Three Truths and a Lie by Brent Hartinger

Quick read with a great twist!

Thanks to NetGalley and Simon Pulse for the arc of Three Truths and a Lie by Brent Hartinger! This suspenseful mystery thriller involves four friends who go away for the weekend. Rob, Liam, Galen and Mia all go to Mia’s family cabin in logging territory. They play the game Three Truths and a Lie and after that, strange things start to happen and they wonder if someone wants to cause them harm. The suspense builds and the mystery stays unsolved. The story winds itself around to the beginning of the weekend and all is explained. This book contains some explicit sex, just to be warned, but is psychologically twisted and maddeningly interesting and a wonderful mystery thriller read!

Second reading:
Four friends stay at the lake in Mia’s family cabin when they’re suddenly without a phone or vehicle because someone has tampered with them. They try to figure out who is doing the tampering while trying to protect themselves and stay safe. One by one, they end up dying and the killer is revealed. Quick read with a great twist, 3.5 stars!

Likes/dislikes: I didn’t appreciate the overly detailed sex (this keeps the book our of school libraries.) I liked that it was a quick read. I enjoyed the twist at the end.
Language: R for 17 swears and 16 f-bombs.
Mature content: R for descriptive sex.
Violence: PG-13 for killing by a hard hit to the head, poisoning and strangling.

Belladonna by Adalyn Grace

Pure reading enjoyment!

Signa is born into a rich family. When she’s two months old, her mother Rima throws a party. No one realizes the wine is poisoned and baby Signa sees Death approach her mother before he moves onto the others who drank the wine. Signa is left alone in the home after Death tries to take her too but he sees her brilliant future instead of her short past, what he usually sees as he takes someone’s life. Now, at nineteen years old, Signa lives with Aunt Magda. Signa has lived with several relatives throughout her lifetime. After Rima died, Sigma lived with her loving grandmother until her death. After that, relatives have wanted to be her guardian only for the money she’ll receive when she’s twenty and the payments they receive for housing her. Most of them haven’t loved her and Aunt Magda is especially mean to Signa. Every guardian she’s had has died and she thinks it’s her fault and that Death’s taking people on purpose and because of her. When Magda dies, Death appears once again and assures Signa that’s not the case. Signa is retrieved by her new guardian’s workers and taken to Thorn Grove where the lady of the manor, Aunt Lillian, is deceased and Signa’s cousin Blythe is ill. Cousin Percy and Uncle Elijah seem healthy though. Sylas, the worker who brought her to Thorn Grove, helps investigate Lillian’s death. They believe someone poisoned her and is poisoning Blythe too. Signa finds help for Blythe when Sylas shows her the manor library. She finds natural remedies to rid Blythe’s body of poison and she gets somewhat better. In the meantime, Signa can’t stop thinking of Sylas and Death and how she feels attracted to both of them. I can’t say much more without including a spoiler or two but this book was a pure enjoyment to read and I’m anxiously awaiting the sequel, Foxglove. 5 stars!

Likes/dislikes:
I love the rich prose and beautiful descriptions of the scenery. I appreciate the fact that the book has very little swearing and vague details of sex that keep it out of the sensitive materials area. I enjoyed reading about the main character’s views on and dealings with proper etiquette and the setting is beautifully descriptive. The ethnicity is white and brown.

Language: PG for two swears, no f-bombs

Mature Content: PG-13, alluded to sex and two women embracing in public mentioned once.

Violence: PG, Death touches a person and then that person immediately dies. Poisonings

How To Survive Your Murder by Danielle Valentine

A slam-in-your-face ending!


Alice loses her sister in a murder spree cut short one Halloween night. She saw Claire get stabbed by Owen and a year later is planning to testify that Owen killed Claire. Any more info in my review will be a spoiler. This unique mystery thriller jumps around and then slams you in the face with the ending. A suspenseful read that I could not put down! 5 stars!

Danielle Valentine is Danielle Vega’s pseudonym and this is her debut thriller!

Pretty Dead Queens by Alexa Donne

A fun mystery!

The main character’s mom recently passed away and now Cecilia is moving into her grandmother’s house. Her grandmother, Maura, happens to be a famous author and lives in a large home with four floors. Maura has brought fame to the town after writing a fictionalized book about the murder of a classmate that occurred during homecoming when she was in high school. Maura continues to write mysteries and her fandom holds yearly conventions in town. Cecilia makes friends and ends up on the sidelines of their drama. Then she finds the body of another homecoming murder victim and it’s eerily similar to the murder all those years ago. She throws herself into trying to discover the killer as a way to distract herself from losing her mother. She ends up in the middle of trouble and has to fight for her life. A fun mystery, 4 stars!

Language: R for 139 swears and 101 f-bombs
Violence: PG-13 for Bodies found in school swimming pool. Strangulation mentioned. Serial killer in community. Premeditated murder. Punching.
Mature content: PG-13 for sex mentioned, no details, drug use mentioned.
LGBT content: bi mentioned, lesbian mentioned
Likes/dislikes: The swearing was too much. The main character, Cecilia, is wishy washy with her new friends. She expects them to immediately divulge their secrets to her because she wants to know but she’s completely disregarding their rights to privacy and gets upset if they ask her questions about her life. I was enthralled by the two mysteries, past and present, and wanted Cecilia to expose the twisted actions of the townspeople.
Ethnicity: white, brown, Filipino, Black

The Weight of Blood by Tiffany Jackson

Similar to Stephen King’s Carrie with added racial conflict!

The book opens with a devastating accident and a survivor covered in blood limping home. The opening is a report from a 2014 event that ruptured the town. Researchers are discussing the events before the accident to try to understand what happened. The non-linear timeline moves back and forth between events before the accident and the research discussion. Maddy is the focus of everything that happened. She’s been forced by her father to hide her African American roots because he’s white and their community is extremely racist. One day she’s running in gym class when rain starts to fall. Her perfectly and intentionally straightened hair goes into its natural Afro state. Gossip starts, bullies taunt and her dad whips her for revealing her secret. The town has kept somewhat segregated and still holds a white prom separate from a black prom. After a “bullying Maddy” video goes viral, some students want to prove that the town isn’t racist by holding one prom, all inclusive. After a horrible joke and an even worse prank, Maddy’s true powers come out, practically decimating the town.
Extremely similar to Stephen King’s Carrie but with added racism. 4 stars.

Ethnicity:
Mostly white with black minority
Violence:
R for Father beating Maddy with a belt, baton beating skull, bloody mist, man shooting himself with gun, explosion, body parts missing and bodies scattered.
language:
R for 100+ swears, including 35 f-bombs.
Mature content:
PG-13, alllusion of sex with no details
Liles/dislikes:
Kenny fell in love with Maddy too conveniently and easily. Maddy’s so powerful but she stands by doing nothing, holding Kenny’s hand the entire time, while Officer Ross beats Kenny with his baton.
Also, the comment made that lumps all American citizens into people that don’t understand or are dumb is rude but partially true: “Comprehension is key, and that hasn’t exactly been mastered by the citizens of this country”. Overgeneralization but that does show the high extent of racism in the book’s community.
The build up of suspense was what I liked the most.

Trust Me, I’m Lying by Mary Elizabeth Summer

A fun mystery full of danger and intensity!

Julep is a teen con artist who attends an elite school by earning good money while helping her fellow students get what they want. When she completes a charade for a client, she returns home to find her apartment torn apart and her dad missing. The only clue she finds is an envelope containing a note and a gun. The enigmatic note says, “Beware the field of miracles”. Her best friend and extremely helpful assistant, Sam, helps Julep piece clues together and when someone puts a dead rat in her locker, she gains another ally in the form of a popular schoolmate, Tyler. The search for her father becomes more dangerous by the day. Someone runs her off the road when she’s with Sam, she’s in an explosion and she discovers a human trafficking site. I enjoyed Julep’s intelligence and ability to plan ahead and improvise when needed. I also enjoyed the mysteries surrounding her plans and waiting to discover what those plans were as I read. A fun mystery that’s also full of danger and intensity, 5 stars!

The Patron Thief of Bread by Lindsay Eagar

A clean read for upper elementary and middle school readers!

I love the cover because two images can be seen when you change your perspective, black outline of a girl tossing coins and black print of a gargoyle on a cathedral wall.
The opening is told in the gargoyle’s point of view and the statue sees a young woman carrying her baby while running from men. As they almost capture her, she jumps into the river while holding onto her baby. Eight years later, Duck is a young girl within a group of traveling thieves. She’s trying to prove that she’s helpful and ends up as a baker’s apprentice to infiltrate the bakery and steal from inside. She continues to give bread to her thief group, the Crowns, but doubts more and more that she’s doing the right thing because she’s feeling loved by the baker. As the stakes rise, Duck will have to make some tough choices and decide who her family is and who she’s loyal to. 4 stars for this sweet tale of finding your true self.

Ethnicity is predominantly white; it is a historical fiction fantasy.
Language content: no swears
Violence content: PG – men chasing woman and baby and she’s running for their safety.
Mature content: PG – thievery, grooming for a gang
Likes/dislikes: I like the baker. She’s tremendously generous and kind. I appreciate the author’s writing of Duck’s conflicts between right and wrong and in finding her sense of belonging. This is a clean read with a good message. Alternating timelines with a unique gargoyle and a young girl named Duck.

Go Hunt Me by Kelly deVos

The ending is jaw-dropping!

Alex is in the hospital recovering from injuries. A police inspector wants to know what happened from the beginning of Alex’s trip to Romania until the present time and her reason for traveling there. Alex tells the story starting 153 days prior. She’s making a movie with her friends; a movie she wrote based on Dracula. The story then jumps to 46 days ago. Alex and her sister are helping with the family business while waiting for their Dad to get back to normal after cancer. She and her boyfriend Jax go to dinner and check their film school letters together. Jax has been accepted. Alex has been placed on the waitlist. From there, Alex and her six friends travel to Romania planning on creating a film that will get Alex into her dream school and help her become a movie director. What starts as an exciting adventurous idea quickly turns into a deadly few days as someone hunts them down. The ending is jaw-dropping! 4 stars!

Nonlinear timeline
Ethnicity: doesn’t specify white or otherwise only that the teens are American, European
Mature content: PG, abstinence
Violence: decapitation, bloody stabbing, bloody bashing in of head
Language: R, 24 f-bombs

It Ends In Fire by Andrew Shvarts

4 stars for the writing and intensity of the story!

Sixteen-year-old Alka tricks a group of thieves into stopping a wagon for her. They think the wagon holds treasure but it holds a Wizard that is the senator’s powerful daughter. Alka wants revenge on the Wizards for killing her parents ten years ago and Lady Alayne is the key. After dueling with Alayne, Alka retrieves Alayne’s invitation to Blackwater Academy of Magic so she can go in her place and infiltrate the Wizard power. The next chapter explains what happened to Alka’s parents. Wizards arrive at their home so seven-year-old Alka and her six-year-old sister Sera hide under the floorboards like their parents told them to. Their father, Petyr, admits he’s a rebel to save his wife but the Enforcers kill them both. But before Petyr dies, he tells his daughters to run and then he sets off an explosion to kill the Wizards. Alka’s childhood ended that day. Her world completely changed. Now, she travels to Blackwater Academy to take Alayne’s place and exact her revenge. Fylmonela Potts befriends Alka and the two form an alliance preparing for the intense competitive Blackwater Academy where one third of the students will drop out or die instead of graduating. At the opening ceremony, Alka sees the man who killed her parents, Magnus Aberdeen, headmaster of Blackwater Academy. After a failed attempt to get close to Aberdeen, Alka meets the exchange student Prince Talyn Ravensgale IV. The story continues to alternate between young Alka and the present Alka, when she’s at Blackwater. She pretends to mess up a Glyph that distracts Aberdeen and the entire class so she can steal the last four Glyph pages from the master codex of the wizard spells to keep and learn on her own. She wants to be the most powerful so she can take down the wizards. When she was being trained by rebels, she was told not to feel remorse for killing wizards or others who stand in the way of her mission. Despite that, Alka gains allies and friends and when their order competes in a school challenge, they try a daring stunt to beat the competition. This makes the ruling order angry but the rest of the school feels empowered. The second challenge doesn’t go down as planned and when a friend dies, Alka knows the end is coming. She’s got to make a plan that will take the biggest toll of all. 4 stars for the writing and the intensity. Similar to a Harry Potter outline.

Final Girls by Riley Sager

I was glued to the pages of this book!

Quincy is the lone survivor of a serial killing spree, therefore she’s a final girl. She knows two other final girls from completely different murder scenes, Lisa and Samantha. Lisa wrote a book about her experience and went on to become a psychologist to help others cope and overcome trauma. When Quincy hears that Lisa committed suicide, she has a hard time understanding or believing it. Samantha has disappeared or at least kept herself hidden from the public until she arrives to visit Quincy with concerns of her own. The lives of the three final girls become intertwined and complicated beyond what should be a logical possibility. Final Girls kept me glued to the pages and it didn’t disappoint! A mystery thriller worth every moment spent reading it, 5 stars!