The Twisted Tree by Rachel Burge

This book was fantastic! Steeped in Norse mythology, and utterly creeptastic (add that to your vocabulary: if “fleek” can be a word,  “creeptastic” can be too), this was just what I needed .

Martha senses things about people just by touching their clothes. It started after she fell out of the twisted tree at her Mormer’s (grandmother’s) house, and became blind in one eye. Trying to get answers for this disturbing development from the one person she suspects might know something about it, she runs away to see Mormer- only to learn that she’s dead and that a teen boy has been living in her house.

The book quickly picks up an incredibly eerie atmosphere: out in the middle of nowhere with a huge storm coming, something outside (a wolf- or worse?), ghosts inside, and questions that need answering,  Martha has to face the truth of the Twisted Tree and who she is.

At less than four hundred pages, this is a quick read, perfect for an evening cuddled up with your warm drink of choice. Actually, the shortness of the book is the only thing that I felt even a little negatively towards, and that’s simply because I enjoyed it so much that I wanted it to continue.

The book builds to a crescendo, the mythology aspect is incredibly interesting (although a few liberties have been taken), and the relationship between the two main characters is one of the few I’ve read in a long time that didn’t annoy me. It was natural-feeling, and didn’t distract from the plot-line at all.

This is Rachel Burge’s debut novel, and I sincerely hope it won’t be her last. If you’re looking for an eerie read, this book is for you.

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Broken Things by Lauren Oliver

Five years ago, when they were thirteen, Brynn and Mia’s best friend was murdered. Everyone thinks they did it, obsessed over a fictional world called Lovelorn. The thing is, they didn’t. In this book, Mia and Brynn decide to “go back to Lovelorn”, face their past, and try to discover what really happened.

This isn’t the sort of book I normally read. I have a very vivid imagination which means that thrillers can easily get to be too much for me. However, this was done in such a way that I was able to handle it. Not only that, but I was hooked. It’s much more than a who dunnit; it’s a study of human nature, and an examination of the many different facets of a person that the world doesn’t see.

I loved the way reality and a made-up world collided in the book as Mia, Brynn, and a few other characters tried to figure out the mystery. I was on the edge of  my seat, wondering whether the author would actually choose to divulge the answer, or leave me forever wondering.

The writing was skillful, weaving a story that was more about the survivors and how their lives were affected than about the murder in and of itself. That being said, there were a few difficult parts that I had to rush through: mainly, brief mentions of self-harm in two separate places, and a vague allusion to harassment.

I liked that the main reason the girls were suspects (aside from being the best friends) was that the murder matched one that they had described in a fan fiction they’d written; a fan fiction that no one else had read. I also thought the final few sentences in the book were flat-out brilliant.

All in all, while this isn’t a book I’ll reread, I did find it engrossing. I suggest it, but with the caveat that it does deal with some sensitive material. If you enjoy psychological thrillers, this is right up your alley.

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In the Shadows by Kiersten White and Jim Di Bartolo

I thought I knew what I was getting with this book. I was so very, very wrong; and it was perfect!

First mistake: This is a fun, lighthearted story. This book tends more toward horror than any other genre. The atmosphere is tense and creepy throughout the entire book, and the illustrations (more on those in a bit) only add to the mysterious goings-on.

Second mistake: The illustrations are just beautiful additions to the storyline. The illustrations- done in a graphic novel style- tell their own story. Basically, there are two separate stories being told, but they compliment each other and end up meeting up for the culmination of the book.

Third mistake: This book is intended for a young audience. While, reading-level wise, my ten year old could easily read this book in a week, the subject matter and the way it’s written would scare the snot out of him.

The characters were well-developed, the graphic story only served to add to the deliciously creepy vibe Kiersten White achieved, and the writing was incredibly detailed. I highly recommend this book for a spooky evening.

Jackaby by William Ritter

I read the Jackaby tetralogy, by William Ritter. I went back and forth on whether to review just one book, or the entire series. I’ve decided to just talk about the first book, to avoid accidentally giving anything away.

Think of a cross between Doctor Who and Sherlock Holmes, with a supernatural twist thrown in, and you’ve got R.F. Jackaby. Jackaby is a supernatural detective. He’s kooky, absent-minded, witty, and clever, sometimes simultaneously. How do you catch a murderer if you’re not sure if he or she is human? Told from the perspective of Abigail- this series’ Watson- this book is simply fun! 
Jackaby comes complete with a great cast of characters. They all add to the narrative. Jenny is the strongest, most well-written female character I’ve read in a long time. If William Ritter ever writes a side novel specifically about her, I’ll be standing in line to read it.

The mysteries aren’t mind-bending, but they are entertaining and well thought out. I love that there are clues scattered throughout the book. I can’t stand it when a mystery’s solution comes out of the blue, so I appreciate that you can go back through the book and follow the logic to get to the “whodunnit” correctly.

If you like entertaining, easy reads, give this series a go! You won’t be sorry. The pages fly by and there’s never a dull moment.

If you prefer your mysteries sans supernatural, read The Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters. It has a similar rip-roaringly adventurous appeal without the fairy tale critters. Amelia Peabody is incorrigible in the best possible way.

What should I read next? Comments? Suggestions?

My Book Suggestions: The Crocodile On the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters; The Screaming Staircase by Johnathan Stroud.


One of Us is Lying

             I recently read One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus. The premise of the book is interesting: The Breakfast Club meets the game Clue. I’d heard some positive buzz, so I thought I’d give it a go. 

It begins with five kids being stuck in detention: Cooper, the jock; Addy, the popular one; Bronwyn, the smartypants; Nate, the bad boy from the wrong side of the tracks; and Simon, the admin. of a gossip site that is invariable correct. Five kids go in, but only four come out. The rest of the book revolves around solving the murder of Simon, the gossip. 

The book alternates between the point of views of the four protagonists. I thought the author’s idea of introducing the “locked house mystery” to the YA genre was a good one and I was intrigued because I love unreliable narrators. Unfortunately, this book did not deliver at all. 

The lies that the title of the book refers to are all uninteresting and I saw the resolution (which I’m trying really hard not to spoil) coming from a mile away. The characters were incredibly cliche and the best thing about this book was the idea behind it. 

I’m probably being harsher toward this book than I’d normally be because there’s a situation in this book that I feel is seriously harmful toward an already misunderstood issue: mental health. I’ll not go into that more here because, again, I’m trying not to give spoilers. Suffice it to say, I was disappointed. 

That being said, I’m pretty sure I’m in the minority in my negative viewpoints. Like Lavar Burton always said, “You don’t have to take my word for it!”. If you’ve read it, what did you think? 

If you’re looking for a good mystery, pick up And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie instead. 

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