Review: The Girls I’ve Been by Tess Sharpe

I’ve read books by this author before and really enjoyed them, so I decided to give this one a shot,
but after the first few pages, I found myself questioning my decision. There was an instant disconnect. I wasn’t really feeling the characters. Then, all hell broke loose.

What I feared was going to be a humdrum book centering on a boring girl turned into a super fast paced page turner featuring a kick ass heroine (or two). The characters came alive and the stakes rose higher and higher as I raced through the pages. My only complaint would be that there were certain events referenced in the book that made me wonder if there was a prequel, and that were never explained to my satisfaction. So . . . maybe a sequel?!?!

Overall, engaging and enthralling!

From Goodreads: A deliciously commercial YA page-turner about the daughter of a con artist who is taken hostage in a bank heist.

Nora O’Malley is a lot of things. A sister. An ex. A secret girlfriend. Kind of crooked, but reformed… somewhat.

Nora O’Malley’s been a lot of girls. As the daughter of a con-artist who targets criminal men, she grew up her mother’s protege. But when mom fell for the mark instead of conning him, Nora pulled the ultimate con: escape.

For five years she’s been playing at normal. But she needs to dust off the skills she ditched because she has three problems:

#1: her ex walked in on her with her girlfriend. Even though they’ve all been inseparable for months, Wes didn’t know about her and Iris.

#2: The morning after, they all have to meet to deposit the fundraiser money they raised together. It’s a nightmare that goes from awkward to deadly.

Because #3: right after they get in the bank, two guys start robbing it.

But they have no idea who they’re really holding hostage.

The robbers are trouble. Nora’s something else entirely. 

Review: The Box In The Woods by Maureen Johnson

I absolutely LOVED the Truly Devious series, so I was thrilled when I learned that Maureen Johnson was writing another mystery featuring the same characters! I rarely preorder a book, preferring instead to wait until it appears in one of the half dozen Kindle daily deal emails I receive, but I knew had to get my hands on this one as soon as possible, so I purchased this one months before its release date. After what seemed like eons of waiting, finally the day came when I got to see beyond the cover to the actual pages of the book!

While I really enjoyed this story, it was definitely different from the previous novels in the series. For one, it felt darker, which I didn’t mind at all, but there were other differences that were an uncomfortable fit, like a too tight sock. The supporting characters (Stevie’s friends) felt a little off to me, maybe because they didn’t have as much of a chance to show their personalities in this one. They almost felt like window dressing to me – only there to serve a specific purpose instead of adding to the dynamics of the plot.

But I think the biggest difference for me was the mystery itself. There aren’t many suspects in this one, so the big payoff of the reveal is more focused on the how and why of the crime. The author does leave a trail of breadcrumbs for readers to follow, and while I don’t mind when I can’t put all the clues together early, when the motivation of the killer comes to light it this one, it almost felt like it wasn’t fair play.

Ultimately, I did like this book, but suspect I would have enjoyed it more had it used characters I was unfamiliar with. After waiting so long to reconnect with Stevie and the gang, the reunion felt a little underwhelming, but Maureen Johnson puts on a good show! 4.5 stars!

From Goodreads:

The Truly Devious series continues as Stevie Bell investigates her first mystery outside of Ellingham Academy in this spine-chilling and hilarious stand-alone mystery.

Amateur sleuth Stevie Bell needs a good murder. After catching a killer at her high school, she’s back at home for a normal (that means boring) summer.

But then she gets a message from the owner of Sunny Pines, formerly known as Camp Wonder Falls–the site of the notorious unsolved case, the Box in the Woods Murders. Back in 1978, four camp counselors were killed in the woods outside of the town of Barlow Corners, their bodies left in a gruesome display. The new owner offers Stevie an invitation: Come to the camp and help him work on a true crime podcast about the case.

Stevie agrees, as long as she can bring along her friends from Ellingham Academy. Nothing sounds better than a summer spent together, investigating old murders.

But something evil still lurks in Barlow Corners. When Stevie opens the lid on this long-dormant case, she gets much more than she bargained for. The Box in the Woods will make room for more victims. This time, Stevie may not make it out alive.

Monday (Mini #BookReview) Madness

This week I read:

Gifted teens in Vegas? What’s the worst that could happen? The 3rd installment of The Naturals series presents a tightly plotted, super smart mystery that deepens the arc that connects all the books. We get to know the characters, their backgrounds, and their motivations better as the author teases the reader with answers they so desperately want, all while deftly laying clues for them to solve the case at hand.

This final installment wraps the series up nicely. I’m sad that it’s over, but now maybe I can finally get some sleep! 🙂 Barnes is a master of creating tension and suspense even as the events teased throughout the series finally come to fruition. The stakes are high – not just because they’re life or death, but because it feels like you’ve come to know the characters and are invested in their fates. There you are, holding your breath, hoping for the best, and then whammy! What an emotional rollercoaster!

This novella picks up 6 years after the novels leave off. I was eager to read more about the characters I had come to know over the course of the series, and to discover how they had evolved as they aged. The case presented in this one was interesting and had a nice twist, but there was something missing. It felt a bit rushed, not just because there was a clock ticking down, creating a sense of urgency and suspense, but because the time usually spent with the characters and their development was missing. This was like a 2 hour movie paring down to a 1/2 hour show with half the cast. Good but not great.

I just started:

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Monday (Mini #BookReview) Madness

This week I read:

I LOVED this book! And I stayed up WAY too late reading it! Some people have a natural gift for reading people . . . what happens when the FBI recruits them while they’re still teenagers? In full disclosure I did guess who the villain was, but I didn’t care. I loved the characters, the storyline, everything. Every once in a while a book comes along where I have to pick the sequel up immediately – and this was one of those books!

Barnes is officially to blame for my sleep deficit! This is the 4th book I’ve read by her this year, the 2nd in this series, and she’s quickly become one of my YA favorite authors. The stakes are no less serious in this sequel, the characters no less likeable, the storyline no less suspenseful! Teenage angst and twisty plots? I’m addicted! I just broke my book buying diet to buy the next installment!

I just started:

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Monday (Mini #BookReview) Madness

This week I read:

A woman with synesthesia – she sees colors when people speak, each with their own distinctive shades and patterns – returns home 13 years after her boyfriend and his family disappeared to take care of her aging grandmother and autistic brother. But not everybody is happy that she’s back.

This one has mixed reviews, and I’ll admit that it wasn’t without its faults, but it held my attention and I enjoyed reading it. I found it fast paced and suspenseful.

This book packs a punch! A successful black student with an Ivy League future starts writing letters to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as a way to work through his feelings after suffering an injustice due to racial profiling. Despite his efforts to learn wisdom from Luther’s teachings, the MC struggles to make sense of a reality that gets progressively more confusing and hostile. A raw, insightful look into how it feels when you’re judged by the color of your skin and not your actions.

I just started:

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Monday (Mini #BookReview) Madness

This week I read:

I loved the idea behind this book – a club of high schoolers who celebrate their love of all things horror by pulling pranks and ‘fear tests’ on their fellow students. But even better than that, I loved the execution of this book! It’s all fun and games until someone takes it too far . . . that’s when things get really interesting. The thrills, the chills, the ‘everybody’s a suspect’ kept me gripped until the very end! My only complaint would be that the ending left so many questions unanswered – I can only assume that means there’s a sequel!

Three 12 year old girls who have been researching the man at the center of a local urban legend sneak out of a slumber party and go to the train yard, where one of them gets severely beaten. But who’s to blame?

It’s certainly a compelling plot, and brings to mind news reports surrounding murky figures such as slender man. Gudenkauf had me hooked! She does a good job of providing plenty of suspects for the reader, and while the twist had occurred to me while reading, it and was the one I had hoped she wouldn’t take, there’s no denying that I couldn’t put this book down!

I just started:

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Monday (Mini #BookReview) Madness

This week I read:

This book was awesome! It was fast paced, suspenseful, and had a couple of nice surprises in store for the reader. The main character is in her senior year of high school – and the witness protection program. She just wants to keep her head down, blend in, and make it through the last 6 weeks of school so she can attend college and leave the program forever. But as long forgotten memories start to resurface, other demons from her past come back as well. A perfect thriller for your summer reading list!

Four college friends go to a remote Alaskan island to spend the summer working on their art – but they aren’t the only ones who show up! This was a gripping, fast paced story that kept me turning the pages. Plenty of suspense, but with a few minor plot hiccups that I would have missed entirely had I not been so intent on solving the mystery! The writing was a little rough in places, and it wasn’t completely unpredictable, but it was enjoyable, easy reading.

I just started:

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Monday (Mini #BookReview) Madness

This week I read:

This was definitely a #BlameItOnLitsy choice. Despite being published almost 20 years ago, it’s been getting a lot of attention – and good reviews – lately. So much so that when it showed up as a Kindle daily deal, I had to snatch it up. It was definitely suspenseful and interesting, but, to me, it felt like the author took the long way around. Heavy on the court drama and the did she/didn’t she. The twist at the ending did blindside me, but I felt a bit underwhelmed. If you like legal mysteries, this one’s for you.

This book was described as “an homage to 1980’s slashers and mall culture,” How could I resist? The short answer is that I couldn’t. It was a quick, fast paced, fun read. That said, it was rough in some areas and seemed almost as much of a social commentary on consumerism as a teen slasher. It took an odd, unexpected turn that I felt detracted from what was promised. Definitely campy, but that’s the point. 3.5 stars rounded up.

Thanks to NetGalley, the Publisher and the Author for an advanced copy for review.

I just started:

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Monday (Mini #BookReview) Madness

This week I read:

This book drew me in and wouldn’t let me go. It had a bit of everything – secrets, suspense, dogs – even some humor for levity. I loved the characters and the plot – a girl who was found feral and alone in the woods when she was young now, as a teenager, trains search and rescue dogs with her adopted family and they get called to help search for a little girl who’s gone missing – was intensely compelling. As if that wasn’t enough, many things are not as they seem. I loved this book and was surprised to find the author wrote another book I read recently, “The Inheritance Games”, which I enjoyed, but this one was so much deeper and more emotional!

The plot of this book is all in the title, and given what it’s about, how could I not give it a try? But I was still taken by surprise, because it was so much more than I expected! It’s hard to express why I enjoyed this book so much without giving too much away, but the setting, the culture, the empathy the author creates all worked together in a way that had me hooked! Short and almost sweet.

I just started:

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Monday (Mini #BookReview) Madness

This week I read:

This novella was a quick, down and dirty slice of horror by the author of “Clown In A Cornfield”. The MC is a grocery store worker by day, a horror movie director by night, and was developed in a way that felt true to life. But what happens when one of the actors takes things too far? It’s interesting to see the evolution of a writer’s style and talent from their earlier works. This one was a bit rough in places, but it kept my attention more than several more polished works have lately. I understand what Cesare was going for with the ending, and I like it, but I felt it needed just a little bit more, a page, maybe two, to give the reader the payoff they deserve.

This book is a modern day, YA retelling of some of Edgar Allan Poe’s works, and OMG does the author throw references to enough of them in here – I lost count. I am a HUGE McGinnis fan, and a Poe fan, so my expectations were really high for this book. But whereas McGinnis’s characters usually feel deep and developed, in this book they felt kind of shallow and flat. We get slices of the story from both MC’s perspectives, but even though all the reasons are there to feel for the girls, I didn’t. And there’s motivation, sure, but not enough to explain why things would be taken so far. It ends on a cliffhanger that feels more like the book just stopped in the middle. There is a sequel in the works that will hopefully wrap up the loose ends and answer all the questions, but the way it ended with really nothing to satisfy the reader who just spent 370 pages with the book was frustrating. Good, but not as great as I was expecting.

I just started:

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