3 star, YA

ARC Review: Begin Again by Emma Lord

As usual, Andie Rose has a plan: Transfer from community college to the hyper competitive Blue Ridge State, major in psychology, and maintain her lifelong goal of becoming an iconic self-help figure despite the nerves that have recently thrown her for a loop. All it will take is ruthless organization, hard work, and her trademark unrelenting enthusiasm to pull it all together.

But the moment Andie arrives, the rest of her plans go off the rails. Her rocky relationship with her boyfriend Connor only gets more complicated when she discovers he transferred out of Blue Ridge to her community college. Her roommate Shay needs a major, and despite Andie’s impressive track record of being The Fixer, she’s stumped on how to help. And Milo, her coffee-guzzling grump of an R.A. with seafoam green eyes, is somehow disrupting all her ideas about love and relationships one sleep-deprived wisecrack at a time.

But sometimes, when all your plans are in rubble at your feet, you find out what you’re made of. And when Andie starts to find the power of her voice as the anonymous Squire on the school’s legendary pirate radio station–the same one her mom founded, years before she passed away–Andie learns that not all the best laid plans are necessarily the right ones.

Filled with a friend group that feels like family, an empowering journey of finding your own way, and a Just Kiss Already! romance, Begin Again is an unforgettable novel of love and starting again.



Overall Recommendation:

As college stories go with a coming-of-age trope, Begin Again made itself unique with its fun, personable characters that feel like your friends and an intriguing ribbon hunt organized for freshmans in their second term only. It made me reminiscent of my own college days (though with not quite so much drama). I thought the themes and message were great, but the pacing sometimes was a little slow to the point it became a struggle to push to the end. Otherwise, a solid book by Emma Lord although not what I consider her finest.

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3.5 star, YA

Review: Five Survive by Holly Jackson

The brand new unmissable crime thriller from Holly Jackson, best-selling, award-winning author of the Good Girl’s Guide to Murder trilogy.

Eight hours.
Six friends.
One sniper . . .

Eighteen year old Red and her friends are on a road trip in an RV, heading to the beach for Spring Break. It’s a long drive but spirits are high. Until the RV breaks down in the middle of nowhere. There’s no mobile phone reception and nobody around to help. And as the wheels are shot out, one by one, the friends realise that this is no accident. There’s a sniper out there in the dark watching them and he knows exactly who they are. One of the group has a secret that the sniper is willing to kill for.

A game of cat-and-mouse plays out as the group desperately tries to get help and to work out which member of the group is the target. Buried secrets are forced to light in the cramped, claustrophobic setting of the RV, and tensions within the group will reach deadly levels. Not everyone will survive the night.



Overall Recommendation:

Hard to compete with the super high bar Holly Jackson’s bestselling series brought, but Five Survive holds up well enough as a locked room type thriller. Secrets were fun to guess and the ultimate mastermind behind what should’ve been a fun road trip wasn’t immediately obvious. Kudos for branching out in the genre but I did wish for more suspense as there wasn’t really enough stakes for it.

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3 star, YA

Review: Nine Liars by Maureen Johnson

Senior year at Ellingham Academy for Stevie Bell isn’t going well. Her boyfriend, David, is studying in London. Her friends are obsessed with college applications. With the cold case of the century solved, Stevie is adrift. There is nothing to distract her from the questions pinging around her brain—questions about college, love, and life in general.

Relief comes when David invites Stevie and her friends to join him for study abroad, and his new friend Izzy introduces her to a double-murder cold case. In 1995, nine friends from Cambridge University went to a country house and played a drunken game of hide-and-seek. Two were found in the woodshed the next day, murdered with an ax.

The case was assumed to be a burglary gone wrong, but one of the remaining seven saw something she can’t explain. This was no break-in. Someone’s lying about what happened in the woodshed.

Seven suspects. Two murders. One killer still playing a deadly game.



Overall Recommendation:

Nine Liars continues to demonstrate the beauty of a stand-alone mystery in this series following amateur detective Stevie Bell. A bit of fun sightseeing in London plus a cast of 9 adults who are all suspect of the mysterious deaths among their own group makes for an entertaining read. Slow at times but it picks up in places that propel me to continue. A solid mystery concept but with a subpar romance at the heart.

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