“The perfect stranger” Megan Miranda

Rated 2 stars ** ARC. Ebook. To be published May 16, 2017. Simon & Schuster.
Forced to resign from her reporter job in Boston, Leah theperfectstrangerreacquaints herself with Emmy, an old friend. Both women need a new beginning, so decide to rent a home in a small Pennsylvania town. Now a high school teacher, Leah struggles to come to grips with what happened in Boston while trying to figure out how to start her life anew.

One day, Leah realizes she hasn’t seen Emmy in almost 5 days. When a young woman is found bludgeoned almost to death, Leah fears the worst and asks Kyle, a local detective, for help finding Emmy. When Emmy’s boyfriend is found murdered, clues seem to point towards Leah because no one can locate any evidence that Emmy actually existed. Each day that passes brings new fears to Leah’s life, and she will have to use every reporter skill she’s ever learned to get herself out of the hole into which someone seems to have wanted her to fall.

Billed as a sequel to “All the missing girls,” Miranda’s “The perfect stranger” seemed more as a standalone read to me. I didn’t find it to be as exciting, and it definitely wasn’t as suspenseful as “All the missing girls.”

I wasn’t a big fan, so will leave it up to you Adult readers to decide if you want to read it or not.

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

“This is our story” Ashley Elston

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Published November 15, 2016. Disney-Hyperion. 312 p.

thisisourstoryJohn Michael, Shep, Henry and Logan are accused of murdering their friend Grant. During a hunting trip he was shot and killed, but none of them will admit to it. Kicked out of their prep school, the four rich boys are now attending public school to finish out their senior year while the district attorney works out the legal details of their case. Everyone expects their case to be dismissed because of their daddies’ money and closeness to the DA.

Kate is devastated, as she and Grant had been texting for weeks and she’d fallen for him. Her mother works for Mr. Stone, the assistant district attorney, where she has a part-time intern position. When the DA recuses himself and gives the case to the ADA, it is with the assumption he will not find the boys guilty. Kate is angry at what happened to Grant, and Mr. Stone is angry at being expected to lose. Together they work hard to find whatever evidence they can to incriminate the boys.

As Kate takes photographs, and sifts through transcripts and testimonials, she begins to realize the five best friends were leading double lives. The more she learns, the more she finds herself mixed into their lives. Soon the real killer decides she knows too much and, as time ticks closer towards a conviction, plots ways to get away with more than one murder.

This murder mystery kept me on the edge of my seat. I thought I knew who killed Grant but, when the truth was revealed, I was completely wrong. Bravo to Elston for crafting not only a very interesting read, but giving readers excellent descriptions of what goes on behind the scenes in a murder case. It was also intriguing to read the killer’s thoughts after almost every chapter, dropping hints about the case.

Highly recommended for ages 14 and older.

“Gilt Hollow” Lorie Langdon

Rated 3 stars *** ARC. Published September 27, 2016. Blink. 341 p.

gilthollowWhen Ashton Keller was 14 years old, he was accused of killing his friend by pushing him over a cliff. None of his three friends vouched for him and, despite protesting his innocence, he was sentenced to 4 years in a juvenile detention facility. Abandoned by his parents and his best friend Willow, Ashton was forced to grow up quickly and learn to defend himself in the facility. Released at the age of 18, he is determined to return to Gilt Hollow, where he grew up, to find out who murdered his friend and why he was framed.

Gilt Hollow is full of torturous memories of former good times, but his worst memory is that of Willow. They’d grown up together, and Ashton was crushed when she never contacted him in prison. His bad boy persona and good looks attracts lots of attention from the female set, but Willow is all Ashton can see. For her part, Willow is angry with him for ignoring her when she was the only one in town who believed in his innocence. However she can’t keep her eyes off him.

As Willow and Ashton attempt to reconnect, strange things start happening in Gilt Hollow. Each seems to have been perpetrated by Ashton, making it seem as if someone wants him back in prison for good. With the local police chief and his former best friends seemingly out to get him, Ashton needs Willow’s help before it’s too late. Will they be able to reconcile and get to the bottom of the strange events before it’s too late for Ashton?

I enjoyed the suspense as the mysteries unfolded. I had my suspicions as to who was the instigator, and went down the wrong rabbit hole a few times. Langdon did a good job hiding the truth, but I was not happy with Willow as she seemed a bit too whiny and insecure. I thought she and Ashton made a good couple from the beginning, while she wasted too much time second guessing everything he said or did, as well as her own thoughts and feelings.

I will put a spoiler alert at the bottom because I had some questions about some things that happened which weren’t clear enough for me. Don’t read it if you don’t like to read a Spoiler. These events, as well as Willow’s behavior, made me drop a star in my rating.

Despite my questions and Willow’s annoying behavior, I will recommend this book for ages 14 and older because the suspense was really good.

****SPOILER ALERT!*****SPOILER ALERT!****SPOILER ALERT!*****SPOILER ALERT!

Willow left her solo cup in Cory’s room, and Colin found it. He later told her he knew it was her cup. How did he know? Did he do a fingerprint analysis on it?

Colin said he had a knife from Ashton’s collection in the garage. How did he get into the garage to get it? Earlier Willow told Ashton to come get the key so he could get his motorcycle, thus implying the garage was locked.

When she got the note Ashton supposedly had written, why didn’t she notice it was written “To Willow” and signed “A?” Ashton calls her “Wil” and would’ve signed it by her nickname for him, which is “Ash.” Even I knew it was fake! She later claimed she didn’t know his handwriting, but she should have known their nicknames. Also she had just seen him at the dance. Why would he have slipped her a note when she was standing near him right before she left the party and he could’ve told her in person to meet him?

“Shame the Stars” Guadalupe Garcia McCall

Rated 5 stars ***** Tu Books (Lee & Low). 2016. 288 pp. (Includes “Author’s Note”, “Book Recommendations”, “Newspaper Clipping Sources,” and a “Glossary.”)

shamethestarsBefore Texas became a territory and then a state, it was part of Mexico. As happened when European immigrants took control of land occupied by its original inhabitants, the Anglo American colonists who settled in Tejas, Mexico in the early 1800’s decided they wanted the land upon which they had settled, and fought to get it from Mexico. Ultimately the land they conquered became the state of Texas. Just as Native Americans had their lands stolen from them, so too did the Mexicans who had originally lived and farmed their own lands in Tejas for generations.

“Shame the Stars” is set in 1915, and tells the story of Tejano families struggling to understand and survive brutalities inflicted upon them by the Texas Rangers (a group of “lawmen” who randomly killed and raped Mexican Americans, imprisoning them without trial, and stealing their land.)

Joaquín Del Toro and Dulceña Villa are teenagers in love during this tumultuous time in the fictitious city of Monteseco. Though suffering from the devastation brought upon them and others by the Rangers, they refuse to keep their heads bowed low in servitude. They, and many others, determine to make a difference for their people and stand for their rights. “Shame the Stars” is their story.

This book is marketed as a “rich reimagining of Romeo and Juliet,” but I feel this simplistic overview is a disservice to McCall. “Shame the Stars” is so much more than this, as the author’s rich and powerful narrative opens the eyes of her readers to an atrocious chapter in the history of the United States that had been a secret for many years. It is closer to the history of Segregation and the crimes committed by segregationists than it is to Romeo and Juliet.

The “Refusing to Forget” Project, started in 2013, created an exhibit of this time period called “Life and Death on the Border 1910-1920.” It was on view in Austin, Texas from Jan. 23-April 3, and was a visual complement to the events in the book.

I sincerely hope McCall’s excellently written and researched book will win an award of some type at the American Library Association’s Youth Media Awards in January, as it deserves a place in every high school and public library. McCall is a previous winner of the Pura Belpré award however, since “Shame the Stars” is intended for a much older audience, my fingers are crossed that it will receive a Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature from YALSA.

Highly recommended for ages 16 and older.

I received a copy of this book from Lee & Low in exchange for an honest review.

 

“Three truths and a lie” Brent Hartinger

Rated 3 stars *** ARC. Published August 2, 2016. Simon Pulse.

ThreeTruthsAndALieRob, his boyfriend Liam, their friend Mia and her boyfriend Galen decide to spend a fun weekend at Mia’s parent’s cabin. Located in the middle of a partly denuded rainforest in Washington State, the four friends expect to have a great time at the cabin’s lake telling truth and lie games and hanging out.

Within just a few short hours of arriving, the satellite phone they need to communicate in case of an emergency winds up missing. It doesn’t take long before a series of other unfortunate events turns the fun they’d anticipated having into terror, as it seems like someone doesn’t want them to leave. As the horror escalates, their reality becomes someone’s lie leaving it up to the reader to distinguish between the two.

I thought “Three truths and a lie” was interesting though some of the events seemed rather far fetched. It reminded me of what always happens to those who don’t pay attention in creepy 1960’s “B” slasher movies, and I will admit that the ending left me very surprised.

It’s because of Hartinger’s ability to deceive that I recommend his book for ages 16 and older.

“Last seen leaving” Caleb Roehrig

Rated 3 stars *** ARC. Ebook. Feiwel and Friends. To be published October 4, 2016.

LastSeenLeavingFlynn is devastated to find out his girlfriend, January, had been reported missing. Prying questions from the police triggered a secret he had been hiding from everyone, and his vague answers only served to convince them of his guilt. Determined to prove his innocence he starts to dig deeper into January’s disappearance but, as he reflects on their relationship, floodgates open to his own secret that will forever change his life.

Through flashbacks and the present time, readers are drawn into Flynn and January’s lives as the author did a good job implicating various characters in the crime. I thought I knew who was guilty, but was fooled many different times.

Despite good clues in the whodunit portion, I found inconsistencies that were problematic. Would a 19-year-old be able to date a 15-year-old without anyone blinking an eye? Would the two of them be able to wander in and around a rich, private school without any kind of security system? It was these and other inconsistencies that made the story much less believable, and caused me to drop its rating down to 3 stars.

Despite my questions I will recommend “Last seen leaving” for ages 14 and older because Roehrig did a good job stringing along the reader in making several characters appear to be the “bad guy.”

I received an electronic copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

“Dangerous Lies” Becca Fitzpatrick

Rated 3 stars *** ARC. Ebook. Simon & Schuster. 2015.

DangerousLiesEstella Goodwinn returns home late one night to find her mother in a drugged stupor alongside a dead body. She accuses Danny Balando, her mother’s dealer and leader of a local Philadelphia drug cartel, of the murder. With her life threatened, she is forced to leave behind her boyfriend Reed, given a new identity, and sent to live in Nebraska under the Witness Protection Program.

Now known as Stella, she angrily refuses to settle into her strange new life in Thunder Basin. Knowing she only has to wait a few months until she turns 18 and can leave, she spends days plotting her escape. Carmina, the long suffering retired cop who took her in, and Chet Falconer, the good looking neighbor boy, begin to whittle away at the bricks of pain, loneliness and confusion she’d built around her heart. As Stella begins to feel a pull towards Chet and life in Thunder Basin, she gets a reminder from her old life that will forever shake up her life.

Fitzgerald did a good job describing the witness protection program, but Stella’s bratty behavior towards Carmina, and her constant neediness for Reed was a little over the top. Her up and down emotions towards her mother and Chet was another downer, which is why I only gave it 3 stars.

Despite these bad spots, “Dangerous Lies” is a good read, and I will recommend it for ages 16 and older.

I received an electronic copy of this book from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.