Gasp [Visions, #3] by Lisa McMann

Simon Pulse | Hardcover, 274 pages
Publication Date: June 3rd, 2014
Young Adult | Suspense
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

The last book to Lisa McMann’s Vision series finds our young heroes struggling to find the next heir to the curse. The curse that started with Jules, that she consequently passed on to Sawyer when she saved him from imminent death. While they saved a number of students from a school shooting, Jules knew that somehow, someone must have inherited the vision curse.

When they eventually find the unfortunate carrier, their efforts to stave off a fatal disaster were met with strong opposition. So much so, that they were not able to prevent the tragedy from happening. Jules was not impressed, and a little pissed at the person who didn’t try harder to save those who died. Redemption comes in the form of another tragedy, however. Jules and the gang are determined to save lives. This time, they’re even more prepared; well-researched, and very hopeful that they could at least minimize the number of deaths. But would it be enough?

At home, the Demarco family suffered a tragedy and a blessing at the same time. Without divulging too much information, they will be given a chance at new beginnings. Jules hopes that their dad doesn’t fall back to the same abyss of depression that incites a need to hoard things. Meanwhile, her relationship with Sawyer remains strong; Trey has found a boyfriend in Ben, and Rowan’s on-line relationship with Charlie seems to be unstoppable. All in all, personal and family life is infinitely getting better. Another reason why I didn’t mind this series coming to an end. I knew that these kids are going to be just fine.

Lisa is very adept in writing an eventful book packaged slightly thinner than your average novel, which, admittedly is what I like about her YA series. They tend to be fast reads; and yet the reader would be not left unsatisfied that something was missed, nor would they suffer from a case of the whiplash. In this book, not only did they have to deal with one disaster, but three. <spoiler>The Demarco’s house and restaurant burned to the ground<end of spoiler>; plus the other two disasters which I would leave for you to read. This time around, Jules and Sawyer has the help of Trey, Ben and Rowan; which makes for an almost smoother sleuthing for our heroes. All in all, everything that I’ve come to enjoy about these novels were amped up in the third book. It’s funnier, sweeter, and more suspenseful.


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Notes from Ghost Town by Kate Ellison

Notes from Ghost Town by Kate Ellison
Edgmont USA | Hardcover, 336 pages
February 12, 2013
Young Adult | Mystery | Suspense
Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars

I struggled with this book; it turns out, I don’t have the capacity to be patient when the book I’m reading contains a much more evolved mystery. And boy, did this book ever tried my patience.

Quick Story:

Notes from Ghost Town is a story about a girl whose realization that she was in love with her best friend came a little too late. Because a week after they kissed, he was murdered. As if that’s not enough to push her into a tailspin of emotional and mental chaos, the accused murderer (and admitted guilty party) was her mother.

Olivia Tithe is a talented painter; but when a sudden onslaught of colour blindness took away her ability to paint, she lost interest in everything else: food tasted bland and everything turned grey. A week or so before her mother’s sentencing, she starts seeing the ghost of Lucas Stern, her best friend. Proof that she’s well on her way to insanity. She’s always known it’s in her blood; after all, her mother is suffering from Schizophrenia herself, and why she admitted to being guilty of killing Stern. But Olivia knows her mother is innocent. She could never kill a boy whom she’d loved as though he were her own son. She has nine days to prove her innocence, but with everyone dissuading her from delving further, it will be difficult to find a someone who would sympathize. Time is running out for her mother, and for Lucas, who is slowly sinking into a realm where the restless dead exist without peace.

My Thoughts:

I didn’t think it would be possible to grow bored with a mystery novel. It’s supposed to keep you flipping the pages until you unravel all its intricacies. At first, I was genuinely vested in the story. But as time goes by, my interest started waning.

I know a good mystery novel does not reveal its secrets until you get closer to the bitter end. Notes from Ghost Town certainly accomplished that. But for an impatient reader like me, it became a painful practice in the art of waiting – waiting for the story to unravel; waiting for the characters to reveal their true selves.

Herein lies the frustration I have with this novel; which, to be honest is probably the same reason it works for fans of this genre. It was stingy with clues; it gave no hints, and gave away no suspects. Oh don’t get me wrong, the author threw me a bone; but if clues were bones, she gave me a stirrup (smallest bone in the human body). As such, it wasn’t substantial enough for me to bite. It took away the enjoyment of solving the mystery in the midst of reading, and as a result, I grew bored.

Olivia, while she was a fantastic actualization of a girl on the cusp of possibly losing her mind, was a little hard to reach. She didn’t appeal to my sense of empathy, to be honest. She was a mixture of a lot of things but nothing definite.

The grey space that Olivia found herself was something I didn’t enjoy reading. I don’t know how a kiss could bring on such a dramatic change to her world. Was the kiss that good that it spurred on such a drastic/traumatic reaction? Not to mention it’s the equivalent to an injury suffered by a blunt force trauma to the head? Perhaps it’s to add on to the sense that she’s completely losing her mind? However, it felt unnecessary to me. As if seeing Stern’s ghost is not enough to warrant a trip to her therapist’s couch.

The novel itself seems a little disorganized, and lacking – from its characters to the small arches that encompasses the entirety of the story as a whole – I felt dissatisfied over all.

If you’re a true lover of mystery novels in a Young Adult milieu, this book is probably more your forte. I’m not saying I don’t enjoy a mystery novel from time to time, but it has to sustain my interest throughout.

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The Killing Woods by Lucy Christopher

The Killing Woods by Lucy Christopher
Chicken House | Hardcover, 384 pages
Published: January 7th, 2014
Young Adult
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

With a cover that showed so much promise of suspense and mystery, The Killing Woods is one of those books that would not normally make my bookshelves, had it not been for the name ‘Lucy Christopher’ written on its cover. This is one of those instances when I let my predisposed opinion of the author’s work to do the talking for me.

I loved Stolen; it was one of the first YA books that I’ve ever read back when I first discovered the Young Adult genre. Her writing style is what I’ve come to love about Australian authors: stark, lovely – and more often – dark prose.

Sadly, this book was a huge disappointment. Two weeks; it took me two weeks to finish this book. That should give you a clue as to how un-interesting this book had been. I literally had to forced myself to finish it. Let me tell you, if a book starts to feel like reading it was a chore, then you really should just quit while you’re ahead. Anyway, here’s the gist of the book:

Told from alternating point of views, The Killing Woods is the story of Emily Shepherd’s quest to absolve her father of a murder that he admitted of committing. Emily knew her father wasn’t well in the head. He is suffering from PTSD, and he checks out of reality from time to time – especially on stormy days. On the night that Ashlee was murdered, Emily’s father was in one of those hallucinations.

On the other side of the spectrum is Damon, the boyfriend of the murdered girl. He’s trying to piece together what had happened the night of the crime. He woke up without a recollection of what transpired in the woods. When he finally sobered up, he can’t shake the feeling that something’s amiss.

The story sounded like it was going to be an un-put-downable reads but sadly, it was a snooze fest of epic proportion. Emily’s and Damon’s voices – and personalities for that matter – were bland. The plot moved in a snail’s pace. I don’t read much murder/mystery novels, and maybe this is one of the reasons why I didn’t enjoy this book at all. It was void of suspense and the narratives had me wanting to chug Red Bull in copious amounts. Don’t expect romance as well because it was virtually nonexistent. Besides, the story didn’t need it.

Overall, if you’re a fan of slow moving stories (???), this book is probably for you. The three-star-rating is very generous, yes. But come on! This is Lucy Christopher! Printz Award winner? And yes, I chose to overlook the grammar miscues: I should of thought (really?). I wish you better luck if this book is up next on your pile.

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Find Me [Find Me, #1] by Romily Bernard

Find Me [Find Me, #1] by Romily Bernard
Goodreads Summary
Harper Teen | Hardcover, 307 pages
Publication Date:  September 24th, 2013
Young Adult
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

“Find Me.”

These are the words written on Tessa Waye’s diary. The diary that ends up with Wick Tate. But Tessa’s just been found . . . dead.

Wick has the right computer-hacking skills for the job, but little interest in this perverse game of hide-and-seek. Until her sister Lily is the next target.

Then Griff, trailer-park boy next door and fellow hacker, shows up, intent on helping Wick. Is a happy ending possible with the threat of Wick’s deadbeat dad returning, the detective hunting him sniffing around Wick instead, and a killer taunting her at every step?

Foster child. Daughter of a felon. Loner hacker girl. Wick has a bad attitude and sarcasm to spare.

But she’s going to find this killer no matter what.

Because it just got personal.

In My Own Words:

Wick Tate has always look out for two people in her life: herself and her sister. Being bounced around the foster care system is no picnic at the park but for once, they’ve actually found a good home. Foster parents who seem decent enough, they have clothes on their backs and a home beyond anything they could ever envisioned for themselves. But Wick is grounded enough to know that nothing good ever lasts so she has to make sure there’s a plan set for when the other shoe drops. Especially when no one seems to know the location of their abusive, criminal father.

She hacks for a living – a superhero of sort that saves women from cheating husbands for a fee. All incognito, of course. So when she gets a mysterious package on her doorstep, she senses that someone out there knows how she makes money. To her horror, the package contains the diary of one former best friend, Tessa Waye. And while looking inside she finds a two-word message: FIND ME. The talk at the school the next day is how Tessa supposedly jumped off a building much like Wick’s mom. Left with no other choice but to find out the reason why she’s left with Tessa’s diary, she sets out a mission that would lead her to Tessa’s killer.

In My Own Thoughts:

I think I mentioned in my brief review that this book was predictable. I mean the mystery surrounding Tessa’s suicide wasn’t that hard to solve once you’re about 15-20 pages in. The diary, even though, it offered a perspective on Tessa’s state of mind, lacked a certain urgency or even a sense of terror for the way her life was spiralling out of control. It hinted a lot of the killer’s identity as well, so the fact-finding was almost redundant by the time you move on to chapter five (give or take).

Wick’s character shows a lot of chutzpah, which I adore. She’s a tiny bundle of sarcasm, wit and inane ability to find trouble. But that’s part of her repertoire of charms, if you ask me. I love the way she buys herself time and bullshits her way out of sticky situations. She’s loyal and devoted to her sister’s well-being but she’s very wary of everyone that showed even a tiny iota of tenderness.

Griff is the token boy interest. I also adore him, though there was a certain predictability to his character as well.

Over all, I think Find Me was enjoyable enough. Regardless of how quickly I unraveled its mysteries, I was interested enough to see it through the end. It hardly made you think nor would you have to search your soul for answers but some days, books like Find Me is just what you need.

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Another Little Piece by Kate Karyus Quinn

Weirdness abounds in this confounding debut

Another Little Piece
by Kate Karyus Quinn
Harper Teen | Hardcover, 419 pages
It’s difficult to write a review for a book as mysterious and strange as Another Little Piece. It’s even more difficult to write a brief synopsis without exposing its dark niches, ergo ruining it for other readers. But let me try to put it into words anyway. 

If I could assimilate the plot in a simple word, it would be…

reincarnation. Lives recycling into another but somehow staying the same. Physically, they’re different but their souls or their essences remain. They’re like aliens jacking up hosts and the switch was something kind of weird. It’s a story about a girl who woke up bludgeoned with no memories of who she was but knows where she needed to go. It was like an invisible string was tugging her until she got to where she needed to be. She finds her parents who had been searching for her, heartbroken and changed. Physically, she looked like their missing daughter but everything else seem wrong. 

Throughout the book, Anneliese remembers bits and pieces – of her life, past lives and people. But one constant thing she was sure of was that she’s not who everyone thinks she is. Through these recollections, readers will appreciate the seemingly complex tangle of lives – and like a web, she’s in the centre of it all. But some readers will go on scratching their heads or will have to fight off the urge to write it all down on piece of paper. Admittedly, I belong in the latter. I had a difficult time making heads of tails of all the characters and timelines. 

While I can appreciate the author’s knack for suspense and originality, I just didn’t enjoy it at all. Some books are written for specific readers and this one – I’m sure – is not meant for me. I’ve dabbled in mystery reads before but as much as I’d like to pretend I got this book’s penchant to shock and awe, I’m sorry to say, it only left me frustratingly confused. 

My rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
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Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff

Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff
Publication Date: January 8th, 2013
Format: ARC, 304 pages
RATING: 4 out of 5 Stars

The city of Ludlow is gripped by the hottest July on record. The asphalt is melting, the birds are dying, petty crime is on the rise, and someone in Hannah Wagnor’s peaceful suburban community is killing girls.
For Hannah, the summer is a complicated one. Her best friend Lillian died six months ago, and Hannah just wants her life to go back to normal. But how can things be normal when Lillian’s ghost is haunting her bedroom, pushing her to investigate the mysterious string of murders? Hannah’s just trying to understand why her friend self-destructed, and where she fits now that Lillian isn’t there to save her a place among the social elite. And she must stop thinking about Finny Boone, the big, enigmatic delinquent whose main hobbies seem to include petty larceny and surprising acts of kindness.
With the entire city in a panic, Hannah soon finds herself drawn into a world of ghost girls and horrifying secrets. She realizes that only by confronting the Valentine Killer will she be able move on with her life—and it’s up to her to put together the pieces before he strikes again.

While the summary insinuated of a murderer on a killing spree, Yovanoff didn’t really satiate my appetite for the gore. I have to admit though, that I was both relieved and disappointed that she opted not to write the scenes of the crime descriptively. There were hints of blood, bruises and cuts but never anything that would cause vertigo over the disturbing killings. But even if I’m disappointed in that aspect of the book, I still think that Yovanoff wrote with such lyrical flourish that I couldn’t help but read with open admiration for her words.

This novel is about a town in fear of a murderer – so much so that they have become prisoners of their own homes. Amidst the summer heat and the incessant worries, Hannah is being haunted by her dead best friend. But you won’t find her freaking out every time Lillian appears; in fact, it was as though she’s still alive. Their relationship and interactions didn’t change at all. Except Hannah couldn’t really tell her family that she’s still hanging around. I never got to find out what her unresolved matters are – don’t know why she can’t go to where she needed to go. Though I’m sure we were told at the end of the book but it’s all very…vague to me.

To be honest, I can’t quite wrap my head around this book. For all its talks of a rampaging murderer, the book’s sole focus is really about the relationships of its characters. It’s a coming of age book where our heroine finds a kindred spirit with a boy who, once upon a time, smushed her face in the snow. They’ve never really had any form of connection. He’s the consummate dark character: silent, brooding, often in trouble but has the penchant for being kind toward Hannah. I liked the progression of their relationship. It’s one of those, they wake up one day and realized how aware they were of each other.

For me, the major seller of this book was the paper heart cut-outs left by the killer with his victims. I wanted to know why; I wanted to know its significance and how it relates to the killer. In the end, the reason was disappointing. It was almost a random thought – without meaning or purpose. And the same goes with the killer. I wasn’t given any hints or even premonitions as to who the killer was. While I can appreciate that to some degree, I’d still would like to be able to make some guesses. I think there was only a page where the actual process of deduction happened and then before I know it, Hannah has the killer. But of course, what’s a good murder/mystery novel without a twist? There had to be a twist.

Yovanoff’s style of writing is very simplistic but if you really spend time with the composition, you will find a hidden depth. It’s disconcerting in a way that it’s almost deceptive. This eerie, somewhat romantic novel will appeal to readers who’d like a taste of horror without too much gore (yes, it is possible!). But among other things, this is a story of a girl coming into grips with the loss of her best friend and her regrets over the things she could’ve done to cry for help when her best friend refused to.

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