4 star, adult

Review: The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware

Image result for the death of mrs. westaway Harriet Westaway – better known as Hal – makes ends meet as a tarot reader, but she doesn’t believe in the power of her trade. If she did, what would the cards say about the choice that lies ahead of her?

When Hal receives a mysterious and unexpected letter bequeather her a substantial inheritance, she knows that it wasn’t meant for her because Mrs. Westaway is not her grandmother. Struggling with crippling debt, Hal is presented with a difficult choice: ignore the letter, or use her cold-reading skills to potentially claim the money and change her life.

After a loan sharks pays Hal a threatening visit, she decides to attend Mrs. Westaway’s funeral. she meets the family at Trepassen House, the Westaways’ country estate. Once there, Hal discovers more secrets than she could have ever imagined. There is something very, very wrong with this family, and somehow Hal and the inheritance are at the centre of it.

Full of spellbinding menace and told in Ruth Ware’s signature suspenseful style, The Death of Mrs. Westaway is an unputdownable thriller from the Agatha Christie of our time.


4 Drink Me Potions


Never believe your own lies.

The Death of Mrs. Westaway begins as an almost innocent backdrop of a story. Classic rich grandmother leaving behind a massive fortune in a dramatic reading of her final will. However, the story (and mystery) is so much more than what can be seen on the surface. Behind layers of lies and deceit lies the story of a girl who has never known family, struggling to find her place in a world which seemingly has no place for her.

This mystery follows the life of our protagonist, Harriet (aka Hal), who was born into a poor life and tries to make ends meet providing tarot-reading services on a pier. This is important, as the tarot cards become the crux upon which the story moves along. It is completely fascinating and enthralling, as the whole mystery is almost like a lengthy tarot card reading on its own. As the suspense unfolds, each path is laid forward by the explanation of a different card, and this really gave the whole story a mystical element. Even if you don’t believe in such things, Ware really gives it life in this number.

One for sorrow, Two for joy.

Hal was raised by a single mother, who tragically passed away in an accident when she was eighteen, leaving her an orphan. Forced to take up her mother’s role in tarot reading with no family to turn to, her life takes a surprising turn when she receives a letter indicating she is a beneficiary in Mrs. Westaway’s will. As her crippling debt comes catching up to her, she is forced to go to Trepassen to find out what is in store for her in the Westaway family.

Preparing herself to attend her “grandmother’s” funeral, she does not realize what she steps into when she arrives. Behind every member of the family seems to be another door, with secrets of their past hidden. While every mystery may be like this, instead of a murder mystery, this story revolves more around the secret of Hal’s past – just how is she linked to the Westaway family? And will she be caught in her own lies as she tries to take a piece of the Westaway fortune with her to repay her debts?

The whole novel has a very ethereal quality and an air of mystique. It is impossible not to follow along the signs the cards give, and the omens given in the magpies as we follow Hal down the dark alley of her past. The overarching theme of mysticism and cold-reading are beautifully woven into the story, and spellbinding really is the word to describe this page-turner of a suspense. Definitely an enjoyable read – full of mystery even without revolving around a murder.

Overall Recommendation:
If you are into mysteries at all, and the suspenseful writing of a whodunnit novel, this book is definitely for you. This story features a young adult fighting her way through thick and thin, with only her tarot cards and cold-reading skills to guide her through. While understandably the whole art of tarot may be met with skepticism (admittedly for me as well), this book definitely paints it in a different light. Additionally, it really was well woven into story and really was the propelling force of the whole suspense. I definitely recommend this one!

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4 star, YA

Review: People Like Us by Dana Mele

people like us -dana meleKay Donovan may have skeletons in her closet, but the past is past, and she’s reinvented herself entirely. Now she’s a star soccer player whose group of gorgeous friends run their private school with effortless popularity and acerbic wit. But when a girl’s body is found in the lake, Kay’s carefully constructed life begins to topple.

The dead girl has left Kay a computer-coded scavenger hunt, which, as it unravels, begins to implicate suspect after suspect, until Kay herself is in the crosshairs of a murder investigation. But if Kay’s finally backed into a corner, she’ll do what it takes to survive.

Because at Bates Academy, the truth is something you make…not something that happened.


4 Drink Me Potions


With a boarding school setting similar to Truly Devious, whodunnit suspect scenarios such as One of Us is Lying, and the cruelty of a popular it girl group likened to the popular Pretty Little Liars series, People Like Us feels both psychologically familiar yet carries a darker, more messed up undertone.

I don’t know what’s been floating around in the air lately but I’m really digging the dive into (psychological) thrillers and mysteries in YA. This book is part of that ongoing trend that should deservedly get more attention.

The novel starts off with a group of seemingly popular girls without a care in the world. They’re just leaving a party and BAM they find a dead body.

From there, it leaves your typical, simple whodunnit mystery. Our protagonist, Kay, is seemingly blackmailed by the dead girl. What a strange twist, huh?

I would love to feel more bad for her, but she’s not the most lovable person. She’s a pretty flawed, human girl with a secret past that we don’t know about. And that’s what makes it more fun to read and follow along what may happen next.

I flew through this book in almost one sitting. I wanted to know who’s next on this hit list created by the dead girl. I loved the artistry behind the tasks that Kay was forced to do in order to keep her secret. It was poetic and hauntingly cruel. You never knew who was next (and what did they do *gasp*) and who to trust. I sometimes could barely trust Kay’s own perspective because who knows if she’s hiding something huge from us?

Yet I found myself underwhelmed with other elements of the story.

Including the ending.

Yes, everything – and everyone – was kind of messed up. The culprit wasn’t unguessable but the reasoning behind it all wasn’t amazing. The whys matter to me, not just the whodunnit anymore.

Kay’s secret that pushed her so far to protect was…interesting but the delivery to us, the unknowing readers, wasn’t the best. Maybe I’m just being picky, but there was something in the execution that prevented me from loving it wholeheartedly.

Oh by the way, you romance lovers, there was something present in the story for you too. Though at times I wasn’t sure it was all that necessary to force it in.

Kay’s bisexual so throughout the book, she was torn between her ex-boyfriend and her girl best friend. They made for great suspects with motives, no doubt about it, but it was a lot of drama that felt like it just filled in the empty gaps around the main mystery instead of adding to the story itself as an important point.

So as mysteries go, it was an immediately satisfying rollercoaster spin that couldn’t be stopped once it started – for the most part – but after getting off of it, there’re a few mixed feelings thrown in there. People Like Us definitely wasn’t quite what I expected.

Overall Recommendation:

A YA thriller that gives you a glimpse into the secrets at an all girls boarding school, People Like Us was a fast-paced read that took some weird turns along the ride. With a bisexual protagonist (full of romantic angst and drama) and her hidden secret propelling her on a task list sent from a dead girl, lies get unfolded and intrigue hits its max. Although it was a fun journey, the ending came somewhat abruptly that left a strange, but lasting, impression. If you’re one for mysteries (and boarding schools!), definitely give it a shot.

3 star, YA

Review: The Fates Divide by Veronica Roth

Series: Carve the Mark #2

the fates divide -veronica rothFate brought them together. Now it will divide them.

The lives of Cyra Noavek and Akos Kereseth are ruled by their fates, spoken by the oracles at their births. The fates, once determined, are inescapable.

Akos is in love with Cyra, in spite of his fate: He will die in service to Cyra’s family. And when Cyra’s father, Lazmet Noavek—a soulless tyrant, thought to be dead—reclaims the Shotet throne, Akos believes his end is closer than ever.

As Lazmet ignites a barbaric war, Cyra and Akos are desperate to stop him at any cost. For Cyra, that could mean taking the life of the man who may—or may not—be her father. For Akos, it could mean giving his own. In a stunning twist, the two will discover how fate defines their lives in ways most unexpected.

With the addition of two powerful new voices, Veronica Roth’s sequel to Carve the Mark is a chorus of hope, humor, faith, and resilience.


3 Drink Me Potions


Fate versus choice. Which is greater than the other? Or is there a better question to be asked? Can our choices determine our fate or no matter what we choose, we may always hurtle towards our predestined path?

These are the questions that plague our protagonists as we find them right where we left off in book 1. Cyra and Akos may have momentarily “won” over their numerous adversaries but their troubles are far from over. Including their individual fates that still hang over their heads.

Brimming with questions about the path they each have to walk while wishing they could choose to be free of the destiny they were born with, the battle between their peoples continue, dragging in the Assembly that governs all these planets within the current that protects these lands. Additional POVs from the other Kereseth children were very insightful, especially from Akos’ oracle brother Eijeh who wasn’t really all quite there in the mind.

Equally balanced with romance and action, The Fates Divide was a good conclusion to the duology. At times, it did feel slow. The switching POVs didn’t always add to the story, and the world building wasn’t very strong in this sequel. It seemed after introducing us to how this world worked, including its current and the currentgifts some individuals possessed, not a whole lot was expanded about this world here. Roth did a good job in reminding us what had happened in book 1 and how everything worked in this world, especially if it’s been a while since you’ve read it, but I was a bit disappointed in only learning more about the planet Olga in this book since there’s so much more out there. With duologies picking up more in popularity, I suppose this just wasn’t enough space for further characterization of this society on top of the story.

What I will say this novel had going for it was a certain unexpected twist or two I hadn’t seen coming. And of course, back to the Fates . Always that question on how Cyra and Akos would each fulfill their destinies. I think just guessing at how it could all turn out to be okay really kept the underlying tone of the novel more urgent while events really took its time to unfold.

As endings go, this one was satisfactory. I loved the POV it was written in and that not everything was made “better” for our protagonists completely. Things aren’t 100% resolved, especially concerning the state of the overall society’s changing attitudes, but I like to think that it leaves room for more stories to be possibly born from here, set in this world. Meanwhile, we get to leave our protagonists with future possibilities that are both hopeful and content.

Overall Recommendation:
The Fates Divide concludes Veronica Roth’s interesting duology set in a world filled with currents and destinies that define the core of our protagonists. While the pacing was slow at times and there was a disappointing lack of further world building, the central theme of our destinies versus the choices we make that define our fates eclipsed everything else. Yes, there was action, romance, and the ties of family they couldn’t choose, but the question of fulfilling their fates was ultimately hanging overhead the whole time. Excellently weaved into this fantasy story, this showcases Roth’s ability to put depth in even a YA novel that could’ve remained superficial. A worthy ending that opens up the possibilities of more in this world (or so I hope).