Category Archives: Mystery/Thriller

Series Review: Jackaby (#1-3) by William Ritter

Well, I had the best intentions of binge-reading this series but alas. I found out that it was actually a four-book series and not a trilogy, so today’s series review will have to be for the first three books and then when the fourth one comes out, that’ll be on its own.

SERIES REVIEW: JACKABY, BEASTLY BONES, GHOSTLY ECHOES

Reviews for each book/the series are a whole are generally spoiler-free for any major occurrences or twists but may contain info about plot points so I can properly discuss the plot. 

Series Review: Jackaby (#1-3) by William RitterTitle: Jackaby (Jackaby #1) by William Ritter
Publishing Info: September 16, 2014 by Algonquin
Source: Borrowed from Hoopla
Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Mystery/Thriller, Paranormal
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: January 1, 2017

Newly arrived in New Fiddleham, New England, 1892, and in need of a job, Abigail Rook meets R. F. Jackaby, an investigator of the unexplained with a keen eye for the extraordinary--including the ability to see supernatural beings. Abigail has a gift for noticing ordinary but important details, which makes her perfect for the position of Jackaby’s assistant. On her first day, Abigail finds herself in the midst of a thrilling case: A serial killer is on the loose. The police are convinced it’s an ordinary villain, but Jackaby is certain it’s a nonhuman creature, whose existence the police--with the exception of a handsome young detective named Charlie Cane--deny.
Doctor Who meets Sherlock in William Ritter’s debut novel, which features a detective of the paranormal as seen through the eyes of his adventurous and intelligent assistant in a tale brimming with cheeky humor and a dose of the macabre.

I wasn’t totally sure what JACKABY was all about but I was excited to start it! I actually hadn’t known that it involved paranormal elements so that was an interesting surprise when I started reading! (Yes, yes, I know that’s what the whole series is about and it’s plain as day in the book descriptions but you know me and going in totally blind.) I actually thought JACKABY was straight historical fiction, like a YA Sherlock Holmes. I was also interested to find out that Jackaby himself wasn’t a young adult, and I thought that was great to have an adult character as a main part of the book since so many YA books skip around older figures and stick with the teens. It brought an interesting dynamic and mix and also allowed Abigail to get involved in so many things that she may not normally have had access to. That’s always my thing with YA mysteries — a big question that always has to be addressed is why a teen wouldn’t go to an adult with a murder-mystery case and in JACKABY, Abigail is working for paranormal detective R.F. Jackaby.

I also figured that there would be a romance between Jackaby (this was before I knew how much older he was) and Abigail and I’m really glad that there wasn’t! It was nice to see the romance built with Abigail and more of a secondary character and that it was a side plot and not a main focus of the book. The quirky mysteries still took the spotlight and there wasn’t any mixing of work and romance. I actually didn’t really care for the romance, though. I thought it wasn’t very developed in the first book, which it didn’t have to be developed right away, but for some reason it felt fast and forced for me.

JACKABY wasn’t a perfect book but it was really enjoyable! Things kind of piled on with the paranormal but it was fun and not overwhelming as some books tend to feel when dealing with so many different para-creatures.

Series Review: Jackaby (#1-3) by William RitterTitle: Beastly Bones (Jackaby #2) by William Ritter
Publishing Info: September 22, 2015 by Algonquin
Source: Borrowed from Hoopla
Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Paranormal, Mystery/Thriller
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: January 21, 2017

In 1892, New Fiddleham, New England, things are never quite what they seem, especially when Abigail Rook and her eccentric employer, R. F. Jackaby, are called upon to investigate the supernatural. First, members of a particularly vicious species of shape-shifters disguise themselves as a litter of kittens. A day later, their owner is found murdered, with a single mysterious puncture wound to her neck. Then, in nearby Gad's Valley, dinosaur bones from a recent dig go missing, and an unidentifiable beast attacks animals and people, leaving their mangled bodies behind. Policeman Charlie Cane, exiled from New Fiddleham to the valley, calls on Abigail for help, and soon Abigail and Jackaby are on the hunt for a thief, a monster, and a murderer.

I started BEASTLY BONES right after I finished JACKABY because the first book was just so enjoyable and a breeze to read! I thought BEASTLY BONES stepped it up even more and that William Ritter’s writing really improved, not that I thought JACKABY was lacking, but it felt more mature and more put-together.

I loved the fantastical element in this book and I won’t give it away because it was a super fun reveal for me but it was a creature that I was so excited to see, and even that had a turn of its own. The characters handle the situation adeptly, as always, and the mystery was a hoot!

One thing I actually didn’t like was the appearance of some secondary characters that were immediately eliminated in this book. They had such a heavy focus in BEASTLY BONES and it kind of felt like a waste to get to know them for such a short time only to never see them again. There was also a bit of repetition of terms and words in this book that I started to notice a lot (I didn’t need to read “indomitable” 20 times) so that was a little frustrating but I thought the mystery was even more exciting than the first book and it took a different turn as well!

Series Review: Jackaby (#1-3) by William RitterTitle: Ghostly Echoes (Jackaby #3) by William Ritter
Publishing Info: August 23, 2016 by Algonquin
Source: Borrowed from Hoopla
Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Mystery/Thriller, Paranormal
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: January 25, 2017

Jenny Cavanaugh, the ghostly lady of 926 Augur Lane, has enlisted the investigative services of her fellow residents to solve a decade-old murder—her own. Abigail Rook and her eccentric employer, Detective R. F. Jackaby, dive into the cold case, starting with a search for Jenny’s fiancé, who went missing the night she died. But when a new, gruesome murder closely mirrors the events of ten years prior, Abigail and Jackaby realize that Jenny’s case isn’t so cold after all, and her killer may be far more dangerous than they suspected.
Fantasy and folklore mix with mad science as Abigail’s race to unravel the mystery leads her across the cold cobblestones of nineteenth-century New England, down to the mythical underworld, and deep into her colleagues’ grim histories to battle the most deadly foe she has ever faced.

GHOSTLY ECHOES was a bit different all together with one of the main characters being involved in the mystery instead of someone from the outside. I really loved how much more personal the mystery became — to Jackaby and Abigail as well as the reader — and where the whole series went! Things really escalated in this book and I really appreciated how so many things came full circle here.

The friendships in this book were stepped up even more and I love how much tighter this group got! The different elements in this mystery were also top notch and I think this was my favorite book of the series!

SERIES THOUGHTS

 

This series is fun, easy to read, and seems to be getting better with each book! I still am missing that big “wow” factor that would shoot it up to five stars but these are all so solid and really entertaining.

I think William Ritter does a great job bringing all of the plot together, especially in GHOSTLY ECHOES, and it was also nice to have an overall plot but mysteries that were solved at the end of each book so I didn’t have to jump back into a world where I forgot everything that had happened, as with so many series. (Although I did binge read these so that wasn’t a huge issue anyway.)

I do feel like I could do without Abigail’s romance. I personally have never connected to it and it still feels forced to me. I actually feel like Abigail would be a stronger character without it, or she needs a more spirited companion. She’s so spunky and I would love to see her banter with someone instead of becoming softer and more gentle, although I guess she does have a different sort of banter with Jackaby. Still, I love that romantic banter and teasing.

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Addiction Rating
Read them!

This is a really solid series and each book seems to get better! The paranormal and fantasy aspects are so much fun and the two main characters (Jackaby and Abigail) are really solid.

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BOOKS LIKE JACKABY

(Click the cover to see my review!)

     

Mini-Review: Turbo Twenty-Three (Stephanie Plum #23) – Janet Evanovich

Mini-Review: Turbo Twenty-Three (Stephanie Plum #23) – Janet EvanovichTitle: Turbo Twenty-Three (Stephanie Plum #23) by Janet Evanovich
Publishing Info: November 15, 2016 by Random House Publishing Group
Source: Audiobook borrowed from library
Genres: Cozy Mystery, Adult, Mystery/Thriller
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: November 23, 2016
Related Posts: Lean Mean Thirteen (Stephanie Plum #13), Plum Lucky (Stephanie Plum #13.5), Fearless Fourteen (Stephanie Plum #14), , Finger Lickin' Fifteen (Stephanie Plum #15), Mini-Reviews: The Audition, Plum Spooky | DNF Report: Tether, Plum Spooky (Stephanie Plum #14.5), Mini-Reviews: Sizzling Sixteen (Stephanie Plum #16) & Smokin' Seventeen (Stephanie Plum #17), Sizzling Sixteen (Stephanie Plum #16), Smokin' Seventeen (Stephanie Plum #17), Explosive Eighteen (Stephanie Plum #18), Sizzling Sixteen (Stephanie Plum #16), Mini-Reviews: Notorious Nineteen (Stephanie Plum #19), Takedown Twenty (Stephanie Plum #20), Top Secret Twenty-One (Stephanie Plum #21), Notorious Nineteen (Stephanie Plum #19), Takedown Twenty (Stephanie Plum #20), Top-Secret Twenty-One (Stephanie Plum #21), , Tricky Twenty-Two (Stephanie Plum #22), Curious Minds (Knight & Moon #1)

In the heart of Trenton, N.J., a killer is out to make sure someone gets his just desserts.
Larry Virgil skipped out on his latest court date after he was arrested for hijacking an eighteen-wheeler full of premium bourbon. Fortunately for bounty hunter Stephanie Plum, Larry is just stupid enough to attempt almost the exact same crime again. Only this time he flees the scene, leaving behind a freezer truck loaded with Bogart ice cream and a dead body—frozen solid and covered in chocolate and chopped pecans.
As fate would have it, Stephanie’s mentor and occasional employer, Ranger, needs her to go undercover at the Bogart factory to find out who’s putting their employees on ice and sabotaging the business. It’s going to be hard for Stephanie to keep her hands off all that ice cream, and even harder for her to keep her hands off Ranger. It’s also going to be hard to explain to Trenton’s hottest cop, Joe Morelli, why she is spending late nights with Ranger, late nights with Lula and Randy Briggs—who are naked and afraid—and late nights keeping tabs on Grandma Mazur and her new fella. Stephanie Plum has a lot on her plate, but for a girl who claims to have “virtually no marketable skills,” these are the kinds of sweet assignments she does best.

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** Mini-review for TURBO TWENTY-THREE… because once you review one Stephanie Plum book, you sort of review them all! ** 

TURBO TWENTY-THREE was another quick, easy, and fun Stephanie Plum novel! I really appreciate that Janet Evanovich has taken these books a little bit back into the realm of the plausible instead of monkeys-acting-like-humans. Of course, they’re still a little wacky because that is the way of Plum but at least it’s on a believable side again!

This book was a lot of fun, actually. I enjoyed the warring ice cream factory concept and it was funny watching Stephanie try to infiltrate each one, learn the feuds behind the two, and the many different ways to get in trouble in an ice cream factory.

We sort of went backwards again with the love triangle and SIGH. I was so excited to see progress in one direction and now it’s back in the middle. It could be worse because there have been worse love triangles in cozy mysteries that still also haven’t resolved and at least I like Ranger and Morelli both… But it’s been twenty-three books! I’m ready for some resolution on the love triangle thing. I’m getting a bit tired of talking about it but such is life and being a reader of this series!

I do like that I’m really rarely guess the answer to the mysteries! I guess I probably could guess a few if I tried but I love listening to these books on audio because they’re so short and fun and easy to listen to while doing other things. I love zoning out and flowing with these books and it’s great to have a lighter audio!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Ranger. I’m personally Team Morelli in terms of settling down… but darn it, I do still love Ranger. How did I get hooked in a love triangle?
Left Me Wanting More: Commitment. Come onnnn, just choose already!

Addiction Rating
Read it!

If you’re a fan, keep on going! I do like that things aren’t so silly anymore and hey, they may be all kind of the same but I still enjoy them all the time!

book_recommendations1BOOKS LIKE TURBO TWENTY-THREE

(Click the cover to see my review!)

 size 12 and ready to rock    MURDER UNCORKED

This is Our Story – Ashley Elston

This is Our Story – Ashley ElstonTitle: This is Our Story by Ashley Elston
Publishing Info: November 15, 2016 by Disney Hyperion
Source: Netgalley
Genres: Young Adult, Mystery/Thriller
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: November 15, 2016
Related Posts: The Rules for Disappearing (The Rules for Disappearing #1), The Rules for Breaking (The Rules for Disappearing #2)

Five went in. Four came out.
No one knows what happened that morning at River Point. Five boys went hunting. Four came back. The boys won’t say who fired the shot that killed their friend; the evidence shows it could have been any one of them.
Kate Marino’s senior year internship at the district attorney’s office isn’t exactly glamorous—more like an excuse to leave school early that looks good on college applications. Then the DA hands her boss, Mr. Stone, the biggest case her small town of Belle Terre has ever seen. The River Point Boys are all anyone can talk about. Despite their damning toxicology reports the morning of the accident, the DA wants the boys’ case swept under the rug. He owes his political office to their powerful families.
Kate won’t let that happen. Digging up secrets without revealing her own is a dangerous line to walk; Kate has her own reasons for seeking justice for Grant. As investigates with Stone, the aging prosecutor relying on Kate to see and hear what he cannot, she realizes that nothing about the case—or the boys—is what it seems. Grant wasn’t who she thought he was, and neither is Stone’s prime suspect. As Kate gets dangerously close to the truth, it becomes clear that the early morning accident might not have been an accident at all—and if Kate doesn’t uncover the true killer, more than one life could be on the line…including her own.

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I was so excited for a new book by Ashley Elston because I loved her debut duology THE RULES FOR DISAPPEARING and THE RULES FOR BREAKING! I’m always looking for more YA mysteries and thrillers because there weren’t a lot for a very long time and the insurgence of them now is so exciting! When I heard about THIS IS OUR STORY, it immediately went on my list of books I added to get my hands on!

One thing I really loved about this book is how well it was set from a teenager’s perspective. I think the hardest thing about YA mysteries is making a believable reason for why a teen is involved in the case and why they wouldn’t go to an adult or the police. In the case of THIS IS OUR STORY, main character Kate works for the district attorney’s office (as does her mother) and she assists her boss by dictating and spotting details for him, as he has failing eyesight and isn’t ready to step down from his job yet. Kate acts as an extra pair of eyes for him throughout his investigation of the River Point Boys, a group of kids involved in the murder of one of their best friends. I really loved how well this concept worked because it allowed Kate to have access to the case and obtain more details than a normal kid or outsider.

The book was interesting from start to finish but I didn’t get quite as into the story as I had hoped. I’ve gotten sucked in to quite a few mystery/thrillers and I did enjoy the whole book but it wasn’t as gripping as some other books I’ve read. The story was still very well put-together and carefully crafted. Ashley Elston did a great job with the character relationships, keeping identities secret, and weaving in doubt and suspicion.

I would say her first books/series were my favorite so far but THIS IS OUR STORY was also a very solid read! I wished I had been able to get into it a bit more, but I’ve had such limited reading time lately and a lot going on that it could always be situational and not the book. It was a very good mystery still and I really did enjoy it! It didn’t stand out as much as I had hoped but a wonderfully solid book and one I’d recommend!

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Kept Me Hooked On: YA detectives. I always love mystery/thrillers but it’s hard to get teens on the scene in a realistic way. This was done really well and I loved how Kate got involved in the case!
Left Me Wanting More: Thrills. The book was great but I think I was missing just a few more thrills to really suck me in.

Addiction Rating
Read it

If you’re looking for more YA mysteries, THIS IS OUR STORY is a great one to pick up! It was pretty realistic and incorporated the story line well for the age and setting.

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BOOKS LIKE THIS IS OUR STORY

(Click the cover to see my review!)

THE DEVIL YOU KNOW    DANGEROUS BOYS

The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the Train – Paula HawkinsTitle: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Publishing Info: January 13, 2015 by Penguin
Source: Audible
Genres: Adult, Mystery/Thriller
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: October 29, 2016

EVERY DAY THE SAME
Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning and night. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. Jess and Jason, she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

UNTIL TODAY
And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel goes to the police. But is she really as unreliable as they say? Soon she is deeply entangled not only in the investigation but in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

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After much anticipation, I finally picked up THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN! I totally see the GONE GIRL comparison but I also liked that the book did go in a very different direction. There are so many thrillers nowadays that compare to big titles and they’re big shoes to fill! I wasn’t as blown away by GONE GIRL as some but I did enjoy the many twists and not knowing what to expect. THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN had that same sort of feel but the ending actually felt a bit more predictable.

It was really interesting to see the many unreliable narrators in this book (always a fan) and I was always kept on my toes because I was never quite sure who or what to believe! That does create a problem sometimes because I love these sorts of thrillers so I always start to form some wild accusation in my head, and sometimes I like my theories better than the actual book. Not all books can have endings so wild, though, because otherwise it’d be really played out and we’d all expect twists all the time and be able to guess them all! THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN still had a nice twist at the end, mostly putting all the pieces together, but it wasn’t as twisty as I anticipated. I enjoyed that it wasn’t what I expected but I felt after that whole book that it lost a little excitement towards the reveal and I really wasn’t a fan of the villain speech to reveal it all.

I wasn’t super duper in love with the book and yet I really couldn’t put this book down. I was so interested and hooked and I loved the mystery and suspense of it all. The unreliable narrators were great and I actually really enjoyed the writing style, with different POV switches as well as those POVs taking place at different points in time. It was really interesting to see it all come together in the end and I actually appreciate that the narrators were unreliable but in a very realistic and somewhat relatable way.

THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN is a very solid mystery and thriller and I can see why it captivated so many people! It really is a great GONE GIRL comparison and it allows readers to step into a relatable role and still distance themselves from these specific experiences. I’m really glad I finally read it!

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“The View from Goodreads” is a featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!

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Rachel // Character obsessions: Her ex-husband, the couple she can see from the train, solving the mystery.
I felt bad for Rachel and not all at the same time. She put herself into so many horrible positions and being an alcoholic made things so, so much worse… And yet she was also incredibly relatable at times. I’m sure a lot of us can relate to those missing pieces of fuzziness after a night of drinking and it just makes you think how much it can truly affect your life after continuing on like that on a consistent basis, and Rachel’s drinking messed up her life on so many levels. It was an interesting tool to use for an unreliable narrator though because it’s something where you’re able to see that a character has missing pieces or false information and it’s not cheesy or a psychological factor after a big reveal. Readers are able to see that Rachel is pretty unreliable and yet she was one to root for to pull her life together.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Adult mystery/thrillers. Adult mysteries were my bread and butter when I first started blogging and it’s always fun to jump back into that world!
Left Me Wanting More: Twists. I know I said I was happy the twist wasn’t overdone but it’s also hard when you’re expecting something huge and it’s not as huge as you thought it was. The ending was definitely still enjoyable but didn’t have that “omg” factor that shot it up to five stars for me.

Addiction Rating
Read it!

If you liked GONE GIRL, this is a serious and legit recommendation for you! If not, the book certainly stands on its own two feet and also has plenty of differences.

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BOOKS LIKE THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN

(Click the cover to see my review!)

GONE GIRL    THE good girl

Thieving Weasels – Billy Taylor

Thieving Weasels – Billy TaylorTitle: Thieving Weasels by Billy Taylor
Publishing Info: August 23, 2016 by Penguin
Genres: Young Adult, Mystery/Thriller, Heists/Spies/Espionage
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: September 29, 2016

Cameron Smith attends an elite boarding school and has just been accepted to Princeton University alongside his beautiful girlfriend, Claire. Life for Cameron would be perfect, except that Cameron Smith is actually Skip O’Rourke, and Skip O’Rourke ran away from his grifter family four years ago…along with $100,000 of their “earnings” (because starting a new life is not cheap). But when his uncle Wonderful tracks him down, Skip’s given an ultimatum: come back to the family for one last con, or say good-bye to life as Cameron.
“One last con” is easier said than done when Skip’s family is just as merciless (and just as manipulative) as they’ve always been, and everyone around him is lying. Skip may have given up on crime, but there’s one lesson he hasn’t forgotten: always know your mark. And if you don’t know who your mark is . . . it’s probably you.
Witty and irresistibly readable, this standout debut will always keep you guessing.

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THIEVING WEASELS was a bit different than I anticipated but really in a good way. From the cover, I thought it was going to be a lot goofier and really slapstick but it was actually a lot more serious and realistic than I thought! The book was pretty entertaining, even though it wasn’t what I expected and I really appreciated that it was a bit more on the serious side.

It really became quite the complicated thing with the book being more realistic than I thought because I ended up not being able to write off some things for the sake of comedy. For example, I was left wanting just a bit more character development for the tone of the book. Some of the family members kind of blended together (could also have been the narration too since they all had the same accent) but even from main character Skip, I wanted just a bit more emotion or connection. I think if it had been more of a slapstick style, I wouldn’t have minded as much because it would have been a “fluffier” read but just from the overall tone of how everything went, I think I needed just a bit more backstory or a few more anecdotes or digging a little deeper into the main characters.

I really liked the that the story had some twists! It kept me on my feet and it was really interesting to see where the story went. I wasn’t even sure how it would end when it was so close to being over so that was fun! I always really appreciate when I’m not able to guess the ending of a book because as an avid reader, you tend to be able to guess certain things just from reading all the time, so I really appreciated the direction the book took towards the end.

Overall though, it just really didn’t knock me off my feet. I love the surprises and overall feel of a con/heist story. The book was really fun but it just really wasn’t a stick-with-you kind of book. It did keep my attention and was a very quick read (or listen, if you do the audio like I did) but it was kind of middle of the road for me.

AUDIOBOOK IMPRESSIONS

Source: Digital review copy from Listening Library
Narrator: Robbie Daymond
Performance: Decent

The audio for this book was decent but not stellar. This was the first I had heard from Robbie Daymond and while I did like his voice in general, I didn’t feel like he did a very good job with differentiating of the different characters. There were a lot of other male characters and they all had the same type of accent and same tone of voice so that got kind of confusing at times. I probably won’t search out more from him but if he happens to narrate another book I’m interested in, I also wouldn’t say no.

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Skip // Character obsessions: Honesty, school, his girlfriend.
Skip is the honest one in a family of cons and this was a really fun concept! I wish I did get to know him a little bit more and have him feel like a more rounded character but I did enjoy what I got to know of him. The poor kid gets put in some really tight spots, especially by family members, and I really appreciated how he handled them.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Con stories. Skip’s family is entirely con artists and I just love stories about cons/heists, etc. I felt so bad for him since they put him in a lot of tight places but it was also really fun to see different cons and how that shaped the story!
Left Me Wanting More: Personality. I thought the characters could have really had more personality.

Addiction Rating
Consider it

If you’re a fan of cons, this is an easy and quick read! It was fun and kept me on my toes but it also wasn’t a book that stuck with me. Depends on what kind of read you’re in the mood for!

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BOOKS LIKE THIEVING WEASELS

(Click the cover to see my review!)

HEIST SOCIETY    ALSO KNOWN AS

The Female of the Species – Mindy McGinnis

The Female of the Species – Mindy McGinnisTitle: The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis
Publishing Info: September 20, 2016 by Source: Edelweiss
Genres: Young Adult, Mystery/Thriller, Psych/Mental Health
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: August 20, 2016
Related Posts: A Madness So Discreet

Alex Craft knows how to kill someone. And she doesn’t feel bad about it. When her older sister, Anna, was murdered three years ago and the killer walked free, Alex uncaged the language she knows best. The language of violence.
While her crime goes unpunished, Alex knows she can’t be trusted among other people, even in her small hometown. She relegates herself to the shadows, a girl who goes unseen in plain sight, unremarkable in the high school hallways.
But Jack Fisher sees her. He’s the guy all other guys want to be: the star athlete gunning for valedictorian with the prom queen on his arm. Guilt over the role he played the night Anna’s body was discovered hasn’t let him forget Alex over the years, and now her green eyes amid a constellation of freckles have his attention. He doesn’t want to only see Alex Craft; he wants to know her.
So does Peekay, the preacher’s kid, a girl whose identity is entangled with her dad’s job, though that does not stop her from knowing the taste of beer or missing the touch of her ex-boyfriend. When Peekay and Alex start working together at the animal shelter, a friendship forms and Alex’s protective nature extends to more than just the dogs and cats they care for.
Circumstances bring Alex, Jack, and Peekay together as their senior year unfolds. While partying one night, Alex’s darker nature breaks out, setting the teens on a collision course that will change their lives forever.

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THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES is a hard book to talk about. It’s incredibly important in so many ways and has some great not only feminist but also important universal notions that really bring to light how we excuse certain male actions and condemn female ones for the exact same thing (sex, drugs, violence). I really did love how Mindy McGinnis said so many of these things right to readers’ faces and makes people truly confront all of these issues. That’s part of the beauty of Alex’s character as well. She’s described as both closed off and yet feeling too much. She isn’t afraid to say what she thinks or do what she thinks is right because she’s really never been the person to cater to a society’s “norms”. She confronts people, makes people pay for their actions, and somehow becomes this great antihero for us to gather around.

The book has a sort of Dexter-like feel and yet stands on its own. Alex has a darkness within her. It drives her every day life, takes over in moments of extreme emotion, and she once she actually finds people to care about and who care about her, she tries to be as “normal” as possible to not scare away her new friends. She uses this darkness to right wrongs and to seek vengeance on people who have committed horrible acts of violence, sexual abuse, or general heinous injustices. THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES isn’t focused on Alex as a serial killer (because she’s not) and I was both confused and satisfied with the ambiguity of “what she was”. Alex couldn’t even put a label on herself, seeking to fit in the category of sociopath or psychopath and didn’t quite seem to fit anywhere. I liked the uniqueness and originality, not fitting into a specific box, but I was also anticipating more of something… which I guess Alex would probably reprimand me for trying to put a label on her! I think the anticipation of the something affected the read a little bit for me because I felt like I was missing something and the book never quite crossed that line into supremely satisfying for me.

THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES doesn’t shy away from really anything. Whereas some young adult books clean things up a bit for the sake of readers or publishing, Mindy McGinnis chooses to include all of the realistic speech (including swearing, descriptions of sex, and lewd behavior) that other books play down in order to reach a younger audience. I would definitely recommend this for a more mature young adult audience (although we always have that taboo of censoring younger teen audiences — I’m not a librarian, educator, or parent so that’s not for me to say but it a moderately explicit read even as an adult). There are also several instances or mentions of rape, date rape, sexual abuse, and scenes with near instances of all of these occurring so if that’s a trigger for you, do be aware that it pops up many times throughout the book.

One thing that actually bothered me about the book was the confusing involvement of animals. If you have an animal abuse trigger, it will likely bother you for this one (more than one person has brought up that it was an issue for them), and it’s not a trigger for me but I thought the violence towards animals was quite unnecessary. It wasn’t out right on the pages with a character abusing an animal but there are some really hard-to-read scenes about what happens to a few animals that I just didn’t get. It wasn’t directly tied to a character and didn’t push a plot point forward. The characters actually do take care of and help quite a few animals too but I didn’t know why the harsh scenes with injuries and death needed to be included. It didn’t serve a purpose for the book or assist a character’s story line. There was also a very gruesome scene at a meat factory that wasn’t abuse but a part of the job, but still seemed unnecessary to include (especially when I was trying to read this book as I was eating lunch — that was just unfortunate timing on my part).

My middle of the road feelings aren’t due to any of those factors though. As much as I thought the message was extremely important and valid, I just didn’t really connect to the characters in the book. I know Alex is sort of emotionally closed off and yet over-feeling and I kind of felt stuck between those two emotions. I just didn’t connect with her as much as I wanted to. I understand that she’s not someone you really connect to emotionally but I wanted to understand her just a little bit more or be able to stand behind her a little bit more and I just didn’t quite get there. It’s a weird spot because in a way, that’s the whole point of her character — she’s complex, she’s cold, she’s overly angered by injustices, she’s not your average person in terms of emotional ranges — but somehow it just didn’t click for me. It’s not that there was a lack of character development in any of the other characters either but none of the relationships really slid into place for me. It was just the little things with characters or perhaps the writing that just didn’t click and although the content was there, I just didn’t get bowled over like I thought I would.

Long story short, I’m just sort of a jumbled up from this book. I can’t quite sort out what I feel but I know that I don’t feel as wowed as I had hoped. When I end up rating books, it’s based on an overall feeling and THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES had a whole lot going on. The overall message of the book is so important but I feel like I can’t rate a book for its message alone. There are several factors involved in my feelings toward a book and this one had so many things for me to consider.

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“The View from Goodreads” is a featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!

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Alex // Character obsessions: Justice, darkness, friendship.
Alex is a very simple and yet very complicated character all at the same time. She’s a very black-and-white sort of character, knowing exactly she feels is right and what she feels is wrong, and she’s not afraid to right the wrongs she sees in any way she deems correct. She carries a certain darkness with her that tends to lead to violent situations, which really brings out the anti-hero in her character as readers root for the violence to “correct” injustices within Alex’s town. I think I actually struggled a little bit when Alex started figure out some friendships and tried to be “normal”, as she called it. It was also complicated because Alex didn’t fit into an easily identifiable category for what she “was”. She stated that she felt TOO much, not that she was unfeeling, as so many psychopathic or sociopathic characters are and that really complicated things for me as a reader and former student of psychology. (Not like I’m any expect but I’ve always been incredibly interested and took many classes in high school and college.) I think it was hard for me that she didn’t quite fit into a common classification — and it was actually hard for her as well! It was a very interesting addition to her character but it also kind of confused me because I couldn’t figure her out!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Antiheroes. I love a good antihero. It’s so interesting to have the main character of a book have some normally abhorrent behavior but when it’s combating someone else’s worse actions, things get interesting.
Left Me Wanting More: Darkness. This is actually a pretty dark and serious book… But I think I just wanted more darkness, more shock from Alex. Maybe it was the way I went into the book. The way that the synopsis read and the way that the book was pitched, I think I was assuming that Alex would be more of a Dexter-type: a more easily-classifiable pathology, violent but with a purpose, and still loveable. I found some of those things but there seemed to be more gray area with Alex than I expected so I think I was expecting some more BIG “omg” moments, which I think a lot of content came from other characters that I didn’t expect. I actually didn’t know that it was narrated by three voices so that also threw me as well.

Addiction Rating
Try it!

This is kind of a hard recommendation for me. I was personally left with some off feelings — not bad, but off — and I just didn’t click with it somehow, which leads me to feeling hesitant about truly pushing this book to someone. BUT I think there is a lot of important content and some really important messages to not only today’s teens but really to a large audience of adults on the treatment and expectations of women, and even just our society in general.

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BOOKS LIKE THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES

(Click the cover to see my review!)

    KILLER INSTINCT

Curious Minds – Janet Evanovich & Phoef Sutton

Curious Minds – Janet Evanovich & Phoef SuttonTitle: Curious Minds (Knight & Moon #1) by Janet Evanovich, Phoef Sutton
Publishing Info: August 16, 2016 by Random House Publishing Group, Listening Library
Genres: Young Adult, Paranormal
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: August 2, 2016
Related Posts: Lean Mean Thirteen (Stephanie Plum #13), Plum Lucky (Stephanie Plum #13.5), Fearless Fourteen (Stephanie Plum #14), , Finger Lickin' Fifteen (Stephanie Plum #15), Mini-Reviews: The Audition, Plum Spooky | DNF Report: Tether, Plum Spooky (Stephanie Plum #14.5), Mini-Reviews: Sizzling Sixteen (Stephanie Plum #16) & Smokin' Seventeen (Stephanie Plum #17), Sizzling Sixteen (Stephanie Plum #16), Smokin' Seventeen (Stephanie Plum #17), Explosive Eighteen (Stephanie Plum #18), Sizzling Sixteen (Stephanie Plum #16), Mini-Reviews: Notorious Nineteen (Stephanie Plum #19), Takedown Twenty (Stephanie Plum #20), Top Secret Twenty-One (Stephanie Plum #21), Notorious Nineteen (Stephanie Plum #19), Takedown Twenty (Stephanie Plum #20), Top-Secret Twenty-One (Stephanie Plum #21), , Tricky Twenty-Two (Stephanie Plum #22), Turbo Twenty-Three (Stephanie Plum #23), Sizzling Sixteen (Stephanie Plum #16)

Emerson Knight is introverted, eccentric, and has little to no sense of social etiquette. Good thing he’s also brilliant, rich, and (some people might say) handsome, or he’d probably be homeless. Riley Moon has just graduated from Harvard Business and Harvard Law. Her aggressive Texas spitfire attitude has helped her land her dream job as a junior analyst with mega-bank Blane-Grunwald. At least Riley Moon thought it was her dream job, until she is given her first assignment: babysitting Emerson Knight.
What starts off as an inquiry about missing bank funds in the Knight account leads to inquiries about a missing man, missing gold, and a life-and-death race across the country. Through the streets of Washington, D.C., and down into the underground vault of the Federal Reserve in New York City, an evil plan is exposed. A plan so sinister that only a megalomaniac could think it up, and only the unlikely duo of the irrepressibly charming Emerson Knight and the tenacious Riley Moon can stop it.

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CURIOUS MINDS is the first book I’ve read from Janet Evanovich that wasn’t Stephanie Plum, which makes it really hard for me NOT to compare it to Plum after reading 22 novels featuring her wacky crew (and even some novellas). I guess in a way, I have to since it’s my frame of reference for her writing.

Truthfully, it was noticeable for me that it was a new series that was not Plum. I guess it wasn’t different in a bad way, but I’ve been reading Stephanie Plum for at least five years and that series just has so much personality and CURIOUS MINDS felt just a little flatter. I know that Evanovich has other series that aren’t Stephanie Plum and now I wonder how those feel — was it this book specifically or am I feeling a Plum-hangover? I liked that it wasn’t as silly as Plum novels get sometimes and yet I found myself wanting a little more from the characters and from the plot. The plot was much more detective-like versus crazy antics which I liked! I always like a little bit of a mystery to solve. I did feel that I was getting just a touch confused with so many characters having their hands in the cookie jar.

I also wonder, since this was co-written with Phoef Sutton, how much that really changed the tone. Did a co-author bring the silliness down or would that have happened anyway? Who was responsible for what? An overall picture written together? Or Sutton responsible for X characters and Evanovich responsible for Y characters? I always wonder how co-written books go! Janet Evanovich’s trademark tone was prevalent throughout the book but it was also noticeably different.

Riley was definitely a Plum-type character although quite toned down. There’s still a lot of classic Evanovich jargon and characterization there but Riley Moon was much more put together. Emerson Knight was a Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory-type character (and was even specifically compared to him) but has just a bit more social skills then Sheldon and his science is toned down just a bit. He’s basically a wealthy genius, overtly labeled an eccentric, and makes for a lot of comical moments with his awkward social responses. I did like this better than outright silly, though!

CURIOUS MINDS was fun, a quick read (aka listen — I listened to the audiobook) and just some brain candy. Like Plum novels, it didn’t really stand out for me but it was fun to experience. It’s not knocking anything out of the park for me but still enjoyable and I’ll continue the series.

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“The View from Goodreads” is a featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!

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Riley Moon // Character obsessions: Her new job, junk food, reputation
I liked Riley! She was fun without being over the top. I think especially because the audiobook narrator was the same as the Plum series, she had a Stephanie Plum sort of feel except her life wasn’t quite as in shambles.
Emerson Knight // Character obsessions: Logic, science, curiosity.
Emerson was very Sheldon Cooper except maybe with a few more socials skills and less emphasis on the geeky side. He was actually really fun! I liked all of his logic and how that played into things from a comedic side.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Non-Plum Evanovich. I know, I know, that’s like the main focus here but it’s hard not to compare after reading 22+ books by the same author! It was fun though, and a nice change of pace.
Left Me Wanting More: Clarity of characters. The detective work got a little muddy for me when there were so many characters involved and five of them were family members. I had a hard time keeping track, especially when it’s a brand-new series and I’m still getting to know existing characters!

Addiction Rating
Try it!

If you enjoy Evanovich’s other books, this one has a pretty similar feel and tone. If you’re tired of Stephanie Plum, you don’t find too much different here. It’s a light, fun, and a little bit silly read but I enjoyed it!

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BOOKS LIKE CURIOUS MINDS

(Click the cover to see my review!)

    BODY MOVERS