MonsterStreet: Camp of No Return by J.H. Reynolds

5 stars Middle School

Every time I read one of these MonsterStreet books, I swear it’s the best one that I have read. So, I will say it again, these books just keep getting better and better! I’m hooked on this series! Every time that I hear that a new one is coming out, I’m all over it, just waiting for release day and I’m over 50 years old. This book had it all. It had the creep factor, the suspense, the cliff hangers at the ends of some of the chapters and fantastic characters. Do you need to start at the beginning of this series to enjoy this? No, but I guarantee that you’ll be inhaling them, once you start reading them.

As you read books in this series, you’ll come across aspects in the mystery that you know or you feel that you know, are not as scary as they come across. What I like about this series is that the author, dismisses many of these aspects immediately, instead of letting them add up, and then dismissing them later in the book. An example: if a character in the book finds a cloth with red liquid on it. Instead of having the reader believe that this cloth is a bloody towel throughout the book, the author lets the characters uncover what the cloth might be immediately and dismisses it as a napkin with ketchup on it. I feel that helps put the important pieces of the mystery together in the book.

Riding to summer camp on the bus, a few of the kids, made friends. They each felt special, as they were amongst a selected group to be invited to Camp Moon Lake. It was said to be magical yet they have promised, like all previous campers before them, not to disclose what occurs while at camp.

When Brodie tells Harper and Darla the rumor that he heard about the camp, this summer camp just took on a chill. As a fog smothers the camp and a scream welcomes the campers, this week at camp will be one that everyone will remember.

I enjoyed the horror aspects of this for young readers. No blood or gore but I would know your audience before letting young elementary children read this. Some children might not be able to handle it, and I’d hate to hear about someone having a nightmare. If a child is able to distinguish reality from everything else, they should be okay reading this. I’m not going to go into what this book was about as I don’t want to spoil it. I really loved the book and the ending was amazing! I can’t wait for the next one!

Issues: bullying, friendship, family,

The Familiar Dark by Amy Engel

5 stars Mystery

As a parent you promise to protect your child but it’s kinda impossible to protect them from what happened to Junie.  Like Evie, I think the guilt and the anger/revenge would be in a constant battle within me, until someone paid for what they did. Struggling with a past, Evie finds herself looking in a mirror and wondering who is looking back.  She had wanted change and attempted it, yet did she really see the whole picture? 

Junie and Izzy had become friends in first grade.  Junie spent a lot of time at Izzy’s and that might have been because they preferred it that way or was it because Junie didn’t want anyone at her house.  There was definitely a financial dividing line between Junie and Izzy, as Izzy’s parents never struggled to put food on the table or provide what Izzy needed.  

Why were they murdered?  With Junie’s uncle on the police force, Evie feels no one will be comfortable coming forward with information to the police so she begins her own investigation and her nice motherly attitude goes out the window.  Yep, no more Ms. Nice Mom.  She’s begins sounding like her mother, the woman with a drink in one hand, a cigarette in another, and a loud, sarcastic comment spewing from her lips. It’s like she has lost her identity with her daughter gone. 

Snooping in her daughter’s room, after the police did their initial investigation, she finds something! This I couldn’t believe.  I think The 3 Stooges came to do the initial search of the house.  Anyways, this is where the book shoots off and there is no turning back now folks!

After Evie makes her discovery, she’s on a mission and nothing will hold her back, not even her brother, the cop.  We see more of Evie’s mother and boy, is she a fun, entertaining character.  It’s a circus, if you add in the news reporters, who come into town. Using flashbacks, Evie makes connections to her past.  She’s starting to get to the bottom of what has happened to these two young teens. I wasn’t ready for the big moments in the book that blew me away, they really took me by surprise.

I really enjoyed the characters in the book.  I liked how each one of them was cut and created from their environment and I liked how they mixed with one another. I liked how the author present the mystery of the book, I thought it was laid out nicely.

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

4 stars Mystery

It was their annual trip, situated on a secluded campground, for which the everyone was planning on attending.  She had ordered enough food for weeks, which was good as an unprecedent amount of snowfall fell while they were there. Then, they found the body.  It was finally discovered after hours of searching but the question on everyone’s mind was why and who?  Why would someone do this and who amongst them is the guilty party?  They are in a secluded area yet its size is massive enough to hide the likes of other unwanted guests. 

This year’s New Year’s mini-vacation was going to be a snapshot of all their previous years. They had been coming together since their days at Oxford but now their group was getting bigger. These few days gave the group, a chance to catch-up, a year of activity and to reminisce about their college years. I enjoyed the diversity amongst the group and how some of them had changed over the years.  It was entertaining how some individuals continued in the path they set in college and how some had matured and started to become adults.

As they arrived, the Gamekeeper (yes, that is what he was called) arrived to take them to the lodge and their cabins.  Doug was shifty guy, I thought, from the moment the author introduced him and I kept waiting for more information on him as I read.  The image I had of him was disturbing (and hysterical, if I thought about it) and I know he couldn’t have looked that way or no one would have gone near him.  The place was perfect, and secluded. Have I mentioned that? There is also a woman Heather, who runs the place who seems nice but as you read, you learn she has some secrets.  Oh, let’s not forget Iain.  Iain is the hired hand at the lodge and does odd jobs.  Yep, you don’t hear much about him but what I read, I definitely want to know more about him.

They discover that there’s another couple staying at a section of the lodge, who are more prepared for the elements of this secluded site than our large party but let’s not concern ourselves with these Icelandic individuals.

Oh, it’s a grand time at the lodge, partying and living the good life, well at least for some of the group.  There are those who are in the spotlight and those who are hugging the wall, just watching the scenes unfold. This was interesting how these individuals took to the group and how their lives had evolved over time.  Was there anyone who was watching the whole group?  There had to be a “fly on the wall,” taking in the group’s interactions and conversations, privately and openly. 

I’m not so sure I enjoyed all the flashing back that occurred in the book.  The chapters were set up in 3 Days Earlier, 2 Days Earlier and Now fashion and then, we would read about different characters views on that day.  I had to stop for a minute and tell myself where I was in the story as time shifted, for events that occurred really made a different in what day you were in.  I liked the mystery surrounding the death and how the author laid that out.  I was right about one part of it but I had many individuals who I thought could be the second half of it.  It was a fun book and I was glad that I read it. 4 stars.

Her Pretty Face by Robyn Harding

4.5 stars Mystery

This, this was like, amazingly good.  I loved how the two stories connected and then wow!  To me, the story led me down some dark streets as the characters were dealing with some pretty heavy issues.  Disturbing issues.  These are the books that have my eyes glued to the pages, every word is engrained in my head, and I can’t stop thinking about these individuals, that have consumed me, no matter how loud my life has become.

When her son Marcus gets accepted into the Academy, Frances thought her life was now headed into the right direction. Boy, she was wrong.  Not fitting the Academy image, Frances finds that she’s not even close to the holding the ticket. After an incident, she slides further down the ladder until she meets Kate.

Hello Kate! Kate was also a new mother at the Academy.  Kate, was one individual that you loved and you also hated. You hated her because she’s so perfect and you loved her because she’s so perfect.  Kate has a son named Charles and teenage daughter, Daisy.  Charles becomes friends with Marcus and is a huge help to him. As I was reading, I kept wondering when would Charles’ moment be? When would he turn on Marcus?  Was he really as nice as he seemed to be?  Daisy was a teenager with loose strings, she seemed to be running wild yet looking at Kate, you would think she would have this child under her wings.  

As the families come together, their friendships build, the trust between them becomes dependable.  With talk of their past and the secrets that they have kept hidden, it’s no wonder their current lives are in the shape that they are in.  I enjoyed the book’s twists and I highly recommend this book.  4.5 stars

All Your Twisted Secrets by Diana Urban

5 stars YA

The teens each arrived to their destination, following the details of the invitation that they each received.  They were looking forward to a fun-filled evening.  After all the years of studying, staying up late, and doing countless problems, they were finally getting their reward. Yet, as the teens looked around the room and did the math, they realized the numbers weren’t adding up. Then, someone noticed the something strange in the room and the note.  What kind of a reward were they getting tonight?  And who, just shut the door?

As they read the note, a more serious mood replaces the relaxed atmosphere that once inhabited the room. They had just one hour, one hour to pick someone to die.  Was this a joke?  Who would do something like this? Now what?

I liked the premise of this book as it sounded like something that I could really get into. In a book like this, I always wonder what I would do as I read what the characters were actually doing. It was interesting how the author chose such a variety of individuals to lock inside this room together but in the end, it all made sense.

The novel continues to switch from present to past tense throughout the book, to tell the whole story.  I wondered sometimes if it would have been a better story if just one of the characters told us the story from the past instead of having us readers switch back and forth.  I know some readers hate (I know hate is a powerful word) books that have the back-and-forth reading.  I felt in this book, that I was doing A LOT of switching back and forth, almost too much for me.  Did I like any of the characters?  Not really. There were quite a few of them to keep track of and I thought a few of them were self-centered.

I enjoyed the book and the twists that came with it.  After I finished reading it, I got to thinking, wow, this all happened in one hour!  They only had a one-hour time limit.  That sure was a ton of stuff to happen and think about in one hour.  The book addresses depression, suicide, and bullying.

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

4 stars Fiction

I’ve heard and seen this book everywhere so I had to read it.  Shooting your spouse five times in the face and then, pulling the silent treatment, now that is a good defense.  What would cause someone to commit such a crime? I had to know.

I didn’t know if I really trusted Alicia throughout the book, although I didn’t know who I trusted really. Theo and Alicia both seemed sketchy to me.  In parts of this books, I felt that I was secretly doing one of those sinister laughs as I read it.  So who was getting the raw end of the deal now?

Alicia was admitted to the Grove, six years ago for a crime that she committed against her husband.  Theo, feels that he’s qualified for the available position of forensic psychotherapist at the Grove, which will also provide him the opportunity to work with Alicia.  Oh Theo, right off the bat, you feel that you are uniquely qualified to help the unresponsive Alicia and that myself, has me questioning your motive.  

As I learned more about the two of them, both what is presently occurring and their past, it’s no wonder things are a mess.  What I thought for one of them, I ended up thinking for the other one eventually.  While I was reading, I was trying to figure out which one of them was clever and which one of them was smart.  What was their motive?  What did they really want?  I never saw that ending coming nor did I suspect it. 

I thought the book was a fun, entertaining read.  I can see why some individuals really loved the book, I enjoyed it but I didn’t love it.  I’m glad that I read it and I look forward to reading what this author writes in the future. 

The Darkness by Ragnar Jonasson

4 stars Mystery

Well, that was not what I expected.  I’ve been looking for a mystery series to read and it looks like I’ve finally found one.

What first intrigued me about this book was that it took place in Iceland.  I don’t know a whole lot about that area and I enjoyed how the author incorporated some of that country’s characteristics into the story.  I also liked how the main character was not perfect.  She was an individual that you could relate to and understand her actions.

Told from multiple viewpoints, each of the stories within this book, had its own pacing and intensity.  I noticed that as I read and switched between the stories, that my mannerism changed. One story I might be on edge while the next story, I was just reading along and then, I would find myself in another story not able to put the book down and then, wanting to flip ahead and read more of this story.  Perhaps, I’ve had this same experience with other books, but not at this magnitude.  These stories then came together to create an amazing conclusion.

Hulda had plans to retire, she knew the date was coming up but when her boss calls her into his office and expediates the process, Hulda is not prepared.  She knew she didn’t quite fit in with the rest of the police department’s officers, yet to have her job striped from her by a younger, overachieving, male, just didn’t sit right with her. 

With her cases reassigned, Hulda looks into a cold-case to pass the rest of her time on the force. She wanted a time-filler, she needed a time-filler but what Hulda found, was a case that needed a competent detective inspector.  With time running against her, Hulda is determined to close this case the right way, but there are too many people getting in her way.

She should just walk away.  She should just start planning a new life with Petur.  Hulda is just starting to enjoy being in the presence of Petur, a retired doctor.  But that too, has complications. 

I enjoyed this book and I’m looking forward to continuing this series.   

The Guest List by Lucy Foley

4.5 stars Fiction

It was a slow burn at first, as the bridal party gets situated on the deserted island first.  The groom is a celebrity, his bride a publisher and the bridal party is a mish-mash of individuals, all linked to the couple, who each seem to have some hidden secret.  As the events of the story unfolded, I loved how the book picked up speed. As I tried to put the book down, to attend to other matters, my mind wouldn’t let go of the island, as the lights flickered, and the guests tried to make sense of what was happening.   

I could see why the couple had chosen this island for their special day with its seclusion, size, and the service that the owners provided. I really enjoyed the mixture of characters that the author included in this book and their interactions with each other.

When the big day arrived, the guests arrived on the island, ready for day of celebration.  With an abundance of individuals to keep track of, I found this confusing at times yet the connections that they had with one another, made this book intriguing and remarkable.

As the secrets start to surface, I didn’t know who might be the next one to unburden their heart.  Some of these, I had suspected but there were some that, made my jaw drop.  With twists and turns, and ups and downs, this book was a great escape. 4.5 stars

I received a copy of this book from the Book Club Girl Early Read program. This review is my own opinion of the novel and I thank Harper Collins and the Book Club Girl Early Read program for sending me this copy.

From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks

4 stars Middle School

Everything her mother ever said about Zoe’s father was negative when she asked. Zoe knew where her father was but she didn’t know what he did, to end up in prison.  Now, on her 12th birthday as Zoe grabs the mail from their mailbox, she finds an envelope addressed to her with a return address from the Massachusetts State Penitentiary.  That envelope could only contain one thing, something from her father. 

This book had an excellent flow to it and the story was fun to read. I thought the author did a great job showing us the different emotions that Zoe experiences throughout the book and I liked how grandma tried to do the balancing act with the different characters.  I understood exactly why/how grandmother felt the way she did, as she maneuvered around the individuals in her life. Zoe’s friend Trevor, was good for her.  I was surprised how quickly he forgave her and how willing he went along with her suggestions.  I don’t think Zoe gave enough credit to Trevor. 

There were a few instances in the book that didn’t make sense to me.  These were based on the characters and our current time period.  I don’t want to spoil the book by mentioning them but Zoe is only twelve-years old and some of the things that she was doing just didn’t seem feasible for a person of that age.  But, if you let your imagination take you away, anything is possible.

In the book, Zoe begins to secretly write her father in prison, asking him a variety of questions.  Her father claims that he’ll be honest with her in his return letters but Zoe is torn between believing what her mother has said and the man, who she has never known.

Her grandmother accidently discovers Zoe’s secret and grandmother strikes up a deal with Zoe and now, who knows where this will all end.  I understand grandmother position in this mess but I also feel that there’s going to be fireworks, if and when Zoe’s mother finds out (and she will eventually find out, she has to, you just know she will).

If that’s not enough, Zoe told her parents that she would do a summer internship at her aunt’s bakery.  She needs to prove to them that she’s ready to enter a kid’s cooking competition on the Food Network. Did someone say cooking competition?  Zoe believed that this would be a great opportunity for her, yet when she arrives, it’s not what she expected.

It’s an eventful summer for Zoe with her internship and secretly corresponding with her father in prison.  It jumps into high speed when she learns some interesting information about her father and decides to explore it further it.  A conflict with her best friend Trevor, will need to be resolved quickly as she can’t do this alone.

You Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen

5 Stars Thriller

The deeper I got into this book, the more intense and captivated I became in finding out the truth behind this sisterhood. As the pages turned, the more my curiosity and adrenaline rose.

I loved the connection that these “sisters” had but the more that I read about them, the more removed I became to their alliance. Oh, I totally understand how they felt and the reasoning behind it BUT, there is line that they had crossed.  

When Shay witnesses a suicide on the subway, it changes her life.  Spying a piece of jewelry nearby, Shay is now connected to Amanda’s “sisters,” as Shay picks up the jewelry and takes it with her.  Shay needs to find out more about the suicide victim meanwhile, the “sisters” can’t believe that Amanda would commit suicide.  On a collusion course, Shay ends up meeting the “sisters” and to her, this is destiny. 

Shay feels a connection with the “sisters” and her life finally starts to turn around.  The “sisters” are there for Shay and take Shay under their wings.  Shay loves how everything is working out for her but dang, if only Shay knew the truth. The pages aren’t turning fast enough but I don’t want to miss a word on the pages.  

Slowly, the author reveals the details of the sisterhood and how each member became involved. It’s crazy good but it’s wicked at the same time. There’s time travel involved as we hear each member’s story but that’s important as I needed to know when these events took place.

Wow, that was an excellent, invigorating story that had me hooked from the beginning.  I have enjoyed all the books that Hendricks and Pekkanen have written together and I hope that they continue to write together! Breathe……

This book is now available and I highly recommend it.  Thank you, St. Martin’s Press and Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen, for sending me an ARC of this book for an honest review. #YouAreNotAloneBook