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Tag Archives: mystery

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

51R8i55EtAL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgBone Gap

In this stand-alone coming-of-age mystery, the town of Bone Gap, Illinois has mostly small town charm, but a few residents think it is a little unusual. Perhaps it isn’t just the town but the people too? Finn O’Sullivan has never been “quite right,” as the rumor goes. After his father died and his mother left town for a new life and husband, the only family he had left was his older brother, Sean, whose college plans changed to a career as an EMT. Neither Sean nor Finn is prepared when they find a girl, dirty and much abused, hiding in their barn. They offer her a home, however temporary, and it’s like she belongs to them, and they to her, or perhaps they’ve found each other at just the right time.

Roza and Finn are close friends, while Roza and Sean slip slowly into love and Sean is preparing to ask her to marry him. Suddenly, Roza disappears and leaves everyone stunned and mourning, even the townsfolk of Bone Gap. No one believes poor Finn when he swears she was kidnapped by a dangerous man, not even his brother; in fact, the townsfolk might even believe Finn O’Sullivan did something to Roza. While Finn tries to process her disappearance and his brother’s reluctance to go after her, he discovers another surprise in the barn, a mare that seems magical. Through his and the mare’s wanderings, Finn becomes closer to Priscilla, “Petey” Willis, the beekeeper’s unusual spitfire daughter. Petey brings out the best in Finn and as their relationship blooms, Finn finds new courage but learns of secrets that change his self-perception. This new awareness enables him to find out what happened to Roza in a wild attempt to save what is left of his family.

*Winner of the 2016 Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature and a National Book Award finalist.

My summary fails to capture the ethereal magic and captivating use of language that characterizes this novel. I loved how the reader really can’t trust the characters and also cannot predict the plot. Author Ruby presents various viewpoints in the novel to juxtapose with the main narrator, Finn, thereby revealing that our perception of Finn is vastly different from the opinion others have of him. This use of characterization is most excellently well done, as each character credibly feels like a real person with a unique voice, strong feelings, and perspective. Then, add in the mysterious setting, the disappeared but strongly present Roza, and underlying themes of love, truth, and acceptance, and this novel won’t stop surprising you. While this book may appeal to more literary or older teens, the overall quality and dearth of details speak to the hard-won praise and mark a story that will stay with any age of reader, teen or adult.

Notes: Themes of violence and sexual abuse are noted only in subtext of story.

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2016 in YA Mystery/Thriller, Young Adult/Teen

 

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The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle

23346358.jpgThe Accident Season – a mind-twisting mystery, with magical realism, elements of a ghost story, and echoes of Celtic mythology

Cara and her unconventional family have always experienced what they call “the accident season” in which every October they all have unexplainable accidents, some as worse as death and others very minor. When she was younger, it was something she accepted, but now as she’s gotten older, she’s beginning to notice that it’s odd and that’s not the only weird thing that’s happening. There’s a girl, Elsie, who runs a secrets booth at school, but who’s been missing, and Cara notices her image in every photograph Cara is in. When Cara tries to find Elsie, along with best friend Bea, sister Alice, and ex-stepbrother Sam, no one ever seems to have heard of her. Cara’s search for Elsie, and the reasons behind the accident season, changes her perspective and allows her to discover haunting secrets about her family’s past.

First published in Great Britain, this novel takes place in Ireland and, as goes with the territory, blends ancient mysticism into modern reality. The cast of characters are likeable yet unfathomable and the mystery will have you guessing, akin in tone to other reads such as We Were Liars, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, Bone Gap, and many of Maggie Stiefvater’s titles, though not as star quality. Though some of the plot twists are predictable, the ethereal setting and the coming of age experienced by Cara, Sam, Bea, and Alice is genuine and captivating. Themes of romance, friendship, and dealing with abuse and trauma round out the story.

Note: Drugs, alcohol, sexual circumstances, and strong language. Older teen readers may find this more to their taste, as it has a more classic literary (or abstract) feel.

 

 
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Posted by on January 19, 2016 in YA Mystery/Thriller, Young Adult/Teen

 

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The Retribution of Mara Dyer (Book 3) by Michelle Hodkin 

15768409 The Retribution of Mara Dyer – A bonechilling, grisly, and satisfyingly engrossing read. 

After being set up by her ex-boyfriend Jude and Dr. Kells, Mara and her friends Jamie and Stella are official patients of Horizons inpatient treatment center and trapped in a secret underground bunker where they’re being held captive, drugged, and experimented on against their will. As for Noah, Mara doesn’t know what happened to him, but Dr. Kells says he’s died. Unable to believe this and practically catatonic without the grief, Mara is surprised when she wakes up from her drug-induced state to discover Jude has freed her and sent her on a mission to find Noah. After killing Dr. Kells in a battle for her life and her sanity, Mara, along with Jamie and Stella must escape the island, though she is still drugged, sick, and covered in blood. After making it back to Miami, they use Jamie’s power of influence to fool their families, only Mara’s brother Daniel isn’t there, and he has the genetics book, the one that explains what they are and perhaps might lead them to Noah. They follow Daniel to New York where he seems to be visiting colleges. As all secrets are revealed about Mara’s ancestry and the mysterious Lukumi, Mara comes to accept the truths of friendship, love, and sacrifice, especially when Noah is caught between life and death; however, she comes to realize the hardest part is accepting yourself and having the courage to make the toughest choice.

In this third and final volume of the Mara Dyer trilogy, Michelle Hodkin brings us full circle to discover the secret of the kids with powers, how Mara and Noah came to be, just why they’re drawn to each other, and how captivatingly she weaves the final threads of Mara’s story together. I am just amazed at her quality of language and imagery. The romance was delightful and fans won’t be disappointed with this resolution. Without Noah for much of the book though, Jamie steps in. He is hilarious, and brings us some relief from the intensity of the action. I loved this series. It’s dark but lovely. Like a blooming nightshade flower. May not want to read this at night, alone, and in a storm though.

Note: Violence, language, sexual situations.

 
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Posted by on August 25, 2015 in Horror, YA Mystery/Thriller

 

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Pretty Crooked trilogy by Elisa Ludwig

9780062066077 Pretty Crooked

Willa Fox has just moved to a dream town and sent to a fantastically rich school. There, she manages to befriend the Glitterati, a trio of very rich girls who dictate the highest social status. To even some of the score when a few of the scholarship girls are mercilessly targeted by the Glitterati, Willa recruits Tre, a reformed juvenile delinquent, to teach her a few criminal skills and begins stealing from the rich to give a little more back to those less fortunate, a more junior and modern day Robin Hood. When she gets caught, though, she finds she’s bitten off more than she can chew because not only is she facing social ostracism, but her mom is behaving weirdly too and suddenly disappears.

13146824 Pretty Sly

Willa must face the consequences of her actions despite having a missing mother. However, she can’t just abandon her mom. Breaking her parole, she and her friend, Aidan, set off to find Willa’s mom. With the help of the social media Sly Fox fan club, currently trending, led by their friends Tre and Cherise, Willa and Aidan have cash and make sympathetic young friends everywhere. They also add more crimes to their already long list, and discover just why Willa’s mom is running and who is out to get her. In finding her mom, Willa comes to discover many truths about herself and her past, and this is just enough to put her in a lot of danger.

22584503 Pretty Wanted

Willa is now on the run from the police and the FBI, having eluded capture after making a deal for her (former “mother” now revealed to be) sister’s faked death and her new life in Mexico. After finding out her real mom was murdered and that her murderers are still after her and her sister, Leslie, Willa is determined to find out more about her real mom’s life, especially since Willa’s got a one way ticket to juvie if she’s captured. She and Aidan have made it to St. Louis, the last place her family lived and where her real mom was murdered. There she and Aiden, eventually joined by Tre, must follow a trail long cold: discovering a diary, a covered up accident, a robbery, and the secret to her own paternity. But discovering the truth doesn’t mean much when she and Aiden are confronted with death. What will become of the Sly Fox and her friends with determined killers on their tail?

This series was a fairly enjoyable wild ride (read?) born out of desiring justice and exposing the truth that transformed into a heart-stopping race to discover Willa’s real past as her life falls about her ears. From the original premise of a modern girl Robin Hood, it veered way off into a Veronica Mars-esque murder mystery, albeit not as addicting. Many of the background characters are very trope, and Willa seems more like 17 than her 15 years, especially once you consider her relationship with her “mom” and Aiden. My favorite character was Tre, who was both resourceful, funny, and a true friend. He really made the whole thing possible. I can’t say I much enjoyed how the book ended, that’s not to say it ended badly, but there was just a lot to process and a very short time to do so. I also really hated that Aidan ran off, while Willa took responsibility for her actions. Aidan never struck me as that guy who would run off looking like an escaped criminal but more like he would just continue flaunting his reputation as a rich man’s party boy son who does whatever he pleases. Not going to say much about how the mystery is solved, not to ruin this with any spoilers! I would give this series a 3 out of 5, and perfect for mystery-loving middle grades or high school freshmen. It’s likeable but doesn’t have the wow factor to appeal to older teen readers or adults. Finally, this is unimportant, but I still thought Corbin and Leslie should end up together, especially considering Leslie’s past and how that experience must have scarred her. I did really like the covers. The black and white photography is appealing.

 

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The Agency series by Y.S. Lee

In a historical fiction/mystery mash up, comes this engaging tale about an nontraditional young woman and her life as a secret agent in 1850s London.

new-Spy-cover-dec-09 A Spy in the House

As a twelve-year-old girl, orphaned Mary Lang was sentenced to die on the gallows for being a thief, but in a quick rescue mission, she was secretly saved by the young headmistresses of Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls, which takes in a few charity cases. In her five years of schooling, Mary is reborn as Mary Quinn and chooses to join the secret organization at the school, the Agency, also led by Miss Anne Treleaven and Miss Felicity Frame. In Mary’s first assignment, she is sent to be a companion to a young lady, Angelica Thorold, while also tasked with learning anything she can about the family and some mysterious disappearances of trade goods from India. Attempting to impress her superiors, Mary tries to snoop in Mr. Thorold’s office on her first night, and, upon hearing someone coming, gets shut in a wardrobe with a young man, Mr. James Easton, a gentleman engineer who has a contracting/building company with his elder brother George, who is also a lovesick admirer of Angelica. Despite this blunder, sharp-witted Mary manages to keep her cover and eventually make an ally in James. As she comes closer to discovering the secrets hidden the Thorold family, Mary also learns some unexpected things about her past.

Body-Walker The Body at the Tower

A bricklayer has fallen to his death in the new tower at Parliament, still under construction, and there is suspected foul play, as the building is decades behind schedule and costing far more than was originally estimated. In her second assignment, Mary, posing as a young boy, Mark Quinn, gains employment at the building site, only she comes off as a little too intelligent than she intended. Her first job carrying bricks for the bricklayers lands her into a spat with another  young man, Jenkins, and she is almost beaten to death, only the engineer steps in just as Jenkins is flogged within an inch of his life. To better make use of her talents, the engineer, Mr. Harkness sets her to being an aide to the engineer who is investigating the site and its awful schedule on behalf of the city, a man none other than James Easton, newly returned from India having battled with malaria and still somewhat ill. Together, “Mark” and James piece together the real story, full of blackmail, murder and greed, and in doing so, paint a large target on their backs.

Traitor-cover The Traitor in the Tunnel

On a highly secretive assignment within the Royal household of Queen Victoria at the newly built Buckingham Palace, Mary is pretending to be the head housemaid and discover who is behind a series of thefts. However, the case is turning out to be harder than usual because all vices used to obtain information are highly discouraged, such as gossip, drinking, and social interaction between the men and women. Just as Mary despairs of finding the culprit, her employers from the Agency have some news, Mr. James Easton’s company has been hired to renovate the tunnels beneath the Palace, bringing Mary’s secret identity into jeopardy. Wanting to remain on assignment, Mary convinces him to keep his silence, but their relationship continues to bring new challenges. Then, Prince Albert Edward returns home from school, and a shroud of confusion surrounds his arrival. Mary discovers he was involved in a series of events where one aristocrat ended up dead and a Chinese opium addict ready to swing for it, whose name is none other than Lang. Suddenly, Mary has too many personal conflicts in the case, and worst is yet to come, as someone is intending to commit regicide using the tunnels. Can Mary (and James) save the Queen, the Chinese man who might be her father, and still wrap up her case for the Agency?

51wgh9NZLrL__SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ Rivals in the City

Mary and James have finally partnered up, both personally as they are engaged, and occupationally as they’ve formed a detective agency together following the fallout of the Agency’s two heads, Miss Treleaven and Miss Frame. Now, Miss Treleaven has a favor to ask. Will Mary consider working for the Agency one last time, to find and capture the tricky murderess Mrs. Thorold, who is sure to visit her dying and incarcerated husband and newly returned daughter? Accepting the higher stakes, Mary knows she and James will be in mortal danger, because Mrs. Thorold has already tried to kill them before, and not to mention, she will probably be plotting another deadly scheme. Can Mary and James find Mrs. Thorold before she escapes or worse, kills again, or is their future together over before it can even start?

I especially loved James and Mary in this series. The intrigue, the settings, all very engaging. If you want a read-a-like, check out The Dark Unwinding and A Spark Unseen, blog post that will be coming in a few weeks!

Note: Clean/gentle read!

 

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