Review: Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarten

Suicide Notes from Beautiful GirlsTitle: Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls

Author: Lynn Weingarten

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Release Date: July 7th, 2015

Interest: Mystery / Contemp

Source: ARC received from the publisher

Summary (From Goodreads):

Gone Girl meets 13 Reasons Why in this stylish, sexy, and atmospheric story about friendship packed with twists and turns that will leave you breathless.

They say Delia burned herself to death in her stepfather’s shed. They say it was suicide.

But June doesn’t believe it.

June and Delia used to be closer than anything. Best friends in that way that comes before everyone else-before guys, before family. It was like being in love, but more. They had a billion secrets, tying them together like thin silk cords.

But one night a year ago, everything changed. June, Delia, and June’s boyfriend Ryan were just having a little fun. Their good time got out of hand. And in the cold blue light of morning, June knew only this-things would never be the same again.

And now, a year later, Delia is dead. June is certain she was murdered. And she owes it to her to find out the truth…which is far more complicated than she ever could have imagined.

Sexy, dark, and atmospheric, Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls will keep you guessing until the very last page.

I’ve been on a mystery kick this summer for some reason, so I decided to give Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarten a shot. Simon & Schuster sent me the ARC months ago and it’s been in the back of my mind since I first saw the cover. I’m happy I finally gave it a try because I really enjoyed it.

Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls takes an interesting look at friendships and relationships. We find out early on that June’s former friend Delia has killed herself, but we don’t know why or why the two girls are no longer friends. June is dating a guy named Ryan and there’s also a hint that he may be part of the reason why the girls’ friendship ended. A couple chapters into the novel the point of view switches  to third person and we get a glimpse of June and Delia as friends. I wasn’t expecting this switch, but it adds an interesting layer of mystery to the story.

These flashbacks of sorts help us see Delia as a character and another side of June. June doesn’t act the same way when she’s with Delia; she often came off as needy and insecure in these scenes. I would describe Delia as a taker and June is very much a giver and a people pleaser. June loves how different Delia is and that Delia wants them to be the best of friends who share everything. As the story progresses it’s easy to see that their friendship isn’t healthy, it’s actually quite toxic. June is wrapped up in Delia, even more so once she learns of Delia’s suicide, and this is when we see just how easy it is to be blind to what’s right in front of you. Delia has an unhealthy hold over June; they are very much co-dependent.

Honestly, it was hard to really like any of the characters in this novel, but that didn’t keep me from thoroughly enjoying it. And when I say that it’s hard to like them, it’s because they’re not good people. The characters are written well, but they’re awful to one another and those close to them. In this regard, Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls is very much like Gone Girl. I loved that book, but those characters are horrendous. I want to go into this more, but Lynn Weingarten wrote a book that’s difficult to review without revealing major spoilers.

Recently I was watching VH1 early in the morning since nothing good was on TV while I played with Jack and the music video for “Cool for the Summer” by Demi Lovato came on. I love the song, but I had never watched the video before. As I watched it, I instantly thought of Delia. She’s wild, shameless, and daring. If anyone else has read this book, please let me know if you think this is off-base or if you agree. I watched the video again before I started writing this review and I still feel the same way.

Anyway, Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls is a page turner for sure.  It will keep you guessing until the final page. When I finished my instant reaction was “I need to discuss this ending with someone ASAP!” I have spoken with two friends about it, but I’m still not sure what I think. I’m leaning mostly towards one idea, but there’s still a small part of me that thinks something else could have happened. Read it and let me know what you think!

Similar Reads: Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbard, Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, You by Charles Benoit

Review: The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

The FixerTitle: The Fixer

Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens

Release Date: July 7th, 2015

Interest: Mystery/Thriller

Source: ARC received from the publisher

Summary (From Goodreads):

This thriller YA is Scandal meets Veronica Mars.

Sixteen-year-old Tess Kendrick has spent her entire life on her grandfather’s ranch. But when her estranged sister Ivy uproots her to D.C., Tess is thrown into a world that revolves around politics and power. She also starts at Hardwicke Academy, the D.C. school for the children of the rich and powerful, where she unwittingly becomes a fixer for the high school set, fixing teens’ problems the way her sister fixes their parents’ problems.

And when a conspiracy surfaces that involves the family member of one of Tess’s classmates, love triangles and unbelievable family secrets come to light and life gets even more interesting—and complicated—for Tess.

Perfect for fans of Pretty Little Liars and Heist Society, readers will be clamoring for this compelling teen drama with a political twist.

I forgot how much fun it is to read a good mystery until I read The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. This is going to be a class favorite this upcoming school year.

I’ve only watched the show Scandal a handful of times, but I know enough about the show that fans will enjoy The Fixer. The political intrigue is there, as well as the personal backstories. The suspense is paced well and nothing was ever in-your-face obvious about how the story would end. In fact, one element of the plot really surprised me.

Something I really appreciate about Jennifer Lynn Barnes’s latest release is that there isn’t a strong love element. I thoroughly enjoy a good love story, but it’s refreshing to read a book without love at the forefront of the story. And while I encourage my students to see books not as books for girls or books for boys, but as books for readers, I do understand that many of my boys don’t want to read a romance. Not all of my girls want to read a romance. I know those students will be thrilled to read The Fixer and know that they can focus on the fun of the mystery.

As much as I enjoyed the mystery, I really enjoyed the characters and their relationships in this story. Tess is tough and independent like her older sister Ivy, but despite their similarities they have a tense relationship. Watching their relationship grow and evolve was a definite highlight for me. Tess’s friends really made The Fixer shine. The friendships allow readers to see Tess as a champion for the underdog, Vivie and Henry in particular. Asher really brings out Tess’s quick wit.

If you’re looking for a fun page-turner, then look no further than The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes.

Other reviews of The Fixer:

The Fixer easily becomes one of my favorite reads this year. Without doubt, this book is joining my Top Ten Favorite Reads of this year.” ~Young Adult Hollywood 

“It’s fast paced, tense, brilliantly plotted and filled with a whole host of intriguing characters.” ~The Review Diaries

Book Trailer Thursday (171)–Keepers of the Labyrinth by Erin E. Moulton

Book Trailer Thursday

Many of my reader friends are fans of mythology and action/adventure, so I’m surprised Keepers of the Labyrinth by Erin E. Moulton isn’t on more to-read lists. It releases on August 25th, so it’s my plan to try and read it before schools starts I can book talk it to my students.

Keepers of the LabyrinthSummary (From Goodreads):

Courage is tested, myths come to life, and long-held secrets are revealed

Lilith Bennette runs at midnight. She scales walls in the dark and climbs without a harness. She hopes that if she follows exactly in the steps of her strong air force pilot mother, she’ll somehow figure out the mystery of her mother’s death—and the reason why her necklace of Greek symbols has been missing ever since.

So when Lil is invited to Crete for a Future Leaders International conference, the same conference her mom attended years ago, she jumps at the chance to find some answers. But things in Melios Manor are not what they seem. Lil finds herself ensnared in an adventure of mythological proportions that leads her and her friends through the very labyrinth in which the real Minotaur was imprisoned. And they’re not in there alone. What secrets does the labyrinth hold, and will they help Lil find the truth about her mother?

This book is perfect for older fans of Percy Jackson and the Olympians and the Heroes of Olympus–and anyone who wants to find out the true story behind the magic of the Greek gods.

Book Trailer Thursday (150)–Conversion by Katherine Howe

Book Trailer Thursday

So it’s been two months since I’ve written a Book Trailer Thursday post. Sorry, all! I do have what I think is an interesting trailer/book featured today. I like the idea of pairing Conversion by Katherine Howe with The Crucible, although I’ll have to read it first and see just how well it parallels the play. Either way, this book has my attention.

ConversionSummary (From Goodreads):

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane comes a chilling mystery—Prepmeets The Crucible. 
 
It’s senior year at St. Joan’s Academy, and school is a pressure cooker. College applications, the battle for valedictorian, deciphering boys’ texts: Through it all, Colleen Rowley and her friends are expected to keep it together. Until they can’t.
 
First it’s the school’s queen bee, Clara Rutherford, who suddenly falls into uncontrollable tics in the middle of class. Her mystery illness quickly spreads to her closest clique of friends, then more students and symptoms follow: seizures, hair loss, violent coughing fits. St. Joan’s buzzes with rumor; rumor blossoms into full-blown panic.
 
Soon the media descends on Danvers, Massachusetts, as everyone scrambles to find something, or someone, to blame. Pollution? Stress? Or are the girls faking? Only Colleen—who’s been reading The Crucible for extra credit—comes to realize what nobody else has: Danvers was once Salem Village, where another group of girls suffered from a similarly bizarre epidemic three centuries ago . . .
 
Inspired by true events—from seventeenth-century colonial life to the halls of a modern-day high school—Conversion casts a spell. With her signature wit and passion, New York Times bestselling author Katherine Howe delivers an exciting and suspenseful novel, a chilling mystery that raises the question, what’s really happening to the girls at St. Joan’s?

Waiting on Wednesday–Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn

wow

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine.  It’s designed for bloggers to spotlight the upcoming releases that they simply can’t wait to read.

My husband and I are in the process of preparing for our first child to be born (we’re having a little boy!) and we’re in the process of getting our house ready to sell. Life is a little hectic in our neck of the woods. Consequently, I’m trying my best to save money which means I’m buying fewer books. Let’s be honest, it’s not like I don’t have enough books to read in my house! :) HOWEVER. Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn just might be one of the few books I let myself buy this summer because it sounds THAT GOOD.

ComplicitTitle & Author: Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn

Release Date: June 24th, 2014

Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin

Summary (From Goodreads):

Two years ago, sixteen-year-old Jamie Henry breathed a sigh of relief when a judge sentenced his older sister to juvenile detention for burning down their neighbor’s fancy horse barn. The whole town did. Because Crazy Cate Henry used to be a nice girl. Until she did a lot of bad things. Like drinking. And stealing. And lying. Like playing weird mind games in the woods with other children. Like making sure she always got her way. Or else.

But today Cate got out. And now she’s coming back for Jamie.

Because more than anything, Cate Henry needs her little brother to know the truth about their past. A truth she’s kept hidden for years. A truth she’s not supposed to tell. 

Trust nothing and no one as you race toward the explosive conclusion of this gripping psychological thriller from the William C. Morris Award-winning author of Charm & Strange.

 

Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

We Were LiarsTitle: We Were Liars

Author: E. Lockhart

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Release Date: May 13th, 2014

Interest: Contemp / Author

Source: ARC received from the publisher

Summary (From Goodreads):

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.
Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

I’ve been sitting on this review for a couple months now trying to decide the best way to write it. I’ve decided that I’m going to keep this incredibly simple and quite vague. After book talking this to a couple different classes, I’m confident that the less you know, the better off you are.

First of all, telling my students what I just wrote above about it being best to not know much about this book has sold many of them. I’ll read them the summary, tell them that, and read the first chapter so they can get a feel for E. Lockhart’s writing and the story itself. We Were Liars sells itself.

Speaking of Lockhart’s writing, it’s gorgeous and lyrical. I’ve always appreciated her writing, especially the way she wrote The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, but her writing in We Were Liars has been taken to the next level. Maybe even to the next two or three levels. It’s writing that I wanted to savor while also making me want to read faster. E. Lockhart has crafted an intriguing novel so full of suspense and wonder that I had to keep reading even late into the night on a school night. (Full disclosure: I really love my sleep, so staying up late to read on a school night doesn’t happen all that often.) The level of mystery and suspense brings me to my next point.

There is SO MUCH HYPE about We Were Liars and all the mystery and suspense (and deservedly so!). This is where I’m going to start being extra vague. You want to go into this book blind and not know why there’s mystery and suspense. It will ruin it because it ruined it for me. I focused too much on things I read in reviews and didn’t let the story happen. Take me on my word that this book has beautiful writing and it will make you want to keep reading, so make sure you start reading this when you have time to spare. You may find yourself confused at times and that’s okay. Just keep reading. And let’s chat when you finish because I’m sure you’ll want to talk to someone about this book. I sure did.

And there you have it. Probably the vaguest review I’ve ever written, but I’m sure this is the best way to go about it. I thoroughly enjoyed We Were Liars and love discussing it with my students. I can’t wait to chat with some of you once you read it, too. It’s a book that will probably stick with many of you for a while after finishing it.

Book Trailer Thursday (146)–Cold Calls by Charles Benoit

Book Trailer Thursday

Yesterday I read the first few pages of You by Charles Benoit to one of my classes of seniors just to give them a quick sample. One of the girls in class was interested and decided to check it out. This afternoon I received an email from her saying she emailed the author about liking the book and asking him why he wrote it in second person. She sent me a copy of his reply (which was very cool) and he also included information about his newest book Cold Calls which releases on April 1st. He also included a link to the book trailer. My student said I should feature the Cold Calls book trailer on my blog, so here you go! :)

Cold CallsSummary (From Goodreads):

In the vein of the teen suspense classics I Know What You Did Last Summer and The Face on the Milk Carton, Cold Calls is a chilling thriller, an unsettling mystery, and a provocative exploration of bullying, culpability, and the cost of keeping secrets.

Three high school students-Eric, Shelly, and Fatima-have one thing in common: “I know your secret.”
Each one is blackmailed into bullying specifically targeted schoolmates by a mysterious caller who whispers from their cell phones and holds carefully guarded secrets over their heads. But how could anyone have obtained that photo, read those hidden pages, uncovered this buried past? Thrown together, the three teens join forces to find the stranger who threatens them-before time runs out and their shattering secrets are revealed . . .

This suspenseful, pitch-perfect mystery-thriller raises timely questions about privacy, bullying, and culpability.

Waiting on Wednesday–Blood of My Blood by Barry Lyga

wow

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine.  It’s designed for bloggers to spotlight the upcoming releases that they simply can’t wait to read.

My life has been a little overwhelming as of late (mostly in good ways), which is why I haven’t been reading or posting anything. Christmas break felt like the first time I was able to relax since getting back from NCTE in Boston, but then I came back to school and was swamped with the end of the semester and midterm exams. I’ve noticed that I always go through a blogging/reading slump in January, however, and end up picking right back up where I left off in February. I sure hope that’s the case this year! Do any of you go through blogging/reading slumps at this time of year?

Anyway, I’m SUPER excited about the upcoming release of Barry Lyga’s newest book in the Jasper Dent series. This cover is fantastic, although a little different than the first two books’ covers. Regardless, it’s eye-catching and going to intrigue my students. Blood of My Blood doesn’t release for a while, but I couldn’t resist posting about it. I would avoid reading the summary if you haven’t read this series.

Blood of My BloodTitle & Author: Blood of My Blood by Barry Lyga

Release Date: September 22nd, 2014

Publisher: Little, Brown

Summary (From Goodreads):

Jazz Dent has been shot and left to die in New York City. His girlfriend Connie is in the clutches of Jazz’s serial killer father, Billy. And his best friend Howie is bleeding to death on the floor of Jazz’s own home in tiny Lobo’s Nod. Somehow, these three must rise above the horrors their lives have become and find a way to come together in pursuit of Billy. But then Jazz crosses a line he’s never crossed before, and soon the entire country is wondering: “Like father, like son?” Who is the true monster?

The chase is on, and this time Jazz is the hunted, not the hunter. And beyond Billy there lurks something much, much worse. Prepare to meet…the Crow King.

Book Trailer Thursday (139)–The Apothecary by Maile Meloy

Book Trailer Thursday

First, thanks to all of you who commented last week with suggestions for Book Trailer Thursday! One of the suggestions was to feature more middle grade book trailers. Thankfully I was able to find one today!

A couple months ago I went to a local overstock store and found a copy of The Apothecary by Maile Meloy. I haven’t read it yet, but it sounds like a fun book that middle grade students would really enjoy. The trailer has elements of mystery and whimsy that I really like, too. What do you think?

The ApothecarySummary (From Goodreads):

It’s 1952 and the Scott family has just moved from Los Angeles to London. Here, fourteen-year-old Janie meets a mysterious apothecary and his son, Benjamin Burrows—a fascinating boy who’s not afraid to stand up to authority and dreams of becoming a spy. When Benjamin’s father is kidnapped, Janie and Benjamin must uncover the secrets of the apothecary’s sacred book, the Pharmacopoeia, in order to find him, all while keeping it out of the hands of their enemies—Russian spies in possession of nuclear weapons. Discovering and testing potions they never believed could exist, Janie and Benjamin embark on a dangerous race to save the apothecary and prevent impending disaster.

Review: Golden by Jessi Kirby

GoldenTitle: Golden

Author: Jessi Kirby

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Release Date: May 14th, 2013

Interest: Author / Contemp

Source: Purchased

Summary (From Goodreads):

Seventeen-year-old Parker Frost has never taken the road less traveled. Valedictorian and quintessential good girl, she’s about to graduate high school without ever having kissed her crush or broken the rules. So when fate drops a clue in her lap—one that might be the key to unraveling a town mystery—she decides to take a chance.

Julianna Farnetti and Shane Cruz are remembered as the golden couple of Summit Lakes High—perfect in every way, meant to be together forever. But Julianna’s journal tells a different story—one of doubts about Shane and a forbidden romance with an older, artistic guy. These are the secrets that were swept away with her the night that Shane’s jeep plunged into an icy river, leaving behind a grieving town and no bodies to bury.

Reading Julianna’s journal gives Parker the courage to start to really live—and it also gives her reasons to question what really happened the night of the accident. Armed with clues from the past, Parker enlists the help of her best friend, Kat, and Trevor, her longtime crush, to track down some leads. The mystery ends up taking Parker places that she never could have imagined. And she soon finds that taking the road less traveled makes all the difference.

Jessi Kirby’s books keep getting better and better. I bought my copy of Golden over the summer and am now angry with myself for not reading it right away; it’s that good. I’m not sure how to put words to all of my thoughts about this book, so this review is going to be written as a list.

1. Julianna’s journal. I love that Jessi Kirby added Julianna’s journal entries to the story. It takes the story to a whole new level because of the romance and mystery it adds.

2. Mr. Kinney’s journal assignment. I love the quote he had students respond to: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” –Mary Oliver. He gives his seniors notebooks and says, “Fill it up with words that make a picture of who they are, things they may forget later on, after so many years, and want to look back on” (11). I love the idea and want to find a way to mimic this assignment with my seniors.

3. The cover. This book cover is gorgeous! Besides my raving about it, the cover will draw my students to this book.

4. The relationships. Parker deals with a strained relationship with her mother, the threat of losing her best friend when she leaves for college, deciding if she should give her long-time crush a chance, and of course Julianna and Shane’s relationship. They’re blended together and balanced perfectly so it never feels like one part of the story outweighs another.

5. Parker’s growth as a character. Parker’s character is one of the many reasons I love contemporary realistic fiction. She’s afraid to let anyone down and that fear has held her back. She discovers a lot about herself through Julianna’s journal. I know a lot of students who are very similar to Parker. Senior year is often scary for students which is one of the reasons why I appreciate Jessi Kirby writing Parker’s story.

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