Review: Four Dead Queens

Four Dead Queens
By Astrid Scholte
Published February 26, 2019 by Putnam

Four Dead Queens wasn’t at all what I was expecting. I thought it was going to be typical high fantasy, but it’s really a mystery with fantasy and science fiction elements.

I was stuck in an emergency room for hours on a Saturday night. On my way out the Four Dead Queensdoor, I grabbed Four Dark Queens so I’d have something to read, and by the time, I went home later that night, I had torn through 250 pages and didn’t want to put it down. It was the perfect book to distract me from my not so pleasant surroundings.

Keralie is a teen master thief who works for a criminal mastermind named Mackiel. They live in a country called Quadara, which has an unusual system of government. The country has four quadrants, each with its own queen. The four queens live together in a palace at the center of the country, and they represent their quadrant’s interests while never actually visiting their quadrant. On Mackiel’s orders, Keralie steals a set of comm chips from a messenger. Things don’t go exactly as planned, and Keralie and the messenger, Varin, are caught up in a conspiracy plot that leads to the murders of the four queens.

Keralie and Varin form an uneasy partnership. Varin is from Eonia, the technologically advanced quadrant. Eonia uses genetic modifications to enhance their citizens and has other forms of technology, like the comm chips that Keralie steals. The Eonians are very repressed and unemotional, so Varin doesn’t work so well with hot-headed Keralie. Their evolving relationship as they try to solve the mystery of the queens’ deaths is really fun.

The mystery was very twisty and unexpected. We get chapters from the point of view of each of the queens, so we see a bit of their lives and what’s going on right before the murders. Each queen has a secret, and it’s not clear whether their secrets may have something to do with the murders. There are so many twists and turns in this book, and the resolution of the mystery was totally unexpected and very well done. Also, it’s a stand-alone book, so you don’t have to commit to multiple books, which is a nice change from most other young adult fantasy books.

I received an ARC from the publisher via Amazon Vine.


Review: Two Can Keep a Secret

Two Can Keep a Secret
By Karen McManus
Published January 8, 2019 by Delacorte Press

Echo Ridge, Vermont is a lovely small town with a bad history for high school girls.
In 1996, Sarah Corcoran vanished without a trace.
In 2014, Homecoming Queen Lacey Kilduff was brutally murdered and her killer was never caught.
In 2019, history seems to be repeating itself.

Two can keep a secrteTwins Ellery and Ezra Corcoran have to move to Echo Ridge to live with their grandmother while their mother Sadie is in rehab. Sadie fled Echo Ridge 23 years earlier after twin sister Sarah disappeared, and the twins have never been there before. Ellery is a true crime addict, and she’s fascinated by the mysteries of Sarah’s disappearance and Lacey’s murder, neither of which her mother would ever talk about.

Ellery befriends Malcolm Kelly, who’s older brother Declan was the main suspect in Lacey’s murder. Declan was Lacey’s boyfriend, and although he was not arrested, most of Echo Ridge still thinks he did it. Malcolm has grown up in the shadow of this suspicion.  As Homecoming gets closer, there are anonymous threats against the Homecoming court, and when another young woman goes missing, Malcolm falls under suspicion.

Two Can Keep a Secret is a compulsively readable thriller. Ellery and Malcolm are great characters. I loved Ellery’s obsession with true crime, and it makes a lot of sense for her character given her family’s unsolved mystery. Malcolm lives on the other end of the spectrum, just trying to live under the radar, avoiding the attention that comes with being the brother of a suspected murderer. The story is told in dual perspectives. I felt for both characters. Ellery has bounced around a lot because of her flighty mother, and Malcolm is viewed with suspicion by many just because of his brother.

This book also has awesome fall vibes, since it takes place in New England and the twins work at the town’s horror amusement park, Fright Farm (formerly called Murderland, but they changed the name after Lacey was actually murdered on the premises).

There are a lot of twists and turns, and the reader is thrown right into the action when the twins and their ride home from the airport come across a dead body in the middle of the road. There are a lot of potential suspects, and I love that Ellery suspects literally everyone, including the guy she wants to kiss. I like a mystery where I have no idea who the killer is, and I was pretty surprised by the ending.

I received an ARC from Amazon Vine.




Middle Grade Review: The Storm Keeper’s Island

The Storm Keeper’s Island
By Catherine Doyle
Published January 22, 2019 by Bloomsbury Children’s Books

One of my goals for 2019 is to read more middle grade, and The Storm Keeper’s Island sounded right up my alley: set on a small island off the coast of Ireland, with family secrets and magic.

Eleven-year-old Fionn Boyle and his older sister Tara are sent to the island of Arranmore to spend the summer with their grandfather, Malachy, while their mother is hospitalized Storm Keeperfor depression. Tara’s excited to return to the island where she has friends and a boyfriend, but this is Fionn’s first visit and he’s missing his mother and apprehensive about staying with a grandfather he’s never met.

Arranmore is a magical place, and Fionn can feel the magic almost as soon as he steps off the ferry. His grandfather is a bit odd and lives in a ramshackle cottage filled with candles he makes. Tara has no time for her younger brother and ditches him as soon as she can to hang out with her boyfriend, the truly awful Bartley Beasley (Fionn refers to him as a “follically gifted Voldemort.” He’s actually much more of a Draco Malfoy type.). Left to his own devices, Fionn begins to explore the island and its secrets.

Fionn learns that his grandfather is the island’s Storm Keeper, the person who wields the island’s magic and keep it safe. Malachy’s mind is beginning to fail, and it’s time for the island to choose a new Keeper. An ancient evil may be waking up, and the Storm Keeper’s job of keeping the island safe is going to be a difficult one.

Fionn is a great character. He’s a little lost, he misses his life in Dublin, and he worries that he’s not as brave as his dead father (who died before he was born during an island rescue) and Malachy. His growing bond with his grandfather is lovely and we see him begin to find himself. The connection between Fionn and Malachy was the best part of the book for me.

I found the book’s villains a bit weak. They’re revealed to be bad the first time you meet them, so there’s not much suspense. One of them even has a resplendent mustache, which is a bit too on the nose for me. But the villains aren’t really that important to the story. It’s much more about Fionn and his family and the ways they’re trapped in the past and bound to the island.

This is a lovely book, and I think kids will really enjoy reading about Fionn. There’s going to be a sequel, and the next stage of Fionn’s tale should be very interesting.

I received an ARC from Amazon Vine.