Love These Top Ten Crime Books

Top Ten Crime

I haven’t participated in a top ten for a while. Moving house took longer than expected. But I am back and with ten of my favourite crime books. Not necessarily mystery stories, but all these books feature an element of criminal activity that dominates the storyline.

 

Heist Society by Ally Carter
Heist Society

What would you do if all your family vacations were planned around the next heist?
Like all Ally Carter stories, Heist Society is fun and addictive.

 


Grass by Cathy MacPhail

Grass

 

 

A hard-hitting story of a witness to gang crime.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Speak
I love Laurie Halse Anderson’s books and Speak is my favourite. Subtly written and frighteningly realistic.


Don’t Look Back by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Don’t Look Back

A beautifully written, unpredictable and scary thriller.

Tricks by Ellen Hopkins

Tricks
If you’ve never read Ellen Hopkins’s books this may not be the best one to start with. She does not shy from the truth and these books are all too horrifyingly, raw and edgy. Only the brave go forth and steel yourself – it is gritty and unflinchingly true.
Having said that, they are also not to be missed. Her stories flow almost effortlessly through verse and you won’t want to put them down.

Pointe by Brandy Colbert

pointe

Despite the warm and soothing writing, this book packs a powerful punch.

The blurb and hype surrounding the story try to prepare the reader, but I am still reeling in shock…

 


All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

All the Missing Girls
A very, very cleverly written murder mystery. Original, unpredictable and brilliant!


A Time to Kill by John Grisham

A Time to Kill

Published after he became a best-seller, this is John Grisham’s first novel and by far the best he’s written.

 


The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

The Kite Runner
Another book that packs a powerful punch. I loved this beautiful wistful story of regret, longing, friendship and war.

 

 

 

Newes from the Dead by Mary Hooper

Newes from the Dead
Set in 1650, this is a true story of a young girl who was falsely accused of a crime and sentenced to death. Told in alternating POV’s that allow us to see the present while understanding the events that lead up to… (nope! no spoilers here!)

Top Ten Tuesday

 
 

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish.

Are Adult books threatened by YA?

Are Adult books threatened by YA?

This is not a post about whether adults should be reading YA, but rather a look into why YA dominates the current market.Is YA eclipsing Adult books?

Are Adult books threatened by YA?

The short answer is yes. A glimpse at my TBR (to-be-read) shelf on Goodreads confirms that. And I don’t think I am alone. If that doesn’t convince you a quick search online will show you that currently, YA books top the sales statistics and although this could be argued that they not purchasing for themselves, the majority of buyers are adults.

Categories and buzzwords

Before YA became a category (It’s not a genre!), a buzzword and sometimes sadly a condescending sneer, we read what we wanted to. Admittedly books aimed at the YA market a few decades ago were few and far between, think The Catcher in the Rye, To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Ask Alice, but these were enjoyed by all, alongside adult novels. 

The publishing industry has exploded in the last few years and there are more books published in a year that could be read in any lifetime. It’s all too terrifying to think of the great books we’re not going to have time to read.

Books are now extensively categorised and marketed in different niches. I am known for blurring the lines so it’s no secret I don’t like this. I have never pretended to be pretentious and only read top quality literature. This doesn’t mean I don’t, I just don’t read these exclusively because I believe we should read what makes us happy (yes even sad books can make our souls happy!).

With more than ten years experience in school libraries, I have been exposed to a wide range of books targeted for different age groups. During this time I started making a point of reading more YA to be able to book talk and recommend books to teenagers who according to our statistics were reading less than any other students. Now? Even though I am not currently working in a school 90% of the books I read are YA

Why do I read YA?

So why am I reading YA? Because I am addicted want to. When I am reading for pleasure I want to read what I like.

I believe the appeal of YA books comes down to the following:
Fast-paced, emotional, intense, exciting, the feels, realistic, relatable, dramatic, risky

In comparison adult books often seem slow, boring, tedious, monotonous, tired. Even highly anticipated books built up with media hype, such as the recent The Girl in the Train fall flat when put against the furiously expanding YA category.

Disclaimer: Obviously my opinion on adult books is a generalisation and not all YA is good, but there are many excellent YA reads which can be found on Goodreads or better yet from the recommendations made by honest bloggers & reviewers.
The blogs I recommend can be found on the drop-down menu under ‘About Me’ in the menu above. 

So here’s the question…  Is YA eclipsing Adult books?

Can Adult books keep up? Should we be worried?

Perhaps the key is in marketing?

I am hoping rather than squashing down those adult’s who, like me, happily read YA in public there can be a spark of change coming from the book industry themselves. Perhaps the key is in marketing?

The pre-publishing hype for YA is phenomenal, and in my opinion, it surpasses any other category. When, as a book blogger, I request an advance copy (ARC) of a YA title I already know a great deal about it. Book bloggers are always tuned to the new-book-radar. Listening to the quiet murmurings that a debut has reached the publishers or an established author is working on a new book. I anticipate the cover reveal, debate its aesthetics with fellow bloggers. I have read quotes, advanced reviews and seen book trailers. But when I browse the forthcoming adult titles I am frequently confronted by titles and covers I have never heard of…

Let me know what you think.

Further reading for those interested in the YA debate:
CNN:  A brief history of young adult literature
The New York Times: When Authors Take Risks, That’s Not Kid Stuff
New York Public Library: How did YA Become YA?
School Library Journal YA: A Category for the Masses. But What About Teens?
The New York Times: The Great Y.A. Debate of 2014
The Slate Book Review: Against YA
The English Journal: Young Adult Literature: The Problem With YA Literature
The Guardian: Why are so many adults reading YA and teen fiction?

The Replacement Crush by Lisa Brown Roberts

The Replacement Crush by Lisa Brown Roberts

The Replacement Crush by Lisa Brown Roberts

I love that this book about a book blogger who is not afraid to break the mould of pretentious book characters reading only the classics. I’m a little sceptical that so many books feature YA characters who read only Victorian classics.

Did I tell you it’s about a book blogger? (yes!). Viv is a mega layered character who puts her foot into it more often than not and tries very hard to avoid being hurt by potentially dating out the ‘zing’ zone.

The only thing that let this book down is the author’s passive treatment of abuse, which should never be tucked under the carpet without the strongest message about how wrong it is.
4 Star

Recommended age: 13+

Title: The Replacement Crush
Author: Lisa Brown Roberts
Publication Date: 6 September 2016The Replacement Crush by Lisa Brown Roberts
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Source: Review copy

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True love can’t be strategized.

After book blogger Vivian Galdi’s longtime crush pretends their secret summer kissing sessions never happened, Vivian creates a list of safe crushes, determined to protect her heart.

But nerd-hot Dallas, the sweet new guy in town, sends the mission and Vivian’s zing meter into chaos. While designing software for the bookstore where Vivian works, Dallas wages a counter-mission.

Operation Replacement Crush is in full effect. And Dallas is determined to take her heart off the shelf.    — Abstract from Goodreads.com

The fact that I received a free advanced copy of this book does not influence my policy to write an honest review.

Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall

Under Rose-Tainted SkiesNormal takes a nosedive into my bag, sinks beneath the copious amount of clutter, and dies a slow, painful death.

A new favourite, Under Rose-Tainted Skies is a book I knew I would like from the first time I heard about it, even before I had seen its beautiful cover. But didn’t expect it to touch me as much as it did. It was real and sad but at the same time full of hope. Norah crept into my heart and I wished I could sit outside her door and talk to her. I loved the unexpected humour and Norah’s witty banter, often with herself.

Why has he stopped? Am I supposed to smile? Wave? Throw him a thumbs-up? I feel like an idiot.

The author did not shy away from the difficult, but rather showed us an unflinching raw, honest look into the life of a young adult coping with a mental illness.

Like a giant in cast-iron shoes, I make my way down the stairs. Eleven steps, so I have to take the last one twice. I have this thing about even.

It came at no surprise that the author drew on her own experience of mental illness for inspiration as the medical facts ring true. Her take on mental illness is a reassuring one which is not necessarily the case in every situation.

Perfection is a feeling, you’ll know it if you’ve ever questioned the competency of your penmanship before writing on the first page of a new notebook.

Under Rose-Tainted Skies is a difficult book to rate, because how do you rate a mental illness? I am simply rating it for the feels I had while reading, and the lasting effect the book has had on me.

So instead, I wait. I wait a lifetime, curled up in a ball of cowardice on the hall floor…

It is time for mental illness to come out of the closet. Time that, despite the lack of visible wounds, illness is treated equally .5 Star

Recommended age: 13+

Title: Under Rose-Tainted Skiesunder rose-tainted skies
Author: Louise Gornall
Publication Date: 3 January 2017
Publisher: Clarion Books
Source: Review copy

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Norah has agoraphobia and OCD. When groceries are left on the porch, she can’t step out to get them. Struggling to snag the bags with a stick, she meets Luke. He’s sweet and funny, and he just caught her fishing for groceries. Because of course he did.

Norah can’t leave the house, but can she let someone in? As their friendship grows deeper, Norah realizes Luke deserves a normal girl. One who can lie on the front lawn and look up at the stars. One who isn’t so screwed up.— Abstract from Goodreads.com

The fact that I received a free advanced copy of this book does not influence my policy to write an honest review.

Disclaimer: The quotes appear in my advanced review copy and may not appear in the final version.

Cracked Up To Be by Courtney Summers

Cracked Up To Be crop

Cracked Up To Be by Courtney Summers

I almost didn’t read this book. I spent the morning on a clean-up mission (it doesn’t happen often!) and realising that my TBR pile is… well beyond ridiculous, and that we will be moving soon, I decided I would trim it down and box up to donate those books I knew I wasn’t really going to get to anytime soon.

When “Perfect” Parker Fadley starts drinking at school and failing her classes, all of St Peter’s High goes on alert.

The next day I picked up the top book of the donate pile and read the blurb. The next thing I knew the book was finished and I had tears pouring down my face.

How has the cheerleading captain, girlfriend of the most popular guy in school, consummate teacher’s pet, and future valedictorian fallen so far from grace?

A messed-up character, Parker had slipped over to the dark side and this is her story. Unraveling slowly, her story took me on a journey of discovery. Her protective layers peel back layer by layer until her heart is exposed.

Something terrible has happened, and it might just be her fault.

Brilliant!4 Star

Recommended age: 13+

Title: Cracked Up To BeCracked Up To Be
Author: Courtney Summers
Published: 23 December 2008
Publisher: St Martin’s Griffin
Source: Purchased

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When “Perfect” Parker Fadley starts drinking at school and failing her classes, all of St. Peter’s High goes on alert. How has the cheerleading captain, girlfriend of the most popular guy in school, consummate teacher’s pet, and future valedictorian fallen so far from grace?

Parker doesn’t want to talk about it. She’d just like to be left alone, to disappear, to be ignored. But her parents have placed her on suicide watch and her counselors are demanding the truth. Worse, there’s a nice guy falling in love with her and he’s making her feel things again when she’d really rather not be feeling anything at all.

Nobody would have guessed she’d turn out like this. But nobody knows the truth.   — Extract from Goodreads.com

99 Days by Katie Cotugno

99 Days crop

99 Days by Katie Cotugno

99 days of summer vacation… that sounds a little like Phineas and Ferb *breaks into song*

Putting the whole cheating/betraying elephant-in-the-room aside,  I really liked this book. Real, raw,  honest and fun. I devoured it so quickly that it took me a while to realise there was no more. It was over. But it has such a pretty cover and will look good on my shelf *fangirls the cover*. That sounds a little shallow – but it is true!

Recommended age: 14+4 Star

Title: 99 Days
Author: Katie Cotugno
Publication Date: 21 April 201599 Days
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Source: Purchased

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Day 1: Julia Donnelly eggs my house my first night back in Star Lake, and that’s how I know everyone still remembers everything—how I destroyed my relationship with Patrick the night everything happened with his brother, Gabe. How I wrecked their whole family. Now I’m serving out my summer like a jail sentence: Just ninety-nine days till I can leave for college, and be done.

Day 4: A nasty note on my windshield makes it clear Julia isn’t finished. I’m expecting a fight when someone taps me on the shoulder, but it’s just Gabe, home from college and actually happy to see me. “For what it’s worth, Molly Barlow,” he says, “I’m really glad you’re back.”

Day 12: Gabe got me to come to this party, and I’m actually having fun. I think he’s about to kiss me—and that’s when I see Patrick. My Patrick, who’s supposed to be clear across the country. My Patrick, who’s never going to forgive me.  — Abstract from Goodreads.com

These Books Deserve More Attention

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It is strange (but true) that many great books just don’t get into the hands of readers. Whether it’s an unappealing  cover / title or just poor marketing I feel sad for those little-known books that are really worth reading.

Here is a list (does anyone else get a spike of joy when compiling lists?) of books I loved but which have had very little attention on Goodreads even though it’s been a while since they were published. One thing these books all have in common, other than that I love them, is that they all have edgy, gritty characters (trust me this is a good thing!).

*All ratings are out of the possible 5 stars, subjective to the individual reviewer opinion published publicly on Goodreads and retrieved on 9 August 2016 .

These Books Deserve More Attention

Between Two Seas

 

Between Two Seas by Marie-Louise Jensen
317 Ratings,   4-star average
Set in Denmark this is a beautifully written historical fiction by a first-class author. It’s about a strong female character who journeys into the unknown to find her father. I have no idea why this book is not more popular. It’s a must read.

 

Dust by Sarah DaltryDust
37 ratings, 4.14- star average

An epic fantasy by an author whose writing is so seductive you’ll be sucked in from the first page. Full of twists the three main characters, a princess, assassin and a thief, will keep you on your toes throughout. Fantasy lovers add this to the top of your TBR. This is one of my rare 5-star reads,

Agora Files

 

The Agora Files by Adam Oster
18 ratings,  3.94- star average 

The Agora Files is a fast-paced, unpredictable and original dystopian story. Full of action, adrenaline, excitement and adventure but with a strong, appealing human element which comes through in family dynamics and unexpected relationships.

 

Scarred

Scarred by Joanne Macgregor
327 ratings, 3.86-star average

Written by a South African author this is a tender, sensitive contemporary story of hope and redemption but with strong, complex characters and witty banter.

 

Retaliation

Retaliation by Yasmin Shiraz
105 ratings, 4.24-star average

This is a powerful, brutal, raw but ultimately inspirational account of life on gang ruled streets.  Although set in Washington D.C. the story will resonate with any inner city streets of all major cities across the world and as such has the potential of reaching many teens who desperately need to hear the message of hope.

Grass

 

Grass by Cathy MacPhail
87 ratings, 3.75-star average

Grass is a story that will stick with you long after you’ve finished reading. Cathy MacPhail is a well-known author and this is my favourite of her books. A witness to a horrific crime by a local gang is placed in a very difficult situation when he is forbidden to grass (tell on).

Last Summer of Us

 

The Last Summer of Us by Maggie Harcourt
388 ratings, 3.64-star average

Drama follows three best friends, whose relationships intertwine with unexpected results, as they embark on a road trip.

One Two Three

 


One, Two, Three
by Elodie Nowodazki
237 ratings, 3.61-star average

Passionate, gritty, complicated characters abound in this intense story which revolves around a ballerina’s future career after an accident and her bizarre family relationships


Street Duty

Street Duty, Case One: Knock Down  by Chris Ould
60 ratings, 3.82-star average

Trainee student police officers encounter gritty, streetwise characters on their watch. Fast-paced action and realistic settings. A book not to miss.

 

Goblet Club


The Goblet Club
by S.A. Partridge
34 ratings, 3.75-star average

Set in a boy’s boarding school this is a gothic, sinister, award-winning book by a South African author. Reminiscent of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History with the formation of a secret exclusive club which in this case is dedicated to the study of poison. Dark themes and compelling characters make this a book not to miss.

Top Ten Tuesday

 

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish.

Every Falling Star by Sungju Lee

Every Falling Star

Every Falling Star by Sungju Lee

An unflinchingly honest account

Every Falling Star is a powerful and courageous memoir of Sungju Lee’s childhood. Having every little knowledge North Korea I was not sure what to expect when I requested an advanced copy from the publisher. What I found was an unflinchingly honest account written with just enough emotion to allow the reader to become involved, but without self-pity and righteousness, so many memoirs have.

Powerful & Inspirational

The book manages to be both inspirational and heartbreaking at the same time and so compelling that I was completely engrossed. It’s a sad story of  a childhood which began so well before it crashed and burned, only for its ashes to be recovered and brought back to life. Alive. Free. But never the same. We get an inside look into a country which, in (extremely) different circumstances could be a beautiful place to live.4 Star

Recommended age: 14+

Title: Every Falling Star:
The True Story of How I Survived and Escaped North Korea
Author: Sungju LeeEvery Falling Star by Sungju Lee
Ghostwriter: 
Susan Elizabeth McClelland
Publication Date: 13 September 2016
Publisher: Amulet Books
Source: Review copy

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Every Falling Star is the intense memoir of a North Korean boy named Sungju who is forced at age twelve to live on the streets and fend for himself. To survive, Sungju creates a gang and lives by thieving, fighting, begging, and stealing rides on cargo trains. Sungju richly re-creates his scabrous story, depicting what it was like for a boy alone to create a new family with his gang, his “brothers”; to be hungry and to fear arrest, imprisonment, and even execution. This riveting memoir allows young readers to learn about other cultures where freedoms they take for granted do not exist.    — Abstract from Goodreads.com

The fact that I received a free advanced copy of this book does not influence my policy to write an honest review.

Six Queens and a King of YA Contemporary

Royal Auto-Buy List

My Royal Contemporary Auto-Buys

The Six Queens and a King of YA Contemporary

It should not come as a surprise that contemporary books are my thing. I devour the books and drool over the covers on Goodreads and Instagram (and sometimes at the library and in bookshops, please don’t tell). Although I like the flirty fun, the edgy angst and the drama, it’s the interactive relationships the characters have with family and friends that I love. People are fascinating. While I can watch them for hours in public places trying to imagine their lives, contemporary books provide a short-cut and I can get my dose of ‘peopleness’ anywhere, anytime in a book… and without the creepy gawking.

I present to you my royal contemporary auto-buy list

There are seven YA contemporary authors that have proven themselves (at least to me) that they rock. I have read  greedily gobbled all their books and any hint of a future book in the works is met with feverously stalking their social media accounts. They rule as the six queens and a king of my auto-buy list.

So in alphabetical order, the crowns go to the following Greats: 

The King

Adi Alsaid

Now before you go off on a rant by gender inequalities let me just say that I have yet to find another male contemporary author who rocks enough to reign. BUT. I would love to add to my list, to look more friendly to the male gender but also because I freaking love YA contemporary. So please hit me with send me lists of candidates who should be on this royal auto-buy list.

Adi Alsaid writes beautiful, realistic, dramatic, character-driven books that I drown in. Pick up one and sink in until you are deeply immersed in his writing and feel your soul rejuvenate. See my review of Let’s Get Lost.
Breaking news: Adi Alsaid announces his new book North of Happy! commences stalking

The Queens

Sarah Dessen

Sarah Dessen is (fortunately for me) a prolific author whose books will easily fill a bookshelf. Very popular in the school library, they are full of dynamic family relationships and rich, intense, feel-good depth.
My review of Saint Anything.

Morgan Matson

Morgan Matson is known for her big, sink-into-until-you-drown books filled with vibrant, rich characters that will stick with you for life.
My review of Since You’ve Been Gone, The Unexpected Everything and Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour.

Katie McGarry

Katie McGarry rocks so much she agreed to an interview with me way back when I started blogging and ambitiously contacted her. Not only was she friendly and obliging, but she also sent a parcel of bookmarks and printed ribbons all the way to South Africa for our school library.

She specialises in tough, edgy, messed-up characters and her books are gritty, raw and real. Contemporary with a bite. And her characters, which usually find themselves appearing in her other books, are the kind that will loyally stick with you for life. The kind you’d probably be a little nervous (like me) to approach them in the real world, but wish you could.
See my review of Pushing the Limits.

Jandy Nelson

Jandy Nelson does the quirky so well. Her books are full of life in the offbeat, wildly, crazy rollercoaster, arty way that feeds my soul. I don’t have the words to describe her writing other that it is insanely brilliant.
See my review of I’ll Give You the Sun.

Rainbow Rowell

Although I love Rainbow Rowell’s storylines, it’s her characters that steal the show. These are characters you’ll meet and never forget. Characters that you’ll wish were your best friends.
See my review of Fangirl and Eleanor & Park.

Kasie West

Kasie West is the queen of the fun, flirty, feel-good books that I can’t get enough of. Although she doesn’t shy away from serious issues her books are the ones to pick up when you are off to the beach, or wish you were. Because they are going to make you feel as though you are on holiday.
See my review of P.S. I Like You.

Now you know whose books I love, but what about you? Who is on your royal auto-buy list?

P.S. I Like You by Kasie West

P.S. I Like You

P.S. I Like You by Kasie West

Kasie West is one of my favourite YA contemporary authors and she doesn’t disappoint. P.S. I Like You is a fun, refreshing read, I almost wish I hadn’t devoured it and still had chapters left to read.

High praise? This is why…

The richly layered fudge cake characters were climb-under-my-skin and sprinkle-crumbs-over-pajamas. The kind of characters who are now your best friends because you know and love them.5 Star

Recommended age:  13+

Title: P.S. I Like You
Author: Kasie West1P.S. I Like You by Kasie West
Publication Date: 26 July 2016
Publisher: Point
Source: Review copy

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What if the person you were falling for was a total mystery?

While Lily is spacing out in Chemistry one day, she picks up her pencil and scribbles a line from one of her favorite songs on the desk. The next day, someone else has written back to her on the desk! Soon enough Lily and the mystery student are exchanging notes, and lyrics, and even sharing secrets. When Lily finds out that her anonymous pen pal is a guy, she’s flustered — and kind of feels like she’s falling for him. She and her best friend set out to unravel the identity of the letter writer — but when the truth is revealed, the guy is the LAST person Lily could have ever imagined it to be. Now that Lily knows the truth, can she untangle her feelings and gather the courage to listen to her heart?   — Abstract from Goodreads.com

The fact that I received a free advanced copy of this book does not influence my policy to write an honest review.

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