Rated 4 stars **** Orca Book Publishers. 2009. 165 p.
Stephanie’s father was killed in a car accident, and she hates that her mother found a boyfriend just a few months after the accident. She hates the new boyfriend, feeling as if he’s mooching off her mom. A serial killer kidnapped two girls who look very similar to her in nearby towns, but she’s sure her town is safe. So, late one evening she declines her best friend’s advice to accompany her home, and sets out on her own. While taking a shortcut across a dark, abandoned field she’s attacked.
When Stephanie wakes she finds herself tied up in an abandoned cabin. She manages to get herself free and sets off into the woods that surround the cabin, desperate to put distance between herself and the serial killer who’d kidnapped her. With no food, water or shelter readily available she dredges up every bit of survival advice she’d learned from her grandfather on past hiking and camping trips. The days pass with no hope of rescue, and Stephanie’s situation is worsened when she steps into a hole and severely twists her ankle.
I liked reading about the things Stephanie learned about survival from her grandfather, and it seemed as if she was an exceptional learner. I also thought the ending was predictable and it felt rushed. Though it felt like I already knew how the story would play out before I even got to the end, I’ll recommend it for reluctant teen readers because it’s interesting and is a quick read.
Recommended for teens ages 13-16, especially reluctant readers.
Rated 4 stars **** 2016. Kensington Books. 308 p.
Maggie Gardiner, forensic expert, has been called to help solve various crimes in the streets of Cleveland. As the cases of dead criminals mount, her forensic work helps her detect certain patterns in how and where they were killed. Soon she concludes that someone, possibly a police officer, is deliberately killing bad guys. As Maggie begins to get closer to the truth she doesn’t know that the killer is ready to make sure her hunches don’t develop into anything more substantial. After all, isn’t he doing a good thing by helping society?
The voices of Maggie and the killer are alternated to help readers learn about the role forensic scientists play in crimes and to view the mind of a vigilante. The question that resounds throughout “is it wrong to kill if the person you kill is a criminal?” will keep readers talking (and thinking) long after the last page is turned.
Recommended for Adults.
Rated 2 stars ** 2016. Candlewick Press. 300 p. Includes “Author’s note.”
During the summer of 1977 New York City experienced worsening poverty and crime, a massive blackout in all 5 boroughs, a stifling heat wave, and unrelenting fear brought on by the Son of Sam murders. Against this tumultuous background, Medina places the story of seventeen-year-old Nora Lopez.
Her father lives comfortably with his new wife and son in a well-furnished apartment in the City, forgetting about Nora, her mother, and younger brother Hector in their rundown Queens neighborhood where Hector has become a thief and drug addict. Often violent towards his sister and mother, neither wants to admit he’s out of control. On top of everything else her mother lost her job, putting them in danger of eviction. Nora suffers through the lack of food and money, as well as Hector’s abuse and crimes, in silence. Desperate to turn eighteen so she could leave it all behind, she turns a blind eye to everything. However will running away solve her problems or make them worse?
I had a hard time getting through this book, as the plot seemed to drag. I also kept getting annoyed at the poor decisions Nora and her mom continued to make regarding Hector. The book had many historical references to the period. Though some were interesting, it seemed to have too many. In general, “Burn baby burn” failed to ignite a bigger spark of interest in me.
I will leave it up to you to decide if you want to read it or not.
Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Ebook. Published March 1, 2015. Thomas & Mercer.
When Zoe awoke that fateful night, she didn’t have any recollection as to what could have happened. In her last memory she and her friend Hollie were traveling through Vegas having fun, but she had no clue as to how they had now wound up captives in a strange place. Managing to free herself she saw Hollie being tortured, but chose to abandon her and run for her life.
In the 15 months since the attack, Zoe’s life has drastically changed. Unable to forgive herself for leaving Hollie behind, and choosing her own life over Hollie’s, she decided to punish herself. She dropped out of graduate school, separated herself from family and friends, and blamed herself everyday for Hollie’s disappearance. However her lonely existence is shattered when she learns of the murder of a young woman, which closely matches what happened to her and her friend Hollie.
Zoe decides to work with the police to find the killer, but she doesn’t know that the killer knows exactly where she lives and wants to finish the work he’d begun fifteen months earlier. Zoe is in his crosshairs as she’s the only one that ever got away from him, and he won’t make the same mistake twice.
As Wood leads readers on a desperate chase to discover the killer’s identity before he can find Zoe, the action-packed chapters had me completely engrossed. With each move on the killer’s part bringing him ever closer to Zoe, I couldn’t help but read faster to find out what would happen next to her. “The one that got away” will make readers take a closer look at their surroundings because we now know there are killers amongst us.
Highly recommended for Adult readers.
Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Ebook. Ballantine Books (Penguin). Published August 11, 2015.
Sixteen-year-old Tessa was lucky to be alive, as a serial killer had left her in a grave with several other bodies and bones for over 32 hours. Because of the flowers scattered around the area the dead girls were nicknamed “Susans,” with Tessa the only survivor.
Now grown with a teenaged daughter of her own, Tessa is unable to forget the terror and horror she felt in that lonely grave. The Susans haunt her, seeking justice, while she tries to force herself to remember what happened the night she was abducted. The killer was arrested back in 1995, but someone has been planting black-eyed susans everywhere she has lived over the years, leading her to believe the serial killer is still alive and that she helped place an innocent man in jail. Will he succeed in what he had failed to do when she was just 16 years old?
Through flashbacks and the present time, Heaerlin lays down a clever plot of betrayal, terror, and fear as readers pry back the layers of time to find out what really happened to Tessa and the Susans. The truth, when it was finally revealed, made me gasp in surprise and shock. “Black-eyed Susans” is a gut-wrenching story of suspense and horror, highly recommended for Adult readers.
Rated 5 stars ***** Ebook. ARC. Published March 31, 2015. MIRA Books.
“Normal” takes readers into the mind of a nameless serial killer who is not a “Silence of the Lambs” chop them up and eat them for lunch kind of a guy, but someone his victims may have seen regularly and dismissed as ordinary. As he describes how he stalked, killed and hacked up the body of an 18-year-old girl, readers will feel a shudder of revulsion for this heinous crime as they are ready to confine him to the deepest, darkest jail cell and throw away the key.
However, as a bit of humanity begins to peek out from his depraved life after he meets the woman of his dreams, readers begin to feel a bit guilty to find themselves feeling sympathetic towards him. How could they care, and laugh at some of his antics, knowing he is a cold-hearted murderer and is holding someone hostage in his soundproof basement? The answer lies in the author’s ability to create a character that, even with his many flaws, keeps readers invested and interested.
Highly recommended for Adult readers.
Rated 5 stars ***** ebook. 2014. Jasper Dent #3. Little, Brown and Company (Hatchette).
Arrested for the murder of FBI agent Morales, and with he NYPD planning on booking him for a slew of broken laws, Jazz is desperate to save his mother from Billy’s clutches. It is an easy thing to escape his hospital bed and go on a cross country journey to find them, but the hard part is knowing he will have to sacrifice his humanity in order to kill his father. As Jazz gets closer to his prey, his role in the Crow King story becomes easier to play. Reality and fantasy vie for supremacy in his mind and, as Jazz finds out horrific secrets of his past, he will have to call on his deepest resources of strength to come out unscathed.
Connie has managed to survive Billy’s attempt to kill her but will never be able to forget her ordeal. Through broken in body, her mind is frantic to find a way to save Jazz from his impending fate. As she and Howie put their heads together, they soon discover the clues they’ve found to help Jazz aren’t quite as clear-cut as they’d originally seemed to be. It may be too late to help Jazz as he heads towards a future he will never be able to undo.
This last book in the Jasper Dent series, and its spooky cover, is even more spectacular and tension filled than the others in the series. I was engrossed in turning its pages as fast as I could to find out what would happen next to Jazz, and was unable to put it down until I reached its mesmerizing conclusion.
Highly recommended for ages 14 and older.