Genre: YA Thriller

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Review: Shutter by Laurie Faria Stolarz

February 27, 2017 Diversity 0, Reviews 0 ★½

Review: Shutter by Laurie Faria StolarzShutter by Laurie Faria Stolarz
Published by Disney-Hyperion on October 18, 2016
Genres: Mystery, Suspense, YA, YA Thriller
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Source: ALA Annual 2016
Goodreads
one-half-stars
Sixteen-year-old Day Connor views life through the lens of her camera, where perspective is everything. But photographs never tell the whole story. After Day crosses paths with Julian, the world she observes and the truths she believes—neatly captured in black and white—begin to blur.

Julian does not look like a murderer, but his story is full of holes, and his alibis don’t quite add up, either. This time, Day is determined to see the entire picture…whatever it reveals.

Did he kill his parents? Or didn’t he?

While Julian remains on the run, Day digs deeper into his case. But the more facts she uncovers, the longer her list of questions becomes. It’s also getting harder to deny the chemistry she feels with Julian.

Is it real? Or is she being manipulated?

Day is close to finding the crack in the case that will prove Julian’s innocence. She just needs time to focus before the shutter snaps shut.

Diversity Rating: 0 – What Diversity?

Racial-Ethnic: 0
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 1 (Julian’s mom suffered from depression and a painkiller addiction; she attempted suicide multiple times)
Intersectionality: 0

Back when I was just a wee fourteen-year-old just getting into reading, Laurie Faria Stolarz’s Blue is for Nightmares series was a small thing and her Touch series was just beginning. While looking for new reads, her books would always be right there waiting, but I never bothered with them. Well, if their quality is anything like Shutter, I’m thankful little me was never interested.

Read more »

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Review: My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier

November 4, 2016 Diversity 5, Reviews 1 ★★★★½

my-sister-rosaMy Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier
Published by Soho Teen on November 15, 2016
Genres: YA, YA Contemporary, YA Thriller
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: print ARC from Amazon Vine
Goodreads
four-half-stars
What if the most terrifying person you know is your ten-year-old sister?

Seventeen-year-old Aussie Che Taylor loves his younger sister, Rosa. But he’s also certain that she’s a diagnosable psychopath—clinically, threateningly, dangerously. Recently Rosa has been making trouble, hurting things. Che is the only one who knows; he’s the only one his sister trusts. Rosa is smart, talented, pretty, and very good at hiding what she is and the violence she’s capable of.

Their parents, whose business takes the family from place to place, brush off the warning signs as Rosa’s “acting out.” Now that they have moved again—from Bangkok to New York City—their new hometown provides far too many opportunities for Rosa to play her increasingly complex and disturbing games. Alone, Che must balance his desire to protect Rosa from the world with the desperate need to protect the world from her.

Diversity Rating: 5 – Diverse as Fuck

It’s been so long since I read the novel that I can’t recall everything well enough for a proper explanation, but it includes Korean-American sisters, one of whom is a lesbian; a character named Elon whose pronouns are just Elon, putting the character somewhere in the ballpark of agender; a black love interest with lesbian mothers; Che’s ethnic Jewish identity through his paternal family; and serious consideration of whether Rosa’s condition is a mental illness or disability in itself due to her exhibiting symptoms once she hit toddlerhood. It’s earned the 5 rating.

Children creep me out on a good day, so it goes without saying that a tiny, sociopathic child like Rosa would terrify me. Honestly, Larbalestier’s latest wasn’t even on my radar at first! My buddy Lili recommended the book to me and I just happened to have access to it, so I dove right in. Wow. In a nutshell, My Sister Rosa is fucked up and impossible to put down. Read more »

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Review: Avenged by E.E. Cooper

October 28, 2016 Diversity 4, Reviews 0 ★★★½

Review: Avenged by E.E. CooperAvenged by E. E. Cooper
Series: Vanished #2
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on November 8, 2016
Genres: Mystery, YA, YA Thriller
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Goodreads
three-half-stars
Avenged is the conclusion to the Vanished duology, an absorbing, psychological suspense story about friendship, deception, jealousy, and love.

Everyone believes Beth’s death was an accident, except for Kalah. The girl she loved was stolen from her, and now Kalah’s broken heart wants revenge. In order to crack Brit’s perfect alibi, Kalah pretends to be Brit’s best friend—with the sole mission to destroy her.

Kalah knows that playing Brit’s game is deadly. One wrong move could cost someone their life, including her own…but the more lies Kalah tells, the closer she is to the twisted truth.

Diversity Rating: 4 – This is Our World

Racial-Ethnic: 2 (Kalah is Indian)
QUILTBAG:
4 (Kalah and Beth are bisexual, a gay couple is in here somewhere)
Disability:
2 (Kalah has OCD and anxiety)
Intersectionality:
4 (See all the above about Kalah)

Return of the bisexual Indian girl with anxiety! Vanished remains fresh in my mind even though I read it close to a year and a half ago thanks to its characters and well-written mystery. Also, diversity and intersectionality are fantastic. Naturally, I was excited to see its sequel Avenged land on my doorstep! Cooper writes a solid conclusion to her duology and the mystery remains as engrossing as ever, but I have more problems with the ending than I can discuss. That’s very literal. I can’t discuss them without spoiling everything. So I don’t! Read more »

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Review: We Know It Was You by Maggie Thrash

September 19, 2016 Diversity 0, Reviews 0

Review: We Know It Was You by Maggie ThrashWe Know It Was You by Maggie Thrash
Series: Strange Truth #1
Published by Simon Pulse on October 4, 2016
Genres: Mystery, YA, YA Thriller
Pages: 352
Format: eARC
Source: eARC via Edelweiss
Goodreads
zero-stars
Twin Peaks meets Pretty Little Liars in acclaimed author Maggie Thrash’s new Strange Truth series.

It’s better to know the truth. At least sometimes.

Halfway through Friday night’s football game, beautiful cheerleader Brittany Montague—dressed as the giant Winship Wildcat mascot—hurls herself off a bridge into Atlanta’s surging Chattahoochee River.

Just like that, she’s gone.

Eight days later, Benny Flax and Virginia Leeds will be the only ones who know why.

SPOILER WARNING TIME. I’m spoiling some major stuff here.

Diversity Rating: -5 – What the Fuck is This?

Racial-Ethnic: 0 (one Nigerian girl and three Korean men, but they’re ALL villains; Benny is Jewish)
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 0

WOW, have I been waiting to rant about this. I read We Know It Was You alllllllllllll the way back in April 206 because my TBR Jar told me I had to. Seeing as I was legitimately excited, I wasn’t keen to defy the almighty jar either. Twin Peaks meets Pretty Little Liars sounds fascinating and twisty! Well, it’s a lie. Instead of the magnetic surrealism of Twin Peaks, we get cockamamie bull that’s also kinda racist. Read more »

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Review: Secrets, Lies, and Scandals by Amanda K. Morgan

July 14, 2016 Diversity 1, Reviews 0 ★★★

Review: Secrets, Lies, and Scandals by Amanda K. MorganSecrets, Lies, and Scandals by Amanda K. Morgan
Published by Simon Pulse on July 5, 2016
Genres: Suspense, YA, YA Thriller
Pages: 352
Format: eARC
Source: eARC via Edelweiss
Goodreads
three-stars
Nothing ruins summer vacation like a secret…especially when it involves a dead teacher.

Ivy used to be on top of the social ladder, until her ex made that all go away. She has a chance to be Queen Bee again, but only if the rest of the group can keep quiet.

Tyler has always been a bad boy, but lately he’s been running low on second chances. There’s no way he’s going to lose everything because someone couldn’t keep their mouth shut.

Kinley wouldn’t describe herself as perfect, though everyone else would. But perfection comes at a price, and there is nothing she wouldn’t do to keep her perfect record—one that doesn’t include murder charges.

Mattie is only in town for the summer. He wasn’t looking to make friends, and he definitely wasn’t looking to be involved in a murder. He’s also not looking to be riddled with guilt for the rest of his life…but to prevent that he’ll have to turn them all in.

Cade couldn’t care less about the body, or about the pact to keep the secret. The only way to be innocent is for someone else to be found guilty. Now he just has to decide who that someone will be.

With the police hot on the case, they don’t have much time to figure out how to trust each other. But in order to take the lead, you have to be first in line…and that’s the quickest way to get stabbed in the back.

Diversity Rating: 1 – Tokenism

Racial-Ethnic: 2 (Cade is Japanese; Kinley is black)
QUILTBAG: 1 (Mattie is bi but plays out a bi stereotype)
Disability: 0 (off-screen character with an unspecified mental illness fulfills the “mentally ill people are dangerous” stereotype)
Intersectionality: 1 (See above; though bare-bones diverse, the novel doesn’t handle it particularly well)

There’s nothing like a good YA suspense novel that keeps you up at night and results in you dropping your Nook on your face! (Yeah, that happened. It also hit my cat Shadow, who’d crawled up onto my chest to take a nap, but I digress.) I didn’t know how much I wanted this book until I started reading and took down somewhere between 250 and 300 pages of it in one night. Read more »

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Review: With Malice by Eileen Cook

July 7, 2016 Diversity 2, Reviews 0 ★★★★½

Review: With Malice by Eileen CookWith Malice by Eileen Cook
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Children on June 7, 2016
Genres: Mystery, YA, YA Thriller
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: print ARC from Amazon Vine
Goodreads
four-half-stars
It was the perfect trip…until it wasn’t.

Eighteen-year-old Jill Charron wakes up in a hospital room, leg in a cast, stitches in her face and a big blank canvas where the last six weeks should be. She discovers she was involved in a fatal car accident while on a school trip in Italy. A trip she doesn’t even remember taking. She was jetted home by her affluent father in order to receive quality care. Care that includes a lawyer. And a press team. Because maybe the accident…wasn’t an accident.

As the accident makes national headlines, Jill finds herself at the center of a murder investigation. It doesn’t help that the media is portraying her as a sociopath who killed her bubbly best friend, Simone, in a jealous rage. With the evidence mounting against her, there’s only one thing Jill knows for sure: She would never hurt Simone. But what really happened? Questioning who she can trust and what she’s capable of, Jill desperately tries to piece together the events of the past six weeks before she loses her thin hold on her once-perfect life.

Diversity Rating: 2 – It’s a Start!

Racial-Ethnic: 1 (Jill’s roommate Anna is Mexican)
QUILTBAG:
Disability: 2 (I believe Anna was paralyzed from the waist down when her boyfriend pushed her down from the stairs)
Intersectionality: (Anna; see above)

Once upon a time, this little book called Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas was a cult hit among book bloggers. Unfortunately, it didn’t sell very well at all and most casual readers had no idea it existed. If you haven’t read that book, go read it right now. If you have, congratulations! If you were into that true crime-inspired tale and its unreliable narrator, then With Malice here should be next on your TBR. Read more »

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Review: The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas

April 7, 2016 Diversity 0, Reviews 0 ★★★½

Review: The Darkest Corners by Kara ThomasThe Darkest Corners by Kara Taylor, Kara Thomas
Published by Delacorte Press on April 19, 2016
Genres: Mystery, YA, YA Thriller
Pages: 336
Format: eARC
Source: eARC via NetGalley
Goodreads
three-half-stars
The Darkest Corners is a psychological thriller about the lies little girls tell, and the deadly truths those lies become.

There are ghosts around every corner in Fayette, Pennsylvania. Tessa left when she was nine and has been trying ever since not to think about it after what happened there that last summer. Memories of things so dark will burn themselves into your mind if you let them.

Callie never left. She moved to another house, so she doesn’t have to walk those same halls, but then Callie always was the stronger one. She can handle staring into the faces of her demons—and if she parties hard enough, maybe one day they’ll disappear for good.

Tessa and Callie have never talked about what they saw that night. After the trial, Callie drifted and Tessa moved, and childhood friends just have a way of losing touch.

But ever since she left, Tessa has had questions. Things have never quite added up. And now she has to go back to Fayette—to Wyatt Stokes, sitting on death row; to Lori Cawley, Callie’s dead cousin; and to the one other person who may be hiding the truth.

Only the closer Tessa gets to the truth, the closer she gets to a killer—and this time, it won’t be so easy to run away.

Diversity Rating: 0 – What Diversity?

Racial-Ethnic: 0
QUILTBAG: 0
Disability: 0
Intersectionality: 0

In my spare time, I read about things like the OJ Simpson case or general unsolved mysteries while crime documentaries and docudramas play in the background. Maybe Forensic Files will be on instead if I can’t find a program or documentary to my liking at the time. In other words, I’m a massive true crime junkie. The author proved herself to me with her Prep School Confidential series (written as Kara Taylor), so combined with the premise, of course I was going to read The Darkest Corners. It is a fantastic read, but I’m a bit disappointed as well.

Fellow true crime junkie will find catnip and callbacks to infamous cases on every page. A clear West Memphis Three inspiration, a Serial and Making a Murderer-esque national obsession with finding the truth behind the Ohio River Monster’s identity, a major plot point I can’t discuss because SPOILERS,… Were the Ohio River Monster and the associated murders real, I have no doubt whatsoever that the nation and our central characters would be exactly as obsessed as Taylor writes them. She nails the small-town vibe perfectly and makes Fayette, Pennsylvania one of the most vivid settings I’ve read in a while.

Tessa and Callie’s dynamic as former friends, decisive co-witnesses in the Monster’s conviction, and two girls badly hurt by their part in the case is utterly fantastic as they run into red herring after red herring and try to get comfortable with one another again. The lack of romance is refreshing too! I’d like to headcanon Tessa as aromantic asexual like me because she comes off as more disinterested than simply not thinking about it, but I don’t like to do that. Imagining my identity on other characters just hurts me and obscures how much representation I actually have.

ANYWAY. Here begins the criticism.

Tessa is a very bland narrator from the very start. Her one standout trait is that she’s so obsessed with the Ohio River Monster case that you wonder if she’s hiding something more than “I didn’t actually see his face, the police badgered me into saying I did.” Spoiler alert that’s not actually a spoiler: she’s not. She’s written right along the lines of an unreliable narrator but isn’t one. If it gets in your head early on that she’s unreliable, throw it out because you’re thinking too hard from reading more expertly crafted thrillers. I fell in that trap too.

The novel is full of twists and turns to keep readers wondering what the truth is alongside Tessa and Callie, but a mix of my experience and overly clear clues led to me calling quite a few twists I wasn’t supposed to. An incredibly weak ending didn’t make me feel much better.

The last chapter or two are exposition-heavy and spent solely on wrapping up every single loose end in one of the most unsubtle ways I’ve ever seen. At the end of a thriller, we’re all going to get stuck with a little bit of boring exposition to explain what happened afterward. Still, I’ve seen it done much better than this. Even in a book, not every plot thread will be wrapped up because life doesn’t work that way. There’s a character we’ll never learn the truth about, for instance. One event that can’t quite be explained. The Darkest Corners answers every possible question, leaving nothing for readers’ brains to stick to. As quickly as someone finishes reading, the book will already be out of mind and on its way to be forgotten.

Don’t get me wrong, this is still an deeply absorbing novel. I read it in a single day with my feet propped up on pillows with a view of the Las Vegas Strip from my hotel room window. But I’ve read mystery-riddled thrillers with much more honed craft–and two I can think of came from Thomas herself when she wrote as Kara Taylor. I know she can writer much tighter works, so I’m a bit disappointed. Oh well! I still recommend The Darkest Corners as well as her Prep School Confidential series if you haven’t read those books. For real, read that series. It’s great!

Spring Bingo 8 The Darkest Corners

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