Review: Another Place by Matthew Crow

*Note: We received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

I’ve been putting off writing this review for the last week because I just wanted to sit with this book for a while. I remember reading Matthew Crow’s debut, In Bloom, a few years back – it was one of the first books I took out from my sixth form library, and it didn’t make a massive impression on me. It was another teen cancer story in a wave of the same kind, like the UK’s answer to The Fault in Our Stars. By comparison, Another Place is so much more unique and places Matthew Crow’s name among authors to watch in the future!

Another Place tells the story of Claudette who’s just come home after being in recovery from severe depression. She’s welcomed by the news that one of the girls she was closer to than the world things, Sarah, has gone missing. Over the next couple of weeks, Claudette takes it upon herself to investigate Sarah’s disappearance, getting wrapped up in the more criminal side of town as she’s digs further and further into what was really going on.

I was intrigued by this from the very first moment. Disappearances are one of my favourite things to happen in YA and I’m a huge fan of any kind of mystery. But, what I thought I’d love it for wasn’t actually the strongest reason for my high rating. It was the nuanced relationships between characters and the portrayal of a small town gang that felt so authentic and threatening. Usually, when I read about misfits or loners, the characters come across as types – people that are more words than actions. In Another Place I was genuinely convinced that Sarah and Claudette, by default, shouldn’t be messing with these people.

My favourite relationship was between Claudette and her father’s long term partner. It was amazing to see a relationship that’s normally presented as terse, with the ‘ugh, you’re not my mum’ mentality be flipped on it’s head. She actually cared for Claudette and Claudette let her, realising that a secondary mother figure isn’t something to be afraid of, but something wonderful instead. More of this, please.

Split into four or five part, Another Place is hard to put down as more things get revealed about the mystery and as circumstances get increasingly sinister. The elements of backstory and flashbacks to Sarah and Claudette’s relationship before her hospitalisation were in sharp focus compared to the rest of the book, standing out as pivotal to the book.

I can’t speak for the accuracy of representation of Claudette’s depression, but it was definitely complex and explored as opposed to something that was part of her, unspoken. Overall, Another Place was a surprisingly gripping read, and definitely something I’d recommend if you’re a fan of mysteries, and the gritty real-life side of YA.

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Review: The Midnight Peacock by Katherine Woodfine

Because this gorgeous purple book is the last book in The Sinclair’s Mysteries series, I don’t want to say too much about what goes on. Instead, I thought I’d give you five reasons to read the series if you haven’t already so you can get to this glorious finale that really delivers on everything you want from a mystery and conclusion. Historical Setting

1. Historical Setting!

The Sinclair’s Mysteries all take place in the 20th century, and while 1910 may not sound that long ago, it’s been over 100 years since departments stores like Sinclair’s first opened. It’s the time of the suffragette movement, the attitude of which definitely plays into our main female characters. It’s a time of fancy, where going to the shops was an event and there’s something so pleasant about the luxury of it all that makes me want to just fall through the pages. If you’ve got a soft spot for atmospheric setting, this series is perfect. (The Midnight Peacock also takes place around Christmas and New Year, so the setting is ten times more delightful and festive than usual!)

2. Female Friendship!

The story is mostly routed in the relationship between Sophie and Lil. They have entirely different personalities, Sophie being from a slightly poorer background and more reserved, Lil being a gorgeous model who oozes confidence. The girls work together at the store (and at solving mysteries) and always have each other’s backs. I can’t wait for their spin off!

3. Diversity!

While Sophie and Lil, along with Billy and Joe, make up the core members of the mystery solving crew, but as the books go on more secondary characters get added (my fave being Leo from The Painted Dragon). They have repeated appearances and are never forgotten about. There’s representation of the Chinese community in Mei and Song, and Leo is disabled. It’s the perfect example of what all middle grade stories should be striving for.

4. Mysteries! 

Why is this only number 4 when it’s the most important part of the plot? Well, I’m so jazzed about everything else, the actual body of the books slipped my mind…I’d read about these characters if they were just baking cakes, let alone solving crime. I’m a sucker for a good mystery, especially ones that play across a whole series. It makes the finishing of each book feel so rewarding.

5. The covers + extras!

I know that you should never judge a book by its cover, (it’s the inside that counts!) but aren’t these covers gorgeous? The jewel tones work perfectly together and with each silhouette, you get a real sense of what’s going on in each book. There are also some really beautiful end papers and illustrations at the beginning of each part which I love, love, love. Additionally, there are always letters and invitations inserted into the narrative to keep things interesting.

I hope I’ve convinced you enough to read The Sinclair’s Mysteries, especially The Midnight Peacock because the pay off is just SO great. The world expands as Sophie learns more about what happened to her parents and how the Baron might not be the only suspicious member of the secret society. It’s no doubt my favourite in the series, earning 4 stars. I can’t wait to see what Katherine Woodfine does with these characters next!

Review: City of Saints & Thieves

Apparently this book has already been optioned for a movie?? That’s so exciting! And, I think it’s probably best to put a caveat on this review, and say I’ll probably enjoy a movie of this more! So, City of Saints & Thieves is marketed as this sort of thriller/mystery story, but the one question I was left with after finishing was: where was the thriller?

Continue reading “Review: City of Saints & Thieves”

Mini Review: The Mystery of the Painted Dragon by Katherine Woodfine

31202255The Mystery of the Painted Dragon by Katherine Woodbine
Genre: 
Mystery, Middle Grade
Publisher: Egmont Books
Pages: 352
Format: ARC e-book
Rating: ★★★
Note: We received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

This summer, I read the first book in the Sinclair Mystery series. It was my first new Middle Grade book in a decade, and I was really excited to find something that was a genre I love, in a historical setting (also LOVE), just with younger protagonists. The third book in the series, The Mystery of the Painted Dragon is no different from the first in the lovely vibes it gave me, and the pure rush of enjoyment I get from reading a mystery, and solving it along with the protagonists.

Katherine Woodfine knows how to put together a great mystery, one with interesting characters, a devious hidden plot and historical markers that always put a smile on my face.  Continue reading “Mini Review: The Mystery of the Painted Dragon by Katherine Woodfine”

Review: Trouble Makes a Comeback by Stephanie Tromly

32573384Trouble Makes a Comeback by Stephanie Tromly
Genre: 
Mystery
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Pages: 384
Format: ARC e-book
Rating: ★★.5
Note: We received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review! 

I was really excited to read this after reading Trouble is a Friend of Mine  last week and really liking it. Nancy Drew with drug circles and razor blades. It was intense and the relationship between Digby and our main girl, Zoe, was what really drew me to the story. The sequel, I’m sad to say, didn’t live up to the hype I was creating for myself (silly, silly me) but the strengths of the first book, like the quick witted dialogue, continued throughout, making it still an enjoyable read, but not the jam packed sequel I was hoping for.  Continue reading “Review: Trouble Makes a Comeback by Stephanie Tromly”

Review: Trouble is a Friend of Mine by Stephanie Tromly

troubleTrouble is a Friend of Mine by Stephanie Tromly
Genre: 
Mystery, Contemporary
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Pages: 295
Format: Paperback
Rating: ★★★.5

I’ve had this book on my shelf for a while, and that’s mostly because the Goodreads reviews shout that there needs to be a sequel. This can only mean there’s one heck of a cliffhanger, and I wasn’t ready to be unsatisfied…until I found out there’s a sequel, coming out in the week!

So, I was ready to dive into Trouble is a Friend of Mine, safe in the knowledge I could jump right over to the second book straight after. No guesses what I’m reading now.

Advertised as a mix between Sherlock and Veronica Mars, I was on board from the word GO, so let’s talk about this mad, hilarious story and why the sequel is a must. Continue reading “Review: Trouble is a Friend of Mine by Stephanie Tromly”

Review: The Amateurs by Sara Shepard

31328386The Amateurs by Sara Shepard
Genre: 
Mystery, Crime Solving
Published by: Hot Key Books
Pages: 336
Format: ARC e-book
Rating: ★★.5

I was really excited by the first couple of chapters of The Amateurs, because the concept was just so cool for a girl that wishes she was Nancy Drew. The main characters, Seneca and Maddy are both part of this online forum, Case Not Closed, that gives people access to information about unsolved, cold cases the police have given up on. Using contacts, members of the website are able to solve the unsolvable and play the detective.  Another of the characters, Aerin, whose sister Helena goes missing in the flashback that opens the book, posts a plea for help on Helena’s case. Seneca and Maddy, previously only friends online, meet IRL to answer the plea. It sounds super great, right? Well, after I kept reading, I grew slowly more incredulous and…dissatisfied? Here’s why: Continue reading “Review: The Amateurs by Sara Shepard”

Series Review: Night School by C. J. Daugherty

Night School, Legacy, Fracture, Resistance, and Endgame by C.J. Daugherty
Published by: Atom | Genre: Mystery, Romance | Format: Paperback | ★★.5

I have an individual review for the first book in this series, and if you’ve read that, you’ll know that I struggled to get through it. HOWEVER, I decided to continue reading for a few reasons:

  1. To support a UKYA author!
  2. To support my library (since I sources all 5 books from local libraries!)
  3. Because the author admitted her mistake in letting main character Ally get rescued by boys in the first book and said it got better in a Feminism in YA panel I attended earlier in the year.
  4. I believed there was a good story to tell underneath some of the sillier elements.

In the end I’m pleased that I gave this series a second chance, because much to my relief it did get better. Night School even turned into something I would recommend to fans of Ally Carter and Jennifer Lynne Barnes. It has it’s issues, and I think some of the general concept for the series is confused and completely unrealistic, but taken with a pinch of salt it’s pretty fun.

Continue reading “Series Review: Night School by C. J. Daugherty”

Review: Far From You by Tess Sharpe

20517739Far From You by Tess Sharpe
Genre: Mystery, Romance, LGBTQ
Published by: Indigo
Pages: 343
Format: Paperback
Rating: ★★★

Upon first picking up Far From You, I thought I was about to read another YA thriller mystery similar to all of the ones I’ve read in the past year. (I don’t know how I’ve read so many, it’s just happened!) When I mentioned this book in a library check out haul, someone told me it was so much more than my mystery/thriller assumptions, and I’m really glad I gave it a chance. Because what I was not expecting was the LGBTQ aspect, and without it this would’ve been a very cliche story.

Continue reading “Review: Far From You by Tess Sharpe”

Review: The Naturals and Killer Instinct by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

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The Naturals and Killer Instinct by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Genre: 
Mystery/ Thriller, Secret Agent
Published by: Quercus Books
Pages: 308 | 376
Format: Library book
Rating: ★★★★★

Both of these books have been sat, unassuming, on our local library’s shelves for a while now, and never before had we picked them up. The last visit we had, it was about time we gave them a chance. They’re blurbed by Ally Carter, after all, and I love a good spy story. From books I picked up on a whim, to the best books I’ve read so far this year, I loved reading them back to back. There’s nothing better than discovering a new favourite book, especially if it’s one you haven’t heard anyone else talk about. So, let’s talk about all the reasons to love The Naturals series, and why it had my heart racing from beginning to end. Fangirl mode: activated! Continue reading “Review: The Naturals and Killer Instinct by Jennifer Lynn Barnes”