Posted on May 14th, 2014 by audra
In these categories Review

Book Title: Dear Killer
Author: Katherine Ewell
Release Date: April 1, 2014
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Source: Publisher Arc

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.

Kit was taught from a very young age to be a skilled serial killer. Tucked away in a English home where everything looks normal, Kit does the bidding of anonymous requests left behind in a coffee shop- to kill someone. Throughout this novel we get to see her struggles with her mother, her absent father, her letter writers and of course herself.

I was initially drawn to this story in hopes of filling the void that Dexter left on my heart. I absolutely loved that tv show so when a friend told me that Dear Killer had a mother like Dexter, teaching her kid how to become an untraceable murderer. The struggles shown by Kit were tough. She has to navigate the perfect person her mom wants her to be, the perfect student her teacher wants her to be. That’s a whole heck of a lot to shoulder in your formative years and now you’ve got to add the serial murders to the mix and of course slip ups are bound to happen.

This is an impressive debut novel with only miniscule issues in my book. There was only one glaringly obvious one to me, and that was the fact that this is set in England, yet there was a distinct lack of British terminology. I think this would have really given the book the extra flavor that it needed. Also, on the surface I want to say that it was difficult to suspend my disbelief a bit for some of the things that go on, but I mean, when you’re talking about a teenaged trained serial killer, how much of that is entirely believable?

Dear Killer was a unique read that managed to keep my attention the entire time. It brought me back to a phase I went through in college when I absolutely devoured Patricia Cornwell’s Scarpetta series. I can’t wait to see what Ewell comes up with next, she definitely has a fan from me with whatever she writes after Dear Killer.

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Posted on May 11th, 2014 by audra
In these categories Review, Society's Bookshelf

Book Title: Fugitive X
Author: Gregg Rosenblum
Release Date: January 7, 2014
Publisher: HarperTeen
Source: Edelweiss

Their fight for freedom is humanity’s last hope for survival. The chilling Revolution 19 trilogy continues in Fugitive X.

A war between humans and robots is on the horizon, and only one side will survive.

Siblings Nick, Kevin, and Cass are struggling to survive in a world where deadly, sophisticated robots have turned on their creators and enslaved mankind. Fugitives from one of the bot-controlled Cities, the siblings venture into the woods, but when they are attacked by bot foot soldiers, the siblings are separated…and for the first time, they are on their own.

Created in conjunction with Alloy Entertainment; Howard Gordon, showrunner of 24 and Showtime’s Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning Homeland; and James Wong, writer-director of the Final Destination films, Fugitive X is the gripping next installment in the cinematic Revolution 19 series.

Fugitive x takes us where Revolution 19 ended with Nick, Cass and Kevin navigating their way through the forests trying to meet up with their allies. Along the way Kevin is taken to what seems like a secure location by a friendly bot, leaving Nick and Cass behind. In the aftermath of this Nick and Cass are attacked and Cass nearly dies until Nick allows her to be taken by a bot to the City as her only hope of survival. Meanwhile, Nick joins up with the rebels.

I had some issues with Revolution 19 and didn’t think I would continue with the series so I was a little surprised that my interest was piqued with Fugitive X. On the surface, this book has a lot of the classic pieces that I enjoy in a futuristic dystopian book. I don’t think I’ve really experienced a series yet where I enjoyed the second book more than the first one, but it happened for me with this one.

The world building and side characters weren’t my favorite in this sequel.  I did like some of the new situations the kids find themselves in, but it seems like again we are presented with a lot of new questions without resolve. Especially around the idea of Fugitive X. Considering it was the title of the book, I really expected there to be more of a focus on what exactly this is and what it means.

Fugitive X had some fun twists and turns that were fun to explore through the various characters and I enjoyed that there was less of a romance feel in this book. The book was also really easy to get through and was a quick read, and I think it appeals most to the younger end of the YA readership.

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Posted on May 5th, 2014 by audra
In these categories Review, Society's Bookshelf

Book Title: Prisoner of Night and Fog
Author: Anne Blankman
Release Date: April 22, 2014
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Source: Publisher ARC

In 1930s Munich, danger lurks behind dark corners, and secrets are buried deep within the city. But Gretchen Müller, who grew up in the National Socialist Party under the wing of her “uncle” Dolf, has been shielded from that side of society ever since her father traded his life for Dolf’s, and Gretchen is his favorite, his pet.

Uncle Dolf is none other than Adolf Hitler.

And Gretchen follows his every command.

Until she meets a fearless and handsome young Jewish reporter named Daniel Cohen. Gretchen should despise Daniel, yet she can’t stop herself from listening to his story: that her father, the adored Nazi martyr, was actually murdered by an unknown comrade. She also can’t help the fierce attraction brewing between them, despite everything she’s been taught to believe about Jews.

As Gretchen investigates the very people she’s always considered friends, she must decide where her loyalties lie. Will she choose the safety of her former life as a Nazi darling, or will she dare to dig up the truth—even if it could get her and Daniel killed?

From debut author Anne Blankman comes this harrowing and evocative story about an ordinary girl faced with the extraordinary decision to give up everything she’s ever believed . . . and to trust her own heart instead.

Prisoner of Night and Fog foremost reminded me of those reimagined fairy tales, which made things feel a bit wrong going into this since it deals with Adolf Hitler, the Nazi’s and the build up to World War II. The book’s main character also happens to be close to Uncle Dolf and we see the struggles this cause not only for her but also for her other family members. Anne Blankman builds a story around the day of the Beer Hall Putsch, and the day that Gretchen was always told her father was a martyr as he took a bullet for Hitler. However, she quickly discovers that perhaps that isn’t what happened at all- perhaps her beloved father was actually killed.

Overall this book was an endearing read. I am terrified by how Hitler was able to sway such an enormous group of people into following his beliefs and seeing it through the eyes of Gretchen made it seem as though I was able to experience a fraction of what life might have been like for a girl in her position. There are a lot of moral and ethical issues at play in this book, and finishing it was akin to going on a journey with these characters.

At times, things came across as very unrealistic. It didn’t disturb my reading process, but I couldn’t help but get pulled out of the story a tad bit at times.

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Posted on Apr 8th, 2014 by audra
In these categories Review, Society's Bookshelf

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Book Title: Rebel Belle
Author: Rachel Hawkins
Release Date: January 30, 2014
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Source: Publisher

Harper Price, peerless Southern belle, was born ready for a Homecoming tiara. But after a strange run-in at the dance imbues her with incredible abilities, Harper’s destiny takes a turn for the seriously weird. She becomes a Paladin, one of an ancient line of guardians with agility, super strength and lethal fighting instincts.

Just when life can’t get any more disastrously crazy, Harper finds out who she’s charged to protect: David Stark, school reporter, subject of a mysterious prophecy and possibly Harper’s least favorite person. But things get complicated when Harper starts falling for him–and discovers that David’s own fate could very well be to destroy Earth.

With snappy banter, cotillion dresses, non-stop action and a touch of magic, this new young adult series from bestseller Rachel Hawkins is going to make y’all beg for more.

I was immediately pulled in from the title of this book alone. As a gal who grew up in what I considered to be the south (okay, Virginia isn’t that much South, but it’s South!) I always loved the southern country culture but never really knew about cotillions until the television show Gilmore Girls. Since then I’ve been kind of enamored with the idea of these, so seeing a book with this definitely piqued my interest. The cover is cute too, a rather perfect shade of pink, a signature strand of pearls, and a knife! Rebel Belle has a cutesy balance between poise, pageantry and violence.

From the first chapter I really loved the narrating and writing style set in Rebel Belle. The words flow so well that I wound up reading it as if I was actually Harper Price. It’s been a while since a book allowed me to become so into it from the character’s voice and I loved it. Now, that doesn’t mean I didn’t notice the heavy amount of really cheeseball stuff going on here, because let’s be honest this book reads like a CW television show. This isn’t a bad thing, but I wish I was a little bit more prepared for this.

We’ve got an overachieving wonder girl determined to meet all her goals in life before she graduates High School who is suddenly thrust into this supernatural ass kicking universe where she’s forced to save her practical arch nemesis, David Stark’s, life. I haven’t seen more than a handful Buffy the Vampire Slayer television episodes but I can really see how people think Rebel Belle compares to it. I’m not usually a fan of supernatural books like this, but again it worked. Harper was an incredible character who seems so one sided and it was great to go on her journey in this book to see her change into a strong female role model.

I wasn’t really sold on the hipster school newspaper editor that is David Stark. I had a really hard time accepting their dynamics at first, but then of course fell into the trap of really liking their interactions and wanting more to happen between them. But I still couldn’t get past his dislike of Harper and her hatred of him to really get too deep into it.

The fight scenes were really intense and would play out really well in a TV or movie situation. I actually got way more into them than I thought I would and really became engrossed in some of the supernatural aspects. However, towards the end of the book I started to get a bit disengaged with everything. While I really enjoyed reading from Harper’s point of view, her voice got really irritating. I wouldn’t be able to stand someone like her in real life and that started to rub off on my reading experience. I can’t quite pinpoint where things started to go downhill for me. Overall it was a neat book, but I don’t see myself rushing the shelves when/if a sequel releases.

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Posted on Apr 1st, 2014 by audra
In these categories Review, Society's Bookshelf

Book Title: Love Letters to the Dead
Author: Ava Dellaira
Release Date: April 1, 2014
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

It begins as an assignment for English class: Write a letter to a dead person. Laurel chooses Kurt Cobain because her sister, May, loved him. And he died young, just like May did. Soon, Laurel has a notebook full of letters to people like Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse, Amelia Earhart, Heath Ledger, and more; though she never gives a single one of them to her teacher. She writes about starting high school, navigating new friendships, falling in love for the first time, learning to live with her splintering family. And, finally, about the abuse she suffered while May was supposed to be looking out for her. Only then, once Laurel has written down the truth about what happened to herself, can she truly begin to accept what happened to May. And only when Laurel has begun to see her sister as the person she was; lovely and amazing and deeply flawed; can she begin to discover her own path.

Love Letters to the Dead is a coming of age roller coaster told through Laurel’s letters to the dead. Everyone from Kurt Cobain to Amy Winehouse to long gone poets. See, Laurel’s sister May died and now Laurel gets to navigate high school without her older sister and with a broken family. After May’s death, her mother practically fled their home for a ranch in California. Laurel manages to split her time alternating weeks between her mostly absent father’s home and her religious Jesus loving aunt’s home.

To sum this book up in one word would be raw. As someone who struggles with depression, reading this book allowed me to feel a whole spectrum of emotions. After putting the book down I just sat on my couch, enveloped in the raw emotions I experienced while reading this book. A lot of readers are comparing this book to Perks of Being a Wallflower, and honestly? The last time I felt this way was when I watched that movie.

There are similar themes to Perks, and I was a little surprised to discover that the author was an associate producer on the film. Regardless, this book holds its own and was a young adult masterpiece. The letters Laurel writes range from everyday musings, to deep and haunting, slowly revealing Laurel’s past to the readers. I wasn’t quite sure the letter format would work, and at times it wasn’t entirely believable, as there are things that need to be said to keep the story moving which doesn’t quite make sense for a letter.

We get to travel on Laurel’s journey in her first year of high school along with her. Her attempts to fit in, find friends and still process the grief of her dead sister and absent mother is a lot for one teenager to shoulder at such an important turning point in a young girls life. She also manages to develop a crush on a rather dreamy boy named Sky. He’s aloof and you can’t quite tell what is going on with him, and when you do, things start to fall in place and you start to see more about what happened with not just Laurel, but also Sky.

Love Letters to the Dead covered a wide range of issues, and didn’t force feed the reader like a cheesy after school television special. We see Laurel’s grief affecting every aspect of her life. We see the issues her friend’s are forced to go through too, which I think might have been my favorite scenes in the book. The characters became like friends to me, and I became immensely invested in their story. Truthfully, these characters and this story left a lasting impression on me.

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Posted on Mar 18th, 2014 by audra
In these categories Review, Society's Bookshelf

Book Title: Side Effects May Vary
Author: Julie Murphy
Release Date: March 18, 2014
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Source: Edelweiss

What if you’d been living your life as if you were dying—only to find out that you had your whole future ahead of you?

When sixteen-year-old Alice is diagnosed with leukemia, her prognosis is grim. To maximize the time she does have, she vows to spend her final months righting wrongs—however she sees fit. She convinces her friend Harvey, whom she knows has always had feelings for her, to help her with a crazy bucket list that’s as much about revenge (humiliating her ex-boyfriend and getting back at her arch nemesis) as it is about hope (doing something unexpectedly kind for a stranger and reliving some childhood memories). But just when Alice’s scores are settled, she goes into remission.

Now Alice is forced to face the consequences of all that she’s said and done, as well as her true feelings for Harvey. But has she done irreparable damage to the people around her, and to the one person who matters most?

Julie Murphy’s SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY is a fearless and moving tour de force about love, life, and facing your own mortality.

It’s true that Side Effects May Vary is a fearless book. Alice is a very fearless character, facing a death sentence after her leukemia diagnosis. She spends what she thinks is her last couple of months with her friend Harvey. It becomes a bit tumultuous when her cancer goes into remission and Harvey seems to want more from their friendship than Alice does.

Murphy tackles some really difficult issues through her characters diagnosis and life afterwards and I appreciated how different this book is from a lot of young adult books out there in the world. There isn’t your typical love triangle to get wrapped up in, and instead of pining for the girl to get with the guy, I was pining for her to stop being so horrible to everyone in the book.

I had the exact opposite reaction to this book and the characters than I thought I would. Of course the main character Alice went through a lot dealing with a breakup, cancer, a cheating mother and everything that those things bring with it, but I personally don’t think that excuses any of her really horrific behavior towards her family and Harvey. Especially Harvey. The way she handled her issues towards him made me feel so completely bitter and unsympathetic towards her that I would’t have minded if something horrible happened to her by the end of the book.

Overall Side Effects May Vary paints a much different picture into the life of a teenager dealing with life and illness than I’ve seen in any other young adult book. This might be enjoyable and refreshing to some readers, but I wasn’t able to get past Alice’s character defects, which ultimately is what ruined the reading experience with this book for me.

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Posted on Mar 15th, 2014 by audra
In these categories Review, Society's Bookshelf

Book Title: Panic
Author: Lauren Oliver
Release Date: March 4, 2014
Publisher: HarperCollins
Source: Edelweiss

Panic began as so many things do in Carp, a dead-end town of 12,000 people in the middle of nowhere: because it was summer, and there was nothing else to do.

Heather never thought she would compete in Panic, a legendary game played by graduating seniors, where the stakes are high and the payoff is even higher. She’d never thought of herself as fearless, the kind of person who would fight to stand out. But when she finds something, and someone, to fight for, she will discover that she is braver than she ever thought.

Dodge has never been afraid of Panic. His secret will fuel him, and get him all the way through the game, he’s sure of it. But what he doesn’t know is that he’s not the only one with a secret. Everyone has something to play for.

For Heather and Dodge, the game will bring new alliances, unexpected revelations, and the possibility of first love for each of them—and the knowledge that sometimes the very things we fear are those we need the most.

As a fan of the Delirium series, I couldn’t wait for the chance to read Lauren Oliver’s latest young adult book Panic. At first, I thought the idea of the Panic reminded me of a small town Hunger Games. Carp, NY is a smaller country town and every summer graduating seniors have the chance to play the risky game where the winner takes all. Heather and Natalie are best friends, yet only Natalie was going to enter Panic. Of course Heather decides to join after her boyfriend starts shacking up with a new girl which leads to some issues not just between the two, but also for Heather.

The game tests not only the contestants but also the residents of Carp. Their events get busted up and even one event leads to a death. Despite this, Heather and Natalie push onwards along with their new friend and somewhat ally Dodge. Everyone has their reasons for playing Panic; the earnings from the game give them more than enough to live it big in their small town. Some want to move on and away from Carp but some want revenge which makes an already dangerous game that much worse.

Panic was an engaging read that I devoured in one day! Oliver’s style of writing flows so well on the page that it is so easy to immerse yourself in the story and characters. I really liked the idea of the game played in the story, but had a difficult time with the idea of the town trying to stop it. I understand the secrecy and wanting to continue, but I would have loved to have seen more of the town’s reaction to the games. In a way, this was shown, but with the narration style it was a bit difficult to show this.

The ending seemed really abrupt to me, but I really loved it. Overall, Oliver really nailed the characters and their voices and I think that is what I enjoyed so much about this book. There were minor twists and shocks which complimented the story so well and really just made for an overall great reading experience. I really loved her Delirium series, but was left a bit disappointed with Requiem, the final book in the series. Panic really made me fall in love with her again, and can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.

 

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Posted on Jan 28th, 2014 by audra
In these categories Review, Society's Bookshelf

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Book Title: Her Dark Curiosity
Author: Megan Shepherd
Release Date: January 28, 2014
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Source: Edelweiss

To defeat the darkness, she must first embrace it.

Months have passed since Juliet Moreau returned to civilization after escaping her father’s island—and the secrets she left behind. Now, back in London once more, she is rebuilding the life she once knew and trying to forget Dr. Moreau’s horrific legacy—though someone, or something, hasn’t forgotten her.

As people close to Juliet fall victim one by one to a murderer who leaves a macabre calling card of three clawlike slashes, Juliet fears one of her father’s creations may have also escaped the island. She is determined to find the killer before Scotland Yard does, though it means awakening sides of herself she had thought long banished, and facing loves from her past she never expected to see again.

As Juliet strives to stop a killer while searching for a serum to cure her own worsening illness, she finds herself once more in the midst of a world of scandal and danger. Her heart torn in two, past bubbling to the surface, life threatened by an obsessive killer—Juliet will be lucky to escape alive.

With inspiration from Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, this is a tantalizing mystery about the hidden natures of those we love and how far we’ll go to save them from themselves.

Her Dark Curiosity is a wonderful continuation of the story set up in The Madman’s Daughter. We find Juliet moderately safe back in London only her condition has worsened and she’s trying to find a cure. While she thinks she left her father’s island and all its various inhabitants behind, there is suddenly a series of mysterious murders and each victim is somehow related to her. The Wolf of Whitechapel is claiming its victims while she tries to acclimate into a privileged life with the Professor and his niece.

As a sequel, Her Dark Curiosity performed beautifully with minimal criticisms from me. I love the historical time period elements woven along with hints of the first book and of a book to come. I loved getting to see a new side of Juliet, and her daily struggles of fitting into a new life. AUTHOR’s writing really takes me back into this time period, allowing me to fully immerse myself in the life and culture of the characters.

What did I dislike? Well, the love triangle and romance was a bit much in this one. I adored Juliet’s strong ambitions and even her romances are strong, but I can’t help but get past some of her “poor me” tendencies with having to choose between Edward and Montgomery. I was able to reconcile a bit of her adoration for Edward as she feels they come from similar circumstances.

I loved the set up for the next book and will be anxiously waiting for its release!

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Posted on Jan 14th, 2014 by audra
In these categories Review, Society's Bookshelf

Book Title: Vitro
Author: Jessica Khoury
Release Date: January 14, 2014
Publisher: Razorbill
Source: Publisher ARC

A death-defying tropical adventure delivers a frightening message about dabbling with creation from the talented author of Origin.

On a remote island in the Pacific, Corpus scientists have taken test tube embryos and given them life. These beings—the Vitros—have knowledge and abilities most humans can only dream of. But they also have one enormous flaw.

Sophie Crue is determined to get to Skin Island and find her mother, a scientist who left Sophie behind years ago. She enlists hunky charter pilot Jim Julien to take her there. But once on the island, Sophie and Jim encounter more than they bargained for, including a charming, brilliant Vitro named Nicholas and an innocent, newly awoken one named Lux.

In a race for their lives, Sophie and Jim are about to discover what happens when science stretches too far beyond its reach.

As a big fan of Origin by Jessica Khoury I was eagerly awaiting the moment I could start reading Vitro. While both books are a bit similar in that they are set on a tropical island filled with scientists and researchers, Vitro takes us in a bit of a different direction.

For the most part, I enjoyed getting to read Vitro, but I really felt that something was missing. There was a lot going on, and the storyline was very action packed, but it felt lacking. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it was almost as if things didn’t quite add up.

We have Sophie who receives an email from her mother, telling her she must come to Skin Island right away. Of course, as soon as she gets off the airplane, she has trouble actually finding anyone who even knows about the island, let alone someone that will actually be able to fly her there. Enter her long lost childhood friend Jim to the rescue! After some coaxing she is able to convince him to take her to the island where things of course go haywire.

Soon Sophie meets Nicholas, who promises to take her to her mother. Of course, this doesn’t happen and things go from bad to worse for her. She ends up having to pretend to be one of the mysterious research subjects that looks identical to her. Vitro has it all- bad guys, good guys, questionable guys. Action, romance, friendship- Vitro is a near complete package. Despite this, I still had a hard time at moments falling in love with this book. I love the worlds that Khoury has built and love that Vitro and Origin exist in the same world. I can’t wait to see what else Khoury has up her sleeve!

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Posted on Jan 13th, 2014 by audra
In these categories Review, Society's Bookshelf

Book Title: Minders
Author: Michele Jaffe
Release Date: January 30, 2014
Publisher: Razorbill

A high concept, cinematic read with a surprising twist, MINDERS asks the question: who is really watching who?

Q: If the boy you love commits a crime, would you turn him in?

Sadie Ames is a type-A teenager from the wealthy suburbs. She’s been accepted to the prestigious Mind Corps Fellowship program, where she’ll spend six weeks as an observer inside the head of Ford, a troubled boy with a passion for the crumbling architecture of the inner city. There’s just one problem: Sadie’s fallen in love with him.

Q: What if the crime is murder?

Ford Winters is haunted by the murder of his older brother, James. As Sadie falls deeper into his world, dazzled by the shimmering pinpricks of color that form images in his mind, she begins to think she knows him. Then Ford does something unthinkable.

Q: What if you saw it happen from inside his mind?

Back in her own body, Sadie is faced with the ultimate dilemma. With Ford’s life in her hands, she must decide what is right and what is wrong. And how well she can really ever know someone, even someone she loves.

I was really pumped to read Minders. The cover really pulled me in, and the synopsis felt like nothing I’ve read before. However, I had a really hard time actually getting into the book. Sadie is chosen as part of an elite Mind Corps program where she will essentially live inside the brain of a person she was chosen to follow. For her, she gets to follow Ford, a guy who has a multitude of issues that I’m not even sure where to start listing them.

Sadie spends weeks inside Ford’s mind and in the process falls in love with him. This leads her to wanting to shield her, but this was something that made it hard to follow as well as it just didn’t seem likely. Minders, to me, is a book that would have been better with the romance checked at the door.

It was difficult to feel or root for the characters, as there wasn’t really much anchoring me to them. The syncopy process was complicated and it felt hard to follow in book format. Minders had an awesome concept, and seeing this play out on tv or in a movie I think would be a better suited venue than book form. This book left me with more questions than answers, and at times I became horribly frustrated with what was occurring. My biggest beef? Why on earth are teenagers doing this work? Yes, a reason is given but I couldn’t suspend my belief to actually buy into it and it just left me frustrated.

Minders is filled with action, mystery and some pretty good twists. Despite the issues I had with the book, overall it was actually a pretty good read and was something I haven’t seen in the young adult genre, which actually made it pretty refreshing.

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