Review | The Half Life of Molly Pierce by Katrina Leno

You take it for granted. Waking up. Going to school, talking to your friends. Watching a show on television or reading a book or going out to lunch.

You take for granted going to sleep at night, getting up the next day, and remembering everything that happened to you before you closed your eyes.

You live and you remember.

Me, I live and I forget.

But now—now I am remembering.

For all of her seventeen years, Molly feels like she’s missed bits and pieces of her life. Now, she’s figuring out why. Now, she’s remembering her own secrets. And in doing so, Molly uncovers the separate life she seems to have led…and the love that she can’t let go.

The Half Life of Molly Pierce is a suspenseful, evocative psychological mystery about uncovering the secrets of our pasts, facing the unknowns of our futures, and accepting our whole selves.

2.5 cupcakes

The Half Life of Molly Pierce is a book that very much depends on readers piecing together the story surrounding Molly’s blackouts at the same time that Molly, herself, does. Having learned about the disorder that the story depicts in my psychology classes, it didn’t take long for me to figure out what was going on; as a result, the pacing felt rather slow, and the predictability detracted from my enjoyment of the book. Furthermore, the ending lacked the psychological depth that I was expecting; Molly’s disorder was brushed off as something that just happened, although the emotional depth that resulted from it was quite a welcome addition.

The saving grace of The Half Life of Molly Pierce is the way in which it was told. Stream of consciousness is a narration style that I fell in love with after reading A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and it was just as effectively employed here. This intimate look into Molly’s thoughts allows readers to further sympathize with her character, and added a sense of urgency to the mystery. Molly’s voice was incredibly engaging due to the fact that she is an unreliable narrator, and that her drive to figure out what is wrong with her seems at odds with her diminishing will to keep on living.

Overall, The Half Life of Molly Pierce wasn’t quite what I had hoped for. The writing was beautiful and compelling, but it couldn’t make up for the lack of psychological depth and suspense that this story was lacking.

Book Review: Dangerous Boys by Abigail Haas

Three teens venture into the abandoned Monroe estate one night; hours later, only two emerge from the burning wreckage. Chloe drags one Reznick brother to safety, unconscious and bleeding; the other is left to burn, dead in the fire. But which brother survives? And is his death a tragic accident? Desperate self-defense? Or murder?

Chloe is the only one with the answers. As the fire rages, and police and parents demand the truth, she struggles to piece together the story of how they got there-a story of jealousy, twisted passion, and the darkness that lurks behind even the most beautiful of faces…

3.5 cupcakes

Dangerous Boys was not exactly what I had expected. It was very much a psychological thriller but, unlike Dangerous Girls, the main focus isn’t on solving the murder: it’s on the characters, and how they evolve over the course of the story.

The mystery itself was just as enthralling as that of Dangerous Girls, even if it was much slower paced. Every scene is important, offering up clues as to which brother survived, and the deeper you get into the book, the more chilling it becomes. Haas shows how every bad thought we have slowly strips away the masks that we wear, until our sinister, inner demons are on full display. She shows how the people in our lives help shape the people that we are to become – for better or for worse – and how seemingly inconsequential actions can have dramatic effects.

Overall, I enjoyed reading Dangerous Boys, but not quite as much as I enjoyed Dangerous Girls. That being said, though, Abigail Haas is definitely on my “authors to watch” list, and I look forward to reading any other “dangerous” books she comes out with next!

Book Review: Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas

It’s Spring Break of senior year. Anna, her boyfriend Tate, her best friend Elise, and a few other close friends are off to a debaucherous trip to Aruba that promises to be the time of their lives. But when Elise is found brutally murdered, Anna finds herself trapped in a country not her own, fighting against vile and contemptuous accusations.

As Anna sets out to find her friend’s killer; she discovers hard truths about her friendships, the slippery nature of truth, and the ache of young love.

As she awaits the judge’s decree, it becomes clear that everyone around her thinks she is not just guilty, but dangerous. When the truth comes out, it is more shocking than one could ever imagine…

4 cupcakes

Wouldn’t we all look guilty, if someone searched hard enough?

Dangerous Girls is an incredibly difficult book to review, given that any preconceived notions will dampen this reading experience. It’s incredibly well-crafted, suspenseful, and so much darker than I had expected.

The trial itself was very authentic and carefully researched. It was frustrating, enraging, and so incredibly intense, making it very easy for me to become completely invested in its outcome. Anna’s account of the event was completely enthralling, and it was easy to see how the media could become caught up in painting her as a “cold blooded killer” – and somewhat scary to think about how this actually happens.

Dangerous Girls‘ strongest feature, though, is the way in which it is told. The present murder trial is interspersed with flashbacks starting from how Anna and Elise met and leading up until the present day. While this helped me piece together who the murderer was, it also caused me to suspect absolutely everyone. Despite this thick layer of suspicion, I still wasn’t expecting the reveal at the end, and I can honestly say that I’m still reeling from it.

Overall, Dangerous Girls was a twisted, psychological thriller that completely messed with my mind. And I loved every minute of it.

Saturday Showcase (August 23)

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Saturday Showcase is a weekly event hosted here at The In-Between Place which features books that you wish more people had read (or, at least, heard about).

This week’s featured book is Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas, which I’ve reviewed here.

It’s Spring Break of senior year. Anna, her boyfriend Tate, her best friend Elise, and a few other close friends are off to a debaucherous trip to Aruba that promises to be the time of their lives. But when Elise is found brutally murdered, Anna finds herself trapped in a country not her own, fighting against vile and contemptuous accusations.

As Anna sets out to find her friend’s killer; she discovers hard truths about her friendships, the slippery nature of truth, and the ache of young love.

As she awaits the judge’s decree, it becomes clear that everyone around her thinks she is not just guilty, but dangerous. When the truth comes out, it is more shocking than one could ever imagine…

Dangerous Girls is one of the most excellent psychological thrillers I’ve ever read. It’s enthralling, twisted, and unpredictable — and I loved absolutely every minute of it.

What are some of your favourite underrated books? Leave a list in the comments below.
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Book Review: Dear Killer by Katherine Ewell

Rule One—Nothing is right, nothing is wrong.
Rule Two—Be careful.
Rule Three—Fight using your legs whenever possible, because they’re the strongest part of your body. Your arms are the weakest.
Rule Four—Hit to kill. The first blow should be the last, if at all possible.
Rule Five—The letters are the law.

Kit takes her role as London’s notorious “Perfect Killer” seriously. The letters and cash that come to her via a secret mailbox are not a game; choosing who to kill is not an impulse decision. Every letter she receives begins with “Dear Killer,” and every time Kit murders, she leaves a letter with the dead body. Her moral nihilism and thus her murders are a way of life—the only way of life she has ever known.

But when a letter appears in the mailbox that will have the power to topple Kit’s convictions as perfectly as she commits her murders, she must make a decision: follow the only rules she has ever known, or challenge Rule One, and go from there.

Katherine Ewell’s Dear Killer is a sinister psychological thriller that explores the thin line between good and evil, and the messiness of that inevitable moment when life contradicts everything you believe.

1.5 cupcakes
“Nothing is right and nothing is wrong. For some people a thing may be right, and for others it may be wrong. There is no greater truth to morality – it is merely an opinion.”

Dear Killer is a book that requires a lot of suspension of disbelief. While I could easily overlook the fact that the Perfect Killer was a seventeen year old girl (even though it’s statistically unlikely), there were so many gaping plot holes that I couldn’t ignore – and, believe me, I tried. The officers of Scotland Yard were made out to be complete idiots, the murders were committed with literally one kick, and any potential evidence was completely disregarded.

The main thing that I just couldn’t believe in, though, was the letters. People send in letters to the Perfect Killer, and those letters are found next to the dead body after the request is filled. Given that most of those letters say something like “kill my husband” or “kill my sister,” it should be incredibly easy to find out who wrote the letter and use them to find out where the location of the mailbox is… right?

Our main character, Kit, definitely didn’t live up to my expectations. Despite the “Perfect Killer” moniker, Kit is anything but perfect; she makes so many rookie mistakes, and I was continuously wondering how she had managed to evade the detection of Scotland Yard for so long. It was, however, really interesting being inside Kit’s head, since the reasons she chose her victims and the reason she killed was so twisted yet intriguing.

The one facet of the story that I really enjoyed was the discussion of moral relativism, and how our perception of good and evil changes based on our life experiences. While the philosophical debate wasn’t as in-depth as I would have liked, it was interesting to see how Kit’s worldview changes in response to this information – even if it did lead to inconsistent characterization.

Overall, between gaping plot holes, inconsistent characterization, and an anticlimactic ending, Dear Killer was quite a disappointing read.

Waiting On Wednesday (April 30)

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Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly book meme hosted by Breaking the Spine, which spotlights upcoming releases that are eagerly anticipated.

This week, I’m waiting on Made For You by Melissa Marr, which has an expected publication date of September 16, 2014.

Bestselling author of the Wicked Lovely books Melissa Marr’s first contemporary YA novel is a twisted southern gothic tale of obsession, romance, and murder. A killer is obsessed with Eva Tilling. Can she stop him, or will he claim her?

When Eva Tilling wakes up in the hospital, she’s confused—who in her sleepy little North Carolina town could have hit her with their car? And why? But before she can consider the question, she finds that she’s awoken with a strange new skill: the ability to foresee people’s deaths when they touch her. While she is recovering from the hit-and-run, Nate, an old flame, reappears, and the two must traverse their rocky past as they figure out how to use Eva’s power to keep her friends—and themselves—alive. But while Eva and Nate grow closer, the killer grows increasingly frantic in his attempt to get to Eva.

For the first time, New York Times bestselling author Melissa Marr has applied her extraordinary talent to contemporary realism. Chilling twists, unrequited obsession, and high-stakes romance drive this Gothic, racy thriller—a story of small-town oppression and salvation. Melissa’s fans, and every YA reader, will find its wild ride enthralling.

I absolutely loved the Wicked Lovely series, so I can’t wait to read Made For You! Gothic thrillers are one of my favourite genres of books, and this one seems beautifully creepy and intriguing.

What books are you waiting on this Wednesday? Leave me a list in the comments below. 3

Book Review: The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman

It was like a nightmare, but there was no waking up.

When the night began, Nora had two best friends and a boyfriend she adored. When it ended, she had nothing but blood on her hands. Chris was dead. Adriane couldn’t speak. And Max, Nora’s sweet, smart, soft-spoken Prince Charming, was gone. He was also—according to the police, according to her parents, according to everyone—a murderer.

Desperate to prove his innocence, Nora’s determined to follow the trail of blood, no matter where it leads. But Chris’s murder is just one piece in a puzzle that spans continents and centuries. Solving it may be the only way she can save her own life.

My Rating: 4 cupcakes

To say that The Book of Blood and Shadow is a YA version of The Da Vinci Code is a fairly apt comparison: puzzles within historical documents, intrigue, and murder are definitely important pieces of this story. And though I wasn’t crazy about The Da Vinci Code, I absolutely loved the adventure that The Book of Blood and Shadow took me on.

From the opening line, “I should probably start with the blood,” I was instantly drawn into the story. Although the majority of the action didn’t start until a quarter of the way through the book, Wasserman excelled at building enough intrigue and dread that I hung on to every word. Once the pace picked up, it really got going — betrayals, twists, and turns kept me wondering just where the story would head next and, more often than not, proved my predictions to be wrong time and time again.

Easily my favourite portions of the story involved reading Elizabeth’s letters and how they tied into the Voynich manuscript, which I was surprised to learn actually does exist. There was enough overlap between Elizabeth’s letters and the occurrences in Nora’s life to transition between them nicely, while giving Elizabeth a distinct and compelling enough voice to leave me just as enthralled by her as Nora was.

I found myself equally drawn to the main cast of characters. Nora was incredibly easy to relate to, despite the fact that she’s put through hell and back again in this book. She’s intelligent, both academically and in terms of how she views the world. And Nora knows how to translate Latin, which is impressive and something that I hadn’t seen in a YA protagonist before.

I made the unfortunate mistake of falling for Nora’s best friend Chris, despite knowing how his story would end. His relationship with Nora was sweet to read about, and his endearing, heart-warming personality made it even more heartbreaking when the events from the synopsis came to fruition. I wasn’t quite sure how to feel about the other boys in Nora’s life: Max and Eli. They were certainly mysterious, charming at times and slightly creepy at others, so it was a lot of fun trying to determine if they would be guilty or not.

Overall, The Book of Blood and Shadow was a slow-building, captivating read that kept me guessing until the very end.

Book Review: I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga

What if the world’s worst serial killer…was your dad?

Jasper “Jazz” Dent is a likable teenager. A charmer, one might say.

But he’s also the son of the world’s most infamous serial killer, and for Dear Old Dad, Take Your Son to Work Day was year-round. Jazz has witnessed crime scenes the way cops wish they could—from the criminal’s point of view.And now bodies are piling up in Lobo’s Nod.

In an effort to clear his name, Jazz joins the police in a hunt for a new serial killer. But Jazz has a secret—could he be more like his father than anyone knows?

My Rating: 5 cupcakes

After finally getting around to watching Dexter, I’ve been intrigued by serial killers and the inner workings of their minds. As sociopaths who are often very intelligent, they have a much different worldview than the average individual which makes them quite interesting to study. In I Hunt Killers, readers find themselves inside the head of the son of the most infamous serial killer, who brings to light the disturbing nature of this profession.

Jasper Dent is an extremely complex and sympathetic character. He’s likeable and in many ways your average teenage boy – aside from his sociopathic tendencies and the fear that he may not be able to stop himself from harming others. At the heart of this fear is the nature vs. nurture debate, which has always intrigued me: can an innate sense of morality overcome an unconventional (read: truly disturbing) upbringing? Or are violent compulsions primarily a product of the environment? These questions are constantly running through Jazz’s mind, to the point where he deliberately chooses a girlfriend who doesn’t fit his father’s typical victim profile. Jazz’s narration is peppered with gallows humour that made me laugh despite the heavy subject matter.

“Jazz hadn’t given her many details of what life in the Dent house had been like, but he’d told her enough that she knew it wasn’t hearts and flowers. Well, except for the occasional heart cut from a chest. And the kind of flowers you send to a funeral.”

I loved these bits of humour that were added to the story – especially the remarks that came from Jazz’s best friend, Howie. Howie is supportive and willing to put himself into all kinds of danger for Jazz. His unconditional love for his best friend was touching and served to humanize Jazz even more, though it also made the serious scenes feel more dramatic and disturbing.

Despite the likeable characters and slightly humourous tone, I Hunt Killers is certainly not for the faint of heart. The descriptions of the murders are graphic, and the psychological aspects are just as dark and disturbing. For the right audience, though, this will provide an unforgettable reading experience.