Trouble Is a Friend of Mine

Given that school starts this week and I still have 795, 463 things to do, I’ll endeavor to keep this post short. Here goes…

If you or any teen readers you know like Sherlock, then you definitely need to give Trouble Is a Friend of Mine by Stephanie Tromly a try. If Sherlock Holmes were a 16-year-old American boy, he would be Digby…and awesome. In this highly entertaining book, Zoe (a teen girl version of Watson) encounters Digby after moving to a new area, and life as she knows it is about to get a lot more interesting.

Zoe Webster is just biding her time. All she really wants to do is transfer to the elite Prentiss Academy and get out of this new town, but she’s got to deal with her present circumstances first. A clueless mom, a new school, and no friends.

Well, the “no friends” thing may be easier to change than Zoe thinks. One day, a weird kid named Digby shows up at her door and basically informs Zoe that they’re going to be friends. Almost against Zoe’s will, Digby is right. Even when it leads her directly into the path of trouble, Zoe follows Digby into odd and often dangerous situations, but this strange and brilliant young man usually manages to talk their way out of nearly anything.

Digby and Zoe, along with a couple other colorful characters, manage to find themselves involved in a mystery that includes drugs, kidnapping, cults, attempted murder, and more mayhem than they ever could have expected. (Well, Digby may have expected some of it. Not much gets by him.) They’ll have to break every rule on the books–and some laws of common sense–in their attempt to uncover what’s really going on.

But why is Digby so invested in this stuff? And why does he insist on bringing Zoe along? Is Digby just a manic genius, or is something more going on? Read Trouble Is a Friend of Mine to find out.

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After reading Trouble Is a Friend of Mine, I must say that Digby is one of the most entertaining, charming characters I’ve encountered lately. He really keeps this book going simply because the reader never knows what he’s going to do or say next.

The parallels between Digby and Sherlock Holmes (as played by the delightful Benedict Cumberbatch) are unmistakable and wonderful. Digby has his own version of the Homeless Network, he bends the rules to get answers, he works with law enforcement (when it suits him), and he observes every little detail around him.

Zoe, for her part, is something of a stabilizing force for Digby, much like Dr. John Watson. Yes, she follows him into danger, but she also, in my opinion, keeps him grounded and lets him know that she’ll be his backup. Through the course of their friendship, both Zoe and Digby learn more about themselves, who they can really count on, and just how important their relationship is.

At various points, I think this story wanted to be a romance between Digby and Zoe. It didn’t quite happen, but I can see how it might if there were a sequel. (If there is one on the works, I haven’t heard about it yet.) Part of me wants Digby and Zoe to get together, but a bigger part wants them to be “just friends.” There are too many books out there that force a romantic relationship between two characters, and it would be nice to see a story–or series of stories–where male and female characters can keep things platonic. It would be refreshing, to say the least, and these two characters simply don’t need to hook up to continue being their hilarious, charming selves.

Trouble Is a Friend of Mine was released on August 4th, so it’s available wherever books are sold. I highly recommend it to any library serving teens (or older readers) who love Sherlock.

If you’d like more information on this excellent book, you can connect with author Stephanie Tromly on Twitter. As far as I can tell, Trouble Is a Friend of Mine is her first book. I sincerely hope this is only the beginning.

Game

Spoiler warning! If you haven’t read Barry Lyga’s I Hunt Killers yet, you simply must before reading the sequel, Game. (My fellow South Carolinians need to read I Hunt Killers anyway. It’s nominated for the 14-15 SC Young Adult Book Award.)

As you’ve no doubt gathered, I recently finished reading Game, the second book in Barry Lyga’s Jasper Dent series. In this series, we get to know Jasper, known to his friends as Jazz, the son of the world’s most prolific serial killer. In I Hunt Killers, Jazz helps the authorities find the Impressionist, a killer copying the work of Jazz’s father. At the end of that book, though, readers got the kind of cliffhanger that makes us weep or scream in frustration. Somehow, Jazz’s father escapes from prison, and he’s on the hunt again. That’s where Game picks up.

Jazz knows his dad is on the loose, and it’s just a matter of time before their paths cross. In the meantime, there’s yet another serial killer prowling in New York City, and Jazz’s help is once again enlisted to determine just how this maniac thinks. And if anyone knows how a killer thinks, it’s the son of Billy Dent.

Jazz and his girlfriend Connie head to NYC in the hopes that they will be able to find some clues that lead to the capture of the Hat-Dog Killer. The police and FBI seem to have no leads, and Jazz is able to provide a bit of insight into the mind of this psychopath. It’s not always a comfortable process for Jazz (or the reader). In trying to figure out what the killer thinks, Jazz is forced to come face-to-face with his own damaged psyche.

Can Jazz really handle the pressure of thinking like a killer once again? Is he losing himself to the teachings of his father? How can Jazz possibly spend most of his time profiling serial killers without succumbing to the voice of Billy Dent in his head?

As Jazz comes closer to the truth about the Hat-Dog Killer and his dad’s possible involvement in this disturbing game of murder, Connie and Jazz’s best friend Howie are entangled in their own mystery. Someone is sending Connie messages leading her to some disturbing information about Jazz and his past. Who is sending these messages? And why send them to Connie and not Jazz? Connie enlists Howie’s help in her search for the truth, but neither of them will be prepared for what awaits them…

Once again, the hunt for a killer is on. Jazz and company will have to rely on their wits, tenacity, and good old-fashioned luck to figure out what’s going on…but it may not be enough. Even when questions are answered, dozens more pop up in their place, and the hunt for the truth may lead Jazz, Connie, and even Howie into further danger.

Someone is playing a murderous game with people’s lives, and Jazz and his friends may just become unwitting game pieces themselves. Can they make it out of the game alive? Only time will tell…

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I freely admit that the above recap doesn’t come remotely close to capturing everything that happened in Game. I didn’t even touch on the glimpses we got into the minds of Hat-Dog, Jazz, Connie, Howie, and Billy. Each perspective brought us new insights into these characters and how they view the world around them.

I briefly mentioned Jazz’s struggles with his own mind, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Jazz is all kinds of messed up, and that definitely comes through for the reader. I even had to put the book down a couple of times and just catch my breath. Jazz’s head is not a happy place to be. What do you expect when a kid is basically raised to be a murderer, right? Sometimes it’s not clear if we’re actually reading Jazz’s thoughts or those of his lunatic father. I guess that’s the dilemma for Jazz as well.

Without giving too much away, I must say that the “game” aspect of Game freaked me the crap out. I may never look at board games the same again.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the whopper of a cliffhanger at the end of this book. When I closed Game last night, I just sat there for a minute and thought, “You’ve got to be kidding me!” Has Barry Lyga been taking lessons from Steven Moffat (of Sherlock and Doctor Who fame) on torturing fans with mind-boggling endings? Do we seriously have to wait until September to find out how things are resolved (or if they are resolved) for Jazz and friends? I guess we do, but we don’t have to be happy about it!

The third book in this series, Blood of My Blood, should be released on September 9th. (Loving the title, by the way. Can’t wait to see what it might mean for Jazz!) Judging be the synopsis on Goodreads, we’re in for a lot more danger and intrigue. I look forward to diving into what I’m sure will be another fantastic read.

If you can’t wait for more of Jasper Dent and company, though, you can check out a couple of companion novellas. Lucky Day tells of how Billy was first captured, Career Day is a day in the life of sixteen-year-old Jasper, and Neutral Mask provides a look into the beginnings of the relationship between Jazz and Connie. Just click on the titles of each novella in the previous sentence, and you’ll be taken to the Goodreads page on each ebook.

For more information on I Hunt Killers, Game, or other books by Barry Lyga, check out his website, Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook. If you’ve got a minute or two to spare, you may also want to take a look at the Game book trailer below. It covers things I didn’t here, and, in my opinion, it definitely captures the mood of this intense read!

 

Buzz Kill

I first became a fan of Beth Fantaskey’s work a few years ago when I read Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side. Since then, I’ve read a few other works by Fantaskey: Jessica Rules the Dark Side, Jekel Loves Hyde, and The Wedding of Antanasia Jessica Packwood and Lucius Valeriu Vladescu (a short story published on the author’s website). So, when Goodreads gave me the chance to read an ARC of this author’s latest novel, Buzz Kill, I was pretty stoked. I’m happy to say that the book lived up to my expectations.

Unlike Fantaskey’s other stories, this newest read has no supernatural elements, but it does introduce us to a strong, relatable, female protagonist. In Buzz Kill, readers meet Millie Ostermeyer, a seventeen-year-old who eats like a trucker, is the only member of her school’s Philosophy Club, wears ironic t-shirts that nobody gets, and has a somewhat loose relationship with rules and authority. She’s also an award-winning reporter for her school newspaper, and, while on what should be a routine assignment covering the new football stadium, Millie becomes embroiled in a story that will rock her entire world…

Nobody really liked the Stingers’ head football coach, Hollerin’ Hank Killdare, but who could have wanted him dead? That’s a question Millie wants answered after she discovers his body under the football stadium…especially when it’s made clear that her dad, the town’s mayor and the assistant football coach, tops the list of suspects.

Millie is sure that her dad didn’t do this (even if he has been acting kind of strange lately), so she goes on a quest to find the identity of the real killer. Plenty of people had reason to kill the coach, but who really did it? Was it Millie’s arch-nemesis, Vivienne Fitch, the cheerleader who was embarrased on YouTube, thanks largely to Coach Killdare? Was it Mike, Viv’s lackey, who lost his position as quarterback with the coach brought in a ringer? Could it even be the new quarterback himself, Chase Albright, a boy with a murky past who tends to keep to himself? Who could have committed this heinous crime, and can Millie figure things out before the murderer strikes again?

As Millie unleashes her inner Nancy Drew, she’ll find an unlikely ally in Chase. He’s still a total mystery, but it seems he knew Coach Killdare better than most, and he can give Millie access to the coach’s house, the school locker room, and other areas that would otherwise be off-limits (not that anything would have stopped Millie with or without Chase’s help). Chase may be the key in proving that her dad is not the killer everyone thinks he is.

But why does Chase want to help Millie? Why was the coach so important to him? Chase is most certainly hiding something, and, along with her quest to solve a murder mystery, Millie is determined to solve the mystery that is Chase Albright. She may not, however, be prepared for what she finds.

Millie and Chase are growing closer and closer to uncovering the truth…and they’re also growing closer to each other. Can either of them handle a relationship when everything around them is going crazy? Especially when things are about to get even more insane? There’s a killer on the loose, and, as Millie starts to put the pieces of this puzzle together, she may be this maniac’s next target. What would Nancy Drew do? Millie will have to answer this question and many more if she hopes to get out of this mess alive…

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I found Buzz Kill to be a thoroughly entertaining read. In addition to the murder mystery that kept me guessing for quite a while, I was also enthralled by the character of Millie. I think many readers will be able to see themselves in this character. She speaks before thinking sometimes, she dresses in what’s comfortable, she’s awkward around guys she likes, and she’s tortured by a mean girl. (Actually, “mean” doesn’t quite fit the evil Vivienne. The words I’d use to describe her would make a sailor blush. She’s vile, and a host of curse words went through my mind every time she made an appearance.) Millie questions rules that don’t make sense to her, she doesn’t understand why she should learn French, and she has a complicated relationship with her dad. Who can’t relate to at least some of that?

I also found Chase’s character to be intriguing. (See, I’m relating to Millie right now!) He was mysterious from the instant we saw him, and he remained something of an enigma for most of the book. Even when his secrets were revealed, there was still an aura of mystery about him. I think that’s part of what made him so attractive to Millie. Of course, his good looks and impressive vocabulary didn’t hurt either.

There were so many dynamic, well-developed characters in this book. I wanted to punch many of them in the face (even Millie on occasion). So many characters were butt-heads, in fact, that I didn’t know which one I wanted to be the killer. Like Millie, I waffled on who could have committed the crime, and, also like Millie, I didn’t figure things out until the very end. I’d say both of us were surprised by the way things turned out, and I think that’s the mark of a good mystery novel.

If you’re looking for a murder mystery with a liberal dose of humor, wit, and a touch of romance, I strongly urge you to give Buzz Kill a try.  It’s due to hit stores on May 6th, and I think it will be a big hit with middle grade, teen, and adult readers.

For more information on Buzz Kill and author Beth Fantaskey, visit the author’s website, Facebook page, Goodreads page, and Twitter feed.

City of Orphans

Well, my summer is nearly at an end, and I’ve almost finished reading the twenty books nominated for the 2013-14 South Carolina Children’s Book Award. Last night, I finished #19, City of Orphans by Avi (also nominated for the South Carolina Junior Book Award). Had this book not been nominated for the SCCBA, I don’t know that I would have picked it up. It’s no secret that historical fiction is not my favorite genre. (For those wondering, the 20th SCCBA nominee left to read is also historical fiction. I’ve put it off as long as possible.) After reading City of Orphans, though, I’m honestly glad I gave this book a chance.

For the most part, this is not a particularly happy book, but it does explore what life was like for kids in turn-of-the-century New York. (Hint: If you had no money, it was bad.) The title, City of Orphans, refers to the fact that even kids with parents, most of whom were immigrants, were–for all intents and purposes–orphans. It was up to them to figure out how and where to make money, where to go when they needed help, and how to get out of bad situations. In this book, we meet Maks and Willa, two “orphans” just trying to survive in this bleak world.

It’s 1893, and New York City is teeming with people–immigrants, crooks, cops, and, most of all, kids. Kids just trying to survive, trying to make a few cents to help their families. One of these kids is Maks Geless. Maks is a newsie. (He sells newspapers on street corners.)

One night, Maks runs into some trouble on his way home from work. Trouble by the name of Bruno and the Plug Ugly Gang. Maks is sure he’s dead meat…until a dirty, homeless girl with a big stick saves him. This girl, Willa, has lived in the streets for months, and Maks figures the least he can do is give her a place to stay for coming to his rescue. So Maks takes Willa home to stay with his family.

Maks’ family, immigrants from Denmark, lives in a tenement, nearly ten people crammed into one small apartment, but it’s home, and they’re all together…until Maks’ older sister Emma is arrested! Maks is sure that Emma must be innocent. There’s simply no way she could have stolen a watch from someone at the new, fancy Waldorf hotel where she works. Maks’ parents are unfamiliar with the way things really work in America, so it’s up to Maks–and his new friend Willa–to figure out just what happened with Emma and the case of the stolen watch.

All the while, Maks and Willa have to watch out for the scary Bruno and this gang, just waiting to terrorize them and take their meager earnings. Can these two kids save their own necks while trying to get Maks’ sister out of jail? And is anyone willing to help two poor kids–who have no money–without expecting something in return? What will these two junior detectives discover in their quest for the truth? The answers will shock even them and will have the power to turn their worlds upside down. Learn how two kids navigate the perilous waters of turn-of-the-century New York when you read City of Orphans by Avi!

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I think City of Orphans is a great discussion-starter about what kids experienced throughout history. As a former social studies teacher, I can tell you that most lessons focus on what adults did in the past. Not much attention is given to kids’ experiences, and that’s a shame. I think many students today would find lessons more engaging and relatable if they could somehow identify with the people they were studying. Do we need to ignore what adults were doing during historical periods? No, but we shouldn’t discount a large portion of the population just because they’re young. (I see a research project in the future for some of my students!)

I also believe City of Orphans could be a “gateway” book to other works of literature. Those that immediately come to mind are the works of Charles Dickens, particularly Oliver Twist and Great Expectations. City of Orphans, while not quite as bleak–or wordy–as Dickens’ works, has the same kind of tone. I don’t particularly care for Dickens, but others do, and readers who really enjoy City of Orphans may want to explore a few of these classics.

If you’d like more information about this book and others by Avi, visit http://www.avi-writer.com/. You can also like his page on Facebook.

I hope you enjoy City of Orphans as much as I did!

Three Times Lucky

This morning, I finished yet another of this year’s nominees for the South Carolina Children’s Book Award. That book was Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage. Almost from the first page, I was enthralled. Why, you may ask? Simply because of the main character’s voice and the descriptive language used in this story. It’s been a while since I read any book–whether for children, teens, or adults–that was such a wonderful example of developing a character’s voice and employing figurative language. I found myself laughing frequently at how things were described in this book, and I also think readers and writers could learn a lot from Three Times Lucky about how to creatively express themselves using something as simple–and complicated–as words.

Eleven years ago, Moses “Mo” LoBeau washed ashore in Tupelo’s Landing, North Carolina. This child, who was washed away from her Upstream Mother in a hurricane, was rescued by the memory-impaired, cantankerous Colonel and Miss Lana, and the three of them made a life for themselves in this small coastal town.

Now, eleven years later, Mo is a rising sixth grader who works part-time in the restaurant run by the Colonel and Miss Lana. (Her specialty seems to be peanut butter on Wonder Bread.) She spends most of her spare time researching who and where her Upstream Mother might be, and she enjoys hanging out with her best friend, Dale Earnhardt Johnson III. (The “III” is for the iconic #3 car of his namesake.)

This summer, however, things are being stirred up in Tupelo’s Landing, and Mo takes it upon herself to figure out what’s going on. One of the restaurant’s customers has been killed, a cop is asking questions about Mo’s beloved Colonel, and strange things are afoot in the town Mo calls home. What else is a precocious girl to do? Mo and Dale open up their own detective agency–Desperado Detectives–and begin investigating the crime.

What these junior detectives find, though, may just change everything they know about the people they’re closest to. What secrets are hiding in Tupelo’s Landing? And how can Mo and Dale discover the truth when the police can’t?

As Mo and Dale come closer and closer to solving the biggest mystery to hit Tupelo’s Landing since Mo herself washed ashore, they’ll learn just what family and friendship really mean. When waters get rough, it becomes clear who’ll be there for them, and even Mo might be surprised by who has her back. Join Mo LoBeau on her journey to the truth when you read Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage, a nominee for the 2013-14 South Carolina Children’s Book Award!

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The brief recap above doesn’t even come close to describing what Mo encounters in Three Times Lucky. I tried to hit the major points, but there are so many more that I could have added. Mo is a character to be remembered, and I could see so many of my students in her. She’s hilarious, strong-willed, loyal, curious, and determined…qualities that are to be admired in anyone, in my opinion. I adore this character and the way she looks at life. Despite her humble, mysterious origins, Mo doesn’t let anything stand in her way. Yes, that can sometimes get her into trouble, but she always has the best of intentions.

Another thing I enjoyed about Three Times Lucky was how many of the adults treated Mo. She wasn’t just some annoying kid to them. She was a valued part of the community…even when she didn’t always feel that way. The adults around Mo listened to her, took her seriously, and looked out for her. That’s no small thing, especially when Mo is technically an orphan with no “real” family of her own. In this book, it definitely takes a village to raise this particular child, and I think they’ve done a fantastic job!

If I had to classify this book, I would call it a humorous mystery. (If that wasn’t a category before, it is now.) Yes, Mo and Dale are trying to solve a murder, but they’re also living the lives 11-year-old kids with problems. Those problems are serious in their own right, but both Mo and Dale deal with those issues with humor and a particularly refreshing outlook.

All in all, I would say that Three Times Lucky is an excellent read for those in upper elementary grades and up. It’s highly entertaining from start to finish. I hope my students feel the same way.

The author of Three Times Lucky, Sheila Turnage, currently lives in eastern North Carolina, so I can only hope that she’ll journey across the border soon to visit with students and librarians in South Carolina. In the meantime, check out her webpage at http://www.sheilaturnage.com/SheilaTurnage/Desktop.html for more information on Three Times Lucky and future books!

Social Suicide

Note: It’s probably a good idea to read Deadly Cool before reading the sequel, Social Suicide. (It’s not absolutely critical, but I would highly recommend it.)

I read Deadly Cool, the first book in this series by Gemma Halliday, a couple of weeks ago, and I immediately ordered the second, Social Suicide. (It didn’t hurt that Amazon had it on sale as a bargain book!) Well, the book arrived at my house last week, and, as soon as I finished up with a couple of other books I was reading, I made the time to dive into Social Suicide. Just like Deadly Cool, this second installment is a bit of brain candy. It’s a murder mystery, but it also gives readers a glimpse into the mind of a teenage girl who seems to attract trouble wherever she goes. I think a lot of readers will be able to relate to that along with the main character’s distinctive voice.

Hartley Featherstone, after having solved the mystery of who killed tried to frame her cheating ex-boyfriend, is attempting to put her investigative skills to use by writing for the school paper. (She’s also hoping to figure out her rather complicated relationship with Chase, the paper’s editor.) Her current assignment involves writing a piece on a cheating scandal that booted a popular girl, Sydney Sanders, off the homecoming court. Should be an easy enough story, right?  Well, “easy” doesn’t seem to apply to Hartley’s life. Almost immediately, this story embroils Hartley–once again–into a saga of intrigue, corruption, danger, and death…

Hartley was supposed to have a simple interview with Sydney. What she discovered, however, was this homecoming hopeful face-down in a pool. Everyone seems to think Sydney’s death is a suicide (because of the cheating scandal and possible boyfriend/best friend drama), but Hartley isn’t convinced. After all, who commits suicide in the middle of a tweet? It’s up to Hartley and her crew of friends to prove that this Twittercide was in fact murder. But how? And who had motive to kill Sydney?

Suspects–and potential motives–abound, and Hartley quickly becomes ensnared in yet another mystery. Can Hartley get out of this mess while holding onto the story of a lifetime? Will she be able to prove to everyone that Sydney was murdered? How? Who could have done this? Why would anyone murder one of the most popular girls in school?  The answers to these questions will shock everyone, and even Hartley will be surprised when the truth is finally revealed. So surprised that she never sees the danger to her own life until it’s staring her in the face. Unravel the mystery when you read Social Suicide by Gemma Halliday!

I enjoyed this sequel just as much as I did Deadly Cool…even though I predicted who the villain was pretty early on. Unless you’re really paying attention, though, the clues as to the bad guy’s identity could escape you. It’s not exactly obvious…which makes Social Suicide a pretty good mystery.

Teens and adults alike will enjoy the mystery aspect of the book, but readers may also relate to Hartley’s boy drama, fashion woes, and dealing with her mom reentering the dating world. (Some of this was cringe-worthy even to me.) Even though some of Hartley’s antics stretch the bounds of reality–particularly regarding what a typical teen can get away with–readers will find her totally relatable. She has problems and flaws, but she keeps on keeping on, often with humor and a bit of sass.

According to Gemma Halliday’s website (which is now working, thank goodness), we can expect more adventures with Hartley and company late this year. The third book in this series is Wicked Games. I know nothing about this book beyond the title. Hopefully, details will be up on the author’s website soon.

Deadly Cool

Although this book has been on my shelf for a while, I didn’t start reading Gemma Halliday’s Deadly Cool until earlier this week. I picked it up because I was growing frustrated with Reached (which I did eventually get into), and I needed something that wasn’t terribly deep to jump-start my reading progress. Deadly Cool definitely did that. Even though it is a murder mystery, this book also serves as a bit of brain candy. Yes, you’re trying to put together clues along with the main character, but Deadly Cool is also about the woes of a modern high school girl. (Of course, most teen girls don’t have to worry about finding a body in the closet of their cheating scumbag boyfriend.)

Hartley, the book’s main character, has a totally believable voice (even if the situations she finds herself in are kind of out there), and, though her current circumstances are somewhat less than desirable, Hartley seems to keep her wits about her. She retains a bit of humor, and that is as refreshing as it is unexpected.

Hartley Featherstone thought her boyfriend was wonderful and completely devoted to her. Imagine her surprise when she realizes he’s been canoodling with Courtney Cline, the president of the Chastity Club. Hartley is spitting mad, and she decides to confront Josh at his house. Unfortunately, he’s not there…but someone is. Hartley, and her trusty BFF Sam, make a gruesome discovery when they open Josh’s closet. It’s none other than Courtney Cline herself…and she’s been strangled to death with a pair of iPod earbuds.

Of course, Hartley finds herself at the center of the investigation into Courtney’s death. Almost everyone seems to think that Josh is the killer. Everyone except Hartley. Sure, he cheated on her and is a world-class liar and butthead, but that doesn’t make him a killer. Does it? Hartley just needs to find a way to prove Josh’s innocence…and Josh, now on the run, is depending on Hartley to clear his name.

Hartley follows every lead she can in this case. Some the police know about, some they don’t. (It’s pretty easy to believe that the cops wouldn’t know all of the secrets, lies, and rumors that run rampant in a modern-day high school.) Hartley is assisted by her best friend and the enigmatic Chase, editor of the school’s online newspaper and oddly hot guy who lives next door to Josh. (How did she never notice this bad boy before? Yet another mystery.) Clues are coming at them from a variety of sources, and these amateur detectives will be led in some directions that are promising…and deadly.

When Hartley discovers another girl that’s been killed, she becomes even more determined to find out who the real killer is…before she’s the next victim. Who is committing these heinous crimes? Is the murderer right under her nose? Can Hartley get out of this nightmare with her wits–and her life–intact? Solve the mystery when you read Deadly Cool, the first book in a thrilling series by Gemma Halliday!

Deadly Cool is a really fast, fun read that I think a lot of mystery fans will enjoy. It’s a nice bit of fluff, but it still kept me on the edge of my seat. I had no idea who the real killer was until the very end of the book. (I had ideas on who it wasn’t, but I honestly didn’t see the truth of the killer’s identity–and the reasons for killing–until Hartley herself did.)

This book, in my opinion, would be fine for older middle school readers–and high school readers, especially females, will probably love it. There is some talk of sexual situations, but it’s not extremely blatant. Everything remains true to the tone of the book and is fairly true to life as well.  Even the violence and descriptions of murders is understated.

I liked Deadly Cool so much that I just ordered the sequel, Social Suicide, from Amazon. (It was a bargain book–only $3.60!–and I think I got the last copy!) Hopefully, I’ll make time to read it as soon as it’s delivered to my house. The third book, Wicked Games, is supposed to be released sometime this year, but I couldn’t find anything official on Goodreads or Amazon. The author’s website wasn’t working today either, so that was a no-go for information on future books.

You can follow author Gemma Halliday on Twitter @gemmahallidayca or like her Facebook page.