She Was the Quiet One by Michele Campbell

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I love a good thriller and I especially love YA boarding school settings – the perfect place for a murder! This was a thriller about twins that are sent to a prestigious boarding school and while one is the good, quiet twin, her sister promptly gets in trouble. Told in more than one voice, the story has its twists and turns and will keep you guessing! For older YA and adults due to sexual scenes and violence.

Here’s the overview from Net Galley – thanks for my review e-copy!

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The Broken Girls by Simone St. James

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Murder…boarding schools…cold cases…I’m all about that when I need a quick, fun read!
This one was no exception, and I enjoyed this storyline, though it was rather sad in the final resolution. I had pretty much figured out what was happening, just not the actual means, but I’d still recommend it to those who want a suspenseful read. These type of books keep me going through the long winter!
Thank you for my e-copy!

THE FINISHING SCHOOL by Joanna Goodman

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I had heard about this book via the blogosphere, but I couldn’t get it via my usual sources; thus I was thrilled when the author kindly sent me a copy of it!

Here’s the overview via Amazon:

In this suspenseful, provocative novel of friendship, secrets, and deceit, a successful writer returns to her elite Swiss boarding school to get to the bottom of a tragic accident that took place while she was a student twenty years earlier.

How far would you go to uncover the truth?

One spring night in 1998 the beautiful Cressida Strauss plunges from a fourth-floor balcony at the Lycée Internationale Suisse with catastrophic consequences. Loath to draw negative publicity to the school, a bastion of European wealth and glamour, officials quickly dismiss the incident as an accident, but questions remain: Was it a suicide attempt? Or was Cressida pushed? It was no secret that she had a selfish streak and had earned as many enemies as allies in her tenure at the school. For her best friend, scholarship student Kersti Kuusk, the lingering questions surrounding Cressida’s fall continue to nag long after she leaves the Lycée.

Kersti marries and becomes a bestselling writer, but never stops wondering about Cressida’s obsession with the Helvetian Society—a secret club banned years before their arrival at the school—and a pair of its members who were expelled. When Kersti is invited as a guest to the Lycée’s 100th Anniversary, she begins probing the cover-up, unearthing a frightening underbelly of lies and abuse at the prestigious establishment. And in one portentous moment, Kersti makes a decision that will connect her to Cressida forever and raise the stakes dangerously high in her own desire to solve the mystery and redeem her past.

An unputdownable read as clever as it is compelling, The Finishing School offers a riveting glimpse into a privileged, rarefied world in which nothing is as it appears.

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So – if you read me, you know that I love novels that take place in boarding schools and that are suspenseful. This storyline pulled me in from the start and kept me reading. It does toggle back and forth in time, from the girls’ time there as students to Kersti in modern life, which I know some readers don’t like. I did figure out most of the mystery well in advance of its big reveal, but I enjoyed it anyway. At first I thought I would give it to my 8th grader to read when I was done, but sexual content and abuse included makes me say this one is really for adults or older YA readers.

Quick to read and with a story that can haunt you, The Finishing School is a suspenseful summer find! Thank you for my review copy!

Find it on Amazon where I am an Associate:

Review: THE HALF-BROTHER by Holly LeCraw

I received this book several months ago through Net Galley as an ARC. I thought the premise sounded interesting, a young man and his half-brother both working at a private high school in New England.

I have to say, this book had several layers to it and several story lines that converged at the end. Charlie Garrett is the main character, an intelligent and hard-working young man, who is a bit self-centered and rather immature. He is drawn to the daughter of the faculty chaplain, which I found rather creepy and totally inappropriate, but thankfully he does not act on his feelings until the daughter, May, returns to the school years later as a teacher herself. Charlie has some things in his past, though, that will affect his present, and once he realizes what those are, he pushes May away. Then comes Charlie’s younger half-brother, the charismatic and charming Nick, who also gets a job at the Abbott School. He soon becomes involved with May. But Nick is hiding some inner torment and secrets and is less than stable. Add in some students with their issues, the parents and their problems, and Charlie’s story of trying to define himself uniquely and you have the working of a thought-provoking and busy plot.

While I enjoyed this story, and Ms. LeCraw’s writing, I was a bit frustrated with Charlie. He needed to truly get a life. Going to Abbott so young and then just festering there year after year, while somehow thinking he was doing everything for the good of everyone else — well, that is no way to live your life. Charlie also keeps a lot within, sacrificing, so to speak, in order to spare others the hardship of his feelings or his knowledge (there are some twists and surprises to this plot). He would have done better to evaluate where he was at in his life and where he wanted to be, and then make a plan to get there.

Intriguing and written with a good flow and introspection into the characters, I enjoyed THE HALF-BROTHER.

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YA Review: THE WICKED AWAKENING OF ANNE MERCHANT by Joanna Wiebe

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Last year at this time I read and reviewed THE UNSEEMLY EDUCATION OF ANNE MERCHANT (see review here: https://drbethnolan.wordpress.com/2014/01/19/ya-review-the-unseemly-education-of-anne-merchant-by-joanna-wiebe/).

I liked it, so when the folks at Ben Bella Books offered me the next book in the series, I said yes please!

This novel, book 2 in the trilogy, picks up whether the first one left off. Anne is still fighting for her life, so to speak, and trying to work out her relationship with Ben and save him, too. This installment spends a lot of time giving more background and fleshing out the story of Anne and her family, her powers, etc. To be honest, I didn’t care for this book as much as the first, largely because I felt there was a lot of dialogue. Whenever there was action, though, especially at the end, I could scarcely put it down. I also got confused about what characters were what, given that some used more than one name. And to be honest, this story had a lot more about the demons in it, and demons really aren’t my thing (though I have lots of friends who love paranormal type reading with demons, etc.). I’m more of a ghost or psychic powers person.

Anyway, just wanted to be honest! I still look forward to the next and final book in this series to see how intelligent and fiery Anne will solve her problems!

Thank you for my review copy (I love the cover)!

Review: AS CHIMNEY SWEEPERS COME TO DUST by Alan Bradley

Oh that Flavia is at it again!

If you read me you know I love this series about young scientific genius Flavia at her decaying manor house in 1950’s England with her morose and distracted father and self-absorbed older sisters. Flavia’s voice makes me laugh out loud. Her antics are always fun to read. Her genius is quite amazing. Yes, she is one of those characters I wish could just come to life!

In this installment, twelve-year-old Flavia has been “banished” to her mother’s old boarding school in Canada. She makes the Atlantic crossing via ship with a rather dour couple (members of the board of overseers for her new school). Poor Flavia has hardly arrived, exhausted and lonely, when a dead body falls from her chimney and she is thrown into the middle of an unsolved mystery. Of course Flavia has not yet learned to let sleeping dogs lie, and she begins to uncover secrets and past misdeeds that some would prefer to keep buried…

What can I say? I love this series and I love Flavia. It combines mystery, humor, and a protagonist you can’t help but like along with a setting in the past. Love, love, love — that is all!

Find it at an Indie!

I am an Indie Bound Affiliate

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Quick Review: THE HEADMASTER’S WIFE by Thomas Christopher Greene

So I had heard about this book when it first came out and put it on my wish list. I bought it as a birthday gift from Amazon (yes, my bday is on Saturday!). Most bloggers had said things like “I can’t even talk about what this book is about because I will give it away!” or something similar, so all I knew was that it was about a headmaster and his wife at an independent boarding school. If you know me, you know I’ve spent my professional life in independent school (aka “prep” schools) and I LOVE to read about them.

So – the bloggers were correct. I can’t talk about this book without giving it away. It is MUCH better to go into this book not knowing what to expect. When I started reading last night after dinner I thought, “Oh no. Not THIS storyline again.” However, I continued, and at the end of part one (there are three major parts/POV in the book) I was blown away and so hooked that I kept reading straight through until the book was finished at 11 PM.

This was a fascinating read – one that kept me guessing and puzzling and thinking about it long after it was over. It some ways it reminded me of “Gone Girl”. In other ways, it reminded me of “Shutter Island”. Regardless, I’ve said enough. Do yourself a favor and if you choose to read it, read it cold. Be surprised.

You can see it on Amazon where I got mine.