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Teen SRC 2021 – The A.B.C. Murders by Agatha Christie

The A.B.C. Murders - Christie, Agatha

Agatha Christie, as you’ve probably heard me say many times, is a wonderful mystery writer and I was very eager to pick up The A.B.C. Murders, which is one of her most critically acclaimed novels. It has even been made into a show! (I am still debating whether to watch it because I get scared easily…)

A quick synopsis: Hercule Poirot is retired, but, like a Prima Donna, always comes back for a “final” performance. This time, his “cream of the crop” crime starts with an anonymous letter, taunting the fact that a murder is to happen on a particular date in Andover (a small British town). The letter is signed as “A.B.C.” Hastings, the narrator and Poirot’s trusty Watson-like friend, doesn’t give much thought to the letter until the day arrives and a Mrs. A. Ascher is murdered in her store. Then the next letter arrives for Bexhill-on-the Sea, and Poirot knows he needs to find A.B.C. before the murderer makes his/her way further down the alphabet.

I will keep my review brief at the risk of spoiling things, but this book was plotted marvellously. The A.B.C. Murders had a great amount of suspense, shocking twists, a lot of humour, some grisly descriptions, and even vague shadows of romance. There is a psychological element to the novel as well, which involves the historical time period and the first World War, which I absolutely adored. Also, this isn’t common to most Christie novels, but The A.B.C. Murders even had an underlying moral theme. It wasn’t too in-your-face, but if I picked up on it, then others might too. (I can’t explain anything, though…the struggle of writing spoiler-less reviews!) Also, I should mention that I’m very biased towards Hercule Poirot. I will read anything with him in it because where else am I going to get delightful lines like “I send the vegetable marrows to promenade themselves to the devil”? Also the friendship between Poirot and Hastings is so adorable and their banter makes everything in this book so much better.

The only bad thing about this book is that it ended and that there aren’t a hundred more like it. 10/10, I thoroughly enjoyed!

Teen SRC 2021- One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus

One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus — Reviews, Discussion, Bookclubs, Lists

From reading only 10-20 pages of One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus, I really like the pace its going at and it keeps wanting to make read more. It’s not going too slow but it’s not going too fast at the same time it goes at an even pace without being too detailed or too vague. I also like how you know the conflict cause it makes people want to read to the conflict then the climax and read the resolution to know how people would solve the conflict.

Teen SRC 2021 – Good Girl, Bad Blood by Holly Jackson

Good Girl, Bad Blood - Jackson, Holly

Good Girl, Bad Blood – a teen mystery book written by Holly Jackson – has been #1 on my reading list, ever since I finished reading A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder a while ago. By the way, quick recap: I absolutely loved that novel. It was thrilling, suspenseful, and easily the best mystery book I’ve ever read. So how was its partner in the Good Girl series? Let’s find out…

In Good Girl, Bad Blood, Pip is turning her first solved mystery into a podcast for people all over the world to stream. She feels like she’s finally falling back into the rhythm of her own life again, after losing so much to be able to solve the murder last time. So, you can imagine how she feels when one of her best friends comes knocking on her door, stating the three simple words: “My brother’s missing.” Will Pip sacrifice herself again and accept the investigation?

Just like the first book in this series, Good Girl, Bad Blood has a phenomenal plot, and the amount of suspense crammed into a relatively short book is truly impressive. Again, Jackson succeeded in making me turn each page with bated breath, too intrigued to put down the book even for a short while. I think my favourite thing about the book was honestly the dialogue, especially between Ravi and Pip. I must’ve been smiling way harder than what was considered “natural” reading the dialogue between those two; IT REALLY WAS TOO ADORABLE.

I’m going to have to say though, I liked the first book better. Maybe it was because I had relatively high expectations for this one, but I think the ending was significantly more underwhelming, and we all want a plausible ending in a mystery book, especially since that’s what the clues and suspense in the whole novel is leading up to. I’m also starting to get rather annoyed by Pip; I think her personality always becomes as bland as a piece of stale bread whenever there’s a mystery she has to solve. Like, come on, we want to know who the murder is, but that doesn’t mean the main character isn’t any less important.

I would give this book 8/10, simply because it’s missing that little bit of spark throughout the entire thing, which most likely has to do with the main character’s lack of personality. I do recommend this book, though, and I think it’s definitely worth reading, especially if you’ve already read the first one. Speaking of, there’s a third book in this series that I haven’t gotten around to yet! Looking forward to binge-read another one of Jackson’s novels 😉

Teen SRC 2021 – The Box in the Woods by Maureen Johnson

“The other, louder part of her mind told her that something was wrong, wrong, wrong.”

The Box in the Woods by Maureen Johnson is the fourth instalment in the Truly Devious series, although you could 100% read it as a standalone.

After solving the Ellingham cold case, Stephanie “Stevie” Bell finds herself bored… that is, until she receives a message from the owner of Sunny Pines, once known as Camp Wonder Falls, in Barlow Corners. He wants Stevie to help him out with a podcast on another unsolved case, the Box in the Woods murders.

In 1978, 4 camp counsellors went into the woods, and none came back out. They were stabbed brutally, and 3 of the 4 victims showed signs of head injury. These teens were Todd, the cocky Mayor’s son, Diane, Todd’s girlfriend and mediocre student, Eric, the camp weed dealer, and Sabrina… the local high school’s star student. I’ll let you decide who stands out.

It will surprise no one that I literally could not put this book down. I promise I tried, but I failed. I finished it at 11:30pm last night, which did nothing for my fear of the dark, but I genuinely could not stop turning the pages. Maureen Johnson has once again created a mystery that hooks the reader from the first page to the last.

There are lots of things to love about this book. It’s fast-paced, it creates amazing atmosphere, and Stevie talks through her thoughts very clearly, making it easy for the reader to immerse themselves. When she’s on the edge of a breakthrough, the anticipation is intense because the story is so absorbing. There are also several flashback scenes which are super helpful in keeping the reader engaged, because they feel like extra hints that not even Stevie has.

Unfortunately, I didn’t like every single aspect of the story, which is to be expected. Like I mentioned before in my review of Truly Devious, I don’t find Stevie a very likable character. Don’t get me wrong, I think she’s a great fit for narrating murder mysteries; she’s calculated, cold, and not very emotive. But she’s definitely not someone I’d like to be friends with, which detracted from my appreciation of the novel.

Another thing is the complicated romance between Stevie and David; it just didn’t belong in the book at all! It served no purpose, and it was so weird seeing Stevie suddenly feel things whenever he came around. So I apologize, but in the case of this novel in particular, I am back to being a romance hater.

Other than that, I have nothing else to critique, the beginning was a bit slow, but the other parts of the book made up for it! The mystery was well crafted as always, and it definitely lived up to my expectations.

I would rate The Box in the Woods an 8.5/10, and I’d recommend it to anyone who’s a fan of murder mysteries!

Teen SRC 2021 – Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie

For this month’s dose of Agatha Christie, I picked up Murder at the Vicarage. I know I give Miss Marple books a bad rap but this one pleasantly surprised me, and I think it’s because we had a different narrator. The Vicar is the one who tells this story, and there isn’t much to say except his POV was so much more interesting than Miss Marple’s could have been. I especially enjoyed the little side plot with his young wife, Griselda. Forget her brilliantly planned mysteries, Agatha Christie even writes romances that fit with my tastes.

This mystery wasn’t her absolute best, though, and I began to feel like I didn’t care very much who it turned out to be. Still, it was a cozy book to curl up with and it’s rare that I will criticize the Great Dame of Mystery. 8/10 🙂

TAMBA Author Interview – Eileen Cook

You Owe Me a Murder : Cook, Eileen: Amazon.ca: Books

Back in March, Stephanie and I had the chance to interview the amazing thriller writer, Eileen Cook. She has written many incredible books, such as The Hanging Girl, You Owe Me A Murder, and With Malice, so we were so excited to talk to her!

We had a blast learning about everything from where she gets her inspiration and how she builds suspense to the tips she has for emerging writers!

Read on for a few of our favourite highlights:

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Rosie: So, what got you into writing and when did you first develop more of an interest in doing it seriously?

Eileen: Well, I absolutely loved the library, and I’d go with my family every week to check out huge stacks of books. So very early on, I realized that somebody must actually write all of these stories! And I used to go and find where my book would go on the shelf if I ever wrote one, and make a little space for it there. Then, when I was 10, I discovered a book in the adult section of the library called Salem’s Lot, by Stephen King, and I went to check it out, along with my little pile of Nancy Drews and Judy Blume… and despite a warning from the librarian, I still ended up taking it home. It was terribly scary and I slept with the lights on for a while after that… but I remember thinking it was really cool! The fact that I knew it was make believe but that it was still able to make me so terrified? And that was the first time I realized, yes, I want to do this.

Rosie: I can totally relate to that! I think it’s so crazy how books are literally just words on a page, but somehow they can still make you feel so many different emotions, and so strongly too!

Stephanie: True. And speaking of the thriller and adventure genre, how do you create such suspense in your books?

Eileen: Well let me tell you, it’s a lot harder than it seems. Especially because readers are getting a lot better at solving these mysteries than they used to be. Anyway, what I play with most often is: what do people see versus what really happened? For example, say you have a crush on someone, and you decide to tell them, but then you see them hugging someone else in the cafeteria and you’re like… NOOOO! I’ll never talk to them again! But later, it turns out they had just been hugging a cousin or something. So the suspense comes from convincing people that they see one thing, when they might actually be seeing something else. It’s a little bit like magic, almost!

Rosie: That’s so cool! And speaking of ways to create suspense and make your books more thrilling, what do you think makes a good story?

Eileen: I think a good story is something that makes you want to understand the characters better. Not anything to do with the plot, it’s the person. I have to care about the characters or at least find them interesting, which can definitely pull me into the story! 

Rosie: Yes I completely agree. With amazing books, I just end up wanting to be friends with them or get to know them better.

Stephanie: And they’re really able to drive the story forward, especially in your books, I’ve noticed! Like all the actions and the plot is driven forward BY the character.

Eileen: And something else! I used to think that when writing was hard, it meant that it was bad… but in reality, sometimes writing is just difficult. Just like how any other job is just hard on some days. It’s important to just keep pushing through, and pursue your passion!

Rosie: That’s so true! And on this same topic of overcoming obstacles in writing… Do you have any general tips for becoming a writer? As I know many members of our audience are likely aspiring writers, myself included!

Eileen: Ooh… I have many tips, but I’ll just give you the most important ones; the first of these is: read a LOT of books, because sometimes they really are the best teachers. When you finish a book, open it back up and read it again. Think about potential changes you could make and how that’d affect the story! Read like a writer. Another piece of advice would be to be nice to yourself. When I first began, I’d have amazing ideas for a book but I’d start writing and just never finish because it always ended up lousy on the page. What I had to learn was that everybody writes terrible first drafts. And we often compare our rough drafts to published novels… which is not realistic at all! So yes, be nice to yourself.

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Eileen Cook is currently working on another thriller with lots of mayhem, a possible accidental murder, and maybe even poison, so keep an eye out for that — it sounds deliciously suspenseful!

Once again, a huge thank you to Ms. Cook for taking the time to talk to Stephanie and I. Our discussion was so intriguing and we definitely learned a lot!

Teen SRC 2021 – They Wish They Were Us by Jessica Goodman

They Wish They Were Us - Goodman, Jessica

Another YA mystery set at a prestigious boarding school! I seem to have a soft spot for those. Anyway, I had high hopes for this book because wow, what a cover. They Wish They Were Us by Jessica Goodman gets a 7/10 because while I enjoyed the setting, and smaller details, the mystery just didn’t deliver.

They Wish They Were Us is about a group of elite students at Blackbrook Prep, called the Players. Being the elite of the elite means good grades, better parties, and the best drama. But it all comes at a cost. No one knows this better than Jill Newman, whose best friend was killed by her boyfriend during Player initiation. That’s all done and dusted, though, because it’s three years later and Jill is going to make the most of her senior year. But then she gets a text message, questioning what happened the day she became a Player… and when Jill looks deeper, she realizes not everything is as it seems.

There is a lot of your typical YA stuff in this book, like partying, pulling pranks and drinking…most of it I don’t enjoy nor find realistic. The only thing I feel this book did better than any other YA mystery is the character relationships which are complex and go deeper than labels. I also liked the premise of a boarding school with its unjust hierarchy system, as well as how Jill’s financial struggles played into the story. Still, like I said before, the mystery was too predictable and got frustrating as the book dragged on.

Overall, I would recommend this book as a contemporary drama/coming of age more so than a mystery. It’s fun, shocking and you’ll enjoy the character relationships in spite of the lukewarm plot. 7/10

Teen SRC 2021 – The Box in the Woods by Maureen Johnson

I loved the Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson trilogy, so I was very ready to read this spin-off featuring teen-detective Stevie Bell and all her friends. There are very few spoilers for the trilogy in this book so if you want to read this without having read the first three other books first, then please do!

Read the description of the book here.

I really don’t have much to say except that I enjoyed this book tremendously. The mystery was well-written, the character growth was impressive (especially as you don’t expect it after three whole books), and I loved the small town summer camp setting. I didn’t enjoy the romance in the Truly Devious trilogy but in this book we see another side to David, who is the love interest, which is fun. The side characters also each get their own little arc, and I especially loved Nate’s! The last thing I’ll say is that The Box in the Woods also has interesting social commentary sprinkled throughout, so if you like satire and political humour, you’ll enjoy this too.

All in all, a captivating summer mystery with an unexpected ending and lovable characters. 9/10

Teen SRC 2021 – A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson


Book rating: 5
Book summary: This book is about seventeen-year-old Pip, a senior in high school. Five years ago in Fairview, the small town Pip lives in, there was a murder. Andie Bell, the popular, pretty girl, was dead. Just a few days after, her boyfriend’s body is found lifeless in the woods. Police investigate the case, and proclaim that Sal Singh murdered Andie Bell, and had killed himself afterwards. But because Sal is dead, no one knows for sure. Five years later, and still everyone thinks of Andie’s boyfriend as a monster. Until Pip comes along and decides to investigate further into the case for her capstone project. Little did she know how much of the alleged “murder” had been kept a secret for all those years.
Book review: I like this book so much because it’s fast-paced and straight to the point. A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder has endless plot twists, all of which you never would have imagined. Just when you think you’ve got everything figured out, the author hurls another suspect, clue, or piece of evidence at you and suddenly everything changes. It’s such a fun read and so thrilling that you won’t be able to put it down.

Teen SRC 2021 – The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas

The Cheerleaders is a mystery novel by Kara Thomas. In this book, five teenage girls living in the quiet town of Sunnybrook die in the span of barely two months. First was a car crash that left two of the girls dead and their friends saddened by he loss. Soon after came the murder of two more girls in the middle of their sleepover. And lastly came the tragic suicide of Monica’s sister. These heartbreaking events resulted in the end Sunnybrook High’s cheer squad. However, five years later, Monica discovers some troubling evidence that leads her to realize that some things weren’t what people thought they were. In this story, Monica seeks out the truth, no matter how hard it may be.

I thought this book was very well written out because the story had twists and turns that made me surprised but eager to find out what happens next. The author also incorporated the many hardships of being a teen. Additionally, she included tough topic such as suicide and rape. She also did a great job of developing the characters as they were realistic and complex. I would give this book a 5/5 and I definitely recommend you to read it.