Amanda in France: Fire in the Cathedral by Darlene Foster #bookreview #childrensbooks #travel #mystery

Amanda explores the exciting streets of Paris, the fabulous Palace of Versailles and the gardens of the painter Claude Monet, while being drawn into the mystery surrounding the destructive fire of Notre Dame cathedral.

Amanda is in love! With Paris – the city of love. She’s in awe of the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre, and Notre Dame Cathedral. While there, she gets to work as a volunteer and stay in a famous book store, along with her bestie, Leah, and Leah’s eccentric Aunt Jenny. A dream come true for a book lover like Amanda.

Except, while she’s at the Paris Opera House there is a bomb threat. Then the lights go out during their visit to the Louvre. Worst of all, a devastating fire blazes in Notre Dame. Why does a mysterious man, who claims to be a busker, writer and artist, show up every time something bad happens?

Join Amanda as she explores the exciting streets of Paris, the fabulous Palace of Versailles and the gardens of the painter Claude Monet, all the time looking for clues as to who would want to destroy such a beautiful, historic cathedral.

Join Amanda as she explores the exciting streets and sites around Paris, all the while looking for clues as to who would want to destroy such a beautiful, historic place.

I’ve armchair traveled with Amanda a few times now, and I was thrilled to experience France with her this time around.

Even though these books are geared toward the younger crowd, I learn something about the different countries every time. Here are just a few examples from France: the purpose of gargoyles, there’s a lake beneath the Palais Garnier (just like Phantom of the Opera!), and the Louvre was originally a royal palace. Evidently I never paid much attention in history class.

Amanda has a talent for attracting trouble, and she’s not in Paris long before strange occurrences begin. Why do they keep running into the same man everywhere they go? Who went through Aunt Jenny’s belongings in their room at Shakespeare and Company? Can their new friend Pierre be trusted? Amanda and her friend Leah (who’s beginning to show signs of classic teen moodiness) find themselves in the middle of a mystery all while touring the wonderful sites (and food!) Paris has to offer.

This is a fast-paced story easily finished in under two hours. I highly recommend this series as a way to introduce kids to different countries and cultures. Solving mysteries with Amanda is just a bonus.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Nothing More to Tell by Karen M. McManus #bookreview #YA #mystery #TuesdayBookBlog

Be sure to keep your friends close . . . and your secrets closer.

Four years ago, Brynn left Saint Ambrose School following the shocking murder of her favorite teacher—a story that made headlines after the teacher’s body was found by three Saint Ambrose students in the woods behind their school. The case was never solved. Now that Brynn is moving home and starting her dream internship at a true-crime show, she’s determined to find out what really happened.

The kids who found Mr. Larkin are her way in, and her ex–best friend, Tripp Talbot, was one of them. Without his account of events, the other two kids might have gone down for Mr. Larkin’s murder. They’ve never forgotten what Tripp did for them that day. Just like he hasn’t forgotten that everything he told the police was a lie.

Digging into the past is bound to shake up the present, and as Brynn begins to investigate what happened in the woods that day, she begins to uncover secrets that might change everything—about Saint Ambrose, about Mr. Larkin, and about her ex-best friend, Tripp Talbot.

Four years ago someone got away with murder. The most terrifying part is that they never left.

I’ve read several books by this author and always know I’m in for a compelling mystery that keeps me guessing.

Brynn has known since middle school that she wants to be a journalist. After a juvenile prank she’s blamed for (she’s innocent), she’s fired as editor of her school newspaper. Luckily, due to her dad’s job, the family relocates back to the town they left four years ago. Brynn then takes a leap of faith, uses a clever approach, and talks her way into an internship on a true crime show. She even pitches a story idea to them – the unsolved murder of her favorite teacher, Mr. Larkin, four years ago. The catch? Three of her classmates, including one who’s her ex-best friend, found the body. Her assignment is to snoop around and see what she can dig up. Someone’s not talking, and once she’s focused on a story, Brynn is like a dog with a bone and refuses to give up. Even when it may endanger her life and others.

Tripp, Brynn’s ex-bestie, won that title when he humiliated her in front of their gym class shortly before she moved away. He regrets what he did, although he had his reasons. Since the horrific day he, Shane, and Charlotte discovered Mr. Larkin’s body, Tripp has been hanging onto secrets that are slowly eating him alive.

I thought I had this one figured out somewhere around the middle, but after previous experiences with McManus’s books I should have known my early assumptions are usually way off base. With her stories I’ve learned that my perceptions will change and new layers to the plot are waiting to be revealed just around the corner.

With plenty of suspects to put on your list and lots of intriguing characters (shoutout to Brynn’s clever sister, Ellie), this mystery will keep you glued to the pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Stay Awake by Megan Goldin #bookreview #thriller #mystery

Liv Reese wakes up in the back of a taxi with no idea where she is or how she got there. When she’s dropped off at the door of her brownstone, a stranger answers―a stranger who now lives in her apartment and forces her out in the cold. She reaches for her phone to call for help, only to discover it’s missing, and in its place is a bloodstained knife. That’s when she sees that her hands are covered in black pen, scribbled messages like graffiti on her skin: STAY AWAKE.

Two years ago, Liv was living with her best friend, dating a new man, and thriving as a successful writer for a trendy magazine. Now, she’s lost and disoriented in a New York City that looks nothing like what she remembers. Catching a glimpse of the local news, she’s horrified to see reports of a crime scene where the victim’s blood has been used to scrawl a message across a window, the same message that’s inked on her hands. What did she do last night? And why does she remember nothing from the past two years? Liv finds herself on the run for a crime she doesn’t remember committing as she tries to piece together the fragments of her life. But there’s someone who does know exactly what she did, and they’ll do anything to make her forget―permanently.

In the vein of SJ Watson’s Before I Go to Sleep and Christopher Nolan’s cult classic Memento, Megan Goldin’s Stay Awake is an electrifying novel that plays with memory and murder. 

I still remember watching the movie Memento the first time and being totally blown away by the concept. When it was used as a comp title for this book, there was no doubt I’d request it.

Just like Leonard in Memento, Liz Reese makes notes to herself on her hands and arms – Stay awake, Don’t trust anyone, Don’t answer the phone. Every time she falls asleep her mind resets to two years ago, and the last thing she remembers is answering her office phone on a sunny summer morning. A lot happened in that time span. Imagine losing two years of your life – people you can’t remember, places you’ve lived, things you’ve done. Even worse, losing loved ones during that period and every time you’re told about their death you experience the grief all over again. Maybe you can’t exactly relate to what Liz is going through, but it sure is easy to emphathize with her.

This book had me hook, line, and sinker, and I plowed through it as quickly as I could turn the pages. I rooted for Liz to stay awake and remember the crucial details from her past. She hits one obstacle after another, but is fortunate to have found some compassionate people who are also willing to offer help. Around the halfway mark I was pretty sure of the identity of the culprit (I was correct), but I kept waiting for the motive. Yes, something happened that might make that person angry, but based on the information given about them, it seemed completely out of character. I’d hoped some earth-shattering reveal would be made at the end – but it wasn’t. And I felt cheated.

Judging by other reviews, I’m very much in the minority with this opinion, so take it with a grain of salt. Maybe I even missed some crucial line of detail somewhere along the way. This could turn out to be one of the best reads of the year for someone else. Before the ending I was completely engrossed in this book, so I wouldn’t hesitate to read something else by this author.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

The Finalists by David Bell #bookreview #thriller #suspense

On a beautiful spring day, six college students with nothing in common besides a desperate inability to pay for school gather to compete for the prestigious Hyde Fellowship.

Milo–The front-runner.
Natalia–The brain.
James–The rule follower.
Sydney–The athlete.
Duffy–The cowboy.
Emily–The social justice warrior.


The six of them must surrender their devices when they enter Hyde House, an aging Victorian structure that sits in a secluded part of campus.

Once inside, the doors lock behind them. The students are not allowed to leave until they spend eight hours with a college administrator who will do almost anything to keep the school afloat and Nicholas Hyde, the privileged and notoriously irresponsible heir to the Hyde family fortune. If the students leave before time is up, they’ll be immediately disqualified.

But when one of the six finalists drops dead, the other students fear they’re being picked off one by one. With a violent protest raging outside and no way to escape, the survivors viciously turn on each other.

The Finalists is a chilling and profound look at the lengths both students and colleges will go to survive in a resource-starved academic world.

Locked room mysteries always grab my attention, and I’ve come across a few of them recently. I’m not a stranger to David Bell novels, so I was anxious to see what he did with this scenario.

A college administrator whose job (and possibly the future of the school) depends on bringing in a large donation, six students desperate to find a way to pay for their education, and a privileged heir who funds the highly desired fellowship and shows up half drunk on the morning of the event. That’s a lot of potential for conflict – and I didn’t even mention the group of protestors greeting the participants upon arrival. Once the phones are surrendered and the doors are locked from the outside, it’s not long before the first body drops. This seems like a highly unlikely situation that requires a gigantic suspension of disbelief, and I’m sure you’re asking some of the same questions I did – Why can’t they break a window? Why wouldn’t someone have an emergency phone? Why couldn’t they bust down a door or find another exit? Undoubtedly, most readers will also wonder how the participants can cover the bodies and continue with the competition. The author provides answers to all these questions, and the house becomes a nearly impenetrable escape room.

The coveted fellowship provides tuition, books, room and board, and a job after graduation – definitely a prize worth winning. All of these students have strong motives for killing off the competition, and I changed my mind about the identity of the culprit in nearly every chapter. And I still had it wrong until close to the end. It doesn’t take long before the students turn on each other, and there’s a lot of squabbling, suspicion, and shifting loyalties among them.

Issues of privilege, the difficulties of financing education, and the struggles schools undergo to obtain donations are all mentioned in the novel, and it’s a sad reality. With fairly short chapters, this is a quick read and one that will keep mystery and suspense fans guessing.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Together We Burn by Isabel Ibañez #bookreview #YA #fantasy #mystery #TuesdayBookBlog

Eighteen-year-old Zarela Zalvidar is a talented flamenco dancer and daughter of the most famous Dragonador in Hispalia. People come for miles to see her father fight in their arena, which will one day be hers.

But disaster strikes during their five hundredth anniversary show, and in the carnage, Zarela’s father is horribly injured. Facing punishment from the Dragon Guild, Zarela must keep the arena—her ancestral home and inheritance —safe from their greedy hands. She has no choice but to take her father’s place as the next Dragonador. When the infuriatingly handsome dragon hunter, Arturo Díaz de Montserrat, withholds his help, she refuses to take no for an answer.

But even if he agrees, there’s someone out to ruin the Zalvidar family, and Zarela will have to do whatever it takes in order to prevent the Dragon Guild from taking away her birthright.

An ancient city plagued by dragons. A flamenco dancer determined to save her ancestral home. A dragon hunter refusing to teach her his ways. They don’t want each other, but they need each other, and without him her world will burn.

A fantasy inspired by medieval Spain with Dragonadors and dragons? I was ready to armchair travel and be swept away.

The setting is one of my favorite aspects of the story. The vivid descriptions of the sights, clothing, traditions, dances, and food (seriously, I was hungry every time food was mentioned) made it easy to immerse myself in this world. Magic (simple to complicated spells) is a part of the culture, but doesn’t play a huge part in the plot. Spanish language is interspersed with English and gives the dialogue more of an authentic feel.

I have mixed feelings about Zarela. After her father is injured during a dragon attack, Zarela immediately jumps into action and is determined to save her home and preserve the family name and honor. I admired that. But some of the ways she goes about this didn’t sit well with me. Arturo is brooding, snarly (did I just make up a word?), and stubborn, but with his love of dragons he grows on you and is easily my favorite character. He and feisty, determined Zarela clash from the moment they meet, but it’s no secret this is an enemies to lovers romance, and there are some pretty steamy moments between them that will make romance fans cheer.

It was easy to guess who’s working against the Zalvidar family, but it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of this adventurous, fiery (literally) tale. I know it’s a standalone, but if the author chooses to revisit this world, I’d go back in a heartbeat.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Two Truths and a Lie by April Henry #bookreview #YA #mystery #thriller

A group of teens are trapped in an old motel with a murderer in this chilling YA mystery by New York Times bestselling author April Henry.

Nell has always wanted to be an actor, but doubts her ability. As a member of her school’s theater program, she prefers working backstage. On the way to a contest, an unexpected blizzard strands her acting troupe in a creepy motel. Soon they meet a group of strangers from another high school—including the mysterious and handsome Knox, who insists they play the game Two Truths and a Lie. When it’s Nell’s turn, she draws a slip of paper inked in unfamiliar handwriting:

I like to watch people die.
I’ve lost count of how many people I’ve killed.

Suddenly a night of harmless fun turns into a matter of life and death. As guests go missing, it becomes clear that a murderer is hiding in their midst ready to strike again. In a room full of liars and performers, the truth is never quite what it seems. Nell is going to have to act like her life depends on it—because it does.

An unexpected blizzard and teens trapped in a secluded, old motel with a murderer – this book sounded like the perfect setting for a locked room mystery.

With no electricity or cell service and cell phones in various stages of dying, these teens decide to play the game of Two Truths and a Lie. After Nell draws a slip of paper indicating a killer is in their midst, the mystery begins. Who’s lying? Who’s telling the truth? What makes it even more difficult is that nearly all of these teens are trained performers in their theater groups at school and were on the way to a competition before being sidelined by the blizzard. Soon it’s revealed that twenty years ago, two hotel guests were murdered and the killer was never found. Cue one of the characters suggesting it’s time to break out the Ouija board – never a good idea – and ominous messages from spirits leave everyone in various stages of fear and suspicion. Then the body count begins.

It’s not difficult to figure out who the murderer is, and I honestly thought one of the characters would pick up on it. Besides the teens and their teachers, a few other mysterious guests are staying at the hotel and add to the list of suspects. There are a few plot holes I’d hoped would be explained, especially with something involving the Ouija board. I’d expected the story to lean more in the supernatural direction after that, but it was rarely mentioned again.

Although I knew who the killer was early on, I still wanted to see how the story played out. This locked room mystery has the perfect wintry setting, and it’s a fun, quick read I finished in a couple of sittings.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

One For All by Lillie Lainoff #bookreview #YA #musketeers #mystery

An OwnVoices, gender-bent retelling of The Three Musketeers, in which a girl with a chronic illness trains as a Musketeer and uncovers secrets, sisterhood, and self-love.

Tania de Batz is most herself with a sword in her hand. Everyone in town thinks her near-constant dizziness makes her weak, nothing but “a sick girl”; even her mother is desperate to marry her off for security. But Tania wants to be strong, independent, a fencer like her father—a former Musketeer and her greatest champion.

Then Papa is brutally, mysteriously murdered. His dying wish? For Tania to attend finishing school. But L’Académie des Mariées, Tania realizes, is no finishing school. It’s a secret training ground for a new kind of Musketeer: women who are socialites on the surface, but strap daggers under their skirts, seduce men into giving up dangerous secrets, and protect France from downfall. And they don’t shy away from a swordfight.

With her newfound sisters at her side, Tania feels for the first time like she has a purpose, like she belongs. But then she meets Étienne, her first target in uncovering a potential assassination plot. He’s kind, charming, and breathlessly attractive—and he might have information about what really happened to her father. Torn between duty and dizzying emotion, Tania will have to lean on her friends, listen to her own body, and decide where her loyalties lie…or risk losing everything she’s ever wanted.

This debut novel is a fierce, whirlwind adventure about the depth of found family, the strength that goes beyond the body, and the determination it takes to fight for what you love.

A gender-bent retelling of The Three Musketeers? Besides loving this idea, I’ve always enjoyed novels set during this time period.

Tania is raised hearing her father tell adventurous stories about his time as a Musketeer. He also teaches her fencing and techniques to accommodate for her undiagnosed bouts of dizziness. She dreams of being a Musketeer, while her mother is more concerned about marrying her off to someone who can care for Tania once her parents are gone. After her father is brutally murdered, it seems as if his final wish parallels her mother’s when Tania is sent to a finishing school. She’s soon thrilled to discover that what appears to be a finishing school on the surface is actually a training ground for a new type of Musketeer. She may achieve her dream yet.

Tania’s arc is just incredible. She goes from being the target of mean girl bullying by former friends in her village and borderline pity from her mother to a young woman with agency and ride or die sisters who will stand with her no matter what. I always love a good found family story. As a side note, I thought the author’s choices of character names, variations of Dumas’s characters’ names, was clever. Tania – D’Artagnan, Portia – Porthos, Thea – Athos, and Aria – Aramis.

The life of King Louis XIV is threatened, and it’s up to the Musketeers to figure out who’s behind it and when the assassination attempt will occur. The mystery is set against a backdrop of the King’s ostentatious court, lavish clothing, and excess of nearly every kind. With secretive plotting, riveting action scenes, a charming, attractive target, and an intriguing mystery, this story moves along at a brisk pace and didn’t feel like four hundred pages. It’s a stunning debut, and I’ll certainly keep an eye on this author.

The author’s note at the end of the book addresses POTS, Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, the cause of Tania’s dizziness. It’s something I hadn’t heard of but many people live with, including the author. I loved how Tania didn’t let it define her or prevent her from achieving her dream of becoming a Musketeer. All For One is a delightful, exciting novel from beginning to end.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

The Paradox Hotel by Rob Hart #bookreview #scifi #mystery #TuesdayBookBlog

An impossible crime. A detective on the edge of madness. The future of time travel at stake. From the author of The Warehouse.

January Cole’s job just got a whole lot harder.

Not that running security at the Paradox was ever really easy. Nothing’s simple at a hotel where the ultra-wealthy tourists arrive costumed for a dozen different time periods, all eagerly waiting to catch their “flights” to the past.

Or where proximity to the timeport makes the clocks run backward on occasion—and, rumor has it, allows ghosts to stroll the halls.

None of that compares to the corpse in room 526. The one that seems to be both there and not there. The one that somehow only January can see.

On top of that, some very important new guests have just checked in. Because the U.S. government is about to privatize time-travel technology—and the world’s most powerful people are on hand to stake their claims.

January is sure the timing isn’t a coincidence. Neither are those “accidents” that start stalking their bidders.

There’s a reason January can glimpse what others can’t. A reason why she’s the only one who can catch a killer who’s operating invisibly and in plain sight, all at once.

But her ability is also destroying her grip on reality—and as her past, present, and future collide, she finds herself confronting not just the hotel’s dark secrets but her own.

At once a dazzlingly time-twisting murder mystery and a story about grief, memory, and what it means to—literally—come face-to-face with our ghosts, The Paradox Hotel is another unforgettable speculative thrill ride from acclaimed author Rob Hart. 

A hotel that’s a sort of weigh station where time travelers catch their “flights” to the past – what an amazing concept. Throw in a murder with a corpse that only the investigator can see, a seemingly endless cast of suspects, and a group of trillionaires bidding to take over the hotel – there’s a lot going on in this novel, and I wanted to see how it played out.

MC January Jones is intimidating. She’s a no-nonsense, intelligent, take-no-prisoners kind of gal who doesn’t suffer fools gladly and has little patience for entitled rich hotel guests. Extensively trained in martial arts, she’s not someone you want to tangle with. She’s also “unstuck” – time is fluid and she sees memories from the past playing out as if they’re happening in the present and occurrences in the future that may or may not come to pass. It’s a result of the extensive time traveling she did while working for the Time Enforcement Agency – which makes her an unreliable narrator at times. Still deeply grieving the death of her girlfriend, she’s abrasive to everyone she encounters.

Between the guests and hotel employees, there’s a long list of suspects, and it was difficult for me to keep up with everyone – I flipped back several times to refresh my memory. Despite that, I guessed who was behind everything from nearly the beginning, so I gave myself a pat on the back for that one. In addition to the murder and attacks on guests, someone is messing with the timeline resulting in catastrophic consequences. January has her work cut out for her.

A lot is packed into this novel – themes of deep grief and guilt, wealth inequities, found families, and Buddhist philosophy. Oh – and dinosaurs. This is a mind-bending, complex story you absolutely can’t skim through, but it enthralled this sci-fi fan, and I thought the epilogue was perfect.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

#BlogTour Killing Time by Brenna Ehrlich #bookreview #YA #mystery

Summer in Ferry, Connecticut, has always meant long, lazy days at the beach and wild nights partying in the abandoned mansions on the edge of town. Until now, that is.
 
Natalie Temple, who’s never been one for beaches or parties in the first place, is reeling from the murder of her favorite teacher, and there’s no way this true-crime-obsessed girl is going to sit back and let the rumor mill churn out lie after lie—even if she has to hide her investigation from her disapproving mom and team up with the new boy in town…
 
But the more Natalie uncovers, the more she realizes some secrets were never meant to be told. 

Ferry, Connecticut sounds like an idyllic, seaside town filled with lazy summer days by the ocean, kids riding their bikes on the sidewalk, and ice cream from the local parlor. Until the body of a beloved teacher is discovered after she’s murdered, and the rose-colored glasses are officially shattered.

The novel actually focuses on two cases – the murder of Natalie’s teacher and a missing college student several years prior. It’s told from alternating chapter POVs between Natalie and her mother Helen, owner of the local diner and a former college journalism major. Natalie also dreams of becoming a hard-hitting journalist and devours true crime books and shows. She and her best friend Katie even host a true crime podcast – which is all kept secret from Natalie’s mother, who forbids her from reading or watching anything crime-related. Headstrong and determined, Natalie decides to begin her own investigation on the sly after her teacher’s murder.

If you think it’s naive of a teenager to take on a murder investigation, you’d be right. Against the advice of Katie (a voice of reason), Natalie makes one bad decision after another without regard for the consequences. It’s not difficult to figure out who’s involved with the murder, but the why may keep you guessing and come as a total surprise. The missing college student from Helen’s college days is also an intriguing story and explains her distaste for journalism and true crime stories.

I was satisfied with the ending – it wraps up all the loose threads, and the plot moves along at a brisk pace. If you’re a fan of true crime podcasts, don’t expect many details in this novel. Other than hiding it from Natalie’s mother, it’s not explored further, but this is a book true crime buffs will enjoy.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

About the Author:

Brenna Ehrlich is a journalist, YA author, and editor who has worked everywhere from MTV News to Rolling Stone. She resides in New Jersey with her husband Morgan and their two cats, Nimbus and Hazel. She enjoys horror movies and romcoms in equal measure.

Social Links:

Author website: https://www.brennaehrlich.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/BrennaEhrlich

IG: https://www.instagram.com/brennaehrlich/

Buy Links:

Bookshop.org: https://bookshop.org/books/killing-time-9781335418678/9781335418678 

B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/killing-time-brenna-ehrlich/1139262919;jsessionid=77463C2A28F769B395869EB9A2D55A2B.prodny_store02-atgap11?ean=9781335418678&st=AFF&2sid=HarperCollins%20Publishers%20LLC_7310909_NA&sourceId=AFFHarperCollins%20Publishers%20LLC 

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1335418679?tag=harpercollinsus-20 

Books-a-Million: https://www.booksamillion.com/p/9781335418678?AID=10747236&PID=7310909&cjevent=7996a3e08f9311ec82814d540a82b824 

IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781335418678 

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Killing_Time?id=8JEpEAAAQBAJ&hl=en_US&gl=US 

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/killing-time-87 

Apple Books: https://books.apple.com/ch/book/killing-time/id1563212004



This Is Not the Jess Show by Anna Carey #bookreview #YA #thriller #TuesdayBookBlog

Black Mirror meets My So-Called Life in this fast-paced, timely YA thriller about separating fact from fiction–and how far we’ll go to create our own version of reality.

Like any other teenager, Jess Flynn is just trying to get through her junior year without drama … but drama seems to keep finding her. Between a new crush on her childhood best friend, overprotective parents cramping her social life, and her younger sister’s worsening health, the only constant is change–and her hometown of Swickley, which feels smaller by the day.

Swickley is getting weirder by the day, too. Half the population has been struck down by a mysterious flu. Conversations end awkwardly when Jess enters the room. And then one day, a tiny, sleek black device–with an apple logo on it–falls out of her best friend’s backpack and lands at Jess’s feet.

It was the unusual blend of comp titles and the mystery of exactly what’s going on in the small town of Swickley that made me request this novel from NetGalley. And what a surprise it turned out to be.

This is a difficult review to write without revealing spoilers. The first several chapters are Jess’s average teen life – high school, friends, crushes on guys – you get the picture. I especially enjoyed the 90s setting that was full of nostalgia – music, fashions, magazines, and food. But strange things pop up that will leave you as puzzled as Jess. Her friends are acting weird, a mysterious flu has overtaken the town, and her dog undergoes a serious personality change. Then the story takes a sudden turn that may have you asking “What the $*@# just happened?” And then it all makes sense.

Fun, clever, and imaginative, this novel is also full of action sequences and a bit of romance. It took me by surprise, and I finished the book in less than a day. I was excited to learn a sequel will be released later this year, and I’m anxious to see what happens next with Jess.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.