5 star, YA

Review: Good Girl, Bad Blood by Holly Jackson

Series: A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder #2

The highly anticipated sequel to the instant New York Timesbestseller, A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder! More dark secrets are exposed in this addictive, true-crime fueled mystery. 

Pip is not a detective anymore.

With the help of Ravi Singh, she released a true-crime podcast about the murder case they solved together last year. The podcast has gone viral, yet Pip insists her investigating days are behind her.

But she will have to break that promise when someone she knows goes missing. Jamie Reynolds has disappeared, on the very same night the town hosted a memorial for the sixth-year anniversary of the deaths of Andie Bell and Sal Singh.

The police won’t do anything about it. And if they won’t look for Jamie then Pip will, uncovering more of her town’s dark secrets along the way… and this time everyone is listening. But will she find him before it’s too late?

When the first book blew you out of the water, it’s probably a smart idea to tamp down expectations for book 2 in case it just disappoints you altogether. I have too often felt that way about first books of series I loved.

But I can’t lie. Good Girl, Bad Blood equally astounded me with its plot line, compelling characters and writing style.

After solving a formally closed case in her small town, Pip is done with solving crimes. She has witnessed how the aftermath has impacted those around her, including people she is close to. Even with the success of her podcast about her crime solving, there seems to be equal parts love and hate for her in the comments. I felt SO bad for her at times because the cost of fame is allowing people everywhere to judge you in ways they have no understanding of.

When her friend Connor’s brother goes missing at the memorial for Andie and Sal, it takes a lot of begging from her friend to dive into crime solving again. Pip lost more than people could understand in book 1 to solve the mystery, and I was even more infuriated when others, including friends, accused her of faking a crime to further the success of her podcast.

Nonetheless, this sequel is just as gritty as we follow Pip down a criminal’s mind. The pacing was excellent, albeit in a different way. Since this is a potential kidnapping crime, every moment counts and you can feel it in the chapter headings as the days go by. I couldn’t put it down as clue after clue was investigated.

I enjoyed the way old characters from book 1 were still very much present. They weren’t just throwaway people who didn’t ever matter but individuals who became more focused in this book based on this crime. I loved that this included Connor, someone we only met briefly in between major scenes in book 1, and now is a major part of the investigation with Pip for his brother.

In the sphere of romance, I enjoyed that this takes a slight backseat to the crime at hand (I mean, you would think romance shouldn’t be the highest priority when someone’s missing), but I did miss more Ravi-Pip interactions that we got in book 1 when he was more involved.

Likewise, the continuity of crimes that TV shows don’t always portray is the fact that criminals don’t always face justice. Without giving anything away, an arrest from book 1 is now moving into the courtroom and the reality is, the jury doesn’t always get it right if they aren’t presented with all the facts in an emotionally wrapped story. While it makes me indignant there’s always the possibility that catching the bad guy doesn’t equate to justice served, I’m glad Holly Jackson addresses that in some aspect here.

And as always, Pip was an amazing protagonist to follow. She’s inquisitive, empathetic and smart (both street smart and intellectually). I couldn’t have asked for a better MC’s POV.

I can go on about this book and its series but needless to say, the hype is well deserved and I cannot wait for the conclusion. Good Girl, Bad Blood is an exemplar mystery piece that balances the heavy topics and realistic characterization.

Overall Recommendation:

Good Girl, Bad Blood proves a second book in a series doesn’t have to be dull or overhyped. With yet another potential crime occurring in their small town, Pip comes out of her self-imposed crime solving retirement to help her friend Connor find his missing brother. Faced with online scrutiny and a criminal who seems to know exactly who she is, Pip, her boyfriend Ravi and Connor set out to investigate before it is too late. Every moment counts when it comes to a missing persons case, and the suspense is ramped up in typical Holly Jackson style. I couldn’t put this book down, even late into the early hours of the morning! The characterizations were absolutely excellent and I wouldn’t change a thing about this book.

3 star, YA

Review: You’re So Dead by Ash Parsons

A hilarious Agatha Christie-inspired YA thriller-comedy about three best friends who sneak into an influencers-only festival event (gone wrong), only to discover a killer is in their midst–and they have to uncover the truth and solve the mystery before it’s too late. Perfect for fans of One of Us Is Lying and Truly Devious .

Plum Winter has always come in second to her sister, the unbelievably cool, famous influencer Peach Winter. And when Peach is invited to an all-expenses paid trip to a luxurious art and music festival for influencers on a private island in the Caribbean, Plum decides it’s finally her time to shine. So she intercepts the invite–and asks her two best friends Antonia and Marlowe to come along to the fest with her. It’ll be a spring break they’ll never forget.

But when Plum and her friends get to the island, it’s not anything like it seemed in the invite. The island is run-down, creepy, and there doesn’t even seem to be a festival–it’s just seven other quasi-celebrities and influencers, and none of the glitz and glamor she expected. Then people start to die…

Plum and her friends soon realize that someone has lured each of them to the “festival” to kill them. Someone has a vendetta against every person on the island–and no one is supposed to leave the island alive. So, together, Plum, Antonia, and Marlowe will do whatever it takes to unravel the mystery of the killer, and fight to save themselves and as many influencers as they can, before it’s too late.

Let’s set the night on fire!

When you didn’t think there was such a book that existed like this, You’re So Dead produced a satirical, suspenseful story that seems like it could really be a thing in this day and age of social media obsession.

Plum Winter, our dear protagonist, has always felt like second-tier, especially with a famous influencer older sister who left her behind for fame and status. When a invitation letter for her sister comes for a prestigious, influencer-only festival on a paradise island, Plum is all for taking her sister’s place (along with a few of her closest friends).

A parody of the infamous Fyre Festival, little do Plum and her friends know, they’re stepping not into a wild 3-day music festival but…a sinister plan that will lead to casualties.

I loved the premise of this. It was strange yet very believable. Why wouldn’t some deranged person/persons go to the ultimate length to deceive some potential targets to come to this isolated island for fun, masking their evil motives? I most definitely enjoyed seeing how the group of semi-influencers that ended up on the island slowly understand that this was never about music and rubbing elbows with more influential people. It was a lure to bring them to their deaths.

For no one is meant to survive Pyre Festival. (Yes, Pyre Festival is the name…)

The suspenseful aspect definitely built up well. You knew someone was going to die. Sometimes you knew it was going to occur within a certain time window (thank you, chapter titles). Yet I didn’t know who, when or how it was going down and that left me on my toes! It’s part of my favourite element in thrillers. The wait. The drop of the shoe. Turning around and seeing a friendly face that…isn’t actually your friend.

That’s right, folks. Because at Pyre Festival, there are a number of victims who want to escape the island.

But there is a killer among them.

*dun dun dun dun*

Okay, that was me trying to insert scary music. Now, the things I didn’t enjoy as much was the lack of enthusiasm I had for Plum and her 2 best friends who were dragged into this misadventure with her. They were nice girls who were never meant to be a part of this murderous mayhem. Plum, in particular, always felt so guilty for putting them all in this place. But she was so focused and obsessed on being seen, on being special, that is as the whole reason why she stole the invite from her sister in the first place. I understand, believe me, but there was just so much guilt in that girl.

Oh, and she happened to be in love with her best friend. Who may die on this island with her. The romance bits felt a little out of place (you know, amidst all the trying-not-to-die parts), but it was a nice bit of LGBTQ representation there so I can’t fault it.

To be honest, a lot of the people stuck on the island were not very enjoyable. I suppose that’s what made it entertaining. Who would want to target all these people in particular? Was it just one of them that set a killer off, or did they all have an enemy in common? So yes, they were an interesting bunch but not always great people to be around. I only liked poor, naive streamer Jude. But mostly because he reminded me of a lost puppy dog trying not to get kicked.

All this to say is, if you’re looking for some satirical, island-trapped murder plot, then look no further. You’re So Dead is the book for you!

Overall Recommendation:

You’re So Dead is a great combination of comical satire, suspense and thriller as we follow a group of semi-influencers trapped on an island under the premise of an epic music festival that would elevate their popularity. With a killer among them hunting one target at a time, no one knows who or when another one of them might fall victim to whoever meticulously planned such an elaborate farce. While this means the characters may not be the most likeable (they’ve all done something that makes them a little mean), they’re realistic and you can’t help but hope the ones you like don’t turn out to be the devil in disguise. A quick and suspenseful read, it’s definitely an interesting book to pick up if you don’t know what you’re feeling at the moment for your next read.

5 star, YA

Review: A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson

Series: A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder #1

For readers of Kara Thomas and Karen McManus, an addictive, twisty crime thriller with shades of Serial and Making a Murderer about a closed local murder case that doesn’t add up, and a girl who’s determined to find the real killer–but not everyone wants her meddling in the past.

Everyone in Fairview knows the story.

Pretty and popular high school senior Andie Bell was murdered by her boyfriend, Sal Singh, who then killed himself. It was all anyone could talk about. And five years later, Pip sees how the tragedy still haunts her town.

But she can’t shake the feeling that there was more to what happened that day. She knew Sal when she was a child, and he was always so kind to her. How could he possibly have been a killer?

Now a senior herself, Pip decides to reexamine the closed case for her final project, at first just to cast doubt on the original investigation. But soon she discovers a trail of dark secrets that might actually prove Sal innocent . . . and the line between past and present begins to blur. Someone in Fairview doesn’t want Pip digging around for answers, and now her own life might be in danger.

This is the story of an investigation turned obsession, full of twists and turns and with an ending you’ll never expect.

This debut had me on the edge of my seat. Hold onto your hats because this was a wild ride that really hit the hype surrounding it.

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder follows Pip, an amateur sleuth with a slight personal connection to a case that was considered solved in her small town. Under the guise of a school project to look at social media impact on a high profile case, in reality, Pip was going to conduct an investigation to see if Sal Singh, a boy she knew growing up, could really be a cold-blooded killer at heart like everyone thought he was.

Continue reading “Review: A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson”