THE DOGS by Allan Stratton

Cameron and his mom have been on the run for five years. His father is hunting them. At least, that’s what Cameron’s been told. When they settle in an isolated farmhouse, Cameron starts to see and hear things that aren’t possible. Soon he’s questioning everything he thought he knew and even his sanity. What’s hiding in the night? Buried in the past? Cameron must uncover the dark secrets before they tear him apart.


Influenced by his own past, author Allan Stratton discloses his personal connection to the book’s themes in the included Q+A.  Heavy themes like: domestic abuse, bullying, and mental health issues are portrayed throughout this eerie, teen thriller.

After moving in, Cameron quickly realizes that the creepy (just look at that front cover!), isolated farmhouse has a strange history. As a reader, it was easy to be immediately hooked by the mystery of the farmhouse, and like Cameron, I was curious to uncover the truth. The plot moves at warp speed; especially when Cameron makes one little mistake and sets of a frightening chain of events!

More praise:

“It’s about ghosts and terrifying danger and going mad all at once. I didn’t know what was real and what was imagined until the very last page. I loved it!” —Melvin Burgess, author of Carnegie Medal winner Junk

“It is increasingly rare to find genuine, convincing narratives that have us looking over our shoulders. The Dogs is such a narrative…What would it be like if the most frightening thing in your world lay at the heart of your own family? Stratton imagines this horror full and convincingly.” —Quill & Quire, starred review

Panic by Lauren Oliver


This adrenaline-charged, contemporary thriller is my second Lauren Oliver read. The story is told by the alternating perspectives of Heather and Dodge, both desperately competing in the game (Panic) for their own reasons. Panic, is a dangerous high stakes competition of high school seniors to win thousands of dollars; enough money to vastly impact their life and escape their stink hole of a town.

I found the character traits of the main four characters (Heather, Dodge, Natalie and Bishop) really frustrating. For most of the book (likely due to their hopeless situations), they demonstrate really poor judgement. Their family backgrounds include: addiction, poverty, and homelessness. Within the four, there is romance, but the story mostly focuses on the games.

The game itself does require the reader to suspend their belief. Panic has been played for several years, yet teachers, parents, and even police have yet to put a complete stop to it. Teenagers have even died playing the game, but Panic continues. There is no way a game like Panic could continue to exist today. But hey, it sells books.

Overall, Panic is an engaging, fast-paced read. It’s different from the other dangerous game playing YA books  (Hunger Games, Divergent, Maze Runner, etc.) because it is a contemporary story.  Since it is a standalone, readers also don’t have to commit to a trilogy! Hurray!  If you are a fan of movies based on books, look for Panic to hit the theatres.  Universal Pictures have secured the film rights.

Shadowlands (Shadowlands #1) by Kate Brian

Rory Miller had one chance to fight back and she took it. Rory survived and the serial killer who attacked her escaped. Now that the infamous Steven Nell is on the loose, Rory must enter the witness protection program. Entering the program alongside her, is her father and sister Darcy. The trio starts a new life and a new beginning leaving their friends and family behind without a goodbye. 

Starting over in a new town with only each other is unimaginable for Rory and Darcy. They were inseparable as children but now they can barely stand each other. As the sisters settle in to Juniper Landing, a picturesque vacation island, it seems like their new home may be just the fresh start they need. They fall in with a group of beautiful, carefree teens and spend their days surfing, partying on the beach, and hiking into endless sunsets. Just as they’re starting to feel safe again, one of their new friends goes missing. Is it a coincidence? Or is the nightmare beginning all over again?


Shadowlands started off brilliant with an intense, action packed, thrilling scene of a serial killer stalking and attacking the main character, high schooler, Rory Miller. Luckily, she survives, but then things get questionable. Rather than protecting the family, the police make them super vulnerable to another attack. In addition to following other idiotic orders, Rory’s family are instructed to drive themselves to a new isolated town, and to use a different last name (but hey, keep your first names). Rory soon discovers weird happenings in the town (fog, bracelets, disappearing people, etc.) but only makes a half-hearted attempt at getting answers (partying is more important). Flashbacks and lengthy dreams are thrown in to make things more confusing for the reader. The truth is only revealed in the last sentence, and now I feel cheated and left with sooooo many questions. Criticism aside, it was a quick, thrilling, page turner of a book. Unfortunately, the frustrating ending has completely colored my thoughts on Shadowlands. For those interested in continuing Rory’s story, the series continues with Hereafter (published October, 2013). 

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