Review: One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus

One of Us is Lying
Author: Karen M. McManus
Publication Date: May 30, 2017
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Genre: Young Adult, Mystery

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

One of Us Is Lying is the story of what happens when five strangers walk into detention and only four walk out alive. Everyone is a suspect, and everyone has something to hide.

Pay close attention and you might solve this.

On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.

Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.

Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.

Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.

Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.

And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.

Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?

Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.


This is Karen M. McManus’ debut novel? I’m having a hard time believing that because One of Us Is Lying was so well written. It’s rare to find a YA thriller/mystery that’s as intricately woven as this books was. That fact that a début author wrote it blows my mind! 

One of Us Is Lying kept me guessing from beginning to end. I thought I might have known the killer, but every twist and turn made me reexamine what I thought I knew. The four different points of view spurred that on. Every time the character narrating changed, something new and important was revealed. Those revelations were key in keeping the story moving and changing.

I loved every minute of reading this book. It’s one of best YA debuts I’ve read in a while. The fact that author’s inspiration was The Breakfast Club with criminal twist makes it even more of a gem! I can’t wait for Karen M. McManus to publish her next novel. I will definitely be reading it!

Review: Fallen Crest University by Tijan

Fallen Crest University
Series: Fallen Crest High, #5
Author: Tijan
Narrators:  Graham Halstead, Saskia Maarleveld
Publication Date: December 8, 2015
Publisher: Tantor Audio
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary Romance

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Synopsis:

Samantha, Mason, and Logan are all together and united with one common enemy: Park Sebastian, the king of fraternity douchebags. With professional football scouts eyeing his every move, Mason Kade has to walk the line for the first time in his life. Any move he makes against Sebastian has to be perfect and under the radar. One mistake, and his career is over. Sebastian has other plans. Mason’s career isn’t his target-not even close. Wanting to destroy Mason completely, Sebastian knows that he must hit him where it hurts the most: Samantha, who doesn’t give a rat’s ass that she’s the target. Sam is bound and determined to protect Mason herself, no matter the cost, but what if the cost is beyond her imagination? What if this time, the villain wins?


If you’ve been keeping up with my reviews recently, you’ve probably noticed I’m majorly bingeing on the Fallen Crest University series. Tijan has created a series so addicting and drama filled that I can’t put it down. I wouldn’t say the books are perfect, but they weave a tale so complex and fascinating that perfection doesn’t really matter.

Fallen Crest University is the next stage in the fearsome foursome’s life. No longer are Sam and Logan stuck in Fallen Crest while Mason and Nate are at college. All four of them are now at the same college. It’s a blessing and a curse for Mason. He loves have his family back at his side, but he worries about their safety. If his battle with Park Sebastian was simmering last year, this year it’s boiling. Mason wants to protect Sam and Logan, but they have other ideas. Both of them are willing to do anything to protect Mason from Park.

I absolutely loved having the family back together in this book! The Fallen Crest world just didn’t feel right with them separated by distance. Sam, Mason, Logan, and Nate feed off of each other and that makes for so many fun moments. I also liked the place Sam and Mason were in. There were still secrets, but Sam seemed to be back to holding her own. Her mental state was so much better in this book.

One of my favorite things about this book was that Logan got his own point a view for a couple of chapters! It was just as awesome as when Mason’s point of view showed up in book 3. I’ve always loved his cocky demeanor, but it was even more fun hearing it from his point of view. Logan rocked! I’m so excited to read his novella soon!

Now for my least favorite things about this book. I hate to say it, but Fallen Crest University is the weakest book in the series so far. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it — I totally did. I mean, I listened to it non-stop. It’s just that it was missing some of the things I’ve loved about the series in the past. It was also really over the top in the drama department. That’s saying a lot because this series is nothing but drama.

This book was missing so many things for me. I wanted more of some of the old characters. I wish at least one horrible person from one of Sam’s high schools had shown up at her college. I also wish Heather had gone to school with her. She visited for a second, but I still missed her presence in this book. Speaking of Heather, I really wanted to know more about her hook up with Logan. They had such chemistry, and I’m sad I only got to hear a tiny bit about it. Another thing I missed was Sam’s running addiction. I know that’s crazy because it has annoyed me in the past books, but I thought there would be more involving her track scholarship. And, finally, I missed the Mason-Sam sexy times. They were alluded to, but in the previous books I got more details. I was surprised that they weren’t more prevalent now that it’s a college romance instead of a high school one? I would say maybe they cooled off after being together so long, but that wasn’t it.

As for the over the top drama, I had a hard time buying into one major twist at the end. It helped with Park’s demise, but was too out there for me. I still don’t know what to make of it.

Overall, Fallen Crest University was another addicting read. I loved seeing Mason and Sam in a new phase in their lives. I’m excited for what’s to come in the rest of the series. I’m sad that I won’t be able to listen to the rest of the series because I have fallen in love with the narrators, but I don’t think they’re out in Audible yet. I’ll have to make do with reading them. 😉

Review: Fallen Fourth Down by Tijan

Fallen Fourth Down
Series: Fallen Crest High, #4
Author: Tijan
Narrators:  Saskia Maarleveld, Graham Halstead
Publication Date: January 13, 2015
Publisher: Tantor Audio
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary Romance

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Synopsis:

My mother tried to destroy me. She doesn’t exist to me anymore and my father, the one who raised me and the biological one, are both works in progress. The only two people that I can trust are Mason and Logan, and they’re the two people who I could lose. It won’t happen. I won’t let it. No matter the truth, no matter who loves me, I won’t let anything or anyone come between us.
They’re my world. They’re my life.
They’re my family.


Surprise! (Not really.) I’m back with another Fallen Crest High audiobook review! I’m flying through these books. I can’t help it. The story has me so committed. I need to hurry up and finish all of the books so I can get back to real life!

Fallen Fourth Down was a weird transition book. Sam’s in Fallen Crest and Mason’s three hours away at college.The distance hasn’t lessened their love for each other, but it’s made it easier to keep things from each other. Sam’s trying hide the fact that she knows Logan’s in love with her. Avoiding the awkward conversations has made her tension and she hates keeping things from both of her boys. Mason’s keeping things to himself to avoid feeding Sam’s fears. They’re together, but living separate lives. When someone from Sam’s past ends up in Fallen Crest, things get even tougher.

Like I said, this was a weird transition book. Mason and Sam are apart most of the book, so I didn’t get to feast on their interactions. I missed them together. I love the intensity of their relationship. I guess it did make their times together that much more explosive, but I wanted more of the fearsome twosome and threesome.

Instead of basking in Sam and Mason’s relationship, I was stuck living through Sam’s fear of Logan’s love for her. There was so much uncomfortable tension between Sam and Logan. I worried a lot about how that was all going to play out. Sam was also dealing with a guy from her past who had a renewed crush on her. I really liked this part of the story. It was kind of sweet, and felt like it helped me get to know Sam before the Kades a little better. I liked the guy. That was probably because I knew he didn’t stand a chance next to the Mason Kade.

As for Mason, he was in a whole new world. His being at the bottom of the totem pole was cool. He had to prove himself for once, and I liked that. He was still Mason Kade, so he wasn’t an underling for long but it was fun to see him not in charge. I loved meeting all of Mason’s new football buddies and the camaraderie they shared. I even loved meeting Mason’s new nemesis, Park. I can tell their rivalry is going to amp up the drama of Mason and Sam’s college experience.

A couple of things surprised me in Fallen Fourth Down. One surprise was Nate. The Kade brothers’ relationship with him changed a bit, and I wasn’t expecting that. It made me a little sad, but I liked how it all ended up resolving itself. The second surprise was Marissa. I wasn’t quite expecting her to be as crazy as she was. I ended up hating her after this book.

Overall, I enjoyed Fallen Fourth Down. It did a good job answering some questions I had about both Sam and Mason’s pasts. It also finally cleared up Logan’s feelings about Sam. At times, it felt like a filler novella since Sam and Mason were apart, but it ended up doing a great job setting up things for Fallen Crest University.

Review: Fallen Crest Public by Tijan

Fallen Crest Public
Series: Fallen Crest High, #3
Author: Tijan
Narrators: Saskia Maarleveld, Graham Halstead
Publication Date: October 6, 2014
Publisher: Tantor Audio
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary Romance

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½

Synopsis:

Sam’s first day at Fallen Crest Public doesn’t go well. Some girls want to be her. Some girls want to destroy her. And some just don’t like her. All in all, despite being protected by Mason and Logan, it’s still only the strong survive. Sam will not only have to survive, she needs to learn how to conquer too, but there’s another battle growing. Things are about to come to a disastrous end between the towns, Roussou and Fallen Crest. Sam’s other main dilemma? Keeping Mason and Logan from getting arrested or hospitalized.


I am utterly addicted to the Fallen Crest High series.  It’s on my mind all of the time. Last night, I couldn’t sleep because I was worrying about Sam. She’s a freaking book character! What is wrong with me? I can’t stop listening to this series. I’m only pausing listening right now to write this review.

In Fallen Crest Public, Sam’s just beginning to navigate the halls of Fallen Crest Public High School. It’s different from Fallen Crest Academy, but some thing are still the same. There are still mean, horrible girls who run the school. Girls who want Mason and Logan to themselves. Girls who will do anything and everything to make sure Sam goes away. The girls aren’t Sam’s only problem, though. There’s also a Roussou/Fallen Crest rivalry making things tense for them. Sam is worried that Mason and Logan may go up against Bud and Brett. She couldn’t stand to lose her family if something bad were to happen, so Sam’s keeping secrets.

Holy crap! We FINALLY get Mason’s point of view in this book!!! It’s what I’ve been dying for after reading the first two books. I loved being inside of Mason’s head and finally understanding why he does some of the stuff he does. I didn’t always like or agree with his actions, but knowing his thoughts made my opinion of him soar. My only teeny tiny complaint about Mason has to do with the audio book version of this story. I was so used to the female narrator doing Mason’s voice that I had a hard time adjusting to the male narrator for Mason. His voice didn’t sound deep enough to me. I actually kind of like the female narrator’s version of Mason better.

Sam was Sam. She was strong and weak all at the same time. Sam had strength when dealing with the mean girls of her new school and anyone who threatened her family. She wasn’t quite as strong when it came to the guys. Her weakness was in her worries about losing Mason and Logan. Those worries and her rampant sexual desire for Mason consumed her this entire book. Despite that, Sam continued to grow and mature in this installment.

In this book, we see less of the Academy students. A few pop up here and there, but they’re mostly in the background. Sam still has Heather by her side, but we get to meet a whole bunch of new people. Most of them aren’t very nice. They were a great addition for the drama, but I hated them right along with Sam. They were horrible people. My favorite new addition was Melinda, Mark’s mom. Her warmth and acceptance of Sam added a nice touch. I can’t wait to see where Sam’s relationship goes with her in the future.

Fallen Crest Public is my favorite book in this series so far. I loved where Tijan took Sam, Mason and Logan in it. There was such a rawness to their feelings. Everything that happened propelled the story along, and gave me new insights. It was so much fun to listen to!

The Fallen Crest series keeps getting better and better as the story goes on. I never imagined there were so many different dramatic high school situations Sam, Mason and Logan could get into. I love it! But I am scared where the next book may be going…I’m off to listen to it now!

Review: Fallen Crest Family by Tijan

Fallen Crest Family
Series: Fallen Crest High, #2
Author: Tijan
Narrator:  Saskia Maarleveld

Publication Date: September 15, 2014
Publisher: Tantor Audio
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary Romance

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Synopsis:

Samantha and Mason are together. Everyone knows it. But not everyone is dealing with it. While Mason is ready to give them all the middle finger, there’s one who is not going away: her mother. Threats are issued. Ultimatums are given. Even blackmail is used. But only Samantha can put a stop to Analise. However, when a trauma from her past is triggered, she may not have the courage or strength to do what’s needed. And if she doesn’t, Mason’s future could be destroyed.


I was going to wait for my library hold on Fallen Crest Family to come available, but I just couldn’t. I had to buy the Kindle book and add the Audible option because I needed to know what happened next in the Kade/Stratton family saga. I’m so addicted to this series already that it’s not even funny.

Fallen Crest Family is the second book in the Fallen Crest High series. It begins immediately following Fallen Crest High, and continues Sam’s story. Sam and Mason have been forced to reveal their relationship to everyone. No one is excited about them being together. (Well, except Logan and maybe Nate.) The person taking their relationship the worst is Sam’s mother. Analise is willing to do everything and anything to keep Sam and Mason apart. Sam knows she’s the only person who can put Analise in her place, but her mother is crazy and conniving. Poor Sam isn’t sure she has what it takes to stand up to her mother.

Okay, so first I need to tell you that Sam’s annoying man-ish voice from the first audio book did not appear in the Fallen Crest Family audio book. (Or maybe I just didn’t notice it?) Sam sounded like a normal girl the entire time. Well, at least her voice sounded normal. Sam’s not exactly normal.

Sam changed a bit in this book. She lost some of the hard edge she had in Fallen Crest High. She was a little bit more whiny and more sullen due to the new memories and living situation she was facing. That didn’t really bother me. I felt like Sam’s evolution throughout the story made sense, and that she’ll continue to grow throughout the series. What did still bug me was her obsessive running. Did no one in her life find all this running to be a problem? Three and four-hour runs until she’s collapsing seems extreme. The only thing positive about it (maybe) is the possibility of a track scholarship. Oh, and I have to mention her obsessive lusting after Mason, too. I wish I would have kept a tally of how many times she mentioned she was wet. It felt like she said it at least once a chapter. I’m probably wrong, but it felt like it was mentioned a few too many times. I get it, girl. Your body melts for him. Not that I’m complaining about all the sexy times. I would never complain about that! 😉

I still don’t know what’s going on in Mason’s head, but I don’t care. He’s such a rock for Sam. I love what he’s willing to do for her. Same with Logan. He’s like a big brother and best friend all wrapped into one. He loves Sam in his own way, and I love the words and humor he brings to every situation. I even found myself liking Mason and Logan’s buddy Nate in this book. He surprised me with how much he was willing to go to bat for Sam. The four of them are like one big family.

All of the friends and nemeses were back to add to the fun of this story. Sam’s main problem wasn’t with her friends this time, but with her mom. That lady was bat$#!t crazy. I loved everything that was revealed about her in this book. Sam also made some new friends. Heather and the Manny’s gang were amazing! I enjoyed what they brought to the story, and I can only imagine how they’re going to influence things in the next book.

Fallen Crest Family was just as much fun to listen to as Fallen Crest High. I can’t tell you enough how obsessed I am with this series. I am going to continue to binge listen to it until I finish all of the books. I’ve fallen in love with Sam, Mason and Logan. I want to know how their story ends.

Review: The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord

The Names They Gave Us
Author: Emery Lord
Publication Date: May 16, 2017
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Synopsis:

Lucy Hansson was ready for a perfect summer with her boyfriend, working at her childhood Bible camp on the lake and spending quality time with her parents. But when her mom’s cancer reappears, Lucy falters-in her faith and in her ability to cope. When her boyfriend “pauses” their relationship and her summer job switches to a different camp-one for troubled kids-Lucy isn’t sure how much more she can handle. Attempting to accept a new normal, Lucy slowly regains footing among her vibrant, diverse coworkers, Sundays with her mom, and a crush on a fellow counselor. But when long-hidden family secrets emerge, can Lucy set aside her problems and discover what grace really means?

Emotionally charged and unforgettable, Emery Lord’s storytelling shines with the promise of new love and true friendship, even in the face of life’s biggest challenges.


I’m going to apologize before I start this review because it might be a little scattered. I had a hard time reconciling my thoughts and feelings after reading The Names They Gave Us. On one hand, I loved what Lucy discovered about her faith and the world around her in this book. On the other hand, this book might have tried to accomplish too much.

Religion and faith make up a huge part of this book. That wasn’t a problem for me. I grew up going to church. I’m not part of organized religion now, but I do have my own personal beliefs and faith that was shaped by my early years in church. Even though I wasn’t as religious as Lucy was growing up, I found myself identifying with some of the teenage questioning of her faith. I liked the way her doubts and confusion regarding certain decisions were portrayed. At times, I did feel like Lucy’s faith felt overly dramatic or built up, but then I had to remind myself that Lucy’s experiences may be another reader’s, even if they weren’t mine. Overall, I really liked the message this book sent.

As for the accomplishing too much…This will sound bad, but there might have been too much diversity and too many issues included. I know, how can I say that when everyone is crying for more diverse books these days? While I applaud Emery Lord for trying to include someone from every walk of life in this book, it felt forced in the time span of a summer. It was overwhelming for both Lucy and me. There just wasn’t enough time to devote to every separate person or issue.

One more thing I need to talk about is the ending of this book. It left me reeling. And crying. Yes, crying. It was perfectly imperfect. I wasn’t exactly happy with it, but I got it. I just needed more. I was disappointed that I didn’t get more. You’ll understand if you read this book.

Overall, I enjoyed reading The Names They Gave Us. I was immediately immersed in Emery Lord’s writing, and I couldn’t wait to find out how things would turn out for Lucy. I loved Lucy and Jones’ new found relationship, and all the friendships she made. The Names They Gave Us felt relevant and important to today’s teens, even in moments that felt like too much.

Review: The Last Time I Checked, I Was Still Here by Lark Griffing

The Last Time I Checked, I Was Still Here
Author: Lark Griffing
Publication Date: April 1, 2017
Publisher: Wind Lark Publishing
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Fiction
Note: I received this book from the author in exchange for an unbiased review.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½

Synopsis:

“Hey, Skank”

Amy’s day was starting off just great.  Ronnie was already giving her grief, she’d had an embarrassing wardrobe malfunction, and it was only first period.  Sitting in class fuming, while the word skank filled her head, Amy made a choice. From now on, things were going to be different. Amy was done — done with it all, her school, her endlessly grieving dad, and the always annoying Ronnie and her bevy of friends.

Amy’s decision to take off may not have been her finest moment, but she had to save her sanity.  Her grief-stricken father wasn’t going to help in that department.  Escaping to her childhood sanctuary was Amy’s only hope to save herself and heal.

Irresistibly engaging, The Last Time I Checked, I Was Still Here, is a journey of heartbreak, hope, and adventure that will leave you wanting more.


The Last Time I Checked, I Was Still Here is Lark Griffing’s début novel. It’s a young adult coming of age journey. Amy, harassed by classmates and emotionally abandoned by her father, sets out to her maternal grandmother’s house. Her grandmother’s house was her happy place growing up, and Amy hopes spending time there will help her find what she needs.

The majority of The Last Time I Checked, I Was Still Here was written in Amy’s perspective. She was a young woman struggling with the loss of her mother, being constantly uprooted to new towns by a grieving father, and finding herself under constant ridicule by the mean girls of her newest school. Amy was unhappy, and she sought out her happy place to find solace. What she found at her grandmother’s house was a link to her mother, and a way to discover more about herself. I admired her strength and willingness to try something new, liking hiking.

Smaller sections of the book were told in Dan’s perspective. He was a young man who was trying to make decisions for the next phase of his life. Dan was very into hiking, and much of his point of view were his hiking journeys with his friend. I have to admit that Dan’s chapters threw me off at first. They were linked loosely to some of Amy’s through the sport of hiking, but it wasn’t until almost the very end that Amy and Dan’s connection became apparent.

That leads into my biggest issue with this book. The majority of the book passed by at a very slow pace. There was way too much set up for me. Nothing very exciting happened until almost 80% into the book. There were tons of details about Amy learning about hiking, but not a whole lot of action. I wasn’t really invested in the story until that 80% mark. And then, the wrap up at the end flew by too quickly for me. I think the story would have worked better for me had the big event happened toward the beginning or middle of the book, and had more time spent on the connections between the characters after. I felt like I missed a bunch of healing and friendships developing at the end.

The Last Time I Checked, I Was Still Here was a strong début novel. I found the writing to be good, and the third person narration flowed well. It’s a book anyone interested in hiking or adventures in the great outdoors would appreciate.