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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 – As Dead As It Gets by Katie Alender

As Dead as it Gets: Alender, Katie: 8601200550580: Books - Amazon.ca

As Dead As It Gets, a mystery/horror book by Katie Alender, is the third book in the Bad Girls Don’t Die series. This is going to be a relatively short review, just because I’ve already written reviews about the first few books which use very similar writing styles, tones, plot lines, etc.

Again, I thought this was a pretty blood-chilling and relatively thrilling read. I won’t go into detail or be too repetitive about that, though, because there were also other things I liked which I haven’t talked about before. For instance, the title. I mean, come on, you’re going to have to be one bland soul if you see a book titled As Dead As It Gets and have the audacity to walk away without picking it up. 8/10 for this novel, again I found it to be a nice read but not too surprising.

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 – The Toll by Neal Shusterman

“We are imperfect beings… how could we ever fit into a perfect world?”

The Toll by Neal Shusterman is the third and final book of the Arc of a Scythe Trilogy, a Dystopian series set in a world where humanity has conquered death. Those who die are simply deadish, able to be revived within a day, and old age is no longer a concern either; anyone and everyone is welcome to ‘turn a corner’ and go back to a certain age at any time. Scythes manage population control, gleaning people to make sure the Earth does not exceed its population capacity. But of course, with great power comes great responsibility, and some just do not possess that needed quality.

As this review is for The Toll, and not the first two books of the series, there will be spoilers for Scythe and Thunderhead. If you haven’t read those yet, I recommend that you do that first!

Regardless, onto the review.

Going into this, I had high expectations. Scythe and Thunderhead were both incredible reads, and I was hoping that The Toll would wrap the series up well. I was not disappointed; this book left me reeling with a variety of emotions, and even now, I’m still processing the ending. It’s been such a journey seeing the characters develop throughout the years, and in contrast to what I critiqued in my review of Scythe, I have come to relate to the many protagonists in this world, and it brings me so much joy to follow them on their many adventures.

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Teen SRC 2021 – The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

The Inheritance Games - Barnes, Jennifer

If you asked me to compare the Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes to any other book series/movie, I would readily say that it resembles The Princess Diaries. It’s a classic rags-to-riches story with a very principled, intelligent, and stubborn heroine… but then sprinkle in some riddles, a dash of mystery, and a boring love triangle to the mix. I have to say, I enjoyed the first half of the Inheritance Games tremendously. The entire premise of inheriting billions of dollars and a gigantic mansion with four handsome boys living in it would be appealing to anyone, and I got immersed in all the details of Avery’s new life–like having your own security detail and personal lawyer? Sign me up! It was also fascinating to try and figure out WHY Tobias Hawthorne, who Avery had never even met (to her knowledge) would leave her his entire empire.

If you noticed I only mentioned the first half of the book, then you would be absolutely correct. I don’t know what it was exactly, but the book didn’t live up to its own potential in the second half. The mystery became especially lacklustre, in my opinion, because most of it happened BEFORE Avery even got involved. I believe the book started its downward track when Emily was first mentioned. I could have done without the “dead ex” trope but *sigh* that was not to be. The “bombshell” at the end was also very predictable for me, somehow–I was not at all surprised. Also. The love triangle? Childish. I disliked both potential love interests but the one I disliked more is who we got saddled with throughout the book. Not to mention that most characters barely had a personality. I liked Oren, Alisa, Libby (secondary characters) and maybe Xander… but that’s pretty much it. For me, everyone else was indistinguishable (i.e. the same as one another).

To wrap up my review, I liked this book a lot. I’d even give it a 9/10 just because of how fun and exciting it was. (I finished in one day, by the way. I feel like I should have mentioned that earlier.) Still, it could have been better without the cliched romance and with a bigger mystery. I will be picking up the next book in the series but not with bated breath.

P.S. I think the problem arose because two VERY important characters (Emily and Tobias Hawthorne) were both dead from the start. They couldn’t do much except be mentioned and it made everything repetitive. The only mystery that didn’t involve either of them was great, though, but I can’t say what that was because of spoilers 🙂

Teen SRC 2021 – The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

“As awful as it sounds, money is power, and power is magnetic.” But what if that isn’t all there is to it? In The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes– the protagonist, Avery Grambs, is inherited billions of dollars all at once. Suddenly, she’s no longer the girl going to a public high school and eating out of cafeteria lunch trays. Her life is a fantasy…until problems arise. The question isn’t how Avery will spend the money. It isn’t if her sister, Lynn, will be okay with everything. The real question is, who in the world gave Avery the money, and why?

When Avery meets Tobias Hawthorne, the billionaire genius, her life is flipped. Scratch that. More like tumbled, rolled, and cartwheeled itself into the most luxurious lifestyle she could have ever asked for. But then, -oh, and here comes the “but then”– Avery meets the Hawthorne family. Four grandsons, each and every one of them raised to be well-mannered, respectable young men. At first glance, they welcome Avery and her sister into Hawthorne House and give warm welcomes. As time passes, though, Avery starts sensing the hostility beneath their smiles and twinkling eyes. Hawthorne House, a place of secrets, magic, and puzzles, conceals a game so complex, one could hardly call it “a game.”

I think this book had such an amazing plot line, and the pacing was perfect. It’s a mystery book, so the author doesn’t give away too much, but just the right amount readers need to feel engaged to the book. I’ve realized this is something most mystery book authors can do though, so that wasn’t the most surprising part for me. What really got me with The Inheritance Games are the characters. Oh. My. God. The characters. I still can’t believe how well-rounded they are, each with their own realistic characteristics and personalities. They felt relatable and so real, too. I feel like most mystery books I’ve read focus on the plot, and the character is, more often than not, a detective who literally does not have their own life beyond the mystery. Jennifer Lynn Barnes does the most awesome job at making the characters people who can actually exist in real life.

I have zero complaints for this book. It was breath-catching, beautiful, and just everything a mystery book for teens should be. Also, can we take second to talk about THAT COVER. Don’t judge a book by it’s cover, yeah we get that, but this one is absolutely stunning. I can’t wait to read the sequel, I totally recommend this book; 10/10.

Teen SRC 2021 – Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

Ellie Mack. The perfect daughter. The perfect student. The perfect girlfriend.

Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell, tells us a story about Ellie Mack, who went missing when she was fifteen. “She ran away,” the police had said. As if anyone would believe that. Ellie had her golden future shining out in front of her; she was the definition of perfect. Then she was gone, though. So what happened?

Whoa. Not many books do this to me, but this one had me thinking-about-the-plot-at-2 A.M. Is that a good thing? Most of the time, yes. This particular book, though, was somehow disturbing. Let me take you through the general mood/tone and how it changes throughout this book.

When I first started reading the book, I thought, okay, the pace is slow and it’s kind of boring, but I can deal with it. Around halfway through, the ENTIRE book changed. I mean like full-blown, the writing style, the plot, the energy level, the tone, etc. And THAT’S when I thought, things are getting more interesting.

I was totally right, by the way. It definitely got more interesting…but not in a positive way. I can’t even find the right words to describe it. Gross? Disturbing? Upsetting? Yeah, maybe a combination of those three. It was just…really, really deep. I don’t know, I was thrown incredibly off guard, and to think about some of the specific details…yikes.

It’s weird, because I still enjoyed the book. Unsettling as it was, I think it’s a good read with an unpredictable plot twist; I would recommend ages 15+. REALLY deep concepts, and it’s probably a good idea to read the trigger warnings before the book too.

Overall, 7/10 as a rating, I don’t think I’m quite ready for other books like this yet, but it could certainly be someone else’s cup of tea!

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 🙂

Teen SRC 2021 – Frozen Charlotte by Alex Bell

Frozen Charlotte - Bell, Alex

Frozen Charlotte by Alex Bell is thrilling and keeps the audience at the edge of their seats. The genres are mystery and horror but are highly engaging to read. In the beginning, the events were unfortunate, but in the end, everything resolves. Although this is a fiction book, the author utilized sophisticated language and detail to create realistic content. Therefore, I would rate the novel nine out of ten and highly recommended. The novel begins with the protagonist, Sophie, staying with her cousins on the remote Isle of Skye after her best friend passed away in a mysterious accident. Her uncle had set unexpected, strange rules such as never leaving the front gate unlocked. Afterwards, peculiar incidents frequently occurred that revealed connected secretes lying deep down under the surface.