Rummanah Aasi
  I have been on a roll with mystery/suspense books. Here are three YA books that I enjoyed and read recently. Please note that the reviews of these books are based on the advanced reader's copies that I received from the publisher via Netgalley. All of these books have been released and can be found in your libraries and/or bookstores.

Description: Meet Scarlett, a smart, sarcastic, kick-butt, Muslim American heroine, ready to take on crime in her hometown of Las Almas. When a new case finds the private eye caught up in a centuries-old battle of evil genies and ancient curses, Scarlett discovers that her own family secrets may have more to do with the situation than she thinks -- and that cracking the case could lead to solving her father's murder.

Review: Scarlett Undercover is a delightful read. It is an unique blend of the retro-detective noir with a dash of Middle Eastern folklore. Scarlett is a self appointed detective who tries to help a little girl prove her brother’s friend was forced to commit suicide. Suddenly an ordinary mystery is given a fantastical spin as a centuries-old legend and crazed cultists are involved. 
  I really loved Scarlett and her sassy attitude. I was so happy to find a diverse detective. Scarlett is an Egyptian Muslim. The author acknowledges both her heritage and faith in the book, showing that these aspects are a natural part of her character. I loved the contrast of Scarlett who isn't overly religious unlike her sister who thinks Scarlett should spend more time at the mosque praying and less time getting into trouble. There is also an underlying problem where Scarlett must confront her issues of her past and her relationship with her religion. 
  Though I liked how the mystery progressed, I was surprised with the paranormal aspect. I would have rather preferred the author stuck to the realistic storytelling, but that is a personal preference. I thought the author walks the fine line between paranormal and realistic storytelling, allowing readers to come to their own conclusions about the truth of the various characters’ beliefs. Though one character’s transformation at the end of the tale is a little abrupt, the action and suspense, as well as Scarlett's likable character make this a worthy read.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is discussion of religion and how it influences the paranormal aspects of the mystery in the story. There is also some strong violence. Recommended for Grades 7 and up.

If you like this book try: The Girl is Murder by Kathryn Miller Haines, Conspiracy of Us by Maggie Hall

Description: After accidentally setting her father’s stables on fire while performing a scientific experiment, Miss Georgiana Fitzwilliam is sent to Stranje House. But Georgie has no intention of being turned into a simpering, pudding-headed, marriageable miss. She plans to escape as soon as possible—until she meets Lord Sebastian Wyatt. Thrust together in a desperate mission to invent a new invisible ink for the English war effort, Georgie and Sebastian must find a way to work together without losing their heads—or their hearts.

Review: School for Unusual Girls is an intriguing series opener that mixes a a great concoction of daring, conspiracy, adventure, and romance set against the Napoleonic Wars of 1814. Napoleon is in exile on Elba, dignitaries from across Europe are gathering at the Congress of Vienna, and assassination plots as well as Napoleon loyalists try to restore him in power are rumored. 
 A select group of girl who have been labeled as unruly by their parents and benefactors are sent away to the dark and mysterious Stranje House and taught to become proper ladies. Georgiana Fitzwilliam is one of these girls who has an unconventional aptitude and enthusiasm for math and science. When one of her experiments accidentally leads to a fire in her father's stables, Georgie is banished by her exasperated parents to the Stranje House. Georgie gradually discovers that the Stranje House is not as it seems. The school is not just a reforming school with harsh punishments, but rather a secret spy school. Her classmates have special talents; her headmistress is a clever, well-connected, resourceful teacher; and visiting Lord Sebastian Wyatt is on a covert mission. Georgie's invention of invisible ink becomes a vital secret communication weapon supporting the new order in Europe. 
  I loved the blending of all of the different genres in this book. Each of the girls is talented in their own areas and support one another. Though we are given clues about their pasts, I'm really hoping that each new book features a new character and goes in depth about them. There is plenty of humor as the girls gracefully walk the line of being "appropriate" girls who only care about the frivolities as they are expected by their society as well as the modern girl who is not afraid to think for herself and be assertive. There is also a nice slow burn romance as well that add a nice flavor to the story without completely overwhelming it. I'm really looking forward to the next book in this series.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for strong Grade 6 readers and up.

If you like this book try: Finishing School series by Gail Carriger, Gallagher series (for a more modern take) by Ally Carter, Sorcery and Cecelia by Patricia Wrede

Description: The Program has sent Boy Nobody on countless missions, instructed to kill whichever target he was given. But now, after going rogue, he is on his own mission to rescue his friend Howard who was captured by The Program. Boy Nobody manages to free Howard as well as Tanya, a mysterious girl who was being held with him. Howard and Tanya help Boy Nobody collect information about his father, eventually revealing a dangerous secret that teaches Boy Nobody a valuable lesson -- he can't trust anyone.

Review: I have been a fan of the Unknown Assassin series since the first book and was really looking forward to the conclusion to this action packed trilogy. While the book has plenty of its action and suspense trademark, I wish it focused a bit more on character development. I know what Zach is capable of and am no longer as impressed by his almost super human skill set. Unfortunately, no new skills were revealed in this book. I also wanted a bit more on the background of the Program which we do get, but it seems as if it was tacked on in the end. I would also have loved for the shining female character, Tanya, to be a bit more fleshed out though I did I like that we are unsure where Tanya's loyalties lie. It just seemed a out of character that Zach who is very paranoid about whom he trusts would trust Tanya so quickly.
 I was entertained by the nonstop action and the pacing was at a neck breaking speed. The ending, however, left many questions and it did not feel like a finale at all. I am left with more questions about what happens next and I hope Zadoff decides to continue his story since it seems only one chapter of Zach's life has finished. While this is my least favorite book in the trilogy, I still would recommend this trilogy to my reluctant readers who love espionage, adventure, and action stories.  I would also recommend that this trilogy be read in order so readers will want to start with the first book, I Am the Weapon.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong violence throughout the book along with some minor language, as well as a fade to black sex scene. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz, The Shadow Project by Herbie Brennan, Bourne series by Robert Ludlum
3 Responses
  1. Kindlemom Says:

    Oh gosh, these all sound like really good reads but I really like the first one. I will have to check into it more. I am always up for a good mystery. ;)

  2. Isn't it odd how all book covers of books printed today look so much a like? I swear I have the book I AM A TRAITOR in my library but on closer inspection I think it is I have a book whose cover looks almost identical. Are you having a good summer? I am just about done with GO SET A WATCHMAN and think I will have quite a lot to say about it when I am done.

  3. Like you, I am a huge fan of the Unknown Assassin books and I've been waiting for the conclusion with bated breath. I wish it could have been a bit more satisfying for you. I suspect those same things you struggled with will bother me as well. I'll still read it, of course, but I'll keep my expectations at a reasonable level.

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