Book reviews, School libraries

Tag: Mysteries (Page 1 of 11)

Book Review: Ace of Spades

Ace of Spades – Faridah Abike-Iyimide – Feiwel Friends – Published 1 June 2021

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Synopsis

When two Niveus Private Academy students, Devon Richards and Chiamaka Adebayo, are selected to be part of the elite school’s senior class prefects, it looks like their year is off to an amazing start. After all, not only does it look great on college applications, but it officially puts each of them in the running for valedictorian, too.

Shortly after the announcement is made, though, someone who goes by Aces begins using anonymous text messages to reveal secrets about the two of them that turn their lives upside down and threaten every aspect of their carefully planned futures.

As Aces shows no sign of stopping, what seemed like a sick prank quickly turns into a dangerous game, with all the cards stacked against them. Can Devon and Chiamaka stop Aces before things become incredibly deadly?

My thoughts

Ace of Spades is heartbreakingly devastatingly yet as I was reading I knew that this is the reality for so many people and young people. It is thrilling, twisty and kept me guess right up until the last page. My main concern was how on earth the author could give me a satisfactory ending that was still realistic and boy, did Faridah deliver. Absolutely superb.

I was on the edge of my seat while reading this and often had my head in my hands and heart in my mouth. All the emotions and all the feels. Honestly, it wasn’t an easy book to read but oh my gosh it is such a powerful and reflective book of our current political and social landscapes.

Ace of Spades is a thriller, a mystery and realistic novel all in one. It’s #Diverse #OwnVoices #ReadWoke and every other on trend hashtag you could want. It’s gut punching and shows just how much resilience and strength it requires for people to survive in a society that seeks to destroy them. Ace of Spades is a debut novel and my gosh it is impressive.

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Book Review: The Girls I’ve Been

The Girls I’ve Been – Tess Sharpe – G.P. Putman’s Sons Books for Young Readers – Published 26 January 2021

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Synopsis

Nora O’Malley’s been a lot of girls. As the daughter of a con-artist who targets criminal men, she grew up as her mother’s protégé. But when mom fell for the mark instead of conning him, Nora pulled the ultimate con: escape.

For five years Nora’s been playing at normal. But she needs to dust off the skills she ditched because she has three problems:

#1: Her ex walked in on her with her girlfriend. Even though they’re all friends, Wes didn’t know about her and Iris.

#2: The morning after Wes finds them kissing, they all have to meet to deposit the fundraiser money they raised at the bank. It’s a nightmare that goes from awkward to deadly, because:

#3: Right after they enter bank, two guys start robbing it.

The bank robbers may be trouble, but Nora’s something else entirely. They have no idea who they’re really holding hostage…

My thoughts

Looking for a thriller novel that will keep you on the edge of your seat? The Girls I’ve Been is an exciting novel that is part heist novel, part mystery. It is unique, romantic (lgbt+), and will have you desperate to uncover the truth about the girls Nora has been (and what that even means).

I adore mystery/thriller novels. And sometimes, it is a little hard to find good YA mystery/thriller novels. Books that justify why the teenager is involved in the crime/crime fighting. The Girls I’ve Been does that and so much more. Two main mystery threads run through the story and are told in alternating chapters that span the past and present. It kept me hooked to the pages and eager to learn what had transpired to make Nora the girl she is today (kind of scary, totally cool, wouldn’t want to meet her in a dark alley, but also totally in awe of her).

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Book Review: The Escape

The Escape – Lisa Harris – US Marshals #1 – Revell – Published 3 November 2020

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Synopsis

US Marshals Madison James and Jonas Quinn are thrust into a high-profile case when they are called on to transport two prisoners across the country on a private plane. But when the plane experiences engine trouble en route from the Pacific Northwest to Colorado, the pilots crash-land the aircraft deep in the heart of the sprawling Salmon-Challis National Forest.

When Madison and Jonas regain consciousness, they find both pilots and one prisoner dead–and one fugitive on the run. They’ll have to negotiate the rugged and remote backcountry through Idaho, Wyoming, and Colorado while tracking a murderer who is desperate to disappear–and will do anything to stop them.

My thoughts

A new series by Lisa Harris, this book will have you on the edge of your seat as the characters chase down an escaped felon.

Madison and Jonas are US Marshals. Their assignment is to transport two prisoners, but when their plane goes down they must fight to survive the elements and to find their escaped prisoner. But he always seems to be one step ahead of them and they will have to fight for their lives if they can try and outwit him.

The Escape is the first book in a new series. Judging from the ending, the next book in the series will continue the investigation into Madison’s husband’s murder. We readers are given just a few clues right at the start of the book and the end of the book, but otherwise the story remains focused on the escaped prisoner and trying to recapture him.

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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: Enola Holmes The Case of the Missing Marquess

Enola Holmes: The Case of the Missing Marquess – Enola Holmes #1 – Nancy Springer – Philomel Books – Published 2006

 

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Synopsis

When Enola Holmes, sister to the detective Sherlock Holmes, discovers her mother has disappeared, she quickly embarks on a journey to London in search of her. But nothing can prepare her for what awaits. Because when she arrives, she finds herself involved in the kidnapping of a young marquess, fleeing murderous villains, and trying to elude her shrewd older brothers–all while attempting to piece together clues to her mother’s strange disappearance. Amid all the mayhem, will Enola be able to decode the necessary clues and find her mother?

My thoughts

With the announcement of the Enola Holmes movie, we decided to read the first book in the Enola Holmes series, The Case of the Missing Marquess in our Year 6 book club. Unsurprisingly, the book is much better than the movie (even considering Henry Cavill – sorry Henry). The book is full of fun disguises and clever ways that Enola learns to consider her environment, to move around undetected and to start living on her own terms.

When Enola’s mother disappears and doesn’t return, Enola is forced to inform her two older brothers – Mycroft and Sherlock Holmes. Surprised at the state of the estate and Enola herself, Mycroft decides that Enola will be sent to boarding school. Enola has other ideas and escapes, heading to London to search for her mother. But along the way, she is intrigued by the case of another “missing” person and she decides to investigate.

Despite being written in this century, the writing has an old-style feeling, and draws heavily on period language. This was a great discussion point for out book club. The book also draws attention to many of the inequities of the time.

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Book Review: The Infamous Frankie Lorde – Stealing Greenwich

The Infamous Frankie Lorde: Stealing Greenwich – Brittany Geragotelis – Pixel+ink – Published 6 October 2020

 

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Synopsis

Frankie Lorde and her dad have been a team for as long as Frankie can remember. Being a tutor under the man responsible for some of the world’s biggest heists has given Frankie a unique perspective on the world. And a special set of life skills. Frankie can spot an FBI agent in a second. Pick a lock in two seconds. Steal a Bugatti in three. Then dad is arrested.

Frankie is sent to live with her uncle, her dad’s brother who she barely knows, and is, ironically a cop. Now Frankie has to go to middle school, learn what suburban kids wear and eat. But also ironically, Frankie is in Greenwich, CT, one of the richest towns in America. Seeing the starkness of super rich and the super not rich who support the community gives Frankie an idea. How to use her skills for doing good, to even the score…

My thoughts

Looking for a middle grade heist novel? Stealing Greenwich is a whole lot of fun and Frankie Lorde might just be the heroine you are looking for. She’s smart, clever, very good at disguises and knows how to run a con. This is the first book in a new and exciting series. With a good moral understory to justify the heists, this is a fun story for middle-grade readers, perfect for fans of Ally Carter’s Heist Society and heist novels.

Frankie Lorde and her dad are a team, taking on heists all around the world. When her father is captured and jailed, Frankie is sent to live with her uncle. Her uncle who is a cop. He has just a few house rules, one of which is no illegal activity. For Frankie, the plan is to stay off everyone’s radar, survive middle school and wait until her dad is released. But when her uncle takes a case that seems horribly unfair, Frankie decides to do a bit of investigating. Maybe she can turn her skills to a good cause?

I really enjoyed this novel. It is clearly the first in a series and sets up what we need to know about Frankie. The heist action doesn’t start until much later in the story. I did like that, while Frankie and her dad steal for profit, the case Frankie takes on in Greenwich is for the greater good, with no personal gain for herself. It raises a point about morals – stealing from the rich to benefit the poor, stealing from someone who is corrupt, opens up some great points that would be perfect for discussion.

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Book Review: The Price of Valor

The Price of Valor – Susan May Warren – Global Search and Rescure #3 – Revell – Published 6 October 2020

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Synopsis

Former Navy SEAL Hamilton Jones thought that the love of his life was dead. But when a girl claiming to be his daughter shows up with a dire message from his wife, Ham knows he will stop at nothing to find her and bring her home.

Kidnapped by rebels while serving as an interpreter in Ukraine, Signe Kincaid has spent the past decade secreting out valuable information about Russian assets in the US to her CIA handler. Fearing for her daughter after being discovered as an operative, Signe sends her to Ham for safekeeping. She’s ready to give her life for her country, and she can hardly expect Ham to rescue her after breaking his heart over and over.

When Ham discovers the reason Signe has kept her distance, he must choose between love for his wife and love for the nation he has vowed to protect. Will he save the many? Or the few?

My thoughts

Another thrilling offering from suspense pro Susan May Warren. While writing this review of Price of Valor, I had to go back and check my reviews of Warren’s previous books to make sure I wasn’t using the same lavish praise phrases, but you could read any of my reviews of any of her books and apply it to Price of Valor, because her books are just that consistently good and I loved this book just as much as all her other books.

Price of Valor is the third book in the Global Search and Rescue series. I recommend reading the series in chronological order, as the characters arcs overlap the books and it is much easier to follow their backstories by reading the lead-in to their stories in the previous books. Each book is as exciting and engaging as the last, so it’s no hardship to read them all.

Price of Valor features Ham, leader of the search and rescue company, ex-military, and father – surprise. He never knew he and his wife had a daughter, nor that his wife actually survived the incident he thought she had died in. Instead, she and his daughter have been living in a terrorist’s training camp. Another surprise – his wife is CIA operative. Now, she has sent their daughter to live with Ham while she tries to bring down the head of the terrorist organisation. Ham wants to help but he can’t risk his new-found daughter’s safety, nor does he know if Signe is the same woman he married all those years ago or if life undercover has changed her.

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Book Review: Point of Danger

Point of Danger – Irene Hannon – Triple Threat #1 – Revell – Published 6 October 2020

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Synopsis

Radio talk show host Eve Reilly is used to backlash from her pot-stirring on-air commentary and interviews, but now it seems a disgruntled listener is resorting to more than angry words to express their displeasure. When a suspicious package arrives on her doorstep, Eve turns to law enforcement for help.

Police detective Brent Lange can’t find any evidence to link the string of unsettling incidents that follows, but he’s convinced they’re connected. As the harassment grows more menacing, it becomes clear someone wants Eve’s voice silenced–permanently.

But unless he can track down her foe, fast, the gutsy woman who is willing to take risks for what she believes–and who is swiftly winning his heart–may not survive.

My thoughts

I have been a fan of Irene Hannon’s suspense novels for a long time. They follow a consistent pattern of strong characters solving complex cases. While I loved the suspense in this book, with misdirects, lots of perspectives from different characters to confuse the reader as to who was behind everything and a massive surprise when the bad guys were revealed, the book has a political undercurrent that comes through the characters’ actions and statements, as well as the positioning of other characters and events, which detracted from my enjoyment of the story.

Eve Reilly hosts a radio talk show where she shares and defends her controversial, conservative beliefs. But when a bomb is left on her doorstep, it seems someone wants her to stop talking. With the help of Police Detective Brent Lange, Eve decides she won’t back down as the police try to discover who is behind the threats, even as more threats emerge and grow increasingly menacing.

The romance between Eve and Brent evolves in Hannon’s usual style, with instant attraction and a growing connection between the characters as they work the case. Eve and Brent also have the opportunity to talk about their past relationships.

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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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