Mini Book Reviews: What I’ve Been Reading including books by Lauren Oliver, Claire Legrand, Caleb Roehrig, Justina Ireland and more

I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately, so I wanted to take a moment to share some quick reviews with you. Some of these titles are already out, a few more of them are digital ARCs I have downloaded off of Edelweiss. A few of the titles don’t even come out until October of […]

I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately, so I wanted to take a moment to share some quick reviews with you. Some of these titles are already out, a few more of them are digital ARCs I have downloaded off of Edelweiss. A few of the titles don’t even come out until October of this year, but you’ll definitely want to make sure to read them and share them with teens.

Broken Things by Lauren Oliver

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Publisher’s Book Description

It’s been five years since Summer Marks was brutally murdered in the woods.

Everyone thinks Mia and Brynn killed their best friend. That driven by their obsession with a novel called The Way into Lovelorn the three girls had imagined themselves into the magical world where their fantasies became twisted, even deadly.

The only thing is: they didn’t do it.

On the anniversary of Summer’s death, a seemingly insignificant discovery resurrects the mystery and pulls Mia and Brynn back together once again. But as the lines begin to blur between past and present and fiction and reality, the girls must confront what really happened in the woods all those years ago—no matter how monstrous.

Karen’s Thoughts

We all have our go to authors, and Lauren Oliver is one of mine, which is why I have already read this and way in advance. It’s a haunting story of murder, betrayal, friendship, love and trying to right the wrongs of the past. Three friends were entranced with a story that was published without an ending, so they set out to make their own. The ending they got was, however, not what they expected. Five years later, the two remaining girls are trying to find out what really happened and clear their names in a town that hates them for what it thinks they’ve done. Lyrical and haunting, there’s a lot to consider here. Broken Things also takes on the topics of awakening female sexuality and the power that comes with it, desire, and what it means to be broken in a world that can be harsh and unforgiving. Coming in October 2018 from HarperCollins. Definitely recommended.

Sawkill Girls by Claire LeGrand

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Publisher’s Book Description

Beware of the woods and the dark, dank deep.

He’ll follow you home, and he won’t let you sleep.

Who are the Sawkill Girls?

Marion: the new girl. Awkward and plain, steady and dependable. Weighed down by tragedy and hungry for love she’s sure she’ll never find.

Zoey: the pariah. Luckless and lonely, hurting but hiding it. Aching with grief and dreaming of vanished girls. Maybe she’s broken—or maybe everyone else is.

Val: the queen bee. Gorgeous and privileged, ruthless and regal. Words like silk and eyes like knives, a heart made of secrets and a mouth full of lies.

Their stories come together on the island of Sawkill Rock, where gleaming horses graze in rolling pastures and cold waves crash against black cliffs. Where kids whisper the legend of an insidious monster at parties and around campfires.

Where girls have been disappearing for decades, stolen away by a ravenous evil no one has dared to fight… until now.

Karen’s Thoughts

Much like Broken Things mentioned above, Sawkill Girls by Claire LeGrand (another of my instant buy authors) takes us into the world of female sexuality and friendship in lyrical and hauntingly beautiful ways. Here, we combine local myths and legends with a long string of disappearing girls and dip our toes into ritualism, magic, and secret societies. Readers will walk away from this one thinking long and hard about what it means to be a girl in today’s world. I wanted it to end slightly sooner than it did, but this one is powerful and moving. Readers will love it and I think it will become a classic. Comes out in October 2018 from Katherine Tegen Books. Definitely recommended.

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

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Publisher’s Book Description

Jane McKeene was born two days before the dead began to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg and Chancellorsville—derailing the War Between the States and changing America forever. In this new nation, safety for all depends on the work of a few, and laws like the Native and Negro Reeducation Act require certain children attend combat schools to learn to put down the dead. But there are also opportunities—and Jane is studying to become an Attendant, trained in both weaponry and etiquette to protect the well-to-do. It’s a chance for a better life for Negro girls like Jane. After all, not even being the daughter of a wealthy white Southern woman could save her from society’s expectations.

But that’s not a life Jane wants. Almost finished with her education at Miss Preston’s School of Combat in Baltimore, Jane is set on returning to her Kentucky home and doesn’t pay much mind to the politics of the eastern cities, with their talk of returning America to the glory of its days before the dead rose. But when families around Baltimore County begin to go missing, Jane is caught in the middle of a conspiracy, one that finds her in a desperate fight for her life against some powerful enemies. And the restless dead, it would seem, are the least of her problems.

Karen’s Thoughts

I’m not going to lie, it was the zombies that drew me to this book. And it’s such a fresh and interesting take on zombies at that. But this is a powerful look at racism, and that subject will haunt you far longer and more profoundly then any of the zombies will. I came for the zombies, but appreciated the confrontation of our nation’s racist past, a past we still haven’t dealt with and an issue we are still struggling with today. I do have some slight concerns that this book may contain some unfortunate stereotypes regarding Native Americans and have some other reviewers expressing the same concern. Definitely recommended.

Watch You Burn by Amanda Searcy

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Publisher’s Book Description

Jenny didn’t want to move to the creepy, possibly haunted town with her dad. But the cops are on to her, and the only way she can protect herself is by moving as far away from her hometown as possible and staying out of trouble.

But even after she moves, Jenny still gets the itch. The itch to light a match and then watch it burn.

It’s something she hasn’t been able to stop, ever since an accident years ago. Now, in a new town, Jenny has the strange feeling that someone is watching her every move. Will her arsonist ways be exposed? Or is the burning truth deep inside her a greater danger?

Karen’s Thoughts

Put this in the hands of fans of Allegedly by Tiffany Jackson when they ask what other twisted thrillers with an unreliable narrator you might have in your collection. It doesn’t match the skill in storytelling that Allegedly has, but it’s a satisfying read for those who want to read a twisted thriller where you’re not entirely sure what’s happening and who’s to blame. Broken families, compulsive tendencies, arson, and more are discussed in this twisted psychological thriller. This comes out October 2018 from Delacorte Press. This will have a lot of interested readers.

The Truth Lies Here by Lindsey Klingele

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Publisher’s Book Description

In small town Michigan, Penny, an aspiring journalist, teams up with the nerdy boy-next-door and the town’s star quarterback to find her conspiracy theorist father after he goes missing and several other townspeople turn up dead in the woods.

The deeper she digs, the weirder things start to get. Townspeople repeat the same phrases—verbatim. Men in black suits stroll around Main Street. Chunks of her memory go missing. Pretty soon, Penny’s research leads her to the long-ago meteorite crash in Bone Lake’s woods, and she’s going to have to reconsider her definition of “real” if she wants answers. . . .

Karen’s Thoughts

I read this simply because of the X-files comparison. And it’s an apt comparison, to be honest. A small town, a disappearing dad who loves a good conspiracy theory, and a lot of strange, unexplained events. The attempt to unravel the truth and the realization of what that truth is a fun and entertaining read. Sometimes, it’s nice just to read a fun, engaging book and this fits the bill. This is also a really authentic depiction of small town, rural, Midwestern life. Recommended.

Recently The Teen, who is an avid reading and reviews a lot of the ARCs I get for TLT, was going through all the ARCs on the shelf and proclaimed, “there is nothing here I want to read.” That has never happened before. It turns out, she is really wanting to read mysteries right now and there is, to be honest, not a lot of mysteries being released in YA. That doesn’t mean there are none, but there are definitely fewer than there has been in past years, a complaint I hear from many of my teens. So I started searching for some YA mysteries she hasn’t read and we landed on one new one, we liked it enough to read a previous book by that same author, and started a new series.

White Rabbit by Caleb Roehrig

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Publisher’s Book Description

Rufus Holt is having the worst night of his life. It begins with the reappearance of his ex-boyfriend, Sebastian—the guy who stomped his heart out like a spent cigarette. Just as Rufus is getting ready to move on, Sebastian turns up out of the blue, saying they need to “talk.” Things couldn’t get much worse, right?

But then Rufus gets a call from his sister April, begging for help. And then he and Sebastian find her, drenched in blood and holding a knife, beside the dead body of her boyfriend, Fox Whitney.

April swears she didn’t kill Fox—but Rufus knows her too well to believe she’s telling him the whole truth. April has something he needs, though, and her price is his help. Now, with no one to trust but the boy he wants to hate yet can’t stop loving, Rufus has one night to prove his sister’s innocence…or die trying.

Karen’s Thoughts

Because I’m a librarian, I don’t often buy books, I check them out from the library unless I’ve already read it and want a copy for my personal library. But this book had so much strong buzz, I chose not to wait and bought it. It is a very intriguing mystery. Our main character shows up at the scene of a murder and is drawn in to help solve it, in large part because once he showed up, he’s now a suspect himself. Oops. There is some really powerful LGBTQ content here in a really moving love story as characters embrace who they are and how they feel about each other. And then, of course, there is the mystery itself, which is a twisted plot that involves broken families, class warfare, and local drug culture. It’s very much a tale for our times, and it’s a good read too! Definitely recommended.

Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig

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Publisher’s Book Description

Flynn’s girlfriend has disappeared. How can he uncover her secrets without revealing his own?

Flynn’s girlfriend, January, is missing. The cops are asking questions he can’t answer, and her friends are telling stories that don’t add up. All eyes are on Flynn—as January’s boyfriend, he must know something.

But Flynn has a secret of his own. And as he struggles to uncover the truth about January’s disappearance, he must also face the truth about himself.

Karen’s Thoughts

After reading White Rabbit, I decided I wanted to go back and read Last Seen Leaving. I actually ended up liking Last Seen Leaving even more than White Rabbit. Like White Rabbit, Last Seen Leaving contains some powerful LGBTQ content as well as our main character bonds with another character wile trying to discover what happened to an ex-girlfriend. I loved watching these two characters bond while solving this mystery. Politics, broken families, class, identity, and more are discussed here. There’s even some talk about female bodily autonomy and consent, including the importance of male as well as female consent in sexual situations. There are a lot of interesting nuggets packed into this engaging mystery. Definitely recommended.

Trouble is a Friend of Mine by Stephanie Tromly

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Publsiher’s Book Description

Of course I didn’t like Digby when I first met him. No one does.

The first time Philip Digby shows up on Zoe Webster’s doorstep, he’s rude and he treats her like a book he’s already read and knows the ending to.

But before she knows it, Zoe’s allowed Digby—annoying, brilliant, and somehow…attractive? Digby—to drag her into a series of hilarious, dangerous, and only vaguely legal schemes all related to the kidnapping of a local teenage girl. A kidnapping that might be connected to the tragic disappearance of his little sister eight years ago. When it comes to Digby, Zoe just can’t say no.

But is Digby a hero? Or is his manic quest an indication of a desperate attempt to repair his broken family and exorcize his own obsessive-compulsive tendencies? And does she really care anyway?

This is a contemporary debut with razor-sharp dialogue, ridiculously funny action, and a dynamic duo you won’t soon forget.

Karen’s Thoughts

This book is the first in a series which was recommended to me by a friend. I would have liked the book, except male main character is really manipulative and doesn’t respect the female main characters boundaries and she continues to not stand her ground, which causes her a lot of very real problems. I didn’t like this relationship dynamic at all so I won’t be continuing the series. The mystery itself was interesting, I just couldn’t stand this guy and the way he treated the people in his life. Teens will be drawn to the humor, the friendships and the mystery.

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