there’s a killer still at large. It’s up to Olivia to uncover who that may be. But can she do that before the killer tracks her down first?

Huge thank you to the publisher for sending me an ARC for review!

Molly’s Review:

To be honest, if this book had been ANY longer, I would have DNFed it. Instead I’m giving it a generous 2 stars because I do think that maybe younger teens will enjoy this, and it is a quick throw-away of a read. I finished it in just a few hours and I’m glad I didn’t spend anymore time than that.

I love dark contemporary YA and I love it when there’s some type of mystery as well. I was hoping that this would be dark and twisty and it… was so flat and barebones. There is no character development at all. We get a cast of one-dimensional people who are supposed to be caught up in this horrific murder and… they’re all just so flat. Our MC is also supposed to be super traumatized by her past and there are a few flashes of trauma here and there, but over all she just seemed like a normal girl who’s just dealing with life.

There are also some really weird things that happen in this book that I didn’t think were very true to life. Like the MC literally abandons her apartment. She’s a 17 year old emancipated minor who rents her own place in Portland. And she decides to rent a new place and literally does nothing to cancel her old lease and she just leaves all of her stuff in the old place. There were a few other weird things like that too.

Everything pertaining to the mystery is also very one dimensional. There’s no red herrings, no false leads, just a bunch of people who maybe could have done it? And a few of them are a little suspicious? Despite the fact that the MC has only known most of them for a week? There’s no tension, no build, and when we do find out who did it and why it was all incredibly anticlimactic.

I feel like if you don’t read a lot YA or you don’t read a lot of well done mysteries then this could be enjoyable.

ARC Review – Crossing the Line (The Raven Files #1) by Meghan Rogers

23566919Title:  Crossing the Line (The Raven Files #1)

Author: Meghan Rogers

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Jocelyn Steely was kidnapped as a child and raised in North Korea as a spy. When her agency sends her to the U.S. to infiltrate the very group her parents once worked for, Jocelyn jumps at the chance to turn double agent and finish off her kidnappers once and for all. She convinces the head of the American spy agency to trust her, but it’s not quite as simple as that: Jocelyn has to fight the withdrawal symptoms from the drug that the North Koreans used to keep her in line, and her new fellow spies refuse to trust their former adversary. Worst of all, there might be some new information to uncover about her parents – if she even wants to find out.

Huge thank you to Penguin Random House for sending me a copy of this book for review!

River’s Review:

WOW! So. When I got this book I wasn’t sure if I was going to read it. Yes, I judged it by the cover. It looks kinda cheesy and… young. A little middle-grade-ish if you will. Well. It’s not. And it was SO SO GOOD! So I really wish this would get a new cover so more people would be prone to picking it up.

This book is pitched as a Bourne Identity type book, but for me it was A LOT like La Feme Nikita. I am OBSESSED with that movie/ TV show (the TV show mostly) and this book had SUCH a Nikita feeling to it. Our MC, Jocelyn, is SO BAD ASS. And she’s smart, fierce, and willing to do what it takes to survive. She’s kidnapped by a North Korean spy agency as a child and trained to be a killer. She’s good at what she does, but she isn’t as brain washed as they’d like to believe she is… and when she has a chance to go to the USA to join a rival spy team as a double agent, she takes it. But turns the tables and instead becomes a double agent for the US team, IDA.

I loved the way that Jocelyn dealt with her past and present situations at the same time. She learns about herself and grows, makes friends, and starts to trust for the first time in her life. She’s got some Katniss in her, but she also reminded me of a mix of Nikita and Alex from the Nikita TV show. Despite being similar to some of my favorite badass females, Jocelyn is very much her own well developed character. And not only was she well developed, but all of the characters were too. I LOVED how complex everyone was!

There’s a lot of really awesome action in this that just SPOKE to my action hero loving self. I am a sucker for old (and new-old) action movies with all our favorite action heros from the 80s and 90s. Okay even some of the new ones (hello Jason Statham!). So this really kept me engaged.

I also liked that there wasn’t any romance in this. Often times a lot of YA action novels get bogged down with the heroine falling in love and making stupid mistakes and having to be rescued. That did NOT happen in this and I was SO glad. There’s a lot of focus on friendship in this and trusting your partner. I think that we WILL see some romance in future books, but I’d be okay with that because Jocelyn has earned it!

The only issues that I had with this was the plausibility of a few things. For one I never learned Jocelyn’s ethnicity. Is she Korean or at least Asian? Would North Korea have non-North Korean spies? I’m not sure about this. I told myself that yes, they would, so they could have people on the ground anywhere. Another thing that bugged me (which is the most nitpicky thing ever, I know) is when Jocelyn is in China and she “presses the Chinese symbol for 25” in the elevator. For one, Chinese for 25 is three characters. Two, I don’t believe that a high tech science institute would have non-numeric numbers on it’s elevator buttons. And finally when Jocelyn and Ethan are in North Korea and they’re in public HOW DOES NOBODY NOTICE HIM? Unless he’s also Asian? (Again, I don’t think we ever got his ethnicity, but I always pictured him as a brown haired good ole American boy). Seriously, just a few tiny things.

BUT THIS BOOK WAS SO AWESOME GO GRAB A COPY AND A BOWL OF POPCORN AND READ IT YOU WONT REGRET IT!

ARC Review – Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum

V23 new typeface tagline.inddTitle: Tell Me Three Things

Author:  Julie Buxbaum

Rating:  ★★★★★

Synopsis: What if the person you need the most is someone you’ve never met?  Everything about Jessie is wrong. At least, that’s what it feels like during her first week of junior year at her new ultra-intimidating prep school in Los Angeles. Just when she’s thinking about hightailing it back to Chicago, she gets an email from a person calling themselves Somebody/Nobody (SN for short), offering to help her navigate the wilds of Wood Valley High School. Is it an elaborate hoax? Or can she rely on SN for some much-needed help?

It’s been barely two years since her mother’s death, and because her father eloped with a woman he met online, Jessie has been forced to move across the country to live with her stepmonster and her pretentious teenage son.

In a leap of faith—or an act of complete desperation—Jessie begins to rely on SN, and SN quickly becomes her lifeline and closest ally. Jessie can’t help wanting to meet SN in person. But are some mysteries better left unsolved?

Huge thank you to #firstinline for sending me a copy of this book!

River’s Review:

Omg you guys I LOVED THIS BOOK SO MUCH!!!! I’m a huge fan of contemporary YA and this was just so good I wish I could read it again. Jessie’s voice was so amazingly pitch perfect and she was so funny. This entire book was so true to tone too. It felt so real and just resonated with the part of me that was super awkward in high school and never felt like I fit in. Hell as an adult I still don’t feel like I fit in (and could TOTALLY relate to the father when he was talking about how he doesn’t feel like an adult, ugh, dude, I feel ya).

I loved how the relationship between Jessie and SN grew. I’ve had so many online friendships that have turned into IRL friendships that it’s just kinda weird (to me) when people DON’T have those kinds of relationships. Sure not everyone is going to find their soul mate, bff or partner online, but man, how do you NOT have at least a few friendships going on there????

I also could relate to how difficult and different it was for Jessie to “go home”. I’ve spent a lot of time away from my hometown and the first time I went back after having been gone for a full year, it was difficult. Very difficult. People change, move on, and they don’t even mean to all of the time. I loved that it wasn’t easy for either Jessie or Scarlet to just go back to the way things used to be.

The mystery of who SN was wasn’t really much of a mystery for me. I accidentally saw at the end of the book (that’s what I get for checking to see how many pages it was hahahaha) but none of the guys that she thought they could be seemed to fit the bill for me. So I was glad when it turned out to be who it was. And then to find out the reason why SN was doing what they were doing… it really seemed to fit.

Also, shout out to Theo. He was probably my favorite. I loved how he was such a diva and threw a tantrum and then later he came around and was all chill with his new sister. That’s the kind of friend I would want if I were in Jessie’s place.

If you’re a fan of contemporary YA with happy endings and high school drama, check this out. Jessie’s voice will suck you in and make you laugh and smile and you wont want to put this book down!

ARC Review – A Study in Charlotte (Charlotte Holmes #1) by Brittany Cavallaro

23272028Title: A Study in Charlotte (Charlotte Holmes #1)

Author: Brittany Cavallaro

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: The last thing Jamie Watson wants is a rugby scholarship to Sherringford, a Connecticut prep school just an hour away from his estranged father. But that’s not the only complication: Sherringford is also home to Charlotte Holmes, the famous detective’s great-great-great-granddaughter, who has inherited not only Sherlock’s genius but also his volatile temperament. From everything Jamie has heard about Charlotte, it seems safer to admire her from afar.

From the moment they meet, there’s a tense energy between them, and they seem more destined to be rivals than anything else. But when a Sherringford student dies under suspicious circumstances, ripped straight from the most terrifying of the Sherlock Holmes stories, Jamie can no longer afford to keep his distance. Jamie and Charlotte are being framed for murder, and only Charlotte can clear their names. But danger is mounting and nowhere is safe—and the only people they can trust are each other.

Huge thank you to Harper Collins for sending me an ARC of this for review!

River’s Review:

I LOVED this book! I’m going to be honest, but I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it. The idea sounded excellent, but Sherlock stories can always go sideways quickly. I’m a fan of the BBC version and I highly enjoy the newer movies, even some of the older films are okay, but I really dislike the American remake and I’ve had issues with some of the other YA Sherlock remakes. So I went into this with low expectations and was worried it was going to be cringe worthy… and it’s not.

First off I love the writing. I compared it to one of my favorite author’s writing and had a friend look at me with shock because that is some HIGH praise coming from me. I love how posh everything is, how quaintly New England the rest of it is. There are a lot of clever moments in this but it’s not super heavy handed THIS IS SHERLOCK at any time. I also laughed at the James Bond part.

The homage paid to the original Sherlock stories was so well done. I loved the name play, the references to both old and new Sherlock. I also really enjoyed how Holmes and Watson were portrayed. In this book Holmes is a girl, but she’s also very much… a Holmes. I loved the whole backstory that was created for both families and how well it matched with the Watson and Holmes we currently know and love. I really liked how dark Holmes was; and yes she has a drug problem. It is addressed. But I think it’s done will in this book. And the Watsons in this book were great. We get to see not only young Jamie Watson but his father, another Watson, at work here. The way that they interact with Charlotte is both hilarious and spot on to how I’d imagine previous Watsons would react to previous Holmeses.

The mystery in this was really fun too. I didn’t see whodunit coming and thought it was well played. There were moments of shock and moments of deduction and moments of plain good sleuthing.

Everything in this was just so pitch perfect and I really hope we get more!