Arc Review: Nine Liars (Truly Devious #5) by Maureen Johnson

Title: Nine Liars (Truly Devious #5)
Author: Maureen Johnson
Genre: YA Contemporary / Mystery
Publication Date: December 27th, 2022
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Rating: ⭐⭐

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

“Senior year at Ellingham Academy for Stevie Bell isn’t going well. Her boyfriend, David, is studying in London. Her friends are obsessed with college applications. With the cold case of the century solved, Stevie is adrift. There is nothing to distract her from the questions pinging around her brain—questions about college, love, and life in general.
Relief comes when David invites Stevie and her friends to join him for study abroad, and his new friend Izzy introduces her to a double-murder cold case. In 1995, nine friends from Cambridge University went to a country house and played a drunken game of hide-and-seek. Two were found in the woodshed the next day, murdered with an ax.
The case was assumed to be a burglary gone wrong, but one of the remaining seven saw something she can’t explain. This was no break-in. Someone’s lying about what happened in the woodshed.
Seven suspects. Two murders. One killer still playing a deadly game.” (Goodreads)

To say this one hurts to write would be an understatement. I’m just not convinced that these were the same characters and this fits into the Truly Devious series. After loving the other books I am just utterly disappointed.

The book is told through dual timelines and multiple point-of-views. The present time point-of-view comes from Stevie Bell who is off on another mystery once again, although it takes quite a bit to get there. I can’t say that I was invested in the story until around the 60% mark and even then the ending was just not it. I’m actually very upset about it lol. I think that this book tried to do too much and because of that the mystery wasn’t as exciting because nothing really happens with it until too close to the ending and even then it is so lackluster! It just doesn’t feel like the same series.

I felt more irritated with these characters than I ever have before. I hadn’t once had a problem with David or Stevie, but they were both kind of selfish and it wasn’t a vibe. All I have to say about David is that he was fine, a bit bland, but then we get to the ending and he is a dillweed. I don’t like him and I never will. Stevie was too caught up in her relationship to care about her future and when she wasn’t obsessing about that she was on the case for the mystery and lying to her friends. I can see the correlation between her friend group and the nine so I guess at least there was that. 🤷‍♀️

I also felt like this book was trying to be more upper YA and it made the book have a different vibe. I think this point correlates with Stevie’s relationship having more page time and it’s also associated with the friend group the nine. Sex is mentioned quite a lot and it just wasn’t my cup of tea, especially when I am here for a mystery.

Overall, it was okay at times but honestly ended up not being a book I liked. I’m going to be disappointed for quite some time…


Audiobook Review: The Hawthorne Legacy (The Inheritance Game #2) by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Title: The Hawthorne Legacy (The Inheritance Game #2)
Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Genre: YA Mystery / Contemporary
Publication Date: September 7th, 2021
Publisher: Penguin
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Inheritance Games ended with a bombshell, and now heiress Avery Grambs has to pick up the pieces and find the man who might hold the answers to all of her questions – including why Tobias Hawthorne left his entire fortune to Avery, a virtual stranger, rather than to his own daughters or grandsons.
Thanks to a DNA test, Avery knows that she’s not a Hawthorne by blood, but clues pile up hinting at a deeper connection to the family than she had ever imagined. As the mystery grows and the plot thickens, Grayson and Jameson, the enigmatic and magnetic Hawthorne grandsons, continue to pull Avery in different directions. And there are threats lurking around every corner, as adversaries emerge who will stop at nothing to see Avery out of the picture – by any means necessary.” (Goodreads)

After the cliffhanger of the first book I knew I wanted to pick up the sequel, even if I didn’t completely mesh with it. What can I say? I’m always ready for a second chance, lol.

I am actually surprised that I enjoyed this one a lot more. It felt like it had more thrilling and suspenseful moments. I also liked the characters more since all of the introductions were out of the way and I was able to understand them more and their crazy behavior. The Hawthorne’s never disappoint when it comes to theatrics. I guess that is why it is hard to resist them!

There was one thing I didn’t like about Avery and that was the fact she would barge in and make horrible decisions that could put her life in danger. She also was terrible at keeping her mouth quiet about secrets. You can’t trust a Hawthorne, but you can’t trust her with any hot gossip.

I’m not even fully sure where I stand when it comes to the love triangle. I guess it doesn’t really matter to me because I still feel like the romance is a bit rushed but I’m just going with the flow at this point.

Overall, this was a good read and I am still enjoying the audiobooks. It’s quite addictive when listening to.

Audiobook Review: The Inheritance Game by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Title: The Inheritance Game
Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Genre: YA Mystery/ Thriller
Publication Date: September 1st, 2020
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Rating: ⭐⭐✨

“Avery Grambs has a plan for a better future: survive high school, win a scholarship, and get out. But her fortunes change in an instant when billionaire Tobias Hawthorne dies and leaves Avery virtually his entire fortune. The catch? Avery has no idea why–or even who Tobias Hawthorne is. To receive her inheritance, Avery must move into sprawling, secret passage-filled Hawthorne House, where every room bears the old man’s touch–and his love of puzzles, riddles, and codes.

Unfortunately for Avery, Hawthorne House is also occupied by the family that Tobias Hawthorne just dispossessed. This includes the four Hawthorne grandsons: dangerous, magnetic, brilliant boys who grew up with every expectation that one day, they would inherit billions. Heir apparent Grayson Hawthorne is convinced that Avery must be a con-woman, and he’s determined to take her down. His brother, Jameson, views her as their grandfather’s last hurrah: a twisted riddle, a puzzle to be solved. Caught in a world of wealth and privilege, with danger around every turn, Avery will have to play the game herself just to survive.” (Goodreads)

I’ve seen this series around a lot and finally decided to give it a chance. I’m not going to lie, the hype kind of killed it a bit for me because I thought it would be a bit different and have more action/suspense. To me, it just felt bland for the most part with more focus on how she felt about the Hawthorne boys. There were still decent parts, especially the cliffhanger at the end!

The book is told from the perspective of Avery Grambs. She definitely has come into a new life after a will reading and things only get more weird as her life continues on after the big news. It was interesting to see how she handled her new situation, especially when it came to the Hawthornes. They are quite the family! Avery had the most character development but I also felt like the book is more plot driven than anything so some of the characters just felt one dimensional.

The plot was slow in a lot of areas and I wish there was more suspense or things that felt high stake. The ending definitely gave that and hopefully the sequel will give me more of what I want since everything has already been explained.

I really did like the narration of the story and loved the accents for some of the Hawthornes. It was easy to tell the characters apart.

Overall, it was okay and a bit better at times. Even though I felt that way I would still go on to the sequel to see if it picks up for me.

Arc Review: Very Bad People by Kit Frick

Title: Very Bad People
Author: Kit Frick
Genre: YA Mystery / Thriller
Publication Date: April 5th, 2022
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Rating: ⭐⭐✨

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

“Six years ago, Calliope Bolan’s mother drove the family van into a lake with her three daughters inside. The girls escaped, but their mother drowned, and the truth behind the “accident” remains a mystery Calliope is determined to solve. Now sixteen, she transfers to Tipton Academy, the same elite boarding school her mother once attended. Tipton promises a peek into the past and a host of new opportunities—including a coveted invitation to join Haunt and Rail, an exclusive secret society that looms over campus like a legend.

Calliope accepts, stepping into the exhilarating world of the “ghosts,” a society of revolutionaries fighting for social justice. But when Haunt and Rail commits to exposing a dangerous person on campus, it becomes clear that some ghosts define justice differently than others.

As the society’s tactics escalate, Calliope uncovers a possible link between Haunt and Rail and her mother’s deadly crash. Now, she must question what lengths the society might go to in order to see a victory—and if the secret behind her mother’s death could be buried here at Tipton.” (Goodreads)

I was really looking forward to this one after seeing it was from the same author who wrote I Killed Zoe Spanos. I am always down for more YA Mystery / Thrillers as well! Unfortunately, this one just left me with more questions than I had started with and I’m still not sure how I really feel about it.

The book is told from one point-of-view and it comes from Calliope. Her family has a past and it is one reason why she decides to switch schools. It gets her out of the spotlight while bringing her one step closer to her mother who died in an accident, or so they say. I did like how close she was to her family but it also wasn’t the focal point of the story, although I wish it was. Since she is after a different school and different town it’s hard for them to have interactions and when they do it isn’t always pleasant. I guess that would be considered normal sibling things, lol. Calliope deals with a lot of hard topics and makes choices that could be considered questionable but given the context a few do make sense.

Most of the characters felt like they were there to keep the plot going and nothing else. There is a relationship between Calliope and another character but it moved rather quickly and then burned out due to circumstances.

There are a lot of heavy topics covered in the book and I think they were fine. They weren’t too detailed and kept the book going for the thrill factor, although I just wasn’t as thrilled as I wanted to be. The plot twists, especially one, were a bit over the top and reminded me of As Good As Dead by Holly Jackson, but not in a good way since I didn’t like where that book went. At least Calliope had more morals? Or at least I hope but since it was an open-ending I can’t say for sure what happened.

Because there is a lot of topics discussed, it doesn’t leave much room for the bigger ones and at times it felt like the plot points would never connect. They eventually do but it didn’t leave me gasping.

Overall, this was okay. There were times that I was intrigued, like the beginning and closer to the end, but it didn’t give me that wow factor I was looking for.

Book Review: League of Liars by Astrid Scholte

Title: League of Liars
Author: Astrid Scholte
Genre: YA Fantasy / Mystery
Publication Date: February 22nd, 2022
Publisher: Putnam
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

“Ever since his mother was killed, seventeen-year-old Cayder Broduck has had one goal–to see illegal users of magic brought to justice. People who carelessly use extradimensional magic for their own self-interest, without a care to the damage it does to society or those around them, deserve to be punished as far as Cayder is concerned. Because magic always has a price. So when Cayder lands a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to apprentice under a premier public defender, he takes it. If he can learn all the tricks of public defense, the better he’ll be able to dismantle defense arguments when he’s a prosecutor. Then he’ll finally be able to make sure justice is served.

But when he meets the three criminals he’s supposed to defend, it no longer seems so black and white. They’re teenagers, like him, and their stories are . . . complicated, like his. Vardean, the prison where Cayder’s new clients are incarcerated, also happens to be at the very heart of the horrible tear in the veil between their world and another dimension–where all magic comes from.” (Goodreads)

I have read every book this author has put out so far. My favorite has been Four Dead Queens with the least being The Vanishing Deep. I would say that this latest book falls in between. There were some decent things about it but there were definitely moments I wanted to throw my kindle, mostly because of that ending. If there isn’t a sequel, that is just a cruel way to end a book.

The book is told from four point-of-views: Cayder, Leta, Jey, and Elenora. Each one has an interesting story to tell as to why they are in Vardean. It was cool to see how each plot point flowed with the other as the story went along. I wouldn’t say I had a favorite character as they all kind of made dumb mistakes and there isn’t much development to go off of. I would say that this book is more plot-driven. I don’t mind books that are that way but it just means that it is harder for me to connect with the characters. They at least do some wild things, especially Jey!

There is a hint of romance between the characters but it just felt forced to add to the plot points connecting. Romance or relationships are the one thing that I haven’t much liked in this author’s books. They are very instant.

I would say that the best part of the book was the plot. I did find enjoyment out of it but it also felt very lacking in the beginning with all of the action majorly happening within the last 15%. I was curious as to how this would end with so little time and lo and behold, huge cliffhanger with no indication of a sequel. I did try to find information and only saw that the author on Instagram had stated that she doesn’t have any news to share about it and that people should share it so that she can continue to write in this world. Yay for being vague!

I thought the magic system was interesting and I definitely would like to know more about edem and the Regency. Hopefully we will get another book.

Overall, this was pretty good. I did like the plot and didn’t really dislike anything besides the relationships and the cruel ending. If you are interested in reading this one I would hold off until a sequel is confirmed, lol.

Goodreads Monday: It Will End Like This by Kyra Leigh (10/18/21)

Hello Readers!

Goodreads Monday is hosted by Lauren’s Page Turners. To participate, choose a random book from your TBR and show it off.

Title: It Will End Like This
Author: Kyra Leigh
Genre: YA Mystery / Thriller
Publication Date: January 4th, 2022
Publisher: Delacorte Press

For fans of The Cheerleaders and Sadie comes a psychological thriller that reminds us that in real life, endings are rarely as neat as happily ever after. A contemporay take on the Lizzie Borden story that explores how grief can cut deep.

Charlotte lost her mother six months ago, and still no one will tell her exactly what happened the day she mysteriously died. They say her heart stopped, but Charlotte knows deep down that there’s more to the story.

The only person who gets it is Charlotte’s sister, Maddi. Maddi agrees—people’s hearts don’t just stop. There are too many questions left unanswered for the girls to move on.

But their father is moving on. With their mother’s personal assistant. And both girls are sure that she’s determined to take everything that’s theirs away for herself.

Now the only way to get their lives back is for Charlotte and Maddi to decide how this story ends, themselves.” (Goodreads)

I didn’t know about this one until it was put up on Netgalley. They had me at Sadie and The Cheerleaders. I loved those books so I have high hopes for this one!

Does this one sound like something you would read?

Find me on Instagram / Goodreads

-Joanna TheGeekishBrunette (1)

Book Review: The Forest of Stolen Girls by June Hur

Title: The Forest of Stolen Girls
Author: June Hur
Genre: YA Historical Fiction / Mystery
Publication Date: April 20th, 2021
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

“Suspenseful and richly atmospheric, June Hur’s The Forest of Stolen Girls is a haunting historical mystery sure to keep readers guessing until the last page.

1426, Joseon (Korea). Hwani’s family has never been the same since she and her younger sister went missing and were later found unconscious in the forest near a gruesome crime scene.

Years later, Detective Min—Hwani’s father—learns that thirteen girls have recently disappeared from the same forest that nearly stole his daughters. He travels to their hometown on the island of Jeju to investigate… only to vanish as well.

Determined to find her father and solve the case that tore their family apart, Hwani returns home to pick up the trail. As she digs into the secrets of the small village—and collides with her now estranged sister, Maewol—Hwani comes to realize that the answer could lie within her own buried memories of what happened in the forest all those years ago.” (Goodreads)

After enjoying this author’s debut last year I knew I needed to read this one. I love that she writes about historical events that aren’t talked about often or well known. It teaches me new things especially because she adds notes at the end to give us more information about the topic she included.

Although there is a couple mysteries to be solved, this book is also about the sibling relationship between Hwani and Maewol. They have lived apart for quite a few years and have taken on different roles and of course, have different personalities. I liked how through it all they still managed to cling to one another. Sibling relationships are just the best and I love to read about them.

As for the mysteries, both of them blended together nicely to form one big mystery. I liked learning about each character and trying to figure out why the girls went missing and who would do it. They also had to try and figure out what happened to their father as well. It got pretty intense at times and I found myself having a hard time putting the book down. Not every character is who they seem to be!

Overall, this was another enjoyable book from this author. I am looking forward to the next book which already had a title and a cover. It looks amazing!

Arc Review: The Ones We’re Meant to Find by Joan He

Title: The Ones We’re Meant to Find
Author: Joan He
Genre: YA Sci-fi / Dystopian / Mystery
Publication Date: May 4th, 2021
Publisher: Roaring Brook
Rating: 2 stars

Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for an earc to read in exchange for a review.

One of the most twisty, surprising, engaging page-turner YAs you’ll read this year—We Were Liars with sci-fi scope, Lost with a satisfying resolution.

Cee awoke on an abandoned island three years ago. With no idea of how she was marooned, she only has a rickety house, an old android, and a single memory: she has a sister, and Cee needs to find her.

STEM prodigy Kasey wants escape from the science and home she once trusted. The eco-city—Earth’s last unpolluted place—is meant to be sanctuary for those committed to planetary protection, but it’s populated by people willing to do anything for refuge, even lie. Now, she’ll have to decide if she’s ready to use science to help humanity, even though it failed the people who mattered most.” (Goodreads)

I will preface this by saying that if it wasn’t for this being an arc I would have dnfed it around 25%.

I haven’t read a book by this author before so I can’t compare this book to her other. For me, her writing style isn’t for me. It felt very fragmented and not enjoyable to read. This made it harder for me to get into the book and unfortunately, that never happened.

Another issue I had with this book is that the world-building or the way things were explained could be very confusing. I would have to reread sentences a few times to try and understand. It would also happen where something was said and I would think it meant one thing but then it would be further explained that what I thought that thing was actually wasn’t what that thing was. Maybe this is just a me thing. 🤷‍♀️

The plot deals with a lot of futuristic aspects such as what happens when climate change has changed the earth and everyone lives in ecocities, unless you have a low ranking then you are screwed. I do wish that there was more talk about the ecocities or even the way those still on land survived. Some parts of the plot and world-building just felt glossed over.

When it came to the characters, the book is told in the perspective of two who are sisters: Kasey and Cee. I definitely preferred Cee’s point-of-view over Kasey’s as Cee felt more emotional about things where as Kasey’s point-of-view felt bogged down by all of the technical stuff. Because of that, I just didn’t care for her and felt her emotions to be lacking as well.

There are other characters but honestly I didn’t care for any of them. I also never felt attached to either of the sisters. One was just more entertaining to read.

I think my big issue with this book is that I didn’t feel anything because the more emotional part of the plot was bogged down by everything else. It is an interesting setting and idea but to me it just wasn’t executed right.

Overall, this book wasn’t for me and that’s okay. I still love the cover and I am sure others will like this book.

E-Arc Review: Pride and Premeditation by Tirzah Price

Title: Pride and Premeditation (Jane Austen Murder Mystery #1)
Author: Tirzah Price
Genre: YA Historican Fiction / Mystery / Retellings
Publication Date: April 6th, 2021
Publisher: HarperTeen
Rating: ⭐⭐

Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for an earc to read in exchange for a review!

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a young woman who desires a law career must be in want of a case. So when seventeen-year-old Lizzie Bennet hears about a scandalous society murder, she sees an opportunity to prove herself as a solicitor by solving the case and ensuring justice is served.

Except the man accused of the crime already has a lawyer on his side: Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, the stern young heir to the prestigious Pemberley Associates law firm. Lizzie is determined to solve the murder before Darcy can so that she can show the world that a woman can be just as good as a man. (The fact that Darcy is an infuriating snob doesn’t help.) But there’s still a killer on the loose, and as the case gets more complicated, Lizzie and Darcy may have to start working together to avoid becoming the next victims themselves.” (Goodreads)

When it comes to retellings, they can be a hit or miss. I wanted to try this one out because I love the cover, it’s P & P, and who doesn’t love a good mystery? Sadly, this one just missed the mark for me.

When it comes to the retelling aspect, it is very loose. The characters do tend to be a bit, or more depending on the character, different than their counterparts and I could name a couple but don’t want to include spoilers. Some characters, Lizzie’s sisters, are just background characters and don’t have much going for them like they did in the original. I will give credit to the author for thinking outside of the box though.

The romance just wasn’t there for me. There were only a few times up to 70% through that Darcy and Lizzie had anything to do with each other. 30% just isn’t enough time to make me believe in them being together. As someone who has read the original, this one was just lackluster.

As for the murder mystery, it also was a bit of a letdown. It’s more of a light mystery and I wouldn’t say anything ever thrilled me about it. It does take up a lot of the plot which is probably why the romance lacked. I also didn’t get certain parts of it but maybe that’s just me.

Overall, it was okay but just not for me. I can see this doing well for those who haven’t read the original or have and can see past it. It’s just hard for me to separate the two.

E-Arc Review: The Initial Insult by Mindy McGinnis

Title: The Initial Insult
Author: Mindy McGinnis
Genre: YA Mystery / Retelling / Thriller
Publication Date: February 23rd, 2021
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Rating: ⭐⭐

Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for an earc to read in exchange for a review!

Welcome to Amontillado, Ohio, where your last name is worth more than money, and secrets can be kept… for a price.

Tress Montor knows that her family used to mean something—until she didn’t have a family anymore. When her parents disappeared seven years ago while driving her best friend home, Tress lost everything. She might still be a Montor, but the entire town shuns her now that she lives with her drunken, one-eyed grandfather at what locals refer to as the “White Trash Zoo,” – a wild animal attraction featuring a zebra, a chimpanzee, and a panther, among other things.

Felicity Turnado has it all – looks, money, and a secret that she’s kept hidden. She knows that one misstep could send her tumbling from the top of the social ladder, and she’s worked hard to make everyone forget that she was with the Montors the night they disappeared. Felicity has buried what she knows so deeply that she can’t even remember what it is… only that she can’t look at Tress without having a panic attack.

But she’ll have to.

Tress has a plan. A Halloween costume party at an abandoned house provides the ideal situation for Tress to pry the truth from Felicity – brick by brick – as she slowly seals her former best friend into a coal chute. With a drunken party above them, and a loose panther on the prowl, Tress will have her answers – or settle for revenge.

In the first book of this duology, award-winning author Mindy McGinnis draws inspiration from Edgar Allan Poe and masterfully delivers a dark, propulsive mystery in alternating points of view that unravels a friendship . . . forevermore.(Goodreads)

I’m not even sure where to start with this review. It is a strange book and not what I was expecting but that could be why it also missed the mark for me.

The book is labeled as mystery/thriller and even though it has a bit of those elements, it wasn’t enough to convince me that this is what the book is.

A majority of the book is spent in the past going over why Tress and Felicity are no longer friends while also fleshing out what they have been going through in their own lives apart. Each girl gets her own point-of-view. There is also a point-of-view for the panther which didn’t make any sense to me.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy a good book about friendship and the hardships of it, but I wasn’t expecting it to take up much of the book. The parts that deal with Tress’s parents disappearing are minimal and is solved for the reader by the end but not Tress who is still wondering which is why the book ends on a cliffhanger and sets it up for the next book. Even though this is the case, I find myself not interested in the next book as this one just didn’t mesh well with me.

There are other characters that are mentioned and some get more page time than others. I can’t say I ever liked any because most were very minimal. I will say that the scenes with Ribbit were quite uncomfortable to read. I’m not sure if they were meant to be funny or to help with the plot.

I am also not sure why most books I have been reading have animals dying but I’m tired of it. Two dogs in this one and it had my stomach rolling. I get things happen but I don’t want to read about it even when it involves wild animals and it’s part of the animal kingdom.

When it comes to the retelling aspect, I think I have read that particular Poe story once and it has been some time so I can’t really comment on it.

Overall, it was okay. It wasn’t what I was expecting and it just didn’t work for me.