Book Review: Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson

Mary B. Addison killed a baby.

Allegedly. She didn’t say much in that first interview with detectives, and the media filled in the only blanks that mattered: A white baby had died while under the care of a church-going black woman and her nine-year-old daughter. The public convicted Mary and the jury made it official. But did she do it? She wouldn’t say.

Mary survived six years in baby jail before being dumped in a group home. The house isn’t really “home”—no place where you fear for your life can be considered a home. Home is Ted, who she meets on assignment at a nursing home.

There wasn’t a point to setting the record straight before, but now she’s got Ted—and their unborn child—to think about. When the state threatens to take her baby, Mary must find the voice to fight her past. And her fate lies in the hands of the one person she distrusts the most: her Momma. No one knows the real Momma. But who really knows the real Mary?

Release Date: January 24, 2017

I think one of the best things about the movement in young adult literature to include diverse authors and own voice narratives is that stories like Tiffany D. Jackson’s will become popular. This novel has all the things that make a good crime novel wonderful, it has a likable yet maybe untrustworthy narrator, a vicious and questionable crime, interesting family dynamics, insight into the criminal justice system when it comes to teenagers, and the dynamics of a group home.

Now, I realize that this is still a fictional narrative but there are a lot of similarities between this Mary’s story and that of the real life child murderer, Mary Bell.  Jackson doesn’t really delve into that in this novel, but she does have a secondary refer to Mary as Mary Bell in one interaction, so I thought it would be interesting to point out the similarities between the character and her real counterpart.

Mary Bell was around 10 years of age when she murdered two toddlers, she had a known strange relationship with her mother (who attempted to kill her a few times), it was an extremely sensationalized case, with her only receiving a minimum sentence since she was a child with diminished responsibility (much like our character).  Another part that is taken directly from reality is the last name of the victim, Richardson. Now, the average Young Adult reader probably wouldn’t be aware of these similarities, but I just happened to read a true crime book a few years ago that brought this up.

I applaud Jackson for bringing a story like this to the forefront, because as awful as it is to kill a child in a narrative, it is something that happens.

Jackson did such a great job of keeping the reader in the dark about certain aspects of the crime and of Mary’s life prior to the death of the child.  I think that the questions about Mary and her Mother really provide more mystery than the death itself.  It’s an interesting commentary on emotional abuse and the desperate relationship between these two characters, plus is raises the question of just how far you’d go for family.

In addition, Jackson was amazing at including linguistic representation of accents.  I find it lacking when an author sometimes just mentions that a character has a type of regional accent without showing this to the reader in dialogue. Bravo for including this, I loved it and it really put me IN those characters’ voices.

I’m giving this novel 4 Bards.  There is a very upsetting scene with an animal in this and violence between characters that doesn’t involve the murder of the child, so please be aware of this when purchasing it for your teen.

Book Review: Killer Instinct by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Seventeen-year-old Cassie Hobbes has a gift for profiling people. Her talent has landed her a spot in an elite FBI program for teens with innate crime-solving abilities, and into some harrowing situations. After barely escaping a confrontation with an unbalanced killer obsessed with her mother’s murder, Cassie hopes she and the rest of the team can stick to solving cold cases from a distance.

But when victims of a brutal new serial killer start turning up, the Naturals are pulled into an active case that strikes too close to home: the killer is a perfect copycat of Dean’s incarcerated father—a man he’d do anything to forget. Forced deeper into a murderer’s psyche than ever before, will the Naturals be able to outsmart the enigmatic killer’s brutal mind games before this copycat twists them into his web for good?

This book was an unexpected pick up at Book Expo America this year, and I did major fangirl flailing when I got my hands on a copy of it, because The Naturals was one of my favorite reads from early 2014 (click on the title to see my review!).

It was absolutely wonderful to get back into the lives of the kids in the special FBI program, and it was a little bit harrowing as well (I wouldn’t have it any other way).  Cassie is still reeling from the betrayal of their previous FBI handler, when a new character is introduced and is going to be taking over the training and responsibility of these talented teens.  Now, when this happens, it irritated not only the characters, but also me as a reader.  Why? Well, she basically limits any of the cool story aspects for the characters to do in the first few chapters before the narrative really picks up.  While I do appreciate that she is determined that the kids need to finish high school, is there really any way that these characters WOULDN’T immediately get a job at the FBI once they are 18?  I mean they already have clearance, work experience, natural talent…. but anyway.

Once the story really gets going the novel is hard to put down.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it was better than the first installment, but it is definitely close.  There is a large amount of suspense and misdirection that happens when the teens get too caught up in the case, and there is definitely some scary moments where some lives are held in the balance. I can’t imagine how painful this novel would have been had the narrator been Dean instead of Cassie, but again, he isn’t a character who would really provide a lot of clarity in narration, as he tends to be a little hard to crack.

The love triangle, of course, makes an appearance–but I honestly don’t know who I would want Cassie to choose between Dean and Mike.  They both have a lot of flaws and emotional baggage, not to mention Cassie’s own issues with what happened to her in the first novel and how she was raised.  I think this is one of the reasons I love these characters and their story so much, because they are flawed and realistic.  Also: that twist! (I can’t say anymore!)

4 Bards!


Waiting on Wednesday

waiting on wednesday


Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  This week I’m waiting on:

Release Date: September 2, 2014

Eveny Cheval just moved back to Louisiana after spending her childhood in New York with her aunt Bea. Eveny hasn’t seen her hometown since her mother’s suicide fourteen years ago, and her memories couldn’t have prepared her for what she encounters. Because pristine, perfectly manicured Carrefour has a dark side full of intrigue, betrayal, and lies—and Eveny quickly finds herself at the center of it all.

Enter Peregrine Marceau, Chloe St. Pierre, and their group of rich, sexy friends known as the Dolls. From sipping champagne at lunch to hooking up with the hottest boys, Peregrine and Chloe have everything—including an explanation for what’s going on in Carrefour. And Eveny doesn’t trust them one bit.

But after murder strikes and Eveny discovers that everything she believes about herself, her family, and her life is a lie, she must turn to the Dolls for answers. Something’s wrong in paradise, and it’s up to Eveny, Chloe, and Peregrine to save Carrefour and make it right.

Book Review: Dear Killer by Katherine Ewell

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.

Again, one of the definite ways to get me to read a book is to involve a serial killer, because the psychology is fascinating.

So when I heard about Dear Killer, I was really excited because I could finally get a book strictly about a teenager who is a serial killer.  In reality, there have been a few young people involved in serial murders, including the members of the Manson Family and now Miranda Barbour who claims to have taken up to 100 lives.  So it really isn’t as far fetched as some of the reviews I’ve read deem the narrative (although I can only suspend disbelief for so long. More on that later.)

First things first, I really wasn’t sure how this book was going to go when I found a clear typo on the third page. I mean how does this, “I didn’t chv death,” make it through editing? Does Kit not crave death or what? C’mon people.  The other thing I noticed is toward the end of the book, the narration slips briefly into the third person, referring to the first person narrator in third person, but then it quickly switched back.  Since this was the only time this happened, I believe that the narration must have originally been third person and that this instance was missed in the editing process as well, because there is no other instance of this in the novel.

Moving on…I’m glad that the narration was in first person because it really gave the reader more insight into Kit’s character.  I’ve read in some other reviews that people thought that Kit’s voice was too juvenile for someone who is supposed to be passed off as a serial killer, or for a young adult novel.  I’d like to pose that the voice used by Ewell was used specifically to highlight how young and impressionable Kit is supposed to be despite her upbringing as a murderer.  If anything it can also lend itself to her split-personality, Diana serving as an older and wiser voice, versus Kit who is the scared and intimidated teen who is in over her head. And, like with most mental disorders, there is a trigger for this disassociation: the murder of Michael.

Either way, I found this novel to have some very hard parts to believe and that was specifically surrounding Kit’s calling card, the letters that she left at the crime scene.  Really?  With all of the technology now, it is possible to match up handwriting to a suspect, and many of those people wouldn’t have gotten away based on circumstantial evidence.  In addition, there is no efficient way to get handprints and fingerprints off of paper is there? That is the part I had trouble believing.

Overall, I still enjoyed this novel and would recommend it to readers.

4 Bards.


Book Review: Uninvited by Sophie Jordan

When Davy Hamilton’s tests come back positive for Homicidal Tendency Syndrome (HTS)-aka the kill gene-she loses everything. Her boyfriend ditches her, her parents are scared of her, and she can forget about her bright future at Juilliard. Davy doesn’t feel any different, but genes don’t lie. One day she will kill someone.

Only Sean, a fellow HTS carrier, can relate to her new life. Davy wants to trust him; maybe he’s not as dangerous as he seems. Or maybe Davy is just as deadly.

I’m not going to lie, the main reason I really wanted to read this novel had nothing to do with Jordan’s previous YA trilogy or even my love for crazy awesome photography book covers.  It all had to do with the synopsis.  So good job, Jordan for writing an absolutely enticing synopsis, but you had me at “Homicidal Tendency Syndrome.”

It is extremely easy to believe that something like this would actually happen in the future of our country, especially with the passing of the Patriot Act and the extreme fear that came after the 9/11 attacks.  Imagine that extreme fear and racism that came hand in hand after that and how it would relate to people who were considered as 100% possible serial killers.  I really liked the way that Jordan employed that fear and showed how someone who just has the gene, and it isn’t being expressed, is oppressed and treated in their society.

I like how organic the friendship was that developed between Gil, Davy, and Sean.  The romance wasn’t necessarily something that had to be in there, but it did make the ending a bit more believable.  I know there is going to be a companion novel to this, and I am very interested to read it.  I just think that the story served as an excellent social commentary and that it can even speak to those who do in the womb genetic testing.

4 Bards for Uninvited. I wish there had been more chapters spent inside the camp.




Book Review: The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Seventeen-year-old Cassie is a natural at reading people. Piecing together the tiniest details, she can tell you who you are and what you want. But it’s not a skill that she’s ever taken seriously. That is, until the FBI come knocking: they’ve begun a classified program that uses exceptional teenagers to crack infamous cold cases, and they need Cassie.

What Cassie doesn’t realize is that there’s more at risk than a few unsolved homicides— especially when she’s sent to live with a group of teens whose gifts are as unusual as her own.

Sarcastic, privileged Michael has a knack for reading emotions, which he uses to get inside Cassie’s head—and under her skin. Brooding Dean shares Cassie’s gift for profiling, but keeps her at arm’s length.

Soon, it becomes clear that no one in the Naturals program is what they seem. And when a new killer strikes, danger looms closer than Cassie could ever have imagined. Caught in a lethal game of cat and mouse with a killer, the Naturals are going to have to use all of their gifts just to survive.

I bought this book almost immediately when it came out, not necessarily based on the synopsis, but definitely for the recommendation on the cover from Ally Carter.  I’ve never read anything by Ally Carter, but she compared The Naturals to Criminal Minds.  With that comparison, I was sold.

So immediately when I started reading, I began to think of the characters in terms of their Criminal Minds counterparts, but this was a disservice to Barnes’ character creations.  Cassie, while a little bit clinical due to her natural ability, is still a very deep character with some painful memories that serve as her motivation.  I adored her character.

As for the other characters, I really hope we get to learn more backstory on the other members of this exclusive team.  Michael and Dean are especially intriguing.  Dean because of his family and Michael because he is legitimately the hardest character to read for Cassie and for a reader.  Lia mostly pissed me off because she was ridiculously full of herself.  Sloane was the source of a ton of laughs from me, and I really enjoyed learning all of her facts.  Sloane was definitely the female version of Dr. Spencer Reid.

Random side note: look at him: 

Anyhoo, back to the book, I definitely didn’t see the twist coming, which makes me love Barnes even more!  Because I actually tend to figure out a number of the Criminal Minds episodes before the end, and I really enjoyed being stumped.

I adored this book and I will be waiting on the edge of my seat until the sequel is released!

5 Bards


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