Series: The Initial Insult #1
Published by Katherine Tegen (2.23.2021)
Genres: Young Adult, Mystery, Thriller
Format: Audiobook, 372 pages
Length: 7 hours, 29 minutes
Narrator: Lisa Flanagan, Brittany Pressley, Tim Campbell
Welcome to Amontillado, Ohio, where your last name is worth more than money, and secrets can be kept… for a price.
Tress Montor knows that her family used to mean something—until she didn’t have a family anymore. When her parents disappeared seven years ago while driving her best friend home, Tress lost everything. She might still be a Montor, but the entire town shuns her now that she lives with her drunken, one-eyed grandfather at what locals refer to as the “White Trash Zoo,” – a wild animal attraction featuring a zebra, a chimpanzee, and a panther, among other things.
Felicity Turnado has it all – looks, money, and a secret that she’s kept hidden. She knows that one misstep could send her tumbling from the top of the social ladder, and she’s worked hard to make everyone forget that she was with the Montors the night they disappeared. Felicity has buried what she knows so deeply that she can’t even remember what it is… only that she can’t look at Tress without having a panic attack.
But she’ll have to.
Tress has a plan. A Halloween costume party at an abandoned house provides the ideal situation for Tress to pry the truth from Felicity – brick by brick – as she slowly seals her former best friend into a coal chute. With a drunken party above them, and a loose panther on the prowl, Tress will have her answers – or settle for revenge.
In the first book of this duology, award-winning author Mindy McGinnis draws inspiration from Edgar Allan Poe and masterfully delivers a dark, propulsive mystery in alternating points of view that unravels a friendship... forevermore.
Warning: There’s dog killing in this book.
I’ve said before that Mindy’s contemporary books are almost always a hit for me. This one was no different! (Which makes me the black sheep in a good way for once, because the reviews for this book are pretty bad.) Mindy loves to write brutal stories, and you know I love brutal. This one is said to be a retelling of Poe’s The Cask of Amontillado, which I can’t speak of because I haven’t read it.
It has a very similar feel to A Long Stretch of Bad Days, in the fact that it’s a small town and surnames hold power. The hierarchy of the town and its rich/founding families is alien to me, because I’ve never lived in a place like that. Her characters also bear a similar feel as well. Tress was ruthless and prickly like many of her past female MCs have been.
I enjoyed the mystery aspect of this book, and how the story was told! We got little snippets in the form of flashbacks, slowly putting the puzzle pieces together to form a coherent image. I was DYING to know what happened the night the Montors disappeared!
The dual POV was interesting, because each of the girls has a very different perspective of what happened. I feel like the entire fallout was mostly miscommunication and misunderstanding, and small things add up to big things until it just gets WAY out of hand. The cat chapters (in the perspective of the panther) were weird AF, and probably unnecessary, but I actually kind of loved it! In the audio, there’s a separate (male) narrator for him. The narrator was PERFECT for him, and the way those chapters were written – in verse – made it sound perfectly panther-like.
The only complaint I have is that sometimes I got the girls mixed up, or forgot whose perspective I was listening to. Mainly toward the end, when the chapters get short and everything gets muddled. I also would have liked to connect to the characters more than I did.
However, THAT ENDING?! Shit. Escalates. I actually went and downloaded the ebook from my library so I could read over the last few chapters again, because I thought I’d missed something. I hadn’t. It was just wild! This whole book was wild, and strange. (In a good way, for me.) View Spoiler »I NEEEED to know what Felicity was talking about when she said ‘he knows.’ Was Ribbit involved in the accident?! WHY IS TRESS IN DANGER?! « Hide Spoiler
Side note: WHY did they change that beautiful cover *cries* I despise the new covers so so much. They’re hideous.
Writing style: 4/5
Cover: 4.5/5 (the original)
Overall rating: 4/5
The Last Laugh by Mindy McGinnis
Series: The Initial Insult #2
Published by Katherine Tegen (3.15.2022)
Genres: Young Adult, Mystery, Thriller
Format: Audiobook, 384 pages
Length: 8 hours, 3 minutes
Narrator: Lisa Flanagan, Matt Pittenger, Brittany Pressley
In the dark and stunning sequel to The Initial Insult, award-winning author Mindy McGinnis concludes this suspenseful YA duology as long-held family secrets finally come to light . . . changing Amontillado forevermore.
Tress Montor murdered Felicity Turnado—but she might not have to live with the guilt for long. With an infected arm held together by duct tape, the panther who clawed her open on the loose, and the whole town on the hunt for the lost homecoming queen, the odds are stacked against Tress. As her mind slides deeper into delirium, Tress is haunted by the growing sound of Felicity’s heartbeat pulsing from the “best friend” charm around her fevered neck.
Ribbit Usher has been a punchline his whole life—from his nickname to his latest turn as the unwitting star of a humiliating viral video. In the past he’s willingly played the fool, but now it’s time to fulfill his destiny. That means saving the girl, so that Felicity can take her place at his side and Ribbit can exact revenge on all who have done him wrong—which includes his cousin, Tress. Ribbit is held by a pact he made with his mother long ago, a pact that must be delivered upon in four days.
With time ticking down and an enemy she considers a friend lurking in the shadows, Tress’s grip on reality is failing. Can she keep both mind and body together long enough to finally find out what happened to her parents?
Wow, what a wild ride!! I don’t think I enjoyed this one *quite* as much as the first, but it was still engrossing! The first book left a lot of loose ends, and they were all neatly tied up in this one. There were a lot of shocking surprises and things that I did NOT see coming. Mindy sure does know how to write dark, compelling stories! I enjoyed seeing how everything played out, and how it all tied together. I can’t talk about much else without spoiling things, so I’ll put a lot of it in a spoiler tag!View Spoiler »Um, Ribbit is a fucking sociopath?!?? It was interesting to show that the ‘nice guy’ act can be toxic sometimes. His personality turn took me by surprise! I figured that Felicity meant what I thought she meant, but daaaaamn. Poor Tress! I think I gasped out loud when her ‘grandpa’ admitted that he wanted her to die. WTF! I also think I gasped out loud when it was revealed that Hugh was her brother. Like I said, this one was wild! « Hide Spoiler
Just like the first book, the audio was fantastic! It has the same two female narrators as the first book, and adds a different male narrator for Ribbit’s POV. Except in this one, Rue the orangutan replaces Felicity. I do miss Cat’s POV, but Rue’s was interesting too. Strange, but interesting! Her prose is quite broken just like Cat’s was (probably also in verse, but I didn’t see the print of this one to know for sure), and the narrator brought her to life. I love Rue! I like how this book is rooted in reality, but has some rather mystical elements (like the beating heart charm and sentient animals). This was a great follow up to finish the duology!
Writing style: 4/5
Overall rating: 4/5
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