Review: This is Our Story by Ashley Elston

This Is Our StoryThis Is Our Story by Ashley Elston
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Every town seems to have that group of kids who can get away with anything. Inexplicably, no matter what they do, nothing seems to stick to them. In Kate Marino’s town, that is the ‘River Point Boys’, prep school hot shots who host the wildest parties and seem to have their hands in every cookie jar. But can they really get away with everything? Even murder?

After an all night party where a lot of grievances were aired, the River Point Boys decide to go hunting. On no sleep and still a little drunk and high, this seems an excellent idea. Grant, Henry, Shep, John Michael and Logan walk into the woods that day…only 4 walk out. No one is talking. They didn’t see anything. They don’t know who did it. This is THEIR story.

Under the suspicion of murder, the remaining boys are forced to leave their cushy prep school and head off to ((GASP)) public school!

Our protagonist, Kate Marino, is a high school senior, an avid photographer and an intern at the local DA’s office. Brought in to help the DA prep the case, Kate is more involved than anyone knows. She knew the victim. They had a relationship via text for some time prior to his death. Kate throws herself into her work, hoping to find justice for the slain boy. However, not all is as it appears and before she knows it, Kate is hit with a truth bomb that the boy she thought she knew…isn’t really the boy she thought she knew.

Elston’s writing is top notch in this genre. A solid YA Mystery that keeps you guessing until the very end. I loved the pace of this and the investigatory elements woven throughout. Kate was likable and relatable and I was definitely rooting for her the whole way through. I am trash for Elston’s writing at this point and cannot wait to see what she puts out next. If you haven’t read this book yet, please pick it up. It is perfect for this time of year. Highly recommend for YA mystery fans!

Original: SWOON

I love Ashley Elston’s writing soooo much. Does she have a to-do list I could buy? ‘Cause I would buy that, for real! Full review to come tomorrow…stay tuned!

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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Review: Shiver (The Wolves of Mercy Falls #1) by Maggie Stiefvater

Shiver (The Wolves of Mercy Falls, #1)Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5-stars!!!

Ahhhh, young love. Isn’t it grand? You know the story, the tale as old as time: girl meets wolf, wolf and girl fall in love, angsty things happen…wait, is that not how the story usually goes?

This story follows two perspectives, Grace, a girl low-key obsessed with the wolves in the woods behind her house, and Sam, a werewolf. Sam has golden eyes and beautiful fur that Grace is instantly drawn too because…gold.

Seriously though, this is a love story between a girl and the werewolf who once saved her life. It was full of teenage drama and I must admit that had 14-to-20 year-old Meg read this book she would have been swooning from now till next year, honey! Needless to say, old Meg, not as thoroughly blown away by the plot.

The first half was difficult for me. More romance than an actual plot. Once I got towards the middle however I felt myself getting sucked into this bizarre storyline in an oddly addictive way…

Then finally, at the end, I’m like, Thank all that is holy that I have the entire series!!! Yep. You read that right, I am now officially a sucker for teenage werewolf love and I am not even upset about it. I am sure the fact that Maggie Stiefvater happens to be a truly good writer definitely aides along my new found addiction. So, thank you Ms. Stiefvater, for that!

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Review: Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

Stalking Jack the Ripper (Stalking Jack the Ripper, #1)Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Stalking Jack the Ripper is the first book in the series of the same name featuring young protagonist Audrey Rose Wadsworth and her charming friend, Thomas Cresswell. Audrey Rose is a great character, although at times a little flat, I liked the idea behind her. A young lady who doesn’t buckle under the pressures of conventional society. Audrey Rose wants to use her mind and more specifically, she wants to use it to study forensic medicine and thusly, crime.

She apprentices with her Uncle, which she has to keep secret from her father and the rest of the world. Her Uncle, who happens to be a forensic scientist, teaches at a local college and advises the local law enforcement on crimes. When the Jack the Ripper killings begin the bodies are brought to her Uncle’s laboratory to be studied and due to that, Audrey Rose becomes interested and tangentially involved with the case. It is during this early stage of the investigation that she first meets Thomas and a sort of hate-to-love relationship begins – one of my favorite YA-tropes. The banter between them is really sweet and Thomas stole my heart as well along the way!

The setting is Victorian London, one of my favorite settings, but for me this didn’t really feel that way. I felt like it could have been set anywhere. The atmosphere wasn’t as rich as I hoped it would be and that is my only real gripe with this book. Well that and the fact that I thought certain sections dragged a bit or were slightly unnecessary.

Overall, I thought the mystery was fun and I liked the risky situations that Audrey Rose put herself in. I definitely plan to continue on with the series. In fact, the last page of this book probably bumped my star rating a half star. I loved how it leaves you off in the perfect spot to have you strongly anticipating the second book. The next book features the legend of Dracula so, totally my aesthetic!

Original: FINALLY getting to this one which I bought when it was a new release a million years ago. This is my first book I am trying to complete for
Spookathon
which will meet challenge #3 to ‘read a book not set in our time period’. Victorian London is my aesthetic and forensic science, yes please! This should be a good one for me!

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Review: Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl

Neverworld WakeNeverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

…time for you has become snagged on a splinter, forming a closed-circuited potentiality called a Neverworld Wake.

Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl is a YA science-fiction novel that incorporates the idea of a time loop to tell the story. If this doesn’t sound like something you would be into…probably should avoid this one. If however, you are like me, and live for this type of story, definitely pick it up!

This story follows our main girl, Beatrice ‘Bea’ Hartley, as she goes to her estranged friend Whitley’s seaside mansion, Wincroft, to try to get answers regarding the mysterious death of her boyfriend, Jim. Basically, Bea and Whitley were part of a super tight friend group at their private school, Darrow, which was comprised of them, Jim, Kipling, Cannon and Martha. After Jim’s death, ruled a suicide (which Bea never believed), Bea separated herself from the rest of the group as she struggled to overcome her grief.

Once she arrives at Wincroft for their ill-fated reunion, the group (all in attendance, of course) pretty much accepts her back with good grace, as friends tend to do and they whisk her out for a night of clubbing. As we all know, nights out at the club can end dramatically and this one definitely did.

Once they finally drag themselves back to the mansion shit starts to get real freaky, real quick. A knock at the door. A mysterious creepy old dude. The rules of the Neverworld Wake are explained to them and it’s off to the races. Bea never gives up her quest to discover what really happened to Jim and that is where the rest of the narrative takes us. The group investigating and uncovering what truly happened to Jim. Secrets and deceptions are revealed as we race towards the finale.

Guys, I loved this book. I loved the mystery. I loved the sci-fi elements – anything relating to the concept of time I am down for. I loved the dynamics among the friends. I loved the characters. This group of kids were the golden children of their school. They were all so smart and ambitious. I got real Slytherin vibes from this. If you are a Slytherin and are looking for book recs, I definitely think this would qualify.

This is my second Marisha Pessl book. I love her and will basically read anything she writes. Anything. Got one of her discarded grocery lists? I’ll read that.

Initial Reaction: We are all anthologies. We are each thousands of pages long, filled with fairy tales and poetry, mysteries and tragedy, forgotten stories in the back no one will read.

I loved this. Full review to come…stay tuned!

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Review: Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne

Brightly BurningBrightly Burning by Alexa Donne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


CONFESSION TIME:

I have never read Jane Eyre.

I know, I know. Put your pitchforks down….
How can I possibly rate a Jane Eyre retelling without having read the original source material? Well, I am going to rely on my very light JE knowledge from the multiple adaptations that I have viewed. My favorite being the one with Mia Wasikowska – I mean, that girl can act, am I right?

Anyway, moving on…this book, Brightly Burning, is a standalone YA science fiction story that retells the story of Jane Eyre but in SPACE. Quite frankly, that is what sold me. I will literally read anything if you tell me it is ‘set in space’. In this version, our Jane is played by Stella Ainsley. She is an engineer and part-time teacher on a decrepit spaceship called the Stalwart. Stella longs for a different life, one that will take her far away from the failing Stalwart. She begins applying for jobs on other ships; the only real way you can transfer among ships in this fleet that are basically assigned based on social class. To her complete surprise she ends up being offered a position as a governess aboard a private ship called…wait for it…the Rochester.

It doesn’t take long after Stella boards the Rochester before she begins to suspect that something sinister may be going on aboard this ship. Strange occurrences, things going bump in the night, inexplicable laughter in the halls…you get the gist. As Stella grows closer to the other people aboard the Rochester, most importantly, the Captain, Hugo Fairfax (also the owner of the ship), she begins to piece together the strange history of the ship and the Fairfax family. Along the way Stella and Hugo’s relationship begins to go way past employer and employee…sparks fly, etc., etc.

That is all I will say on the plot as I don’t want to reveal too much. There were many connections to the original Jane Eyre story – I feel in a way that payed a nice homage to the original text without being ‘copycat’ in its styling. I really loved the setting and I think any YA science-fiction fan could appreciate it. I thought the ships and fleet in general were well constructed. For me the pace of the story was great. I was never bored and I really liked Stella. I understand from reading other reviews that not everyone was a fan of Stella, but for me, I really liked her. I felt I could relate to her – I mean, she is a major book nerd and isn’t one to cow to what society may expect of her; I felt I understood her motivations.

That last maybe 20% felt a little rushed to me and a bit of the science on that end didn’t make sense – it wouldn’t have been possible for the events to occur as quickly as they did but it is a fictional story so I’m not going to go too crazy about that. It definitely didn’t effect my rating at all, I just had a good giggle about it. I can’t really go into what I mean because it would completely spoil the end. I was really happy with it though when I finished. I think it came to a nice conclusion and was a good way to end a standalone novel. I would definitely read more books by Alexa Donne and look forward to seeing what she comes up with next!

Original: I’m very happy with this but it is late and I must sleep. Full review to come…stay tuned!

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