Review: The Dead and Buried by Kim Harrington


A haunted house, a buried mystery, and a very angry ghost make this one unforgettable thriller.


Jade loves the house she’s just moved into with her family. She doesn’t even mind being the new girl at the high school: It’s a fresh start, and there’s that one guy with the dreamy blue eyes. . . . But then things begin happening. Strange, otherworldly things. Jade’s little brother claims to see a glimmering girl in his room. Jade’s jewelry gets moved around, as if by an invisible hand. Kids at school whisper behind her back like they know something she doesn’t.

Soon, Jade must face an impossible fact: that her perfect house is haunted. Haunted by a ghost who’s seeking not just vengeance, but the truth. The ghost of a girl who ruled Jade’s school — until her untimely death last year. It’s up to Jade to put the pieces together before her own life is at stake. As Jade investigates the mystery, she discovers that her new friends in town have more than a few deep, dark secrets. But is one of them a murderer?

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Kim Harrington’s The Dead and Buried, like her previous novels, is a quick, satisfying read that thoroughly engages the reader and leaves them wanting more. Even though I should know better by now, I’m always surprised by how quickly I become invested in Harrington’s characters and how sad I am to see their stories end, even when the mystery is solved and the novel is neatly wrapped up.

This newest offering from Harrington features Jade, the new girl in town who has, unknowingly, moved into the house of the girl who was once the queen bee at her new high school… before she died a mysterious death at the top of Jade’s stairs. Soon, odd things are happening in the house and Jade’s little brother tells her he keeps seeing a girl in his room. Just as in real life, queen be Kayla Sloan isn’t so nice. She threatens Jade that she’ll hurt her little brother if Jade doesn’t figure out who killed her.

I loved that there were some really creepy scenes in The Dead and Buried. There are a couple times that Kayla possesses Jade’s little brother and, I won’t lie, I wasn’t entirely upset that I had been reading during the day rather than on a dark and stormy night. This definitely isn’t a horror novel, but I really appreciated that Harrington tried to make the scariness of Jade’s situation come through for the reader. I have to say, Jade stayed a lot calmer than I would have if my little brother was creeping around with the spirit of the local mean girl controlling his body. 

The mystery elements of this novel were fun as well. It’s entirely possible for the reader to figure out who the murderer is before Jade does if they pay attention to the detail. I much prefer this type of mystery to those in which the narrator or main character controls all the information. I was more invested than I would have been if all the clues were lined up perfectly by Jade.

One of my favorite aspects of Harrington’s novels is her romantic plot lines. They are all just so darn sweet. Though, I have to say, there was a little bit of an edge to the romance in The Dead and Buried, since Jade’s love interest had a rather complicated past with the dead queen bee… a past that made him potentially dangerous.

Lastly, I really, really liked Jade. She was a very level-headed character, which was nice. I think I would have been annoyed by a super emotional main character in this particular novel. Jade did what she had to, didn’t lose her head over her love interest, was devoted to her family (even when they weren’t always so supportive), and saved the day. Loved her!

I highly recommend The Dead and the Buried. It’s fast-paced mystery with great characters, a dash of creepiness, and lots of fun.

Scholastic, January 2013, Hardcover, ISBN: 9780545333023, 295 pgs.

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Review: The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen

THE FALSE PRINCE is the thrilling first book in a brand-new trilogy filled with danger and deceit and hidden identities that will have readers rushing breathlessly to the end.

In a discontent kingdom, civil war is brewing. To unify the divided people, Conner, a nobleman of the court, devises a cunning plan to find an impersonator of the king’s long-lost son and install him as a puppet prince. Four orphans are recruited to compete for the role, including a defiant boy named Sage. Sage knows that Conner’s motives are more than questionable, yet his life balances on a sword’s point — he must be chosen to play the prince or he will certainly be killed. But Sage’s rivals have their own agendas as well.

As Sage moves from a rundown orphanage to Conner’s sumptuous palace, layer upon layer of treachery and deceit unfold, until finally, a truth is revealed that, in the end, may very well prove more dangerous than all of the lies taken together.

An extraordinary adventure filled with danger and action, lies and deadly truths that will have readers clinging to the edge of their seats. 

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It took me a little while to get into The False Prince, but once I did, I was hooked! I purchased the novel via Audible and listened to the first half, then read the second half, which, for me, was much more enjoyable.

Though I found the first half of the novel interesting enough, I absolutely despised the voice actor’s portrayal of the main character, Sage. Though Sage is definitely a cocky character, the reader made him, in my opinion, too much of an ass. I really couldn’t stand him and almost gave up on the novel entirely just so I wouldn’t have to listen to Sage’s annoying and condescending tone anymore. Still, I liked the story itself, so I decided to give it one last chance and read the second half of the novel – and I am so glad! As I said, Sage is definitely sure of himself and, at times, full of himself, but I read him as much less annoying and I ended up speeding through the remainder of the novel.

One of my favorite aspects of this novel is that Sage is a very unreliable narrator. The reader can never be sure that Sage isn’t lying to the other characters… or even the reader! One moment I thought I knew what was motivating Sage’s actions and the next he’d do something completely unexpected, leaving me to retrace his steps and muddle through side comments and small details to figure out where I’d missed something important. 

At the novel’s close, many secrets were uncovered, but there is still some much that I hope will be explored in the next novels. The False Prince focused primarily on Sage and the two other boys competing for the role of prince and almost the entire novel is set in Connor’s palace, leaving me hopeful readers will get a closer look at the kingdom and its peoples and customs in subsequent novels. 

Scholastic, April 2012, Hardcover, ISBN: 9780545284134, 342  pages.

Review: Take a Bow by Elizabeth Eulberg

Emme, Sophie, Ethan, and Carter are seniors at a performing arts school, getting ready for their Senior Showcase recital, where the pressure is on to appeal to colleges, dance academies, and professionals in show business. For Sophie, a singer, it’s been great to be friends with Emme, who composes songs for her, and to date Carter, soap opera heartthrob who gets plenty of press coverage. Emme and Ethan have been in a band together through all four years of school, but wonder if they could be more than just friends and bandmates. Carter has been acting since he was a baby, and isn’t sure how to admit that he’d rather paint than perform. The Senior Showcase is going to make or break each of the four, in a funny, touching, spectacular finale that only Elizabeth Eulberg could perform.

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For me, reading an Elizabeth Eulberg novel is like cleansing my mental palate. After I’ve read something particularly heavy, it’s nice to give my brain a break by picking up a lighthearted novel with a quick pace and engaging characters, characteristics synonymous with her novels.

Take a Bow is the quintessential Eulberg novel… and it might be my favorite so far. Actually, I feel like this newest release had a bit more depth than The Lonely Hearts Club and significantly more than Prom & Prejudice. I really came to love Emme and Ethan and I don’t think I’ve ever felt particularly attached to any of the characters in the other books, though I’ve definitely enjoyed them.

As a completely non-artistic person, I always find novels about those who are talented in this area fascinating. I know academic pressure, but competitive performing arts schools are a totally foreign concept to me and are a bit awe-inspiring. I find myself drawn to books and movies with this theme.


Despite being totally non-artistic, I closely identified with Emme. She’s extremely shy and often overshadowed by the bossy and overbearing Sophie. I wanted Emme to step out of Sophie’s shadow so badly… somebody had to take that girl down a notch!

Take a Bow has some darker elements that weren’t present in Eulberg’s first two novels. This offering addresses substance abuse and, to some extent, the ill effects of childhood celebrity, whether it be actual big-screen fame or hometown fame. I think the depth present in Take a Bow is what, ultimately, made it shine.

If you’re a fan of Eulberg’s novels, or you haven’t read one but think you might like to, be sure to pick up Take a Bow.

Scholastic/Point, April 2012, Hardcover, ISBN: 9780545334748, 278 pages.

Review: Prom & Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg



Title: Prom & Prejudice
Author: Elizabeth Eulberg
Publisher: Scholastic Point
Pub. Date: 1.1.2011
Genre: Contemporary YA
Keywords: Retelling, Prejudice, Romance, Elite Schools, Friendship
Pages: 231
Description (from Goodreads):

After winter break, the girls at the very prestigious Longbourn Academy become obsessed with the prom. Lizzie Bennet, who attends Longbourn on a scholarship, isn’t interested in designer dresses and expensive shoes, but her best friend, Jane, might be — especially now that Charles Bingley is back from a semester in London.
Lizzie is happy about her friend’s burgeoning romance but less than impressed by Charles’s friend, Will Darcy, who’s snobby and pretentious. Darcy doesn’t seem to like Lizzie either, but she assumes it’s because her family doesn’t have money. Clearly, Will Darcy is a pompous jerk — so why does Lizzie find herself drawn to him anyway?
Will Lizzie’s pride and Will’s prejudice keep them apart? Or are they a prom couple in the making? Whatever the result, Elizabeth Eulberg, author of The Lonely Hearts Club, has concocted a very funny, completely stylish delight for any season — prom or otherwise.

I adored Elizabeth Eulberg’s THE LONELY HEARTS CLUB, so, coupled with my lifelong love of Jane Austen, PROM & PREJUDICE was a must read. Eulberg’s novels are light and rather fluffy and PROM & PREJUDICE is just over 200 pages, making it a quick read… perfect for a weekend.

The characters were likeable and the similarities between Eulberg’s reimagined versions of Austen’s characters were easy to see. I liked that the reader was able to draw parallels between P&P and PROM & PREJUDICE. Although, in PROM & PREJUDICE, Lizzie’s mother is, thankfully, nothing like the Mrs. Bennett of P&P. This Mrs. Bennett was much more supportive and considerably less interested in connections.


I did think that there were times when Eulberg would have been better off straying a bit further from Austen. For example, the language was archaic at times and didn’t seem to fit the contemporary setting. I would have preferred Eulberg to abandon her attempt to match dialogue… it made the conversation awkward and, at times, almost forced. 

Overall, I’d recommend PROM & PREJUDICE, but I preferred THE LONELY HEARTS CLUB. Read Eulberg’s debut first, then pick up her sophomore release if you like the first.


Review copy provided by Amazon Vine.

Win a copy of BEAUTY QUEENS by Libba Bray!

Big Honcho Media has kindly provided two copies of Libba Bray’s BEAUTY QUEENS for two lucky winners at The Hiding Spot! See below for your chance to win this hilarious new novel!



Prize:

2 winners will receive:
(1) hardcover copy of BEAUTY QUEENS

How to Enter:
You MUST fill out this FORMIf you neglect to fill out the form, you will not be entered to win.



Extra Entries:

Not required. Extra entries are detailed on the entry form as well.
+1 Comment on my review of BEAUTY QUEENS.
+1 Tweet this contest. (Leave a link.)

Extra entries will not be awarded for following The Hiding Spot, but it’s always appreciated! 


Details:
Contest will close June 12th, 2011. Open to the US only! You must be age 13 or older to enter.


Good luck!

Review: Beauty Queens by Libba Bray



Title: Beauty Queen
Author: Libba Bray
Publisher: Scholastic
Pub. Date: 5.24.2011
Genre: Contemporary YA
Keywords: Survival, Pageants, Satire, Girl Power, Self Discovery
Pages: 400
Description (from Goodreads):

The fifty contestants in the Miss Teen Dream Pageant thought this was going to be a fun trip to the beach, where they could parade in their state-appropriate costumes and complete in front of the cameras. But sadly, their airplane had another idea, crashing on a desert island and leaving the survivors stranded with little food, little water, and practically no eye liner.

What’s a beauty queen to do? Continue to practice for the talent portion of the program – or wrestle snakes to the ground? Get a perfect tan – or learn to run wild? And what should happen when the sexy pirates show up?

Welcome to the heart of non-exfoliated darkness. Your tour guide? None other than Libba Bray, the hilarious, sensational, Printz Award-winning author of A Great and Terrible Beauty and Going Bovine. The result is a novel that will make you laugh, make you think, and make you never see beauty the same way again..


Libba Bray is one of the craziest, off-the-wall writers I’ve ever experienced. And reading her books is just that – an experience. Bray’s novels are always entertaining, but BEAUTY QUEENS took things to whole new level. 


No subject is spared by Bray in the satirical BEAUTY QUEENS… thank goodness. This biting satire calls out the ridiculousness of pop culture, the backwards and shady nature of big corporations, and confronts the idea of beauty and what it means to be a woman.


BEAUTY QUEENS is girl power… not in a cutesy, yay-I’m-a-girl! way, but in a I’m-a-woman-hear-me-roar! way. This book is silly and humorous, but, in the end, it had a serious message. Each of the surviving, stranded beauty queens had something to hide… something that shouldn’t have had to be hidden in the first place. There is no checklist for beauty or for being a strong, successful woman and Bray’s BEAUTY QUEENS is a testament to that.


BEAUTY QUEENS is a novel I’ll definitely be loaning out to the women in my life. It’s laugh-out-loud funny, a bit romantic, a bit wild, and a whole lot of kickass. Bray doesn’t disappoint.

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If my review wasn’t convincing enough, the author gives you plenty of reasons to check out BEAUTY QUEENS:





In addition, Scholastic has launched a new online community called This Is Teen to connect readers with their favorite YA authors and books. Visit their page on Facebook for all the latest news on Libba Bray and her new book Beauty Queens: www.facebook.com/thisisteen.

Review copy provided by Amazon Vine and Big Honcho Media.

Review: Clarity by Kim Harrington



Title: Clarity
Author: Kim Harrington
Publisher: Scholastic/Point
Pub. Date: 3.1.2011
Genre: Paranormal YA
Keywords: Psychic Powers, Murder, Mystery, Family, Romance
Pages: 242
Description (from Goodreads):

When you can see things others can’t, where do you look for the truth?
This paranormal murder mystery will have teens reading on the edge of their seats.
Clarity “Clare” Fern sees things. Things no one else can see. Things like stolen kisses and long-buried secrets. All she has to do is touch a certain object, and the visions come to her. It’s a gift.
And a curse.
When a teenage girl is found murdered, Clare’s ex-boyfriend wants her to help solve the case–but Clare is still furious at the cheating jerk. Then Clare’s brother–who has supernatural gifts of his own–becomes the prime suspect, and Clare can no longer look away. Teaming up with Gabriel, the smoldering son of the new detective, Clare must venture into the depths of fear, revenge, and lust in order to track the killer. But will her sight fail her just when she needs it most?

CLARITY starts with a bang – literally. Kim Harrington doesn’t waste any time with introductions, instead she starts at the end, with Clare in a sticky situation involving a gun and someone who’s definitely not afraid to use it. From there, Harrington takes the reader back to the beginning, slowing things down and introducing a colorful cast of characters, but by the that point the reader is hooked and they uncover how Clare finds herself in this rather unfortunate situation.


I really liked the pacing of CLARITY. It clipped along at a fairly rapid pace, but I never felt like I was missing anything or like I was being pushed towards a conclusion. At less than 250 pages, Harrington successfully packs in romance, mystery, and action, which doesn’t leave a lot of down time for Clare… or the reader. The only negative is that I didn’t particularly want to devour this novel as quickly as I did… it makes the wait for book two seem even longer.


I thought the mystery element was well executed. It was fairly obvious that the main suspect wasn’t the actual killer, but I took me quite some time to figure out who actually did the deed. I definitely knew who I didn’t want the killer to be… 


Apparently boys aren’t dissuaded by Clare’s unique abilities because they’re all over her. Each of them have something different to offer Clare in terms of personality, but they all seem to have one common trait: good looks. I know who I think Clare should choose – I love “smoldering detectives” – and I’m really hoping she’ll see things my way in the next installment, PERCEPTION.


CLARITY is a action packed debut and has landed Harrington’s upcoming novels, including the sequel, PERCEPTION, on my list of must reads. Don’t miss this action packed first installment to what could easily shape up to be a new paranormal series favorite for many YA readers.