Book Review

ARC Book Review: The Bitterwine Oath by Hannah West

Rating: ☆☆☆
Audience: YA Paranormal Mystery
Length: 320 pages
Author: Hannah West
Publisher: Holiday House
Release Date: December 1st, 2020
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Every fifty years, a cult claims twelve men to murder in a small Texas town. Can one girl end the cycle of violence – and save the boy who broke her heart?

San Solano, Texas, is a quaint town known for its charm, hospitality, and history of murder. Twice now, twelve men have been brutally killed, and no one knows who did it. A shadowy witch? A copycat killer? Or a man-hating murderess?

Eighteen-year-old Natalie Colter is sure that the rumors about her great-great-grandmother’s cult of wronged women are just gossip, but that doesn’t stop the true-crime writers and dark tourism bloggers from capitalizing on the town’s reputation. It’s an urban legend that’s hard to ignore, and it gets harder when Nat learns that the sisterhood is real. And magical. And they want her to join.

The more Nat learns of the Wardens’ supernatural history, the more she wonders about the real culprits behind the town’s ritualistic murders. Are the Wardens protecting San Solano from even darker forces? There are shadows in the woods, bones on the outskirts of town, and questions Nat needs answered.

But everything becomes more urgent when people start getting “marked” as new victims–including Levi Langford, the boy whose kiss haunted Nat for a year. With Levi in danger, doing nothing would be harder than fighting back.

Nat knows that no one is safe. Can she and the sisterhood stop the true evil from claiming their town?

Thank you to the publisher, Holiday House for an ARC. All opinions are my own!

PRETTY SPOOKY.

I had an overall good time with this. I even found myself completely spooked out after the first couple of chapters. Hidden cult in the woods murdering men? Yeah, that’ll do it.

The story was intriguing and I liked reading the author’s notes at the end about creating it. While there was only one full point-of-view, there were many story lines to wrap together. Everything did weave together well and I didn’t feel by the the end of the mystery that I was missing anything. I love when a mystery based book ties all of the endings off before closing!

The main character, Natalie, completely blind-sided by her own past kept up with everything. I like how brave she was and really went for it in regards to breaking the curse. She had a little romance with a side character. This fit in better than I thought, but could have used a little more *something* to it. I appreciate the passion of both Natalie and Levi in wanting to be with each other, and figuring out what the heck was out there in the woods.

This atmosphere was haunting and without a doubt creepy. Those creatures made me shiver and I love a good old, back country town, with a sordid past. I thought some of the plot was repetitive and multiple issues kept being re-hashed over and over again. It caused me to skim some of it by the end so I could know how everything resolved.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult mystery
  • Language: a little, light
  • Romance: kisses / light make-outs
  • Violence: creature attacks, guns, physical altercations, people being possessed by something supernatural

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Book Review

Book Review: A Good Girls Guide to Murder (A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder #1) by Holly Jackson

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: YA Mystery/Thriller
Length: 400 pages
Author: Holly Jackson
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release Date: February 4th, 2020
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Everyone in Fairview knows the story.

Pretty and popular high school senior Andie Bell was murdered by her boyfriend, Sal Singh, who then killed himself. It was all anyone could talk about. And five years later, Pip sees how the tragedy still haunts her town.

But she can’t shake the feeling that there was more to what happened that day. She knew Sal when she was a child, and he was always so kind to her. How could he possibly have been a killer?

Now a senior herself, Pip decides to reexamine the closed case for her final project, at first just to cast doubt on the original investigation. But soon she discovers a trail of dark secrets that might actually prove Sal innocent . . . and the line between past and present begins to blur. Someone in Fairview doesn’t want Pip digging around for answers, and now her own life might be in danger.

This is the story of an investigation turned obsession, full of twists and turns and with an ending you’ll never expect.

I LIKED THIS Y’ALL.

I’m not a thriller person. Never have been. It takes some amazing reviews and friends saying how good one is for me to pick it up. This was the case for A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder. After so many saying how it blew their minds, I knew I had to read it. And I loved it! I also highly recommend the audio book. It was wonderfully put together.

Oh wow, this definitely kept me guessing. I spent most of my time trying to figure out who was the actual murder, if there was an actual murder, who was good, bad, all the things! I love how difficult it was to make heads or tails of any of the suspects. The number one thing I look for in a thriller is how easy it is for me to pick out the murderer. This was NOT the case here.

The only part I found kind of laughable was Pippa. Don’t get me wrong, I thought she was a fantastic main character. It was the fact that she at 17 (maybe 18?) was acting like a well-seasoned detective agent and I couldn’t help but roll my eyes sometimes. She was clearly way in over her head and doing more than I could reasonably believe. When I could look past that, the book was solid. Well written and put together in such a a way that you never want to stop reading.

I liked the small romance plot-line (we know I’m a sucker for these). It moved well alongside the original story. My heart ached for many of these characters and the awful situations they were put through. I liked the way the side characters played into this and the genuine work I could see from the author to craft a such a intricate web of lies and deceit, with plenty of WHAT moments.

If you’re even slightly interested in thrillers (aka me) definitely check this one out!

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult thriller
  • Language: some strong
  • Romance: kisses
  • Violence: murder; see trigger warnings
  • Trigger warnings: suicide (method explained), self-harm, murder, underage drug/alcohol use, drunk driving, hit and run, animal/pet death, rape (using rohypnols)

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Book Review

Book Review: The Empty Grave (Lockwood & Co. #5) by Jonathan Stroud

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: YA Mystery/Horror
Length: 427 pages
Author: Jonathan Stroud
Publisher: Little, Brown Books
Release Date: September 12th, 2017
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Five months after the events in THE CREEPING SHADOW, we join Lockwood, Lucy, George, Holly, and their associate Quill Kipps on a perilous night mission: they have broken into the booby-trapped Fittes Mausoleum, where the body of the legendary psychic heroine Marissa Fittes lies. Or does it? This is just one of the many questions to be answered in Book 5 of the Lockwood & Co. series. Will Lockwood ever reveal more about his family’s past to Lucy? Will their trip to the Other Side leave Lucy and Lockwood forever changed? Will Penelope Fittes succeed in shutting down their agency forever? The young agents must survive attacks from foes both spectral and human before they can take on their greatest enemy in a climactic and chaotic battle. And to prevail they will have to rely on help from some surprising–and shadowy–allies. Jonathan Stroud once again delivers a rousing adventure full of danger, laughs, twists, and frights. The revelations will send readers back to Book 1 to start the series all over again. 

SOLID ENDING AS A WHOLE.

At last. I have finished the Lockwood & Co. series. And it was a fun ride! I love how light-hearted, yet totally sinister these books are.

I’m going to miss Lockwood, Lucy, George, and Holly (even Kipps). They were a tight-knit bunch that truly had each other backs. I love that there was no back-stabbing or run around with their friendship. They fought ghosts together and hung out at 35 Portland Row. Exactly how it should be.

Very happy that the whole initial problem was resolved. Things weren’t left open-ended (well maybe one part was, but I’ll address that in a second). I was finally able to know where all the ghosts were coming from, who the villains were and how they saved London from more ghost-related issues.

The only open-ended story line was clearly Lockwood and Lucy. While these books never contained any romance, there was clearly a vibe between them and I love the run off into the sunset vibe that this gave off in the end. It seemed perfectly appropriate without over-shadowing all that Lucy and Lockwood have already been through together. They are the true dynamite duo.

I definitely would recommend this to younger audiences that are okay with creepy ghosts, and plot lines. These tended to feel like a younger (maybe even more true) young adult series. It was a nice bit of escapism every time I picked one of these books up.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult mystery/horror
  • Language: none
  • Romance: none
  • Violence: swords, explosions, physical

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Book Review

Book Review: One of Us Is Next (One of Us Is Lying #2) by Karen M. McManus

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: YA Mystery/Thriller
Length: 384 pages
Author: Karen M. McManus
Publisher: Delacorte Press for Young Readers
Release Date: January 7th, 2020
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

The highly anticipated sequel to the New York Times bestselling thriller everyone is talking about, One of Us Is Lying! There’s a new mystery to solve at Bayview High, and there’s a whole new set of rules.

Come on, Bayview, you know you’ve missed this.

A ton of copycat gossip apps have popped up since Simon died, but in the year since the Bayview four were cleared of his shocking death, no one’s been able to fill the gossip void quite like he could. The problem is no one has the facts.

Until now.

This time it’s not an app, though—it’s a game.

Truth or Dare.

Phoebe’s the first target. If you choose not to play, it’s a truth. And hers is dark.

Then comes Maeve and she should know better—always choose the dare.

But by the time Knox is about to be tagged, things have gotten dangerous. The dares have become deadly, and if Maeve learned anything from Bronwyn last year, it’s that they can’t count on the police for help. Or protection.

Simon’s gone, but someone’s determined to keep his legacy at Bayview High alive. And this time, there’s a whole new set of rules.

ANOTHER GREAT READ BY THIS AUTHOR.

Oh guys. We all know I’m not a big thriller fan, but McManus continually sways me to that side with her compelling YA centered novels. I loved this second book and thought it wove the characters from One of Us is Lying seamlessly together to bring another book that kept me on edge.

I can’t be the only one that doesn’t love NOT knowing who’s the bad guy in mystery books? This one did a great job of keeping me in the dark until almost the reveal. I was super excited when I started whispering to myself, OH IT’S —- [redacted, of course]. One of Us Is Next always had a heightened sense of drama to it. It wasn’t a basic tale of why they were doing such things, but a deeper tale of grief and anger that can consume someone.

As a romance lover, I adored the tiny tidbits throughout for our characters. It never overshadowed the plot, but gave the characters another layer. Phoebe, Maeve and Knox each had a nuanced level of complexity and personal issues that made me love each one on their own and as a group of friends.

The story was twisted and had a good flair for theatrics. I was surprised by some of the details and secrets that came out. Plenty of tense moments and quick flipping pages to get to the bottom of the mystery!

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult mystery/thriller
  • Language: some throughout
  • Romance: some kisses/make-outs, general discussion of sex life
  • Violence: murder, physical
  • Trigger warnings: sexual assault (unwanted kissing/grabbing – Ch. 8), slut shaming, bullying

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