Help for the Haunted

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HelpHelp for the Haunted by John Searles

Pub: 2013

When Sylvie’s demonologist parents are murdered, she must adjust to life with her difficult older sister, Rose, as her guardian, and try to piece together the events that happened that brought about her parents’ deaths.

Opening line:

Whenever the phone rang late at night, I lay in my narrow bed and listened.

This book is part creepy mind-bender, part coming-of-age tale, told in the voice of a troubled teen who is just coming to realize the realities of what her parents, renown demonologists, really do for a living. It features a creepy doll, a light in the basement that turns on seemingly of its own volition, a murder mystery, and an abandoned well — all some of my favorite horror story tropes.

My only small complaint is in regard to the ending *HIGHLIGHT FOR SPOILERS* because the guilty party was such a minor character with so few clues pointing in that direction that it was nearly impossible for anyone to figure out. Never mind the fact that the answer was literally just handed to Sylvie by complete coincidence.

Overall, a creepy story, one that I enjoyed.

The Death of Lucy Kyte

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DeathThe Death of Lucy Kyte by Nicola Upson

 Pub: Jun 10, 2014

British mystery author Josephine Tey investigates at the Red Barn Cottage, the site of an infamous historical murder.

 

While I loved the concept of taking historical events and real-life people and working them into a fictional novel, this is one case where it just didn’t work out to be the right book for me. The combination of literary and mystery styles I found to be too drawn-out for my tastes, and it took too long to get to the actual mystery (or, to know what it was that even was the mystery). I also found it initially difficult to keep track of who was who in Josephine’s world, especially with the character names Maria and Marta being so similar. This may have just been because I hadn’t read the other Josephine Tey books prior to this one. I also had a difficult time placing the era of this story — there were small clues to indicate that this wasn’t happening during the present-time, but I had to really read carefully to determine what decade this story took place in.

If you’re interested in an atmospheric historical mystery and you enjoy books on the more literary end of the spectrum, this is definitely an intriguing story with some beautiful prose that many readers may enjoy.

Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls

ClaudiaClaudia and the Phantom Phone Calls by Ann M Martin
The Baby-Sitters Club #2

Pub: 1986

Claudia and the other baby-sitters receive mysterious phone calls while they’re at their jobs and think it might be a local jewel thief.

The evening was gloomy and windy, with rain streaming down from heavy clouds that blocked the moon.

I enjoyed reading the first Babysitters Club book so much that I grabbed the second right away. I was surprised at how much of the plot of this one I remembered so many years later.

What I liked: Though Claudia was never my favorite Babysitter (I couldn’t stand how she misspelled stuff in her journal entries and her sister Janine was the most awful character in the series), I found this book pretty enjoyable, or at least a quick, entertaining evening read.

What I didn’t like: Kristy’s line about “Now hear this! No running, no yelling, no jumping – and I mean it. One false move, and I’ll punch your lights out.” Um… what??

Also, the whole plot — besides being extremely outdated (HELLO CELL PHONES AND CALLER ID!) was really cheesy. The synopsis on Goodreads claims that Claudia “investigates” this mystery, but she doesn’t really. They hear weird noises, see someone outside, and call the police. There’s nothing wrong with that, except that it didn’t make for a very exciting “investigation.”

The Heiresses

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Heiresses

The Heiresses by Sara Shepard

Pub: May 20, 2014

A group of cousins — the wealthy heiresses of a diamond company — uncovers family secrets which cause the death of one of them.

Opening lines:

On a late April morning, as rain smeared the windowpanes, washed the dirt off the sidewalks, and slowed traffic on every block in New York City, twenty-seven-year-old Corinne Saybrook stood barefoot in a dressing room, talking on her cell phone in clipped, precise Turkish.

I’ll admit — I’ve caught a few episodes of Pretty Little Liars, and while I never really followed it enough to have any idea what was going on, the crazy, mysterious premise made me interested to see what the author would do with an adult novel set among the elite rich of New York.

What I liked: The first half of the book set up a really interesting mystery. There’s hints that the mysterious death early on in the novel is linked to other family secrets, and each of the heiresses that the story follows knows only parts of the real story. Because of that, they each have their own suspicions, and it’s interesting to see how each of their ideas would be plausible, and how they manage to piece together the truth.

What I didn’t like: TONS of characters are introduced early on, and for the first hundred pages or so, I had trouble keeping them straight, especially Rowan and Corinne. Also, the first half is really intense, but the second half doesn’t keep the momentum going — there’s just a lot of talking out feelings and hypothesizing and remembering things that had happened years ago. Also, was there anyone in the whole novel that wasn’t sleeping around?

Heads up: Sex, violence, some language

The Fault in Our Stars

FaultThe Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Pub: 2012

Hazel and Augustus meet at a cancer support group and quickly fall in love.

Opening line:

Late in the winter of my seventeenth year, my mother decided I was depressed, presumably because I rarely left the house, spent quite a lot of time in bed, read the same book over and over, ate infrequently, and devoted quite a bit of my abundant free time to thinking about death.

This is one of those books that has been on my TBR list for long time, and I kept putting it off, mostly because I knew the subject matter was two teens dying of cancer and I’ve found it hard to talk myself into immersing myself in that particular topic. I finally picked it up when our book club decided to read it this month.

What I liked: Despite my expectations, this book wasn’t as emotionally difficult to read as I thought. There were elements of humor that kept it lighthearted enough to keep reading despite the tough topic. Even the mock-eulogies that Hazel and Isaac wrote for Augustus had a kind of dark humor that made you smile even as you felt sad. The tone of this book reminded me a lot of Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler – fans of that would enjoy this (and vice versa)

What I didn’t like: First off, I was disappointed that the book that Hazel recommends to Augustus isn’t real — it sounded interesting.

Certain aspects of the characters bothered me. It may just be a personal thing, but they just seemed so precocious, going around quoting poetry and using inflated vocabulary and rambling about philosophy. And Augustus’ cigarette “metaphor”? Sorry, I just didn’t get it. Also, other little things that just rubbed me the wrong way… (*SPOILERS* kissing at the Anne Frank house just seemed weird to me and the fact that he waited until AFTER they were intimate before he told her that his cancer was back really rubbed me the wrong way, too)

Also, I’m not really sure if it was because of the MAJOR HYPE surrounding this book or because I already knew how it ended, but I felt kind of let down. It was sad, sure, but I didn’t cry. The end just kind of fizzled out without the emotional punch I was anticipating.

Heads up: Contains sexual content and references, mature language

Guarding Angel

GuardingNEW this week!

Guarding Angel by S.L. Saboviec

While guarding reincarnated humans through the 17th century, Enael’s growing love for Kaspen, a fellow Guardian, is tested by the interference of his former lover, a powerful fallen angel.

Opening lines:

My Ward, Daniel Michael Wheaton, was a special assignment, direct from the Council of Seraphim — the highest rank of angel in Heaven — and I was determined to prove myself with him.

I am so excited to be able to finally give my congratulations to author & friend S.L. Saboviec on her debut novel! If you’re a fan of paranormal romance, then this story of good and evil, heaven and hell, angels and demons, fate and free will, and the sacrifices we make for those we love is one for your ‘to-read’ list. Look for it on Kindle, Nook, Kobo and Amazon paperback!

What I liked BEST about this novel…

  • I love how the author weaves Enael’s story through real-life historical times and places. Each of Enael’s Wards (the humans she’s protecting) live very distinct lives in very distinct places in time.
  • The relationship between Enael and Kaspen is very realistic. It grows and changes throughout the book, developing naturally over a period of time and fluctuating as the characters face challenges.
  • The ending. I’m going to try not to spoil anything, but even though this book is planned as the first of a series, the resolution was very satisfying.

Heads up: contains some scenes of graphic sex & violence (including rape), demonic possession, and a few instances of strong language

The Hero’s Guide to Being an Outlaw

Hero'sThe Hero’s Guide to Being an Outlaw by Christopher Healy
The League of Princes #3

★ ★ ★ ★

Pub: April 2014

The League of Princes sets out to clear their names after being accused of killing Princess Briar Rose.

Opening lines:

“Harrumph.”

King Wilberforce was in a foul mood, as he had been ever since Prince Frederic had stormed out of the palace months earlier. His son had never lashed out at him like that before. And to think it was simply because he had banished his son’s fiancee.

The League of Princes is hands-down one of my favorite MG series. The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom and The Hero’s Guide to Storming the Castle were clever, witty, and — most of all — fun, and this final book of the series (sob!) lived up to the excitement of the earlier books.

What I liked: I love the characters and the crazy situations they get themselves into. I love the quirky turns of phrase and the silly slapstick humor. And there’s a character named Val Jeanval! Is there anything about this book I don’t love?

What I didn’t like: Um… Well, there certainly are a lot of characters, and it can get confusing at times keeping track of who’s where when. I didn’t mind too much, but I could see how it might frustrate some other readers.

We Were Liars

We

NEW this week…

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

★ ★ ★ ★

Cadence and her three best friends spend every summer together on her grandfather’s private island, until one summer when everything changes.

Opening line:

Welcome to the beautiful Sinclair family.

No one is a criminal.

No one is an addict.

No one is a failure.

There’s very little that can be said about this novel without giving way too much away, so let’s just suffice it to say that this is an awesome book with an unreliable narrator (Cadence has selective amnesia after her fifteenth summer), and a couple twists that will throw even the most careful reader for a loop.

It’s about love, friendship, family, and fallings-out, and written in lovely,  poetic prose, and even includes some mini-fractured fairy tales in which Cadence tries to sort through what really happened to her.

Heads up: A tiny bit of crude language (2-3 instances?)

Second Star

Second

 

NEW this week…

Second Star by Alyssa B. Sheinmel

Wendy Darling goes searching for her missing surfer brothers and finds herself in a mysterious cove inhabited by runaways.

Opening lines:

I can smell the bonfire before I even get out of the car. It’s dusk, and the sun is low on the water.

I picked up this book because, well, hello, Peter Pan! I was really interested in a modern-day retelling w/ Peter and the lost boys as surfers. Very cool premise, and lovely cover (though it is eerily similar to We Were Liars‘ cover)

What I liked: I loved the nods to Peter Pan, from an orphan boy named Peter who flies on his surfboard over the waves, to his ex-girlfriend tagalong Belle with blonde hair and major attitude, to a great big dog named Nana. The setting is fabulous; I loved how the whole story engrosses the reader in the life of a coastal surfer.

What I didn’t care for: A large amount of the plot revolves around a love triangle and a drug dealer who specializes in a new kind of drug, dust. The MC spends a good chunk of the story doing things that don’t really make sense as she tries to find her brothers. I don’t really understand why she makes some of the decisions she does, and the whole last part of the book goes off in another direction which makes you question if this is really an unreliable narrator (a la We Were Liars). The ending didn’t feel resolved to me at all, and made me wonder if this was intended to be a series.

Overall: A beautiful setting, cool Peter Pan references, but the unresolved ending made me unable to ‘think happy thoughts’ about it.

Heads up: Teen drug use

Kristy’s Great Idea

Kirsty'sKristy’s Great Idea by Ann M. Martin
The Baby-Sitters Club #1

Pub: 1986

Kristy and her best friends form a baby-sitting club to make some money and help out the parents in their neighborhood.

Opening lines:
The Baby-sitters Club. I’m proud to say it was totally my idea, even though the four of us worked it out together. “Us” is Mary Anne Spier, Claudia Kishi, Stacey McGill, and me — Kristy Thomas.

My local public library recently got a bunch of BSC ebooks, and when I saw them, I just had to borrow a few. What better way to relive my childhood? I think the strangest thing about it was that I distinctly remember thinking that the 7th-grader BSC members were so old and mature, and now, reading the same book, that seems so laughable. Oh, third-grade me… you were so funny.

What I liked: Oh, goodness… the fashion descriptions will probably start getting to me if I re-read more of the series, but at this point, they’re just rather hilarious. I remember having my own pair of dangly skeleton earrings, just like Claudia! It’s clean, light-hearted fun, though it also deals with some pre-teen/teen issues (parents divorcing/remarrying, independence and responsibilities, arguments w/ friends, etc) without being too in-your-face about it.

What I didn’t like: The writing isn’t particularly fabulous. There were a few parts where I would have liked to go at some of the adverbs with a red pen, and some of the dialogue was laughably unrealistic. I remember now how much I HATED the intentional spelling errors in the journal entries (especially Claudia’s). The rest of my complaints (such as the predictability of the plot) I can chalk up to the fact that these really are intended for a young audience.

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