“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.

“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.

“Finding Hope” Colleen Nelson

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Ebook. To be published April 12, 2016. Dundurn.

FindingHopeFifteen-year-old Hope can’t express herself except through poems she scrawls on her body, the wall, scraps of paper or any handy surface.

Something awful happened to Eric so, from anger, sadness and frustration, he turned to the sweet release of meth. Now an addict, cast out from his family and adrift on the sea of despair, he nurses revenge along with his broken dreams.

By transferring to a boarding school, Hope is sure she can transform herself and forget about Eric and his problems. Instead she gets involved with The Ravens, a popular group of girls who have their own plans for her. Their constant belittling and bullying soon leaves Hope drowning in her own sea of regret and loneliness, ready to throw away everything good in her life.

In alternate voices brother and sister tell their individual stories of loss, loneliness, despair and fear. Nelson’s short, cliffhanger chapters will keep teens reading until its very satisfying conclusion.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

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


“The Passenger” Lisa Lutz

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Ebook. Published March 1, 2016. Simon & Schuster.

ThePassengerWhen Tanya Dubois finds her husband’s body at the foot of the stairs, she is sure no one will believe it was an accident. Even though she didn’t kill him she’s afraid of what prying policemen will find hidden in her own life. Without a second thought she assumes a disguise and flees the scene. With this impetuous decision, Tanya reverts to life on the lam.

As Tanya crisscrosses the country, she manages to assume multiple identities, so many that I lost count and had to look at the table of contents to reorient myself. Her efforts to stay off the grid for 10 years involved ingenious types of survival tactics, several of which had me raising my eyebrows in disbelief. When she meets Blue, a fellow fugitive, their adventures become even more hair raising with some interesting similarities to Thelma & Louise.

As I tried to figure out who were Jo and Ryan and why they were emailing each other throughout the story, I was also trying to figure out Tanya’s identities, her back-story, and Blue’s motives. Though the storyline gets a bit confusing, the fast paced action will keep readers glued to their seats. The ending left me gasping out loud in disbelief, as Lutz was very sneaky. I never saw it coming.

Recommended for Adults.

I received this Advanced Reading Copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

“Cleopatra’s Shadows” Emily Holleman

Rated 3 stars *** ARC. Published October 6, 2015. Little, Brown & Company. 358 pp. (Includes “The House of Ptolemy” family tree, “Classical Citations,” “Sources,” Sections with Author information on her research and inspiration for the book, Discussion Questions, and a Q & A with the author).

CleopatrasShadowIn alternating chapters Berenice (King Ptolemy’s daughter from his sister wife Tryphaena) and Arsinoe (her young half-sister by his concubine) tell their stories.

Berenice has harbored an intense hatred and thirst for revenge on her father for turning his back on her mother, siring children with his concubine, and forgetting all about her. With the help of her mother she orchestrates a coup, wresting the Alexandrian throne from the King, forcing him to flee with his favorite daughter Cleopatra.

Arsinoe was a young girl of 8, very close with her older sister Cleopatra and extremely naive. When her deposed father and sister sailed away and left her behind she was forced to grow up, depending on her own strengths for the first time in her life.

Both Berenice and Arsinoe face many difficulties in the changed world in which they find themselves. Both have eunuchs who rule their lives, both dislike their mothers, both feel alone and abandoned, and both find hidden strengths which help them combat the disorder of a changed kingdom while growing up without a parental hand.

“Cleopatra’s Shadows” is supposed to be based on Arsinoe, someone the historical record has largely ignored. However, despite strengths she sometimes showed, most of the book was filled with depictions of her strange dreams, which could easily have been left out of the narrative. I found them to be superfluous, and wish it had focused more on her and Cleopatra as the title intimates. I actually found myself drawn more to Berenice and her lonely search for love, which is pretty much why I gave this book three stars instead of two stars.

Recommended for Adults.

“Those girls” Chevy Stevens

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. 2015. Published July 7, 2015. St. Martin’s Press.

ThoseGirlsDanielle, Courtney and Jess had been living hard lives ever since their mother died. Their alcoholic father repeatedly beat them, or left home for long periods of time leaving them to scrounge for food. Despite these hardships, the sisters drew strength from each other and relied on these bonds to get them through their father’s brutality.

The night he tried to kill Courtney, the girls ran away to avoid foster care. While on the road their truck broke down in Cash Creek, a small town, where two boys promised to help. A living nightmare ensued, which would follow them for the rest of their lives.

Eighteen years have passed, and the sisters are living under assumed names. The rhythm of their lives is interrupted when Courtney decides she needs to bring closure to what happened in Cash Creek, and Jess’ daughter Skylar begins asking questions about their past. The house of cards they’ve been living in for 18 years is about to come tumbling down, and the three of them can’t do anything to stop it.

“Those girls” had me on the edge of my seat, alternately wishing for the girl’s safety or for ample revenge. Without giving out a spoiler let me say that even though I knew the author had to end the book the way she did, I still cried.

Highly recommended for Adult readers.

“Will Starling” Ian Weir

Rated 3 stars *** Ebook. 2014. Goose Lane Editions. (Includes Historical information in “Acknowledgements.”) Published by Steerforth on February 3, 2015.

WillStarlingWill Starling, who served as a surgeon’s assistant during wartime for 5 years, and his employer have returned to London in 1816 shortly after the Napoleonic Wars. It is a time when London’s inhabitants are striving to rise above the misfortune of war while surgeons seek to uncover the mysteries of life and death. Their ever-growing need to learn about human anatomy has given rise to a black market of grave robberies, for dissection purposes, subjecting them to distrust and fear by the general public.

This new world of experimental scientific knowledge is led by Dionysus Atherton, a surgeon convinced he can bring the dead back to life through unorthodox methods. His increasing thirst for knowledge, and the rumors which surrounded his practice, have raised Will’s suspicions. Will has his own reasons to dislike Dionysus, certain he harbors terrible secrets, and will stop at nothing to get the evidence he needs to put a stop to Dionysus’ way of practicing medicine. However, the more he digs into Dionysus’ life, the worst things become for Will until the secrets he uncovers forever changes his own life.

I enjoyed getting historical background about the great experiments with life and death attempted by surgeons of the day, as well as learning about the London of 1816, and could easily see how these unusual experiments seemed to have given Mary Shelley the inspiration she needed to write “Frankenstein.” What I did not enjoy was the increasingly confusing manner in which the story was told, going from the present to the past or even to the future, and then doubling back to the present. There were all manner of asides thrown into Will’s rambling narrative, which made me flip back and forth to figure out what had happened so I could put it in its context.

Despite these flaws, “Will Starling” will enlighten many on the subject of surgeons of the 19th century, as well as the life and times of 1816 London.

Recommended for Adult readers.