With its first line: “The prison is always quiet but never still,” I suspected The River Has Teeth would be suspenseful and riveting. Erica Waters did not disappoint.  Her novel joins the ranks of good psychological crime thrillers like Silence of the Lambs or the television series Criminal Minds. Besides the main plot thread of girls going missing in The Bend and the mystery of who is murdering them, the book carries several other threads to keep the reader engaged. One thread follows Della Lloyd and her family’s magic, murders, and infinite crimes in brewing potions for customers with vengeful thoughts. The Lloyds live inRead More →

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley gets a major update with The Block by Ben Oliver. In Oliver’s second book in The Loop Trilogy targeted for young adults, readers will experience a video game vibe, like that achieved in The Matrix. Along with the characters, they will wonder what is real and what is simulated. In this new dystopian world, everybody’s happy because Happy—an artificial intelligence—rules the world.  Galen Rye is in charge, and he decides who suffers as a battery—without hopes, dreams, and ambitions as they power the world with their energy harvested from pain, fear, and anger.  He decides who should be brainwashed intoRead More →

Seventeen-year-old Ambrose Cusk and another spacefarer, Kodiak Celius, are aboard the Coordinated Endeavor, a spaceship bound for Saturn’s moon Titan to rescue Ambrose’s sister, Minerva Cusk. Earth’s two remaining countries, Fédération and Dimokratía have combined their forces to accomplish this mission. Brought together by a crisis, each young man brings his expertise and biases to the mission. Ambrose’s skills include playing the violin, programming AIs, translating computer code, and having a high awareness of his feelings.  Kodiak’s gifts are piloting, mechanical engineering, survivalism, and hand-to-hand combat. The Dimokratía space program selects its spacefarers by testing millions of children in its orphanages and determining those whichRead More →

Dragonfly Girl by Marti Leimbach is a fast-paced thriller.  Although the plot is somewhat disjointed and ends rather abruptly, Leimbach’s novel kept me intrigued with its science fiction elements, espionage-like features, and shady criminal types. I’m guessing a sequel will follow. Set in California, Sweden, and Russia, the novel features seventeen-year-old Kira Adams whose mother is sick and requires constant medical care that draws down the household’s monetary resources. Given that Kira’s preternaturally gifted father turned to alcohol to cope in a world that didn’t understand him and eventually “catches a stray bullet,” Cyril Adams is not in the picture. Therefore, Kira enters science contestsRead More →

Since I had recently watched an episode of Dr. Phil in which an individual was being treated for the condition which forms the underlying conflict in Remedy by Eireann Corrigan, I guessed the mysterious illness early on. Because Corrigan’s protagonist, Cara Jean Wakely couldn’t exactly articulate her current ailment and stated that she and her mother Shaylene moved around a lot, those details tipped me off. However, the reader doesn’t learn the secret until much later when Cara’s friend Xavier Barnes (aka Science Kid) plants the idea in her brain. Xavier, who lectures and sometimes drones and laughs at his own jokes, loves gathering dataRead More →

Ember Williams leads an active life at Heller High. She covets a 4.0 GPA, runs track, and captains the debate team. On the surface, she looks like a high-achieving teenager with a bright future. But there are secrets at Heller High. Secrets that Ember wants to uncover and force into the light. The Red Court is a rumor, smoke vanishing into nothing under the fluorescent lighting of Heller High’s hallways. It’s rumored to be a secret society made up of female students, led by a mysterious ‘Queen of Hearts.’ They say the Red Court grants wishes. Desperate students can stuff a note in an unclaimedRead More →

Amid the COVID-19 crisis, I needed a feel-good book, and Alex Flinn’s Love, Jacaranda did not disappoint.  Written in one-way email correspondence, almost like a diary, Flinn’s book performs some genre-bending in that it is realistic fiction sprinkled with mystery and romance. Named for the tree that heralds springtime in Southeastern Florida, Jacaranda Abbott bags groceries at a Publix supermarket.  Because she loves to sing and to bring joy to others, she performs for Mr. Louis, one of her favorite patrons. Chorus has always been the best part of her school day, since it is “sort of like a little vacay right in the middleRead More →

Used to building her life around empty spaces, around locked doors and unanswered questions, Margot Nielsen is starved for details about her family and her roots.  All she has are her mother’s reticence, semi-coldness, and confusing and manipulative mannerisms. “How to keep a fire burning. How to stitch a fight up until it’s only a scar.  That’s the kind of thing you learn with a mother like mine. Mostly, though, you learn how to be loved without any proof” (8). In a pawn shop where objects are cluttered and close, Margot finds clues to her past and a family.  Because she’s seventeen years old, drowningRead More →

Dressed in a disguise, the Queen of Mynaria plays the cello with passion and life as her ten-year-old daughter Princess Amaranthine sings in the ale houses.  But mothers die, and Mare becomes a different person after donning a surly personality, wearing it like a suit of armor.  Bold and brazen, she is vakos, a girl without magic and one with an affinity for trouble and without a knack for social pleasantries.  More comfortable in communities where horsemanship is a measure of rank, Mare falls in love with Dennaleia, Princess of Havemont who was betrothed to Mare’s brother, Thandi, and groomed to be a queen.  ButRead More →