Category Archives: YA Mystery/Thriller

The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein


The Pearl Thief

In this prequel to Code Name Verity, a teenage Lady Julia Beaufort-Stuart has just returned from boarding school headed to her family’s former ancestral home Strathfearn House that is being sold to become another boarding school to pay her grandfather’s debts, since the estate hadn’t been able to pay for itself in years. Upon her arrival two days earlier than planned, Julie decides to attempt to surprise her family and friends, but doesn’t run into any of them. Figuring she’ll run into them soon, she takes a walk along the river, knowing this opportunity will be forever gone soon, and is somehow attacked. When she comes to two days later, she’s in the hospital and believed to be a traveller, treated like she’s no better than an unwanted animal. She can’t remember the events around being attacked, and meanwhile, there are other unusual circumstances. A man has gone missing and is believed to be dead and other suspicious events have happened. Julie, together with new allies of the Scottish travellers Euan McEwen and his sister Ellen, tries to discover what happened and also clear the travellers of any suspected wrongdoing before someone is gravely injured.

This was so very different compared to CNV. It is basically more of a historical mystery taking place well before the war. Julie is also much younger at fifteen, and is determinedly trying to be older than she is. She sometimes acts as if she has the authority when her family is unavailable and she pretends to be older to attract older men too. Julie can’t wait to grow up, and though she tries, she still carries the naiveté and sense of entitlement that has yet to be challenged until now. Julie forms a number of new relationships throughout the novel that teach her rather different lessons, things that ultimately are helping her form her identity. When her hair is shaved off, she has a chance to explore what being a boy is like because everyone believes she is a boy rather than a young noble lady. This identity swap, however unintended, shapes her into exploring things she never was able to before, whether through her sexuality or her class standing. This is possibly one of the key changes for becoming Verity.

One of themes of the book is the prejudice against travellers. See this Wikipedia entry on Scottish travellers and who they were and here for more educational info. We might associate them more as gypsies, but for the most part, they were still regarded as undesirables even in this day and age. Today we could easily compare this with some attitudes towards the homeless, immigrants, or refugees (though actually a news station mentioned gypsies in the US fairly recently). However, during this novel, because the travellers are nearby, they are automatically thought to be suspects, subjected to any number of indignities, and even withheld from other privileges that are perfectly legitimate, like Julie showing them her family’s collection at the library. Julie’s family seems to be one of the very few who accept and defend the travellers, but they cannot stop the violence and prejudices that happen when someone powerful isn’t around (beatings, accusations, rape).

Other interesting things about this book are the history of Scottish pearls, Julie’s relationship with her grandfather and his family’s downfall during the wars (which happened quite a bit during this age), and bits and pieces of real Scotland (though Mary Queen of Scots pearls are actually invented in this story despite her having loved pearls and having possibly the most famous pearls in the world now passed down and even worn by Queen Elizabeth II).

While this isn’t an earth-shattering novel like CNV, it does show a lesser noticed side of history, namely the Scottish traveller abuse and prejudice. I found it to be much more subtle and to carry more gentle character development than her other works. I’m not quite sure what teen I would give this to, except maybe an older teen more interested in literary classics, historical fiction, mystery and identity crisis because it is fascinating from these standpoints or to make a full character comparison between Julie and Verity. Other fans blown away by CNV might find this underwhelming instead, though I enjoyed the read.



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Sanctuary by Jennifer McKissack

Sanctuary by Jennifer McKissack


Today, I’m posting over on Tynga’s Reviews. Click on the image above to follow the link.

To help you get ready for some haunted mansions like the one in Sanctuary, here’s a few I thought were particularly lovely to keep in mind.

P.S. Just for fun, I have actually visited a haunted mansion. Pictured below is the Sorrel-Weed house in Savannah, GA where my husband and I unintentionally caught an EVP on our honeymoon.


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Scarlett Undercover by Jennifer Latham

18713071.jpgScarlett Undercover

Orphaned and living with her older sister working as a nursing student, fifteen-year-old amateur private detective Scarlett takes a case from Gemma Archer, who is convinced her older brother killed his best friend. However, the media reported that Quinn Johnson killed himself. While keeping an eye on Gemma for her safety since her parents are frequently absent, Scarlett finds Gemma’s brother Oliver to be as creepy as he sounds, embroiled within a secret cult. During her investigating, she discovers the cult has roots that link to her own family, and she might be in a lot of danger.

Part of an effort to include more diversity in YA literature, Jennifer Latham wrote this exciting novel about a young Muslim American, including references to cultural myths, magic, and language. Having been compared to that hit teen detective of the 2000’s Veronica Mars, Scarlett comes with elements of sassy attitude, independence, and determination. Despite saying she’s 15, her voice actually seems younger and less capable, perhaps because to the reader, she’s not yet established her credibility as a detective. Additionally, Scarlett’s romantic relationship with Decker felt the most flat along with a few minor side characters. Otherwise, this murder mystery is unique, unpredictable, engaging, and best for older middle grades/younger high school teens, especially reluctant readers who are searching for books that reflect cultural diversity.


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Black Widow Forever Red by Margaret Stohl

23358109Black Widow: Forever Red

The mysterious beloved Avengers heroine comes to novel form as Natasha Romanov confronts her past as an agent of Red Room, a secret Russian assassin agency led by Ivan Somodorov or “Ivan the Strange”, while on a mission for S.H.I.E.L.D. Ivan’s just as dangerous as she remembers, finding a girl and her mother trapped in one of his experiments. Natasha is able to rescue the girl, Ava, and bring her back to the US, where Ava is protected by S.H.I.E.L.D. However, Natasha promises to be there for her, and as eight years go by, there’s no trace of her. Ava, fed up with her captivity, escaped from her protective prison two years ago and has been living homeless ever since. Something odd has been happening to her for the last few years as she has been dreaming of a boy named Alex, or Alexie as she calls him. When Ava and her best friend Oksana decide to compete in a fencing tournament, dreams and reality collide as Alex is there too, and then Natasha shows up, shortly followed by assassins. Ivan is not dead like they thought, and together they must stop his plans, even if they are somehow part of it. Can Natasha finally embrace and accept her past, and love, before she loses a last connection she never knew she had?

Juxtaposes Natasha Romanov (whose voice is spot-on) with teen Ava, who has a past very similar to Romanov’s yet seems to have something weird happening to her. Together they attempt to thwart a mutual villain, joined by Alex, a similarly gifted teen who has his own secrets and a fate entwined with their own. All three are confused about their identities and have a quick time crunch before a long-reaching plot is set in motion. You know Natasha; she seems to work and think best on her feet!

Fans of the Avengers and particularly middle grade readers will like this book, but older readers may not find as much appeal due to the priority of pacing over credibility for plot/characters.

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Posted by on March 1, 2016 in YA Mystery/Thriller, Young Adult/Teen


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Library of Souls (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children, 3) by Ransom Riggs

Library-of-Souls-by-Ransom-RiggsLibrary of Souls

In this thrilling conclusion to the Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children trilogy, Jacob Portman, Emma Bloom, and their other peculiar friends, along with the last remaining free ymbryne, Miss Wren, have been captured by wights and are on their way to the wight’s stronghold. In a twist of fate, Addison, the peculiar dog, manages to rescue at least Jacob and Emma. With the future existence of peculiardom resting on their shoulders, not to mention their friends’ lives, Jacob, Emma, and Addison enlist the help of the mysterious Sharon to take them on a journey through loops to a horrible time in London’s history, that of Devil’s Acre, the worst Victorian slum. Filled with addicted peculiars, wights, hollowgast and the empty soulless faces of the loop inhabitants, Devil’s Acre holds the worst things in peculiar history, where peculiars are sold as slaves, driven to madness, and even killed. There, their little group lands, not without some trouble, at the house of Mr. Bentham, who wants to help them succeed against the wights and their leader Caul. As the final battle commences, Jacob must wield his peculiar power to its utmost and what follows is a heart-stopping revelation of friendship, love, and betrayal that will have readers feverishly addicted until its satisfyingly sweet end.

This is one of those series that will make you want to be friends with the characters #bookbffs. All of the peculiar children are so vividly real and the world so interesting that you can’t help but want to be a part of it in some way. I just love, love, loved that last chapter or two, and do not want to spoil it for readers, so I am afraid I can’t say more. However, this is one series I will be pushing, and am pretty confident there will be more than the one movie coming in December!


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