Review: The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas

The CheerleadersThe Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

The Sunnybrook High cheerleading squad was disbanded after five of the squad members ended up dead in rapid succession.

Two lost in a car accident, two murdered by an unhinged neighbor and the last, Jenn, wracked with survivor’s guilt, took her own life.

Five years have passed since those terrible tragedies and now people at the school are hoping to organize a memorial for the girls. Monica, Jenn’s little sister, gets asked to participate.

Monica has never believed that Jenn would commit suicide. The idea of a memorial creates great anxiety for her and she begins to sneak around her Step-Dad’s office, a local police officer, looking for answers.

When she comes across Jenn’s old cell phone in his desk, her suspicions only deepen. Why did he hold onto it?

Along with a new friend from her dance team, Monica begins to unravel a web of clues that indicate perhaps the five deaths were no coincidence, but who would go after the cheerleaders?

I listened to the audiobook for this and really enjoyed it. It’s has a classic mystery feel and was fast paced and compelling.

This was actually my first Kara Thomas, but now I am psyched to get to her other work!

Little Monsters, here I come!

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Review: All the Bad Apples by Moira Fowley-Doyle

All the Bad ApplesAll the Bad Apples by Moïra Fowley-Doyle
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Break the stigma, break the curse.

An absolutely enchanting feminist tale!

I was so enthralled by this story, I could not put it down. As Deena begins to unravel the mysteries of her family tree whilst on a search to find her sister, Mandy, assumed dead, I was completely swept up in their family lore. I wanted to know everything about the Rys family.

Fowley-Doyle seamlessly blended past and present together as the narrative unfolds. The reader takes a front seat as history repeats itself again and again. Women and girls are stripped of their power and choice, made to live false lives. It was heart-wrenching and felt extremely genuine.

At the beginning of the novel, Deena, our teenage protagonist comes out to her family with a mixed reaction. She is a student at a Catholic school and has been raised within a conservative household. She is struggling with her identity and being able to live her truth.

I thought this aspect of the story was so well done, as were all aspects really, but the feelings evoked as Deena questions whether or not she is a ‘nice, normal girl’, were just so powerful. That’s how the story kicks off and as far as gut-punching, hard-hitting topic choices, never lets up.

I loved the format the author chose to slowly reveal the truth at the heart of this tale. I am going to be thinking about this one for a long time to come. I am not going to say anything else in regards to the plot because I think it would best serve the story, and your reading experience, to go into this with as little information as possible.

A story of family, identity, secrets, truth and power, I am still reeling by how much this story has impacted me. Truly stunning.

While this is a fully fictional story, the topics explored within were well researched by the author and are based on true events that happened throughout the course of Ireland’s history. As the author lives in Ireland and is Irish herself, that is where the story is focused, however the issues the girls and women faced are universal.

Please read this book. Please read this book. Please read this book and as always, this includes the Author’s Note at the end. Read that too!!

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Review: Two Can Keep A Secret by Karen M. McManus

Two Can Keep a SecretTwo Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

QUESTION:

Did I just read this book in June?

ANSWER:

Yes.

QUESTION:

Am I heavily considering reading this again in October?

ANSWER:

Yes.

**4.5-stars**

O.M.G.

I don’t think I have ever been that chilled by a final line.
Well played, McManus.

I seriously don’t even feel like I can review this.

Just know, she good and she has hella Autumnal vibes. A great one to pick up this September/October!

Get it on your Spooktober list, y’all.

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Review: The Lovely and the Lost by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

The Lovely and the LostThe Lovely and the Lost by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Cady Bennett found Kira in the forest when she was just a little girl. That’s what Cady does. As a Search and Rescue (SAR) professional she has found countless lost peoples.

When she came across Kira, it was clear she had been on her own in the woods for weeks. Dirty, scared and practically feral, Cady took her in and raised her as her own.

Now in her late teens, Kira has been in training, along with her brother Jude and closest friend, Free, to be a SAR professional herself. Although she still has a hard time trusting others and has a fuse as short as a fingernail, when it comes to tracking lost things, she’s a natural.

When a call comes in about a missing girl back in Cady’s hometown, the whole family, including their trained SAR canine companions, load up and head out to help. They end up staying at the house Cady grew up in, along with her estranged father, Bales, and his companion, Ness.

Cady has not spoken to her father for years and tensions are running high. That paired with the pressure of the search for missing girl, Bella, makes for a ticking time bomb.

The kids begin to discover some long held family secrets and what unfolds answers questions about all of their pasts, including Kira’s which has remained locked in her mind since the day she was found.

I really enjoyed this book. The mystery, the tension, the drama, the high stakes search and rescue, the DOGSSSSSSS!!!!!

The human characters were super enjoyable as well. I loved the themes of found families and loyalty woven throughout. Cady’s son, Jude, is such a precious popsicle, his witty banter made me giggle pretty much nonstop. I also enjoyed Kira so much. The way she connected with the dogs and her strong-willed spirit had me rooting for her the whole way.

In my opinion, this is a great YA mystery/thriller, that can be enjoyed by readers of all ages. It was completely unique, I have never read anything quite like it, and I was really impressed with Jennifer Lynn Barnes writing. She drew me in and had me needing to know what the heck was going on.

I would definitely recommend this book and plan to pick up more of her books. I would also be totally stoked if there was a continuation to this; whether a companion novel, a prequel or a direct sequel. I am so not ready to be done with these characters.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Disney Book Group, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I truly enjoyed it and appreciate the opportunity!

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Review: The Vanishing Stair (Truly Devious #2) by Maureen Johnson

The Vanishing Stair (Truly Devious, #2)The Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

Dear Maureen Johnson,

How dare you?

Truly devious of you to slay me with yet ANOTHER cliffhanger ending!

I had many thoughts whilst reading this, the second installment of the Truly Devious trilogy. There was this:

Followed by this:

Wrapped up like this:

Okay. I still love you but you hurt me.

Kindest Regards,

Meg

Okay, y’all, let’s try an actual review.
That ending!?!?

I really wasn’t expecting that, even though Ms. Johnson has played me like that before.

I was totally invested in this. I loved being back with Stevie and the rest of the cast at Ellingham Academy. We got to meet some new folks and have a few puzzle pieces filled in as far as the Ellingham cold case went.

I really enjoyed that aspect of the story again. Alternating timelines between past and present is an aspect I always seem to enjoy in a story. I feel like it keeps me more engaged than sometimes a single, linear storyline will.

If you enjoyed the first book, I think you will continue to do so with this. Honestly though, I did not love this quite as much as the first book.

I think part of my swooning over book 1 was being new to Ellingham Academy and learning about the place, the history and all of the people. We had less of that excitement in this one, at least for me.

Does this book suffer from the dreaded ‘middle book syndrome’?
Maybe a little.

Calm down.
Not much, just a teeny-tiny bit.

I can tell you that I am completely stoked for the conclusion to this trilogy and will definitely be ordering it to add it to my bookshelves!

Side Note: Really hoping the cover is a nice, deep green.
That would make my Slytherin heart so damn happy.

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Review: What We Buried by Kate A. Boorman

What We BuriedWhat We Buried by Kate A. Boorman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jory and Liv Brewer are as opposite as siblings can get.

The one thing they seem to have in common: horrible parents.

Liv: Paraded through the kiddie pageant circuit by their domineering mother, Liv is known to be spoiled and full of rage. Once followed everywhere by cameras as part of a reality television show, now Liv’s star seems to be dimming.

Jory: Older brother, Jory, has been pushed into the background of the ‘Princess Liv’ show his whole life. Jory suffers from Moebius Syndrome which displays itself outwardly through partial facial paralysis. This makes speech difficult for him and he struggles to be understood. Constantly in the shadow of his sister, Jory has come to resent her and everything her vapid life stands for.

The book begins as the family heads to court. Liv is suing her parents for emancipation and her earnings from beauty contestant days. Estranged from the family, she has been living outside of the home for months.

You quickly come to understand, through their dialogue and recollections, that both Liv and Jory have been traumatized by their unconventional upbringing. Their mother is manipulative and superficial and their father is an emotionally abusive and unavailable drunk.

Over the course of this narrative there is not one fleeting moment of humanity to be found in either parent. Is it any wonder the kids are full of resentment and rage? But what happens when the parents disappear?

Forced to work together to try to figure out where their parents have gone, Jory and Liv undertake a late night road trip into the desert because, honestly, what could go wrong?

I will admit, the first couple of chapters, building up to the road trip, I did not think I was going to like this. The story is told in alternating perspectives between Jory and Liv. They both seemed so negative and angry, I didn’t like them at all but once the road trip started, I couldn’t put it down. Literally, could not stop thinking about it.

Reading like an episode of The Twilight Zone this book played on my anxieties. A dark road, late at night, nothing around, getting lost, not having enough water, etc. It built some serious tension. There were definitely scenes that chilled me to the bone.

I do feel that this book will not necessarily be for everyone. There isn’t a lot of action. We have two characters in a car for most of the book, hashing out their differences and then we have both of them recollecting their childhood. As I got farther and farther in, I really began to connect to the characters. I understood more of where they were coming from and why it drove them to hold such resentments against one another.

I felt real growth with both characters and towards the end I was rooting for them. I had theories on where this was going, it’s an odd little story, but it didn’t end the way I thought it was going to. It played nicely with temporality in a way I found unique.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I would recommend it for people who don’t need to instantly fall in love with every character and who like their stories a bit on the eerie side.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Henry Holt and Co., for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review. I always appreciate an opportunity to read a book early. I look forward to hearing what others readers this of this one!

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Review: Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

Truly Devious (Truly Devious, #1)Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m in love with this book.

First of all, that ending. I cannot express how happy I am that I actually put off reading this until now. The 2nd book is about to be released ((TOMORROW)) and I will be picking it up as soon as my preorder arrives.

It was truly devious of Ms. Johnson to leave off on such a cliffhanger!

Ellingham Academy, set in the remote mountains of Vermont is a small, private school for gifted students. Founded by the wealthy industrialist, Albert Ellingham, at the turn of the 20th Century, Ellingham Academy offers up an environment where learning can be fun. Students are allowed to pursue their own individual interests with barely any boundaries.

For Stevie Bell, her number one interest is crime investigation. After she is accepted to Ellingham as a true crime aficionado, she is anxious to solve the Truly Devious cold case. You see, decades before, Albert Ellingham’s wife and daughter were kidnapped and held for ransom. His wife’s body was eventually found but his daughter, Alice, was never recovered. Soon thereafter, Albert died under mysterious circumstances in a boat explosion.

Adjusting to school life is tough for Stevie. She suffers from an anxiety disorder that makes things a little more challenging for her than it would for a kid who doesn’t have the same issues. I found this very relatable and thought that the rep for this was some of the best I have seen in YA; at least based on my own personal experiences. I truly enjoyed the character of Stevie and am very excited that we are getting more books with her as the main protagonist.

Not only did I relate to Stevie because of her anxiety disorder but I also am most interested in crime and criminal investigation. I know what it is like for people to find that a little odd. Particularly parents. As a child researching and clipping articles on killings, mass murders, cold cases, etc., that can seem a little strange, I suppose. Perhaps that contributed to my love for this book.

I also found the set-up of the Ellingham kidnappings interesting in that in reminded me of the Lindbergh baby kidnapping in 1932. The wealthy industrialist. The missing child. The ransom. The notes. There were a lot of similarities and I found it easy to follow along with the intrigue because of that. I am curious if the author was at all inspired by that case. There are other similarities as well but I don’t want to reveal too much.

Overall, I just think this was a perfect book for me. It catered so well to all of my interests. I loved the cast of characters. The writing was fun and engaging and I cannot wait to pick up The Vanishing Staircase!!!!

Original: I preordered The Vanishing Stair months ago. I guess I should actually pick this one up before it arrives…

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