Book Reviews Blog

Misty Horning, PhD

Reading with the Doctor

HI, I am Misty. My goal is to share my thoughts with your all about the books I have read, especially the young adult titles. If nothing else comes from this except for someone picking up a new book to read, then I will consider it a success.

The Initial Insult by Mindy McGinnis

I love it when I catch the allusions woven into the intertextuality between texts. I find myself traveling down the rabbit hole reminding myself of which character had the same name in another story, or which similar plot does this novel follow. Often, it is the connection between different pieces of literature that helps me to appreciate how stories can be told and retold. The Initial Insult by Mindy McGinnis does not disappoint in this aspect.

Incorporating many aspects from Edgar Allan Poe’s work, McGinnis provides readers with a new tale about love, guilt, terror, and revenge. In the town of Amontillado, Ohio, Tress Montor is struggling with the disappearance of her parents five years ago, and the only witness is the girl she used to call her best friend, Felicity Turnado. To finally find the truth, Tress takes advantage of a Halloween party to isolate and question Felicity. And, if Tress does not like Felicity’s answers? She will seal her in a coal chute, brick by brick, lie by lie.

With obvious allusions to “The Cask of Amontillado”, McGinnis builds the literary storyworld of Edgar Allan Poe in this first book of a duology, as she explores the feelings of guilt and remorse, through the eyes of two teenage girls facing their own darkness. Fans of Poe will enjoy this new twist on some of his most famous works, including “The Black Cat” and “The Masque of the Red Death”. As I said, reading this book can lead a reader down the rabbit hole to other great works of literature.

The Murder Game by Carrie Doyle

A few of the reviews of this book mention the cover and title, describing how they do not seem to fit with the story. I will agree. I am not sure how the title plays into the story, or how the tally marks do as well.

I did some digging and found out that this book was originally published in 2018 under the title of Sneaking Out (a much more suitable title) and the author published it under the pseudonym of Chuck Vance. It is described as the first in the Chased series (named for the main character of Luke Chase). I do not know if any of the book has been changed since its original publication, but it does read as though there is a series planned. I hope there is as I still have some questions concerning the main character’s background and the events he went through three years prior to the setting of this story.

I enjoyed the novel, although it was predictable at times. There are some standard YA character tropes used but overall it was a fast-paced mystery. Readers of the Truly Devious series by Maureen Johnson would probably enjoy this, especially if it continues with more books.

What Big Teeth by Rose Szabo

The cover of this book pulls people in. Based on the cover alone, I was intrigued by the book. The synopsis made me even more so. However, once I was in the story, I found it hard to follow and I was ultimately disappointed.

The world-building is lacking in the development of the story. As an avid reader of YA fantasy, paranormal, and magical realism, I usually do not have a problem following the author’s world, even if it is underdeveloped. This was not the case for this book. The author writes the story as though the reader is aware of each of the characters’ natures. Are they werewolves? Are both grandmothers witches? And why is the mother covered in pustules all over one side of her body? There were too many aspects of the story left undeveloped for me to appreciate the book as a whole.

Prom House by Chelsea Muller

Ten friends rent a secluded beach house for their after-prom weekend…for $10,000. This is what stayed with me after finishing this book, the idea that they paid this much for the house. I found this to be the hardest to believe.

The story itself is what one would expect from a YA mystery thriller. It is a fast-paced whodunit, with an ending that seems hastily pulled together. There are elements in the characterizations that could be more robust and developed. The characters themselves are static and flat. The description of abuse one of the characters suffers from is added as a half-hearted attempt to add depth to the character, but the author falls short of it.

With all this though, the book is entertaining and I can see teenagers enjoying the quick read of it. It is a book I would have in my high school library.

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