Operating Beyond MALICE–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m excited to share a release day blast for a YA thriller with romance elements from bestselling author Pintip Dunn. MALICE sounds like a fast-paced read that I’m excited to check out.

About the book:
What I know: a boy at my school will one day wipe out two-thirds of the population with a virus.
What I don’t know: who he is.

In a race against the clock, I not only have to figure out his identity, but I’ll have to outwit a voice from the future telling me to kill him. Because I’m starting to realize no one is telling the truth. But how can I play chess with someone who already knows the outcome of my every move? Someone so filled with malice she’s lost all hope in humanity? Well, I’ll just have to find a way―because now she’s drawn a target on the only boy I’ve ever loved…

How about a little taste?

Before I know it, I’m a foot away from the basketball court. The players are taking a break, and Bandit stands at the edge of the concrete, taking long pulls from a water bottle. Up close, his brilliant hair looks almost purple, and his T-shirt sticks to his back in sweaty patches, hinting at his solid muscles.

Now what? Do I clear my throat? Tap his shoulder? Going for broke, I do both at the same time.

He turns and lifts his eyebrows, as though wondering how a mere mortal such as myself dares to approach him. He’s tall—really tall. Almost a head above my five feet five. His jaw is chiseled, his shoulders broad. I’m so close that I can feel the heat rising off his body.

My brain scrambles. I forgot to check if I had any food in my teeth! Did I brush my hair this morning? Put on clothes?

Okay, so clearly I’m not naked, but for the life of me, I can’t remember what I’m wearing. Please don’t let it be the navy T-shirt with the faded splotches on the shoulder, from when I accidentally added bleach instead of detergent to the laundry.

I glance down. Jeans and a white tank top—my favorite shirt because it has Lin-Manuel Miranda’s autograph. More than passable.

“I, uh…” My entire vocabulary chooses that moment to flee.

His lids lower, and he looks at me, decidedly bored. “Yes? Can I help you?”

Three, four, five of his basketball friends angle their towering bodies toward us, probably wondering what the interruption is about.

Sweat gathers at the nape of my neck, and electricity hums along my skin. The Voice is about to zap me again. I just know it.

“Running out of time,” the Voice pipes up, as if on cue. “Tell him.”

Say the words and be done with it. Say the words. Say. The. Words.

“I love you,” I blurt. “That is all. Goodbye.”

I wheel around, ready to sprint, when a hand snags my arm. His hand.

“Wait a minute,” Bandit says, his eyes 2 percent less bored. “Are we in third grade? Do you want to give me a note asking if I love you back, so I can circle yes or no?”

My cheeks burn hotter than the sun assaulting my skin. Hotter, even, than the flames that got me into this mess.

I could really use that alien abduction right about now.

The object of my supposed affection smirks. “We can skip the note. Can’t say I blame you for falling for me. I mean, I’m a lovable guy. But have we actually met?” He lowers his voice. “Outside of your wildest dreams, that is.”

My Review:
Alice and her brother Archie are a junior and a senior, respectively, at a prestigious gifted high school. Their mother walked out several years ago and Archie and their father are both certified geniuses, not like Alice. She’s smart, but pragmatic–her talents lay in graphic arts like photography. Their dad runs a pharmaceutical research lab, and spend very little time with Alice and Archie’s a bit of a loner–having trouble making friends is one of his issues. Alice “mothers” him the best she can, and loves him dearly, but he’s a bit on the depressed side, and often the butt of pranks from his peers.

Alice is at school one day when she’s assailed by a painful voice in her head. It’s her own voice, speaking to her from the near-future warning her that there will be a deadly virus unleashed in the next decade that decimates the population. She must stop the Make of the virus, not, before that person can develop enough research to lead to this disaster. In the future, Alice goes by the nickname of “Malice” and it seems she’s closely connected to several students from her school that she’d never befriended before: ultra-popular Bandit, super-smart Cristela, Archie’s bestie Zeke, and she’s got an odd connection to the school bully and her brother’s personal tormentor Lee. Any of these people seem likely candidates to grow into the Maker of the virus. Adding more trouble for Alice, and she tries to unravel the identity of the Maker, her absentee father reconnects with his old college lab partner, Charlie, a sketchy scientist with a grudge who meets nearly all of the likely candidates at a banquet where Archie and Cristela are being honored.

The pacing of this story is really tight, with plenty of tension surrounding the Voice, and the intentions of Malice. Though Alice suspects it, she doesn’t learn until much later that other actors are talking to their “past” selves, in the way Malice informs her, and their agenda is not always to stop the Maker. It’s a deep game and Alice doesn’t know who to trust, but she’s really banking on Bandit, as he seems to be the most trustworthy. Also, she knows through Malice that Bandit plays a really big role in her future-life. There are lots of spins and twists, with Alice trying to build bridges between herself, her tiny family, Bandit and Cristela. Her natural protectiveness at points fosters and harms Archie, but her resolution to find a way to stop the Maker without killing leads to a new possible future, and one she hopes includes Bandit.

I enjoyed the story, and it’s many turns. I’ll admit I was dubious about her odd family from the start, but I was glad to have a plausible explanation for what seemed an avoidable dysfunction. Archie’s bullying situation was deeply troubling, and I know it was intended so, but the lack of action bothered me, especially as Alice often had a front-row seat to his plight. In all, Alice, the not-so-bright-as-her-genius-peers ends up saving the day with good old-fashioned love. I’m not sure if that’s a commentary on the sociopathic nature of intellectuals, on the ingenuity of the common person, or a moralistic stance on the heart being more intuitive than the brain. Her banter with Bandit was amusing, and I got how his brashly antagonistic flirting was more endearing than off-putting. It’s a fun and interesting start to what could possibly be the love of her life.

Interested? You can find MALICE on Goodreads, AmazonBarnes & Noble Kobo, Book DepositoryiTunes, Books-A-Million , and Google.

About the Author:
Pintip Dunn is a New York Times bestselling author of young adult fiction. She graduated from Harvard University, magna cum laude, with an A.B., and received her J.D. at Yale Law School.

Pintip’s novel FORGET TOMORROW won the 2016 RWA RITA® for Best First Book, and SEIZE TODAY won the 2018 RITA for Best Young Adult Romance. In addition, her books have been translated into four languages, and they have been nominated for the following awards: the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire; the Japanese Sakura Medal; the MASL Truman Award; the Tome Society It list; the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award; and a Kirkus Reviews Best Indie Book of the Year. Her other novels include REMEMBER YESTERDAY, THE DARKEST LIE, GIRL ON THE VERGE, STAR-CROSSED, and MALICE.

Catch up with Pintip on her websiteFacebookTwitterInstagram, and Goodreads.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Out Today: MALICE by Pintip Dunn

Hi there! Today I’m excited to share a release day blast for a YA thriller with romance elements from bestselling author Pintip Dunn. MALICE sounds like a fast-paced read that I’m excited to check out.

About the book:
What I know: a boy at my school will one day wipe out two-thirds of the population with a virus.
What I don’t know: who he is.

In a race against the clock, I not only have to figure out his identity, but I’ll have to outwit a voice from the future telling me to kill him. Because I’m starting to realize no one is telling the truth. But how can I play chess with someone who already knows the outcome of my every move? Someone so filled with malice she’s lost all hope in humanity? Well, I’ll just have to find a way―because now she’s drawn a target on the only boy I’ve ever loved…

How about a little taste?

Before I know it, I’m a foot away from the basketball court. The players are taking a break, and Bandit stands at the edge of the concrete, taking long pulls from a water bottle. Up close, his brilliant hair looks almost purple, and his T-shirt sticks to his back in sweaty patches, hinting at his solid muscles.

Now what? Do I clear my throat? Tap his shoulder? Going for broke, I do both at the same time.

He turns and lifts his eyebrows, as though wondering how a mere mortal such as myself dares to approach him. He’s tall—really tall. Almost a head above my five feet five. His jaw is chiseled, his shoulders broad. I’m so close that I can feel the heat rising off his body.

My brain scrambles. I forgot to check if I had any food in my teeth! Did I brush my hair this morning? Put on clothes?

Okay, so clearly I’m not naked, but for the life of me, I can’t remember what I’m wearing. Please don’t let it be the navy T-shirt with the faded splotches on the shoulder, from when I accidentally added bleach instead of detergent to the laundry.

I glance down. Jeans and a white tank top—my favorite shirt because it has Lin-Manuel Miranda’s autograph. More than passable.

“I, uh…” My entire vocabulary chooses that moment to flee.

His lids lower, and he looks at me, decidedly bored. “Yes? Can I help you?”

Three, four, five of his basketball friends angle their towering bodies toward us, probably wondering what the interruption is about.

Sweat gathers at the nape of my neck, and electricity hums along my skin. The Voice is about to zap me again. I just know it.

“Running out of time,” the Voice pipes up, as if on cue. “Tell him.”

Say the words and be done with it. Say the words. Say. The. Words.

“I love you,” I blurt. “That is all. Goodbye.”

I wheel around, ready to sprint, when a hand snags my arm. His hand.

“Wait a minute,” Bandit says, his eyes 2 percent less bored. “Are we in third grade? Do you want to give me a note asking if I love you back, so I can circle yes or no?”

My cheeks burn hotter than the sun assaulting my skin. Hotter, even, than the flames that got me into this mess.

I could really use that alien abduction right about now.

The object of my supposed affection smirks. “We can skip the note. Can’t say I blame you for falling for me. I mean, I’m a lovable guy. But have we actually met?” He lowers his voice. “Outside of your wildest dreams, that is.”

Interested? You can find MALICE on Goodreads, AmazonBarnes & Noble Kobo, Book DepositoryiTunes, Books-A-Million , and Google.

About the Author:
Pintip Dunn is a New York Times bestselling author of young adult fiction. She graduated from Harvard University, magna cum laude, with an A.B., and received her J.D. at Yale Law School.

Pintip’s novel FORGET TOMORROW won the 2016 RWA RITA® for Best First Book, and SEIZE TODAY won the 2018 RITA for Best Young Adult Romance. In addition, her books have been translated into four languages, and they have been nominated for the following awards: the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire; the Japanese Sakura Medal; the MASL Truman Award; the Tome Society It list; the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award; and a Kirkus Reviews Best Indie Book of the Year. Her other novels include REMEMBER YESTERDAY, THE DARKEST LIE, GIRL ON THE VERGE, STAR-CROSSED, and MALICE.

Catch up with Pintip on her websiteFacebookTwitterInstagram, and Goodreads.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

No Escape From THE WALLED CITY? A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing my review for a YA thriller (with a hint of romance) recently released by Ryan Graudin. THE WALLED CITY is a fast-paced story of rescue and redemption in the gritty slums of a fictional Chinese town.

The Walled CityAbout the book:

730. That’s how many days I’ve been trapped.
18. That’s how many days I have left to find a way out.

DAI, trying to escape a haunting past, traffics drugs for the most ruthless kingpin in the Walled City. But in order to find the key to his freedom, he needs help from someone with the power to be invisible….

JIN hides under the radar, afraid the wild street gangs will discover her biggest secret: Jin passes as a boy to stay safe. Still, every chance she gets, she searches for her lost sister….

MEI YEE has been trapped in a brothel for the past two years, dreaming of getting out while watching the girls who try fail one by one. She’s about to give up, when one day she sees an unexpected face at her window…..

In this innovative and adrenaline-fueled novel, they all come together in a desperate attempt to escape a lawless labyrinth before the clock runs out.

My Review:
I got sucked into the blurb on this one. I’ve not read a lot of books with a Chinese cast and setting, and it wasn’t clear at first if this was reality or dystopia, but, upon reading I decided that didn’t matter so much. It actually is reality-based, but the reality of this world–this lawless slum on the edge of a bustling city–is rather dystopian.

Jin Ling is a teenaged girl posing as a boy in Hak Nam, the ruined fort abutting Seng Ngoi. She has been here, living on the streets, stealing to survive, for two years–ever since her father sold her beautiful elder sister, Mei Yee, into prostitution. Their father was an abusive drunk who saw no use in two daughters on a failing rice farm–but Jin and Mei Yee have a deep love for each other, and a survivor spirit.

Mei Yee, due to her beauty, has captivated a very rich man, Ambassador Osamu, who pays for her to have the best room in Longwai’s brothel, and to be kept for his use only. It is the best life Mei could hope for, but hope is not allowed in her life.

Dai is a young man looking for a second chance. Two years ago he was a wealthy man’s son, enrolled at the best boarding school, and selling drugs for fun. Then, a drug run went bad, leaving Dai with a smoking gun and three dead bodies. His parents helped him to escape to Hak Nam, where the police are not allowed due to a treaty, and where Dai has lived/survived by keeping his head down. Thing is, the treaty is due to expire in 18 days, and the police want to capture Dai–one of the dead drug runners happened to be the mayor of Seng Ngoi’s son. Dai has two choices: 1-flee China and bring further disgrace on his family or 2-get the dirt on Hak Nam’s crime boss Longwai.

Dai makes an arrangement with Longwai–running drugs–so he can gain access to Longwai’s inner circle and find the ledger which contains evidence for conviction, but he cannot do it alone. He recruits Jin, who accepts because she is a super fast runner, and because Longwai’s brothel is the only one to which she hasn’t been able to gain entrance to search for Mei Yee. Meanwhile, Dai strikes up a friendship with Mei Yee, in the interest of gaining inside information on Longwai and his men.

During he 18 day countdown, these three survive some pretty lethal encounters. Mei Yee is abused and nearly turned into a heroin addict. Jin is hunted by a street gang and stabbed. Dai puts his freedom in jeopardy leaving Hak Nam to get the help he needs to complete his impossible task.

It took me a bit of time to get used to the narrative, which cuts between three points of view, and the content–the experiences of each narrator are horrifying, all the more so for their realistic setting. It is easy to sympathize with Jin and Mei Yee, but Dai required more warming-up-to. I really got engaged in the story maybe ten chapters in, mostly because the immediate violence and callous environment isn’t appealing, to me as a reader. There is a touch of romance–Mei Yee and Dai have an unrequited attraction–which becomes a hindrance to Mei’s service to her wealthy patron, but the one thing uniting all these desperate characters is hope. Hope that life will not always be this horrible, lawless, parentless, loveless experience. Hope that, one day, a girl could just be a girl, not a possession to be bought, sold or discarded. Hope that a child could escape the slums and frolic in the sea or gaze at the unpolluted starlit sky. Hope that a son could redeem his past, and build a better future.

I ended up staying up way past my bedtime to finish this one, and wasn’t disappointed.

Interested? You can find THE WALLED CITY on Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:

Ryan Graudin grew up in Charleston and graduated from the College of Charleston with a degree in Creative Writing in 2009. She is the author of All That Glows and The Walled City. She resides near Charleston with her husband and wolf-dog. You can find her online on her website and twitter.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Just A Matter of WHEN–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m reviewing a newly released YA book that captivated me from the first page. Victoria Laurie’s WHEN centers on Maddie, an ordinary girl with an extraordinary gift–she can see the death dates of every person she meets.

WhenAbout the Book:

Maddie Fynn is a shy high school junior, cursed with an eerie intuitive ability: she sees a series of unique digits hovering above the foreheads of each person she encounters. Her earliest memories are marked by these numbers, but it takes her father’s premature death for Maddie and her family to realize that these mysterious digits are actually death dates, and just like birthdays, everyone has one.

Forced by her alcoholic mother to use her ability to make extra money, Maddie identifies the quickly approaching death date of one client’s young son, but because her ability only allows her to see the when and not the how, she’s unable to offer any more insight. When the boy goes missing on that exact date, law enforcement turns to Maddie.

Soon, Maddie is entangled in a homicide investigation, and more young people disappear and are later found murdered. A suspect for the investigation, a target for the murderer, and attracting the attentions of a mysterious young admirer who may be connected to it all, Maddie’s whole existence is about to be turned upside down. Can she right things before it’s too late?

My Review:

Maddie has a had a traumatic life. Seeing the death dates of every person she meets, or on any close-up picture she sees, is personally horrifying, but she’s also forced to rely on this macabre talent in order to support herself and her alcoholic mother. She’s only 16 and didn’t realize the significance of those funny numbers on people’s foreheads until her father’s number was up. That was ten years ago and she and her mother are now limping along in a bedroom community about 90 minutes from Manhattan.

When she informs a client that her son will die in the coming week, the client freaks out. Maddie attempts to call a second time, urged by her best friend “Stubby” Shroeder, to impress the seriousness of the situation–and is rebuffed, with hostility. That is, until the young boy goes missing. Only, Maddie knows he’s not just missing–he’s dead. The Feds are in on the case, and Maddie finds herself at the center of their investigation. Her Uncle Donny, a slick lawyer, does his best to cast suspicion away, cautioning Maddie against doing any further readings–but she inadvertently sees a local girl with a looming death date–and Stubby insists they try to help.

Their interference only lands both of them in huge trouble, and the Feds are mounting a case file that could put both Maddie and Stubby in jail for a good long time. Meanwhile, Maddie fights the system, trying to prove that her “gift” is what gives her insight, as small as it is. She’s got the added trouble of bullying at school, and her mother going on increasingly more dangerous benders. I honestly got chills reading about Maddie peeling her mom off one floor, or another, and putting her back to bed safely–when her mom managed to make it home.

Maddie’s world has become an even more frightening place as strange trucks chase her down dark streets and yet another child is kidnapped. The FBI is, at first, hostile, but Maddie fights to win their support against Uncle Donny’s wishes–he’s sure they’re going to set her up. Proving her gift is legit is nearly as hard as proving the Tooth Fairy exists, however.

Still, Maddie never gives up trying to demonstrate her (and Stubby’s) innocence. Not when her mom takes a turn for the worst. Not when Stubby’s the lead suspect. And not when it seems the FBI wants to name her as an accomplice to a serial murderer. It’s a taut, emotional drama that moves with grace. Several suspects exist, all of whom are equally likely, keeping the reader guessing until the closing scenes.

The adults are very real people, not simple characterizations. Maddie’s mom is pathetic and sympathetic. Uncle Donny is a champ, and keeps the Feds from steamrolling two awesome kids. Stubby is the kind of best friend I would dream my kids find–selfless, kind and cheerful to a fault.  Even the FBI agents who threaten Maddie at every turn aren’t as ruthless as they first seem. I expected the ending, but that’s like chocolate sprinkles on the thriller sundae. When, not if, WHEN is turned into a movie, I’m gonna get an extra large popcorn and enjoy it again.

Interested? You can find WHEN on Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. And, no doubt, other vendors. Probably going to see this one everywhere. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

Victoria LaurieAbout the Author:

Victoria Laurie is the New York Times bestselling author of 26 books and counting. Victoria divides her time between her two adult mystery series, (The Psychic Eye Mysteries, and The Ghost Hunter Mysteries), and a Y/A thriller, When.

As a professional psychic, Victoria’s protagonists – psychic Abigail Cooper, and spiritual medium M. J. Holliday – tackle the tricky world of the paranormal while fighting bad guys and demons with plenty of plucky humor and determination. And using that keen understanding of the paranormal, Victoria also created the character of Maddie Fynn, a teenager with the unique intuitive ability to predict the exact date of someone’s death.

To showcase her writing range, Victoria has also penned a children’s epic adventure series, The Oracles of Delphi Keep.  Victoria loves to connect with her fans, and you can find her on Goodreads, her website, twitter and Facebook.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

What Would You Do With 15 MINUTES?–A Review

Hi there! Today’s book is a YA sci-fi thriller I won on a Facebook party a few weeks back. I answered the question: If you could go back into your life and ‘re-do’ 15 minutes what would you change?

Well, I’m naturally leery of changing too many things by monkeying with the past–The old conundrum holds, what if I undid one of my kids births…and all.

But I had a think, and I came up with this: When I was 17 I had a car wreck on a snowy evening. Myself and my two passengers were injured–two of us requiring plastic surgery to repair lacerations to our faces due to the shattered glass. We were all teammates on the girls swimming team and two days from the qualifiers to the state competition–on a team that was REALLY competitive. Two of us, including myself, were barred from the pool due to our wounds. Months and months of training were wasted–I never swam competitively again. I would have liked those 15 minutes back–to choose a different route.

15 MINUTES, by Jill Cooper, is a suspense-filled, mindbender where the protagonist breaks the cardinal rule of time-travel, and destroys the world she knew and loved. Then she has to save her family–and herself.

15 Minutes (Rewind Series #1)About the book:
I have 15 minutes to save my mother’s life….

15 minutes is all the Rewind Agency gives you in the past, but for Lara Crane it’s enough time to race through the city, find her mother, and stop her from being killed in a mugging that happened over ten years ago. But that’s not how it happened.

The story she’s been told all her life is a lie and when Lara takes a bullet meant for her mother, her future changes forever. The love of her life acts like a stranger. Her simple life is replaced with a giant house, glamorous clothes and a new boyfriend.

Except someone knows her secret. And he will try to stop her at every turn as she races against the clock to unravel a dangerous conspiracy.

15 Minutes is an edgy high octane YA thriller that can be described as Back to the Future meets Inception where the people Lara trusts change in an instant. She is in a timeline she doesn’t understand, and is about to make one fatal mistake as she faces an enemy so familiar, he’s family

My Review:
Lara has longed to know her mother for her whole life. She had been killed when Lara was a young girl. Her father did his best, but he was broken by the loss. They get by, and Lara’s happy.

For her 16th birthday, Lara’s dad buys her a ten-trip package into her own past. That’s right! REWIND can send people back in time for 15 minute jaunts. Lara jumps at the chance, visiting her past several times. She knows she’s not supposed to change anything–in fact trippers CAN’T change anything–until Lara does. She thinks it’s an accident, but soon recognizes her ability to alter the past is not a fluke. And now, she’s going to save her mom.

Success is measured in doses. If one looked at the change in Lara’s life after she saves her mom, to how it was before she interfered, one would say it was a toxic dose. Her beloved father is in prison accused of planning her mother’s hit, and her mom is remarried to another man, Jax. Oh, and “new” Lara has siblings!

She also has a new boyfriend–she traded up from “bad side of the tracks” Rick to uber-rich Donovan. Life is totally messed up–plus, Lara’s mom spends so much time working for REWIND she’s never home. Jax is Lara’s pro-forma parent, but was he involved in a setup to frame Lara’s dad?

The more Lara uncovers about her new life the fewer people she can trust–starting with her mom. Seems she’s a (diabolical) scientist being (perhaps) manipulated by an old colleague. It’s a twisty mess, that even Lara can’t unravel by going back. Plus, the memories of her old life are crashing the memories of her new one, causing nosebleeds and crushing headaches as she suffers life-threatening traveling sickness.

It’s a worst-case Butterfly Effect scenario that Lara struggles to escape, without losing her grip on reality altogether. I enjoyed the ride, watching Lara dip back and forth in her timeline to right wrongs and fix problems. Such a mess sorting through her broken house of cards! Lara is always playing from behind as she gets dropped into her new reality as if she lived it–and learns that she suspected an evil plot even when her life seemed idyllic. The breadcrumbs were scattered far and wide, yet, Lara picks them up and reassembles the original loaf, not without difficulty.

Once you give people access to your mind, you find that they can control you quite easily, as Lara soon learns. The end leaves everything managed, albeit not “back to normal”–mostly because Lara isn’t normal, and her new, new life is the best she can manage. Wonder if she ever thought about going back to her old life and tearing up that REWIND gift….

Maybe, just a little.

Interested? You can find 15 MINUTES at Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Jill  CooperAbout the Author:
Author of the YA Dream Slayer series, Jill loves to blend horror, comedy, the supernatural, and love, through her novels. A fan of genre blending, her work strives to cross boundries, but most of all strives to entertain.

She loves soft cuddly cats, warm blankets, and paranormal romances. Jill resides in Massachusetts, is constantly renovating her home that she shares with her husband, young daughter, and two skittish cats. You can find Jill on her website, Facebook and twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!        

BOY NOBODY knows I AM THE WEAPON–Review

Hi there! Today’s book is another YA adventure–of the killing sort. Yeah. I know. V…where’s the romance? Patience, grasshopper. I AM THE WEAPON, first published as BOY NOBODY, is a G-force thrill ride, a 7 on the Richter scale, and an F6 Tornado. It freaking blew me away.

I Am the WeaponAbout the Book:
They needed the perfect assassin.

Boy Nobody is the perennial new kid in school, the one few notice and nobody thinks much about. He shows up in a new high school in a new town under a new name, makes a few friends, and doesn’t stay long. Just long enough for someone in his new friend’s family to die-of “natural causes.” Mission accomplished, Boy Nobody disappears, moving on to the next target.

But when he’s assigned to the mayor of New York City, things change. The daughter is unlike anyone he has encountered before; the mayor reminds him of his father. And when memories and questions surface, his handlers at The Program are watching. Because somewhere deep inside, Boy Nobody is somebody: the kid he once was; the teen who wants normal things, like a real home and parents; a young man who wants out. And who just might want those things badly enough to sabotage The Program’s mission.

In this action-packed series debut, author Allen Zadoff pens a page-turning thriller that is as thought-provoking as it is gripping, introducing an utterly original and unforgettable antihero.

My Review:
Zach Abrams is a 16 year old spook. That’s right, he’s a trained assassin, working for The Program, neutralizing threats by befriending the children of his targets before taking them out. (I’m going to call him Zach as that is his actual name–Ben is his cover name for this mission…)

I was simply astounded. The calculating precision by which Zach infiltrates his targets is clear, and his lack of a moral compass is a learned behavior–one that developed in the two years after his parents are murdered by another operative–Mike, who wormed his way into Zach’s home. Mike also inducted Zach into The Program when he was only twelve. Two years later Zach had graduated, and–in the two years since–he’s notched six authorized kills.

Now, Zach has new orders and the tightest timeframe yet. As “Ben”, Zach will befriend the daughter of NYC’s mayor. He has five days to take the mayor down. And Zach never fails.

Problem is, memories from Zach’s previous life–when he was just a normal kid–keep intruding. The mayor is extraordinarily similar to Zach’s dad, and Zach can’t help being attracted to Sam. She lost her mother a couple of years past, in an attack while visiting Israel, and she and Zach can commiserate on that level. Plus, she’s gorgeous and challenging. She won’t take any crap–and sees through Zach’s attempts at ingratiation. It doesn’t mean there is no attraction, however. Zach’s no stranger to sex, but he’s never had an emotional attachment to a girl before Sam. Also, it seems one of Sam’s ex’s is an Israeli commando. Oh, and he might just be following Zach…

Zach is messing up the mission, wanting to be close to Sam–and her Dad–prompting some tough love from The Program. Mike has been called in to ensure the job gets done–even if Zach can’t do it.

Of course, when the mission target changes to Sam, Zach’s turmoil reaches a breaking point. He’s never killed a kid before. How can he kill the girl he connects to? Zach does something he never has before–he gets outside help. And, hopefully, the computer whiz kid he enlists can help him keep Sam safe.

I thoroughly enjoyed this antihero. Zach has not questioned his role, or his job, since becoming a member of the Program. The internal battle he experiences as he chooses how to proceed with his mission is real and honest–even if Zach is a trained liar. I loved how he questioned authority, and I REALLY loved the twist about his own father–something I had expected and was delighted came to fruition. Mike, in this book, seems to be a great foil. I am hopeful that these two boys will become allies down the road. The pace is blistering. Not a spare word in the entire novel. I almost hesitated using the toilet, unable to set my pad for even that long…. Cannot wait to read the next book! I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley. And I loved every page of it!

Interested?  You can find I AM THE WEAPON on Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I’m also pretty sure you can find BOY NOBODY on you local library shelves. I’m prepping to read the sequel,  I AM THE MISSION, which is newly released….stay tuned for that review in a week or so.

Allen ZadoffAbout the Author:

Allen Zadoff is the author of the new thriller series, The Unknown Assassin which earned starred reviews and has been optioned for a feature film by Sony Pictures and Will Smith’s Overbrook Entertainment. His YA novel, Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can’t Have won the Sid Fleischman Humor Award and was a YALSA selection for Most Popular Paperbacks of 2012. His second novel was My Life, the Theater, and Other Tragedies, the story of a techie hiding from life after a family tragedy. His third novel Since You Left Me is set in Los Angeles and tells the story of a religious school student who doesn’t believe. He also wrote the memoir for adults, Hungry:Lessons Learned on the Journey from Fat to Thin.

Allen is a graduate of Cornell University and the Harvard University Institute for Advanced Theatre Training. Visit him on his website, Goodreads and twitter.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Thrilled by THE BODY IN THE WOODS–A Review

Hi There! Today’s book is a YA Mystery/Adventure from April Henry. I was raised on Nancy Drew mysteries, way back when, so I have a soft-spot for teen sleuths. THE BODY IS THE WOODS is the beginning of a new series–one I plan to follow.

The Body in the Woods (Point Last Seen, #1)About the book:

In this new series told from multiple perspectives, teen members of a search and rescue team discover a dead body in the woods.

Alexis, Nick, and Ruby have very different backgrounds: Alexis has spent her life covering for her mom’s mental illness, Nick’s bravado hides his fear of not being good enough, and Ruby just wants to pursue her eccentric interests in a world that doesn’t understand her. When the three teens join Portland County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue, they are teamed up to search for a autistic man lost in the woods. What they find instead is a dead body. In a friendship that will be forged in danger, fear, and courage, the three team up to find the girl’s killer—before he can strike one of their own.

This first book in April Henry’s Point Last Seen YA mystery series is full of riveting suspense, putting readers in the middle of harrowing rescues and crime scene investigations.

My Review:
Wow! This book kept me engaged start to finish.

Three (somewhat) misfit teens enter the Portland Search and Rescue for very different reasons. Alexis needs something stellar for her college applications so she can hope for a scholarship. Nick wants to be a hero, just like his dad who died in Iraq. And Ruby? She’s a CSI wanna-be who has a detective’s insight.

All of them have issues which is fun for me because their backstories are super interesting. The viewpoint alternates between the three main characters, at first, but we also get some short stretches in the mind of the killer and his victims.

Here’s what happens–Alexis, Nick and Ruby are called out to search for an autistic man lost in a wooded area around Portland. Along their search they encounter a few men–none who can aid them. Nick is frustrated that they, being so new, are sent to search an area less likely to hold the missing man. We can really see his desire for the accolades of heroism–notably respect and attention from girls–but he’s so eager he misses what the careful Alexis discovers: a body.

Now, Ruby, Alexis and Nick are the first on the crime scene. Ruby’s memory and attention to the details of the scene are valuable, but we can already see she will become a nuisance to the detective on the case. Nick demonstrates a lot of bravado, always covering up his fears with a shrug and bluster. Alexis, well, she’s shaken. She accepts some counseling from a teen intervention partner, Bran, who becomes a confidant later.

Search and Rescue is called out the next day to scour the crime scene for clues–and Ruby’s conservative parents forbid her from going. Not that a F5 tornado could prevent Ruby from stepping into the investigator role. She goes, and is photographed for the paper. This is bad for two reasons: now her parents will see she disobeyed them, and secondly, the killer gets her name. See, he rather likes girls, and Ruby just lights up all his senses.

Over the course of a week, we learn that the dead girl was somewhat homeless, and there was another female victim of strangulation found in a nearby park not long ago. She was homeless, too. Ruby is fixated on the case and notices a third strangled homeless girl pop up in the news. This sets Alexis on edge because her mom suffers bipolar disorder and is off her meds. When she flees in a bout of paranoia, Alexis is sure she’s living on the streets–at risk from what Ruby suspects is a serial killer.

The police aren’t convinced there’s a serial killer at work; the strangled girls were all from different races and homeless murder victims aren’t uncommon in Portland. The trio bands together, even when Ruby’s parents remove her from Search and Rescue for disobeying them. And, as we watch through the killer’s eyes, this is not the worst calamity to befall Ruby.

I won’t say anymore about the plot except this: the tension was fantastic! We don’t know if the killer will find Alexis’ mom, or Ruby. We know he’s tracking many victims and it’s so hard to wait and see who’ll fall next. Also, there are three plausible suspects and, even with the bird’s eye view, we can’t tell who the killer is until pretty late in the book.

Alexis, Ruby and Nick are interesting, well-developed characters. They have real families with specific and relatable teenager problems. And, they work to solve their own problems. They are “normal” kids, ones you could encounter in any metro area in the US–not uber wealthy, or spoiled rotten, or super hackers, or broken. They just struggle along the way we all do, working within the system to achieve their goals, and that was refreshing. I really loved how Alexis reached out to Bran for some comfort when her mom went missing–but man was I scared when she went out on the hunt! Ruby’s obsession with true crime and detective stories was really cool. And, poor Nick, that kid needs a hug. Maybe lots.

The book is thoroughly innocent of romance, but has scenes of violence associated with murder. The prose is specific and clean, and the story snaps along at a brisk pace with no info dumps clogging up the case, and well-handled misdirections. It’s easy to see how these misfits grow into a unit, one that will spark friendships and comaraderie into future stories. Definitely would recommend for teens (and above) who enjoy murder mysteries and buddy tales.

Interested? You can find THE BODY IN THE WOODS on Goodreads, Powell’s Books, Amazon and Barnes & Noble anytime aftoer June 17th. For now: Preorders, people! Thanks to NetGalley for this advanced copy to review….

April HenryAbout the author:

April Henry knows how to kill you in two-dozen different ways. She makes up for a peaceful childhood in an intact home by killing off fictional characters. There was one detour on April’s path to destruction:  when she was 12 she sent a short story about a six-foot tall frog who loved peanut butter to noted children’s author Roald Dahl. He liked it so much he arranged to have it published in an international children’s magazine. By the time she was in her 30s, April had started writing about hit men, kidnappers, and drug dealers. She has published more than a dozen mysteries and thrillers for teens and adults, with five more under contract.

You can find her on her website, Goodreads, twitter and Facebook. Probably other places, too.

Thanks for stopping by, and keep reading my friends!