Tag Archive | suspense

Review: Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

Series: Truly Devious #1

truly devious -maureen johnson

New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson weaves a delicate tale of murder and mystery in the first book of a striking new series, perfect for fans of Agatha Christie and E. Lockhart.

Ellingham Academy is a famous private school in Vermont for the brightest thinkers, inventors, and artists. It was founded by Albert Ellingham, an early twentieth century tycoon, who wanted to make a wonderful place full of riddles, twisting pathways, and gardens. “A place,” he said, “where learning is a game.”

Shortly after the school opened, his wife and daughter were kidnapped. The only real clue was a mocking riddle listing methods of murder, signed with the frightening pseudonym “Truly, Devious.” It became one of the great unsolved crimes of American history.

True-crime aficionado Stevie Bell is set to begin her first year at Ellingham Academy, and she has an ambitious plan: She will solve this cold case. That is, she will solve the case when she gets a grip on her demanding new school life and her housemates: the inventor, the novelist, the actor, the artist, and the jokester. But something strange is happening. Truly Devious makes a surprise return, and death revisits Ellingham Academy. The past has crawled out of its grave. Someone has gotten away with murder. 

The two interwoven mysteries of this first book in the Truly Devious series dovetail brilliantly, and Stevie Bell will continue her relentless quest for the murderers in books two and three.

3.5 Drink Me Potions

Thank you Edelweiss and HarperCollins for this copy in exchange for an honest review

**Truly Devious comes out January 16, 2018**

Truly Devious delivered two interesting mysteries that are connected through time, with a cast of individually unique characters.

Stevie is not your ordinary kind of girl. She loves crime with a passion, and hopes to solve an age-old mystery surrounding the school she’s about to attend. Although it doesn’t necessarily market it this way, I feel this portrayal of Stevie is akin to another young, Sherlock Holmes-esque girl protagonist, such as Brittany Cavallaro’s series. I liked this depiction, and I thoroughly enjoyed the lush descriptions of the settings. It was written very much in third-person view that mimics the feeling of older mysteries like Nancy Drew and Agatha Christie. However, the downside to this was the inability to really connect with the characters, particularly Stevie. She’s not the most charming and sociably likeable girl so feeling the extra distance with her didn’t make it any easier in really investing in her and what’s happening in her life.

The vast cast of characters had its ups and downs too. It definitely made the mystery harder to figure out as there’re so many people that have been introduced. It could be anyone! But at the same time, there’s less room to invest in any of these characters, so much so that they start feeling a bit two-dimensional and whittled down to their stereotypical tropes.

The romance was all right, I suppose. I love my romance in any story as I feel it adds another layer of complexity to the characters. Stevie’s not too keen on getting into a relationship, and that’s fine. There is someone I can root for in the romance department, but it’s slow-going, and you never know if he’d turn out to be the culprit.

Although this story seemed to be a rollercoaster ride in my emotions and feelings towards it, Truly Devious was an easy read that I got through in a sitting or two. The mysteries are the heart of the whole thing, and while the ending was definitely by FAR from satisfactory in solving either of the crimes at hand, it hopefully sets the stage for some more amazing twists that are yet to unfold later on. The present-day mystery took a long while to really occur which made the plot a bit slow, yet there’s something beautiful about the way that the past and the present stories really intertwine so well. Overall, it was an interesting read from Maureen Johnson and I look forward to the sequel.

But if I’m honest, I kinda wished there was a bit more closure. And that ending! I can’t believe it just stopped there. You’ll just have to read and find out what kinda twists are in store.

P.S. that letter from Truly Devious at the beginning was really what reeled me in. You’ll know it when you see it. Like a letter from your nightmare.

Overall Recommendation:
Truly Devious fits well into the genre of excellent mysteries throughout the ages, with this book featuring a past and current murder that could very well be linked. I found the book slow going at times, particularly with the present-day mystery, but the descriptions are lush and well-written and the suspense was ramped up high. I love that I couldn’t really guess a culprit in the end, but the ending wasn’t all that satisfactory as it left us with more questions than answers. If that means you have to read the sequel, then what do ya know? Guess I’m hooked till the end. Overall, a good impression of Maureen Johnson for me.


Review: The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell

Series: The Last Magician #1

the last magician -lisa maxwellStop the Magician. Steal the book. Save the future.

In modern-day New York, magic is all but extinct. The remaining few who have an affinity for magic—the Mageus—live in the shadows, hiding who they are. Any Mageus who enters Manhattan becomes trapped by the Brink, a dark energy barrier that confines them to the island. Crossing it means losing their power—and often their lives.

Esta is a talented thief, and she’s been raised to steal magical artifacts from the sinister Order that created the Brink. With her innate ability to manipulate time, Esta can pilfer from the past, collecting these artifacts before the Order even realizes she’s there. And all of Esta’s training has been for one final job: traveling back to 1902 to steal an ancient book containing the secrets of the Order—and the Brink—before the Magician can destroy it and doom the Mageus to a hopeless future.

But Old New York is a dangerous world ruled by ruthless gangs and secret societies, a world where the very air crackles with magic. Nothing is as it seems, including the Magician himself. And for Esta to save her future, she may have to betray everyone in the past.

5 Drink Me Potions

If you want action, excitement, mystery, intrigue and plot twists, then The Last Magician is completely for you!

First off, I need to say that Lisa Maxwell is absolutely phenomenal in her storytelling. I fell in love with this 1900s version of New York and I never wanted to leave it. It’s so very hard to write a good historical fantasy that stays true to the time and location that was chosen. I absolutely loved this, and felt completely immersed in this land as much as Esta did.

Mystery and intrigue are high up there as we follow Esta back to the past to stop this elusive man known only as The Magician from destroying a book of magic that held secrets to protecting all those born with magical abilities in the future. What a tall order that was, but this girl was courageous – if not a bit too reckless at times. She was an amazing protagonist to follow as she navigated a world that wasn’t completely her own yet felt somewhat familiar at the same time.

If that wasn’t enough, the pacing of the book always felt just right. Yes, it could get a little slower in some places, but this gave room for introducing new characters and building relationships. Although a good romance is always forefront on my mind whenever I read a book, I enjoyed the friendships made along the way in this past time. And the book wasn’t completely devoid of romance!

The Magician, as it turns out, was no other than Harte Darrigan, an intriguing guy to follow in the book as well. Although it wasn’t always clear what his intentions and plans were, he’s a character that you can totally put your faith in and support no matter how sketchy others may have viewed him at times. And his chemistry with Esta was tangible, especially when they were at odds with each other. No matter that she’s supposedly his enemy and would have to betray him at some point to get the book, there was so much anticipation for what could be between them. And let me just say, it was enough to satisfy, although I honestly can’t wait for book 2 to come out already.

Even if none of the above has gotten your heart pumping by now, how about this? At the heart of the story, it’s a complicated con and heist that the crew Esta joins would need to pull off in order to steal from the horrendous Order that is hunting all magical people. Who doesn’t love a good villain, first of all? What’s better than some elusive and secretive group chasing the good guys? Honestly, this book HAS IT ALL.

Whether you’re looking for romance, action, suspense, plot twists, good world building or character development, The Last Magician really does have it all . It’s been a long time since I felt this way for a new author, but this feeling Lisa Maxwell induced in me is akin to reading some of Cassandra Clare, J.K. Rowling and Julie Kagawa’s books. No matter what you love more, or if you aren’t the biggest fan of historical books, trust me, you have GOT to give this a try.

It just may change your entire perspective. Or engulf a good portion of your time as you escape into New York, 1902.

Overall Recommendation:
Words are no match to the strong feelings that The Last Magician has invoked in me. Full of intrigue, suspense, action, character development and romance, Esta’s mission into the past to steal back a book that could save other magical people is both daring and more complex than it initially seems. Along the way, you’ll fall in love with the people she meets there, from a magical crew who becomes like family and a certain Magician who is more than meets the eye. And if not the people, you’ll come to love New York as it was in 1902, with magic as normal as your average person. Lisa Maxwell has created a world that I fell completely into and never wanted to leave. Book 2 is on my most anticipated list for 2018!

Review: Scythe by Neal Shusterman

Series: Arc of a Scythe #1

scythe -neal shustermanTwo teens are forced to murder—maybe each other—in the first in a chilling new series from Neal Shusterman, author of the New York Times bestselling Unwind dystology.

Thou shalt kill.

In a world where disease has been eliminated, the only way to die is to be randomly killed (“gleaned”) by professional reapers (“scythes”). Citra and Rowan are teenagers who have been selected to be scythe’s apprentices, and—despite wanting nothing to do with the vocation—they must learn the art of killing and come to understand the necessity of what they do.

Only one of them will be chosen as a scythe’s apprentice. And when it becomes clear that the winning apprentice’s first task will be to glean the loser, Citra and Rowan are pitted against one another in a fight for their lives.

4 Drink Me Potions

What can I say about Scythe?

Honestly? After taking a couple of days to think about it since finishing this book, I’m not sure I can put it into any better words. But here IS what I would say.

Scythe is deeply thought-provoking and makes you question bigger things such as morality and good and evil. Who is allowed to take a life? At what cost would this come? How does human nature tie into it all? Can you maintain your own soul when you are charged to take lives as a duty, over and over again?

All these things swirled in my mind as I was reading this book. And this book could be read pretty quickly but I had to take my time with it.

Citra and Rowan were both ordinary individuals living out their boring day-to-day lives. Very rarely do people around them die – otherwise known as being gleaned in this somewhat far off society on Earth. But then they both encounter a scythe and life as they know it becomes completely different.

I loved reading their stories from both their perspectives. It may not have been first person, but it was still really descriptive about their thoughts and feelings as they trained as apprentices to a Scythe Master. I loved the snippets at the end of each chapter that took insight into certain Scythe Masters’ thoughts about what they did and why they did it. Although they may seem random at first, everything tied together well in the end.

I felt that Neal Shusterman did an amazing job building this world that seems plausible as technology and data grows. But the most amazing feat he accomplished was the ability to capture complexity of human conscience and the in-between gray areas behind people’s intentions and actions. That is what kept me going throughout this book.

The only reason I couldn’t give this a full 5 star rating was my annoyance with Rowan at times. I’m not sure what to make of him nearer to the end, although I do hold out some hope that things are going to more than what they seem. Yes, I know that sounds vague but let’s not give away anything too much, right?

As for romance, I was so sure that there’d be more between Rowan and Citra but they weren’t together all that much in the story to truly develop anything stronger than attraction in my mind. I’m not sure what the ending implied but I look forward to seeing what’s to come for the both of them and the whole Scythedom as some crazy things really shake up its workings then.

Overall Recommendation:
Scythe provided a wonderful platform for a story about morality behind every action. As a Scythe or even as a simple apprentice, our protagonists Rowan and Citra learned so much about the workings of their immortal society and the role of scythes that is far more complex than simply killing a certain quota of individuals. In such a complex world that may not be so far off into the future, Shusterman did an amazing job building a believable society and its own problems that need to be solved. Overall, this story was one that made me think and it followed me long after I closed the last page.