Not Her Baby by Cassandra Jamison


Not Her Baby by Cassandra Jamison
Publisher: Evernight Teen
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full (232 pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rating: 5 stars
Review by Orchid

When eighteen-year-old Aubrey Dale’s cousin is diagnosed with leukemia, Aubrey volunteers to in-vitro fertilization in order to become a vessel for the donor that will save her life. Now this clean-cut high school student must learn to adapt to life as a pregnant teenager, despite still being a virgin. Things only get more complicated when she falls in love with her best friend, Eli Calhoun, who has just returned from the penitentiary. Rumors soon spread that the insemination story is only a cover up. That’s when the anonymous threats begin. Someone in her small town disapproves of this so-called abomination. The psychological games soon take a twisted turn, putting Aubrey and her unborn child’s lives in danger. Aubrey and Eli race to uncover the horrible truth before it destroys everything.

Aubrey lives with her father and sister. Her mainstay in life is Kailee, her cousin, who has been there for her in all the years since her mother left. This summer a lot happens to Aubrey. Eli, a friend who has been in prison for several years, returns to the town and the friendship threatens to become a deeper relationship . Kailee arrives for the summer, and Brey finds out her cousin has leukemia. Brey offers to be a bone marrow transplant donor but unfortunately she isn’t a perfect fit. She takes the next best option and agrees to have a child with a donor to provide the stem cells needed for Kailee’s recovery.

At first I thought this eighteen year old was being brave in her wish to help her cousin. As the story progresses it becomes apparent she hasn’t really thought things through. One major result will be what to do with the baby when it’s born. At least one lady at her church has definite, but unwelcome, ideas about what will happen to the child.

The attitude of her fellow students at high school make her life more insulated. New students at the school, demean her for their own pleasure, and danger and intrigue from an unexpected source make her life scary and hazardous.

There are several sub-plots to this story which make it all the more intriguing and fascinating. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The Mutual Admiration Society by Lesley Kagen


The Mutual Admiration Society by Lesley Kagen
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Historical (1950s), Mystery, Young Adult
Length: Full (294 pgs)
Age recommendation: 12+
Rating: 4 Stars
Review by: Stephanotis

FACT: Unbeknownst to eleven-year-old Theresa “Tessie” Finley, she’s in over her head.

PROOF: After hearing a scream and catching a glimpse of a mysterious man carrying a body beneath the flickering streetlights in the cemetery behind her house, Tessie adds solving a murder case to her already quite full to-do list.

Tessie has elected herself president of the crime-stopping Mutual Admiration Society—as if dealing with her “sad madness” over the tragic drowning of her beloved father; showering tender loving care on her “sweet but weird” younger sister, Birdie; and staying on the good side of their hard-edged mother weren’t enough. With partner in crime Charlie “Cue Ball” Garfield, Tessie and Birdie will need to dodge the gossips in their 1950s blue-collar neighborhood—particularly their evil next-door neighbor, Gert Klement, who’d like nothing better than to send the sisters to “homes.” And, of course, there’s the problem of steering clear of the kidnapping murderer if they have any hope of solving the mystery of all mysteries: the mystery of life.

A rich and charming tour de force, The Mutual Admiration Society showcases Lesley Kagen’s marvelous storytelling talents. Laced with heartwarming humor and heartbreaking grief, this novel is nothing short of magical.

How can I categorize this novel? I don’t think I can because it’s part Nancy Drew-like mystery, part family drama, and yes, it’s lots of fun to read.

The first thing I liked about this book was its main character and narrator Tessie Finley. She’s a likeable young girl who’s lost her father, doesn’t have the best relationship with her mother but along with her sister, Birdie, she’s making the most of it. She’s quirky, funny, sometimes adorable and when she thinks she’s seen a murder, she turns amateur detective. Along with her sister they set out to solve the crime, form the Mutual Admiration Society, and that’s when the fun really begins.

The book is set in 1959 which I think was perfect for the story and setting. I loved Tessie’s use of lists and the fact and proof entries as she tries to solve the crime. Her voice comes across strong in this story and some of the dialogue has you laughing out loud.

I’d say that not only will young adults enjoy this story but adults too. I haven’t read anything else written by this author but this first introduction to her work has made me want to check out some other titles. If you’re looking for a quirky mystery with some family drama thrown in, this is probably one you’d enjoy.

An Aching Kind of Growing by Brittany Rowland


An Aching Kind of Growing by Brittany Rowland
Publisher: Self
Genre: Contemporary Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (341 pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rating: 4 stars
Review by: Orchid

When tensions with her parents reach a breaking point, fifteen-year-old Natalie flees into the night with a bike, some cash, and a backpack full of clothes. With no plan and nowhere to go, she won’t last long as a runaway. Life has taught Natalie not to count on anyone’s help, but she can’t keep running forever. The only person who sees her plight is a young boy, an unlikely friend. To finally stand up to the family that betrayed her, she’ll need to learn to trust again, even if it risks exposing the secrets she has fought hard to protect.

Most parents discipline their children, especially when they reach teenage years, but Natalie’s parents overstep the mark into torture and violence. Natalie leaves home and lives on the streets as a runaway. She still attends school and surprisingly her parents do not visit the school to demand she return home. This is another form of torture for Natalie.

Natalie spends time at the playground and meets Max and his mother Linnie, but does not let them get close to her for fear they will return her to her abusive parents.

This book is a “what could have been” for a lot of teenagers. The majority have comfortable homes and parents who discipline with firmness and authority tempered with love. Natalie’s story is what could happen to any child. Abused and ill treated, she is afraid to report her parents to the authorities. She knows this will lead to foster care and her one experience of this is enough to make her prefer the streets.

The book is well written with a touch of suspense as in “will she/won’t she” both for her and her parents. I liked the way the author gave Linnie and Max their own problems to solve, which had to be weighed up against whether they should help Natalie. Definitely a look into how things could have been for many teens and well worth reading.

Halversham by RS Anthony

halversham
Halversham by RS Anthony
Publisher: Self
Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Young Adult
Length: Full Length (184 Pages)
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Age Recommendation: 12+
Review by: Sorrel

With his mother dead and his father jetting off on yet another business trip, fifteen-year-old Andy Monaghan can’t stand the thought of spending summer alone in the city. Instead, he seeks a few weeks of solace in the place his mother loved the most: the rural town of Halversham where his father was raised.

No sooner does Andy arrive in Halversham than he hears of strange incidents occurring in town, including a few too close for comfort. Before long, Andy is reluctantly reeled into a chain of events that quickly darken the rose-colored glasses he’s been wearing for his mother’s beloved country getaway.

Finding out who’s responsible for Halversham’s many tragedies becomes Andy’s main priority. As he reconnects with his father’s family and dives deeper into the mysteries surrounding the town, he finds that even his own may not be safe from trouble. Is he willing to risk everything to uncover the truth of Halversham’s dark secrets, and protect the people he loves?

This is a twisted mystery.

A suspenseful story, Halversham kept me on my toes wanting to know more about everyone. The climax definitely surprised me. Right up to the end, I had no idea who was doing the killing or what made the small town of Halversham, well, Halversham.

When Andy’s mother died, he wanted to know more about the town that she loved so much; Halversham had the added mystery as to why his father left, never to return to it. What Andy finds out, and keeps finding out, continues to shock him. That was understandable. This was some strange and deadly occurrences.

This story was just the right length. While I am a mystery reader, I’m not much of a suspense fan. I almost gave up but actually glad that I didn’t, While I’m not one for over the top suspenseful stories, this is a book I would definitely recommend for younger kids who enjoy suspense or mystery.

Abomination by Jane Dougherty

ABOMINATION
Abomination by Jane Dougherty
Book One in the Pathfinders Series
Publisher: Finch Books
Genre: Action/Adventure, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (210 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Stargazer

As the end of the world begins, Carla and Tully hurtle through a wormhole five years forward in time­—to find they haven’t missed the Apocalypse after all.

Carla and Tully are picnicking in the quad of their international high school in central Paris when the end of the world begins. They are sucked into a wormhole that spits them out five years later to find that the world is a freezing desolation but still hanging on, waiting for something even worse to finish it off…the something worse turns out to be the Burnt Man and his horsemen.

Taken prisoner by the Flay Tribe to their lair in the ruins of a shopping mall, Tully is forced to become a warrior, while Carla joins the other girls as a kitchen slave and comfort woman.

Tully might like the idea of playing soldiers, but Carla knows what is waiting for the girls when the food runs out, and it isn’t pleasant. The supermarket holy man’s vision of the return of the Burnt Man and his demon friends drags Tully back to reality—when the four fiends are reunited, the Apocalypse will really begin. Carla and Tully don’t plan on being there when that happens.

But in this post-Abomination world where only the young and brutal have survived, where food and fuel are running out, and the climate is plunging into another final ice age, there is nowhere to run—except down another wormhole, with no idea of what might be waiting for them at the other end.

When the end of the world comes, is it lucky to be alive through the chaos or is it better to jump ahead a few years?

Abomination is the first book of the Pathfinders Series and sets the stage for the excitement of the end of the world. The story follows Tully and Carla as the beginning of the end of the world occurs-from volcanic eruptions to massive earthquakes. Tully and Carla find themselves trying to survive the falling building and tumble through a wormhole that places them five years in the future where the last remnants of humanity scramble to form tribes and try to survive in a desolate world.

The story takes place in a dark and foreboding world; one where fear, treachery and power struggles are a daily occurrence. The arrival of Tully and Carla shift much of the day to day lives of those who have lived in this world for the past five years and cause a minor ripple in the power held by those currently.

The author adds great description and paints a clear picture for the reader to understand how the world views have shifted. The dialogue between characters is clear and believable while the actions that the characters take follow the course of the change of humanity’s mindset. The author plays on the last bits of humanity and draws the reader into realistic ethical questions regarding the way the future will play out.

The only parts that may be confusing for some readers would be the storytelling of the past five years where some is narrated in first person view by a specific character and some is told in real time dialogue.

The overall story telling is great and the plot is very plausible; this is one series of futuristic events and time travel that you do not want to miss!

Recoil by Joanne Macgregor

Recoil by Joanne Macgregor

Recoil by Joanne Macgregor
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Action/Adventure, Sci-Fi (Dystopian), Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (250 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rating: 4 Stars
Review by: Stargazer

When a skilled gamer gets recruited as a sniper in the war against a terrorist-produced pandemic, she discovers there’s more than one enemy and more than one war. The Game is real.

Three years after a series of terrorist attacks flooded the US with a lethal plague, society has changed radically.

Sixteen year-old Jinxy James spends her days trapped at home – immersed in virtual reality, worrying about the plague and longing for freedom. Then she wins a war simulation game and is recruited into a top-secret organisation where talented teenagers are trained to become agents in the war on terror. Eager to escape her mother’s over-protectiveness and to serve her country, Jinxy enlists and becomes an expert sniper of infected mutant rats.

She’s immediately drawn to Quinn O’Riley, a charming and subversive intelligence analyst who knows more about the new order of government and society than he is telling. Then a shocking revelation forces Jinxy to make an impossible decision, and she risks losing everything.

Recoil is the first book in a Young Adult dystopian romance trilogy, and makes great reading for lovers of Rick Yancey (The Fifth Wave), Suzanne Collins (Hunger Games), and Veronica Roth (Divergent).

When a game is how we connect with the world; we let the creators of the game shape what the world will become. The simple humanity that we take for granted in day to day life is stripped away when people are made into virus bombs-destroying all that we hold dear. The choices that impact Jinx James, the main character, aim to strike each reader at the core of humanity. From the very beginning, Jinx is challenged to work through the social awkwardness that has crippled the nation’s youth due to forced quarantine. Jinx makes several friends and from these friendships she grows and strengthens her resolve as a maturing individual.

Throughout the book, Jinx is challenged to push forward and the challenges for her continue to mount. The author shows a great character concept development with interactions between Jinx, Quinn, Bruce, Sarge and Leya. The interactions and conversations are realistic and you can see the subtle character development which makes the characters relatable and human.

I especially enjoy the psychological development and growth exhibited by the changing environments and challenges that Jinx and her squad are forced to face. The behind the scenes reality that there is more going on than is initially presented forces the reader to consider the secrecy at higher governmental levels and what may be in store for the characters.

The author’s description from the very first introduction of The Game Jinx initially plays shows a well-rounded researched position in order to fully put the reader in the first person view of Jinx. From here the author does not let down on details, research and explanation of the feelings of the main character. The author does an amazing job at keeping suspense, mystery and character development in balance while making the reader hang on and keep reading.

Recoil is the first in the Recoil Trilogy and I look forward to reading more of the author’s take on the startling developments in the world turned upside down by fear and disease. If you enjoy reading about overcoming personal challenges and looking at looking at the world and those who shape the world behind the scenes, be sure to pick up a copy of Recoil. You will not be let down!

Stone and Spark by Sibella Giorello

Stone and Spark by Sibella Giorello
Stone and Spark : Book 1 The Raleigh Harmon Mystery Series by Sibella Giorello
Publisher: Running Girl Productions
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: Full Length (276 pages)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 4.5 stars
Review by: Honeysuckle

BoM LASR YA copy

During the worst week of her life, Raleigh Harmon discovers her destiny.

Her best friend is a smart-mouthed genius girl named Drew Levinson. But suddenly Drew is gone. Nowhere to be found. Everyone insists Drew ran away. But Raleigh suspects something worse.

Armed with her encyclopedic knowledge of city criminal codes, one rock hammer, and a stubborn streak that’s as wide as the Chesapeake Bay, Raleigh searches for clues.

Did Drew secretly meet somebody?
Did her loony parents finally push her over the edge?
Or is Raleigh’s hunch dead-on: Drew didn’t choose to leave….

The first book in the best-selling Raleigh Harmon mystery series, “Stone and Spark” introduces the girl who will grow up to become a forensic geologist and FBI agent—provided she survives her high school years.

Library Journal hailed this series as a top-ten read with “crisp writing, fast-paced action, and beautiful descriptions….” Don’t miss it.

In a world where her mom is just one step away from a mental ward and high school is as unforgiving as ever, 15 year old Raleigh Harmon depends on the consistency of her best friend, Drew. But Drew’s gone missing and following the clues will set Raleigh on a path that will take her so much farther outside the city limits of Richmond, Virginia than she could ever anticipate. This is the story of how it all began.

The Raleigh Harmon books have been in circulation for nearly a decade and the author, Sibella Giorello, has found a new way to entice readers by taking them back to the beginning. Back to Raleigh’s high school years and to the first time her geological knowledge is truly put to the test. Where failure means losing someone she cares about very deeply.

Told from the first person POV of Raleigh, this book took me back to the frustrating days of being a teenager when it seemed that adults caused just as much aggravation and stress as they accused teens of creating. Ms. Giorello has a very talented voice for putting into words exactly how a teen version of Raleigh would perceive her parents, teachers and other authority figures.

This book made me feel for Raleigh as she sincerely worried about the welfare of her friend. I hated that she had so much outside interference from people who could have made the search easier had they only considered that she might know her friend’s habits and patterns. The good news is she also has a teacher who cares. It was interesting to watch the process they go through to un-earth (no pun intended) the clues and solve the mystery.

Raleigh is very quick witted and doesn’t mind unleashing that wit on her peers or adults who treat her like she’s “naive”. She really hates that word! I enjoyed watching her interaction with her father and learning their story. He’s a pretty amazing man for how he watches out for Raleigh, while dealing with her mother with such care and compassion.

Along the way, and quite unexpectedly for Raleigh, there’s potential for a sweet romance. As someone who prefers romance over straight suspense, that made this clever read that much more enjoyable. I hope I see more of DeMott in the next book.

This book is both entertaining and educational. I liked how the author has Raleigh use what she knows, recall the lessons she’s both learned in school as well as in her father’s courtroom to methodically work through the clues. Drew was very fortunate to have a friend like Raleigh and I’m very glad I chose to read this series. Young readers who enjoy action and heroines who use their brains will surely appreciate these books.

Swimming Alone by Nina Mansfield

Swimming Alone
Swimming Alone by Nina Mansfield
Publisher: Fire and Ice Young Adult Books
Genre: Young Adult, Suspense/Mystery, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (155 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 3 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

The Sea Side Strangler is on the loose in Beach Point, where fifteen-year-old Cathy Banks is spending the summer with her aunt (who happens to be mystery writer Roberta McCabe.) Although thrilled to be away from her psychotic, divorcing parents, with no cell phone or internet access, Cathy is positive that her summer is going to be wretched. Just when she begins to make friends, and even finds a crush to drool over, her new friend Lauren vanishes. When a body surfaces in Beach Point Bay, Cathy is forced to face the question: has the Sea Side Strangler struck again?

Spending a summer far away from home is one thing. Doing it without your cell phone or home Internet access, though, makes everything ten times harder.

Cathy was a well developed character. Her snarky sense of humor made me laugh out loud, but what really made me like her was seeing how caring she was. She had a lot of empathy for strangers as well as for people she knew. This combination isn’t something that I’ve seen in many other books. It worked beautifully with the rest of her personality, though!

There were pacing issues. So much of the storyline was spent on introducing the characters and setting that there wasn’t enough time to explore what was going on with all of the murders that were happening in Beach Point. I was expecting this mystery to be the main focus of the plot, so it was confusing to need to keep track of so many other subplots. The subplots also slowed down how often Cathy was able to get more clues about the identity and motive of the murderer.

Beach Point sounded like such an interesting little community. I liked how much time the author spent describing all of its shops and landmarks in such great detail. It made me feel like I was walking around town with Cathy and seeing everything through her unique point of view. While I didn’t always agree with this character’s opinions about the various places she visited there, having such a clear image of what she was talking about was nice.

I’d recommend Swimming Alone to anyone who is in the mood for a fun beach read.

The Silent End by Samuel Sattin

The Silent End by Samuel Sattin
The Silent End by Samuel Sattin
Publisher: Ragnarok Publications
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense, Fantasy, Horror, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Length: Full Length (391 Pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 4 Stars
Review by: Sorrel

In a mist-soaked town in the Pacific Northwest three teenagers find themselves pitted against an unearthly menace that dwells beneath the foundations of their high school…

Eberstark is an outcast and he’s tired of pretending everything is fine. His mother disappeared almost a year ago after a long battle with depression. His father is conducting experiments and running around town in the middle of night with a mysterious man known only as The Hat, ranting to Eberstark about beasts no one else can see.

Then on Halloween night, Eberstark, alongside his only friends Lexi and Gus, discovers something in the woods to challenge his father’s apparent insanity: a wounded monster. Rather than stir the town into a frenzy, the three friends hide the creature and are pulled into a web of conspiracy, dream-logic, and death. Faced down by living trucks, mirror-dwelling psychopaths, and hellish entities who lurk behind friendly faces, Eberstark, Lexi, and Gus find themselves battling to save not just themselves, but the soul of their quiet little town.

Typical school life offset by strange occurrences that mystifies these friends.

I don’t read as much YA as I used to since it has been difficult for me to find a book that I like. However, this was definitely one I liked!

This book is about friendship and how strong it can become. This book showed me that it doesn’t matter how different you are from each other, you can still become friends. The book starts out with two best friends (Eberstark and Gus) and a ‘maybe’ friend (Lexi ).

When Lexi finds a monster its near death, there starts a mystery that had me scratching my head trying to decide where it is going to go from there. What outrageous thing was going to happen next? The parts that seemed outrageous made sense in the end.

This is first and foremost a young adult horror. Truly, the fright factor is pretty intense. But it’s more than that. It’s realistic for today’s youth. Nothing is glossed over. It kept my interest and I wanted to read more and more of the book.

One thing I loved about this book was that the characters are very different from each other. For example, Gus was the brains while Lexi becomes the muscle within the group. The dialogue is well written and easy to follow.

The end was surprising. I truly couldn’t have guessed that it would end the way, but it did. And it was good. Easy recommend for YA readers looking for something fresh and scary.

The Bargain by Michael J. Shell

The Bargain by Michael J Shell
The Bargain by Michael J Shell
A Vertigo Novel
Publisher: Self
Genre: paranormal, suspense, occult/horror, young adult
Length: 224 pages
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Review by: Stephanotis

Several years after Mr. Pike’s mysterious visit, Jenna and Jackie have settled back into their everyday lives. On Jenna’s fourteenth birthday, her friend brings a spirit board to the sleepover and Jenna believes that she has contacted her dead mother.

It soon becomes apparent that the spirit is anything but Jenna’s mother. When her father is gunned down in front of her, Jenna makes a bargain with the strange spirit to save her father and herself. What Jenna does not consider is that a deal like this carries a steep price, one that only she can pay.

This is the third book it the Vertigo series that I’ve read and it was interesting to see how the main character, Jenna Parker, has grown physically and mentally since book one.

Jenna is now fourteen and I think the author did a great job making her character fit into a teenager’s likes, dislikes, and how they begin to view the world through a different perspective. However, Jenna isn’t your average girl. She has special abilities that she only really discovered in book two. This time around, she’s more her own person which often leads her into trouble.

I’ve always enjoyed reading about Jenna and the other cast of characters in this series. The dialogue is very natural sounding, there’s a nice flow to the stories and the pacing is spot on. I’ve never really been sure if this series is for young adults, adults or both, but after reading this installment, I think I’d recommend it to young adults. It has suspense, the occult, lots of what’s going to happen next, that I feel this age group will enjoy. There’s also the opportunity to relate to Jenna as she moves from tween to someone who’s trying to deal with their parents, step-parent and all while trying to find their place in the world.

While this could be read as a standalone book, I do think you should read the other two books to get the most out of the characters and plot. Will there be a fourth installment? It looks like the author went with an opening ending so it’s possible we’ll see Jenna again.