All Book Reviews by Genre: Mystery

Cover
Lutz, Lisa
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Alexandra Witt doesn’t take a position as an English teacher at the not-that-illustrious- boarding school Stonebridge with the aim to turn the institution on its head, but that’s exactly what she does. After witnessing some distressing interactions between the boys and the girls at school, Witt encourages the women to stand up for themselves. The boys, of course, aren’t having that, and before they all know it,an all-out gender war is taking place at Stonebridge and all involved are hurtling toward an unhappy ending.

This was so much fun! First, the gender politics were spot on. This is definitely a book for the “Me Too” era. I went to a public school, but I can totally see a scaled down version of this sort of thing happening there, or, unfortunately, anywhere. Lutz handles some very sensitive topics pretty deftly, and creates engaging and authentic characters. Foreshadowing early in the book makes it pretty clear that things will end badly, and I found myself racing through the book to find out what happened. The end was pretty weak: the story, while not exactly grounded, felt believable until suddenly it felt like an episode of Riverdale or Gossip Girl or…pick any teen show on the CW, I guess.

TLDR: If you are looking for a suspenseful read with some feminist flavorings, you won’t go wrong here. Older teens will find a lot to like here as well. 4 stars – I really enjoyed it.

Thanks to Ballantine Books and Netgalley for the eARC which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. The Swallows will be released on 13 August, but you can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
A Void the Size of the World
Alpine, Rachele
1 star = Yuck!
Review:

If there was one word to describe this book it would definitely be "yuck". It's like when Squiduard took over Spongebob's shift for a day and instead of a krabby patty he fried a boot. It has absolutely no plot. there is paranormal activity that we never figure out and we don't know what happened to Abby. If i could rate this a -10/10 I would.

Reviewer's Name: Vincent D
The Girl in the Picture
Monir, Alexandra
1 star = Yuck!
Review:

The Girl in the Photo is of the mystery genre but nowhere in this book could I find anything mysterious. From the beginning of the book I wanted to throw it out the window. The writing is so overdramatized and so typical hollywood highschool that nothing in it could be called suspenseful.
The writing is simple, juvenile, and overly predictable that you can pretty much guess ‘who done it’ in the first few chapters. I would not wish this book on anyone.

Reviewer's Name: Maddie K
Bad Luck
Bosch, Pseudonymous
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Bad luck is an amazing book showing lots of humour, fantasy and fun.
Clay is playing a regular game of capture the flag at his camp, Earth-ranch which is on a volcanic island when the vog (volcanic smog) gets so thick that he can't find his way back to camp. Clay then finds his way to a cave that has art of dragons and a book telling their secrets. Clay then finds someone who washed up on shore because his dad pushed him off a cruise ship. The cruise ship then docks at the island saying they are looking for the kid but really looking for a dragon. Clay makes friends with the washed up kid and they find the dragon and make an alliance with it.

Reviewer's Name: Vincent D
Origin
Brown, Dan
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

When it comes to Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon series of books, I have appreciated his ability to mold art and symbology into a tight and thrilling narrative. His works have not been without controversy, the main perpetrator, of course, being The Da Vinci Code . In Origin, Brown leaves the world of classical art for the modern pieces that are still filled with meaning and symbology, just not in ways that lend themselves to uncovering ancient mysteries. While there is plenty of interesting plot points and twists along the way, Origin seems set to stir the pot of controversy more than tell an interesting story.

It’s been quite some time since the last Robert Langdon book released, so this book needed to advance its technology to be able to keep up with the modern times. If anything, I felt the inclusion of artificial intelligence down-played why Langdon was even involved at all, since he was mostly the “answer man” who knew the information to advance the plot. Sure, Langdon still needed to be there to interact physically with the surroundings, but all he was tasked with finding was a password to a computer, and that was it. Even some of the headier symbology that he’d usually bring to the table was reduced to basic, common knowledge tidbits.

Perhaps the overall story was weak to begin with, because I found the narrative in Origin to be distracted at best. The focus jumped around a lot, which I recognize has happened in previous books in the series, but it was almost like three different stories were being told here, and very rarely did they intersect with each other. Even the eponymous “origin” wasn’t that great of a reveal, merely acting as a McGuffin to drive the conflict.

Hardly one of the best of the Robert Langdon series, I give Origin 3.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
Monster
Myers, Walter Dean
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This book is an interesting and suspenseful novel. It is filled to the brim with moments that will have readers on the edge of their seat. Monster also is written in a unique format, in the form of a movie script written my the protagonist Steve Harmon, who is awaiting trial for a crime he didn’t commit. This story is written with intense figurative language that paints a terrifying image depicting the horrors of prison. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a great suspenseful read. Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: Kyle Y
Paper Towns
Green, John
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Have you ever had someone in your life just leave or disappear? Quentin was best friends with Margo Roth Speilleman. One day when they we around seven years old they found a dead body laying against a tree. Years later they are seniors in high school and are not as good as friends anymore. Graduation is nearing and people are turning out reckless. One night Margo convinces Quentin to go help prank her cheating boyfriend and her backstabbing best friend who her boyfriend was cheating on her with. After that night Margo suddenly goes missing and Quentin ends up falling in love with her. Soon he finds that Margo left clues for him to crack and hopefully find her! This book will have you wrapped up in romance, mystery, comedey, and adventure.

Reviewer's Name: Lilyana B.
There's Someone Inside Your House
Perkins, Stephanie
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

It's been almost a year since Makani Young came to live with her grandmother in landlocked Nebraska, and she's still adjusting to her new life. And still haunted by her past in Hawaii. Then, one by one, the students of her small town high school begin to die in a series of gruesome murders, each with increasing and grotesque flair. As the terror grows closer and the hunt intensifies for the killer. Makani will be forced to confront her own dark secrets.

"There's Someone Inside Your House" is a compelling book that at times feels impossible to put down. Stephanie Perkins excels at writing fast reads and this book is no exception. Being my first time reading one of her books I have to say that I wasn't disappointed, but I also wasn't won over. If your looking for a complex horror novel, this is not the book for you. It's murder plot is very straightforward and its essentially about a serial killer terrorizing a town. The beginning of the book was my favorite part, the murders were slow and calculated, each one more interesting then the last and the characters were brand new so I was still suspicious about all of them. Not knowing who I could trust made the beginning my favorite part, but once the killer is revealed and the action starts to speed up my interest began to decrease. My main problems with the book was the serial killer's baffling motivation and lackluster reveal. I also thought Makani's mysterious past was brought up way too much to be believable. In almost every chapter she worries "do they know about my past?" "could he have found out what I've done?" and when it actually is revealed what she did, her constant worry seems all the more unrealistic. I wished her two friends would have been more developed, especially Darby. I felt like they were both pushed to the background to make way for Ollie's development. That being said I did enjoy Alex, Darby's, Makani's interaction/friendship. And I think Makani makes an interesting protagonist. Her mysterious past adds intrigue and any references to her childhood in Hawaii feel genuine and well-researched. Ollie is also unique and likeable. All in all it was different sort of book for me, I doubt hardcore mystery or horror fans would enjoy it, but if your looking for a simple YA slasher then I think you would enjoy this.

Reviewer's Name: Zion
Floors
Carman, Patrick
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Leo lives in a hotel. The hotel consists of many rooms and some of them are crazy. Thee owner of the library is inside one of the rooms and has the keys to the room that Leo needs to open to save the hotel from closing. He and his friend Remi go around the whole hotel to find the room. Join Leo and Remi with their awesome adventure to find the keys that will help the hotel form closing down.

Reviewer's Name: Harshith J.
Who in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?
Tinker, Rebecca
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

You may be familiar with the series and game, Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?, but do you understand who she is? This book will give you the background on her. She is always one step ahead of her pursuers. How did she learn her awesome skills? Read this backstory and figure out how she came to
be this infamous and elusive criminal.

Reviewer's Name: Carol
The Book of Hidden Things
Dimitri, Francesco
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

'The Book of Hidden Things' is a fantasy story of 4 friends Tony, Fabio, Art, and Mauro. These friends from a small town Casalfranca in Italy, make a pact to meet every year. When Art doesn't show up this year, Tony, Fabio, and Mauro decide to check what happened to him.

While they search for him, they learn mysterious information about Art, his life, his research, and things become more complicated and confusing. When Mauro gets fired by Art's ex-girlfriend, they all step back thinking about the risk they are taking to find Art. At last, Art shows up, reveals information about his research and forces them to trust him and take an important decision with their lives.

There are no words to explain how good this book is! The narration is very gripping and the mystery lingers till the end of the book and even after finishing the book. Characterization is simply superb. While Art is a unique character, Tony is a wonderful mate, Mauro, a responsible husband and friend who is guilty of leaving behind his favorite hobby of playing guitar and Fabio is a person with his insecurities and money problems.

I could get a glimpse of Southern Italy, the weather, the scenery, and the cuisine as well through this book. The book cover and the name are apt.

If you love mystery and fantasy, you will like this book. But, fantasy and mystery feel very real.

Reviewer's Name: Mahati
Genres:
The 39 Steps
Buchan, John
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

It’s weird to think that stories like The 39 Steps have only been around for 100 years. Perhaps their ubiquity in modern action thrillers has made me numb to their “man on the run” plotline, but I didn’t find this book to be as interesting as I had expected. Sure, it’s short, but how many of its twists and turns were merely repeating the same way of escaping the main character’s pursuers time and again? And perhaps that’s the main issue I have with this book: the main character seemed to be too skilled at eluding capture for it to be believable.

I know the “wrong man” trope that thrusts an ordinary person into these kinds of circumstances isn’t as realistic as it could be, but when Richard Hannay just happens to know exactly what to do at each instance, I wonder how “ordinary” he really is. Don’t get me wrong, the chase is exciting, it’s just oddly convenient for the protagonist. Of course, maybe I was already ruined by having seen Alfred Hitchcock’s version of this story in The 39 Steps (1935), which added in elements of romance and changed some key plot points.

In the end, The 39 Steps still stands as one of the originators of its genre. Even if the style has morphed and evolved over time, it’s essential to recognize where it came from and what its early influences were. If you’re interested in the history associated with the genre, then this book for you. Heck, if you have a few hours to kill in an airport or waiting room, this book might be the ticket. Just don’t expect much out of it other than some slightly-entertaining distraction.

A basic, if perhaps unbelievable story, in the early action-thriller genre, I give The 39 Steps 3.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
Something in the Water
Steadman, Catherine
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Great book! I really enjoyed the entire story line. It had me guessing until the big reveal. At times I wanted to yell at Erin "Girl! just walk away from it all and stop being so nosy!" I think Catherine Steadman created well developed characters. I wanted to know more about each of them. Maybe she will borrow from Tana French and some of the characters will get their own books. (Seriously, I am dying to know what the next favor is!). If you like page turners combined with mystery, this one is for you!

Reviewer's Name: Melissa M.
Doll Bones
Black, Holly
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

"Doll Bones" by Holly Black is about three friends who go on a journey to return a haunted doll to her grave after taking it out of one of their mom's china cabinets. Zach, Poppy, and Alice play a role-play game in which the doll is "the queen'. The doll is made from a young girl's bones and her wishes are to be returned with her family at the grave site so all three of them go on an extensive journey to do so. In the process Zach, Poppy, and Alice meet strange people which leads them to almost give up.

I would recommend this book. "Doll Bones" was really fun to re-read and was just as exciting as the first. Originally, I read the book for Battle of the Books in third grade but I read it again because I liked it. I couldn't relate to the characters however I think other people could. "Doll Bones" is not predictable and was not the best book I have read this year despite it still being a good book.

Reviewer's Name: Oriana O.
Private Down Under
Patterson, James
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I listened to Private Down Under as an audiobook. This was the first James Patterson book I've ever read/listened to. I can't wait to delve into even more; I was instantly hooked. I finished another in less than a week. I wasn't sure what to expect, but after the main characters, a male and female who work for a private investigating firm, I anticipated somewhat of a romance. I was pleasantly surprised that was not what it was. Craig Gisto is launching "Private", an investigating firm, when almost instantly three cases land in their lap.

I was so anxious to find out how the cases unfolded that I found myself sitting in my car waiting for the end of each chapter. More than that, I dug out the CD player from the garage so I could end my evenings listening. Each case had it's own twists and turns, each with their own level of suspense. They were not able to be "solved" by the reader until the author gifted you that information. There were a few gory details, but nothing most adult readers will squirm at. The tone was pretty serious, with moments where I may have emitted an audible gasp. I truly appreciated how they had a native Australian read this book, considering the locale. The reader did a great job adjusting his accent to the characters he was speaking for. Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I am looking forward to discovering more of what Mr. Patterson has to offer.

Reviewer's Name: Kristina
One Of Us Is Lying
McManus, Karen M.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Five students walk into detention one day, but only four make it out alive.

One of Us is Lying follows the gripping story of Bronwyn, Addy, Nate, and Cooper as suspects in the murder of Simon Kelleher. Each of the high school students have secrets that they would do anything to protect, so how far would they go to make sure they’re kept out of the spotlight?

I liked this book because it delved into the personalities and thoughts of each individual suspect to keep the reader guessing who did it until the very end. Overall, One of Us is Lying is a surprising and engaging book that was hard to put down. I especially liked how each perspective of the characters was described in depth so that the audience was not left out of the storytelling. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves murder mysteries and young adult fiction.

One of Us is Lying is a teenage-take on themes as dark as murder and depression, and although other writers are unsuccessful in developing such deep plots for a younger audience, Karen M. McManus writes with an enjoyable voice that establishes her story very effectively that, additionally, is targeted well toward a young adult audience. So, if you’re wanting to sit down and unravel a complex and grounded mystery, you should check out One of Us is Lying.

Reviewer Grade: 9

Reviewer's Name: Anya G
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest
Larsson, Stieg
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Now that I’ve finished the third book in this series, I realize it falls into the “trilogy conundrum” of having a strong, standalone first part, followed by two sequels that rely on each other to finish out the story. Heck, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest should have just been Part 3 of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo since it completed the story arc started back in book one. I had my suspicions this book would continue from the exact moment where The Girl Who Played with Fire ended. After all, there were a ton of loose ends, and the story ended abruptly.

Part of my issue with this book was that it was primarily tasked with tying up all the subplots from the first two books. However, it still felt like it needed to spend time on new storylines that didn’t add much to the overall plot and were only there because the main character wasn’t able to do anything interesting. I also didn’t particularly like how some of these story elements concluded, as they felt unfulfilling (the resolution of the conflict with Lisbeth’s father stands out in particular). Overall, these two qualms made the book drag on longer than I think it should have.

There were still some positive elements in this book, including the trial of Lisbeth Salander. In fact, this coup de grace was by far the most entertaining section of the entire trilogy. I also appreciated the tension created early on when Lisbeth was in the hospital, as well as the action in the Epilogue that tied up the very last loose end of the trilogy. In the end, I still think this trilogy was a good read. It’s just that its final volume
felt a little bloated and distracted at times.

A mostly satisfying conclusion to the original Millennium series, I give The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest 3.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
Storm Front
Butcher, Jim
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Strom Front serves as a stellar introduction to the exciting world of Harry Dresden. The first book in a long series of great books, Storm Front showcases Butcher's writing prowess. The story is full of interesting characters, well developed story, gritty mysteries, and the overarching wit of the main character. Storm Front is at once entertaining, humorous, and occasionally touching. It is one of those books that somehow becomes glued to your hands and only relinquishes them upon arrival at the back cover.
Overall, the book will most definitely be an enjoyable read and make picking the next three to four books to read an easy choice (although I recommend not attempting more than a few in a row for the sake of variety).

Reviewer's Name: Evan
Genres:
Four Dead Queens
Scholte, Astrid
2 stars = Meh
Review:

This book was not for me, but I think a lot of young adults will really love it. The following is essentially a laundry list of my issues. First, the worldbuilding was pretty weak. The fours quadrants are fairly reminiscent of those in Divergent, but they rarely interact and the farming sector basically works on Amish rules while the technological sector has holographs and advanced biosuits and all sorts of stuff. It does not make a ton of sense. And neither does the “queenly law” or really anything to do with the rules the palace or kingdom operates under – it all seemed pretty transparently created to serve the story that was written. Moving along. The characters really left something to be desired. Most were one-dimensional. The main character, Keralie, couldn’t make a good decision if her life depended on it and falls squarely into the snarky and ostensibly clever thief trope. We do get to hear from the queens a bit, but as I knew they’d end up dead and we only spent a little time with each of them, I didn’t find that it added to the story. And, of course, there is instalove between Keralie and our extremely boring male lead, Varin.

Some components of the book are pretty enjoyable. I think the premise is really cool (if executed poorly). The first queen’s murder took me a bit by surprise, and was deliciously gruesome. There were a few twists that I didn’t see coming. I quite liked the last 50 pages or so – the author, a debut, clearly has some really great ideas. Unfortunately, they didn’t come together in this book, though I’d try another book by this author pending favorable reviews.

TLDR: Readers who loved The Red Queen and Divergent will probably enjoy this one as well. I couldn’t get past the weak characters and worldbuilding, but I think a lot of readers will likely devour this one nonetheless. For me, it was just ok. 2 stars.

Thanks to Netgalley and G. Putnam’s Sons for the advance copy which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. Four Dead Queens will be released on 26 February.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
The House with a Clock in Its Walls
Bellairs, John
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Do you like mystery stories with a bit of payback! well then this is the book for you. and the best part is this book has ghosts and magic! so please read about this epic quest to find the one clock that was once lost long ago. Magic!

Reviewer's Name: Chess

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