YA Book Review: Live Your Best Lie by Jessie Weaver

Summer Cartwright is a 16-year-old influencer living a charmed Hollywood, California life. She’s rich, well-connected, and she just signed a massive book deal for an upcoming tell-all style memoir. When a new post from Summer’s Instagram account announces that the social media star will be dead in the next five minutes, the guests are her Halloween party think it’s just part of the entertainment. Her friends know different. That’s not Summer’s brand. Something is wrong. There were right-Summer was actually dead. As the police begin to investigate, those closest to Summer begin their own search for the killer. The suspect list keeps growing as the motive for the murder appears to be the book she was working on. If Summer was dead, would the book and the dark secrets it was set to reveal go away?

Told from the points of view of Summer’s bff, Grace, Summer’s ex-boyfriend Adam, Summer’s number one fan, Cora, and her one-time roommate, Lanie, Live Your Best Lie is a twisted, suspenseful debut. The narrator does an excellent job of juggling the various character points of view as well as flashbacks, but the inclusion of social media posts and comments, police interviews, and newspaper articles make for an interesting read. A delightfully wicked read as well as a timely cautionary tale-social media never tells the whole story and influencers only show what they want you to see.

Hand this to fans of Karen McManus and Maureen Johnson and anyone else who likes to solve the puzzle along with the characters. The clues are there for the clever reader, but so are the red herrings. Readers who make it to the end will be rewarded with a final twist you won’t see coming.

Thank you to Netgalley, Disney Audiobooks, and Melissa de la Cruz Studios for an advanced reader copy.

The Further Adventures of Finlay Donovan

Finlay Donovan Jumps the Gun by Elle Cosimano is the third book in the Finlay Donovan series. This newest addition picks up where book two leaves off, so it’s best to read them in order. Click on the covers to find these titles in the catalog.

Here’s a quick recap:

Finlay Donovan is a stressed-out writer and mother to two young children with a deadline, writer’s block, and an infuriating ex-husband. She does not need any more drama in her life, but that’s exactly what she gets after a meeting with her agent in a crowded coffee shop. Overhearing Finlay describe the plot of her new book, a customer mistakes her for a contract killer. Before she knows it, Finlay accidentally finds herself involved in a real life crime! Book two brings back Finlay and the motely crew she gathered in the book one-Vero, her nanny with a secret past and Detective Nick Anthony, the dreamy hot cop. This time it appears that Finlay is not the only one who’s done with her Stephen, her ex. On top of everything else, he seems to have attracted the attention of the Russian mob! Which brings us to book three. The unresolved issues of the previous book are still in play, so it seems like a risky move to enroll in the Citizen’s Police Academy, but that’s exactly what Finlay and Vero do. Danger, romance, and hilarity ensue. Vero’s past secret is revealed, as is the identity of the mysterious hitman, EasyClean, but fans will rejoice in the knowledge that there are still loose ends and further adventures of Finlay and Vero to come.

This series is pure addictive escapism. Non-stop shenanigans, close calls, and toddler antics are par for the course with Finlay and Vero. Fans of witty banter, will-they-won’t-they sexual tension, and the ugly realities of parenthood with enjoy this series. Finlay and Vero are quite the dynamic duo and the love interests are dreamy.

Finlay Donovan Jumps the Gun is available January 31, 2023. Thank you to Netgalley and Minotaur Books for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

~Megan

Getting Cozy With Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree

Viv is ready to hang up her sword and quit the mercenary life for something quieter-and sweeter. Armed with a legend, an artifact, and a little known Gnomish beverage, Viv sets about opening her coffee shop on a ley line in Thune. Her new venture attracts a motley cast of characters, including a baker, a business-minded succubus, and the head of the local mob.

This book is as comforting as a latte and a warm cinnamon roll on a wintery day. Having spent nearly a decade working in coffee shops myself, I thoroughly enjoyed watching Viv’s shop open and evolve. I savored the pages dedicated to the pure joy of a cinnamon roll. I laughed each time Thandri had to change the chalkboard menu and delighted in meeting their customers. While this does take the better half of the book, it’s not all coffee and sweets. As Viv and her crew learn the ropes of the business, trouble is quietly brewing. But Viv isn’t just building a business-she’s building a community and family who have her back when tragedy strikes.

I cannot stress enough how absolutely charming and delightful this book is. If you enjoy a good slice of life story with quirky characters and happy ending, this one is for you. I recommend taking this book to a local coffee shop to be enjoyed with a latte.

Happy Reading!

Megan

Megan’s Top Ten Books of 2022

This is the first time in a long time that I did not struggle to create this list. Upon reviewing my 2022 reads, I discovered that I was quite frugal when it came to awarding 5 stars this year. Click on the picture to see availability if you are interested in any of these.

My non-fiction 5 star reads are no surprise-I love a true crime story! I was surprised to find two poetry books and a romance on my list! My ready adventures also included relistening to the first three books in the Skulduggery Pleasant series by Derek Landy (always 5 stars from me!), devouring more volumes of Phoebe and Her Unicorn by Dana Simpson (if you grew up with Calvin & Hobbes, these are must reads!), and breezing through dozens of thrillers.

Happy Reading!

Megan

Listen With Pride

June is both Pride Month and Audiobook Month. Let’s get you listening to some fabulous stories starring LGBTQ characters!

A few of my favorite Fiction Titles-an exciting space opera, a whirlwind romance, a heartwarming fantasy, and a charming tale of family and grief.

Check out these nonfiction titles, a mixed bag of humor and heartbreak.

Read With Pride

Today marks the beginning if Pride Month, a celebration created to honor the 1969 Stonewall Uprising. While great strides have been made in securing equal rights for members of the LGBTQIA+ community, the work is clearly not done as evidenced by a number of new anti-gay laws as well as book and program challenges in school and libraries. In fact, in 2021 half of the 10 most challenged and banned books were books with LGBTQIA+ content.

Why is this so concerning? Because representation matters. For LGBTQ youth, it can be a matter of life and death. Seeing positive, realistic portrayals of queer characters is life-affirming. But books written by and/or about LGBTQIA+ characters aren’t just for for queer kids. These books can help cisgender, heterosexual readers understand the experiences of their gay friends and family members. Reading about the lives and experiences of people who are different from us helps build empathy and understanding.

So, go forth and read with Pride! Not sure where to start? Check out this list: https://www.epicreads.com/blog/lgbtq-ya-books-pride/

Ain’t Burned All the Bright by Jason Reynolds and Jason Griffin

I love Jason Reynolds. His books are always powerful, beautiful, heartbreaking and hopeful, and his newest offering, produced with his best friend, does not disappoint. In fact, it is so stunning that after enjoying a library copy I immediately purchased a copy for my personal collection.

Find a copy here

Reynolds penned three long sentences. Griffin filled 300 pocket-sized moleskin pages of art. Together they capture the feelings of fear and uncertainty most of us felt during 2020. Around the world and in our own communities people were isolate, separated. By Covid. By politics. But also, people took to the streets to protest. All the while, we sat glued to the news. Mostly bad news. It was a long, dark year. But not entirely without hope.

This book is almost 400 pages long and weighs almost 2 pounds, but you can read it in 15 minutes. Or linger over each drawing. Or revisit favorite pages. It’s a treasure.

Dedication page

These are a few pages that stuck out to me and I think they are excellent examples of the wide range of feelings expressed throughout the book. The next time someone says they don’t like poetry, hand them this and see if you win them over!

~Megan

May is Mystery Month

May is National Mystery Month and there are a bunch of YA mysteries coming out this month that sound fantastic!

The Agathas by Kathleen Glasgow and Liz Lawson

Who killed Brooke Donovan? It’s the biggest mystery of the summer, and everyone in Castle Cove thinks it’s the wrong guy. Fans of One of Us Is Lying and Riverdale can’t miss this page-turning who-done-it that’s sure to be the next must read Young Adult thriller!

Last summer, Alice Ogilvie’s basketball-star boyfriend Steve dumped her. Then she disappeared for five days. She’s not talking, so where she went and what happened to her is the biggest mystery in Castle Cove. Or it was, at least. But now, another one of Steve’s girlfriends has vanished: Brooke Donovan, Alice’s ex-best friend. And it doesn’t look like Brooke will be coming back. . .
Enter Iris Adams, Alice’s tutor. Iris has her own reasons for wanting to disappear, though unlike Alice, she doesn’t have the money or the means. That could be changed by the hefty reward Brooke’s grandmother is offering to anyone who can share information about her granddaughter’s whereabouts. The police are convinced Steve is the culprit, but Alice isn’t so sure, and with Iris on her side, she just might be able to prove her theory.
In order to get the reward and prove Steve’s innocence, they need to figure out who killed Brooke Donovan. And luckily Alice has exactly what they need–the complete works of Agatha Christie. If there’s anyone that can teach the girls how to solve a mystery it’s the master herself. But the town of Castle Cove holds many secrets, and Alice and Iris have no idea how much danger they’re about to walk into. 

Two Truths and A Lie by April Henry

A group of teens are trapped in an old motel with a murderer in this chilling YA mystery by New York Times  bestselling author April Henry.

Nell has always wanted to be an actor, but doubts her ability. As a member of her school’s theater program, she prefers working backstage. On the way to a contest, an unexpected blizzard strands her acting troupe in a creepy motel. Soon they meet a group of strangers from another high school–including the mysterious and handsome Knox, who insists they play the game Two Truths and a Lie. When it’s Nell’s turn, she draws a slip of paper inked in unfamiliar handwriting:
I like to watch people die.
I’ve lost count of how many people I’ve killed.

Suddenly a night of harmless fun turns into a matter of life and death. As guests go missing, it becomes clear that a murderer is hiding in their midst ready to strike again. In a room full of liars and performers, the truth is never quite what it seems. Nell is going to have to act like her life depends on it–because it does.

The Counselors by Jessica Goodman

From New York Times bestselling author Jessica Goodman comes a twisty new thriller about three best friends, one elite summer camp, and the dark secrets that lead to a body in the lake.

Camp Alpine Lake is the only place where Goldie Easton feels safe.
She’s always had a special connection to the place, even before she was old enough to attend. The camp is the lifeline of Roxwood, the small town she lives in. Alpine Lake provides jobs, money and prestige to the region. Few Roxwood locals, though, get to reap the rewards of living so close to the glam summer that camp, with its five-figure tuition and rich kids who have been dumped there for eight weeks by their powerful parents. Goldie’s one of them.
Even with her “townie” background, Goldie has never felt more at home at camp and now she’s back as a counselor, desperate for summer to start and her best friends, Ava and Imogen, to arrive. Because Goldie has a terrible dark secret she’s been keeping and she is more in need of the comfort than ever.
But Goldie’s not the only person at camp who has been lying. When a teen turns up dead in the lake late one night, she knows that the death couldn’t have been an accident. She also knows that Ava was at the lake that same night.
What did Ava see and what does she know? Why hasn’t she said anything to Goldie about the death? Worse–what did Ava do?
But asking questions offers no answers, only broken bonds of lifelong friendship, with hidden danger and betrayals deeper than Goldie ever imagined.

YA mystery lovers are in for a fantastic summer of reading!

Novels in Verse for Poetry Month

I have always struggled to appreciate poetry, which is why I am always surprised when I read and love a novel in verse. Every time. I read two this month and they were both amazing.

Me (Moth) by Amber McBride. Moth, named for a fairy in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, is grieving the loss of her family. When she meets Sani, she recognizes another lost soul, another lonely person. Together they embark on a road trip. A quest. A search for roots and ancestors.

I went in to this book knowing nothing about it and I recommend you do the same. Just know it’s beautiful and engaging. It’s full of Earth magic and voodoo and Native imagery along with nods to Greek mythology and Shakespeare. A truly lovely read.

Ain’t Burned All The Bright by Jason Reynolds and Jason Griffin. I listened to this one while following along with the book. In about 10 sentences and 300 pages of art, the Jasons tell the story of what if feels like to be Black in America today. This manifesto is brilliant. Dark and vulnerable, fierce and hopeful, it’s a stunning visual experience.

Finally, the novel in verse that started it all for me:

To Stay Alive: Mary Ann Graves and the Tragic Journey of the Donner Party by Skila Brown. What more can I say about a NOVEL IN VERSE ABOUT THE DONNER PARTY other than, heck yeah!

I hope you found a new gem during National Poetry Month. If not, I suggest you check out one of these.

Megan

I Read YA: That Weekend by Kara Thomas

That weekend was supposed to be a fun, secret getaway. Ditching prom for a weekend of hiking, camping, drinking, just Claire and her best friends, Kat and Jesse sounds like a dream. But something goes horribly wrong and Claire can’t tell anyone what happened. She has no idea why she was the only one to come down from the mountain where all three hiked. Claire struggles to regain her memories and as the months pass with no news of her friends’ whereabouts she grows more frustrated. Taking matters in to her own hands, she resolves to get answers. This was a fun thriller. Complex relationships, plenty of red herrings, and big twist will keep readers wondering about what really happened that weekend. If you like a slow-burning mystery and unreliable narrators and a whole lot of karma, check out That Weekend.