Tag Archives: thriller

ARC Review – The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis

25812109Title:  The Female of the Species

Author: Mindy McGinnis

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Alex Craft knows how to kill someone. And she doesn’t feel bad about it. When her older sister, Anna, was murdered three years ago and the killer walked free, Alex uncaged the language she knows best. The language of violence.

While her crime goes unpunished, Alex knows she can’t be trusted among other people, even in her small hometown. She relegates herself to the shadows, a girl who goes unseen in plain sight, unremarkable in the high school hallways.

But Jack Fisher sees her. He’s the guy all other guys want to be: the star athlete gunning for valedictorian with the prom queen on his arm. Guilt over the role he played the night Anna’s body was discovered hasn’t let him forget Alex over the years, and now her green eyes amid a constellation of freckles have his attention. He doesn’t want to only see Alex Craft; he wants to know her.

Huge thank you to the publisher for this ARC!

River’s Review:

I have been a fan of Mindy McGinnis since her debut, and I have enjoyed everything that she has written so far. I was SO excited when I found out that she was writing a contemporary, but sadly this wasn’t my most fav of her books (I did really enjoy it a lot tho).

I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect going into this book. We know that the MC, Alex, is dealing with the death of her sister. We know that Alex knows how to kill a man. Has she done it? Why does she know? How did she learn? And why would she want to know?

This book is told in three POVs that alternate. I am not a big fan of this, and I had a lot of trouble connecting with Alex (which was probably the point). Jack was okay and I really enjoyed Peekay’s chapters. I loved the way things ebbed and flowed through the story, and how they twisted around to get to the real heart of things.

This is a book about sexual assault. And I for some reason hadn’t seen that coming.

McGinnis’ writing is gritty and honest and sometimes made me cringe with just how fucking real it is. She made me want to cry at times with some of her vivid truths and the way that she used animals to illustrate how brutal humans can be. This book scared me with how wrong things can go in the blink of an eye. And it broke my heart at the end.

If you love honest books, pick this up. If you love gritty portritates of real life, pick this up. If you think that books about rape are important, pick this up. And if you’ve previously enjoyed a book by the author, make sure you don’t miss this one.

 

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 – Take the Fall by Emily Hainsworth

15782557Title: Take the Fall

Author:  Emily Hainsworth

Rating:  ★★★

Synopsis: Fear grips the residents of Hidden Falls the night Sonia Feldman and her best friend, Gretchen Meyer, are attacked in the woods. Sonia was lucky to escape with her life, but Gretchen’s body is discovered at the bottom of a waterfall. Beautiful, popular, and seemingly untouchable, Gretchen can’t be gone. Even as Sonia struggles with guilt and confusion over having survived, the whole town is looking to her for information…could she have seen something that will lead the police to the killer?

At the top of the list of suspects is Gretchen’s ex-boyfriend—and Sonia’s longtime enemy—Marcus Perez. So when Marcus comes to Sonia for help clearing his name, she agrees, hoping to find evidence the police need to prove he’s the killer. But as Gretchen’s many secrets emerge and the suspects add up, Sonia feels less sure of Marcus’s involvement, and more afraid for herself. Could Marcus, the artist, the screwup, the boy she might be falling for have attacked her? Killed her best friend? And if it wasn’t him in the woods that night…who could it have been?

Huge thank you to Harper Collins for sending me a copy for review!

River’s Review:

When I started this book I could not put it down and I blew through the first 100 or so pages. It was so fast paces and everything was just clicking along I was really excited to see where this was going. Sonia was a great MC, there was a really nice mix of characters, and I liked the small town feeling. I was super invested in WHAT WAS GOING TO HAPPEN.

And then things kinda slowed down. There were a few moments of AHA murder mystery, but a lot of it was just dealing with the loss of Gretchen and slowly figuring out that she wasn’t THAT great of a person (friend, sister, girl friend) after all. And this whole time I was fighting with myself over if Sonia was a reliable narrator or not. And I was pretty set on the idea that she was and that this was going to have some crazy twist and that we’d NEVER see WHO DUN IT coming and… I guessed it and I was right and I bumped it down to a 3 star rating because those kinds of twists are the lamest. And I don’t buy it. And just ugh.

Disappointed.

ARC Review – Sanctuary Bay by Laura J. Burns & Melinda Metz

25663880Title: Sanctuary Bay

Author:  Laura J. Burns & Melinda Metz

Rating:  ★★★★

Synopsis: In this genre-bending YA thriller, will Sarah Merson’s shiny new prep school change her life forever or bring it to a dark and sinister end?

When Sarah Merson receives the opportunity of a lifetime to attend the most elite prep school in the country-Sanctuary Bay Academy-it seems almost too good to be true. But, after years of bouncing from foster home to foster home, escaping to its tranquil setting, nestled deep in Swans Island, couldn’t sound more appealing. Swiftly thrown into a world of privilege and secrets, Sarah quickly realizes finding herself noticed by class charmer, Nate, as well as her roommate’s dangerously attentive boyfriend, Ethan, are the least of her worries. When her roommate suddenly goes missing, she finds herself in a race against time, not only to find her, but to save herself and discover the dark truth behind Sanctuary Bay’s glossy reputation.

Huge thank you to St. Martin’s Press for sending me a finished copy for review!

River’s Review:

I really wasn’t sure what I was getting into with this book. The blurb sounded generic but the publicist letter that came with this mentioned government conspiracies and I was just like WHAT IS THIS.

There were parts of this book that I loved and other parts that were a little annoying. Typical foster kid Sarah somehow ends up getting a scholarship to a super exclusive rich kids boarding school. The school is super secret and once you go in… you don’t get out. Well, until you graduate. At first I was having DARK ANGEL (y’all have seen that show right? No… I’m old? Uh, go watch it. Girls kick ass. Say’s so on a tee-shirt) hopes but nope, no super-soldier kids here.

So Sarah ends up on this island and this crazy expensive school with state of the art equipment and pretty people everywhere. Her roommates are basically socialites and all the guys are straight teeth and tight shirts. Of course two of The Hottest notice her (even though one is her roommates boyfriend! Le Gasp!)

At this point I was like am I really going to keep reading this? But then Sarah got invited to a secret society and I was back in. Until the secret society seemed to just be a weird way to hook up with lots of people? There were no orgies but… I felt one coming. But then the secret society was like WE’RE GONNA KILL ONE OF OUR OWN and I was like okay I gotta see this through…

After that things got good and I was pulled in. Seems to be the case with me and books lately. But student’s went missing, memories went missing, and people started to go crazy. Sarah and Ethan (missing roommates super sexy boyfriend *rolls eyes*) start to sort out this mystery because Ethan’s brother apparently went missing and never returned home and while people can remember him they don’t actually know what happened to him…

I really liked how dark this got at times. There’s an abandoned insane asylum and some really weird shit happening at the school and on the island. Sarah and Ethan uncover the government conspiracy annnnnd we find out what happened to Sarah’s family when she was a child. I was very pleased that things got wrapped up and that the mystery was basically solved by the end of the book. I don’t think there will be another one but if there was I’d really like to see Sarah come to terms with what she learned at the very end.

Check this out if you like twisty boarding school mysteries with government conspiracies!

ARC Review – Shade Me (Nikki Kill #1) by Jennifer Brown

25773842Title: Shade Me

Author: Jennifer Brown

Rating: ★★

Synopsis: Nikki Kill does not see the world like everyone else. In her eyes, happiness is pink, sadness is a mixture of brown and green, and lies are gray. Thanks to a rare phenomenon called synesthesia, Nikki’s senses overlap, in a way that both comforts and overwhelms her.

Always an outsider, just one ‘D’ shy of flunking out, Nikki’s life is on the fast track to nowhere until the night a mysterious call lights her phone up bright orange—the color of emergencies. It’s the local hospital. They need Nikki to identify a Jane Doe who is barely hanging on to life after a horrible attack.

The victim is Peyton Hollis, a popular girl from Nikki’s school who Nikki hardly knows. One thing is clear: Someone wants Peyton dead. But why? And why was Nikki’s cell the only number in Peyton’s phone?

Huge thank you to Katherine Tegen Books / Harper Collins Canada for the ARC!

River’s Review:

I am SO disappointed. I wanted to love this book so badly and alas it wasn’t meant to be. It had EVERYTHING going for it for me: synesthesia, kick-ass fighter girl, intriguing mystery… but sadly none of that really worked out well.

First I have to say that I felt like this story would have possibly worked better with a much older cast of characters. Possibly out of college 20-somethings. Ultimately I just felt like it was being forced into being a YA when it really should have been an adult (or even NA) mystery-thriller.

Anyways, Nikki Kill, our kick-ass MC, has synesthesia. If you don’t know what that is, it’s when your sense get kinda mixed up. Some people can see colors when they look at numbers or letters. When I was younger I was able to taste smells (like foods wold taste like the smell of something… I kinda outgrew it) so I always love reading books that deal with synesthesia. Nikki’s was the kind where she looks at numbers and letters and can see colors. She could also see colors connected to emotions. This… didn’t really work for me. It seemed a little too magical at times… like she was able to “predict” things by looking at people and seeing colors. idk. It just really felt a little far fetched at times. Then later on we find out that there’s another person running around with synesthesia who can apparently see the same colors ad Nikki does? I’m… pretty sure it doesn’t work that way. I don’t think that two people with synesthesia can experience things exactly the SAME WAY.

The mystery in this book was also not as mysterious as I’d originally thought it would be and hoped for. Everything felt so thinly connected and some of the conclusions that Nikki would jump to and have actually BE RIGHT just seemed to random and far fetched and just like really??? When we get to the BIG REVEAL I was just rolling my eyes so hard. And like every time Nikki would find a clue she was always like I KNOW BLAH BLAH BLAH with so much damn confidence that I was like ‘really? How do you KNOW?’ it was just really annoying.

The love interest was dumb too. I hated how quickly things went and how there was no development and suddenly there was ~love~. Just… Nikki was supposed to be this cold hearted bitch loaner chick and despite having no friends she has guys falling all over her. And wtf was up with the creepy detective? He kept following her around and wanting to take care of her and there was so much weird sexual tension and just… ew. I don’t care that she was 18 and legal, that dude had to at least be late 20s early 30s!

And the pretend to be a prostitute to get information crap… just again more no. More this is way too old for its characters.

Ugh so much ugh. Around page 350 I just wanted to put it down but kept going with the hope that something shocking was going to happen and it just never did.

Sam’s Review:

If I could describe Shade Me in two words, it would be ‘hot mess.’ The premise of this book is what drew me to it, and if I’m being honest, I spent a lot of this book so razzled and confused as to what the author was eventually trying to get at. Was this a noir? A thriller? An urban fantasy novel? Contemporary? It blends a variety of genres in terms of its presentation, but doesn’t excel at any of them.

I loved the concept of synesthesia, and that was what drew me to the story. However, I felt so confused in its usage during the novel. There were so many moments where I totally understood what Brown was using it for, and other moments where I was like “Okay… what?” and that really bugged me. I felt like I couldn’t connect to Nikki or how she saw the world, no matter how hard I tried as I read the book. It didn’t help that Nikki is such a bland character who just makes poor decisions (which is cool, she’s a teen, it’s allowed), but they are decisions where they are just odd or made me uncomfortable? There’s one scene in particular and as I was reading it on my way home from work that just made me go “WHO DOES THAT?!” to the point where I texted my co-blogger said response.

I think if the characters had been presented a bit older, like they were in college, I think aspects of this novel would have worked so much better. Horribly, I just didn’t like any of the characters, their motives felt shallow, and the plot just comes across to messy at times. A lot of the connections are hanging by tiny threads, and it’s just frustrating given how interesting the premise is.

It’s like wasted potential, especially given that we are told one think about NIkki’s emotions (how she is unfeeling) and yet she feels so much. Yet, there were times I admit, I couldn’t stop turning the pages. I think with it being such a hot mess, part of me needed to see where this story was going to go. To be fair, I actually genuinely enjoyed the last forty pages or so, as I was completely engaged, and it was a solid, if predictable ending.

While this is my first Jennifer Brown novel, Shade Me has not deterred me from reading her back catalogue. I wish this had been a much more cohesive novel, instead of the confusing mess that it is. I think this novel will appeal to some readers, just don’t go into it thinking you’re getting a straight-laced thriller, because it just fumbles at any sort of genre convention it attempts to replicate. This isn’t a bad novel, but I admit, I think I hyped it up way more in my head, and was left sorely disappointed.

ARC Review – Other Broken Things by C. Desir

23257336Title:  Other Broken Things

Author:  C. Desir

Rating: ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Nat’s not an alcoholic. She doesn’t have a problem. Everybody parties, everybody does stupid things, like get in their car when they can barely see. Still, with six months of court-ordered AA meetings required, her days of vodka-filled water bottles are over. Unfortunately her old friends want the party girl or nothing. Even her up-for-anything ex seems more interested in rehashing the past than actually helping Nat.

But then a recovering alcoholic named Joe inserts himself into Nat’s life and things start looking up. Joe is funny, smart, and calls her out in a way no one ever has. He’s also older. A lot older. Nat’s connection to Joe is overwhelming but so are her attempts to fit back into her old world, all while battling the constant urge to crack a bottle and blur that one thing she’s been desperate to forget.

Now in order to make a different kind of life, Natalie must pull together her broken parts and learn to fight for herself.

Huge thank you to Simon Teen Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I’ve heard C. Desir is one of those authors whom I should be looking into for tough issue books, as they all deal with a variety of topics and unique teen voices. Other Broken Thingsis definitely a tough read, but it might be one of those books that could have been a tad longer to flesh a few things out.

Natalie is a difficult protagonist to enjoy. She spends a lot of the book pushing the other characters, as well as the reader as far away from her as possible. This aspect is done really well since she’s an alcoholic refusing help from others, but it makes it hard for the reader to really get a sense of who she is because of how she is able to push the reader away. The hardest part to read how much others wanted to provide her will tools and help and she just recklessly kept pushing it aside. I found that heartbreaking to read about, and when it came to her parts I could sympathize a lot as someone who has dealt with people in need of rehabilitation because of alcohol and drugs. A lot of what Natalie’s parents go through are things I saw first hand, so I understood the pain they were feeling.

But I admit, I wanted a bit more from this book and I think that is why it dampened my enjoyment a bit. So much happens so fast to Natalie that in a lot of ways the reader is forced to accept it, but isn’t given time to process it. Perhaps that’s the point of the novel in a lot of ways, but Natalie jumps from so many different things in such a short span (from drinking to boxing to insert mad spoiler here). I think worse off, was that I predicted the big reveal and that sometimes bothers me. The writing was good though as I stated above, Natalie was hard to get into the mind of when it already seemed like she was closed off to the reader.

Perhaps this was the wrong book to start with in my exploration of C. Desir’s books, but I admit I enjoyed this one. Part of me was expecting to love it because the concept and approach were what I was looking for in a gritty contemporary read, and this book gave me that to a large extent. I definitely want to check out her previous two books now, and I do think this book carries some powerful weight when it comes to understanding those who want to become recovering alcoholics. There’s definitely some strong insight, and that’s the parts I loved about this book the most.