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Teen SRC 2021 – #murderfunding by Gretchen McNeil

#MurderFunding - McNeil, Gretchen

A fast-paced creepy book with many gory murders, #murderfunding by Gretchen McNeil makes up for its poor characterization and cheap tropes with action scenes and suspense. 6/10 for incredibly poor representation (POC especially, watch out) and cringe-worthy teenage slang. Seriously, I don’t know how editors approved the “teen” slang in this book–I’d rather hear teenagers speak like any regular adult than speak like they did in this book. “For reals” made an appearance, and an attempt to say that a character was “salty” (see: frustrated, annoyed) resulted in “less salted”. I LAUGHED SO HARD.

Anyway, I didn’t love this book much, but it was fast-paced and emotionally bland enough to get me out of a reading slump, which is great. There was some attempts to be political in this book, but they failed incredibly hard–resulting in an almost conspiracy-like feel. I did enjoy the formatting of discussion forums/articles on the Internet, but once the Russian meddling plot line was added, that began to feel cheap, too.

Overall, if you’re looking for a quick, creepy thriller, this is it. Otherwise, find something else.

P.S. This is the sequel to #murdertrending, which I read but then forgot mostly about. It is possible to read #murderfunding (2nd book) without having read the first (which got better ratings than this one, btw), but there is some confusing vocabulary to get through at the start. My suggestion: pick up #murdertrending first, then this one if you enjoy it. Happy reading!

Teen SRC 2021 – Wilder Girls by Rory Power

Wilder Girls by Rory Power

Wilder Girls by Rory Power is about a group of girls on an island with a new parasite called The Tox. The parasite affected the males differently and instead would turn them into monsters. It follows the story of Hetty, who had one eyelid sealed shut by the Tox. During this time, they are sent supplies and are told that the cure is in developement.

The book was exciting given that it had very quick development. It’s a quick read, so I would recommend it to readers who enjoy dystopian stories with gruesome descriptions. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

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 – The Ballad of the Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

I had high expectations for The Ballad of the Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins because of the original trilogy and…it lived up to them! I’d give it an 8/10. The only downside of this book is that the exciting part doesn’t start until very late in the book.


This book was told from the perspective of the one and only President Snow. He is in his last year at the academy and hopes to win the prize that will help him into university, which he otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford. A way that he can win this prize is if he mentors the winner of the 10th Annual Hunger Games. When he is assigned the girl from district 12, the lowest of the low, he is embarrassed but still determined to win. The story continues as he tries to help Lucy Gray, the tribute, win the Games.

***SPOILERS BELOW**

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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 Book Review- I Killed Zoe Spanos by Kit Frick

I Killed Zoe Spanos

It almost took me longer to write this review than it did to read I Killed Zoe Spanos by Kit Frick. Which is less a complaint about my writing speed and more a testament to how awesome this book was–I truly could not put it down. Contemporary YA murder mysteries are an untapped gold mine, and this book proves it.

It’s told in two timelines: Now and Then. In the “Then” timeline, teenager Anna Cicconi travels down from Brooklyn to the rich Long Island neighbourhood called Herron Mills where she has been hired as an ‘au pair’ for the summer. Anna is ready to leave her old life of partying and drinking behind. She can and she will be responsible, even with the expensive booze around her, the mysterious boy living next door, and an increasingly failing memory. But then Anna learns of her resemblance to Zoe Spanos, a local girl that disappeared months ago. The longer she lives in Herron Mills, and the deeper she delves into Zoe’s life, the more Anna is convinced that she is somehow connected to the case.

“Now”: Anna Cicconi is under arrest after confessing to killing Zoe Spanos. But considering Anna was never even supposed to have met Zoe, and that her confession doesn’t completely add up, teenager ‘investigative journalist’ Martina Jenkins/Green decides to get to the bottom of this complicated mystery.

Okay, so. As you can probably tell from the blurb, this book is going to be twisty, and that’s not just an expectation–“I Killed Zoe Spanos” completely delivered. The setting, pace, and writing are all very well-done. I loved how most of the book was status quo prose, with an occasional “podcast” or different perspective chapter . I also appreciated that that even though the timeline could have butchered the suspense aspect completely, it didn’t! We learned little by little about what had actually happened, which is how a mystery should be. The only aspect of the book I would’ve improved on was the romance (ugh, I know). And maybe the resolution could have gone a bit longer… I wanted to see Paisley (the 8-year old Anna was looking after) again!!

All in all, I Killed Zoe Spanos is a welcome relief from my slew of not-quite-for-me book reviews. 10/10

Teen Book Review- Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson

Allegedly - Jackson, Tiffany

TL; DR: This is the first book I am at a loss on how to review. 4 or 9 /10.

So. I don’t know how to start the review for Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson and that’s a first. I usually have a million of things to say (notice the average length of my reviews, hahaha) but for this one, I am still grappling.

Before I go into that, the premise.

Mary B. Addison killed a baby. Allegedly. She didn’t say much in that first interview with detectives, and the media filled in the only blanks that mattered: A white baby had died while under the care of a churchgoing black woman and her nine-year-old daughter. The public convicted Mary and the jury made it official. But did she do it? She wouldn’t say. Mary survived six years in baby jail before being dumped in a group home. The house isn’t really “home”—no place where you fear for your life can be considered a home. Home is Ted, who she meets on assignment at a nursing home. There wasn’t a point to setting the record straight before, but now she’s got Ted—and their unborn child—to think about. When the state threatens to take her baby, Mary must find the voice to fight her past. And her fate lies in the hands of the one person she distrusts the most: her Momma. No one knows the real Momma. But who really knows the real Mary?

Just from that you know that this thriller is going to be intense. And it really was.

First of all, why is this a YA novel? The protag is 16 years old but the topics in here are HEAVY and well… don’t open it expecting your typical YA stuff. Although that isn’t exactly fair either, because it does have a bunch of your typical YA stuff.

To give (some) structure to the review, I’ll break it down like this. Characters: 9/10. The arcs are strong, and the main characters are EXTREMELY complex and well-written. The side characters on the other hand are lacking, and stereotypically so. Writing: 7/10 Some lines catch you off-guard with their beauty but the overall style was just average. Romance: 8/10. I am still iffy about the romance, but oh well, it’s YA! Importance/Issues Discussed: 10/10. Now that’s one thing I can’t criticize Allegedly for. It takes the most uncomfortable, least-discussed, nitty gritty of the world and forces you to grapple with it. Just… astounding.

Notice how I didn’t rate the plot. Because the plot is *continuous screaming*. Without any spoilers, this is my plea to authors everywhere: DO NOT INCLUDE A PLOT TWIST IF THE ONLY THING IT’S ADDING TO THE BOOK IS SHOCK VALUE.

The ending felt incomplete and it was a long way for me to go to end up unsatisfied. I can’t give the book an overall rating because it’s either a 4/10 or a 9/10. Take from this review (which ended up being long despite what I said at the beginning, super sorry!) what you will and go forth with indecisiveness on whether to read Allegedly or not. 🙂 You’re welcome.

Teen Book Review – Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane

Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane is a great novel about Teddy Daniels and Chuck Aule’s search for Rachel Solando who went missing from Ashecliffe island’s hospital for the criminally insane . It seems that Solando managed to escape from a locked cell completely undetected by some orderlies playing cards and slipped past two guarded checkpoints. Swimming back to land would be out of the question for anyone other than the best swimmers, which makes her disappearance even more intriguing. While Daniels jumps at the chance to solve this case it seems like there might be an ulterior motive behind his enthusiasm. The island is a very interesting setting, as it contains 3 wards in separate buildings and the ever mysterious lighthouse that is quarantined off by heavily armored guards and an electric fence. Daniel begins to doubt the reality of his choice to come to the island as events occur that suggest his life is in danger. Shutter Island is a great novel that will surely take you on a roller coaster of emotions. With great mystery, and an intense horror movie vibe it is sure to get your adrenaline pumping. I would recommend the novel and rate it 10/10

Teen SRC 2020 – The Lost by Natasha Preston

The Lost - Preston, Natasha

In The Lost by Natasha Preston, a group of teens had recently been missing for the over a year, and more are disappearing one by one. No one even gave a second look to it as all the teens have been portrayed as runaways.
Piper and Hazel noticed a couple of their classmates have disappeared and on the way to uncover their tracks, the towns’ richest students offer the girls to hang out with them. These guys take them to their privately owned forest in the outskirts of town. Where they have an old, abandoned warehouse that they have renovated into a game room. They have the girls to leave their cell phones on the table as it was a social media free zone. The college students gave the girls a tour of the building, before revealing their true motive. Piper and Hazel are forced to enter a room only to find all the missing teens. Except now, unless they survive the mind games and torture, somehow get past all the security, escape without dying, and manage to stay sane, they will become part of The Lost.

I would rate it 9/10 and highly recommend this book to anyone who loves a good story filled with psychotic characters, mind games, and twists. The only thing I disliked about the book was the humongous cliff hanger at the end. It just irritated me so much that there wasn’t going to be a sequel.