Review: My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

My Sister, the Serial KillerMy Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

My Sister, the Serial Killer is a unique novella following the perspective of a young woman, Korede, living in Lagos, Nigeria. Korede is a nurse and seems to lead a fairly normal life; she is on the straight and narrow, if you will. ‘Normal’ until you discover that Korede’s younger sister, Ayoola, kills all of her boyfriends and then calls on Korede to help clean up the mess!

“You’re a big sister now, Korede. And big sisters look after little sisters.” Apparently, this is the sentiment that Korede was raised with and now, no matter what her sister does, she feels obligated to PROTECT HER from everything. Protect her?!? The witch is crazy. She shows no remorse or empathy for the things she does. At one point, Korede muses, “I am more haunted by her actions than she is.” Yeah! No kidding!

I did fluctuate throughout the story between feeling bad for Korede for all the bullshit she had to put up with and being angry at her for not standing up to her damn sister. It was like every other chapter, like a seesaw. Ultimately I wish it would have gone a different way. I really was hoping Korede would make more growth as a character and fight back against the treatments and judgments laid on her. This is a novella though, very short, and I just don’t think there was enough time for her character to get there.

Overall, I felt the story was compelling, it definitely kept me interested and was unique. Thank you to the publisher, Doubleday Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I always appreciate the opportunity and I know a lot of people will enjoy this little tale. I look forward to seeing what comes next from Braithwaite. I like her style!

View all my reviews

Review: Winterhouse by Ben Guterson

Winterhouse (Winterhouse, #1)Winterhouse by Ben Guterson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars!!!**

Elizabeth Somers is an orphan being raised by her miserable Aunt and Uncle in the equally miserable town of Drere. Just when Elizabeth thinks things can’t get any worse, her Aunt and Uncle ((…like these people could give the Dursleys a run for their money)) tell her they are shipping her off to the ominous Winterhouse Hotel for three weeks over Christmas Holiday. Are they going with her? No, of course not. They are taking their own, much more glamorous holiday, abroad.

Thus, Elizabeth embarks on the holiday that will change her life forever. Strange events begin occurring to poor Elizabeth before she even sets foot on the Winterhouse property. On the train enroute to the hotel you can tell something is amiss. This book has a wonderful blend of mystery, intrigue, fun and adventure throughout. You follow Elizabeth as she makes new friends, including her new constant companion Freddy who is also spending his holiday sans parental figures, and as she explores the hotel and the many mysteries held within its walls.

The cast of characters in this was one of my favorite elements. You have the two kids, Elizabeth and Freddy, both major word nerds, who develop a very strong friendship rather quickly. You have Norbridge Falls, the eccentric owner of the hotel who spews forth droplets of wisdom onto the children with every turn. ((e.g. “The moment we start feeling better than other people because of our capabilities is the moment we start to lose ourselves.”) And of course, as every good Middle Grade novel should, this story also has a very malevolent set of baddies, the Hiemses, a husband and wife pair that seem to pop up at the most inconvenient times and in the most inconvenient places.

For all of us booknerds, there’s more! There is a library! A library with a very special book hidden on its shelves. The Book. It is when Elizabeth comes across this book that things start to really heat up for her. There is so much here to enjoy: messages hidden in paintings, skeleton keys, codes, orbs of red light, coffins hidden in back bedrooms, long-held family secrets and so much more.

As mentioned before, this story occurs during the Christmas holiday season and I would highly recommend picking up a copy for yourself, or that Middle Grade reader in your life that will be haunting your halls this holiday season looking for something to do because he or she is bored!!

This entertaining little book could be the perfect cure for that! Additionally, the next book in the series is releasing at the end of December so they won’t have long to wait for the sequel!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Henry Holt and Co., for providing me with a copy of this delightful book to read and review. As always, I truly appreciate the opportunity to provide my feedback on a book and I cannot wait to pick up the next book in this series!

View all my reviews

Review: A Study in Charlotte (Charlotte Holmes #1) by Brittany Cavallaro

A Study in Charlotte (Charlotte Holmes, #1)A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When James ‘Jamie’ Watson gets shipped off to boarding school in Connecticut he is sad about leaving his life in London behind. It doesn’t take long however before he is elbows deep in intrigue and thinking nothing about shoddy old London (totally joking on the shoddy part, obviously). You see, Charlotte Holmes, the descendant of the infamous Sherlock Holmes, also attends this very same boarding school. Coincidence? I think not.

Jamie, the descendant of John Watson ((the one who penned those cute little Sherlock tales)), has heard all about Charlotte Holmes and wants nothing more than to get in her good graces. In the flesh, Charlotte is beautiful, edgy and addicted to opiates and he wants to get to know her better. Before long they are seeing one another on a regular basis and Charlotte really seems to be warming up to him. That’s something because she’s not particularly warm with many other human beings.

After a fellow student, one that Charlotte has a very messy history with ((putting this SUPER mildly)), ends up dead and another on the brink of death, Charlotte and Jamie need to work together to prove they are innocent of these crimes. They are being framed and in ways reminiscent of cases the original Sherlock and Holmes investigated.

This was a pretty good story. There was nothing bad about it but it never really reached a level where I was compelled to read it either. I read it, it happened and then it was over and I moved on very quickly. I guess I was hoping for a little more if I am being honest. I’m not sure if I will continue on with the series. I may read the synopsis of the next and some of the reviews to see if anyone like it better than this one. For now, if I had to choose a YA Mystery series to continue with it would be the Stalking Jack the Ripper series over this one, as I just finished the first one in that series in October.

View all my reviews

Review: The Lying Woods by Ashley Elston

The Lying WoodsThe Lying Woods by Ashley Elston
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Lying Woods follows teenage protagonist, Owen Foster, in the aftermath of his Father being exposed as a white-collar criminal. Mr. Foster steals millions of dollars from his company – the largest employer in town – and leaves Owen and his mother behind to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives. People in the town are furious, they believe Owen’s Mom knew what he was doing and they begin threatening her and Owen. Forced to leave his posh private school when they can no longer afford the tuition, Owen returns to his hometown public school where he finds it close to impossible to fit in. A great number of the students come from families directly effected by his Father’s crime. Luckily, Owen is able to rekindle a relationship with his old friend and neighbor, Pippa. Through her guidance, Owen begins to understand the destructive scope of his Dad’s actions.

Angry and confused, Owen vows to learn the truth about what happened. How can the Father he knows and loves actually have done this? He is having a hard time grappling with what seems to be a secret side of his Father’s personality. When he first returns to town, Owen secures a job on a local pecan farm and quickly learns that his Dad once worked there as well and and even lived on the property. The owner for the pecan farm, Gus, was not only his Dad’s employer but also a mentor to him. Owen feels if he sticks around the farm long enough he may be able to piece together his Father’s past; he hopes this will help him to understand the present.

This story reads like a hard-hitting contemporary but there is a strong mystery element that runs throughout. The format was great because you get half of the book from Owen’s present day perspective and the other half from his Dad’s perspective at the time that he worked on the pecan farm and first met Owen’s Mom. You get to see their relationship build and learn about the obstacles they overcame to be together. I liked this structure a lot as I felt it was a very creative way to reveal the truth at the heart of this story.

Elston’s writing is smooth and organic. She is really a fantastic storyteller. You sit down to read a few pages and the next thing you know hours have gone by. I truly felt drawn into these characters and this story and I needed to know how Mr. Foster could have done what they said he did. It seemed so out of character with the person you meet through his own perspective. The major twist in this gave me chills. It was completely unexpected and then everything unraveled to the truth very quickly.

This is a story of first love, redemption, discovering who we really are and what is truly important in our lives. I loved the dual perspectives and also thought it was interesting to explore white-collar crime as a topic in YA. I don’t think I have ever read something like this before. Elston has very quickly become one of my ‘autobuy’ authors and I cannot wait to see what she comes up with next.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Disney-Hyperion, for giving me the opportunity to read this book early and provide my opinion. I cannot wait for more readers to get their hands on this so I can finally discuss it with some of my book buds! This is definitely going on my favorites list for the year.

Original: Starting tonight!!! One of my most anticipated books of the year. I am actually proud of myself for holding off until release month. A feat I frequently FAIL at!

I love how they kept the cover to this along the same vein as This is Our Story even though they are completely unrelated. They’ll still look great next to each other on my shelf!

View all my reviews

Review: Abandoned (Max Revere #5) by Allison Brennan

Abandoned (Max Revere, #5)Abandoned by Allison Brennan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Investigative reporter, Max Revere, sets out to solve the most important cold case of her career in this 5th installment of the Max Revere series. Abandoned by her Mom at the age of 9, Max was left in the care of her very wealthy grandparents. Eventually her Mother stopped sending postcards on Max’s birthday (always belated) and withdrawing from her trust fund; she disappeared without a trace. Now aged 32, and a successful television personality and author, Max is finally ready to uncover the truth behind her Mother’s disappearance.

This is actually the first book I have read in the Max Revere series and I don’t think that diminished my enjoyment for this book at all. You could definitely pick this up as a stand-alone novel if you wanted. After reading this, I am absolutely interested in reading the other books in the series. I loved Max as a character. She was smart, strong, independent and not afraid to make it through life on her own. No matter how dangerous her investigation became she never backed down. She was willing to do whatever it took to get to the truth and I respect that.

Overall, this is a very solid mystery with strong investigatory elements. There were a lot of leads to follow as there is so much going on in this book: family drama, small town secrets, art theft and forgery, con-men/women and more! I usually do enjoy mystery/thrillers where the protagonist is a journalist but this one is especially well done in my opinion. The story leaves off with a lot of changes going on for Max so I definitely think this series will be continuing and this won’t be the last time I read about Max Revere. That’s for darn sure.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Minotaur Books, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. Max is just the kind of protagonist I love so I had a really great time reading this!

View all my reviews

Review: The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

The WonderThe Wonder by Emma Donoghue
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Last night I was discussing Emma Donoghue books with a friend. She had just finished Room and mentioned that although she liked the writing, she had to push herself to get through it. I mentioned that I had only read one of her books, The Wonder. I looked it up on Goodreads, as having finished it in March of this year, I couldn’t recall what I had given it for a star rating and discovered I had not written a review yet!

Since one of my 2018 book goals was to review every book I read, I am here to report a few of my thoughts on this one. The Wonder follows an English nurse, Lib, sent to a rural village in Ireland in the late 1850s to investigate a young girl reported to be living for months without intaking any food. Her family claims she is a living miracle, tourists are flocking to the village to witness this and journalists are covering the case. Lib, highly skeptical from the very beginning works closely with the girl, making sure she is never out from under supervision. What sort of fraud is this? Or is it indeed a miracle?

Some of the writing regarding the Irish people and village was a little off putting but I kept reminding myself this was from the perspective of this nurse, traveling to this location from London, in the 1850s and was probably an accurate portrayal of the ideas/prejudices that someone in her position may have had at this time. I don’t want to say too much more about this aspect of the story, it was just something that annoyed me a wee bit whilst reading.

Overall, I felt this was a compelling and enjoyable read. I would have preferred a bit more mystery and a little faster pace but I did definitely enjoy unraveling this tale.

View all my reviews

Review: An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena

An Unwanted GuestAn Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lapena redeemed!!

An Unwanted Guest is the second book I have read from Shari Lapena. To say I was less than enthusiastic about the first I read, The Couple Next Door, would be to put it kindly. I was left scratching my head as to what people seemed to like so much about it. I have some really great book friends who love her books though so I said I would give her another shot and I am glad that I did. Go me!

I knew going in that this book would be more in my comfort zone being a ‘locked room’-style mystery. Basically, a cast of characters shut in a confined space, bodies start dropping, whodunit? This had the formula of a classic Christie tale: you meet the cast quickly, all in the beginning, none of them are particularly likable, they all check-in to a fabulous, secluded old hotel, interactions begin, someone gets killed and then another and then another…

The setting for this was a family-run hotel where our guests go to escape from the world, reconnect within their relationships and unwind. However, when a powerful ice storm hits and the power is knocked out…oh, and the MURDERS begin, these weekend warriors get much more from their holidays than they initially anticipated.

As I mentioned previously, none of the characters were particularly ‘likable’ in the traditional sense but they were definitely interesting. Everyone seemed to be hiding something and I had absolutely had no idea who the killer was. After ‘hidden information’ was finally revealed all fell into place. I liked it. I really liked it. There was a special little twist at the end that I felt was really fun and satisfying. Overall, I am super glad I gave Lapena another shot and I will definitely pick up more books from her in future!

Original: Alright, alright, alright. Let’s see if Ms. Lapena can redeem herself for me. I wasn’t a huge fan of The Couple Next Door ((to put it mildly)) but have heard good things about this one. ‘Locked room’ mysteries are some of my favorites so I think this could be right in my wheelhouse!

View all my reviews

Review: My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows & Brodi Ashton

My Plain JaneMy Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A rollicking, ‘spirited’ good time! ((see what I did there?))

My Plain Jane is the second novel released by the Lady Janies (Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton & Jodi Meadows). As with their first collaboration, My Plain Jane this book is full of good humor and replete with pop culture references. Dubbed as Jane Eyre meets the Ghostbusters, this story provides a wacky and fun retelling of the classic with lots of supernatural twists! In addition to this, I was picking up a strong Scooby-Doo vibe. There was something about the gang of characters that came together and the style of the antagonist that gave me those feelings. I adore Scooby-Doo so this worked really well for me!

As with the first book, this story follows the perspectives of three main characters: Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre and Alexander Blackwood. Although the characters were fun, I personally didn’t become as invested in them as I did with the characters in My Lady Jane. I am not really sure why. I sort of felt like I didn’t get a chance to know them and their feelings, motivations, etc., as well as in the first one. This may be because there is so much more going on in the action part of the plot in this one. A lot of ghosts and things to follow at Thornfield Hall, London, the Lowood School and everywhere in between!

Although at times it felt a little overdone, overall I think the humorous effect was there and that the varied perspectives of the story wrapped up in a nice, cohesive way. I think the authors are so creative to come up with these twists, it is amusing to think of these classics in a whole new light. Jane Eyre is such a beloved tale though ((one I haven’t read)) that I can see some readers perhaps being sensitive to it being altered in such a huge way. To me, it is all in good fun and to pay homage to such a cherished classic only serves to bring renewed energy towards the original source materials. This is actually the second Jane Eyre retelling I have read this year and I can honestly say, I am much closer to reading it now than ever before.

I had a fun time reading this and felt like it was a great book to read during October! I look forward to seeing what the Lady Janies come up with next!

View all my reviews

Review: The Darkest Star by Jennifer L. Armentrout

The Darkest Star (Origin, #1)The Darkest Star by Jennifer L. Armentrout
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4-happy shining stars**

“We were all dark stars, but Luc…he was the darkest.”

The Darkest Star is the first book in a new YA-series written by Jennifer L. Armentrout. This is a companion/spin-off from her hugely popular Lux series. Hold on to your hats Ladies & Gents because I have a confession to make: I have not read the Lux series!!!

Yes, it’s true. I went into this having never read a Jennifer L. Armentrout book and having no idea what the Luxen were all about. I was most pleasantly surprised! I think it is a testament to Armentrout’s skill as a writer that I never for a moment felt lost or like I was missing anything. If I had not heard of the Lux series prior to starting this, I would have never guessed that there was a prior series. So, if you are like me and have never read the Lux series and you don’t really have time or space on your tbr to fit it in, please don’t let that dissuade you. If the synopsis of this one sounds interesting to you, pick it up, have no fear, you will understand everything. That’s a megs_bookrack guarantee!

This book follows teenager, Evie, as she navigates a lot of disturbing revelations about herself. Early on in the story she meets a handsome stranger, Luc, at the club ((you know how it is)) and one thing leads to another and before you know it they are running from the cops, hiding in a broom closet and then seemingly just a part of each others lives from there on out.

I had a lot of fun watching Evie and Luc’s relationship grow. It was heavy in the hate to love feels and I cherish that when the banter is super witty. Luc is a sexy and successful young man…well, actually he is an Origin ((Origin = the child of a Luxen + mutated human)), who is the baddest badass of all. Side Note: the Luxen are an alien race that cohabits Earth with us after they had to flee their own planet.

Through Evie’s new relationship with Luc a lot gets revealed to her about her own past and who she really is. Pretty much anything she thought was real, wasn’t. Poor Evie really gets through for a loop in this book but she handles it as well as could be expected and her growth is satisfying. I look forward to seeing where the next book goes. I have a few ideas of areas/plot lines that I am hoping will be explored but only time will tell!

I really enjoyed Armentrout’s writing style. I found it was relaxed and had a nice, even flow to it. The pace was good and there was a lot of great, natural humor that I found refreshing. I also picked up on some social commentary on issues such as race, immigration, minority communities, fear-mongering, etc. I was surprised by some of the connections I was able to make from what was happening in the book and what has happened in my own country in recent history. I always appreciate when an author throws in real social issues into a fantastical or magical narrative. It feels like finding Easter Eggs.

Overall, I had a great time reading this book. I was impressed with the writing, I found it very easy to read and follow and I appreciated the fact that Armentrout made the story approachable for both new and veteran readers of her material.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Tor Teen, for providing me with an early copy to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity to jump into this world created by Armentrout and am already excited for the next book in the series!

Original: My October just got more interesting – ARC received!

View all my reviews

Review: The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw

The Wicked DeepThe Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Wicked Deep is by far the most eerily beautiful book I have read in a long, long time. I finished this over a week ago and I have been trying to come up with a way to express how this book made me feel. I still can’t quite put my finger on it but damn, whatever it is, I likey and I want more. This will probably be a story I revisit in October for years to come. I’m like…

This book has received a lot of buzz. In this case, I feel it is well deserved. Going in, I wanted one thing out of it =
ATMOSPHERE.

The author delivered that in spades. Her descriptions of the small seaside town of Sparrow, Oregon, of the island, the weather, the tourists, it was 100% relatable to me. I live on a small island myself, one that is a tourist destination and at times can feel exploited because of that, and I can tell you, I could feel the wind, the mist, the fog, the influx of outsiders – the weight of it – it is palatable and I thought that Ernshaw really brought that feeling to life in this book.

Her writing is enchanting and she uses breathtaking descriptions to weave her tale. It read like a modern day fairytale – full of witches, magic, curses, revenge, mystery, love – it checked all of the boxes for a whimsical narrative. I loved how she gave us insights into the times of the Swan sisters as well. That was a neat little twist I wasn’t expecting. The modern and historical were woven together seamlessly and it gave such depth to the story and the characters.

“Love is an enchantress – devious and wild. It sneaks up behind you, soft and gentle and quiet, just before it slits your throat.”

When love stories are combined with ghost stories, I find them so haunting. One of my favorites for bringing these two elements together is Stephen King’s, Bag of Bones. While they are completely different animals, that one being heavily adult and this one very YA, I feel they both combined those two elements to create a spooky and memorable ghost story. Ones that truly get under your skin and sit there; that make you simultaneously warm and cold. I am actually glad this is going to be adapted as I feel it could translate well into more visual media.

Now, the characters…the characters were great! The present day story mainly follows local girl, Penny Talbot. She lives out on Lumiere Island tending the lighthouse with her mother, who isn’t well. Penny is likable, if a bit aloof, but definitely someone you can get behind and cheer for. When a new guy Bo arrives in town, she ends up giving him a job out on the island helping with the lighthouse and other tasks gone to pot since her father disappeared. I enjoyed her relationship with Bo; watching its evolution felt mysterious; that more was hidden right under the surface. The big reveal for me was bloody fantastic! I did not see it coming. I didn’t, maybe I am an idiot but regardless, I felt it was really well done.

My favorite character, of course, was Marguerite Swan. I got strong Slytherin vibes from her. Described as ‘ vengeful & clever…single-minded in her hatred for the town…’ Yep, I dig that. Getting the perspectives on the Swan sisters, as I mentioned above, was a real treat. This story could have been done without that historical element but I am glad that Ernshaw chose to write it this way. Reading and understanding the motivations for ghosts or spirits haunting a person, place or thing, is not something you see a lot of. I really, really enjoyed it.

Overall, I absolutely adored this story. I cannot praise it enough and will absolutely be reading it again! Cheers~

Original: Take my breath away. ((fans self))

I’m utterly heartsick over how beautiful this book is. The magical atmosphere has delved deep into my bones. I definitely need some time to gather my thoughts on this. An absolutely stunning read.

Full review to come…stay tuned!

View all my reviews