The Killer in Me

Last night, I finished yet another book that I got to read courtesy of NetGalley. This book, The Killer in Me by Margot Harrison, is due out on July 12th, and it’s a great read for teens and adults who like murder mysteries and psychological thrillers.

The Killer in Me is a somewhat convoluted tale, and readers may stay just as confused as the protagonists…but that’s a good thing. That’s what keeps the pages turning. Am I right about what’s going on? Am I wrong? What’s really happening here and how will everything end? The doubt I experienced while reading this book made me even more eager to keep reading, simply so that I could get the answers I desperately craved. (I actually got so involved in the book that I forgot to eat dinner last night. I looked up at one point, saw that it was 9pm, and just kept right on reading. Dinner could wait.)

Nina Barrows has been plagued by strange dreams for as long as she can remember. Every night when she closes her eyes, she sees the life of another–a man she knows as the Thief. This man is a killer, and he’s good at what he does. He leaves no trace of himself or his victims, and no one suspects what he’s truly capable of.

No one but Nina.

She’s done enough research to believe that the Thief is real, even if she only knows of his exploits through her dreams. She needs to catch him in the act and expose him for the killer that he is. But how? How can one teenage girl expose a serial killer, especially when there’s no evidence–other than the images in her own mind–of what he’s done? Who would believe her if she told the truth about her dreams and their connection to possible criminal activity? Would they think she had something to do with these killings? More to the point, does she have something to do with them?

Eventually, Nina finds help in the form of Warren, a guy from school who would do nearly anything for her. He accompanies her on a quest to find the truth about the Thief, a man they come to realize is a seemingly normal guy named Dylan Shadwell.

Nina and Warren track Shadwell to his home in New Mexico. It is here that Nina uncovers a shocking truth that could change everything she thought she knew about herself, her dreams, and her complicated past.

What is Nina’s connection to Dylan Shadwell? Is he really the normal guy he seems to be, or is he playing an elaborate game with Nina at the center? Will Nina’s obsession with uncovering the truth amount to a wild-goose chase, or will she discover more than she ever wanted to know?

Who is the Thief? Is it Shadwell? Is it Nina? Is this mysterious killer even real…or is he a figment of Nina’s imagination?

Discover the remarkable truth for yourself when you read The Killer in Me by Margot Harrison.


I don’t want to give more away than I already have, so I’m going to wrap things up quickly. It’s enough to say that there are some “Holy crap!” moments in this book. Some you may be able to see coming. Others will likely shock you. You’re in for a thrill ride either way.

In my most humble opinion, The Killer in Me is a good book for upper middle grade, teen, and adult readers. Yes, it’s essentially about a serial killer–who may or may not be real–and that brings with it some gruesome imagery. It’s not, however, gratuitous. It’s true to the story and is not overly graphic (most of the time). Some middle grade readers will be able to handle it. Know your readers, and recommend this book accordingly.

If I’ve whetted your appetite for this book and you’d like to learn more about The Killer in Me, visit author Margot Harrison’s website. You can also connect with her on Twitter and Instagram.

Happy reading!

After the End

After the End by Amy Plum has been on my TBR list for a while. I loved Plum’s Die for Me series, so I was confident I would like this book, the first in a duology. As it turns out, I did like After the End, but I also found it kind of frustrating…especially since I didn’t realize until after I’d finished it that it was only book one. (Luckily, the paperback version of book two comes out today. Hooray!)

Juneau, a seventeen-year-old girl living with her clan in the Alaskan wilderness, has grown up knowing that she is one of the few survivors of the fallout of World War III. She and her clan commune with nature and avoid anything and everything outside of their boundaries. Juneau is set to become the clan’s new sage, she feels connected to Yara, or the force that holds all of nature together, and she is confident of her place in the clan.

Everything changes, however, when all Juneau has ever known disappears in an instant. She knows something is amiss when, while on a hunting trip, she hears helicopters in the distance. Juneau rushes back to her clan only to learn that no one is there. Everyone, including her father, has been kidnapped, and Juneau is the only one left to discover why and where they were taken. It’s up to her to rescue them from an uncertain fate.

Juneau crosses her clan’s boundaries for the first time in her search for answers, but she’s not prepared for some of the answers she receives. It seems that nearly everything she believed was a lie. There was no World War III, no nuclear devastation, no reason for her clan to be so isolated. So why were they? Why have they been taken now? And what do those responsible for her clan’s disappearance want with Juneau?

Someone who may have the resources to answer at least one of these questions is Miles. Miles Blackwell is the eighteen-year-old son of a pharmaceutical firm CEO. While Miles is at home–after being kicked out of school–he overhears his father talking about the search for a young girl in Alaska. He figures that he can maybe find this girl and somehow get back in his father’s good graces. What could possibly go wrong?

Miles is on the hunt for Juneau while Juneau is searching for her clan, and the two eventually cross paths. Miles doesn’t exactly buy all of the Yara stuff that Juneau is talking about. His goal is to turn this girl in to his father. Eventually, though, he comes to realize that there is something special–supernatural even–about this girl, and he begins to change his tune. He wants to help her, but how? And what exactly does his father want with her?

As Juneau and Miles get closer to the truth, they will encounter some uncomfortable realizations about their families and what they believed about the world around them. Will they be able to figure out what’s really going on, find Juneau’s clan, and escape those who would do almost anything to stop them? We shall see…


If you’re as avid a reader as I am, you no doubt know the frustration that comes when you get close to the end of a book and there simply aren’t enough pages for everything that needs to happen. That’s what I endured as After the End drew to a close, so it’s good that there’s another book, Until the Beginning, to look forward to, but I’m still a little dissatisfied. Hopefully, that feeling will change when I read book two.

Minor frustrations aside, I do think After the End is a good book. It’s gripping, puzzling, and thought-provoking. The two different perspectives in the book–and how they come together–make for a very interesting read, and the larger ethical dilemmas presented in the book could lead to some intriguing discussions.

If you’d like to learn more about After the End and other books by Amy Plum, check out the author’s website. You may also want to connect with her via Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Instagram.

The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die

As of this afternoon, I’ve now read four of April Henry’s books. In addition to The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die, I’ve read The Night She Disappeared, The Body in the Woods, and Torched. All of these books have convinced me that April Henry is one of my go-to authors for YA suspense. These books are fast-paced, thrilling reads that captured my attention and wouldn’t let go…and they’re all perfect when it’s gloomy and grim outside and you want a book to match that feeling.

The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die, which has been out for a couple of years now, is probably the quickest read of all of the April Henry books I’ve read. The chapters are short, but they pack quite a punch…as does the book’s protagonist.

She comes to in a cabin. She doesn’t know where she is, what’s happened to her, or how she got here. She can’t even remember who she is. All she knows is that two men are standing over her, and it’s crystal clear that they intend to kill her. Why? What exactly do they think she knows?

When opportunity strikes, so does she. She does what she must to get free of one of her attackers, and she’s amazed at the defensive skills she displays. Where did she learn these skills…and why would she need them in the first place?

She’s now on the run, and she doesn’t know who to trust. She simply knows she must find some way to access her memories, no matter how painful they may be. With killers closing in and the possibility of being framed for heinous crimes, this girl needs to find help…fast.

Help comes in the form of Ty, a young man working the late shift at McDonald’s. He recognizes something in this girl that he’s experienced himself: desperation. Even though it could cost him his very life, he offers assistance and works to help her uncover the truth…about herself and the terrible circumstances that have led to this horrific, unimaginable situation.

As the truth comes to light, this girl–whose name is Cady–finally understands what’s going on around her: why she’s a target, what’s happened to her family, and why those hunting her must be stopped. It’s not just her life on the line. The fate of the entire world could be at risk.

Can one teenage girl and her unexpected companion possibly stop someone who’s willing to put the entire world in danger in the name of greed? Just what will become of this girl who was supposed to die?

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I feel like I’ve given way too much away here, and I apologize for that. I didn’t mention several of the major points in the book, so there are still a few surprises in store for those who choose to pick up this thriller. I would recommend the book to any middle grade, YA, or adult reader who is in the mood for a good mystery or suspense novel.

All that being said, I did have one issue with The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die. In my humble opinion, the ending was a little too abrupt. It seemed like there was a ton of build-up, and–BOOM–it’s over. Maybe I’m the only one who feels that way. Read the book for yourself, and let me know what you think.

If you’d like more information on this book and other mysteries by April Henry, check out the author’s website. You can also connect with the author on Twitter and Facebook.

Zane and the Hurricane

It’s hard for me to believe that it’s been almost nine years since Hurricane Katrina hit. I can remember the feelings of horror when everyone learned of the devastation on the Gulf Coast, particularly in New Orleans. I recall watching the news reports, donating to food and supply drives, and seeing new people–those who had lost their homes in the storm–move into the apartment complex I was living in at the time.  In many ways, Katrina opened everyone’s eyes to the damage that Mother Nature was capable of…and how the best and worst in people could be revealed from such a tragedy.  Even now, we wonder when the next big storm will hit and if the lessons learned from Katrina prepared people–especially the powers-that-be–for the worst.

After Katrina, many books, both fiction and nonfiction, were written talking about people who made it through the storm. Until yesterday, I had only read one of those books, Hurricane Song by Paul Volponi.  That book showed YA readers what it may have been like for someone who had to take refuge in the Superdome. The language was a bit rough in that book, but I felt it did adequately reflect everything about that situation.

My latest read, though, comes at things from a different perspective.  Zane and the Hurricane by Rodman Philbrick, looks at Katrina from a twelve-year-old boy’s perspective. This book, suitable for upper elementary and middle grade readers, doesn’t have any coarse language, but it paints a very realistic picture of the peak of the storm and it’s tragic aftermath. I think it’s accessible to young readers–many of whom have no memory of this bleak point in American history–without being too graphic. At the same time, Zane and the Hurricane doesn’t sugarcoat anything.  It shows readers that this was a time of fear, pain, prejudice, and even hope.

Zane Dupree, a twelve-year-old kid from New Hampshire, is not exactly thrilled about spending a week in New Orleans. He’s never been there, he’s never met the great-grandmother he’ll be staying with, and he doesn’t really know what to expect from his visit. At least he gets to take his dog, Bandy, with him.

At first, things aren’t as bad as he thought they would be. His great-grandmother, Miss Trissy, might be an older lady who walks with two canes, but she sings like an angel, and she’s got a story or a song for everything. But stories and songs won’t prepare anyone for the storm about to hit the city. Hurricane Katrina is on her way, and Zane, Bandy, and Miss Trissy need to get out of New Orleans fast.

It should have been a simple evacuation, but Zane’s frightened dog leads him right back into the city that is soon to be destroyed. As Zane and Bandy hole up in Miss Trissy’s house, the storm hits. Winds scream through the long night, and, as morning dawns, Zane watches as water overtakes much of New Orleans. Their only hope is to make it to the sweltering attic and hope that help will come soon.

Help comes in the form of a canoe, a musician named Tru, and Malvina, a young girl with a joke for even the most somber of occasions. As Zane, Bandy, Tru, and Malvina navigate the waters that have flooded the city, they are confronted with death, destruction, and both the best and worst in humanity. Some people are willing to give aid to others even when they don’t have much themselves. Others either look to exploit the situation or only worry about themselves or saving things as inconsequential as Oriental rugs.

There seems to be no real rescue coming from any source, so it’s up to this foursome to save themselves. Zane and company have to stick together, even when it would be easier to leave someone behind, if they’re to have any hope of making it out with their sanity–and their humanity–in tact.

_______________

Zane and the Hurricane is a story that pieces together very real stories from the catastrophe that was Hurricane Katrina. It addresses the lawlessness that plagued New Orleans, the absence or apathy of law enforcement, lack of medical care, the fear and prejudice against poor African-Americans who were just trying to survive, and the horrible conditions both outside and in the Superdome, also known as the “shelter of last resort.” It also highlights that there were people who behaved like true heroes. People who rescued others from flooding homes, people who gave freely of what little water and food they had, and people who stood up for those who were doing everything possible just to make it one more day in grim circumstances.

This book, I think, shows readers young and old, a small glimpse of what this storm did to New Orleans and other cities impacted by Katrina. Local and federal governments failed their people. Prejudice made a nasty appearance when the largely African-American Ninth Ward was submerged and survivors sought help. No one was prepared for this massive storm, despite warnings that something like this was possible. If anything positive came from Katrina, I think it opened eyes and made this city and others like it really examine how it should respond to disasters, both natural and man-made. (And even though Katrina was a natural disaster, the actions–and inaction–of man, in my opinion, made it so much worse.)

Like I mentioned previously, I think Zane and the Hurricane is a good read for upper elementary and middle grade readers. I plan to add this book to my own school library. It is a very realistic portrayal of a dark time in our recent history, and I think it could lead to some deep conversations about the impact of catastrophic events and how humans respond to them.

For more information on this book and others by Rodman Philbrick, check out his website, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Sever

Spoilers ahead! If you haven’t read the first two books in Lauren DeStefano’s Chemical Garden trilogy (Wither and Fever), do so now! This post will focus on Sever, the third and final book in the series.

Nearly two years ago, I began reading Wither, the first book in The Chemical Garden series, a dystopian trilogy by Lauren DeStefano. From the start, I was mesmerized–and often horrified–by the world presented in this series. Fever, book two, only increased my horror at the world that Rhine, our protagonist, is forced to navigate. And now, I’ve finally made my way to book three, Sever. In this book, Rhine continues on her quest to save herself and those around her, but, as they so often do, circumstances seem to conspire against her.

As Sever begins, Rhine continues to struggle with the experiments Vaughn, her vile father-in-law, has done on her. She is trying to cope with the knowledge that he has killed others before her, and she knows that he’s not done with her.  Rhine is also eager to find her twin brother, Rowan, and get back to Gabriel, the boy she left behind in Manhattan.

With the help of Linden, her former husband, Cecily, her sister wife, and Reed, Vaughn’s estranged brother, Rhine is, at the very least, able to avoid Vaughn’s clutches for a while. Rhine also learns a bit more about her brother’s activities. He believes her to be dead, and he has become the leader of what can only be called a terrorist group. He is blowing up scientific research facilities. He appears to believe that they are wasting their time experimenting on young people and looking for a cure that just doesn’t exist.

(You may recall that young people are doomed to die early in this world. Young men don’t live past age twenty-five, and women die at age twenty. Vaughn, Rhine’s father-in-law and Linden’s father, has become something of a mad scientist in his quest for a cure.)

Everything, though, is not as it seems. Vaughn has far-reaching power that follows Rhine wherever she goes. But Vaughn’s many deceptions will soon be uncovered in a very unlikely place. In Rhine’s quest to find her brother, she returns to the hellacious carnival that was once her prison. Secrets are revealed here that will not only lead Rhine to her brother but may also lead to Vaughn’s undoing.

As Rhine learns more and more about Vaughn’s research, her parents’ work, her brother’s supposed rebellion, and her own place in the world, she realizes that everything is much more complicated than she ever believed. And when she factors in her tumultuous relationships with Linden, Cecily, Rowan, and others around her, Rhine is more befuddled than ever.

How can Rhine hope to make sense of what’s going on around her when she can’t seem to come to terms with what’s happened to her and those she cares about? Lives have been lost and promises broken in this mysterious quest for a cure, but is it worth it? Why is Rhine so important to this search, and, if a cure is found, what then? Is Rhine doomed to be a prisoner forever? Or is there a way out? A way that not even Rhine would dare to dream of?

Questions will be answered and secrets revealed soon, but is anyone prepared for what will be uncovered? Unravel the mystery when you read Sever, the gripping conclusion to The Chemical Garden trilogy.

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Now that I’ve read the entirety of this series, I must confess something. I’m still not quite sure what a chemical garden is. It was sort of explained in Sever but not to my satisfaction. I know it had something to do with the genetic experimentation done by Rhine’s parents, but why were their experiments referred to as a chemical garden? I may have to do my own brand of research to figure this out. (Not a problem, really. I’m a librarian. Research is kind of my thing.)

I do think that the action in Sever was a bit slow at times, but I still found myself enthralled by the story. I do wish, however, that we had seen more of Gabriel and Rhine’s relationship with him. Even with the way the book ended, that story feels kind of unfinished.

When I first started this series, I couldn’t stand the character of Cecily. In Sever, however, she definitely showed an inner strength that most women–never mind fourteen-year-old girls–don’t possess. She survived so much and grew into a young woman with a core of steel. Even Rhine was surprised by how much her sister wife had matured in such a short time. Cecily grew from an annoying little girl into a young woman capable of enduring unimaginable grief and tribulations. Out of all the characters in this series, I think she changed the most. She went from an easily manipulated pawn into a queen taking charge of her own destiny.

If you want a rather disturbing view of what the future could hold, I suggest you give Wither, Fever, and Sever a try. You may like this trilogy; you may not. Every reader has his/her own taste, and that’s okay. (I say this because another blogger called me out for daring to give Fever a positive review. She’s entitled to her opinion, but I stand by my view that this is definitely a series worth reading.) This series does deal with some mature themes, so I would caution you before recommending it to middle grade readers.

If you enjoyed series like Delirium, Matched, or The Selection, then The Chemical Garden may be right up your alley.

For more information on this series or other books by Lauren DeStefano, check out the author’s website, FacebookTumblr, and Twitter. You may also want to take a quick look at the Sever book trailer below. Enjoy!

The Raft

Books about survival have never really been my thing (which is odd considering that the only reality TV I watch is Survivor).  I can remember reading Hatchet in middle school and hating every minute of it. I’ve read a several I’ve enjoyed, but, more often than not, those books were science fiction. One notable exception was Beauty Queens by Libba Bray. I loved everything about that book.

Anyway, my latest read, The Raft by S.A. Bodeen, may force me to reevaluate my feelings on survival books, particularly when they are fairly realistic. This book was gripping from start to finish, there were twists that I honestly didn’t expect, and I was on the edge of my seat wondering what would ultimately happen to the main character. I also found this book to be especially timely. When one watches the news and sees the continued search for answers about Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, it’s difficult not to wonder if there could still be survivors, and, if there are, how have they found the strength to fight the elements and the odds stacked against them.  That’s the story we get in The Raft.

Robie Mitchell is no stranger to travel. Her parents are researchers on the island of Midway in the Pacific Ocean, and, when Robie needs a break from Midway, she takes off to stay with her aunt in Honolulu. That’s where we first meet Robie. She enjoys a certain freedom with her aunt that doesn’t exist wit her parents…but maybe she has a little too much freedom. When Robie’s aunt goes out of town for a bit and leaves Robie on her own, the girl discovers that maybe she’s not quite ready for so much freedom, responsibility, and just being alone. So Robie decides it’s time to head back to Midway and the comforting arms of her parents.

It should have been a simple, short flight. She’s taken it dozens of times before with no problems, but this time things are different. The plane encounters some rough turbulence, and, before she knows it, the aircraft loses its engines. The copilot, Max, tosses Robie, an emergency raft, and a few basic supplies out of the crashing plane and into the churning water below. Max follows her and pulls Robie onto the raft, and the real fight for survival begins.

In the days that follow, Robie encounters thirst, hunger, her worst fears, and hopelessness. One minute, Robie prays for rain so that she can quench her thirst. The next minute, she’s hoping the rain will stop so that she can get dry enough to avoid hypothermia. The only food available is Max’s precious bag of Skittles. Vicious tiger sharks are real threats in the water, and Robie’s only real protection is a flimsy rubber raft.

Through everything, Robie relies on her own strength, intelligence, and conversations with Max to get her through this horrible ordeal, but will it be enough to survive? Is anyone even looking for her? And when Robie confronts the truth of her situation–that she may not make it out of this alive–how will she cope?  How would you?

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You might be wondering why I picked this book up in the first place if it’s not a typical read. Well, it’s a nominee for the 14-15 South Carolina Junior Book Award. I like to read as many of these titles as I can to see which may be appropriate for my 4th and 5th grade students. (For the record, some of them may be able to handle this book. I’m still debating whether or not to put it in my school library. At the very least, though, I will recommend it to certain students who I know will like it.) This leads me to lots of books–many of them gems–that I might not otherwise read. The Raft is one of those gems.

The Raft highlights what one girl is capable of when her back is against the wall. Robie is a very strong female character that I think any reader will be able to respect. Yes, she rages about her situation, and she wants an easy way out of it. Who wouldn’t? But, ultimately, she finds the strength within herself to do what she must to survive. She even references Katniss Everdeen and The Hunger Games in her struggles. (Robie points out that Katniss had it easy compared to herself.) Robie is definitely a character to be admired.

If you’re thinking that Robie’s story sounds familiar, you’re probably not alone. It reminded me of the movie Castaway. Instead of Tom Hanks, though, we have a teen girl. The characters’ experiences are very similar.

I highly recommend The Raft to readers who are looking for a gripping–and very realistic–survival story. It may lead to some conversations about how readers would react if found in similar situations. As for me, I doubt I’d make it out alive. Maybe you’d fare better!

For more information about The Raft and other books by S.A. Bodeen, visit http://www.writersabodeen.com/. You can also follow the author on Twitter.

The 5th Wave

Every once in a while, I come across a book that absolutely blows my mind. Some of my favorites are: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, American Gods, Watchmen, the Harry Potter series, The Hunger Games, anything by Cassandra Clare, and a few others. Now, I can add another book to the list–The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey. I read one of Mr. Yancey’s other books, The Monstrumologist, a few years ago, so I had an inkling that I was in for quite the roller coaster. That’s an understatement. At times, The 5th Wave was absolutely excruciating to read (in a good way). It was disturbing, exciting, anxiety-inducing, and a fine example of what really good science fiction should be. Yes, the book is about an alien invasion, but, in my most humble opinion, it also forces the reader to examine his/her own humanity.

No one knew what to expect when the Others arrived. It soon became clear what they could expect–the worst.

The first wave knocked out power. The second wave brought massive tsunamis and eliminated all coastal cities. The third wave delivered disease that would wipe out most of who remained. The fourth wave silenced many of the survivors. What will the fifth wave bring?

That’s a question that plagues Cassie, a young girl who has become a warrior to survive. Just a short time ago, her only worries were getting her crush, Ben Parish, to notice her, and getting decent grades. Now, though, she’s lost nearly everything thanks to the Others…aliens who are systematically destroying her home. She doesn’t know why they’ve come–and, at first, she doesn’t really care–but she does know that she must do everything in her power to find the one person she has left. Her little brother, Sammy. But even Cassie isn’t prepared for what–or who–she’ll have to face to get back to her brother. She’ll discover just what she’s willing to do–and who she’s willing to trust–to get back to what really matters to her.

Cassie isn’t the only one asking questions about what the aliens are really after and what they have planned next. A boy nicknamed Zombie is being trained as an alien-killing soldier. He’s not the only one. Kids all over are being gathered and trained to think about nothing but killing. But why? Why kids? When Zombie, who was once a carefree kid with everything going for him, begins to question what’s going on around him, he’ll arrive at some upsetting and game-changing conclusions. It seems that the fifth wave has already begun. Is there any way to stop it…or have the Others already taken too much from humanity for any hope of its survival?

If you’re paranoid like me, The 5th Wave will make you extremely uncomfortable (like all the best books do). This disquieting story, in my opinion, is a much more realistic alien invasion tale than many of the others I’ve read. All that “We Come in Peace” crap is stupid. If aliens really came to Earth, do you really think they’d be friendly or diplomatic? Would we? I don’t think so.

Though The 5th Wave is being marketed as a young adult novel, I actually think the wider appeal will be to adults who have grown up with stories like Invasion of the Body Snatchers,  AlienIndependence DayDistrict 9Terminator, and other tales of alien invasions that aren’t even close to the loving E.T.-type stories that give us the warm fuzzies. The 5th Wave is not a happy book, and, since it is the first book in a planned trilogy, even the ending doesn’t really provide a ton of closure…but this book is an amazing work of science fiction and should be experienced by any fans of the genre.

For those that want to know more about this exhilarating book, check out the official website at http://the5thwaveiscoming.com/. The site contains loads of information on the book, including the official Facebook and Twitter pages and several book trailers that totally capture just how intense this book really is. (I’ve embedded one of them below.) If you decide to experience The 5th Wave, I hope you enjoy the ride as much as I did.