Review: This Is Our Story by Ashley Elston

BUY HERE

This Is Our Story by Ashley Elston was an amazingly intriguing murder mystery. I didn’t want to put it down! It’s set in a small town where controversies are often hushed up, but this time a teen who aspires to be a lawyer is determined to get to the truth of what happened when five boys when hunting and only four came back. And that premise entirely captivated and intrigued me! There’s nothing like a bit o’ murder amongst friends and a teen girl who is going to see through the lies and bring justice. I am a fan.

Basically the story takes off with Kate’s boss taking on this case of a “hunting accident”…although he’s suspicious that it’s murder. Due to failing health, he has Kate doing a lot of the footwork to gather evidence and get to the bottom of which of the 4 boys shot their friend, Grant. Was it an accident? Was it on purpose? Kate’s life is further complicated by the fact she had a secret friendship with Grant…and now he’s dead. She wants justice for him and sees the other 4 boys involved as rich, entitled, and cruel fiends. Or are they?

I’m really pleased it featured quite a lot of the lawyer/case working side of the tale! Usually that’s the part that’s brushed over in the YA crime novels I tend to find…so it was great to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of that part of the case solving. All the attorney storylines felt really realistic and intriguing!

Kate was a very winning protagonist too. Although she did make a lot of dumb decisions, including getting involved with one of the boys when she’s explicitly told not to talk to them. Obviously that’s going to happen and obviously that’s going to go badly. But despite the slight clicheness of that aspect, I still enjoyed it! I liked getting to know the boys, even though they all seemed pretty evil. I also enjoyed the fact there was no instalove, but actual developed friendships and relationships. Such a relief! And on top of that, Kate actually had a really epic female friend, so the book was winning for positive girl relationships too.

I, of course, was very interested to know the killer. There are four boys alive and despite their jerky behaviour, they all have complex layers that Kate has to unwind to figure out what they’re hiding. I would’ve liked to got to know the boys deeper?? But the mysteriousness of them did keep the “but whodunnit” aspect of the story fresh and full of pressure. One of the boys anonymously narrates every second chapter, too, providing us with clues to try and figure it out. I loved that! Just let me get my Sherlock Holmes hat.

The writing was engaging although on the slower side. But if I couldn’t stop reading, that makes it a solid win right?? It made sure to include lots of details and also frequents trips to eat fast food because lawyers don’t sleep apparently. Seems legit.

In summary: This Is Our Story is an engaging murder mystery that leaves you freaking out till the last page. You won’t get answers until the last minute and then you’ll be thrilled how it all comes together. It’s full of surprises and plot twists, with a cosy setting that is more sinister than it seems, and a protagonist you can’t help but root for!

Review: Damage Done by Amanda Panitch

Okay WOW. Damage Done by Amanda Panitch was simultaneously glorious and terrifying. It’s a thriller about a school-shooting and the plot twists had me absolutely enthralled. I’m actually very hard to surprise…having read, like, a million and two books. (That’s a very accurate statistic of course.) But this one definitely hooked my attention and had me shrieking at the end.

 

9780857987730

What Is The Story About?

22 minutes separate Julia Vann’s before and after. Before: Julia had a twin brother, a boyfriend, and a best friend. After: She has a new identity, a new hometown, and a memory of those twenty-two minutes that refuses to come into focus. At least, that’s what she tells the police. Now that she’s Lucy Black, her fresh start has attracted the attention of one of the hottest guys in school. And someone much more dangerous. She thought her brother’s crimes were behind her. But now she’s being forced to confront the dark secrets she thought were safely left behind. How far will Julia go to keep her slate clean? One thing is clear: The damage done can never be erased. It’s only just beginning…

PURCHASE HERE

The story takes off when Julia and her parents are moving to a new town for a fresh start after her twin, Ryan, shot 11 people at their old school. So we basically get Julia’s feelings of fear of the future, denial of the past, missing-her-brother-even-though-he’s-a-monster, and trying to stay undercover. Which, totally doesn’t work out. Since it’s from the persepctive of the shooter’s sister, it reminded me of Hate List by Jennifer Brown (which I also highly recommend if you like a feelsy punch in the guts). Julia was surprisingly held together though and managed to keep up some wit and the semblance of trying to have a life despite all of these. Go Julia.

There were a few times where I had to “suspend disbelief” though. That’s literally my only negative. There are a lot of convenient plot developments and police fumbles that really wouldn’t happen in real life.

But other than that? The rest of the story was perfect and engaging and TERRIFYING. I loved the writing style! I adored Julia’s voice. She has this mixture of slightly self-deprecating humour meshed with intense traumatised meltdowns. She felt venerable but coping at the beginning. I also loved her obsession with hot chocolate. I MEAN WHO DOESN’T LIKE HOT CHOCOLATE?!?

Also I’ll take a moment to say Michael was the perfect love interest. He was adorable. He cooked for her (!!) and any guy who makes a girl an omelette or from-scratch lasagna is a winner. Also, Julia’s best friend, Alane, was pretty epic too. I was really impressed at how fleshed-out, dimensional and interesting all the secondary characters were. It made the world feel very real.

The plot twist will absolutely KNOCK YOUR SOCKS OFF. Obviously I can say no more because of spoilers but woah. I was sucked in. It was perfectly revealed (although there were a few info dumps at the end) and I was glued to the page.

This is a thriller that’s not to be missed! It totally twists your brain and it’s addictive to read. Don’t let the calm contemporary-feeling beginning lull you. At the beginning it’s a school story with a cute boy and cafes and a little bit of trauma — and then the ending just GETS YOU. This is positively wonderful.

Review: Thicker Than Water by Brigid Kemmerer

9781743318638I had zero idea of what to expect from Thicker Than Water by Brigid Kemmerer. And what did this glorious conglomeration of paper give me? AN INCREDIBLE, MIND BLOWING STORY. I am such a fan. I’m absolutely going to dig out Brigid Kemmerer’s other series (The Elementals) to and devour it immediately because this author is marvellous.

Thicker Than Water is basically the story of Thomas Bellweather, who moved to a small, backwoods sort of town with his mother after she re-married a cop. THEN SHE IS MURDERED. Thomas looks very guilty. He’s totally friendless in this town and everyone thinks he did it. But he befriends Charlotte and they try to solve the mystery.

Although the thing to note is this is a paranormal murder-mystery thriller. I didn’t know that when I started, so I confess: I was thrown. But it’s still set in an “normal” sort of town and the story is like 80% reality and 20% paranormal.

Thomas and Charlotte’s relationship is basically a “forbidden romance”. Everyone thinks Thomas is a killer and Charlotte has an entire family (!!) in the police force; father plus three brothers. They do NOT want her anywhere near a potential killer. But I loved how low burning their relationship was though! They’re attracted at first, but neither really acts upon it. And it’s entirely adorable how they learn to trust each other.

 

A Small List Of Other Things I Loved About This Book:

  • I was absolutely rooted to my chair. I could not stop reading. It’s been aaages since a book has gripped me this much!
  • The characters were all fantastic. It’s dual narrated by both Thomas and Charlotte. And even though it’s in 1st person for both (which I usually find confusing) they both had very distinct voices. Plus I loved them both so there was no sighing at the alternating POVs.
  • Thomas was an incredible creature. He was really angry and bitter, particularly since everyone was condemning him for this murder he didn’t do. He was frustrated and lashed out a lot…but I really understood him. And there was so much emotion! When he’d struggle not to cry….oops. THERE GO MY EMOTIONS TOO.
  • Charlotte made some pretty dumb decisions when chasing after him (and was constantly being hurt…okay, she was slightly a bit of a damsel) but I can’t blame her because Thomas was intensely interesting.
  • I do have much love for Charlotte too! She has Type 1 Diabetes and she has a huge family (lots of cops) and they’re all very traditional and want her to be a “lady”. She’s often left with the dishes and treated as a child, despite being nearly 18. So she quietly struggles with the sexism of her family life, too, but she still adores her family and they’re all so loving. I adore reading about big families!
  • Plus Charlotte really loved to cook. There is so much FOOD in this book. Please bring a snack when you start to read it.
  • It’s set in a sleepy small summery town and I felt so sucked into the atmosphere. Excellent writing!
  • The murder mystery aspect kept me on my toes, too! I was REALLY curious how it’d play out in the end, especially when the paranormal aspects came out.
  • The twists will probably leave you shrieking.
  • Just sayin’.

 

Thicker Than Water was definitely a solid win for me! I loved the writing and the characters (I mean, aren’t characters the best part of a book anyway?!) and the fact that my eyeballs were glued to the page. And maybe the paranormal aspects did take the realism out of it, but it still made the book so thrilling and addictive and exciting. The ending was left WIDE open, though, and I’m clamouring for a sequel!

[Purchase Here]

Whodunnit?! A List of YA Murder Mysteries

There’s nothing like a good, solid murder mystery to curl up with in the evening. After — you know — you’ve double checked all your doors are locked and armed yourself with with a deathly looking lampshade and a fearsome whisk for protection. (Sometimes books feel real, okay?!) And if you like the Young Adult variety, oh oh, have I got a list for you.

 

YA Murder Mysteries You Need To Consume

 

9781743316429EVERY BREATH by Ellie Marney

Not only is this by a homegrown Aussie author, it’s also a Sherlock Holmes retelling. (Can it seriously get anymore awesome than that?!) It’s set in Melbourne and follows Rachel Watts and her best friend James Mycroft as they solve a murder the police don’t seem to care about. It’s absolutely stuffed with Australian slang (!!) and humour and gallons of tea.

Best of all…it’s a trilogy! Don’t forget to check out Every Word and Every Move (the last one I haven’t read yet, but I am impatiently awaiting its arrival in the mail because I’m 90000% sure this series can do no wrong).

 

9781471119149DANGEROUS GIRLS by Abigail Haas

This is the kind of book that will leave you spinning. It was my first taste of a REAL murder mystery, where the protagonist is the “accused” and we watch her go through courts and trials to see if she’s guilty or not. The backstory unravels as you read. A couple of teens…off on a beach holiday…what could go wrong?! (Um, everything.)

I’m still in shock over the ending. It absolutely took my breath away and it’s masterfully written!

 

9781471402463

AS RED AS BLOOD by Salla Simukka

It’s about Lumikki who lives in Finland (!!) and becomes tangled up in a cacophony of blood soaked money. She’s like the Finnish Nancy Drew, basically. And she’s awesome. She loves liquorice and black coffee and comics, so basically she won my heart right then and there — and then she went on to be awesome at solving mysteries too.

Also this book is TINY. It’s like 240-pages and you won’t be able to put it down.

9781423168232

 

THE NATURALS by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

I was so so chilled while reading this. It’s about kids with supernatural abilities who track down murderers. And the narrator, Cassie, has the ability to “read” people (nearly in a Sherlock Holmes way, too…except hers is supernatural). It’s pretty gruesome and gritty and wow.

It also has a sequel: Killer Instinct.

 

9780755348817I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER by Dan Wells

So the title sounds pretty incriminating, right? Um, yes. BUT ANYWAY! It is about John Wayne Cleaver, who is not a serial killer but is definitely a sociopath. His family business is a morgue (how fitting) and he gets caught up trying to solve a supernatural murder mystery. So think demons and monsters for this one, folks. And possibly you will find yourself hiding under the covers and suppressing a need to scream. I understand, I do.

9781782953463

 

THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME by Mark Haddon

Okay, it’s only a dog that’s murdered…but it’s still a big deal for the narrator, okay?! Christopher is Autistic and super smart and determined to find the killer of his neighbour’s dog. This one is more about tugging at the heart strings, but it still involves mystery and family secrets and timeless coming-of-age story line.

 

 

Review: When You Leave by Monica Ropal

22928890Okay, wow, this book took me by surprise. It did look delicious, of course (I’m notorious for picking up books based on extreme cover love) and the promise of muuuurder (I’m normal, I swear) added an extra hook. But the first 30% was so much teen angst, cheating relationships, lying, and general meanness all round that I was about to throw up my hands and run away. I’m SO glad I didn’t. When You Leave by Monica Ropal developed into a mind whirling whodunnit mystery.

I’m definitely a fan of murder mysteries. And this book’s ending is EXTRAORDINARY.

It’s narrated by Cass. She’s a snarky skater and goes to a private school where she doesn’t really “belong”. She’s built walls to stop herself being hurt because her BFF, Mattie, nearly died of throat cancer when they were kids. She still has her tight-knit group of skater friends, but is an absolute snob to the rich kids at her school. Cass was pretty unlikeable, but she’s supposed to be that way. This is a story of her growing. I really liked the end result and her character development was well written.

SO. MURDER? Someone kills a kid, Cooper, at Cass’ school. BUT WHO DID IT?! I couldn’t figure it out! I suspected EVERYONE. One of Cass’ skater friends is the police’s suspect, but what if it was one of Cooper’s jock friends? WHAT IF IT WAS MATTIE?!! I loved Mattie. He was a sweetie, and also mute, but as he and Cass grew apart through the stress in the story…I worried about him being a suspect too. I literally couldn’t put the book down after 60%!

There is romance, since Cooper (pre-death; there are no zombies in this book unfortunately) and Cass were a secret couple. But it really isn’t the focus, which is refreshing in YA since everything usually seems so romance focused. Mattie and Cass have an awesome friendship that was purely platonic. I found it quite refreshing!

I have  a few negatives, mainly that:

  • The beginning was a bit sleepy. Still intriguing though! Just make sure you push past that to get to the scary, juicy parts.
  • I worried about Mattie, who is mute, having zero forms of communication!! (This isn’t really a negative on the storytelling, though.) The book says he speaks solely through his “eyes”, but how is that logical? Let me snort. No one can go through life communicating JUST like that, yet, even in his final years of high school he didn’t appear to be learning sign language. So I questioned the realism, but that’s really only a tiny issue.

I definitely enjoyed this one! The mystery was so well done and literally EVERYONE was a liar at some point and it was so so suspicious. I loved Cass by the end and totally recommend this to fans of contemporaries and mysteries and lovers of books like We Were Liars.

“I’m afraid…that when the next person leaves with a piece of my heart..there won’t be anything left.” ~ When You Leave

 

[PURCHASE WHEN YOU LEAVE]

What I’m reading this Christmas: Anna O’Grady, Simon & Schuster

Anna O'Grady in front of her home library
Anna O’Grady in front of her home library

Thanks to Anna O’Grady for talking to Boomerang Books today, and sharing your Christmas picks with us. First, let’s find out more about you and some of the books you’ve been working on.

You’re the Marketing and Publicity Manager at Simon & Schuster. What does your job entail?
How much time do we have? I like describing it as ‘parenting’ a book and making sure that I find the best possible home for it. It all starts by understanding who would enjoy the particular title, and then the fun part of thinking of the best means of reaching that audience. Nowadays there are so many different ways that this can be achieved.

In the last few months I’ve worked on creating online trailers and ads, organized blog tours, pitched titles to festivals, events and media and talked to our book loving community over various social media channels.

How did you get this job?
I am the third generation working in the book world from a family of booksellers and publishers. For the better part of my life I have been lucky enough to continue our family tradition across six different countries. However, bookselling is rapidly changing and for a few years I have wanted to try my hand in a publishing house. All the stars aligned really well this year and I ended up with the amazing team at Simon & Schuster Australia. I have learnt a tremendous amount but it also has been a lot of fun.The Fly Trap by Fredrik Sjoberg

What is different/special about Simon & Schuster?
One of the things I really like about Simon & Schuster is that it is a small publishing house. There are just over 20 people in the office and that means that there are opportunities to try different things in different areas of the book business. For example, even though my official role is within the marketing and publicity department, I am also part of the acquisition team – so I have a chance to read new manuscripts and contribute to the decision on publishing these.

I also really love the staff’s passion for books we publish within the Simon & Schuster program. A lot of larger houses release so many books that it is physically impossible for everybody to be familiar with all titles. Our publishing program is small enough that almost everybody in-house can read all the books we publish and be able to meet all the authors in person. I really love being in an office where everybody reads and where books are celebrated every day.

I suspect you love all the books you work on, but could you tell us about some that you are particularly proud of?
It has been quite a year for me, and I often feel in awe of the amazing authors that I have been taking care of. I will highlight two – only because they are so completely different. The first one was my campaign for debut author Ellie O’Neill’s book Reluctantly Charmed. Debuts are notoriously difficult to break out, but I felt special pressure on this one because everybody at Simon & Schuster loved this book. In the end we had a great campaign that was embraced by a major sponsor – Tourism Ireland – and also created a lot of buzz in the book blogging community. I am already looking forward to the second book from Ellie coming next year.A Thousand Shards of Glass cover by Michael Katakis

The other campaign that will probably stay in mind for a very long time was A Thousand Shards of Glass by Michael Katakis. Although Michael is a world class photographer, an overseer of the intellectual property of Hemingway and an author of very thought provoking books, he is very little known in Australia. We decided to bring him here for a tour and I had the task of arranging events and media for his tour. This took several months and many, many phone calls and emails to organize. Because Michael is relatively unknown some event organizers took some persuasion and were hesitant to the last moment. In the end the response to Michael’s tour was exceptional and well worth all our efforts. I have never seen such an emotional reader–writer reaction, with many people moved to tears at events, and many readers calling and sending emails – and in one instance hand delivering a letter of thank you to our offices. There is nothing more special than seeing that connection in front of my eyes and knowing that I helped make it happen.This Changes Everything Naomi Klein

What do you see as the way forward in the book industry?
I have been watching the book industry very carefully for at least 20 years now and I find some changes painful, but I also see a lot of great things on the horizon. I think that we might be experiencing a new golden age of storytelling. There are more people reading than ever before, and they access books in many formats and ways. But what is even more exciting is that readers have more to say, and the means to say it, than ever before. The future of the publishing industry is in deepening the connection to readers and embracing new ways of telling and experiencing stories. I have no doubt that great books and storytellers will always find their audience.

What are your must-reads over Christmas?
I have been building my little Christmas stack for a while now – and as usual I am probably overambitious. Here are the titles that are currently sitting in my Christmas pile: The Fly Trap by Fredrik Sjoberg; The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher by Hilary Mantel; In Certain Circles by Elizabeth Harrower; The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber; and This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein – but who knows what other gems I might find under my Christmas tree.In Certain Circles by Elizabeth Harrower

What is your secret reading pleasure?
I really enjoy many YA novels, love a good mystery, and have a fascination with horror fiction. For me some of the great horror and crime writers are amongst the best at the craft of writing – although critics often disregard them.

Thanks very much for speaking with us, Anna.
You’re most welcome, it’s been a pleasure.