Book Review | Five Survive by Holly Jackson

Title: Five Survive
Author: Holly Jackson
Genre: YA Mystery / Thriller
Publication Date: November 29th, 2022
Publisher: Listening Library
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

“Eight hours.
Six friends.
One sniper . . .
Eighteen year old Red and her friends are on a road trip in an RV, heading to the beach for Spring Break. It’s a long drive but spirits are high. Until the RV breaks down in the middle of nowhere. There’s no mobile phone reception and nobody around to help. And as the wheels are shot out, one by one, the friends realise that this is no accident. There’s a sniper out there in the dark watching them and he knows exactly who they are. One of the group has a secret that the sniper is willing to kill for.
A game of cat-and-mouse plays out as the group desperately tries to get help and to work out which member of the group is the target. Buried secrets are forced to light in the cramped, claustrophobic setting of the RV, and tensions within the group will reach deadly levels. Not everyone will survive the night.” (Goodreads)

Maybe I am still salty from the ending of her last book? 😂 It’s not a bad book per say. I thought that everything happening in a span of eight hours in one setting was unique and well done. It’s hard to manage that! Plus, I have not read another book like it.

My problem with this book lies with the characters. When a book is fast-paced it leaves little room for character development, let alone feeling something for those characters. Are the stakes high for these characters? Yeah, but I didn’t see myself caring that much about the predicament they found themselves in.

The ending wasn’t all too surprising and it leave off some room to speculate what happens next. I am not a fan of open ended endings. I want closure! There were some interesting plot twists that do keep you continuing but there are also slower moments as well.

To me, this one was a mixed bag and because of that it is hard to review. 😅 Hopefully whatever I wrote does make sense and gives you an idea on my feelings towards it, haha.

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Arc Review: She’s Gone by David Bell

Title: She’s Gone
Author: David Bell
Genre: YA Mystery / Thriller
Publication Date: November 1st, 2022
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for a complimentary earc to review! All opinions are my own.

When a girl disappears, who do you suspect?
When 17-year-old Hunter Gifford wakes in the hospital on the night of homecoming, he’s shocked to learn he and his girlfriend, Chloe Summers, have been in a terrible car accident. Hunter has no memory of the crash, and his shock turns to horror when he is told Chloe’s blood has been found in the car―but she has disappeared.
Back at school, his fellow students taunt him, and his former best friend starts making a true-crime documentary about the case―one that points the finger directly at Hunter. And just when things can’t get any worse, Chloe’s mother stands in front of the entire town at a candlelight vigil and accuses Hunter of murder.
Under mounting pressure from the police, Hunter takes matters into his own hands by questioning anyone who might know the truth and posting videos to prove his innocence. When Hunter learns he and Chloe were seen arguing loudly outside the dance, he faces a sickening possibility. Was he angry enough to kill the person he loved?” (Goodreads)

I have mixed feelings about this one. On the plus side, I finished it in less than a day. On the down side, I just needed more character development.

The book is told from one point-of-view and it comes from Hunter. He was in a car accident with his girlfriend. He made it to the hospital somehow, but she is still missing. There is a lot he needs to recall since his memory hasn’t been the same since that fateful day.

I wouldn’t say that there is much going for Hunter besides trying to solve what happened to his girlfriend. I would say the same about all of the other characters as well. The character development was lacking and this could honestly be because the book was more plot-driven. I just tend to like a bit of both. Olivia was definitely my favorite character as she really cared about her brother and the outcome of the mystery.

The plot was pretty good. It did have me guessing but I did figure out who it was before the big reveal but not how it happened. The how it happened was not what I was expecting and I’m still not sure how I feel about it.

Overall, this was a fine YA Mystery. It will definitely reel you in and at least it is easy to get through.

Audiobook Review: The Final Gambit (The Inheritance Games #3) by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Title: The Final Gambit (The Inheritance Games #3)
Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Genre: YA Mystery / Thriller
Publication Date: August 30th, 2022
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐✨

Avery’s fortune, life, and loves are on the line in the game that everyone will be talking about.
To inherit billions, all Avery Kylie Grambs has to do is survive a few more weeks living in Hawthorne House. The paparazzi are dogging her every step. Financial pressures are building. Danger is a fact of life. And the only thing getting Avery through it all is the Hawthorne brothers. Her life is intertwined with theirs. She knows their secrets, and they know her.
But as the clock ticks down to the moment when Avery will become the richest teenager on the planet, trouble arrives in the form of a visitor who needs her help—and whose presence in Hawthorne House could change everything. It soon becomes clear that there is one last puzzle to solve, and Avery and the Hawthorne brothers are drawn into a dangerous game against an unknown and powerful player.
Secrets upon secrets. Riddles upon riddles. In this game, there are hearts and lives at stake—and there is nothing more Hawthorne than winning.” (Goodreads)

This was a pretty good ending, but my favorite out of the series would be the second.

The book is told from one point-of-view and it comes from Avery. This is how it has been since the beginning. I liked seeing how she would solve the rest of the puzzles. I still don’t think the characters had a lot of development and it’s more about the game all of them are playing. It’s not bad but I just like knowing more about the characters.

The game that Avery is playing is not for the weakest link. She was chosen for a reason and it definitely shows. It feels like some of the smaller details in book one come back just for a few moments in the final and I liked seeing it all come together.

I honestly haven’t ever been interested in the romance subplot, lol. The love triangle was kind of lame and just felt forced. I don’t feel like there was ever a chance she would be the other and it shows in the final book.

Overall, this was a good ending. It kept me entertained with the mystery aspect.

Arc Review: After Dark with Roxie Clark by Brooke Lauren Davis

Title: After Dark with Roxie Clark
Author: Brooke Lauren Davis
Genre: YA Mystery / Thriller
Publication Date: October 4th, 2022
Publisher: Bloomsbury YA
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for a complimentary earc to review! All opinions are my own.

“Roxie Clark has seen more dead bodies than your average seventeen-year-old. As a member of the supposedly-cursed Clark family, most of her ancestors have met tragic ends, including her own mother. Instead of fearing the curse, however, Roxie has combined her flair for performance and her gruesome family history into a successful ghost tour. But her tour never covers the most recent body she’s seen-her sister Skylar’s boyfriend, Colin Riley, found murdered in a cornfield.
A year after the murder, Roxie’s desperate to help Skylar find closure and start to heal. Instead, Skylar becomes fixated on finding the killer. As the sisters dig into what really happened, they discover that more than one person has been lying about that night. And the closer they get to the truth, the more Roxie starts to wonder if some scary stories might be better left untold.” (Goodreads)

I was looking forward to reading this one after reading her debut last year. I like her writing style and that didn’t change. It was a good mystery/thriller but I didn’t like it as much as I had hoped.

The book is told from third person narrative with the point-of-view following Roxie Clark. She has a unique business when it comes to her ghost tour because it involves all of the women in her family that came before her. Besides being family, the one thing they have in common is the Clark curse. I did like this a lot and enjoyed being told the tales of those that died. It gives it a creepy feel that is different than the mystery.

Roxie was a good character and she finds herself trying to sort through loyalty and understanding her sister who is still grieving. Both sisters, and even their grandma, have dealt with a lot in their lives. It was interesting to see how each one dealt with it. I wish we would have gotten more from grandma though. Roxie’s sister Skylar was not very likeable. I understand that she is still dealing with grief but everything she did was irrational and she was always at arms with her sister.

The other characters, even the brothers, felt like they only had one purpose. I didn’t really feel anything for them and I guess that was fine haha.

The pacing is on the slower side until you get about halfway and the plot is fine but nothing that really grabbed me. It does wrap up nicely by then and I guess I understand the ending but kind of just wanted more from it? It felt a bit rushed.

Overall, this was a good book. I did like certain aspects of the story and will still continue on with this author if and when she writes more.

Arc Review: We Made It All Up by Margot Harrison

Title: We Made It All Up
Author: Margot Harrison
Genre: YA Mystery / Thriller
Publication Date: July 12th, 2022
Publisher: Little, Brown
Rating: ⭐⭐

“Celeste is the talk of the town when she moves to Montana from Montreal, but the only friend she makes is Vivvy, the heir to the town’s name and a social pariah. Inspired by a passion-fueled school incident, they begin writing a love-story fan fic between the popular guy and the school stoner, one that gradually reveals Celeste’s past. While their bond makes Celeste feel safe and alive again, Vivvy keeps prodding Celeste to turn fantasy into reality. When they finally try, one drunken night on a dark mountainside, Celeste is the one who ends up kissing golden boy Joss. And Joss ends up dead.

Celeste doesn’t remember the end of that night and can’t be sure she didn’t deliver the killing blow. Could she still be that scared of getting close to a boy? Secrets are hard to keep in a small town, and even Vivvy seems to suspect her. Exploring the winding passages of the cave where Joss died, Celeste learns he had his own dark secrets, as does Vivvy. The town isn’t as innocent as it appears.” (Goodreads)

I have been craving a YA Mystery / Thriller lately and since this one needed to be read I figured why not give it a go! Although there were some cool elements to this plot, I didn’t like it as much as I had wanted to. It covered some pretty dark topics and one in particular, although minor, is one that makes me uncomfortable. What I disliked may not be an issue for others so take this review as you will.

The book is told from one perspective and it comes from Celeste. Even though there is only one point-of-view the book keeps it interesting by adding a dual timeline. It does help fill in the gaps from the moment something goes wrong until the end where everything starts coming together once again. I am a fan of dual timelines so this was something I liked to see.

Celeste is the new girl in this small town and it’s always hard trying to find friends. Luckily, it doesn’t take long and her life gets interesting from that point on, especially when they start writing fan-fic about two students at their school. This was a unique concept and one that I haven’t seen before. I wouldn’t say that it added anything extra to the mystery plot and could have been a story all on its own.

I wouldn’t say that I liked any of the characters. If I had to pick one it would probably be Seth since he seemed like he had a good head about everything going on. Every one had a meanness to them and were just a bunch of dillweeds. It felt like mean girls but with the dudes acting crazy too.

There are a lot of things going on in the plot that had my attention more than the mystery itself. It didn’t have any thrilling moments and kind of left me just wanting more. It also didn’t help that the ending felt fast and kind of a convenient wrap-up. Not really my thing but at least we got closure.

Talks of sexual assault come up and even feeling loved by a teacher/adult. Even though they don’t go into full details it still made me feel uneasy and are both topics that I like warning beforehand about.

Overall, it was okay. It had interesting concepts but just not enough to sway me to like it.

Arc Review: Never Coming Home by Kate Williams

Title: Never Coming Home
Author: Kate Williams
Genre: YA Mystery / Thriller
Publication Date: June 21st, 2022
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Rating: ⭐⭐

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for a complimentary earc to review! All opinions are my own.

“Everyone knows Unknown Island—it’s the world’s most exclusive destination. Think white sand beaches, turquoise seas, and luxury accommodations. Plus, it’s invite only, no one over twenty-one allowed, and it’s absolutely free. Who wouldn’t want to go?

After launching with a showstopping viral marketing campaign, the whole world is watching as the mysterious resort opens its doors to the First Ten, the ten elite influencers specifically chosen to be the first to experience everything Unknown Island has to offer. You know them. There’s the gamer, the beauty blogger, the rich girl, the superstar, the junior politician, the environmentalist, the DJ, the CEO, the chef, and the athlete.

What they don’t know is that they weren’t invited to Unknown Island for their following—they were invited for their secrets. Everyone is hiding a deadly one, and it looks like someone’s decided it’s payback time. Unknown Island isn’t a vacation, it’s a trap. And it’s beginning to look like the First Ten—no matter how influential—are never coming home.” (Goodreads)

For me, this book just didn’t do much. I liked the premise of it, especially with them being secluded on an island. Nothing wrong with the setting! It’s just that everything else felt underdeveloped and I just couldn’t get into like I had wanted to.

The book is told from multiple point-of-views and even though I am usually a fan of this, it didn’t work in this book for a couple of reasons. The first reason being that some of the point-of-views are short lived, no pun intended but it is a mystery/ thriller lol. I get that it is bound to happen but it doesn’t give enough time to fully connect to the character. The second reason is I guess part of the first. There is not a lot of time for development and even the suspect is kind of meh on the reasoning for everything that happens.

Like I said previously, I liked the setting. I haven’t read a mystery/thriller set on an island before and it takes away outside presence. It definitely gives off the vibe that it is one of them but its up for the reader to decide.

The mystery, which is obviously the biggest part of the book, was fine. I don’t think it was thrilling in any way and that is due to just not connecting. I thought that some of the things were over the top dramatic and felt silly because it was just blown up way too much. The intended culprit of it all still doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. I think that there is some interesting information given at the end but it also doesn’t come right out and say who did it. Not my kind of ending but others may enjoy it.

Overall, this was okay but really not what I expected. I’m kind of disappointed by it but I can see others enjoying it especially because it is a shorter read.

Arc Review: Queen of the Tiles by Hanna Alkaf

Title: Queen of the Tiles
Author: Hanna Alkaf
Genre: YA Contemporary / Mystery / Thriller
Publication Date: April 19th, 2022
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for a complimentary earc to review! All opinions are my own.

CATALYST
13 points
noun: a person or thing that precipitates an event or change

When Najwa Bakri walks into her first Scrabble competition since her best friend’s death, it’s with the intention to heal and move on with her life. Perhaps it wasn’t the best idea to choose the very same competition where said best friend, Trina Low, died. It might be even though Najwa’s trying to change, she’s not ready to give up Trina just yet.

But the same can’t be said for all the other competitors. With Trina, the Scrabble Queen herself, gone, the throne is empty, and her friends are eager to be the next reigning champion. All’s fair in love and Scrabble, but all bets are off when Trina’s formerly inactive Instagram starts posting again, with cryptic messages suggesting that maybe Trina’s death wasn’t as straightforward as everyone thought. And maybe someone at the competition had something to do with it.

As secrets are revealed and the true colors of her friends are shown, it’s up to Najwa to find out who’s behind these mysterious posts—not just to save Trina’s memory, but to save herself.” (Goodreads)

I had been excited for this one ever since I found it while scrolling on Goodreads last year. It sounded very unique since it was based around a scrabble tournament. I can’t say I have ever read a book with scrabble in it. It definitely brought back memories as my grandma would play with me and beat me, haha. She always knew the best words to play. Although there were aspects of this book I liked, there were also times I just needed more from different parts of the book.

The book is told from one point-of-view and it comes from Najwa Bakri. She has been playing in scrabble competitions for awhile now and even got her friend Trina into it too. Things didn’t go so well at the last competition a year ago when her friend mysteriously died and now someone is sending messages from her Instagram. Najwa has her work cut out to solve what is going on as well as keep her head in the game. I liked reading about how she coped with her friend’s death . Najwa is a very strong character even if she doesn’t give herself enough credit.

Because the plot deals with a mystery, there are a lot of suspects. I will say that I didn’t feel much for the other characters because there just wasn’t enough information about them. I didn’t ever really get to know them besides through small conversations which mostly had to do with Trina and the day she died. Najwa definitely had the most development with Trina right behind.

The pacing of the book is what really got to me and had me putting down the book more than picking it up. It does get faster as the book progresses but it’s hard to hang on when the beginning is slow.

Overall, this was good. There are a lot of unique qualities about it like the scrabble competition and the words throughout the book with definitions included. The mystery wasn’t a favorite but I didn’t guess the person until around the reveal so it wasn’t all bad. I think the characters could have used more development but maybe that’s just me. I would definitely give this one a try if you enjoy scrabble or are looking for a light YA mystery.

Arc Review: Dead Girls Can’t Tell Secrets by Chelsea Ichaso

Title: Dead Girls Can’t Tell Secrets
Author: Chelsea Ichaso
Genre: YA Mystery / Thriller / Contemporary
Publication Date: April 5th, 2022
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for a complimentary earc to review! All opinions are my own.

“Piper’s fall was no accident. Did someone want her dead? It’s up to her sister to discover the truth in this shocking new thriller with an unreliable narrator, from the acclaimed author of Little Creeping Things.

Piper Sullivan was in a strange hiking accident last month and has been in a coma ever since. Her older sister, Savannah, can’t pretend to be optimistic about it; things look bad. Piper will likely never wake up, and Savannah will never get any answers about what exactly happened.

But then Savannah finds a note in Piper’s locker, inviting Piper to a meeting of their school’s wilderness club…at the very place and on the very day that she fell. Which means there was a chance that Piper wasn’t alone. Someone might’ve seen something. Worse, someone might’ve done something. But who would want to hurt the perfect Piper Sullivan…and why?

To discover the truth, Savannah joins the club on their weekend-long camping trip on the same mountain where her sister fell. But she better be careful; everyone in the club is a suspect, and everyone seems to be keeping secrets about that tragic day.

And Savannah? She’s been keeping secrets, too…” (Goodreads)

I have read this author’s previous book and even though it wasn’t a favorite, I still liked it enough to give her next book a try. I’m glad I did because I liked this one a whole star more and I would say that’s pretty good!

The book is told mostly from the perspective of Savannah with some chapters from the past from the perspective of her sister, Piper. I liked getting to know Savannah. She has her own issues and it’s easy to see how they started to affect the relationship she had with her sister. Savannah feels like no one sees her and everyone cares too much what her sister is doing. It’s tough having siblings. I have five so it’s hard to feel like you are being seen by your parents.

Although the other characters in the book don’t have as much development. I liked seeing how they interacted with Savannah, especially those who had a falling out with her. Some of them have their own secrets and the author does a good job of keeping the reader hooked because of them. I really had a hard time putting the book down especially because I couldn’t figure out who did it and the fingers are always being pointed at someone.

The plot itself wasn’t entirely original and have read books that are similar but honestly I didn’t mind. Mystery / Thrillers can still be quite thrilling because they always have a set of new characters and you just never know what will happen.

Overall, this was an enjoyable read. Savannah has a lot to work through but I was happy to see her grow close to some of the other characters and realize her own mistakes.

Arc Review: Daughter by Kate McLaughlin

Title: Daughter
Author: Kate McLaughlin
Genre: YA Mystery / Thriller / Contemporary
Publication Date: March 8th, 2022
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Thanks to the publisher for an earc to review! All opinions are my own.

“Scarlet’s life is pretty average. Overly protective mom. Great friends. Cute boy she’s interested in. And a father she’s never known – until she does.

When the FBI show up at Scarlet’s door, she is shocked to learn her father is infamous serial killer Jeffrey Robert Lake. And now, he’s dying and will only give the names and locations of his remaining victims to the one person, the daughter he hasn’t seen since she was a baby.

Scarlet’s mother has tried to protect her from Lake’s horrifying legacy, but there’s no way they can escape the media firestorm that erupts when they come out of hiding. Or the people who blame Scarlet for her father’s choices. When trying to do the right thing puts her life in danger, Scarlet is faced with a choice – go back into hiding or make the world see her as more than a monster’s daughter.

Kate McLaughlin’s Daughter is a novel about trying right deadly choices that were never yours to begin with.” (Goodreads)

I remember really enjoying this author’s book called What Unbreakable Looks Like and am so glad that the publisher sent me an email with early access to her latest! One thing that strikes me about her books are the topics that she decides to write about. They are harsh and can at times be hard to read because of it. It may not be for everyone and with certain topics I like to know beforehand what I am getting myself into when it comes to reading. So, here are the content warnings for this book: the usual when it comes to talk of serial killers, mentioning of necrophilia, and mentioning of rape.

The one thing that intrigued me before starting this book was how the blurb mentioned that the main character was the daughter of a serial killer. I have never read a book with that as a plot. Usually we get everything that is happening as it happens with a confession at the end. What about the aftermath of the events? What about the families that have been torn apart? What about the family who has to live their life in fear of someone retaliating against them for the crimes of someone they knew? This book deals with all of that and tries to start the narrative of bringing more light to the victims instead of the killer.

Scarlet Murphy is your typical teen who parties with her friends and tries to make it through life while having an overbearing parent. I can definitely see teens relating to her on that level. She deals with anxiety and although it was minor I at least liked that it was mentioned. Her relationship with her mom can be strained at times like any parental relationship and obviously fuel is added to the fire when she finds out who her father is. I think that a lot of Scarlet’s actions would be what any teen would do in a tough situation. She seeks parties and friends to help cope with the bad which is the meetings with her father. It definitely takes guts to try to take him on even when he is on his death bed.

Although she is new to the spotlight, her mother and family who she has never met are not. We get to read about dealing with the press and those who are obsessed with killers. Sometimes the incidents can be very intense! This is seen in our own society. There are websites dedicated to serial killers, women who want to marry them, and people who just want to know what it would be like to be them. The fascination of serial killers isn’t a new thing. I do think that with podcasts and YouTube it has become even more widespread than it was years back. I’ve often found myself intrigued by certain killers but obviously not on an unnatural level. It has always bothered me how killers get all of the spotlight, even on their deathbed, while their victims never get near enough. It’s honestly sad. It is one thing that I wish would change about the news or social media. I do like that the author feels the same and Scarlet does try to change the narrative.

I would say that my favorite part of the book was the meetings with her father. The author does a good job of painting him the way that many see Ted Bundy. He was charismatic but also calculated with his behavior. There aren’t very many meetings between them and although I would have liked to see more, I can understand the balance between them and the rest of the story. There has to be some relief to the tense moments.

The book has an interesting beginning and it does become slow as it builds up Scarlet and her life before it changes but I was still hooked and found myself at 56% in one sitting. If it wasn’t for sleep calling my name I would have stayed up to finish.

Overall, this was another fantastic book by this author! I’m so glad I was able to read it ahead of publication so I can share my thoughts. I hope some of you decide to pick it up because I want to talk about with another person, haha.

Arc Review: The Summer We Forgot by Caroline George

Title: The Summer We Forgot
Author: Caroline George
Genre: YA Mystery / Thriller
Publication Date: March 8th, 2022
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐✨

I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Some memories are better left forgotten.

Darby and Morgan haven’t spoken for two years, and their friend group has splintered. But when the body of their former science teacher is found in the marsh where they attended camp that summer, they realize they have more questions than answers . . . and even fewer memories.

No one remembers—or no one is talking.

The group of reunited friends begins to suspect that a murderer is stalking the coastal highway 30A, and they must try to recover their memories as quickly as possible . . . before the history they can’t remember repeats itself.

Everyone has a secret.

As tensions rise and time runs out, Darby and Morgan begin to wonder if they can believe one another . . . or if they can even trust themselves.” (Goodreads)

What drew me into this book was the title and the blurb. How can someone forget a whole summer? My interest was piqued and so I hit that request button. Luckily, I didn’t have to wait long to get approved and here we are with my review!

The book is told from two point-of-views: Darby and Morgan. I thought it was done well and gave us more incite into the mystery as well as the relationship between them. Their relationship was one of the better ones I have read when it comes to YA Mystery/ Thrillers as most just don’t have the history that these two had. I also wasn’t fully invested in them either but I think that just has to do with not fully connecting to the book which I will get to later.

One thing I do like to see in books like this are different formats. This book contains short interviews with the different counselors and detectives. I do think that the book could have been better with more point-of-views since the plot is based around all of the counselors not remembering anything.

The characters are relatable in a lot of ways as one is far from perfect but tries to portray herself in that way. It’s easy to want to live a double life and be who your parents want you to be instead of expressing yourself. I totally get it and have been there in my own teen years.

As for the plot, it was good and did have it’s moments of surprise. I will say that the book took me a bit to get into and I did like the second half more than the first. The reveals for everything was unique and I would have never guessed the outcome. I’m still not even 100% sure if I actually understand everything that went on, haha. It was a lot in a small amount of time! It was one of the more unique plots that I have read from this specific genre.

Besides what I have already written when it comes to dislikes, I’m not really sure where to pinpoint as to why I didn’t like this one fully. It most likely is a me thing for whatever reason and it totally happens to us all with certain books.

Overall, this was good book with surprising twists and a unique plot because of the forgetfulness of that summer. If you are looking for a YA Mystery / Thriller to read, I’d give this one a try!