Book Reviews by Genre: Mystery

SYLO book jacket
MacHale, D.J.
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This is the first book of an awesome Apocalyptic trilogy. This book starts out with a high school football player named Tucker Pierce, who lives a quiet life on Pemberwick Island,Maine. He is also perfectly fine being the backup for a kid named Marty on the team. As a game goes on, Marty seems to be having the best game of his life, when he scores a touchdown and just drops dead. The narrator describes the whole story in past tense, and describes that as "the first death". This is the start of a "real page turner" of a story. As that week goes on, Tucker and his friends (Quinn and Tori) find out that a U.S. military branch invades his island.This story goes on to describe how The trio find out what the heck is going on, and in three books! It is a very good book, and I strongly recommend it. Just don't read it if you do not have access to the other books, because you have to read the whole series.

Reviewer's Name: Zachary
12 Months To Live
Patterson, James
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Jane Smith is a defense attorney, trying to defend a probably guilty client of three murders. Gripping, well paced with great character development.

Reviewer's Name: Jane R.
I Am Not Okay With This
Forsman, Charles
2 stars = Meh
Review:

I'm open to a lot of visual styles for graphic novels. It can be what elevates a mediocre story to something profound, but it can also tonally clash with the message and leave a muddled mess. Storytelling in this format is a challenge to pull off and few have been able to do so successfully. I Am Not Okay With This unfortunately falls into the other camp here. Even if this were just a novel without the "graphic" part, there's not much to recommend it.

Filled with cliches about what it's like to be a teenage girl, I Am Not Okay With This suffers from the "men writing women" trope. None of the interactions felt believable or realistic. Instead, they seemed forced through what a man thought these interactions should be based on minimal or merely pop culture research. None of it had the feel of anyone who has lived as a teenage girl in similar situations—psychic powers notwithstanding. This was why it leaned so heavily on the tropes commonly associated with girls in puberty and the male fetishes that go along with it.

I wasn't sure if this was trying to be edgy by focusing only on heavy subjects like sexuality, bullying, and suicide, but the simplistic art style felt too childish to accomplish any of these goals with any level of gravitas. There wasn't even a satisfying conclusion to anything, which would only be frustrating if this book wasn't such a quick read. I'm sure it's less of a time commitment than watching the Netflix show, but I still probably wouldn't recommend it (even if I haven't seen the Netflix show to compare against).

A mismatched graphic novel obviously written by a man, I give I Am Not Okay With This 2.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
The It Girl
Ware, Ruth
1 star = Yuck!
Review:

I love Ruth Ware but this was so disappointing I didn't even finish it, and I really tried. I was just so frustrated with the format and the characters that I no longer cared about the conclusion.
The back and forth format was really repetitive and annoying, and the characters all felt thin. The main character only had two modes, panic attack or despair, but the way it was written it was impossible to have empathy for her.
Her anxiety became very formulaic. The supporting characters were all very predictable, which is not good in a whodunit. I really hope she's back on her game with the next one as I liked every one of her books until now.

Reviewer's Name: Kristen S.
Genres:
Five Total Strangers book jacket
Richards, Natalie D.
2 stars = Meh
Review:

Five Total Strangers begins with our protagonist, Mira on a plane ride back home just before Christmas. There is a large winter storm approaching and all flights are cancelled, so in desperation Mira and some other college - age passengers rent a car in an attempt to reach their destinations. Woven between the main plot, we read letters sent to Mira from a mysterious person she met while in the hospital around the time of her aunt's death. The person's letters take a very... stalker-y tone... and they appear to have never reached their destination. As the story goes on, the sender grows more and more desperate alongside the distress of her party.
The story has well written language and description, and it was easy to visualize the setting and the mental state of the protagonist. However, it is supposed to be a sort of mystery? It's hinted that there is a saboteur among Mira and the four strangers, but it was fairly easy for me to figure out who it was early in the book, which made the "twist" at the end feel over dramatized and the red herrings obvious. Basically, the book tries to sell "I don't know who to trust and there's nowhere to go!"but it didn't really meet my expectations. The main character Mira has no real agency, which makes sense, because she's trapped in a snowstorm, but at the same time, the book doesn't really analyze the sense of powerlessness in a situation out of your control. Mira just kind of feels uneasy and goes along with whatever the rest of the characters say, and the book doesn't really address this.
Also, the end was unrealistically soon after the climax in my opinion. After the "twist," the rescue came so quick that it made me wonder, "why could this not happen sooner?..." It just felt irrational compared to the rest of the story, and this narrative whiplash lowered my opinion.
Despite my qualms with the story (it might just be over-analysis on my part) I enjoyed this book. It kept me entertained for at least a day, and the author was decent at evoking dread by constricting the escape routes of the story's environment. I'd recommend this book if you enjoy quick thrillers for a snowy day.

Reviewer's Name: Isabel
All In book jacket
Barnes, Jennifer Lynn
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

All In is the third book in The Naturals series. It takes place in Vegas instead of Washington D.C. and is actually focusing on a main secondary character instead, Sloane. The Naturals investigate a series of murders that take place in casinos around Las Vegas and learn that they may run deeper than they thought.

I really liked this book in the series. I liked how we got a story focusing on a secondary character instead of just focusing on Cassie like in the first two books. However, this book was longer than the other books and got a little bit boring in some parts, which is why I rated it a three stars. It was a really good and interesting story though and I’m looking forward to continuing the series!

Reviewer's Name: Cara
House of Roots and Ruin book jacket
Craig, Erin
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

House of Roots and Ruin is an intriguing sequel to the popular novel House of Salt and Sorrow by Erin Craig. The previous novel primarily focused on the Thamus girls, with a particular emphasis on Annaleigh, as they delved into the mystery surrounding the death of their sister, Euliea. In contrast, the story in House of Roots and Ruin revolves around Verity, the youngest Thamus sibling.

The plot begins with Verity's journey to the mainland, where she visits Chantiule and Bloem. During her stay there, she receives a commission to paint a portrait of Alexander, the son of the wealthy Laurent family. However, as she spends more time in the family's mansion, she senses an underlying air of uncertainty and becomes curious about the family's enigmatic past.

As the narrative progresses, Verity uncovers several buried secrets that the family has been hiding, leading to betrayal and sparking chaos within the manor. She grapples with accepting her ability to see ghosts, which she had initially rejected. However, she eventually learns to harness her gift to uncover the Laurent family's secrets.

House of Roots and Ruin is an engrossing novel that captivates readers and keeps them on the edge of their seats. The author successfully weaves together a complex and suspenseful plot that explores themes of betrayal, loss, and family dynamics. The book is a must-read for anyone who enjoys House of Salt and Sorrows and those who are fans of the mystery and fantasy genres.
The book in question is an enthralling and captivating read that is a perfect choice for anyone who is just starting in the fantasy genre and wants to try out some mystery books. The plot of the book is structured in a way that keeps the reader on the edge of their seat as it advances with each chapter. The book is full of unexpected twists and turns, which adds to the overall excitement and thrill of the read.

One of the notable aspects of the book is how the story moves back and forth yet still manages to stay in line with how the story ends. This aspect of the book keeps the reader engaged and intrigued till the very end. The book is well-written and easy to follow, making it a perfect shallow swim for anyone new to the genre.

The book balances fantasy and mystery perfectly, making it a thrilling and exciting adventure for readers. The book's overall quality and the balance of its elements make it a perfect recommendation for anyone looking for a great read in the fantasy-mystery genre.

8th grade

Reviewer's Name: Belle
Killer Instinct book jacket
Barnes, Jennifer Lynn
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

After all the events that took place six weeks ago, Cassie Hobbes is back to solving cold cases for the FBI. However, when a new killer arises and is showing techniques just like her friend Dean’s father, Cassie is thrown into a whole new world of detective work and solving cases.

I thought this was a great sequel to the Naturals series. Jennifer Lynn Barnes did a great job at revealing new plot twists and describing the specific ways that the Naturals work. I also enjoyed the way she kind of dumbs the cases down and makes it easy for teenagers or any reader to understand.

Reviewer's Name: Cara
The Caves of Steel book jacket
Asimov, Isaac
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

As someone who generally stays away from science fiction books, I was pleasantly surprised by this venture outside my comfort zone. Elijah Baley is the main character, living thousands of years in the earth's future. In this time period, robots have become commonplace and other planets have been commonplace. Tension has grown between earth dwellers and the residents of the other planets (referred to as spacers). There are also concerns about the increasing number and sophistication of robots. Elijah, though less extreme than many of his colleagues, is not immune to this prejudice, and is less than happy when he has to team up with R. Daneel Olivaw, a spacer robot, to solve a homicide.

The characters are not deep or complex, but they are consistent and interesting. All characters have a purpose in the story, and most of them change in some way by the end. Elijah is likable, perhaps especially so because he's allowed to fail. He's shown to be incorrect in many of his initial beliefs, and makes many false assumptions, but he retains good qualities throughout it all. R. Daneel is an interesting take on the robot archetype. Though he's shown to be effective in his job and capable of change, he lacks essential human qualities that Elijah must make up for. The side characters all have clear motivations, personalities, and are interesting without being obtrusive.

The plot strikes a balance between complex and easy to follow. There are a great deal of plot twists and dead ends, but the story takes its time and allows the reader to process everything. I hope I re-read this book one day, so I am able to look for clues to the culprit that I might have missed the first time around.

I have no overt critiques. The only bad thing I can say about this book is that it's not a deep philosophical experience. There are tcertainly hemes, but the book focuses more on excitement and intrigue than anything else. I would reccomend this book to sci-fi fans, and anyone looking to get into the genre.

Reviewer's Name: Rose
The Last Thing He Told Me book jacket
Dave, Laura
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

"The Last Thing He Told Me" by Laura Dave is a gripping thriller that follows the life of Hannah Hall after her husband mysteriously disappears, leaving behind a note with the cryptic message, "Protect her." As Hannah unravels the secrets of her husband's past, she discovers hidden truths and forms an alliance with his teenage daughter. The novel masterfully blends suspense with emotional depth, exploring themes of love, trust, and the complexities of family dynamics.
In my opinion, "The Last Thing He Told Me" is a well-crafted and engaging story, deserving of a 4/5 rating. Laura Dave skillfully weaves a compelling narrative, keeping readers on the edge of their seats with unexpected twists and turns. The characters are vividly drawn, and the emotional journey they undergo adds layers to the plot. While the storytelling is strong, a bit more depth in certain explanations could enhance the reader's understanding of certain character motivations and plot intricacies. Nonetheless, the book succeeds in delivering a satisfying blend of mystery, emotion, and intrigue, making it a highly enjoyable read!

Reviewer's Name: Caroline
The Naturals book jacket
Barnes, Jennifer Lynn
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes is about a teenage girl who gets enlisted in an FBI program, The Natural Program where she and other “Naturals” work to solve cold cases. I really liked the premise of this book. The teenagers are basically prodigies on reading people or reading crime scenes in a way adult agents can’t do . The protagonist, Cassie Hobbes, for example is really good at reading people and how they might react to situations. Others members are good at telling lies, knowing statistics or math, and reading emotions. I really enjoyed the found family trope with Cassie and the other Naturals and am hoping to see more of that as the series moves forwards. This first book while really good, kind of just felt like a beginning couple episodes to a tv show. We’re still learning about the characters, the program, and the main plot of the story as a whole. I will say it did encourage me to continue with the series and figure out how the Naturals react with other challenges and problems that come with being apart of the FBI.

Reviewer's Name: Cara
The Silent Patient book jacket
Michaelides, Alex
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Enthralling, captivating, and unexpecting are all words that can be used to describe The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides, an irresistible and stunning psychological thriller. The suspense from the first chapter is palpable, and the skillfully laid out plot leaves the reader second-guessing until the very end. It is truly, in the full sense of the word, a thriller, full of curveballs and red herrings, multidimensional realistic characters, thick, palpable emotions… The list goes on. Michaelides’ wonderful writing style and the perfect plot pace were just the cherry on top.

The plot is utterly outstanding. From the first words, the protagonist, Alicia Berenson, shocks the reader with an unspeakable act of violence: she killed her husband. Why? That is the sole question I found myself asking the whole book. An even bigger question: why did she fall silent after the murder? And will she ever speak again? An added layer of complexity is her new psychotherapist, Theo Faber, who is anything but perfect. Theo’s obsession with Alicia raises another question: why is he obsessed? What are his motivations? As the plot unfolds, the mystery behind Alicia’s silence uncovers vast psychological trauma and the lies of her close friends and family. As the plot thickens, Michaelides creates a haunting setting as he delves into the intricacies of the human mind. It becomes evident that this novel is well-thought-out and plentifully researched to draw the reader into a realistic setting. Honestly, I have no criticism of The Silent Patient and could not recommend it enough for anyone looking for a suspenseful plot-twisty psychological thriller.

Reviewer's Name: Lucia
A Good Girl's Guide to Murder
Jackson, Holly
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Andie Bell was murdered by her boyfriend, 5 years ago. It's a closed case. But Pippa doesn't think so. I absolutely loved A Good Girl's Guide to Murder.
The story follows Pippa Fitz-Amobi, or Pip, a 17 year-old girl whose end of year project is a solved murder case.
The "murder" of Andie Bell, and the suicide of her boyfriend that followed. Pip doesn't believe the end result of the case, and that Sal Singh, Andie's boyfriend wouldn't have murdered her.
Pip shows up at Sal's brother, Ravi Singh's door, asking for help. She tells him she doesn't think Sal did it, and wants help proving it. The rest of the book continues with Pip and Ravi doing what the police couldn't. A deep dive into Andie Bell and Sal Singh's life.
This book was very well written, and so were the other books and novella in this series. The plot twists were perfectly placed and made sense, yet not easy to guess. This was not a book to take lightly, details from the very beginning of the book would resurface.
The other books in the series connected perfectly with this one, and each page left you wanting more. There was definitely a romance subplot, as Ravi and Pip got to know each other, but it didn't take away from the mystery at any point.
Overall, I really liked A Good Girl's Guide to Murder, and would recommend it any day, whether you are just starting with mystery, or are an expert.

Reviewer's Name: Zara
The Brothers Hawthorne book jacket
Barnes, Jennifer Lynn
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The Brothers Hawthorne is an extension of the Inheritance Games trilogy about the brothers Grayson and Jameson. After the events of the main series, Jameson gets a call from his biological father to break in to an infamous casino in London. Grayson on the other hand, gets called to Phoenix to break his half sister out of jail and prevent her from and her twin sister, from gaining valuable information.

This book was very good! The inheritance games is an amazing series, but it was so interesting to hear the brothers’ point of views and their own adventures. This book brings back old mysteries and unanswered questions from the final book of the inheritance games series that I totally forgot about! Jennifer Lynn Barnes is also writing another book that will take place after this one bringing a new story and mystery. The brothers were very funny in this book and it was so much fun to read it from their perspective! If you liked the inheritance games is this absolutely a book you should read!

Reviewer's Name: Cara
We Were Liars book jacket
Lockhart, E.
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

We were liars is a young adult drama/thriller. It’s about the seemingly perfect Sinclair family and their summer private island. Cadence Sinclair is the heir to the Sinclair fortune and going to the island during the summers is what she looks forward to during the year. However, after an accident and two summers missed on the island, Cadence returns with little memory and a suspicious feeling.

This was an overall good book to read. It got a little slow at times, but it was not predictable and kept me on the edge of my seat. I will say I was expecting a predictable ending but the plot twist completely blew me away! It’s also not very long and a quick read but with a lot of emotions. E. Lockhart did a good job at making me feel things. I laughed, I cried, and had more than one jaw dropper. I would rate it a 3 just because it got a little boring and confusing, but I would recommend!

Reviewer Grade: 8

Reviewer's Name: Cara
A Good Girl's Guide to Murder book jacket
Jackson, Holly
2 stars = Meh
Review:

A Good Girl's Guide to Murder presents readers with the skeleton of a mystery novel while somehow excluding most of what makes a mystery novel compelling. Holly Jackson dives straight into the disappearance of Andie Bell at the beginning, ignoring all conventions of suspense of build-up. The disappearance is approached from a strikingly detached perspective, though, in contradiction, many of the key figures in the case are life-long friends of the narrator. This apparent lack of motive from Pippa rocks the very foundation of the novel, and readers have difficulty connecting with such a character. Jackson hastily attempts to patch this by claiming an emotional stake in the matter, but in Pippa's actions, she is all but sensitive. Her investigation is greatly reckless, unrealistic, and absurdly convenient. The mechanical nature of Pippa's progress only further disconnects the reader from the story, and it renders the suspense and climax completely arbitrary.

Reviewer's Name: Samah
Good girl's guide
Jackson, Holly
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

One of my favorite books so far. The book is full of twists and turns and one of the most gripping story. I loved most of the characters.
Every chapter showed us a new suspicious person. Every chapter changed the perspective towards each character. I loved this series. At last it's not a book of black and white, there were so much gray ...

Reviewer's Name: Subhashini
Murder on the Orient Express book jacket
Christie, Agatha
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

"Murder on the Orient Express" by Agatha Christie is pure murder mystery. It starts off innocently enough when Mr. Ratchett is found having been stabbed in his sleep, but the case quickly becomes more and more complicated. Hercule Periot has to struggle to find the true culprit in the mystery that gets more tangled by the second.

The characters in this book are all rather good. While none of them have outstanding depth, they are all interesting and well defined. Hercule is, of course, the standout. His methodolgy is always fun to read. The suspects cannot be discussed without getting into spoilers. Even the victim is interesting to read about.

Most readers will probably know the twist of the book (which I will not be spoiling). Still, it's wonderfully set up, and almost every piece of evidence contributes to the climax in some way. New evidence is constantly presented throughout the story. At times it was a bit hard to follow, but I'm notoriously bad at following along with mysteries.

Nothing in this story is particularly deep, but it doesn't need to be. It's just a captivating mystery story. One of Agatha Christie's best.

Reviewer's Name: Rose
The Guest List book jacket
Foley, Lucy
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Hidden motives, secrets, and lies are the backbone of Lucy Foley’s thriller, The Guest List, and did I mention drama? From the moment you open the book, drama spills out, but in a good way. The characters are the point of the book. Their problems its lifeblood. The Guest List is not solely about the murder but all the threads connecting the cast of characters to one another in some elusive way. And the mystery is cleverly interwoven with all the lies and personal issues, so you won’t know who did it until the end. Even if you do figure it out, the characters have so much more to offer than just their motive. Foley creates characters you will hate, pity, and love. Totally recommend.

Reviewer's Name: Lucia
Where the Crawdads Sing book jacket
Owens, Delia
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Where the Crawdads Sing, written by Delia Owens, detail the fictional account of Kya and her survival in the marsh of North Carolina. After her mother is beat one too many times by her father, Kya's mother leaves, leaving Kya to fend for herself - against her abusive dad and the wilderness. Kya learns the value of self-reliance, she falls in love with the marsh and its functions and importance to the ecosystem. She also, however, feels the urge of having human company, and her adventures of falling in love (and back out) are incredibly detailed and heart wrenching. My favorite part about this book was the imagery; the way simple things, like leaves falling off of a tree, were described it felt as if I was standing right next to Kya, watching the leaves fall with her.

Reviewer's Name: Finn