Liars, Inc. by Paula Stokes

Liars, Inc. by Paula Stokes

Release Date: March 24, 2015
Publisher: HarperTeen
Rated: YA 14+
Format: eGalley
Source: Edelweiss
Buy: AmazonThe Book Depository
Goodreads Website

Max Cantrell has never been a big fan of the truth, so when the opportunity arises to sell forged permission slips and cover stories to his classmates, it sounds like a good way to make a little money and liven up a boring senior year. With the help of his friends Preston and Parvati, Max starts Liars, Inc. Suddenly everybody needs something and the cash starts pouring in. Who knew lying could be so lucrative?

When Preston wants his own cover story to go visit a girl he met online, Max doesn’t think twice about hooking him up. Until Preston never comes home. Then the evidence starts to pile up—terrifying clues that lead the cops to Preston’s body. Terrifying clues that point to Max as the murderer.

I really enjoyed reading The Art of Lainey by Paula Stokes (read my review), and while Liars, Inc. was by no means a cute romantic comedy, I'm a sucker for psychological thrillers, so I was ALL IN. Of course, anything with with words like lying or liars or never comes home is an immediate DING DING DING in my head, so when I finally decided to pick this one up–as part of my scheme to try to read older books for review–thankfully I was not disappointed.

It's difficult to execute a plot that has a plausible twist that still manages to shock people. The downfall of psychological thrillers or ANY kind of thriller is that the ending falls flat. That just ruins the entire story for people, and it's not hard to see why. This mystery had me guessing till the very end. I was absolutely blown away by that climax, because even though I generally have had a good record with predicting the ends of mysteries, I only managed to piece together a small part of what actually turns out to be the truth. Say what you want about the characters–the plot is very well put together.

Speaking of the characters, they're part of the same category that I find most characters in thrillers fall into–I didn't like them. Not a bad thing with thrillers, considering how you don't know how it plays out until the very end and you can't like certain characters in fear that they might be behind it all. I liked Max well enough, but Preston and Parvati were kind of meh. Meh as in they were alright, but they weren't amazing. I enjoyed the interactions with Max's family though–those moments were really cute and humanised Max's characters, which is probably why he was the best character out of the three of them.

Liars, Inc. presents a deadly mystery that becomes more complex as the plot thickens, and concludes in an ending that blew me away. I was delightfully surprised by how gripping this novel was, and by how much I needed to know how it all ended. Paula Stokes's certainly has a knack for writing in a variety of genres, and I'm looking forward to reading more from her.


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Show Stopper by Hayley Barker

Show Stopper by Hayley Barker

Release Date: June 1, 2017
Publisher: Scholastic
Rated: YA 14+
Format: Paperback
Source: Pansing
Buy: Available at all good bookstores!
Goodreads

Sabotaged high wires.
Ravenous lions.
A demonic ringmaster.
A circus without a safety net.

Ben, the teenage son of a powerful government minister, attends on opening night and falls under the spell of Hoshiko, the tightrope walker and star attraction.


But as he steps beyond the dazzle and spectacle of the arena, to reveal the horrors that lurk beneath, can he find the courage to resist, to rebel, to help end the cruelty and the carnage?

Before I got around to reading it, I thought Show Stopper sounded quite a bit like The Hunger Games. They both have the same idea of the rich upper-class watching the bloody sport and torment of the lower classes for entertainment. I couldn't wait to get to this one for that reason, as well as the fact that the tagline "the deadliest show on earth" sounds so ominous, so I knew I was in for a high-stakes read. My goodness, this one was PHENOMENAL. The plot was fast-paced, and every moment had me on the edge of my seat.

The story's content, despite the fantasy setting, was so true in depiction with regards to the attitude towards minorities, known as "Dregs" in this book. Barker clearly reflected today's mentality that unfortunately more than a few people have towards minorities, particularly in the western world. While I wish there was slightly more world-building–because I'm still a little clueless as to HOW different the world in Show Stopper is in comparison to our world today–the plot was packed enough to satisfy my appetite for this dystopian-esque world.

The characters were amazing; I enjoyed the dual-perspective narrative. Ben's storyline was pretty interesting, but Hoshiko's point of view is where it's truly at. It was quite harrowing to learn about her past, as well as the torture and torment she and the other performers go through on a daily basis. The only part I didn't really enjoy was the romance. It was slightly too insta-lovey for me. Like, if their romance had time to develop, then sure, it would make sense. However, Hoshiko basically goes from hating him to having conflicting feelings about him to loving him just like that.

When I got to the end of the book, it sounded like there might be a sequel. I guess it could work as a standalone, but how things ended left me wanting more. Nonetheless, Show Stopper was both terrifying and mesmerising–dark, lush and grim, this one had me flipping pages like mad. A sensational and allegorical narrative that mirrors attitudes in our world today, Hayley Barker's debut is one not to miss.

▪ ▪ ▪ Thank you so much to Sasha at Pansing for sending me a copy for review! ▪ ▪ ▪

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Waiting on Wednesday – Week 191

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. It's to spotlight upcoming releases that I'm DYING to get my hands on!

This week's WoW is:
Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore

Love grows such strange things.

For nearly a century, the Nomeolvides women have tended the grounds of La Pradera, the lush estate gardens that enchant guests from around the world. They’ve also hidden a tragic legacy: if they fall in love too deeply, their lovers vanish. But then, after generations of vanishings, a strange boy appears in the gardens.

The boy is a mystery to Estrella, the Nomeolvides girl who finds him, and to her family, but he’s even more a mystery to himself; he knows nothing more about who he is or where he came from than his first name. As Estrella tries to help Fel piece together his unknown past, La Pradera leads them to secrets as dangerous as they are magical in this stunning exploration of love, loss, and family.

October 3, 2017 ● Goodreads

I didn't even KNOW this was an Anna-Marie McLemore book until I got to the goodreads page, because it's super different to her other books' covers, but HOLY MOLY is it gorgeous! And if my thoughts on her other works–The Weight of Feathers (read my review) and When the Moon Was Ours (read my review)–is any indication, I'm bound to love this one too! If you haven't picked up one of her books yet, you're bound for a treat. Her prose is absolutely gorgeous and the way she handles magical realism in her books is beyond wonderful. I can't wait!

What are you waiting on?

How to Win at High School by Owen Matthews

How to Win at High School by Owen Matthews

Release Date: March 3, 2015
Publisher: HarperTeen
Rated: YA 14+
Format: eGalley
Source: Edelweiss
Buy: AmazonThe Book Depository
Goodreads ● Website

Using Scarface as his guide to life, Adam Higgs is going from zero to high school hero.

Adam Higgs is a loser, and he’s not okay with it. 

But starting as a junior in a new high school seems like exactly the right time to change things. He brainstorms with his best friend, Brian: What will it take for him to take over Nixon Collegiate? 

Adam searches for the A-listers’ weak spot and strikes gold when he gets queen bee Sara Bryant to pay him for doing her physics homework. One part nerd, two parts badass, Adam ditches his legit job and turns to full-time cheating. His clients? All the Nixon Collegiate gods and goddesses.

But soon his homework business becomes a booze business, which becomes a fake ID business. Adam’s popularity soars as he unlocks high school achievements left and right, from his first kiss to his first rebound hookup. But something else is haunting him—a dark memory from his past, driving him to keep climbing. What is it? And will he go too far?

Looking at the cover and title, I first had How to Win at High School pegged as a light-hearted story about someone trying to climb the high school social ladder. Boy was I wrong. Social climbing? Yes. Light-hearted? Nope. I haven't actually seen Scarface–the book kind of explains the plot, which was helpful, because all I had to go on beforehand was "say hello to my little friend"–and referencing the movie sets this story up to have foreboding undertones. Owen Matthews's novel is a gripping tribute to the quest for popularity, one that's full of harsh realities and dark turns. 

First of all, I loved the format. I was more than a little surprised when I saw that there were more than 300 chapters, but upon reading it I found that most chapters were only one or two pages, some even just a sentence or a few sentences long. It definitely made for a quick read! And then there's the pretty unique writing style. It kind of reminded me of books written in free verse, with the purposeful line-spacing and use of parenthesis. It also flowed like a stream of consciousness narrative, which I thought was quite cool, because despite how fast I was able to read this book, I was still able to gage the depth of the situation and understand our main character.

I hated Adam, but I don't think that's much of a surprise. I suppose we are meant to hate him, as he starts to become absolved and obsessed with reaching to the top. Also, I can't believe a high school could be like this! Surely, someone would catch on. It seems unlikely that it could get this far without someone taking notice. Besides my suspension of disbelief, this whole world seemed too far from the reality of high school, which in a way kept me reading because I wanted to know how it would all go down.

A much darker take on the usual climb for popularity story, How to Win at High School was a gritty tribute to Scarface skilfully adapted for a young adult audience. With a unique writing style and convoluted characters you don't know whether to hate or support, I'm definitely looking forward to reading more from Owen Matthews.

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