Bloom by Kevin Oppel is a science fiction thriller/action novel for mature 5th to 7th graders.

It all started with the rain. It rained everywhere on Earth at the same time and the rain carried seeds–seeds that sprouted overnight. From these seeds grew razor sharp grass, toxic Venus flytrap like pit plants with vines that seem to move and strange water lilies with bullet shaped seeds. These new plants have taken over, choking out animals and plants alike, but they aren’t stopping there…

On a small island in Canada, three kids, Seth, Petra and Anaya, seem to be immune to the plants and their insidious toxins. But more than that, the severe allergies they’ve lived with all their lives are suddenly gone and they feel stronger than ever. Could something inside them be the key to beating back these plants before the damage becomes irreversible? Or will these strange invaders take over everything?

I picked up this book hoping it might make a good book club read and it totally would but probably not for the younger of my 4-6th grade crew. Bloom doesn’t hold back when it comes to acid spitting pit plants devouring gym teachers or when sentient vines strangle people in their sleep. So I’d probably recommend this one for a mature 5th grade plus.

That being said, I found this book super interesting and I was sucked right in. You’re not sure from the beginning if we are dealing with aliens or terrorists or just evolution and you get a lot of plant facts, which is always nice to get a little STEM thrown in to juvenile fiction.

This book is suspenseful and has a touch of horror and a ton of action. I think it’ll appeal to that tween/pre-teen audience, especially for those kids looking for a little bit of a darker read. I, for one, can’t wait to pick up the second one in the series. This one gets a high 4 stars from me.

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Eight Perfect Murders

Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson is an adult mystery/thriller about a man whose blog post has inspired a string of murders.

Years ago, bookseller Malcolm Kershaw created a list of eight perfect murder, novels where murder crimes were basically unsolvable. Now, years later, someone is using his list as a guide to go on a killing spree.

When an FBI agent shows up on his doorstep, Mal is shocked to learn that his list is still being read, let alone used to kill people. What’s even stranger is that Mal seems to have a connection to some of the people who have been murdered.

Could the killer be someone he knows? And how will Mal hide his own secrets when his past comes back to haunt him?

Now, I don’t know if I just wasn’t paying attention to this audio book or what, but I just wasn’t captured by the story. A thriller is supposed to keep you on the edge of your seat and I just never felt that.

I found a lot of the book pretty predictable, I basically knew who the murderer was from the beginning. The only surprise for me happened toward the end and by that time, I really wasn’t invested in the book.

I also found Gwen’s character to be lost halfway through the book, which was a shame. I wish she was “written out” differently. The author really makes you think that she is going to have a large, arching role in the story and halfway through she all-but disappears.

This was by no means a bad read, but I just wasn’t grasped by the story. This one gets only two stars from me today.

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The Butterfly Girl

The Butterfly Girl by Rene Denfeld is the sequel to The Child Finder.

After years of being unable to remember anything about her childhood abduction and trauma, the child finder–Naomi–has finally remembered one thing, that she left her little sister behind. Now Naomi will stop at nothing to find her sister.

The search leads her to Portland, Oregon where homeless street children roam the streets just hoping to survive. But these same children are disappearing and Naomi can’t help wanting to help them, especially a young girl named Celia. Naomi promised herself she wouldn’t take another case until her sister was found but what happens when the case finds her?

I just love the way Rene Denfeld writes. She injects truly terrible situations and plots with this magical element. Her characters find ways to survive, whether it be butterflies, little people or mythical prisons. They create a way to escape the bad, to come through it, scars and all, still intact. I’ve always wondered what it takes for an author to inject both the horrible and the hopeful into their novels.

The Butterfly Girls had a different feel to me than The Child Finder. Same characters, a continuation of the original story but there was something different about it. In the first book Naomi is the confident, solitary creature who is unable to remember a past that she doesn’t even know if she wants to remember. But in this one, she has a husband, a friend, she cares in a more personal way than she did before. And she has this one memory, more of a feeling from her past and the sense of urgency is there.

I’m not sure if there will be any more Naomi Cottle books because this one wrapped up her story nicely but Naomi is a complex character and I wouldn’t mind seeing more of her. This one gets 4 high stars from me.

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The Vanishing Season

The Vanishing Season is the conclusion of The Collector series by Dot Hutchinson.

There are some cases that stick with you and there are others that you never stop working. For FBI agent Eliza Sterling and Brandon Eddison a recent child abduction case will test them in every way possible.

When eight-year old Brooklyn Mercer goes missing the hunt gets personal when the clues lead to a trail of abductions going back more than thirty years, including Brandon’s own sister, Faith, who was abducted decades earlier.

As the pain and trauma of the past plagues Eddison, Eliza is determined to solve the case at all costs but the closer she gets to an answer the higher the emotional toll on all the team.

It’s a race against time and for Eliza and the rest of the CAC team…. it’s more than personal.

I really enjoyed this entire series. How we start off with Inara and Vic and how the story was viewed more from the victims point of view, then how we shift to getting the cases from the perspective of the agents.

One of the things that struck me as unique about every book was the narrative. I loved how these stories were told; that something rang similar in each of them but the narrators brought their own personality/perspectives/traumas to the story. I thought this was really great and allowed the reader to witness these crimes from another perspective; to see how the personal and the professional overlap.

I also thought that The Vanishing Season was a fitting ending for the series as a whole. Faith is brought up from the very beginning of the series and finally, her case is being brought to the surface. The team has also come a long way since the beginning of the series, so it was nice to see that acknowledged here.

This one gets 4.5 stars from me.

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The Child Finder

The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld is an adult suspense novel about a woman whose job it is to locate missing children–dead or alive.

Madison Culver disappeared three years ago–she would be eight now, if she survived. Gone without out a trace in the mountains of Oregon’s Skookum National Forest, very few believe she could possibly be alive. Desperate to know the truth, the Culver’s contact Naomi, a private investigator who specializes in finding children.

Naomi’s reputation precedes her; she is known as The Child Finder and her ability to find these children, dead or alive is uncanny. Whether this ability stems from her past or not, Naomi understands these children because she used to be one of them. Naomi was found running through a field naked when she was a young girl. With no memories of what happened to her, Naomi is taken in my a kindly woman and grows up with a need, an obsession to find children like her. But who is she really hoping to find?

What happened to Madison Culver? Did she freeze to death like many suspect or is she out there somewhere? Will Naomi be able to unravel another story without unraveling herself?

loved Rene Denfeld’s The Enchanted, so I had to pick up The Child Finder and I am glad I did. This won’t be a book for everyone. Some people just can’t handle reading a story about child abduction and the horrible, evil things people do. And that’s OK. But for those who can stomach it, Denfeld does it right. She creates these stories where the bad is portrayed through the glamour of magic or fairy tales, so even though you realize you are reading something awful–you know what’s going on the whole time–there still a filter and one that really does add to the story.

The Child Finder has two primary narratives–Naomi’s past and present and Snowgirl’s, Madison Culver’s. I wondered at first if this fractured narrative, jumping between stories and past and present would detract from the story but it doesn’t at all. It really works. You get invested in Snowgirl’s story and yet you are still craving the who behind Naomi’s past. This story touches upon a very dark world and we get an insight into some of the psychology of abductees without it being overwhelming. We also get a glimpse into the mind of the “villain” and we see how monsters are made and people twisted.

This one gets four stars from me. Not quite as high as The Enchanted but still a really good read and one I think readers would enjoy.

That’s all for now!