Musings: BEhiAtus (yep, it's BookExpo time)

bookexpo (america)

It's that time of year! I'm off to BEA (or BookExpo or whatever we're calling it) to meet up with some amazing bloggers, authors, publicists, editors, and other industry awesome people; to squeal over pretty covers; and to get really tired and hide in the corner towards the end of the day. 

If you're going to be there, tweet me @sarcasmlemons and say hi! 

If not, do something lovely this week, and your regularly scheduled Sarcasm & Lemons content will be back on Monday! 

Much love. <3 


ARC Review: And Then There Were Four by Nancy Werlin

review         book

Book Covertitle: And Then There Were Four
author: Nancy Werlin
pages: 352
format: Paperback ARC
buy it: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
rating: 3/5 (from hated to loved) or 5/10 (all books I've ever read)
recommended for: Fans of We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, Please Don't Tell by Laura Tims, and other twisty psychological thrillers.
New York Times bestselling author Nancy Werlin returns to YA suspense with this page-turner mystery for fans of Lauren Oliver, Neal Shusterman, and Lois Duncan

Let's not die today. Not even to make things easier for our parents.

When a building collapses around five teenagers and they just barely escape they know something strange is going on. Little by little, the group pieces together a theory: Their parents are working together to kill them all. Is it true? And if so, how did their parents come together and why? And, most importantly, how can the five of them work together to save themselves? With an unlikely group of heroes, sky-high stakes, and two budding romances, this gripping murder mystery will keep readers guessing until the last page."

in depth

  • Remember when I reviewed The Possible and said this was the summer of thrillers? Prepare for more. And Then There Were Four riffs on Agatha Christie's famous murder mystery with a delightfully devious premise: five teenagers who realize, after a series of bizarre "accidents", that their parents and guardians may have teamed up to murder them all. For thriller lovers, it's a must-read from the premise alone, plus it features a diverse group of teens and two POVs whose highly distinct voices juxtapose nicely. Add it to your summer beach TBR asap. 

  • My first draft of this review was more eloquent. I'll try to do it justice. ATTWF benefits most from a diverse cast of characters. I can't comment on the accuracy of the representation for many things, but from what I can tell, marginalizations were mostly rendered respectfully, used as characterization elements rather than plot devices. You have five teens who reflect the world: Saralinda, half-Latinx half-white girl who uses a cane, has Diabetes, and adorably narrates her life; Caleb, half-Latinx half-white guy with mental health issues and a broody reputation; Evangeline, Eastern Asian bisexual girl known for her wealth, sass, and fashion sense; Antoine, black Haitian Ivy League hopeful; and Kenyon, white gay girl with a viral YouTube channel. Each with their own motives, desires, and stories. 

  • The plot was pretty strong, half for the character dynamics and half for the suspense. The five teens are mostly strangers, so I loved watch them change from prickly and disdainful, thrown together by circumstances, to allies and then friends and more. Then there's the whole murder piece. The first half was especially strong, before the teens found out what was going on and were just being assailed by uncanny accidents. Once they know, some of the suspense is spoilt. But not entirely, because then they're caught in a cat-and-mouse game. I bit my nails through their cinematic escapes, near misses, and shocking tragedies. The pace dips in the middle, but finishes strong with back-to-back twists that leave you reeling. 

  • There were some elements that keep this from being a truly masterful thriller. Some of the events were a little too convenient, too unbelievable. Obviously a 2001 PC won't run as well as a new Mac--OR A NEW PC. One of the dads seemed a little too cartoon villain. But I loved trying to figure out each parent's motivations for killing their kids; it was like an extra mystery within the hunt. I will say, the mental illness rep is questionable. It didn't spoil my experience, but I also understand that not all "crazy" people are killers--not everyone knows this. And the teens call people crazy a lot. So, be warned. 

  • The writing is generally solid, no frills, but the POVs took a minute to get used to. Saralinda's POV is first person and is very rambling and gushy and you can tell her brain is working a mile a minute and that she breathes glitter in the best way. I imagine this might annoy some people. Caleb is written in second person present, which was jarring until I got into the flow. But I'm glad she didn't try to do five POVs, or it would have felt cumbersome. 

  • While ATTWF isn't a Gillian Flynn or Stephanie Kuehn psychological masterpiece, it's a fast-paced, entertaining game of cat-and-mouse with a refreshingly diverse cast and enough mystery to keep you guessing. 

    in a sentence

    And Then There Were Four is a gritty psychological thriller with a diverse cast and delightfully twisted plot. 


    will i read this author again?  Yeah,especially more suspense   
    will i continue the series?  N/A   

    Note: I received this copy from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review.  The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.


    Books by Theme: Trends: Muslim girls being awesome by #ownvoices authors (okay, not really a "trend" per se, but bear with me)

    books by theme                trends

    Okay, this isn't really a "trend" so much as the industry finally super sloooowly remembering that there are Muslim writers and readers and, uh, maybe they should publish some of their awesome stories!? With new imprints like Salaam Reads, I'm hoping we'll get tons more books about Muslim girls (and boys, and enbys) doing their thing in all genres.    

    The Gauntlet by Karuna Riazi

     I've followed Karuna forever on twitter, and her MG debut is just like her: sweet, powerful, and admirably earnest. It's a charming Jumanji-esque story about a Muslim middle schooler and her two best friends who must navigate a devious magical boardgame to save her brother--and themselves. |  Goodreads

    Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali

    I'm dying for this, and not just because of that fierce cover.  It's about a teen girl navigating her growing identity, working towards her passion in photography, and grappling with the reality of exposing a monster in her Muslim community. |  Goodreads

    City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty

    A shifty djinn, a magical city, a con-woman, and the fate of a kingdom. Set in 18th century Cairo. Seriously, I think I pre-ordered this about five seconds after I read the synopsis.  |  Goodreads

    The Authentics by Abdi Nazemian

    Best friends pride themselves on being "authentic", unlike their high school rivals. But when one of them finds out a secret about her family, it sends her into a spiral of uncertainty and self-discovery that I can't wait to join her on.   |  Goodreads

    That Thing We Call a Heart by Sheba Karim

    A Pakistani-American girl grapples with her best friend's choice to wear the headscarf without telling her, an enigmatic boy who captures her heart but has secrets of his own, and the truth of a great tragedy in the land of her ancestors. I'm anticipating tears.  |  Goodreads

    What YA, MG, or crossover books by Muslim authors do you love/want? 


    ARC Review: The Possible by Tara Altebrando

    review         book

    Book Covertitle: The Possible
    author: Tara Altebrando
    pages: 304
    format: Paperback ARC
    buy it: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
    rating: 3/5 (from hated to loved) or 5/10 (all books I've ever read)
    recommended for: Fans of We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, Please Don't Tell by Laura Tims, and other twisty psychological thrillers.
    What if...no one knows the truth about you?

    It's been thirteen years since Kaylee's infamous birth mother, Crystal, received a life sentence for killing Kaylee's little brother in a fit of rage. Once the center of a cult-following for her apparent telekinetic powers, nowadays nobody's heard of Crystal. Until now, when a reporter shows up at Kaylee's house and turns her life upside down, offering Kaylee the chance to be part of a high-profile podcast investigating claims that Crystal truly did have supernatural mind powers. But these questions lead to disturbing answers as Kaylee is forced to examine her own increasingly strange life, and make sense of certain dark and troubling coincidences...

    Unusual and gripping, The Possible will twist the reader round and round as it hurtles towards a sensational climax. For lovers of We Were Liars, Patrick Ness and Derren Brown.

    in depth

    • The Possible is a definite step up from Altebrando's debut, The Leaving: more thrill, more intrigue, stronger writing and characters. It's the summer of the young adult thriller, people. Altebrando mixes journalism, podcasts, prison, and the paranormal into one twisty beach read that's delightfully devourable in a single sitting. 

    • Kaylee is the perfect MC for a plot-driven book. She's what you'd call "unlikable." I always love the unlikable ones. She's brash, selfish, immature, and she lives in her head. And she's incredibly relatable. What teen (or adult-as-former-teen) hasn't built up a relative stranger into an elaborate romance fantasy in their head? Who hasn't been self-absorbed and clueless? The plot wouldn't skip ahead so frenetically without Kaylee's recklessness, and it gives her plenty of room to learn and grow. So maybe she'll annoy you, but stick with her a minute. 

    • Her friends are a little weaker, mostly because they're absent a lot. Aiden is the strongest. He's the snarky, nerdy guy who's also refreshingly comfortable with himself, and he calls Kaylee on her crap. Although his total condescencion towards the paranormal annoyed me. Chiara really got shafted, because not only is she the only major POC in a very white book, but her literary sensibilities could have been used to much greater effect. For a best friend, she wasn't around a lot. The adults were all fleshed out enough to play their roles, although as a crime junkie I'd have loved more insight into Crystal's twisted head. 

    • The real winner here is the plot. There are some definite over-the-top moments (HIGHLIGHT FOR SPOILER: um, no prison is going to let some teenagers rig up a mechanical spectacle to teach an inmate a lesson; when I go to the jail, I can't even bring my freaking cell phone in), not gonna lie. You have to suspend disbelief. I mean, no one remembers anything that vivid from age 3. On the other hand, Altebrando knows how to keep you guessing. I raced through this on a plane ride and later into the night than I should have, because I damn well needed to know who was pulling the strings and whether all these potentially paranormal happenings were real or just in Kaylee's head. You don't find out until the end and it's kept ambiguous throughout, so the tension stays high. 

    • Overall, The Possible is excellent if you're looking for a twisty crime thriller with low investment and a fast plot. It's not exactly Gillian Flynn or Stephanie Kuehn, but it's carved out a space in young adult thriller world. It's a quick candy read, and it does it well. I loved how it dealt with popular concepts like true crime podcasts (think Serial) and the downside of internet fame while sticking with old-school head games ala Hitchcock. I won't be gushing about it for years, but I had a whole lot of fun reading it. 

      in a sentence

      The Possible is a fast-paced, twisty teen thriller that makes for a fabulous summer read. 


      will i read this author again?  Yeah, she hooked me back in   
      will i continue the series?  N/A   

      Note: I received this copy from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review.  The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.


      Top Ten Tuesday: Ten quick, fun YA beach reads for (almost. ish.) every genre

      top ten tuesday                beach

      Hosted by The Broke and Bookish.  

      Want to help support your broke blogger so she can host more giveaways and give swankier prizes?  Click the book covers.  If you like the book and choose to purchase it from Amazon, a little bit of the proceeds goes to Sarcasm & Lemons!   

      For something short, light(ish), and fun in the sun. No tearjerkers in my beach reads!        

      c.j.'s selections                         ten ten ten


      And Then There Were Four - Nancy Werlin 

      A quick dual-POV murder mystery about five teens who realize their parents are conspiring to try to kill them all. Super fun, fast-paced, and psychological.   

      High Fantasy 

      Royal Bastards - Andrew Shvarts 

      A breakneck, balls-to-the-wall fantasy adventure with five badass heroes, magic, cinematic fight scenes, explosions, and the perfect mix of irreverence and action. 

      Kill All Happies - Rachel Cohn 

      A ridiculous, riotous whirlwind of one day, one girl's dream to throw the most epic senior party, one grouchy adult's mission to destroy her, and a whole lot of mayhem. 

      Urban Fantasy 

      Fate of Flames - Sarah Raughley 

      A girl-power superhero squad fantasy that reads like your favorite video game, with four elementally magical heroines who slay giant demon monsters, government conspiracy, and tons of action.  

      Fantasy Horror? 

      Slice of Cherry - Dia Reeves 

      An irreverent, hysterical, genre-twisting story about the daughters of a serial killer growing into their murderous passions in a town filled with magic, mystery, and charmingly quirky residents. 

      Urban Fantasy 

      The Rest of Us Just Live Here - Patrick Ness 

      A genre-bending adventure that switches between irreverent nods to fantasy tropes and the chaotic lives of four teens who are just trying to get by while chaos explodes around them. 

      The Dead House - Dawn Kurtagich  

      A found footage horror film in book form, about two sisters who happen to (maybe?) be the same person, a shocking murder, a supernatural mystery, and a whole lot of lying.   
      Contemporary Romance 

      Sway - Kat Spears 

      A lighthearted romance ala Hitch, about a boy who knows how to play the love game for his hopeless clients, and the girl who inadvertently plays the player. 

      Poison - Bridget Zinn 

      A laugh-riot fantasy adventure about a poison expert on a misadventure to save the kingdom, will the help of adorable boys named Fred, sassy princesses, and talking piglets.  
      Science Fiction 

      Relativity - Cristin Bishara 

      A universe-hopping adventure about multiverse theory, quantum physics, and one girl trying to find the combination of circumstances that will create her perfect world. 

      Your turn!  What fun, short books are your favorite go-to beach reads?