Book Review: The Finder

The Finder – Kate Hendrick – Text Publishing – Published 1 August 2018

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Synopsis

When Lindsay meets Elias the signs aren’t promising. She’s a grungy introvert who doesn’t want to talk to anyone. He’s a teen fashionista who can’t shut the hell up.

But since Lindsay tracked down a runaway kid, word’s got around that she knows how to find people. And Elias is looking for his birth mother. And he has money, and Lindsay’s perpetually broke… So that’s how this oddest of odd couples teams up.

But the thing is, Lindsay wasn’t actually trying to find the runaway. It’s just how she looks at the world. Not idly, like most people, but really looking. Scanning every house, every face, every car. That’s because someone is missing in Lindsay’s life: her identical twin Frankie, who disappeared when they were eight. Since then, her parents have kept themselves busy. And angry. And Lindsay has been…looking.

My thoughts

The Finder is a light mystery with plenty of heart. I recently read and loved Lost and Found by Orson Scott Card, so I was delighted when I discovered The Finder has a similar tone, with a very Aussie setting. Family, friendship and mystery combine in this book to provide a remarkably uplifting story about loss and the people left behind.

Lindsay has spent her life looking. It’s how she survived since her twin sister went missing when they were kids. Now with a family full of younger siblings, a busy mother and an absent father, Lindsay craves silence. She’s not surprised when she accidentally finds teen runaway, but she is surprised when it brings teen fashionista, Elias to her door asking for her help in locating his birth mother. She agrees, just as an excuse to get out of her crowded house. But even though Elias drives her crazy with his overly styled hair and non-stop chatter, Lindsay finds it comforting to finally have someone to look with.

The Finder brings such a delightful mix of humour and light-hearted joy combined with sorrow and grief. The themes touched upon in the story are quite deep. Lindsay’s discovery of Vogue and being asked to join in Elias’ search bring to the forefront the continued grief and guilt she carries from her twin sister’s disappearance. The trauma tore her family apart. Now her mother is busy with all Lindsay’s new siblings, her father is constantly at work and angry in those rare times he is home and Lindsay is forbidden from even mentioning her sister. This grief has been bottled up and Lindsay is ready to explode. The book captures the raw emotions Lindsay and her family are experiencing. There is also some mystery surrounding what transpired in Lindsay’s sister’s disappearance.

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Book Review: Jane Anonymous

Jane Anonymous – Laurie Faria Stolarz – Wednesday Books – Published 7 January 2020

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Synopsis

Then, “Jane” was just your typical 17-year-old in a typical New England suburb getting ready to start her senior year. She had a part-time job she enjoyed, an awesome best friend, overbearing but loving parents, and a crush on a boy who was taking her to see her favorite band. She never would’ve imagined that in her town where nothing ever happens, a series of small coincidences would lead to a devastating turn of events that would forever change her life.

Now, it’s been three months since “Jane” escaped captivity and returned home. Three months of being that girl who was kidnapped, the girl who was held by a “monster.” Three months of writing down everything she remembered from those seven months locked up in that stark white room. But, what if everything you thought you knew―everything you thought you experienced―turned out to be a lie?

My thoughts

Jane Anonymous is a thriller that explores both the emotional trauma of being kidnapped and surviving captivity and the fallout and struggle and pressure to return to ‘normal’ post escape. It’s a heart wrenching book that made me want to slap the adults in Jane’s life. It’s a story about the power of emotions. It’s a story about fear and trust and starting over.

One morning, while stopping in early at work to grab her best-friend’s birthday present, Jane Anonymous is kidnapped. Shoved into a car trunk, drugged and then taken to a small, white room, she is given food, a list of instructions and little hope for escape. Fast forward seven months, Jane has escaped, but share carries the physical and mental scars of her captivity.

Jane Annoymous is written as if Jane herself is reliving her story, sharing it with the reader. The book is divided into Now and Then sections, flipping between the two. This gives readers the opportunity to experience Jane’s fear and torment of the kidnapping as it happened, and at the same time, understanding the struggle she has with returning to her old life and the expectations that are placed upon her. Thanks to the power of Jane’s emotions and little details, like the names and place names used—Jane Anonymous, No Name High School—it is all too easy to image this is a retelling of true events.

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Book Review: Deadly Little Scandals

Deadly Little Scandals – Jennifer Lynn Barnes – Debutantes #2 – Freeform – Published 5 November 2019

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Synopsis

Reluctant debutante Sawyer Taft joined Southern high society for one reason and one reason alone: to identify and locate her biological father. But the answers Sawyer found during her debutante year only left her with more questions and one potentially life-ruining secret. When her cousin Lily ropes her into pledging a mysterious, elite, and all-female secret society called the White Gloves, Sawyer soon discovers that someone in the group’s ranks may have the answers she’s looking for. Things are looking up… until Sawyer and the White Gloves make a disturbing discover near the family’s summer home–and uncover a twisted secret, decades in the making.

No one is quite who they seem to be.

My thoughts

Deadly Little Scandals is the sequel to Little White Lies, and, if possible it is even better than its predecessor. More intrigue, more plots, bodies to uncover, secrets to tell, and twist after twist that you never see coming, because, seriously who else but Jennifer Lynn Barnes could conceive of such an idea and actually make it work. Deadly Little Scandals will thrill fans of the first book and keep readers on the edge of their seat.

When Sawyer accepted her grandmother’s terms last summer, she did so to discover who her father is. Now, after a lengthy process of uncovering long-buried secrets and a little blackmail, she knows but would rather maybe not know. Keeping her secrets from her cousin Lily is hard, harder still to know if it is worth digging further to find answers to the questions she has. When an all girl secret society recruit Sawyer, Lily, Sadie-Grace and Campbell to compete for a position, Sawyer discovers that one of the girls may be key to helping her discover the secrets surrounding what happened the year her mother fell pregnant.

Deadly Little Scandals is a sequel and you must read the books in chronological order to make any sense of the story. Even having read the first book, it is a little hard to keep all the characters straight and by the end of the book I needed a map to fully make sense of it all. That’s just testament to Barnes’ skill as a writer to make such a complex plot work.

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Book Review: The Athena Protocol

The Athena Protocol – Shamim Sarif – HarperTeen – Published 8 October 2019

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Synopsis

Jessie Archer is a member of the Athena Protocol, an elite organization of female spies who enact vigilante justice around the world.

Athena operatives are never supposed to shoot to kill—so when Jessie can’t stop herself from pulling the trigger, she gets kicked out of the organization, right before a huge mission to take down a human trafficker in Belgrade.

Jessie needs to right her wrong and prove herself, so she starts her own investigation into the trafficking. But going rogue means she has no one to watch her back as she delves into the horrors she uncovers. Meanwhile, her former teammates have been ordered to bring her down. Jessie must face danger from all sides if she’s to complete her mission—and survive.

My thoughts

The Athena Protocol is a fantastic YA action thriller with a whole cast of strong and diverse women who are unafraid to take risks to bring the bad guys down. High action scenes, surveillance with cool tech, hand-to-hand combat and sniper shootouts all with a positive message about working together, family, belonging and righting the wrongs of the world. I seriously loved this book and can’t wait to see where the next book in the series leads.

Jessie is part of the Athena Protocol, a secret group of three highly-trained female operatives led by a group of powerful women. Jessie may only be young, but she has been trained by the best of the best in surveillance, combat, research, weapons, coding, and hacking. Which is why she and her team are surprised when, on their most recent mission, Jessie breaks orders and shoots their target. Suspended from the team, Jessie knows they will need her help as they go after a human trafficker with extensive resources. So, Jessie does her own research and fieldwork, but going rouge means she is without the support of her teammates and when things get really dangerous, she will have to watch her back.

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Book Review: Now Entering Addamsville

Now Entering Addamsville – Francesca Zappia – Greenwillow Books – Published 1 October 2019

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Synopsis

Zora Novak has been framed.

When someone burns down the home of the school janitor and he dies in the blaze, everyone in Addamsville, Indiana, points a finger at Zora. Never mind that Zora has been on the straight and narrow since her father was thrown in jail. With everyone looking for evidence against her, her only choice is to uncover the identity of the real killer. There’s one big problem—Zora has no leads. No one does. Addamsville has a history of tragedy, and thirty years ago a similar string of fires left several townspeople dead. The arsonist was never caught.

Now, Zora must team up with her cousin Artemis—an annoying self-proclaimed Addamsville historian—to clear her name. But with a popular ghost-hunting television show riling up the townspeople, almost no support from her family and friends, and rumors spinning out of control, things aren’t looking good. Zora will have to read between the lines of Addamsville’s ghost stories before she becomes one herself.

My thoughts

I don’t read a lot of paranormal YA and even fewer ghosts stories, but I added this to my reading pile because it is written by Francesca Zappa. And I’m so glad I did. Take-no-prisoners female lead character (armed with an axe, seriously), a story of intrigue, murder, and mystery, and yes, ghosts, but with a complex storyline and plenty of layers of details about the rules for this paranormal version of a small town with plenty of secrets, all contribute to make Now Entering Addamsville an intense and compelling read.

When the school’s janitor is killed as his house burns down, the town of Addamsville blame Zora Novak. With her father in jail for a failed Ponzi scheme, her mother still missing after she disappeared five years ago and the fire incident that left a field burnt and Zora untouched save for two missing fingers, Zora is the easy target. But Zora knows the truth. She is being framed and the person framing her isn’t a person, it’s a firestarter, a demon-like creature who can inhabit people and set fires at will, and Zora, who inherited her ability to see ghosts from her mother, along with her ghost-sensing cousin, is the only one who can stop it.

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Book Review: Lost and Found

Lost and Found – Orson Scott Card – Blackstone – Published 10 September 2019

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Synopsis

“Are you really a thief?”

That’s the question that has haunted fourteen-year-old Ezekiel Blast all his life. But he’s not a thief, he just has a talent for finding things. Not a superpower–a micropower. Because what good is finding lost bicycles and hair scrunchies, especially when you return them to their owners and everyone thinks you must have stolen them in the first place? If only there were some way to use Ezekiel’s micropower for good, to turn a curse into a blessing. His friend Beth thinks there must be, and so does a police detective investigating the disappearance of a little girl. When tragedy strikes, it’s up to Ezekiel to use his talent to find what matters most.

My thoughts

Orson Scott Card has a fantastic writing style that provides such a compelling and put-together story. Lost and Found had me hooked – I didn’t want to put it down and I just had to know what would happen next, all while loving every moment of this fun and unique story.

Ezekiel can find lost things. He’s not sure why he has this usual talent and it has certainly made his life hard, especially when everyone – from his classmates to the police- think he is a thief when he returns the lost items to their owners. His new friend Beth, a girl with her own reasons for staying away from other people, tries to convince him that his talent has the power to help people and encourages him to experiment with it. Then Ezekiel is approached by a police detective who thinks Ezekiel may be the key to solving a little girl’s kidnapping.

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Book Review: The Center of the Universe

The Center of the Universe – Ria Voros – Kids Can Press – Published 2 April 2019

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Synopsis

Grace Carter’s mother — the celebrity news anchor GG Carter — is everything Grace is not. GG is a star, with a flawless wardrobe and a following of thousands, while Grace — an aspiring astrophysicist — is into stars of another kind. She and her mother have always been in different orbits. 

Then one day GG is just … gone. Cameras descend on their house, news shows speculate about what might have happened and Grace’s family struggles to find a new rhythm as they wait for answers.

While the authorities unravel the mystery behind GG’s disappearance, Grace grows closer to her high school’s golden boy, Mylo, who has faced a black hole of his own. She also uncovers some secrets from her mother’s long-lost past. The more Grace learns, the more she wonders. Did she ever really know her mother? Was GG abducted … or did she leave? And if she left, why?

My thoughts

The Center of the Universe is an fascinating YA contemporary novel about growing up, about family, about love and friendship, about horrible events that change and shape lives, about waiting and overcoming, about learning to listen, and about watching the stars. Part mystery, part coming-of-age contemporary, The Center of the Universe is sure to delight and surprise YA contemporary readers.

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Book Review: In Another Life

In Another Life – C.C. Hunter – Wednesday Books – Published 26 March 2019

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Synopsis

Chloe was three years old when she became Chloe Holden, but her adoption didn’t scar her, and she’s had a great life. Now, fourteen years later, her loving parents’ marriage has fallen apart and her mom has moved them to Joyful, Texas. Starting twelfth grade as the new kid at school, everything Chloe loved about her life is gone. And feelings of déjà vu from her early childhood start haunting her.

When Chloe meets Cash Colton she feels drawn to him, as though they’re kindred spirits. Until Cash tells her the real reason he sought her out: Chloe looks exactly like the daughter his foster parents lost years ago, and he’s determined to figure out the truth.

As Chloe and Cash delve deeper into her adoption, the more things don’t add up, and the more strange things start happening. Why is Chloe’s adoption a secret that people would kill for?

My thoughts

What would you do if you discovered there was more to the story behind your childhood? If you were someone else? In Another Life is a light mystery, with plenty of family drama and a touch of romance.

Chloe Holden’s lire has been torn apart. First her parents went through a messy divorce after her father had an affair, then her mother was diagnosed with cancer and now she has been forced to move to a new town, away from her friends. But when she literally runs into a hot guy her first moment in town, perhaps things are looking up. Until Cash reveals that he thinks she is the long lost daughter of his foster parents, kidnapped when she was just three years old. Together, Cash and Chloe work to uncover the truth about her adoption, growing closer, but their investigation could lead them both into serious danger.

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Book Review: If You’re Out There

If You’re Out There – Katy Loutzenhiser – Balzer+Bray – Published 5 March 2019

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Synopsis

After Zan’s best friend moves to California, she’s baffled and crushed when Priya suddenly ghosts. Worse, Priya’s social media has turned into a stream of ungrammatical posts chronicling a sunny, vapid new life that doesn’t sound like her at all. Everyone tells Zan not to be an idiot: Let Priya do her reinvention thing, and move on. But until Zan hears Priya say it, she won’t be able to admit that the friendship is finished.

It’s only when she meets Logan, the compelling new guy in Spanish class, that Zan begins to open up about her sadness, her insecurity, her sense of total betrayal. And he’s just as willing to throw himself into the investigation when everyone else thinks her suspicions are crazy.

Then a clue hidden in Priya’s latest selfie introduces a new, deeply disturbing possibility. Maybe Priya isn’t just not answering Zan’s emails. Maybe she can’t.

My thoughts

If You’re Out There is an ode to the power of friendship. And while this YA title’s focus is on the friendship between two girls, there is the added bonus of sweet romance, diverse characters, and interesting and complex family dynamics, as well as the thread of mystery that weaves throughout the story. All in all, If You’re Out There is unique and delightful.

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Book Review: What You Hide

What You Hide – Natalie D. Richards – Sourcebooks Fire – Published 4 December 2018

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Synopsis

Spencer volunteers at the library. Sure, it’s community service, but he likes his work. Especially if it means getting to see Mallory.

Mallory spends a lot of time keeping her head down. When you’re sixteen and homeless, nothing matters more than being anonymous. But Spencer’s charm makes her want to be noticed.

Then sinister things start happening at the library. Mysterious symbols and terrifying warnings begin to appear, and management grows suspicious. Spencer and Mallory know a homeless teenager makes an easy target, and if they can’t find the real culprit soon, they could lose more than just their safe haven…

My thoughts

What You Hide is one part contemporary, the other part mystery thriller. It is a touching and thought-provoking story of family breakdown and youth homelessness, a coming of age story and a love story rolled into one.

When Mallory’s pregnant mother changes her mind about leaving her controlling and demanding husband (Malloy’s stepfather), Mallory makes the decision to leave by herself. This new plan means that she has nowhere to go. Enrolled in online school, she spends her days at the library and, once her welcome wears out her friend’s home, her nights too. It’s at the library that she meets Spencer. Seemingly living a perfect life, Spencer reveals he is working at the library to serve out his community service sentence and that he is struggling with decisions about the future. But then a body is found in the library and signs show that Mallory isn’t the only one hiding in the library.

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