Book Review: Scarlett Undercover by Jennifer Latham

Book: Scarlett Undercover by Jennifer Latham

Published May 2015 by Little, Brown Books For Young Readers|320 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Thriller/Mystery

Meet Scarlett, a smart, sarcastic fifteen-year-old, ready to take on crime in her hometown. When Scarlett agrees to investigate a local boy’s suicide, she figures she’s in for an easy case and a quick buck. But it doesn’t take long for suicide to start looking a lot like murder.

As Scarlett finds herself deep in a world of cults, curses, and the seemingly supernatural, she discovers that her own family secrets may have more to do with the situation than she thinks…and that cracking the case could lead to solving her father’s murder.

Jennifer Latham delivers a compelling story and a character to remember in this one-of-a-kind debut novel.

I liked Scarlett Undercover!  It’s this cool mystery with elements of the paranormal, and part of me wishes it were part of a series…just to see the more supernatural elements.  It’s not often I want more books, but I would definitely read more books if we got to read more about Scarlett solving mysteries.

I wasn’t expecting a world of cults and curses that are centuries old, and I ended up really liking that part of it.  I finished the book wishing that we got more books with Scarlett solving paranormal mysteries.  It really made me wish that the book focused more on that, but at the same time, I know things needed to be set up, and that we weren’t instantly going to be thrown into the more supernatural elements of the book.

Those elements were pretty rooted in reality, so while those elements are there, it’s not the whole book.  It really is more of a mystery/thriller than a paranormal, and I thought the supernatural would be more present.  Still, I liked the connection between that and Scarlett’s family and some of the people in her life.

I do wish it were explained a little more, though, because Latham didn’t go into a lot of depth in some areas, and other things were inconsistent.  Scarlett, for example, goes from blowing off prayer to praying 5 times a day.  Obviously, what happened changed her, but it wasn’t really explained.  Her religion/faith wasn’t a big part of the book, which is fine, but with some of what happened in the book, I thought we’d see something a little more.

Overall, the book isn’t really about her religion or spiritual journey, so don’t expect that.  It was more about her trying to solve a mystery.  Still, I think it could have been interesting, but I’m also fine with the fact that it’s not really part of the book.

Scarlett is a pretty developed character- though, as the main character, one would hope she’s a pretty developed character- but I couldn’t really say that for the other characters.  It’s part of why I thought things could have been explained a little more, because the other characters were either bland or their role in things were confusing.  Scarlett herself is pretty spunky and sure of herself, and she really does want to help people.  She’s brave and she wants justice, and she’s pretty determined.  I just wish that the other characters were as interesting as Scarlett was.

3 stars.  I liked it, but I did want something a little different.  If you like mysteries, this is a pretty good one to check out.

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Book Review: Map Of Fates And The Ends Of The Earth by Maggie Hall

Book: Map Of Fates by Maggie Hall

Published March 2016 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons|311 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the e-book from the library

Series: The Conspiracy Of Us #2

Genre: YA Thriller/Mystery

Two weeks. 

That’s how long it took for Avery West’s ordinary life to change forever: In two weeks, she discovered she was heiress to a powerful secret society known as the Circle, learned her mother was taken hostage by the Circle’s enemies, and fell for a boy she’s not allowed to love, just as she found out another was her unwelcome destiny. 

Now, Avery crosses oceans in private jets to hunt for clues that will uncover the truth about the Circle, setting her mom and herself free before it’s too late. By her side are both the boys: Jack—steady, loyal, and determined to help her even at the expense of his own duty—and Stellan, whose connection to Avery grows stronger by the day despite her best intentions, making her question what she believes at every turn.

But at the end of a desperate hunt from the islands of Greece to the red carpet at Cannes comes a discovery that not only changes everything, but could bring the whole world to its knees. And now Avery is forced to face the truth: in the world of the Circle, no one is what they seem.

This series is fun!  I really liked Map Of Fates, and I thought it was a pretty good follow-up to the first book.  We really get more into this world, and what the prophecy could be.  We also get more into the Circle and the Order, and we’re definitely sent on a wild goose chase.

There’s a lot of travel and a lot of clues, and Avery is scrambling to get this thing figured out.  I don’t know that I necessarily liked it more than The Conspiracy Of Us, but I didn’t like it exactly the same either.  I think I liked it slightly more, but not enough to give it a higher rating.  Which we’ll get to eventually.

I wish I connected more with Avery.  I don’t know how I’d act if I were in her situation, and I’d probably be a hot mess if any of what happens in this series actually happened to me.  I just want more with her, and I especially want more of her mom.  The whole using her mom to get her to do things didn’t completely work for me, and I think it’s because we barely see her mom.  And that was in the first book.  She does make an appearance in this book as well, but I feel like we didn’t get enough with her mom for me to completely be on board with it.

Especially since it seemed like maybe her mom knew something but kept it from Avery.  Which I get, given what happens in this book.  But still.  I think there’s more to her childhood and her relationship with her mom, and I really think her mom knew what was going on.  Maybe her mom was trying to protect her, but who knows?  We never get a clear answer in this book, and while it’s possible we’ll get one in the next book, it’s doubtful.  Very doubtful.

It is fun, though, and it still reminds me of a YA version of The Da Vinci Code.  There’s something else I’m reminded of, but I can’t place it.  It will probably come to me after I’ve finished this review, which would be par for the course. It didn’t get good until the second half of the book, and maybe that’s why I liked it only slightly more than the previous book.  It makes me want to read the next just to see how it all ends.

Things did seem rushed and a little underdeveloped, which…I don’t know.  It didn’t really work, because I thought it could have bridged the gap between the previous book and the next book a little bit.  Maybe my opinion will change after reading the next one, but I expected a little more with this one.  As entertaining as the book is, I wanted something a little more.  Still, I’m not complaining too much because it is what I had expected.

My Rating: 3 stars.  I liked Map Of Fates, and thought it was a good sequel.  There were some things I didn’t particularly like, but it was expected, and I still want to read the next book to see what happens.

Book: The Ends of The World by Maggie Hall

Published July 2017 by G.P. Putnam’s Books For Young Readers|320 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: The Conspiracy Of Us #2

Genre: YA Thriller

The Circle is hers. But Avery West has lost everything else: her mother, the family she’d just found, and the one boy she trusted. In their place are unfathomable power, a staged relationship that makes her question every real feeling she’s ever had, and a mission to find the cure to the virus that’s made her own blood a weapon.

Then disaster strikes, turning Avery, Stellan, Jack, and Elodie into the most wanted people in the world. To clear their names and the growing rift between the families of the Circle before the world dissolves into World War Three, they’ll have to make a desperate, dangerous final race for Alexander the Great’s tomb. What they will find inside will mean the world’s salvation—or destruction.

Avery will have to decide how much she’s willing to sacrifice—for the world, for family, and for love—in this conclusion to the Conspiracy of Us series.

This is one of those series where I liked each book less and less.  The concept is really cool and all, but I just wasn’t a big fan of this book.

I’m having a lot of trouble even remembering this book a couple months after finishing it.  I know I had all kinds of thoughts about when it finished, but clearly, they haven’t stuck.  While I usually have some sort of impression about a book weeks later, I have no impression of this book at all.

Which isn’t good, because even though I obviously read this book, I don’t remember much of anything.  It’s also not a good thing, because you’d think the last book in a trilogy would be more memorable, but not in this case.  Maybe it says something about this book, if it’s not memorable enough to actually properly review it.

Pretty much all I do remember is the search for clues, and that it seemed to be a race against time to figure everything out.  That’s about it, and I feel like I was just bored with it.  And I don’t know if it’s just me, but it seemed like a lot was going in this book.  Of course there it, since it’s the last book and all, but…I don’t know, it just seemed strange in this case.

I did like it, even though I can’t remember why, and it is a quick read, so that’s good too.  I don’t think it was painfully slow, unlike some other books I’ve read.  Although it did have this conspiracy vibe going on, it also seemed different somehow, though I could be wrong about that.

My Rating: 3 stars, though I’m not sure why.  Other than remembering I liked it, which isn’t really detailed.  But since I can’t remember much about the book, it doesn’t warrant a higher rating, and for reasons I can’t remember, I did like enough that I don’t want to give it a lower rating.

What I’ve Been Reading: The Fourth And Final Part

So I was going to try to fit this series of posts into 3 posts, but that would have meant the last part would have been insanely long, and I just didn’t feel like doing that, so I thought I’d try to get one more part out of it, especially since I have quite a few things to say about the last 3 books I wanted to talk about.

  • There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins.  When I saw Stephanie Perkins had a new book out, I knew I had to read it.  I loved Anna And The French Kiss and Isla And The Happily Ever After, and I figured I’d love this book as well.  Except I didn’t.  If Scream- or any of those teen horror movies from the late 90’s/early 2000’s- were in novel form, you’d have this book.  It wasn’t bad, but it just didn’t work as a book for me.  I think it could be interesting as an audio book, particularly for the chapters narrated by the murdered students.  I just don’t know that I liked it enough to give the audio book a try.  It wasn’t as suspenseful as I thought it would be, especially when we find out who’s behind everything.  And the reason why was lame, in my book.  I can understand being jealous but it seemed like a pretty weak reason to start killing people.  I also didn’t really care, considering we knew nothing about this character who barely appeared.  And Makani’s reason why she ended up in Nebraska was…boring.  It was really built up, and then I felt let down when it was revealed what had actually happened.  I’m not sure what I expected, but it wasn’t that.  It had a lot more romance than I thought it would, and while I don’t mind romance, I think this book needed less romance and more suspense and tension.  There’s Someone Inside Your House gets 2 stars.
  • Girl In Translation by Jean Kwok, and narrated by Grayce Wey.  I did this book as an audio book, and I’m glad I did, because I really liked it as an audio book.  One thing that surprised me when I first started reading the book was the age of Kimberly.  I thought she was a lot older when the book started, and I was surprised when I found out how young she really was.  At the same time, it was nice because we see how much she changes after moving, and how hard she had to work to get what she wanted.  I really felt for Kimberly, and how she had to take on a lot because her mother spoke very limited English.  The apartment they lived in, and the fact that she had to help her mother at the factory just to finish the work on time.  And Aunt Paula was a horrible, abusive woman.  I was glad when Kimberly and her mother no longer had to rely on Aunt Paula to get by.  I can’t imagine going through what Kimberly went through, and how much I don’t see or realize because I don’t have to.  I can’t imagine living in such a horrible apartment and in terrible working conditions just to have a chance to live here and reach for something better.  I wasn’t a fan of the ending, because it was unexpected.  But I’m glad that things worked out for Kimberly, and she was still able to reach the goals that she had set for herself.  Girl In Translation gets 4 stars for a good look at what it’s like to be an immigrant in America.
  • Turtles All The Way Down by John Green.  I was both excited and nervous about this book when I heard that John Green had a new book.  Excited because it’s a new John Green book but also nervous because I loved TFIOS and Looking For Alaska, but didn’t care for his other books.  I ended up really liking it, and Aza is a great character.  She’s the most realistic of Green’s characters, and she was a lot more relatable than some of his other characters.  This book also focused on Aza’s mental health, and I really liked seeing that, because it really felt like it was something that John Green himself has lived through and dealt with.  And it was a nice change from the quirky teens falling in love that we usually see with his books.  Don’t get me wrong, that’s fine as well (and again, I did love TFIOS and Looking For Alaska) but it was still nice to see him do something different.  There’s still the philosophical conversations and trivia (both nerdy and regular trivia) that you see in a typical John Green book, and I will admit that it was nice to see that.  Aza’s struggles with OCD and anxiety were really well done.  And while everyone’s experiences are different as far as mental illness go, I still feel like it’s something that will speak to a lot of people.  I’m glad we got another John Green book, and that I really liked it, because TFIOS was such a big hit that I was nervous it wouldn’t.  I didn’t completely love it, but I did like it a lot more than I thought I would.  Turtles All The Way Down gets 4 stars.

Book Review: Perfect Lies by Kiersten White

Book: Perfect Lies by Kiersten White

Published February 2014 by HarperTeen|256 pages

Where I Got It: I own the e-book

Series: Mind Games #2

Genre: YA Thriller

This explosive sequel to Mind Games, which New York Timesbestselling author Holly Black called “a brutal, exciting gem of a book,” is a lightning-fast, wickedly smart tale of two sisters trapped in a web of deceit—perfect for fans of Sara Shepard’s Lying Game series.

For years, Annie and Fia have been in an endless battle for survival against the Keane Foundation. Now the sisters have found allies who can help them escape. But Annie’s visions of the future and Fia’s flawless instincts can’t always tell them who to trust. The sisters can only rely on each other—and even their extraordinary gifts may not be enough to save them.

I really liked Perfect Lies.  After reading Now I Rise, I really wanted to revisit this series for some reason.

One thing I was really unsure about was the time-line.  It’s very much like the first book, where you have not only Fia and Annie narrating, but it jumps around as far as time goes.  It was the main problem I had with the first book, which I also re-read recently.  I did expect it, though, so that definitely helped.  It didn’t bother me as much as it did in the first book, and I definitely found myself paying attention more, because you’re seeing all of these different moments that lead up to the end.

It’s a very intricate story, and I really liked all of the little details.  It feels like one of those books that has to be really well-plotted, because I don’t think it would work as well if it wasn’t.

I really liked Annie and Fia’s relationship, and they really are great characters.  They’ve really changed, and I really liked Annie is this book.  She did everything she could for Fia and she really did try to destroy the Keane Foundation in the best way she could.  And Fia really changed as well.  She’s a lot less stable in this one, and she felt a little more…unhinged…in this one.  I don’t know if it’s because everything was catching up with her, or what was going on, but she is definitely not the Fia we see in the first book.  Or maybe it was always there, but the events of the first book really highlighted it and brought it out?

The ending was pretty open-ended, which was interesting.  I liked it, because it does make me wonder how the school will be and if Fia and Annie are okay.  But at the same time, I don’t want to wonder what happens, because I want to KNOW what happens.  I know there will be no third book, since this is a duology, but part of me wants more, because I really wanted more from the ending.  It would have made for an interesting 2nd book in a trilogy.

4 stars.  It took a little bit of time to get used to the time line but it was a pretty interesting mystery, and I really liked Annie and Fia.

Book Review: My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier

Book: My Sister Rosa By Justine Larbalestier

Published November 2016 by Soho Teen|320 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Thriller/Contemporary

What if the most terrifying person you know is your ten-year-old sister?

Seventeen-year-old Aussie Che Taylor loves his younger sister, Rosa. But he’s also certain that she’s a psychopath—clinically, threateningly, dangerously. Recently Rosa has been making trouble, hurting things. Che is the only one who knows; he’s the only one his sister trusts. Rosa is smart, talented, pretty, and very good at hiding what she is and the manipulation she’s capable of.

Their parents, whose business takes the family from place to place, brush off the warning signs as Rosa’s “acting out.” Now that they have moved again—from Bangkok to New York City—their new hometown provides far too many opportunities for Rosa to play her increasingly complex and disturbing games. Che’s always been Rosa’s rock, protecting her from the world. Now, the world might need protection from her.

I was intrigued by My Sister Rosa when I first heard about it, and I finally got around to reading it!

Rosa’s pretty creepy and twisted, and she seemed a little bit older than her ten years.  It’s easy to see why her parents- especially her mom- wouldn’t believe what she’s really capable of.  Some people seem to know there’s something different about her, though, but they’re not sure what.

We’re told right off the bat that Rosa is a psychopath, and nothing’s really changed by the end of the book.  I wish there was more build-up with Rosa.  I also thought that maybe Che was an unreliable narrator, and that he was the psychopath, not Rosa.  I expected Rosa’s results, but not Che’s- it seemed opposite of how Che acted in the book.  I also didn’t get how the book went from “my sister is a psychopath” to “everyone is a psychopath, but you just don’t know it.”  The book makes it seem like it’s something that’s really common, but I always thought it was a lot more rare.  I also felt like I was being told Rosa was a psychopath, as opposed to actually seeing her act that way.

I also felt like we got two stories in one book- one focusing on Rosa, and one focusing on a coming-of-age.  I felt really bored reading about both Rosa and Che’s life in New York, and I kind of wish the book focused more on Rosa. It was a little too unbalanced, and I wish the book had focused on one or the other.

Considering how big of a role David and Sally have in the book, we know absolutely nothing about them.  Some of the other characters had the potential to be really interesting, but they fell a little short.  I did like how diverse the characters were, though.

2 stars.  It was okay, and I felt like there were two different stories that didn’t go very well together.  I also wish we saw how creepy Rosa was, instead of being told that she was psychopathic.