Review, Author Q&A, and Giveaway: SANCTUARY BAY by Laura J. Burns and Melinda Metz

Review

25663880Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Release Date: January 19th, 2016
Series: N/A
Pages: 320
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher via NetGalley (Blog Tour)
Genre(s): Mystery, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Synopsis from Goodreads:

In this genre-bending YA thriller, will Sarah Merson’s shiny new prep school change her life forever or bring it to a dark and sinister end?

When Sarah Merson receives the opportunity of a lifetime to attend the most elite prep school in the country-Sanctuary Bay Academy-it seems almost too good to be true. But, after years of bouncing from foster home to foster home, escaping to its tranquil setting, nestled deep in Swans Island, couldn’t sound more appealing. Swiftly thrown into a world of privilege and secrets, Sarah quickly realizes finding herself noticed by class charmer, Nate, as well as her roommate’s dangerously attentive boyfriend, Ethan, are the least of her worries. When her roommate suddenly goes missing, she finds herself in a race against time, not only to find her, but to save herself and discover the dark truth behind Sanctuary Bay’s glossy reputation.

In this genre-bending YA thriller, Sanctuary Bay by Laura J. Burns and Melinda Metz, Sarah’s new school may seem like an idyllic temple of learning, but as she unearths years of terrifying history and manipulation, she discovers this “school” is something much more sinister.

my rambles

Special thanks to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for providing me with an advance copy of the book for review, and for the opportunity to be on the blog tour!

I’ve mentioned before that I have a love for books set at boarding schools. There’s always mystery, intrigue, and thrilling plotlines! Sanctuary Bay did not disappoint on those aspects, and in fact, there’s a completely unexpected element to the story that made me like it even more!

The prologue of the book sets the ball rolling in a flashback scene that is filled with action, and leaves you wondering what the HECK just happened. It’s quite a way to start off a story! With Chapter One, the story flashes forward to the main character, Summer, who is now in foster care after her parents’ murder. She’s on her way to Sanctuary Bay Academy, an isolated and mysterious institution where she’ll stay for the rest of her high school career.

Continue reading “Review, Author Q&A, and Giveaway: SANCTUARY BAY by Laura J. Burns and Melinda Metz”

Review: Sanctuary by Jennifer McKissack

24891517Publisher: Scholastic Press
Release Date: September 29th, 2015
Series: N/A
Pages: 304
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Genre(s): Gothic, Historical Fiction, Mystery
Synopsis from Goodreads:

After the untimely death of her aunt, Cecilia Cross is forced to return to Sanctuary, a rambling, old mansion that crowns a remote island off the coast of Maine. Cecilia is both drawn to and repulsed by Sanctuary. The scent of the ocean intoxicates her, but she’s also haunted by the ghosts of her past—of her father and sister who died there, of her mother who was torn away from her and sent to an asylum, and of the vengeful spirit of a woman wronged. Flooding memories leave Cecilia shaken, desperate to run away and forget her terrible family history.

But then a mysterious guest arrives at Sanctuary: Eli Bauer, a professor sent to examine Sanctuary’s library. Cecilia is intrigued by this strange young man who seems so interested in her—even more interested in her than in the books he is meant to be studying. Who is he and what does he want? Can Cecilia possibly trust her growing feelings for him? And can he help her make peace a tragic past and a haunted present?

Luminous and evocative, Sanctuary is a remarkable exploration of love and loss—and the ghosts that come back to haunt us.

my rambles

Special thanks to Scholastic for providing me with an advance copy of the book for review!

Sanctuary landed on my doorstep unsolicited, so prior to opening the package, I’d never heard of it before. I’m really happy it came into my possession though, because I quite enjoyed this book!

Very eerie, Sanctuary is one of the few Gothic YA books I’ve read. There are ghosts, and old mansion with an intriguing past, a creepy psychologist and asylum, and lots of family secrets. Sounds good, right? And it is! Not only were the elements Gothic-influenced, but the writing was beautiful. It added to the creepiness of the story and transported me back in time to both the current events of the book, and the flashbacks.

Sometimes books of this genre tend to drag in parts (for example I’m currently rereading Jane Eyre for my Lit class, and some parts are indeed slow). But for me, Sanctuary was well paced, and entertaining to the very, very end. The one foible I have with this book is that I found the chapters to have kind of abrupt endings. This won’t be a problem for someone picking up and putting down the book often, but as someone who read this in large chunks at a time, it was something I noticed. I would have liked it if the chapters flowed more, but that’s just my personal preference.

The mystery involved an interesting melding of history and paranormal. There was talk of witches, the history of Acadians from Nova Scotia, and the inclusion of ghosts, possession, and spirits. I liked how the book had lots of detail, but at times I got a bit confused. There’s also a lot of family relations that are talked about over generations, which was sometime difficult for me to follow. Much like I felt for the abrupt chapter endings, this didn’t really affect my overall liking of the book, though.

There is a bit of romance, because what’s a YA book without romance these days, right?! I liked it, and I thought it was sweet, but a bit rushed. I did root for the pair of Liza and Eli from the beginning though. I like myself a young, hot, intelligent guy!

So all in all, I found Sanctuary to be an entertaining historical-gothic-paranormal book! I really enjoyed the lush writing that took me back in time, and the focus on a group and location in history that I wasn’t familiar with. Both historical fiction and ghost-loving fans will find something they’ll enjoy in Sanctuary!

7

xo

Review: These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly

Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release Date: October 27th, 2015
Series: N/A
Pages: 496
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Genre(s): Historical Fiction, Mystery, Romance
Synopsis from Goodreads:

Jo Montfort is beautiful and rich, and soon—like all the girls in her class—she’ll graduate from finishing school and be married off to a wealthy bachelor. Which is the last thing she wants. Jo secretly dreams of becoming a writer—a newspaper reporter like the trailblazing Nellie Bly.

Wild aspirations aside, Jo’s life seems perfect until tragedy strikes: her father is found dead. Charles Montfort accidentally shot himself while cleaning his revolver. One of New York City’s wealthiest men, he owned a newspaper and was partner in a massive shipping firm, and Jo knows he was far too smart to clean a loaded gun.

The more Jo uncovers about her father’s death, the more her suspicions grow. There are too many secrets. And they all seem to be buried in plain sight. Then she meets Eddie—a young, brash, infuriatingly handsome reporter at her father’s newspaper—and it becomes all too clear how much she stands to lose if she keeps searching for the truth. Only now it might be too late to stop.

The past never stays buried forever. Life is dirtier than Jo Montfort could ever have imagined, and the truth is the dirtiest part of all.

my rambles

Special thanks to Delacorte Press and NetGalley for providing me with an advance copy of the book for review!

YA Historical Fiction is one of my go-to genres. I love how they transport me back in time to to places that I’ll never be able to visit and things I’ll never be able to experience. But one of my favorite things about the genre is the way that historical fiction authors tend to have their female protagonists step outside the lines about what’s considered “right” for women and girls during the period. There hasn’t been a historical fiction book I’ve read where there’s a damsel in distress, and These Shallow Graves is no different.

From the very beginning you can’t help but love Jo Montfort. She’s a fish out of water in her world, only wanting to do what she loves: investigative journalism. She’s fierce and stops at nothing to discover the truth. We really get to see her development throughout the story. Early on she’s careful to hide her true self, but as the story progresses she begins to stand up for herself and what she wants her life to be.

The story itself is very fast paced and exciting. I wasn’t able to put These Shallow Graves down. For such a large book, especially in the historical genre, I was nervous that it would be a slow read, with some portions dragging, but that’s not the case at all. As the story goes on, the mystery deepens, and things get intense enough to keep you turning pages and solving the mystery along with Jo.

As you can imagine, the book surrounds a dark topic: murders. I mean, look at the title… But it is lightened by Jo’s wonderful personality, and a sweet romance between her and Eddie, a lower class reporter who helps her out, and she just can’t resist.

The ending seemed a little rushed, for such a clearly well thought out and long book. It was kind of like a huge information dump right at the end in one confession. But I still think that it was written very well and the ending provided good closure to the story.

These Shallow Graves is a monster of a book, with wonderful characters, an intense and exciting mystery, and surprises that will keep you guessing until the very end. Don’t be intimidated by the size, because once you pick it up you won’t want to put it down until the mystery’s been solved!

9

If you’re looking for other historical books with girls who just can’t help but break the rules, check out The Diviners and Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray! More on the paranormal end of the spectrum, and just as exciting as These Shallow Graves!

xo

Review: The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: September 15th, 2015
Series: N/A
Pages: 432
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Genre(s): Horror, Mystery, Thriller
Synopsis from Goodreads:

Debut author Dawn Kurtagich is dead on in this terrifying psychological thriller!

Over two decades have passed since the fire at Elmbridge High, an inferno that took the lives of three teenagers. Not much was known about the events leading up to the tragedy – only that one student, Carly Johnson, vanished without a trace…

…until a diary is found hidden in the ruins.

But the diary, badly scorched, does not belong to Carly Johnson. It belongs to Kaitlyn Johnson, a girl who shouldn’t exist Who was Kaitlyn? Why did she come out only at night? What is her connection to Carly?

The case has been reopened. Police records are being reexamined: psychiatric reports, video footage, text messages, e-mails. And the diary.

The diary that paints a much more sinister version of events than was ever made publicly known.

my rambles

Special thanks to Little, Brown BYR for providing me with an advance copy of the book for review!
*Note: The Dead House is a book that is told in a unique way, through the incorporation of photos, and other types of media. Because I was given an ARC, there were many images that were left out, possibly taking away from the story. Please take that into consideration when reading my review.

When I first got The Dead House in the mail and opened it up, I was really surprised. I hadn’t known that this book would be designed and written the way it was. But when I finally opened to the first page to start reading, I found it to be an incredibly awesome way to format the book and tell this story. Throughout The Dead House you’ll encounter newspaper articles, journal entries, video and audio transcription, post-it notes, images, and more. How cool is that? Add to that that almost everything is dated (which will help you a lot because the book skips around in time), and an unreliable narrator, and The Dead House will blow your mind!

The Dead House is a compilation of all the evidence that the police have found, put in chronological order. Think of it like a notebook filled with outside pages being stapled and taped in, etc. This was awesome because while you read the journal entries from Kaitlyn’s point of view and get to know her, you also get to put the pieces of the puzzle together slowly when you read the transcriptions of the audio and video. It’s a weird feeling, seeing two sides of the same story at once, without having a second narrator.

I’m not sure how to approach talking about the characters, but this is definitely a character-driven story. Kaitlyn is the driving force from the beginning, but I loved getting to see glimpses of Carly and their relationship. It made their story really believable (Hence, unreliable narrator, maybe? I still don’t know. The ending tells you nothing, but I’ll get to that later…). The side characters also had their own interesting things to them — Brett, John, and Ari, in particular. All of them get close to Kaitlyn, which makes their roles pretty interesting

I wasn’t expecting a psychological thriller out of The Dead House, based on the cover and the little that I knew about it, but I loved how it all worked out! It’s a stretch to call it horror, I’d say it’s more eerie and unnerving to think about kinds of people like Kaitlyn and Carly.

As for that ending, as I said before, don’t expect answers and everything to be all cleaned up for you. That’s the exact opposite of what happens! But I loved how it all worked into the story — it was like a real life police investigation that was never solved. And after you read it, you’ll be like all those other conspiracy theorists trying to figure out your own theory about what happened!

All in all, The Dead House is a great choice if you’re looking for a story told in an unconventional way, with amazing characters and an extremely interesting storyline. It’s fast paced and exciting, and the ending will leave you speechless!

8

xo

Review: Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: August 25th, 2015
Series: The Diviners, #2 | The Diviners
Pages: 624
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Genre(s): Historical Fiction, Mystery, Paranormal
Synopsis from Goodreads:

After a supernatural showdown with a serial killer, Evie O’Neill has outed herself as a Diviner. Now that the world knows of her ability to “read” objects, and therefore, read the past, she has become a media darling, earning the title, “America’s Sweetheart Seer.” But not everyone is so accepting of the Diviners’ abilities…

Meanwhile, mysterious deaths have been turning up in the city, victims of an unknown sleeping sickness. Can the Diviners descend into the dreamworld and catch a killer?

my rambles

Special thanks to Little, Brown BYR and NetGalley for providing me with an advance copy of the book for review!

The long wait for Lair of Dreams is (almost) over! Although I hopped on The Diviners bandwagon late, and didn’t have to wait nearly as long as some of you dedicated fans to see what happened next, I was probably just as excited as you to dive back into this world.

While Lair of Dreams had a different kind of feel than book one, it still had Libba Bray’s amazing, atmospheric writing that brings you into the roaring 20s, and of course, the paranormal world of Diviners. In great contrast to the horror and gore of The Diviners, this one brings on the eerie mystery of dream worlds.

Some new characters are introduced, but the old gang returns for more, but some (like Evie) fall more to the background. Henry’s past gets explained, and the book focuses mostly on him and his abilities. The new character, Ling, is also at the forefront of the story. More Diviners come out of the woodwork, and lead the story in the direction of not only solving the current dream problem, but trying to understand what to make of all the paranormal coming into their world.

I was a bit disappointed to find that Evie gets dragged into a predictable love triangle in Lair of Dreams. But, I will say that it didn’t take over the book, which was a relief. While Evie, Sam, and Jericho are going through heartache, the romance between Henry and his childhood sweetheart was refreshing!

This one was a little slower paced than its predecessor, but with Libba Bray writing the story, you can’t help but be entranced to continue reading.

The ending hinted that the next book will possibly dig deeper into the world of the paranormal in general, and get to the bottom of what’s been causing all the mayhem. What I got from the book was that the next book will maybe have Theta, Sam, and possibly Jericho back on center stage as each of them tackle the new(ish) problems that they’ve been facing in Lair of Dreams.

While I still thoroughly enjoyed Lair of Dreams, it fell a bit short when comparing to The Diviners. Libba Bray’s iconic writing was enough to keep me pulled under to “dream with her.”

xo