“The girl in the picture” Alexandra Monir

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Published November 15, 2016. Delacorte Press. 260 p.

TheGirlInThePictureNicole Morgan had spent her entire life practicing her violin in hopes of someday getting a scholarship to attend Juilliard, and hadn’t given any thought to relationships. She and Chace seemed to have some sort of electricity that drew them together. With him she felt loved, wanted and alive. Her world shattered when he was found murdered.

Beautiful and rich Lana Rivera spent her whole life living up to her Congresswoman mother’s version of the perfect daughter. She was used to having a certain role in their political life so, when her mother suggested she start dating a rival Congressman’s son to find out family secrets, she did as asked but didn’t realize how hard she would fall for handsome Chace Porter. With Chace she felt loved, wanted and alive. Her world shattered when he was found murdered.

As Lana and Nicole’s relationship grows from being strangers, to roomies, besties and, finally, to mortal enemies, the story of what happened to Chace is slowly unraveled. Their voices speak in alternating cliffhanger ending chapters, which leap from the past to the present. Each of them are suspects in Chase’s murder but, with additional clues, more suspects are added to the drama. Readers find themselves thinking they know whodunit – only to find out they were wrong. The surprise ending will come as a huge shock.

Highly recommended for ages 14 and older.

“Perdita” Faith Gardner

3 stars *** ARC. Ebook. 2015. Merit Press.

PerditaArielle and her sister Casey have never gotten along, but she adores her sister’s best friend Perdita who always has time to talk. The last time Arielle saw her, she had gotten into an argument with Casey and slammed out of the house. The next time she saw Perdita, she was dead.

With Casey now off at college and her best friend Chloe off with a new boyfriend, Arielle feels at odds with everything. Since Perdita’s drowning death, she keeps revisiting the emotions of having seen her own brother drown 10 years earlier when she was only 6 years old. She even begins to feel as if she can see ghosts – especially Perdita’s. The only bright light in her life is Tex, Perdita’s brother. She and Tex are in theater class together, but even their relationship seems strange. When she finds out Perdita was murdered, she realizes her ghost has been trying to tell her something. Arielle is afraid to listen, but even more afraid of not listening.

I liked the storyline, but felt it took too long for something “ghostlike” to actually happen. I also didn’t like that Chloe’s relationship with her overly possessive boyfriend was never explored, which made me feel that the author missed an opportunity to let readers know it is not okay to become a completely different person for the sake of a boyfriend. Chloe was a robot to her boyfriend’s whims, and the only one who knew this was Arielle. I think Arielle should have confronted her about it.

I thought the book was ok, but because of the dragging storyline and the Chloe issue I could only give it 3 stars.

Recommended for 14 and older.

 

“Hotel Ruby” Suzanne Young

Rated 4 stars **** ARC. Ebook. 2015. Simon Pulse.

HotelRubyAudrey and her brother Daniel have been completely lost since their mother died of a sudden stroke. Their father, unable to deal with his grief, decides it would be best if they went to live with a grandmother they barely know. On their way to grandma’s house they decide to stop overnight at the Hotel Ruby, a luxurious turn-of-the century hotel.

Once there, Audrey finds herself swept away by the very handsome Elias Lange while learning the mystery of the hotel, and the ghosts which are said to haunt the building. When the family decides to extend their stay she begins to notice that Kenneth, the concierge, seems to have some sort of hold over Daniel, her father, Elias and the staff. Soon Audrey is convinced they need to leave but something, or someone, wants them to stay. Welcome to the Hotel Ruby, where you can check out anytime you want, but you can never leave.

I felt like the “Hotel Ruby” was the 1976 Eagle’s hit song “Welcome to the Hotel California” come to life in book form, which is why I said you could check out anytime you want but never leave. I found the story of the hotel to be tragic, but thought Audrey spent too much time playing the tragedy card and apologizing for being such a bad girlfriend. By the end of the book she finally matured, but it was a bit tedious watching her get her act together, which is why I gave it 4 instead of 5 stars.

Recommended for 18 and older.

 

“The Curse of Crow Hollow” Billy Coffey

Rated 3 stars *** 2015. Thomas Nelson. 406 pp. (Includes “Discussion Questions.”)

TheCurseOfCrowHollowSomething strange is going on in Crow Hollow. People say a witch on the mountain cursed the town many years ago, so have stayed away from her mountain out of fear. The day Cordelia and her friends decided to trespass on the witch’s mountain was the day something caused the girls in town to be stricken with a mysterious illness. As town residents try to find out why the witch has stricken them and how to rid themselves of her reach, they end up turning against each other in ways no one had ever thought could be possible.

A mysterious narrator takes readers through chaos of their own making in a supposedly religious town. Once actually face-to-face with the “evil” they heard about every Sunday morning from their Reverend, they forget what they’ve been taught. Casting suspicious eyes outward rather than inward serves only to fuel the fires of distrust. While echoing some events from the Salem Witch Trials, “The Curse of Crow Hollow” works to show readers what can happen when religion combines with hysteria rather than common sense.

Recommended for Adult readers.

“The book of Laney” Myfanwy Collins

Rated 2 stars ** ARC. Ebook. Published May 17, 2015. Lacewing Books. (Includes Reference materials.)

TheBookOfLaneyWest and his best friend Mark hated high school, and planned revenge for all the times jocks ignored or made fun of them. After spending time researching terrorists, both homegrown and abroad, they were ready to make their mark on the world. Using knives, machetes and homemade bombs, they worked their way through a school bus filled with high school kids, and forever changed Laney’s world.

With West and her mother now dead, joining the father she’d never known, fifteen-year-old Laney is sent to live with her grandmother, Meme, in the woods of upstate New York in a place upon which civilization has not dared to encroach. Meme is not an exceptionally friendly woman, but she and Laney soon come to an understanding. It is with her help that Laney learns to put herself in the shoes of those who have gone before and to rely on nature for her needs. She also learns to quiet her own mind and regain the glimmer of a path for her life, which West had taken in his quest for revenge.

“The book of Laney” gave great insight into the minds of terrorists like West and Mark, as the author used real diary entries from homegrown terrorists to help readers understand why people would behave in such an horrific way. The life which Laney now found herself living, and how she saw herself after the murders, were all realistic topics.

However, I felt the book lost its attempt at being believable when Laney’s paranormal visions become its highlight. It would have been better if the author had found a realistic way to help Laney find a way to cope with her issues without having to resort to make believe. Struggling teens who may have looked to this book for insight into their own situations will not find solace through the paranormal.

I would have given the book a higher rating if the author had stayed true to the book’s premise of a young girl learning to cope with life after facing death one too many times, instead of letting it deteriorate into these visions. In addition the cover is very “blah,” and would have been lovely if it had looked like the beautiful Adirondack woods into which Laney poured so much of her heart and soul.

Because of having a major issue with this hugely unrealistic topic in the midst of realistic ones I can’t recommend this book, but will leave it up to you to decide if you want to read it or not.

 

“The Picture Frame” Iain Rob Wright

Rated 3 stars *** Ebook. 2014. Salgad Publishing. (Includes two short stories by Matt Shaw.)

ThePictureFrameBlake Price sold his home and moved his family to the English countryside under mysterious circumstances. Eager to get away from the “bad things” found in city life, he is sure his wife and 10-year-old son Ricky will find a new, safer life in their cottage.

While wandering the countryside with a Geiger counter, he and Ricky unearth a strange looking, old picture frame that doesn’t appear to have suffered any of the ravages of time. Thrilled with the find Ricky places a picture of his dog Bailey into it and, within moments of doing so, Bailey is dead.

After replacing the photo with a family portrait, strange accidents begin to occur to everyone in the picture. It seems too bizarre to believe, but Blake soon learns that a man named Oscar Boruta has put a curse on his family. Oscar was killed in 1928 but seems to be calling out from the grave for revenge. With nowhere to turn, and with the curse gaining in strength, Blake will have to figure out how to save his family before it’s too late.

“The Picture Frame” is a quick read but was a little too predictable and had a few too many loose ends, along with some grammatical errors. I would have liked to learn more details about how/why the frame was cursed so, perhaps the author would consider writing a prequel in which the story of the picture frame is told from Oscar’s point of view.

Recommended for Adult readers.

“Shattered Blue” Lauren Bird Horowitz

Rated 3 stars *** ARC. Ebook. The Light Trilogy, #1. Skyscape. To be published September 15, 2015.

ShatteredBlueI received this ARC from Netgalley in return for an honest review.

Noa has been struggling to hold herself together after the death of her sister Isla; her only joy her little sister Sasha and writing poetry. Her dark days take on a little cheer when transfer student Callum shows up at Harlow Academy, and they seem to have an instant connection. Though Callum is a fae who has been banished from his world, and can only live through Light emitted by mortals that drains them of happiness, they fall madly in love.

This love is tested when Judah, Callum’s brother, comes into their world. Judah is brash and fierce, contrasted with Callum’s calmness and quietness of strength, yet Noa finds herself drawn to both of them. When a Hunter from their world captures Callum he sets into motion a chain of events, which will change all of their lives forever.

“Shattered Blue” continues the worn out storyline of love triangles between one girl and two guys, making me want to cry out “ANOTHER triangle?!” I also had some questions and concerns for the author, but don’t want to give spoilers in this section of the review. However, if you don’t mind spoilers, keep scrolling down to read my questions.

Despite the love triangle and a few issues mentioned in the spoiler section, the book was rather interesting and caused me to become invested in the characters. Their search to right the wrongs brought on by lies and deception ended in a huge cliffhanger ending, which sets the stage for part two of the trilogy.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

***SPOILER ALERT***

I am confused, and have many questions for the author. How did Judah’s missing ring get into Miles’ pocket when he wasn’t even in the same room as Fabian and Judah when they were fighting over it? What took Olivia and Miles so long to catch up to Judah and Noa when it seemed as if they would be hot on their trail when they saw them disappearing into the woods?

Lastly I want to go on record that I thought Callum’s explanation of what happened to Lily was too complicated to be believable, and was rather strange. Sasha wasn’t adopted, so I don’t know how his explanation fit into a pregnancy, as it didn’t make any sense from a practical point of view. I know it’s a fantasy and readers have to suspend disbelief, but this was rather hard to swallow.