Tag Archives: Serial killer

Gardenia by Kelsey Sutton

Standard
Gardenia by Kelsey Sutton

Kelsey Sutton’s Gardenia didn’t really grab me at first glance, but as soon as I read an excerpt, I was hooked.  I thoroughly enjoyed this read, and I think you might, too.  I will admit that the premise did sound like a few other books I’ve seen before, but this story had some charm that I thought the others lacked.  I gave this YA suspense four stars.

Gardenia is publishing Tuesday, February 28, 2017.


Goodreads Summary

Seventeen-year-old Ivy Erickson has one month, twenty-seven days, four hours, fifty-nine minutes, and two seconds to live.

Ever since she was a child, Ivy has been able to see countdown clocks over everyone’s heads indicating how long before they will die. She can’t do anything about anyone else’s, nor can she do anything about her own, which will hit the zero hour before she even graduates high school.

A life cut short is tragic, but Ivy does her best to make the most of it. She struggles emotionally with her deep love for on-again, off-again boyfriend Myers Patripski. She struggles financially, working outside of school to help her mom and her sister. And she struggles to cope with the murder of her best friend, another life she couldn’t save. Vanessa Donovan was killed in the woods, and everyone in town believes Ivy had something to do with it.

Then more girls start disappearing. Ivy tries to put her own life in order as she pieces together the truth of who ended Vanessa’s. To save lives and for her own sanity.

The clock is always ticking. And Ivy’s only hope is to expose the truth before it runs out completely. 

My Thoughts

What an engrossing suspense read!  There are so many possible suspects and so many red herrings that I found it impossible to even take a good guess at the killer’s identity.  To be fair, I’m not sure the clues are there until the big reveal, which can be a pet peeve of mine, but I didn’t mind in this case.  What was even more surprising was how satisfying the narrator’s development is in the midst of the mystery.  I love the fact that she makes a tough decision about facing her short future, and it is really heartwarming (something I can’t often say about a book in this genre).  It definitely made the ending more rewarding.  I also really like how the narrator is a believable character. She is a blend of selfish and self-sacrificing that really allowed me to feel she was genuine, and it was easy to be sympathetic to her situation.   I did find it hard to keep all the male characters straight – a couple had names that started with “M,” and that made it more difficult.  It wasn’t a perfect read, but I thought it was a really good one.  There is just enough creepiness to really draw my high school students in, and enough depth to keep them reading.  I know my mystery and suspense readers will find it as hard to put down as I did, so this is definitely going on my classroom library wish list.  Language and situations are appropriate for grades 9+.

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

Advertisements

Thicker Than Water – this isn’t your run of the mill YA mystery

Standard
Thicker Than Water – this isn’t your run of the mill YA mystery

This was a rather unusual mystery for a couple of reasons. First, the isolation and dislike the protagonist experiences is much more intense than I anticipated. There is no doubt that people really think Thomas killed his mother, and they are on a hairpin trigger to get him. It was kind of shocking, and it was palpable. Second, this isn’t the straightforward contemporary YA mystery I expected. The blurb leaves out a few surprises. Some readers won’t be bothered by the unexpected twists to the story, but other readers might feel like they had been a little mislead, especially if they expected a more run of the mill mystery.  I only gave it three stars because it had some issues, but I still found it a compelling read, and for $2.99, this book could definitely be an easy way to kill a few summer hours.

image

Goodreads Summary

Thomas Bellweather hasn’t been in town long. Just long enough for his newlywed mother to be murdered, and for his new stepdad’s cop colleagues to decide Thomas is the primary suspect.

Not that there’s any evidence. But before Thomas got to Garretts Mill there had just been one other murder in twenty years.

The only person who believes him is Charlotte Rooker, little sister to three cops and, with her soft hands and sweet curves, straight-up dangerous to Thomas. Her best friend was the other murder vic. And she’d like a couple answers.

Answers that could get them both killed, and reveal a truth Thomas would die to keep hidden…

My Thoughts

I’m not going to ruin the surprise – okay, I’m going to ruin the surprise – there is a left field supernatural element in this book I never anticipated.  I wasn’t quite satisfied by the explanation I was given about that element because there were a few things I just couldn’t quite get to track.  Despite these misgivings, I would still recommend this book to many of my high school readers because, like I said, it is very compelling.  I read it in a few hours because I really did find the story engaging and I kind of liked that the rabbit hole just kept changing.  I liked both of the main characters, and I thought they were almost as surprising as the plot.  Charlotte was an interesting mix of old fashioned and modern, and she might have been a little too naive for my comfort (seriously, leave the maybe-murderer alone, Charlotte) but she held her own in the end.  The plot moves quickly and efficiently towards a resolution, but it does give readers time to get some character depth and some relationship development.  I particularly enjoyed the dynamic between Stan and Thomas because it felt so real – two guys just living together in that silent “man” way.  It was cute and funny and honest.  I did pinpoint the perp long before the book was over, but there was enough of a red-herring that I began to second guess myself.   Overall, I enjoyed this book even if it wasn’t exactly what I expected and open minded YA mystery readers probably will as well.  I think there are clarity issues around the supernatural element, but I could roll with it.  Language and situations are appropriate for high school readers.

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

Jane Steele – Jane Eyre reimagined as a serial killer.  Yeah.  You want it.

Standard
Jane Steele – Jane Eyre reimagined as a serial killer.  Yeah.  You want it.

Having taught Jane Eyre for several years, I found the premise of a serial killing Jane quite amusing.  I have often wanted to knock off a few characters myself, so it sounded like a good time.  It really was.  While this book does maintain some of the bones of the original Gothic romance, all of the stupid sentimentality and dithering heroine mess are pushed aside.  Of course, that means some of the major themes that made Jane Eyre a book of its time are missing as well, but this is, by far, a more satisfying read for a modern sensibility.  While this isn’t a YA read, so many YA readers felt tortured by the classic, I felt compelled to pass this on.

image

Goodreads Summary

A reimagining of Jane Eyre as a gutsy, heroic serial killer, from the author whose work The New York Times described as “riveting” and The Wall Street Journal called “thrilling.”

“Young Jane Steele’s favorite book, Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, mirrors her life both too little and too much…In an arresting tale of dark humor and sometimes gory imagination, Faye has produced a heroine worthy of the gothic literature canon but reminiscent of detective fiction.”

—Library Journal, Starred Review

“Reader, I murdered him.”

A sensitive orphan, Jane Steele suffers first at the hands of her spiteful aunt and predatory cousin, then at a grim school where she fights for her very life until escaping to London, leaving the corpses of her tormentors behind her. After years of hiding from the law while penning macabre “last confessions” of the recently hanged, Jane thrills at discovering an advertisement. Her aunt has died and her childhood home has a new master: Mr. Charles Thornfield, who seeks a governess.

Burning to know whether she is in fact the rightful heir, Jane takes the position incognito, and learns that Highgate House is full of marvelously strange new residents—the fascinating but caustic Mr. Thornfield, an army doctor returned from the Sikh Wars, and the gracious Sikh butler Mr. Sardar Singh, whose history with Mr. Thornfield appears far deeper and darker than they pretend. As Jane catches ominous glimpses of the pair’s violent history and falls in love with the gruffly tragic Mr. Thornfield, she faces a terrible dilemma: can she possess him—body, soul, and secrets—without revealing her own murderous past?

A satirical romance about identity, guilt, goodness, and the nature of lies, by a writer who Matthew Pearl calls “superstar-caliber” and whose previous works Gillian Flynn declared “spectacular,” Jane Steele is a brilliant and deeply absorbing book inspired by Charlotte Brontë’s classic Jane Eyre.

My Thoughts

At first, I thought this would be a dark mirror image of the classic tale, and that can be boring.  The events paralleled but with some twists.  Eventually, though, this work became its own, and I thought the last half was a spectacular adventure/mystery.  On top of that, this story has a much more exotic and engaging love interest.  (Sorry, Rochester, but you kind of always gave me the creeps anyway). This is really what got my stamp of approval. Without killing the suspense or even the angst, the author manages to create a very compelling , somewhat bloodthirsty and  thoroughly sigh worthy love story.

I thought this was a great romp through sacred literary fields, but there were some things that might keep you from having as much fun as I did.  First, the language is elevated and that means you have to think a little bit.  The same issue stumps many would-be readers of Jane Eyre, so I’m just putting it out there.  Second, there is a decidedly dark sensuality in this read.  Charlotte Bronte definitely didn’t use some of these words and images, so prepare yourself for some more modern expressions of sexuality.  Somehow these things seem so much more scandalous and wicked when placed in this context, so I thought it was a little shocking, but nothing I couldn’t handle.  If you are my grandmother and believe that we are all ruining the world with the acknowledgement that people have fantasies and sex, you probably can’t handle it.

Overall, I enjoyed this read enough to finish it in a day.  I think that it would make a nice parallel text and an interesting study in theme for a college class, but I’m not sure it would be as well received by my high school readers.  I would definitely consider it for a book club read because there are lots of topics for discussion.  I do think you can enjoy this book without having studied Jane Eyre, but watching the movie (the one with Michael Fassbender, of course) might help you make a few important connections and increase your appreciation for its rather irreverent twists.

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