Monthly Archives: August 2016

Three Truths and a Lie

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Three Truths and a Lie

This suspense thriller reads quickly and has a compelling mystery reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None if it was influenced by a teen slasher movie.   It did feel contrived.  The author incorporated some provocative sexual situations that some YA readers (and their moms) won’t be prepared for.  Also, I love a twisty tale as much as anyone, but the deception needs to be for other characters in the story, not the audience.  This felt like it was all about tricking me as a reader.  I did give it a three star rating based on the fact that I read it in one tense sitting.

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Goodreads Summary

A weekend retreat in the woods and an innocent game of three truths and a lie go horribly wrong in this high-octane psychological thriller filled with romantic suspense by a Lambda Award–winning author.

Deep in the forest, four friends gather for a weekend of fun.

Truth #1: Rob is thrilled about the weekend trip. It’s the perfect time for him to break out of his shell…to be the person he really, really wants to be.

Truth #2: Liam, Rob’s boyfriend, is nothing short of perfect. He’s everything Rob could have wanted. They’re perfect together. Perfect.

Truth #3: Mia has been Liam’s best friend for years…long before Rob came along. They get each other in a way Rob could never, will never, understand.

Truth #4: Galen, Mia’s boyfriend, is sweet, handsome, and incredibly charming. He’s the definition of a Golden Boy…even with the secrets up his sleeve.

One of these truths is a lie…and not everyone will live to find out which one it is.

My Thoughts

While the title makes it clear deception is at play, few readers will unravel this one until the end.  That is partly because of the twists and partly because there aren’t enough clues to allow readers to reach the real conclusion on their own.  That means the ending comes a bit out of left field, which will leave some readers feeling played.  Without giving too much away, I can say the narrator is easy to connect with, and the story follows a basic “stupid folks are going to die in the woods” format.  Like I said before, it is entertaining.  I did have some problems with the sex scenes in the book.  They aren’t graphic but they left me feeling uncomfortable because it seemed love was the last thing fueling them – that is my general way of deciding if sensuality is appropriate in YA books, and this one fails the test.  The ending put another spin on all the relationships, and I’m still working through that.   Overall, I was engaged by the mystery, but I couldn’t get past the fact that I felt the whole purpose of the book was to trick me.  While this is marketed as YA, the sexual situations make this book more appropriate for the 17+ crowd, but the contrived storyline will be a turn off to most discerning readers.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Killer in Me

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The Killer in Me

The Killer in Me is an intense and fast paced read with a pitch perfect creepy atmosphere.  It will leave you uncertain and unsettled in a wonderful way.  I couldn’t put it down, and I think other readers will find it just as absorbing. Fans of Barry Lyga’s I Hunt Killers and Lisa McMann’s Wake series will be interested, but I think it holds a wider appeal that transcends gender and age.  I gave it five stars.

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Goodreads Summary

Seventeen-year-old Nina Barrows knows all about the Thief. She’s intimately familiar with his hunting methods: how he stalks and kills at random, how he disposes of his victims’ bodies in an abandoned mine in the deepest, most desolate part of a desert.

Now, for the first time, Nina has the chance to do something about the serial killer that no one else knows exists. With the help of her former best friend, Warren, she tracks the Thief two thousand miles, to his home turf—the deserts of New Mexico.

But the man she meets there seems nothing like the brutal sociopath with whom she’s had a disturbing connection her whole life. To anyone else, Dylan Shadwell is exactly what he appears to be: a young veteran committed to his girlfriend and her young daughter. As Nina spends more time with him, she begins to doubt the truth she once held as certain: Dylan Shadwell is the Thief. She even starts to wonder . . . what if there is no Thief?

My Thoughts

I think the most compelling element is the fact that you really never have a solid grasp of whether Nina is a reliable narrator.  Is she really experiencing something or has she created a story in her sleep deprived mind?  She is balanced nicely by Warren, a character who comes across as solid and trustworthy.  I liked how the author manages to build some history between them  because it adds so much validity to the relationship.  As much as I liked that aspect of the book, the central conflict between Nina and the Thief is the real reason to read this book.  The author masterfully puts readers through their paces.  I found myself relaxing only to feel the tension creeping back in time after time.  There really isn’t anything I didn’t like about this book, and I can’t wait to add it to my high school classroom library.   Situations make this most appropriate for mature high school readers.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Enter Title Here – this is one crazy book about overachieving in ways that even Tracy Flick would find over the top. 

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Enter Title Here – this is one crazy book about overachieving in ways that even Tracy Flick would find over the top. 

Enter Title Here – a book with enough buzz that I actually heard about the buzz.  In truth, it is a buzz-worthy read.  The main character, Reshma, is a real deal antihero – driven, calculating, and selfish.  The tiny evil part of your soul is going to recognize her as your kindred or, if you really are that nice, you will be appalled by her.  Real people, though, will probably feel both by turns.  This is such a unique read – I’ve never really seen anything like it – and that means you might not love it at first sight.  I wasn’t sure I loved it by the end.  I do have to say, though, that it is a stunning testament to the author’s creativity.  I gave it four stars.

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Goodreads Summary

I’m your protagonist—Reshma Kapoor—and if you have the free time to read this book, then you’re probably nothing like me.

Reshma is a college counselor’s dream. She’s the top-ranked senior at her ultra-competitive Silicon Valley high school, with a spotless academic record and a long roster of extracurriculars. But there are plenty of perfect students in the country, and if Reshma wants to get into Stanford, and into med school after that, she needs the hook to beat them all.

What’s a habitual over-achiever to do? Land herself a literary agent, of course. Which is exactly what Reshma does after agent Linda Montrose spots an article she wrote for Huffington Post. Linda wants to represent Reshma, and, with her new agent’s help scoring a book deal, Reshma knows she’ll finally have the key to Stanford.

But she’s convinced no one would want to read a novel about a study machine like her. To make herself a more relatable protagonist, she must start doing all the regular American girl stuff she normally ignores. For starters, she has to make a friend, then get a boyfriend. And she’s already planned the perfect ending: after struggling for three hundred pages with her own perfectionism, Reshma will learn that meaningful relationships can be more important than success—a character arc librarians and critics alike will enjoy.

Of course, even with a mastermind like Reshma in charge, things can’t always go as planned. And when the valedictorian spot begins to slip from her grasp, she’ll have to decide just how far she’ll go for that satisfying ending. (Note: It’s pretty far.)

My Thoughts

However you feel about Reshma, her story is one you will keep reading because you can’t give up the hope that, eventually, she will have that epiphany that will turn her from a monster into a functioning human. Or for the moment when her conniving and manipulation finally pays off.  I’m not going to tell you whether you get those moments or not.  Half the fun is seeing exactly how far this crazy train will go, and I can assure you that Reshma is the most determined character I have ever encountered (so she gives the energizer bunny a run for its money).  I’m not going to tell you if she gets her just deserts or if hard work really does pay off in the end.  That, too, is one of the best knots to work through in this novel. I am going to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the journey.  Funny, unexpected, and unbelievably and horrifyingly honest – this is a book that digs into the dark heart of a girl with a goal and the venom and cynicism that won’t let her fall short.  I would say this is a book that will appeal to fans of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl because Reshma is the younger, Indian equivalent of Amazing Amy.  It will also appeal to anyone brimming with potential that others can’t see, folks who have ever been taken down by that ridiculous overachiever in your high school, and people who like to laugh – that should cover just about everyone.   Language and situations are appropriate for high school readers.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Children of Icarus by Caighlan Smith – What a find!

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Children of Icarus by Caighlan Smith – What a find!

Look, I saw the cover for Children of Icarus and read the cryptic summary and I seriously thought about passing on it.  What a mistake that would have been!  This is one of my favorite reads of 2016.  I found myself racing through this compelling book, and I ended it questioning how far I would go to get my hands on the second.  The answer would shock you, unless you’ve read it, too.  Reviews have been mixed, but it is interesting to note that even those who didn’t love it acknowledged that it would appeal to fans of the big dystopian hits like The Maze Runner and The Hunger Games.  I gave it five stars, and it will be the first book I purchase for my classroom library this year.

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Goodreads Summary

It is Clara who is desperate to enter the labyrinth and it is Clara who is bright, strong, and fearless enough to take on any challenge. It is no surprise when she is chosen. But so is the girl who has always lived in her shadow. Together they enter. Within minutes, they are torn apart forever. Now the girl who has never left the city walls must fight to survive in a living nightmare, where one false turn with who to trust means a certain dead end.

My Thoughts

Look, that summary doesn’t give you much.  So . . . In a future society, Icarus is worshipped.  Special children between the ages of ten and sixteen are chosen on the day Icarus fell to go into the labyrinth of Icarus and to ascend as angels.  Except, the labyrinth is definitely not a holy place, and all those kids?  Well, some of them might be angels, but it had nothing to do with Icarus and a lot to do with the nasty truth about what really happens in the labyrinth.

While it reminded me in part of The Maze Runner (mysterious labyrinth with horrifying depths) and it reminded me a bit of Ann Aguire’s Enclave (a primitive society born operating in confusion and fear), it was something all its own and that something was rich and engaging.  The narrator is not the fierce warrior woman, as a matter of fact, she is the forgettable sidekick, and that leaves a lot of room for growth.  The mystery and palpable danger of her situation make it hard to leave her side, even when you need a bathroom break.  The twist at the end left me stunned, and the questions I’m still pondering have me itching to talk about it to anyone who will listen.  I can’t wait to share it with my high school readers.  The fast-paced action and the unique brand of mystery make for a winning combination that I know my students will embrace.  Language and situations are appropriate for high school readers.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.