PASSIONATE ABOUT SCHOOL LIBRARIES

Tag: Murder (Page 1 of 4)

Book Review: A Dragonbird in the Fern

A Dragonbird In The Fern – Laura Rueckert – Flux – Published 3 August 2021

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Synopsis

When an assassin kills Princess Jiara’s older sister Scilla, her vengeful ghost is doomed to walk their city of glittering canals, tormenting loved ones until the murderer is brought to justice. While the entire kingdom mourns, Scilla’s betrothed arrives and requests that seventeen-year-old Jiara take her sister’s place as his bride to confirm the alliance between their countries.

Marrying the young king intended for her sister and traveling to his distant home is distressing enough, but with dyslexia and years of scholarly struggles, Jiara abandoned any hope of learning other languages long ago. She’s terrified of life in a foreign land where she’ll be unable to communicate.

Then Jiara discovers evidence that her sister’s assassin comes from the king’s own country. If she marries the king, Jiara can hunt the murderer and release her family from Scilla’s ghost, whose thirst for blood mounts every day. To save her family, Jiara must find her sister’s killer . . . before he murders her too.

My thoughts

I really enjoyed this fantasy novel that features political scheming, vengeful ghosts and emphasises the importance of how we communicate. It’s a unique fantasy novel and I liked how refreshing it was. No epic fantasy battles, but plenty of tantalising romance, politics, betrayal, and a touch of magic.

Princess Jiara’s life is utterly changed when her older sister is murdered. Jiara knows they have just months to find her sister’s killer before her sister, left to wander the earth, becomes increasingly violent. In the midst of this her sister’s intended arrives. Raffar, King of Farnskag, makes a proposition – he will marry Jiara instead and seal their countries’ alliance. The Queen and Jiara agree and Jiara is thrust into a new world. She travels with Raffar to Farnskag, but she must rely on a translator as neither she nor her new husband speak the other’s language.

As Jiara travels to Farnskag we learn a little more about her, her relationship with her sister and what she had planned for her future. When her friend and one of her translators has to leave the party, we learn Jiara is a caring person. We also learn how much she struggles with reading and learning. While they never use the word, Jiara has the signs of being dyslexic. It weighs heavily on her mind, especially when she arrives in Farnskag and begins learning their language. Unable to communicate with her new husband, Jiara relies on her translator for everything.

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Book Review: Lies Like Poison

Lies Like Poison – Chelsea Pitcher – Margaret K. McElderry Books – Published 10 November 2020

 

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Synopsis

Poppy, Lily, and Belladonna would do anything to protect their best friend, Raven. So when they discovered he was suffering abuse at the hands of his stepmother, they came up with a lethal plan: petals of poppy, belladonna, and lily in her evening tea so she’d never be able to hurt Raven again. But someone got cold feet, the plot faded to a secret of the past, and the group fell apart.

Three years later, on the eve of Raven’s seventeenth birthday, his stepmother turns up dead. But it’s only belladonna found in her tea, and it’s only Belladonna who’s carted off to jail. Desperate for help, Belle reaches out to her estranged friends to prove her innocence. They answer the call, but no one is prepared for what comes next.

Now, everyone has something to lose and something equally dangerous to hide. And when the tangled web of secrets and betrayal is finally unwound, what lies at its heart will change the group forever.

My thoughts

I love, love YA mysteries and Lies Like Poison was just as compelling, twisty, and intriguing as expected but totally surprised me with its complex romance and relationships.

Belle and Poppy had a plan to save their friend Raven from his evil stepmother. Circumstances forced them to abandon their plan. Now, years on, Raven’s stepmother has been murdered – using Belle and Poppy’s plan. Only one other person knew and now Lily, Poppy (aka Jack) and Belle must decipher the secrets of the past and present if they are to find the person responsible and clear their own names.

The romance in this book is less like a love triangle and more like a triangle crossed with a venn diagram. I’m not going to label any of the characters or their relationships – they are just figuring out who they are and what they want and labels aren’t helpful here, but suffice to say they all fall under the LGBTQIA+ banner. A chunk of the story is actually devoted to the characters going through their ‘coming out’ process as well as becoming more accepting of themselves and each other. Continue reading

Book Review: You Were Never Here

You Were Never Here – Kathleen Peacock – HarperTeen – Published 20 October 2020

 

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Synopsis

Cat hasn’t been to Montgomery Falls, the town her family founded, since she was twelve years old. Since the summer she discovered she could do things that no normal twelve-year-old could do. Since she had her first kiss with Riley Fraser. Since she destroyed their friendship.

Now, five years later, she’s back and Riley has disappeared.

For the last three months no one has heard from or seen Riley. And while there are all sorts of conspiracy theories about where he went, neither the police nor his parents are any closer to finding him. When Noah, Riley’s brother, asks for help in discovering what happened, Cat is torn between wanting to learn the truth and protecting the secret that she’s been guarding ever since that summer she and Riley stopped speaking.

But then a girl is discovered floating in the river, barely alive with no knowledge of who attacked her or why. With the possibility that someone out there is hunting teens, Cat must make a choice: Use her unusual ability to discover the truth and find Riley or keep running away from a power she can’t control. Only one choice will put her in a killer’s sights…

My thoughts

Let’s hear it for books about murder and mystery and teenage investigators and slightly paranormal skills. You Were Never Here is an atmospheric mystery that hooked me right from the start. Fans of The Body Finder (and wow, do I have a lot of those fans in my library) are just going to adore You Were Never Here.

Cat hasn’t been to Montgomery Falls since she was twelve. Now her father is sending her there to stay with her aunt. Cat is dreading the summer, but it becomes a lot worse when she learns that her ex-best friend Riley has been missing for three months. Written off as a runaway, the police and town have no leads. Riley’s brother asks Cat to help discover what really happened, and after Cat and her new friends discover a girl floating half dead in the river, Cat agrees. But there is something most people don’t know about Cat – she can discover a person’s worse secrets just by touching them.

This book has so many things going for it. Alongside the mystery of the missing or hurt teenagers, the reader is also given the mystery of what happened last term at school that caused Cat to be so secretive about it and for her father to send her to Montgomery Falls, completely cut off from the world. There is also, of course, Cat’s unusual ability. How she got this ability is never explained, aside from the women in her family having special gifts for generations. Her father refuses her to talk or acknowledge it and while her aunt has her own gift, she too has been forbidden to speak of it. That’s okay, though, as the focus is not on the how or why of Cat’s gift, but rather  far more on her acceptance of it and how she might use it to help find Riley. And really, she uses her intellect and sleuthing to find the clues more than her ability.

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Book Review: None Shall Sleep

None Shall Sleep – Ellie Marney – Little, Brown Books for Young Readers – Published 1 September 2020

 

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Synopsis

In 1982, two teenagers—serial killer survivor Emma Lewis and US Marshal candidate Travis Bell—are recruited by the FBI to interview convicted juvenile killers and provide insight and advice on cold cases. From the start, Emma and Travis develop a quick friendship, gaining information from juvenile murderers that even the FBI can’t crack. But when the team is called in to give advice on an active case—a serial killer who exclusively hunts teenagers—things begin to unravel. Working against the clock, they must turn to one of the country’s most notorious incarcerated murderers for help: teenage sociopath Simon Gutmunsson. Despite Travis’s objections, Emma becomes the conduit between Simon and the FBI team. But while Simon seems to be giving them the information they need to save lives, he’s an expert manipulator playing a very long game…and he has his sights set on Emma.

My thoughts

Well that was terrifying. None Shall Sleep is a scary, psychological thriller for teens (or older teen readers, at least), perfect for crime and mystery fans.

Set in 1982, two teens are recruited to help the FBI interview teenage serial killers. Emma Lewis survived a serial killer. Now the FBI want her to work for them, interviewing convicted killers to help them catch new offenders. Her partner is Travis Bell, training to be a US Marshal and whose father was killed by Simon Gutmunsson, a convicted serial killer. But when teenagers continue to be killed, in horrific ways, Travis and Emma find that their interviews may have insight into the case.

If you are squeamish, this is not the book for you. If, however, you like murder, clues, lots of twist and turns, teamwork, a heroine survivor who isn’t afraid to take on some really bad guys, detective work and teenage sociopaths (coz they are lots of fun (in books, of course)) then this is the perfect book for you.

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Book Review: The Inheritance Games

The Inheritance Games – Jennifer Lynn Barnes – The Inheritance Games #1 – Little, Brown Books, – Published 1 September 2020

 

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Synopsis

Avery Grambs has a plan for a better future: survive high school, win a scholarship, and get out. But her fortunes change in an instant when billionaire Tobias Hawthorne dies and leaves Avery virtually his entire fortune. The catch? Avery has no idea why–or even who Tobias Hawthorne is. To receive her inheritance, Avery must move into sprawling, secret passage-filled Hawthorne House, where every room bears the old man’s touch–and his love of puzzles, riddles, and codes.

Unfortunately for Avery, Hawthorne House is also occupied by the family that Tobias Hawthorne just dispossessed. This includes the four Hawthorne grandsons: dangerous, magnetic, brilliant boys who grew up with every expectation that one day, they would inherit billions. Heir apparent Grayson Hawthorne is convinced that Avery must be a con-woman, and he’s determined to take her down. His brother, Jameson, views her as their grandfather’s last hurrah: a twisted riddle, a puzzle to be solved. Caught in a world of wealth and privilege, with danger around every turn, Avery will have to play the game herself just to survive.

My thoughts

And once again Jennifer Lynn Barnes proves why she is one of my top favourite authors. The Inheritance Games just grabbed me right from the first page and didn’t let go until, before I knew it, the book was over, my mind was blown and I wanted to start all over again.

Mystery, secrets, hidden passage ways, billions and billions of dollars, murder, revenge, cute boys (who are, thankfully, not Avery’s half-brothers) and a treasure hunt that promises answers…maybe.

Avery Grambs knows how to stay invisible. Do well in school but not so well that people notice her or notice that she is currently sleeping in her car to stay away from her sister’s boyfriend. She has a plan for college and a secure job for the future. Then a mysterious boy appears and demands her presence at a will reading. She has been left an inheritance by one of the richest men in America. He has left his billions of dollars to her and not his two daughters or four grandsons. To claim her inheritance, Avery must live for a year in his massive mansion, complete with more secret tunnels, passageways and compartments than a girl knows what to do with, and a family who would rather see her dead than living in the house they thought was theirs.

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Book Review: Airborne

Airborne – DiAnn Mills – Tyndale House Publishers – Published 8 September 2020

 

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Synopsis

Heather Lawrence’s long-awaited vacation to Salzburg wasn’t supposed to go like this. Mere hours into the transatlantic flight, the Houston FBI agent is awakened when passengers begin exhibiting horrific symptoms of an unknown infection. As the virus quickly spreads and dozens of passengers fall ill, Heather fears she’s witnessing an epidemic similar to ones her estranged husband studies for a living–but this airborne contagion may have been deliberately released.

While Heather remains quarantined with other survivors, she works with her FBI colleagues to identify the person behind this attack. The prime suspect? Dr. Chad Lawrence, an expert in his field . . . and Heather’s husband. The Lawrences’ marriage has been on the rocks since Chad announced his career took precedence over his wife and future family and moved out.

As more victims fall prey days after the initial outbreak, time’s running out to hunt down the killer, one who may be closer to the victims than anyone ever expected.

My thoughts

I’m sure when DiAnn Mills was writing Airborne she had no idea that it would be released in the midst of a global pandemic, where a deadly virus was spreading throughout the world. It certainly made for some timely reading. Fortunately for the characters, they had a chance to stop the spread of their deadly virus and limit the contagion to just an airplane. Unfortunately, for the characters, their virus results in horrific symptoms and death. Airborne is a tense and thrilling read, with lots of suspects to doubt and a complicated investigation.

When FBI Agent Heather Lawrence takes her planed holiday to Salzberg, Germany, it’s not the romantic trip she imagined. Instead of being with her husband, they’ve separated and he has filed for divorce. When a terrible virus breaks out on the plane, their journey is halted as the authorities decide how to handle the situation. As the bodies start to pile up and the conditions onboard worsen, it begins to look like a deliberate act. Number one suspect is Dr Chad Lawrence, Heather’s husband and an expert in viruses, but does he have motive to want Heather dead?

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Book Review: All Eyes on Her

All Eyes on Her – Laurie Elizabeth Flynn – Imprint – Published 18 August 2020

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Synopsis

You heard the story on the news. A girl and a boy went into the woods. The girl carried a picnic basket. The boy wore bright yellow running shoes. The girl found her way out, but the boy never did….

Everyone thinks they know what happened. Some say Tabby pushed him off that cliff— she didn’t even like hiking. She was jealous. She had more than her share of demons. Others think he fell accidentally—she loved Mark. She would never hurt him…even if he hurt her.

But what’s the real story? All Eyes On Her is told from everyone but Tabby herself as the people in her life string together the events that led Tabby to that cliff. Her best friend. Her sister. Her enemy. Her ex-boyfriend. Because everybody thinks they know a girl better than she knows herself.

My thoughts

If you like gritty, edgy novels about sex, the teenage party scene and a little bit of murder (maybe?) you’ll love All Eyes On Her.

Tabitha went into the woods for a hike with her boyfriend, Mark. Tabby made it out alive. Mark didn’t. Everyone thinks they know what happened. Everyone thinks they know what kind of girl Tabby is and they fondly remember Mark. But what really happened that day?

I would be amiss in not first discussing the writing style and layout of the book. Each section is written from the perspective of many different characters, main and side characters. All except Tabby and Mark themselves. This works perfectly for emphasising the message of perspective, assumptions, labels and making up your own mind about what happened and why, but also being aware of the things that impact this decision. Honestly, it would make a perfect book for group discussion. While the ending does provide some closure, which I was happy about, because if it was an open ending I was going to be be mega cross! But there is room for doubt. The author at no point gives a final retelling, or she does but you still have to decide what you believe. You have all the stories and truths and lies to wade through, so it would be perfect for getting a group to decide themselves and argue about why they think that.

Speaking of plot, the author does a superb job of piecing together the story, bringing in clues just when you need them. The middle section is a bit slow and repetitive, but a bombshell twist caught my attention again just in time.

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Book Review: The Crushing Depths

The Crushing Depths – Dani Pettrey – Coastal Guardians #2  Bethany House Publishers – Published 30 June 2020

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Synopsis

When an accident claims the life of an oil-rig worker, Coast Guard Investigators Rissi Dawson and Mason Rogers are flown to the scene thirty-eight miles from shore. Tensions aboard the rig are high, and the death has everyone on edge. Environmental activists are threatening to do whatever it takes to stop the “plague on the environment” from continuing its work. Meanwhile, rumors are circulating on board about an ancient curse lurking in the depths below.

Mounting evidence shows the death might not have been an accident. Was the man killed by one of the activists or, more frighteningly, a member of his own crew? Rissi and Mason have to sort through not only numerous suspects, but also their own haunted pasts and their attraction to each other.

Just as the case seems about to break open, worse news arrives: a tropical storm has turned their way. Now they’re cut off from any rescue–right where the killer wants them.

My thoughts

The Crushing Depths is the second book in the Coastal Guardian series. This series follows a team of Coast Guard Investigators as they seek justice. Action, tension, mystery and romance create a compelling story.

A death on an oil rig seems like an unfortunate accident, but Coast Guard are called to investigate the details of what happened. Investigators Rissi and Mason are flown to the rig, but their helicopter crashes on its way. Both investigators are fortunate to survive and even more determined to find out what is going on. Their investigation leads them to consider the rising tension between the rig crew and a group of environmental protestors and rumours of a curse that has the men on edge.

Book two in this Coastal Guardians series follows Rissi Dawson and Mason Rogers. Rissi and Mason were childhood friends. They both resided in a children’s home, following the breakdown of their own families. They both suffered horrific trauma and abuse in that children’s home. They were each the other’s support system. They were separated and only found each other recently. Working together gives them a chance to reconnect, but it is quickly clear to both of them that their past ties them together and their feelings run far deeper than friendship. Alongside their deepening feelings, both Mason and Rissi must face the hurts of their past. Flashbacks give the reader some insight into the trauma they faced. It gives a solid background to their romance and justifies why their feelings deepen so quickly.

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Book Review: Stay With Me

Stay With Me – Becky Wade – A Misty River Romance #1 – Bethany House Publishers – Published 5 May 2020

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Synopsis

When acclaimed Bible study author Genevieve Woodward receives an anonymous letter referencing her parents’ past, she returns to her hometown in the Blue Ridge Mountains to chase down her family’s secret. However, it’s Genevieve’s own secret that catches up to her when Sam Turner, owner of a historic farm, uncovers the source of shame she’s worked so hard to hide.

Sam has embraced his sorrow, his isolation, and his identity as an outsider. He’s spent years carving out both career success and peace of mind. The last thing he wants is to rent the cottage on his property to a woman whose struggles stir his worst failure back to life. Yet can he bear to turn her away right when she needs him most?

My thoughts

Stay With Me is the first book in a new series by Becky Wade. As always, Becky Wade captures flawed characters in relatable situations and combines that with powerful messages of family, love and faith.

Genevieve is a popular and very successful bible study writer and speaker. But after an accident last year and a stressful schedule and deadlines, she found herself turning to prescription pain medication. When, after setting off for her parents’ house, she wakes to find herself in an empty guest cottage being regarded by the owner with some concern, she decides she finally has to kick her habit and get clean. She asks Sam, owner of the cottage, if she can rent the cottage from him as a place to hide while going through withdrawal and recovery. Sam has his own reasons for wanting to stay far away from the confusing woman he found asleep in his guest house, but he also feels a strong responsibility to help her.

I loved that this book considers a very serious topic of drug addiction. As Genevieve struggles to both admit she has a problem and faces the battle of overcoming her addiction, the very real possibility of how easy it is to fall into a prescription drug problem and the very serious fallouts are considered. But, more than that, the motivations behind Gen’s addiction are also regarded, both with understanding and grace. As a bible study presenter, Gen feels conflict over her addiction, her role as a speaker and her desire to keep everything under wraps.

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Book Review: The Shadows Between Us

The Shadows Between Us – Tricia Levenseller – Feiwel and Friends – Published 25 February 2020

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Synopsis

Alessandra is tired of being overlooked, but she has a plan to gain power:

1) Woo the Shadow King.
2) Marry him.
3) Kill him and take his kingdom for herself.

No one knows the extent of the freshly crowned Shadow King’s power. Some say he can command the shadows that swirl around him to do his bidding. Others say they speak to him, whispering the thoughts of his enemies. Regardless, Alessandra knows what she deserves, and she’s going to do everything within her power to get it.

But Alessandra’s not the only one trying to kill the king. As attempts on his life are made, she finds herself trying to keep him alive long enough for him to make her his queen—all while struggling not to lose her heart. After all, who better for a Shadow King than a cunning, villainous queen?

My thoughts

The Shadows Between Us is deviously, deliciously addictive. I was intrigued by the concept of a Slytherin romance, a story where the heroine was set on murder, deceit and gaining power, but I never imagined being so captured by the story, so entranced by Alessandra’s cunning and plotting, and honestly, even if everything else in this book was atrocious — which it certainly wasn’t — I would have stayed for the romance.

Alessandra has three goals. Draw the attention of the Shadow King. Marry him. Kill him and take the kingdom and the power of the throne for herself. She has no problem with step number one, but the Shadow King seems more set on a platonic arrangement between them rather than marriage as he hunts for his parents’ killer. And as a killer draws closer to the King, Alessandra will have to save the king’s life first if she wants to kill him herself.

Female empowerment. Alessandra radiates it. She does what she wants and plans to give that same power to as many women as possible. And while she isn’t exactly nice, she is fair and never judges. If her friends, or strangers, would rather not act as she does, if they have different plans for their lives and bodies, she is okay with that and believes everyone else should be too.

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