Burn Down, Rise Up by Vincent Tirado

Bronx history with a supernatural mystery.

Charlize is looking for her older brother, 18 year old Cisco, who disappeared after infecting Raquel’s mom at the hospital where she works as a nurse. Cisco played a game that’s an urban myth and it backfired. Charlize, Raquel, 16, and her friend Aaron play the game to find Cisco. Twenty people have disappeared in the last year and no one has been able to get to the bottom of the problem but these three are determined to find and save Cisco so he can give information to help heal Raquel’s mom and stop the spread of infection. The game becomes creepy and brings the corruption of the past to light as the young people learn how residents were manipulated, used and pushed out of their Bronx homes. These teens have to work together to stop the corruption and save their families.

Likes/dislikes: I enjoyed learning about Bronx history and how it was used in the supernatural aspect of the story. The infection conveys the corruption in the community creatively. I like how Raquel, Aaron and Charlize work together and how the mystery becomes spooky quickly.
Mature Content: PG-13 for high off edibles, nondescript kiss.
Language: R for 85 swears and 23 f-bombs.
Violence: PG-13 mention of cannibalism, bloody unexplained death.
Ethnicity: The ethnicities include Black, Dominicans, White, Mexican American, and Puerto Rican.

All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir

An absolute must-read!

An absolute must-read!

Sal 17, lives in Juniper, California with his sick mother and alcoholic father. Sal attends school while trying to help keep the family hotel afloat. Sal and Noor, 18, were best friends until they had a fight months ago and haven’t spoken since. Sal’s mom collapses and needs to be taken to the hospital while Noor happens to be visiting her. Sal’s mother passes away and her last words to Noor were to forgive. Sal and Noor try to mend their friendship but they’re both keeping secrets and trying to persevere through their own harsh situations. When life implodes, they both have to make some tough choices.

Likes/dislikes: I enjoyed learning about Pakistani culture and its languages. The author gives a comprehensive, concise content warning at the beginning of the book and lists resources at the end for help with domestic violence, child abuse, sexual assault, immigration and refugee rights, children’s defense fund, and women of color. I appreciate how the author portrayed harsh realities to readers in a way that is educational and with empathy but not graphic. This book is a must read.
Language: R for 147 swears and 3 f-bombs.
Mature Content: PG for brief undescribed kiss, drug dealer selling pills, mention of marijuana (weed), deeper kiss.
Violence: PG-13 for child abuse (a push against the wall), bloody face from abuse, kicking ribs, mentions of repressed sexual assault, continued abuse.
Ethnicity: Sal and Noor and their family members are Pakistani living in a predominantly white community. There is a Pakistani religious leader and his wife is Black. The Judge is Mexican American and the story contains mixed ethnicity police officers.

Blood and Moonlight by Erin Beaty

Riveting mystery with a touch of magic! 5 stars!

Catrin, 17 years old, finds a woman’s dead body that’s been mutilated by a murderer, so she becomes the main witness in helping Simon solve the case. Simon is the nephew of the Comte in charge of keeping the justice in Londunium but he wants to keep his son Oudin out of suspicion, so he assigns Simon to the case. The murders continue and several suspects come to light. Catrin uses her newly found magic that appears in moonlight to try to stop and prevent any more murders from happening and she receives the last thoughts of the fatally wounded women that will help find the killer. Catrin is adamantly protective of those she loves and does her best to stop the violence and the person behind it.

Likes/dislikes: The intensity of the mystery kept me riveted. The explanation of magic and the world building are written out nicely. I love Catrin, the main character because of her strength, loyalty to those she loves, bravery and intelligence.

Mature Content: PG for drug use mentioned, brief kiss, gentle kisses, urgent nondescript kiss.
Language: PG for 8 swears and no f-bombs.
Violence: PG-13 for Catrin finding a dead body that’s bloody and broken. The death is described with little detail. Description of a bloody death, implied sexual assault.

Trigger by N. Griffin

Disturbing fictional neglect and abuse!

Small town, USA is where Didi attends school but she lives with her father in a secluded area. He’s abusive and neglects to give Didi everything she needs. Didi is terrified and on edge always, even when she’s not around her father because she’s worried she’ll do something wrong and he’ll find out somehow. Her father makes her run laps around the property so she can become as quick as possible but she doesn’t know why he cares about that. He also forces her to learn and play chess and compete in tournaments and she has to be the best. Eventually Didi understands the reason her father has made her do these things but it might be too late for her to save herself.

Likes/dislikes:
The story is disturbing because of the neglect and abuse. The effects on the child’s physical and mental well-being are portrayed through the coping skills the main character develops over time to deal with her life; they were heartbreaking at times. The timeline jumps around and that was difficult to follow. The ending was the best part.
Language: R for 67 swears and 22 f-bombs.
Mature Content: R for physical abuse and severe neglect.
Violence: R for child abuse and hunting child with a gun.
Ethnicity: Didi has brown hair but other characters’ ethnicities aren’t described.

Five Survive by Holly Jackson

The intensity builds to the extreme!

Red is traveling in an RV to Florida with her friends to spend a week celebrating spring break together. They lose cell service and GPS capabilities then end up down a dead end road getting a flat tire. After replacing the flat tire with the spare, Red sees a red dot hovering around the RV and yells at the others to notice. They ignore her until they hear the gunshots that take out all four tires. The group runs into the RV for protection. The shooter leaves a walkie talkie for communication and tells them that one of them has a secret they need to share. The secret is going to be revealed, one way or another!

Likes/dislikes:
Oliver is annoying because he’s a know-it-all with a superiority complex. The mystery is interesting to try to unravel when a few characters allude to having secrets. The suspense builds intensely, which makes a riveting read.

Mature Content:
PG-13 for drinking

Language:
R for 20 swears and 105 f-bombs.

Violence:
PG-13 for Someone shoots at the RV and holds the travelers hostage inside. The sniper fatally shoots an elderly couple that stop to help. Bloody shootings. Attack with a knife.

Ethnicity:
Mixed, Korean, Mexican, white, African American

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!

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

A perfect mystery thriller!

Emma remembers summer camp fifteen years ago when her three cabin mates disappeared. She’s now an artist and the three missing girls disappearing into the forest are the subject of most of her paintings. At her art show, the camp owner shows up, purchases one of her paintings and asks her to lunch. At lunch the next day, Emma is asked to be an art teacher to camp residents when it reopens. When she arrives she’s told the counselors are to pick a cabin to stay in with the campers, so Emma requests Dogwood, her old cabin. She’ll be the only adult in the cabin with three teens, Miranda, Krystal and Sasha. Emma is anxious about being back at the camp and every sight, sound and scent reminds her of fifteen years ago. When Miranda, Krystal and Sasha go missing, chaos erupts throughout the camp, accusations fly and the danger has just begun. A perfect mystery thriller, 5 stars!

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

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!

The Hacienda by Isabel Canas

I did not want this book to end!

Beatriz marries Rodolfo. He’s a businessman and owns a large estate. He leaves to do business so Beatriz runs the estate in his absence. Juana, Rodolfo’s sister, believes she’s the one in charge and she treats everyone gruffly. Beatriz starts to feel like she’s being watched and things get creepier from there, to the point that she’s afraid for her life. She asks the local priests for help and all but one shun her. Padre Andres helps her under the guise of being a priest to help the estate workers. He has knowledge from his ancestors that can help exorcise evil. The house has an extremely powerful, angry spirit and it’s harmful. This is an elaborate and beautifully written horror story that I didn’t ever want to put down. I also didn’t want it to end. 5 stars!