To Catch a Killer by Sheryl Scarborough // A Large Disappointment

Wednesday, 1 August 2018 0 comments
To Catch a Killer (Erin Blake #1), by Sheryl Scarborough
Publication: February 7, 2017, by Tor Teen
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Mystery, Contemporary
Pages: 320
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher

Erin Blake has one of those names. A name that, like Natalee Holloway or Elizabeth Smart, is inextricably linked to a grisly crime. As a toddler, Erin survived for three days alongside the corpse of her murdered mother, and the case—which remains unsolved—fascinated a nation. Her father's identity unknown, Erin was taken in by her mother's best friend and has become a relatively normal teen in spite of the looming questions about her past.
Fourteen years later, Erin is once again at the center of a brutal homicide when she finds the body of her biology teacher. When questioned by the police, Erin tells almost the whole truth, but never voices her suspicions that her mother's killer has struck again in order to protect the casework she's secretly doing on her own.
Inspired by her uncle, an FBI agent, Erin has ramped up her forensic hobby into a full-blown cold-case investigation. This new murder makes her certain she's close to the truth, but when all the evidence starts to point the authorities straight to Erin, she turns to her longtime crush (and fellow suspect) Journey Michaels to help her crack the case before it's too late.

My Thoughts:

DNF @ 100 pages

UGH. I really wanted to like this one — there has been a lot of raving involved with this book (and the entire series) so I expected that I would like this one. However, with the mix of (A) weird names (B) a weird mystery and (C) an unlikeable protagonist, I quickly came to realize that this book wasn't for me. It was just so boring, and unrealistic. I have only read a few books where I felt that the main character was so unlikeable, and this was the case with Erin. I felt that everything about her was too good to be true, including her forensics knowledge and the fact that her teachers and adults around her liked her so much. 

To Catch a Killer bored the heck out of me, and by the hundredth page, I realized that I didn't care about solving the mystery. I was struggling to get through the book, let alone care about the ending.

This was a huge disappointment; I really wanted more, and I didn't get that. I really tried to enjoy it, as I usually love YA mysteries, but this seemed to be a rip-off of a Nancy Drew book. I'm over those kinds of know-it-all main characters.

*A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for a honest review. Thank you so much!*

Summer of Sloane by Erin L. Schneider // A Lovely, Chill Read

Tuesday, 31 July 2018 1 comments
Summer of Sloane, by Erin L. Schneider
Publication: May 3, 2016, by Disney-Hyperion
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 304
Format: Hardcover
Source: BEA/Publisher

Warm Hawaiian sun. Lazy beach days. Flirty texts with her boyfriend back in Seattle.
These are the things seventeen-year-old Sloane McIntyre pictured when she imagined the summer she’d be spending at her mom’s home in Hawaii with her twin brother, Penn. Instead, after learning an unthinkable secret about her boyfriend, Tyler, and best friend, Mick, all she has is a fractured hand and a completely shattered heart.
Once she arrives in Honolulu, though, Sloane hopes that Hawaii might just be the escape she needs. With beach bonfires, old friends, exotic food, and the wonders of a waterproof cast, there’s no reason Sloane shouldn’t enjoy her summer. And when she meets Finn McAllister, the handsome son of a hotel magnate who doesn’t always play by the rules, she knows he’s the perfect distraction from everything that’s so wrong back home.
But it turns out a measly ocean isn’t nearly enough to stop all the emails, texts, and voicemails from her ex-boyfriend and ex-best friend, desperate to explain away their betrayal. And as her casual connection with Finn grows deeper, Sloane’s carefree summer might not be as easy to find as she’d hoped. Weighing years of history with Mick and Tyler against their deception, and the delicate possibility of new love, Sloane must decide when to forgive, and when to live for herself.

My Thoughts:

Summer of Sloane especially intrigued me due to the fact that it takes place in Hawaii. Which, in case you haven't noticed, is paradise. Paradise to me and paradise to everyone else. Contemporary-romance is probably my favourite YA genre at the moment, so mixing a story that I love with a setting I adore is a dream come true. Erin L. Schneider did a beautiful job writing a story that will mess with your emotions and make you question your friendships and relationships, to be quite honest. It's a book that every teenager should take a whack at, and the best part is its setting, showing readers a great summer story that will make your heart happy.

From the first page, we readers are introduced to the story's main issue, which is what the entire plot basically revolves around. Sloane, our protagonist, lives in Seattle with her divorced father and twin brother, Penn, and one day discovers that her boyfriend cheated on her with her best friend, and got her pregnant. OOOF. If you think ordinary cheating is bad, this takes it to another level. Obviously, Sloane freaks out, and the next thing she knows is that she's taking a plane to Hawaii to spend the summer with her mother and her stepdad. This is a perfect way for Sloane to get away from all of the stress and frustration that she is reminded of when she thinks of home. And of course, Sloane meets another guy and the entire story is created.

What this story lacked is a better focus on family relationships. The author spent a lot of time talking about the cheating 'incident' and how Sloane really feels about it, and I felt that this got a little tiring after 100 pages. I felt that there was more to the story's purpose than just the cheating incident, and this fell short. I wish that the author spent more 'book time' creating a better relationship between Sloane and her mother, who she only really sees once a year. The whole explanation of the divorce and all that seemed really rushed, and for a teenage audience, I felt that it is important to explain these kinds of topics. This would have especially helped us see that everything is not just about romance.

Summer of Sloane was a really quick read (took me two sittings to complete), and a very summery one. I loved the extra touch of this meaningful setting, and how the author really made readers feel as if they were in Hawaii. I recognized all of the Hawaiian/Honolulu references, having visited there myself twice, and I loved the island vibes. Agh—I wish more books explored this setting; I would read them all.

I love these kinds of books where I can just enjoy summer and have an enjoyable experience. Erin L. Schneider's is one of them. Read this as soon as possible. 

Are there any books that have taken place in Hawaii?

The Summer of Us by Cecilia Vinesse // A Lovely But Lacking Travel Read

Saturday, 28 July 2018 0 comments
The Summer of Us, by Cecilia Vinesse
Publication: June 14, 2018, by Poppy
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 311
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher

Aubrey and Rae have been planning their trip around Europe practically from the moment they became BFFs in primary school. And, now, it ought to be the perfect way to spend their last summer together before university.
But things are more complicated at eighteen than they were at ten. There's Jonah, Aubrey's seemingly perfect boyfriend, and his best friend Gabe, the boy Aubrey may have accidentally kissed. And there's Clara, the friend Rae is crushing on, hard, even though there's no hope because Clara is definitely into guys, not girls.
Five friends. Ten days. Paris, Amsterdam, Prague, Florence, Barcelona. And a messy, complicated, can-this-really-be happening love story, or two ... because how could there not be?

 My Thoughts:

After previously reading Cecilia Vinesse's writing in her debut novel, Seven Days With You, a book that *actually* made me cry and develop wanderlust to jet off to Tokyo and explore all of Japan, I knew I wanted more. Receiving word about a new book by this author, a book that features characters travelling throughout Europe and visiting one of my favourite cities in particular, Prague, really excited me. I had a HUGE feeling that this would be one of the best books of the summer, and while it wasn't a 5-star read like the author's debut was, it certainly was an enjoyable read filled with so much romance and drama that will make your head hurt. Readers who enjoyed Sarah Mlynowski's I See London, I See France will especially fall in love with this story, as I noticed many similarities (even though Mlynowski's story was better as a whole).

The Summer of Us is a story that is set during the summer before college begins, and the characters head off to their freshman year. Funnily enough, that is the exact state I am in right now, and this book as a whole made me really jealous that I did not plan some kind of Eurotrip like this around the continent (although it has always been at the back of my mind... maybe next summer?). We have five main characters: Aubrey, a worrier and English literature obsessed, Jonah, her boyfriend, Rae, her best friend, Clara, an artsy friend of theirs, and Gabe, the boy who Aubrey feels awkward around. I cannot go into the inner details of each of these characters or else I'll be spoiling some surprises that arise in the middle of the story.

So I must admit that I liked each of the characters, and grew to like them. Each of them had their own flaws, and this was the nice part of it all; no one is perfect and through this trip, readers and the characters themselves got to see that some of their intended relationships may not work out after all as they grow apart and see what they themselves are like on their own, taking full responsibility for all of their actions. I guess it was also interesting to see what kinds of lives these characters will have in the future since they are all privileged. They all attend some kind of British American school, and they all are from America.  

However, what bothered me was the lack of description in terms of the cities visited by the characters. This Eurotrip included travelling from London to Paris to Amsterdam to Prague to Florence and to Barcelona... all in a matter of ten days. That felt rushed to me, and it felt as if the author was just trying to rush her characters from one destination to another so that she wouldn't have to describe the cities in detail and talk about attractions. But that's not what I like; I adore travelling and seeing characters travel in books makes me want to do so even more. This was a major low of the story and it affected the way I enjoyed reading this. I needed more detail.

The Summer of Us was a great, quick read that I finished in one sitting in a few hours. I always love the concept of travelling when it is mended with a contemporary-romance, and this was a successful read. I just wish that there was more description in terms of the cities and destinations the characters visited, but this was a overall enjoyable summer read.

*A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for a honest review. Thank you so much!*

What are some other wanderlust-inducing YA reads?

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds // An Important Read For All of Society

Friday, 27 July 2018 0 comments
Long Way Down, by Jason Reynolds
Publication: October 24, 2017, by Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Poetry
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Rating: ½

Or, you can call it a gun. That’s what fifteen-year-old Will has shoved in the back waistband of his jeans. See, his brother Shawn was just murdered. And Will knows the rules. No crying. No snitching. Revenge. That’s where Will’s now heading, with that gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, the gun that was his brother’s gun. He gets on the elevator, seventh floor, stoked. He knows who he’s after. Or does he?

As the elevator stops on the sixth floor, on comes Buck. Buck, Will finds out, is who gave Shawn the gun before Will took the gun. Buck tells Will to check that the gun is even loaded. And that’s when Will sees that one bullet is missing. And the only one who could have fired Shawn’s gun was Shawn. Huh. Will didn’t know that Shawn had ever actually used his gun. Bigger huh. BUCK IS DEAD. But Buck’s in the elevator?
Just as Will’s trying to think this through, the door to the next floor opens. A teenage girl gets on, waves away the smoke from Dead Buck’s cigarette. Will doesn’t know her, but she knew him. Knew. When they were eight. And stray bullets had cut through the playground, and Will had tried to cover her, but she was hit anyway, and so what she wants to know, on that fifth floor elevator stop, is, what if Will, Will with the gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, MISSES.
And so it goes, the whole long way down, as the elevator stops on each floor, and at each stop someone connected to his brother gets on to give Will a piece to a bigger story than the one he thinks he knows. A story that might never know an END…if WILL gets off that elevator.

My Thoughts:

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds was an exhilarating, emotional read that really left a mark on me. It left a huge mark on me; it triggered sadness and emotions that I never knew existed. What must be also kept in mind is that it's written in verse, with miniature poems used as the form of writing and presenting the story of Shawn's. What I loved best about this story is its pacing, and the fact that I was able to finish reading it in about an hour and twenty minutes or so. Don't believe me? Go pick it up for yourself; it's unbelievable how quick its pacing is and how fast the entire story comes and ends.

The book focuses on a fifteen-year-old named Shawn and the aftermath of the shooting where his brother was killed. His character then spends the rest of the novel in an elevator, slowly making it towards the lobby/bottom floor as he meets people from his past, who have also died due to gun violence. It's really moving and touching, and a kind of story I will never forget. Especially in this time and age when these topics are popping up more and more in the media, it is important to read this kind of book. Even more importantly, it is necessary for teenagers to read these kinds of books.

Long Way Down was enjoyable, but that's simply it. It wasn't amazing, but it was a really special, unique read everyone should pick up.

*A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for a honest review. Thank you so much!*

Ugly by Robert Hoge // Quick Memoir Read

Thursday, 26 July 2018 0 comments
Ugly, by Robert Hoge
Publication: September 6, 2016, by Viking Books for Young Readers
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Pages: 208
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher

When Robert Hoge was born, he had a tumor the size of a tennis ball in the middle of his face and short, twisted legs. Surgeons removed the tumor and made him a new nose from one of his toes. Amazingly, he survived with a face that would never be the same.
Strangers stared at him. Kids called him names, and adults could be cruel, too. Everybody seemed to agree that he was ugly. But Robert refused to let his face define him. He played pranks, got into trouble, had adventures with his big family, and finally found a sport that was perfect for him to play. AndRobert came face to face with the biggest decision of his life, he followed his heart.

My Thoughts:

Ugly is a book I should have read a long time ago. A LONG LONG TIME AGO. I really feel that my middle-grade self would've been obsessed with this kind of book, as it is a real story and a memoir where we readers get to read about Robert Hoge's life as an individual with a disability. I loved Hoge's narrating skills and the way he described his struggles; I can definitely say that I felt my heart break a few times while reading this, making me wish that I was there to comfort him when he was a little boy. This was just an overall great, quick (the best part of the experience) read that I will never forget.

If you can, recommend this story to any tweens (seventh or eighth graders) if you can. Robert Hoge's story is an important one, showing readers how he struggled with his identity as a child and how he tried to understand his limitations. I would say that the seventh/eighth grade audience is the perfect age group for this story; I do wish that it was intended for YA readers, however, because this lacked the emotional aspect of these kinds of stories. Hoge told his story and some of the feelings he had as a kid, but not all of my questions were answered, especially about how he handled his issues as an adult. The story, towards the end, also felt a bit rushed, but I really did enjoy reading this fresh story that should be more publicized. More people should really give this one a go; if you enjoyed Wonder, this will surely be a form of enjoyment for you.

You see, I'm not much of a middle grade reader. I obviously used to adore that genre, however, I normally do not pick up those books these days as I find that they don't usually fit my interests. Nevertheless, to re-emphasize, this book was different. I highly recommend grabbing it and spending two hours and one sitting reading it.

I'd like to applaud Robert Hoge and the publisher of this book for creating such a great read. It's always refreshing to hear about authors' perspectives on their own personal struggles, and Ugly was a success. 

*A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for a honest review. Thank you so much!*

What are some other memoirs similar to this and Wonder?

Blood Will Out by Jo Treggiari // NOT For the Faint-Hearted

Sunday, 22 July 2018 0 comments
Blood Will Out, by Jo Treggiari
Publication: June 5, 2018, by Penguin Teen
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Horror, Contemporary
Pages: 256
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher

Ari Sullivan is alive—for now.
She wakes at the bottom of a cistern, confused, injured and alone, with only the shadowy recollection of a low-pitched voice and a gloved hand. No one can hear her screams. And the person who put her there is coming back. The killer is planning a gruesome masterpiece, a fairytale tableau of innocence and blood, meticulously designed.
Until now, Ari was happy to spend her days pining for handsome, recent-arrival Stroud Bellows, fantasizing about their two-point-four-kids-future together. Safe in her small hometown of Dempsey Hollow. But now her community has turned very dangerous—and Ari may not be the only intended victim.

My Thoughts:

Like many of the reviews are suggesting, this book is not for the light-hearted. This is one of the most gory and detailed stories I've ever read in my entire life. I normally would've given this award to Danielle Vega and her Merciless series, however, this book is certainly up there. If you cannot handle (I almost didn't) details about the abuse of both humans and animals, do not go for this, even though it was an interesting, suspenseful read full of plot twists I didn't see coming. I only really had one problem with the entire story, and that was the writing. But we'll get into that in a bit.

Blood Will Out is about our main character, Ari, whose story is told in the third-person perspective. She is living a relatively normal life until she wakes up, trapped, underground. She does not recall what has happened, nor why she is stuck, and she tries to do whatever it takes to escape and try to save herself. No one hears her screams and pleads for help, however, and she believes that the killer is coming back for her to receive what they originally wanted. We readers get to read about her past, and the present, in addition to a mysterious first-person perspective, technically that of the killer.

What entertained me the most in this novel was that first-person perspective. It obviously was the gory perspective, but it was interesting to get in the mind of the killer in this story. I've never read a book which showcases this kind of perspective before, so this was completely new and refreshing. Keep in mind that what you think you know about all the characters in this book is not the truth at all. At. All. Treggiari did an excellent job at convincing readers that they know the truth, keeping them interested to see if their predictions are correct. My predictions were so wrong.

What I don't get is why there's so much negativity. I understand that the writing was kind of gross in some parts; the author attempted to use some descriptive writing that just didn't work. It really made me laugh out loud at some points. But aside from that (only a minor flaw), the book was fast-paced and full of suspense, allowing this to be categorized as a thriller and horror story. I've heard people say that this is like a Silence of the Lambs kind of read, and now I feel compelled to watch it to see if it's like this.

Blood Will Out was such an interesting read and one of the most unique I've recently read. I cannot wait to see what else Jo Treggiari has in store for readers in the future.

*A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for a honest review. Thank you so much!*

What are some horror YA reads?

The Cabin by Natasha Preston // What a Shocking Ending!

Friday, 20 July 2018 2 comments
The Cabin, by Natasha Preston
Publication: September 6, 2016, by Sourcebooks Fire
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Thriller
Pages: 327
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased

There may only be one killer, but no one is innocent in this new thriller from Natasha Preston, author of The Cellar and Awake.
When Mackenzie treks to a secluded cabin in the woods with six friends, she expects a fun weekend of partying, drinking, and hookups. But when they wake to find two of their own dead and covered in blood, it's clear there's a killer among them.
As the police try to unravel the case, Mackenzie launches her own investigation. Before long secrets start to emerge, revealing a sinister web of sins among the original seven friends. The killer is still free. Every one of them is a suspect. And Mackenzie starts to realize that no one is innocent…

My Thoughts:

The Cabin was highly anticipated by me, as I really wanted to read another good psychological thriller by Natasha Preston. I have previously read two of the authors' books: Awake and The Cellar, and reading about the summary of this one really impressed me and made me excited. It's rare to find psychological thrillers for YA readers, and this one was a pure success. It kept me guessing, sitting in suspense, and left me wondering about who in my life I should trust, and who I should not. While it was not written in the fastest pace possible and in the writing style I prefer as a reader, it was an excellent read that I recommend to all of you.

The story unfolds when a group of six friends head off to a cabin to spend the weekend partying and celebrating their summer. Mackenzie, our protagonist, is not too excited about the idea, as she will be forced to spend time with Josh, a guy who deceived her and who she does not approve her best friend of dating. While there, she meets Josh's brother, Blake, and all goes well until everyone wakes up the next morning to find two of them dead. Murdered. The police suggest that there is a certain chance that the murderer is one of the four left, causing Mackenzie to question all she's ever known and who to trust.

This book certainly started in a whirl. It began as fast-paced, and I kept waiting for the murder to happen; I was so intrigued. After it happened, my expectations fell as the book's plot began to slow down as we readers tried to find murder suspects and try to see who is innocent or not. Eventually, the pace picked up as another person was murdered, and the book became entertaining once more. The ending was super shocking, and left me wanting more, though only because it fell short in the last few sentences. I wish we had another chapter or epilogue to really close it. Once you feel like the story is closing, it actually isn't, and more suspense is left. 

The author really succeeded at capturing a nice romance: the one between Blake and Mackenzie. While readers may suspect that it was rushed, I really enjoyed it and supported it. 

The Cabin initiated as a boring read that *seemed* predictable. It really wasn't, and I was wrong. Although it was lacking through the middle, the story eventually picked up once again and totally impressed me. I can't wait for more of Natasha Preston's work.

What are some GOOD YA thrillers?