The Death of Mrs. Westaway, by Ruth Ware (2018)

Mystery
Adult
The Death of Mrs. Westaway, by Ruth WareThis new mystery from British writer Ruth Ware (The Woman in Cabin 10 and In a Dark, Dark Wood) is a lot of fun from start to finish. I keep thinking it’s like a grown-up Nancy Drew mystery (in a good way!), with a more realistic and nicely flawed heroine caught in a web of deceit and murder. Hal Westaway is 21, living alone in Brighton three years after her mother was brutally killed by a hit and run driver. With no income and few options, she picks up her mum’s tarot cards and continues her business on the pier. Read More »

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People Like Us, by Dana Mele (2018)

Mystery
14-18
People Like Us, by Dana MeleSo I guess boarding school murders are a thing! This is my second review for today, as I couldn’t help bundling these together given their plot similarities. This one is set in the U.S., on the east coast. Bates Academy is a boarding school for privileged girls from elite families, with a scholarship program that gives Kay Donovan a spot, despite her humble background. As this is her big break, Kay befriends the right group and despite a habit of stocking her closet with borrowed clothes she “forgets” to return, her sharp wit and withering comments quickly earn her a coveted spot in the leadership clique. Now in fourth year, the girls put on the Skeleton costume dance for Halloween, and the book opens as the dance ends and the girls meet at the lake for the annual skinny dip. To their shock, they discover a body in the water, a student named Jessica Lane. Read More »

S.T.A.G.S., by M.A. Bennett (2017, 2018)

Mystery
13-16
S.T.A.G.S by M.A. BennettWhat is it about boarding schools that both fascinates and horrifies? I suppose the nostalgia of stories from Enid Blyton to J.K. Rowling’s Hogwarts lets us imagine them as a place of besties and grand adventure; the reality of spending every waking moment with the bullies and beasts that populated my high schol is probably more realistic! This novel definitely skews toward the nasty. The subtitle on the North American edition of this British mystery says it all: “Nine students. Three blood sports. One deadly weekend.” From the start, we learn someone dies, and that someone is Henry de Warlencourt, leader of the school’s prefects known as the Medievals. And our protagonist calls herself a murderer, or at least one of them. Read More »

As You Wish, by Chelsea Sedoti (2018)

Fantasy
14-18
As You Wish, by Chelsea SedotiBe careful what you wish for. That’s the lesson Eldon Wilkes is learning as he approaches his 18th birthday, a big event in the isolated town of Madison, Nevada. That’s when you get to make a wish and – it will happen. Oh, sure, there are rules. You can’t wish for more wishes, and you can’t ask for something that will impact the outside world (like world peace, or being a pro NFL player) but the locals are pretty good at finding ways to get what they want. Money is a common request, as is beauty, and happiness. Some wishes are funny – a truck, or a lifetime supply of pot. Others speak to the desperation in some lives – to be loved, or for transcripts good enough to get into Harvard and away the hell from Madison. Read More »

GIRL: Love, Sex, Romance, and Being You, by Karen Rayne (2017)

Nonfiction
14-21
Girl: Love, Sex, Romance, and Being You by Karen RayneImagine having an highly discreet older sister who is there every time you have a question that there’s  no WAY you’d ever ask your mum or coolest teacher or even your best friend. Questions about STIs and not getting pregnant or being bisexual or what to expect on a date or how to insert a tampon right so it doesn’t hurt or all the other things that crop up for young people who identify as girls. Written by psychologist and educator Karen Rayne, the book’s stated intent is to address what it means to be a girl, physically, emotionally, and sexually. It’s exactly the kind of book I sought out in my teens as I tried to navigate relationships with my family and friends, transitioning into adulthood while exploring my identity. Read More »

Zero Repeat Forever, by G.S. Prendergast (2017)

Science Fiction
14-18
Zero Repeat Forever, by G.S. PrendergastCalgary teens Raven, her boyfriend Tucker, and Tucker’s twin Topher are all sent to do community service as camp counsellors in the Alberta foothills of the Canadian Rockies. While they are in training, aliens called Nahx invade Earth, and the teen campers are left to fend for themselves. Their only hope is to hunker down, “sheltering in place” and wait for a rescue, but weeks pass and no one comes. When a Nahx kills Tucker while he is on a hunt for food, Raven and Topher swear revenge. But are all the Nahx killers? Eighth is a Nahx who struggles against the directives to “Dart the humans. Leave them where they fall.” When Eighth uncovers Raven’s hiding place, he chooses to not dart her, but instead protects her from the other Nahx. Read More »

The Massacre of Mankind, by Stephen Baxter (2017)

Science Fiction
13-Adult
Massacre of Mankind by Stephen BaxterWhat if the Martians came back? That is the premise of this sci-fi novel by Stephen Baxter, billed as an ‘authorised’ sequel to H. G. Wells’ War of the Worlds. The story opens 13 years after the end of Wells’ classic tale. I do recommend reading the original story prior to starting this one, if you haven’t done so recently. It really helps with understanding the relationships between people in this book, as Baxter’s story revives the same characters. While the narrator in War of the Worlds was never named, he appears here as Walter Jenkins, and it is his former sister-in-law, Julie Elphinstone, a journalist who was one of the two women Walter’s brother “rescued” in his 1907 escape from the Martians, who serves as the narrator in this one. Read More »