Posts Tagged 'secrets'

Don’t Let Go by Harlan Coben

Genre: Mystery

Napoleon “Nap” Dumas has never gotten over the fact that his twin brother, Leo, and Leo’s girlfriend, Diana, were found dead after apparently getting hit by a train their senior year. It was ruled an accident, but it never sat right with Nap and he’s never been able to move on. The same night his brother died his girlfriend, Maura, ran away and was never heard from again. Nap grew up to become a detective after Diana’s dad, Augie, the police chief took him under his wing and became his mentor. He also became very close to a classmate named Ellie after the deaths and she’s still his best friend to this day. He has tried to move on, but there’s always a part of him that will wonder what happened that night. Then, Maura’s prints turn up at a crime scene where another classmate of theirs is mysteriously gunned down. Nap can’t help but wonder if it’s connected. How many of their classmates are going to die under strange circumstances? Why did Maura show up again after all of these years? Is it possible to really find out the truth about what happened that night? Does he really want to know?

Fans of Harlan Coben will enjoy this suspense mystery. There are many layers to the mystery as Nap is trying to find out how his brother and his brother’s girlfriend died all those years ago as well as finding out why friends of theirs seem to be targeted now all these years later. There are many supporting characters who contribute to the story, but not so many that you can’t keep them straight. The ending will satisfy those who love an exciting resolution.

In the Study with the Wrench by Diana Peterfreund

Genre: Mystery

Number of pages: 327

Still reeling from the murder of their Headmaster in the first book of this series, Orchid, Vaughan, Scarlet, Mustard, Peacock, and Plum have all returned despite the fact that they are now referred to on campus as the “murder crew.” All of them have their own reasons for wanting to return, but are not expecting it when another staff member is murdered. They also start getting mysterious notes that seem to just be targeting the six of them. There is also a new student who has been keeping an annoyingly close eye on the group and some of them don’t believe she’s a regular student. The school administration is trying desperately to keep things afloat after all this tragedy and do not want the students snooping around or making anything worse, but they feel they have a real need to find out what’s going on because they seem to be targets for whomever is behind these terrible events. Can they find out who is behind this new murder without getting hurt themselves? Is this murder unrelated to the murder in the first book? Can they trust each other or will their secrets get in the way?

This sequel to In the Hall with the Knife is a natural continuation of the first story and fans will want to keep going with these characters. In the first book, the reader learned how many secrets each character has and those were fleshed out a bit more in this one. The characters are all interesting and developed and it will be fun to see how they develop even more in the next one. Readers looking for a fun, lighter mystery will enjoy this title.

Ever Cursed by Corey Ann Haydu

Genre: Fantasy

Number of Pages: 296

The princesses of Ever were all cursed by a witch, Regan, five years ago. On their 13th birthday, each of them has lost something. Jane, the oldest, lost the ability to eat. Although she has not died she has withered away and become very weak and feeble. Meanwhile, her sisters lost the ability to sleep, love, remember, and hope, respectively. At the same time they were cursed their mother was frozen into a glass box overlooking the kingdom. The witch who cast the curse did so in a fit of rage and didn’t properly think through the repercussions. The king seems unperturbed by his family getting cursed and still seems happy and well adjusted, despite his wife and daughters’ suffering. Also, the princesses must break the curse before the Regan’s 18th birthday…which is in five days. As the princesses and Regan work together to try and break the curse they realize they may not be as different as they previously thought. They also begin to uncover a lot of secrets the kingdom has been hiding. Is it too late to save everyone? Can they bring back happiness to EVERYONE in the kingdom and not just the royalty? Can royalty and witches come together in harmony without fighting for power?

This fantasy story is unique, which fantasy fans will enjoy. The characters are all well developed and the plot has several twists and turns that will surprise the reader, but are completely supported by the set up of the story. The female characters are all strong and brave in their own way and they begin to see they have been deceived by the king, the most powerful man in the kingdom. The ending is very exciting and satisfying, which will leave readers wanting more. Recommended for fantasy fans.

Night Swim by Megan Goldin

Genre: Mystery

Rachel Krall has a murder podcast that has gained her some notoriety, but she is used to being fairly anonymous which is why she’s so stunned when she starts receiving letters on her car, in her hotel room, and other places that no one should know about. The letters are from the sister of a girl, Jenny Stills, who died 25 years ago under mysterious circumstances. Officially, the death was ruled a drowning, but as Rachel starts investigating it does seem like the facts don’t add up. In the meantime, the reason Rachel is in this small town is to report on a rape trial going on that has divided the town. Everyone has an opinion about the two people involved in this case and feels like they should have a say in what happens. The boy is a promising swimmer and many believe that he shouldn’t have his reputation sullied by a girl they believe simply changed her mind. The girl’s parents, however, say she hasn’t been the same since that fateful day and they know it was indeed rape. Can Rachel report on this case in a way that portrays both sides equally and fairly while holding off the growing hostility of the people in the town? Can she get to the bottom of what happened to Jenny Still all those years ago and bring peace to Jenny’s sister?

This story is engaging from the beginning as both the ongoing trial and the mystery from the past have many twists and turns in them. The fact she runs a podcast is also interesting because more and more people have been enjoying crime podcasts lately. Rachel’s character seems fleshed out and you can definitely see how motivated she is to make her podcast relevant, but also factual. The eventual resolution is satisfying and doesn’t feel too rushed as the pieces start to come together. Fans of The Escape Room, The Woman in Cabin 10, and the Woman in the Window will enjoy this title.

Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

Genre: Mystery

Number of Pages: 420

Ellingham Academy was founded in the 1930s by Albert Ellingham who wanted to created a school for talented young people. It was made famous in 1936 when Ellingham’s wife and daughter were kidnapped and ransomed. After Ellingham paid the ransom, however, they still were not returned. The whereabouts in particular of little Alice Ellingham has been a mystery ever since. In present day, Stevie Bell has been admitted to Ellingham Academy and she cannot wait to try to solve this decades old case. She wants to be a detective when she grows up and she feels she has learned enough about the case and sleuthing techniques to be able to solve this case once she is able to get onto campus. Shortly, after the school year begins, a fellow student is found dead in a recently unearthed tunnel. Was it an accident or was it murder? Stevie begins to grow convinced that the present day mystery is connected to the 1936 mystery and is determined to prove it. If there is a murderer on campus, though, will she be next?

This is the first in a three part mystery series and each one provides clues and shocking twists to the eventual reveal of both the 1936 mystery and the present day events. The cast of characters that Stevie meets at Ellingham Academy are interesting and colorful, but most importantly they are all supportive of each other’s interests and strengths. The story flips between Stevie in the present tense and then events and news clippings from the 1930s to help the reader piece together the mystery at the same time as Stevie. Fans of mystery stories will enjoy this series because since it take place over three books and therefore has the ability to truly develop at a natural pace while also fleshing out the unique culture of Ellingham Academy.

Cousins by Karen M. McManus

Genre: Mystery

Number of Pages: 321

Milly, Aubrey, and Jonah are the only three grandchildren to the wealthy and influential Mildred Story. They have never met her, though, because before they were born their parents all received a letter from their mother saying she was cutting off all contact with them because “they knew what they did.” They all claim that don’t know what they did and they tried for years to reconcile, but to no avail. Then, all three cousins receive a letter from their grandmother inviting them to come to her vacation island to work for the summer at her resort. They all have their reservations about this, but their parents are so eager to mend fences and get back in the will that they all agree to go. When they arrive it becomes very clear that their grandmother did not invite them and has no interest in getting to know them, which disappoints their parents. The three cousins are enjoying getting to know each other, though, and refuse to leave the island when Mildred’s business manager tries to get rid of them. Can they find out what happened between their grandmother and their parents? Can they get to know their grandmother at all while they are here?

This exciting story follows a wealthy family who has a lot of secrets they do not want to get out. As Milly, Aubrey, and Jonah try to find out what went wrong between their parents and their grandmother all those years ago they find that some of the facts just simply do not add up. Can they uncover the truth before they are forced off the island? Will secrets of their own be revealed along the process? Fans of We Were Liars and other suspenseful mysteries will struggle to put this one down for even a second! Highly recommended.

A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow

Genre: Fantasy

# of Pages: 286

Tavia has known she is a siren for awhile, but in a world where it is not safe to admit being a siren she must keep her voice quiet at all times.  She’s even gone so far as to explain her silence with a rare medical condition and learn sign language so she can communicate even when she knows it isn’t safe to speak.  In this world, all sirens are black girls which makes Tavia’s plight even more difficult because she is already facing sexism and racism on a daily basis.  Effie has lived with Tavia for awhile and they have come to think of themselves as sisters.  Effie’s mother died and her grandparents thought it would be better if she lived with Tavia’s family, but did not disclose the reason(s) why.  Effie is not a siren, but she knows there is something strange going on because recently she has faced many unusual physical changes, including extremely dry  and flaky skin, exhaustion, and sometimes even blackouts. It scares her that she doesn’t know what is happening, but she’s hopeful that maybe it will get better with time.  They know they always have each other to lean on, but they are both shaken when a murder trial becomes national news only because the murder victim is accused of being a siren.  Does simply being a siren mean someone can kill you and get away with it? What would happen if anyone were to find out Tavia is a siren?  Can they protect each other from the terrible things destined to come for both of them?

There are not a lot of fantasy novels that feature two black teenagers as the main characters and the author does a nice job of showing why life would be even more difficult as a supernatural being if you were already dealing with people not granting you basic rights due to physical features beyond your control.  Both of these girls know the adults in their life are trying to protect them, but in the end it just feels like they are withholding important information.  The fantasy details of the story is unique, inspiring, and revealed in a satisfying way.  Fans looking for a very thought provoking, modern fantasy story will enjoy.

The Similars by Rebecca Hanover

Genre: Science Fiction

# of Pages: 399

Emma is still shaken from her best friend, Oliver’s, sudden suicide when she has to return for a new term at her elite boarding school.  Her school has been all over the news recently because it has been revealed that a mad scientist created six clones from stolen cord blood sixteen years ago and has raised them secretly on a private island.  The clones have said they prefer to be called similars rather than clones.  The identities of the similars have not been released yet, but everyone knows they are cloned from students at Emma’s school.  In a surprising move, the headmaster has offered for the similars to come go to school with the very students they were cloned after.  It isn’t until the welcome assembly when Emma comes face to face with Oliver’s clone, Levi, that she even entertains the thought that he could have a clone.  She struggles to look at Oliver’s face on another person, but at the same time feels clones should be offered basic human rights and fights for them as debates arise.  The highest honor at Emma’s school is to be a member of the “ten” which includes the top five seniors and top five juniors in the class who form a committee for advising the student body.  Emma is shocked when she captures an elusive spot in the ten, but so do three of the similars which enrages students who have gone to that school for two years already. To make matters worse, Emma’s roommate is viciously attacked and left comatose shortly after school begins and no one has any ideas who it could be, which of course leads some to believe it was a similar.  Can Emma begin to accept Levi even as she still grieves for Oliver?  Is there something sinister behind the headmaster inviting the similars to join the student body?   Who could have attacked Emma’s roommate and why?

The first installment in this series offers a lot of drama as the issue of clones is discussed from a variety of angles.  The main character does a nice job of trying to separate out her own feelings about Oliver having a clone and her feelings about how clones should be treated in general. She knows that it’s irrational to feel one way about a group of people but so differently when considered for a single person in that group, but acknowledges that sometimes you have to just work through your feelings whatever they may be.  There are many roadblocks that keep Emma and the similars from having an event free year, but they keep trying to make the best of their senior year. The end is exciting and satisfying, but leaves many questions unanswered that will keep readers wanting to read the sequel, The Pretenders.

Diamond City by Francesca Flores

Genre: Fantasy

# of Pages: 392

Aina lived on the streets after witnessing her parents terrible murder in Diamond City, where she lives.  Then, one day she was taken in by Kohl, a notorious crime leader, and was trained to be a vicious assassin.  As a young adult she is given an assignment that seems impossible, but if she succeeds all of her dreams will come true.  The only problem is that if she does not succeed, everything she has worked so hard for will come crashing down.  As she begins to investigate this crime she learns there’s a lot that doesn’t make any sense and she wonders if she’s uncovering a secret plot by someone to completely take over Diamond City.  Does she follow orders like she always does or does she think for herself and potentially take a different, albeit riskier path?

Fans of Six of Crows will like this title.  Aina is a well developed character that you immediately root for even though she works as an assassin.  She has a motley crew of characters around her, but it’s easy to see this world she lives in and the many complications she faces daily just to survive.  There are many twists and turns to the plot and spy-esque plans that fans of spy novels will appreciate even if the setting is more of a fantasy one.  The story stands on its own, but is reminiscent of popular series right now.

Verify by Joelle Charbonneau

Genre: Realistic Fiction

# of Pages: 307

Meri lives in a world where everyone lives harmoniously in a beautiful city where there is no waste since people do everything digitally.  In fact, her mother was an artist who worked on the city beautification projects all around the city.  Meri and her father are still reeling from her mother’s tragic death and Meri thinks her mother left a message in her unfinished paintings in her studio.  Meri stares at the paintings for weeks trying to figure out what her mother was trying to tell her.  Then, one day she sees someone get arrested for having a piece of paper and she can’t stop thinking about it.  She starts investigating and learns there are a lot of things the government has done in order to ensure peace and beauty, including eliminating any form of protest or uncertainty in the community.  Is it possible that her government has taken the ability or desire to find truth or to substantiate facts? Will Meri be okay knowing that her rights have been violated or will she find a way to do something about it?

This book has been compared to Fahrenheit 451 because it deals with government restrictions on information.  The book itself, though, has a fresh and new take on what seems to be a very possible future if people do not try to safeguard choice and truth.  It is very believable that people could be persuaded to let these things go when promised with safety, beauty, and stability.  Recommended.

Renegades by Marissa Meyer

# of Pages: 556

Genre: Fantasy

2019 Iowa High School Award Winner

Nova lives in a world where some people have a super power that they were either both with or acquired at some point.  When she was young the Anarchists were superheroes trying to protect the rights of other superheroes by overthrowing the government that was oppressing them.  This led to chaos and another group of superheroes called the Renegades then rose up to fight the Anarchists.  Nova and her dad both had super powers and her dad believed that if they ever needed help the Renegades would come to their aide. However, when an assassin comes to their door Nova is forced to watch as he kills her mother, father, and baby sister.  The only reason she survives is because she’s able to put people to sleep when she touches them.  She ends up joining the Anarchists since the Renegades were nowhere to be found when she needed them.  She believes they have grown too powerful and need to be taken down, which is why she joins them when she’s old enough in order to learn what their weaknesses are.  As she begins working with her team, however, she realizes that you cannot blame an entire group for the sins of a few.  Should she remain loyal to the Anarchists who took her in when she had no one or truly become a Renegade who vows to protect the city at all costs?

The first in a series, this story is unique and engaging and puts a fresh spin on the idea of super heroes. Nova and her team captain, Adrian, both have secrets and desires to help the city improve, but they go about it in different ways that if found out could get them in big trouble.  The secondary characters are all developed and memorable so that the reader can truly differentiate between all of the superheroes and their many different, unique powers.  Highly recommended for anyone who likes a good adventure story.

The Girl I Used To Be by April Henry

Genre:  Suspense/Mystery

229 pages

Iowa Teen Award Winner 2018-19

Olivia was born with the name Ariel, but it was changed after her mother was murdered in the forest while their family was looking for a Christmas tree.  Olivia was only three at the time and everyone believed her father killed her mother and then dropped her off at a Walmart and disappeared.  She’s never been able to remember anything about the attack, but life has not been easy as she was passed around to foster homes and even suffered a failed adoption before deciding to emancipate herself.  Everyone is shocked when it is discovered that her father actually died the same day as her mother.  So who killed them and why did they release Ariel?  Could they still be out there waiting to finish her off if she starts asking questions?

April Henry does it again with a fast, suspenseful mystery story where Olivia tries to find out what happened to her parents all those years ago.  Coming back to her home town is overwhelming at first and she decides she doesn’t want anyone to know her true identity, but eventually she finds that it’s really nice to reconnect with her roots.  There are many characters to keep track of that are not particularly developed, but could all be potential suspects.  Olivia is very strong, motivated, and independent which makes her a good protagonist.  Reluctant readers and mystery readers will enjoy this title.

The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

fixer

Genre:  Realistic fiction/mystery

# of Pages:  372 p.

Tess has lived with her grandfather ever since her parents died in a car accident when she was small.  Her older sister, Ivy, went away to college and never really came back so Tess knew things were about to unravel when Ivy showed up at her grandfather’s ranch.  Despite her best efforts, Tess could no longer hide her grandfather’s dementia from the world and Ivy had come to put him in a treatment center while Tess was forced to pack her bags and come to D.C. to live with the sister she hardly knew.  Only after she gets to D.C. does she realize what her sister actually does for a living:  she’s a fixer for wealthy and powerful people who have serious problems. Tess is expected to be a fixer like her sister when she starts her new school by the children of wealthy and powerful people who attend, but Tess is not interested in following after her sister’s example.  Then, a supreme court justice suddenly dies and a girl at her school confides to Tess that she does not think it was an accident.  Can Tess find out what’s really going on in D.C. without alerting her sister or anyone involved?  Will Tell and Ivy ever mend their relationship?

This is a fun novel for mystery or spy fans (fans of Ally Carter will enjoy this title).  The characters are fun and getting more developed all the time and no doubt will continue to do so as the series continues.  The mystery was exciting and provided a satisfying ending.  The idea of “fixers” has only started getting discussed in the last five years or so and it’s fun to see a young adult series focused around such an interesting career.

The Heir by Kiera Cass

The-Heir_612x925

Genre:  Romance/Realistic Fiction

# of pages:  346

RAC:  yes

It has been twenty years since America Singer won the selection and married Prince Maxon.  Their first born, by seven minutes, is Eadlyn.  Due to the change in law, she is the next in line for the throne and not her younger twin brother.  Eadlyn has felt enormous pressure her entire life because she knows that someday she will rule, but she never realized how much her parents have been shielding her from.  King Maxon abolished the caste system almost immediately after he became king, but all these years later there is still discrimination and unrest going on.  Eadlyn’s parents decide a Selection might shift the focus away from the unrest and onto happier, more exciting things.  Eadlyn is not thrilled by the idea of a Selection and vows to fight it at every turn.  There are several interesting suitors who are chosen and she begins to enjoy herself a bit, but as with any Selection there is a fair share of drama.  Will she find true love?

This follow-up series to the original is fun in that it is from a female perspective and therefore she is unable to get away with stuff her father did simply because he was a man and viewed differently by the public.  Eadlyn takes her responsibilities seriously, but often comes out unlikable because of her brusque attitude.  It’s obvious that she and her siblings know very little about the selection that brought their parents together and that is surprising considering a lot of important events transpired that still effect relations within the castle today.  The ending brought many shocks and surprises which is what fans will be looking for…along with the next book!

How to Build a House by Dana Reinhardt

how to build a house

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

# of Pages:  227

RAC:  Yes

Harper is running away from a difficult home life after her father’s divorce and decides to join a volunteer group working to rebuild a home in Tennessee destroyed by a tornado.  The story switches between Harper meeting new people and helping to rebuild the house in the present and then flashing back to what happened with her dad and why she feels so isolated after her stepmom and two stepsisters moved out.  In addition to this, Harper is trying to avoid her former best friend whom she thought was starting to show romantic interest in her when she caught him with another girl at a party.  While she is in Tennessee she begins to grow closer to the teenage boy of the family they are building the house for, Teddy.  As hard as the work is, the distraction is great to ease her mind on all of her problems at home and she comes to have very strong feelings for Teddy.  Can she face her life after the house is built and the summer is over?

This is a title that has been on my reading list for awhile because of its unique focus on service.  The flashbacks to what happened to Harper are interesting and well paced, but in general the book has less substance than I was expecting.  Teens who have suffered through a parents’ divorce will resonate with Harper’s internal struggle of who she should remain faithful to and wanting the truth.  Harper’s summer activities are not explained in as much detail as her past and the teens she is volunteering with are not developed enough for the reader to easily keep them straight.  Fans of teen romances will like this title.


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