Friday, March 16, 2018

Book Review: Royal Bastards by Andrew Shvarts

Royal Bastards
Author: Andrew Shvarts
Series: Royal Bastards
Publication: Disney-Hyperion (May 30, 2017)

Description: Being a bastard blows. Tilla would know. Her father, Lord Kent of the Western Province, loved her as a child, but cast her aside as soon as he had trueborn children.

At sixteen, Tilla spends her days exploring long-forgotten tunnels beneath the castle with her stablehand half brother, Jax, and her nights drinking with the servants, passing out on Jax's floor while her castle bedroom collects dust. Tilla secretly longs to sit by her father's side, enjoying feasts with the rest of the family. Instead, she sits with the other bastards, like Miles of House Hampstedt, an awkward scholar who's been in love with Tilla since they were children.

Then, at a feast honoring the visiting princess Lyriana, the royal shocks everyone by choosing to sit at the Bastards' Table. Before she knows it, Tilla is leading the sheltered princess on a late-night escapade. Along with Jax, Miles, and fellow bastard Zell, a Zitochi warrior from the north, they stumble upon a crime they were never meant to witness.

Rebellion is brewing in the west, and a brutal coup leaves Lyriana's uncle, the Royal Archmagus, dead--with Lyriana next on the list. The group flees for their lives, relentlessly pursued by murderous mercenaries; their own parents have put a price on their heads to prevent the king and his powerful Royal Mages from discovering their treachery.

The bastards band together, realizing they alone have the power to prevent a civil war that will tear their kingdom apart-if they can warn the king in time. And if they can survive the journey . . .

My Thoughts: Tilla is the bastard daughter of Lord Kent of the Western Province. When she was younger, her father paid a lot of attention to her but since he married and had three legitimate daughters, she has been set aside. She spends her time with her half-brother Jax who is a stablehand. She still wishes that her father would acknowledge her and she still admires him.

She is attending a banquet honoring the visit of the Archmagus and the Princess Lyriana who is heir to the throne. She is in the outskirts, sitting at the bastards' table, with Miles who is the bastard son of the head of House Hempstedt and Zell who is a disgraced Zitochi warrior. Things change quickly when the princess decides that she wants to join the bastards' table. The four kids decide to join Jax later for a trip through the hidden tunnels to the Whitesand beach. There they find themselves an unwilling audience to a coup. Tilla's father, along with Miles's mother and Zell's father, are killing the Archmagus and overhear that Zell's brother has been sent to kill Lyriana in her room.

The five of them have to flee to get word to the king. They head across the country being chased by Zitochi warriors including Zell's brother and other mercenaries too. The face all sorts of adventures along the way. Friendships grow and a romance blossoms too. Then there are losses and betrayals.

Fans of epic fantasy will enjoy this story. The characters, especially Tilla, are well-rounded and intriguing people. I can't wait for the second book in this series to find out what happens next.

Favorite Quote:
Could I really do it? Just run away and never set foot in Castle Waverly again, never lie down on Whitesand Beach, never see my father again? I thought of his face down at the beach, that wild, gleeful bloodlust that had made me want to scream. Could I go back to him, even if I wanted to? Would I ever look at him the same way? Even if he forgave me, could I forgive him?
I bought this one Dec. 19, 2017 because I have the sequel on my Review stack. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

ARC Review: Losing Leah by Tiffany King

Losing Leah
Author: Tiffany King
Publication: Feiwel & Friends (March 20, 2018)

Description: Some bonds can’t be broken.

Ten years after the tragic disappearance of her twin sister Leah, sixteen-year-old Mia Klein still struggles to exist within a family that has never fully recovered. Deep in the dark recesses of her mind lies an overwhelming shadow, taunting Mia with mind-splitting headaches that she tries to hide in an effort to appear okay.

Leah Klein's life as she knew it ended the day she was taken, thrust into a world of abuse and fear by a disturbed captor―"Mother," as she insists on being called. Ten years later, any recollections of her former life are nothing more than fleeting memories, except for those about her twin sister, Mia.
As Leah tries to gain the courage to escape, Mia's headaches grow worse. Soon, both sisters will discover that their fates are linked in ways they never realized.

My Thoughts: LOSING LEAH wasn't at all the book I was expecting. It is filled with twists and turns that I didn't see coming. Ten years after it happened, Mia Klein is still struggling with the disappearance of her twin sister Leah. Her family is broken and she suffers from devastating headaches. Still she tries to pretend that everything is okay to her best friend Amber and her boyfriend Luke. She is keeping up her A average and dating a football star. Everything should be great.

Meanwhile, Leah is living in a dark basement under the control of a woman she has been taught to call Mother. Mother is volatile. Leah never knows what she can do to keep from experiencing brutal punishments. While Mother might be nice and give her treats and books to read, other times she can't be pleased and Leah is punished. Mother keeps Leah on the edge of starvation and deliberately weak. When Leah secretly begins exercising to gain strength and possibly escape, she knows that the punishments will be brutal if Mother finds out. Leah manages to escape but things are not at all what they appear to be.

There are twists after twists in this well-written and engaging thriller. Mia and Leah are both fascinating characters dealing with an unimaginable situation as best they can. I couldn't put this book down. The writing was engaging. The characters were compelling. And the twists and turns kept me going to the startling conclusion.

Favorite Quote:
The darkness wasn't gone the next day, or the day after that, or all the days that came later. It remained. Always there. In every shadow I passed. Lurking anyplace with the smallest absence of light. Haunting only me. The fact that no one else could see it made me question whether it was real. Deep down I suspected I was unraveling. 
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from Macmillan. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Book Review: Say You'll Remember Me by Katie McGarry

Say You'll Remember Me
Author: Katie McGarry
Publication: Harlequin Teen (January 30, 2018)

Description: Doesn’t matter who did it. Not anymore. I did the time. It’s over.”

When Drix was convicted of a crime—one he didn’t commit—he thought his life was over. But opportunity came with the Second Chance Program, the governor’s newest pet project to get delinquents off the streets, rehabilitated and back into society. Drix knows this is his chance to get his life back on track, even if it means being paraded in front of reporters for a while.

Elle knows she lives a life of privilege. As the governor’s daughter, she can open doors with her name alone. But the expectations and pressure to be someone she isn’t may be too much to handle. She wants to follow her own path, whatever that means.

When Drix and Elle meet, their connection is immediate, but so are their problems. Drix is not the type of boy Elle’s parents have in mind for her, and Elle is not the kind of girl who can understand Drix’s messy life.

But sometimes love can breach all barriers.

Fighting against a society that can’t imagine them together, Drix and Elle must push themselves—Drix to confront the truth of the robbery, and Elle to assert her independence—and each other to finally get what they deserve.

My Thoughts: SAY YOU'LL REMEMBER ME was a hard book to read. I was so emotionally involved that I just ached for Elle and Drix. The two kids couldn't be more different. Elle is the daughter of the Governor of Kentucky. She is groomed and prepped to help her father in his campaign for Senator. She sees her Dad as her hero and really supports his goals but she is having trouble following all the rules and putting her own wants before the needs of the campaign. She has the idea, fostered by her parents, that she has to be perfect to win their approval.

Drix is poor. He accepted a plea bargain after being arrested for an armed robbery which he did not commit. The plea bargain puts him in the Governor's new program that aims to derail the path from high school to prison. The program included therapy and education and really changed Drix's life. Before he was on a path of self-destruction, he was drinking, drugging and getting into fights for fun. He's a talented musician but got the idea from his absent father that musical talent made him a god who could do whatever he wanted.

Elle and Drix meet when he rescues her from a couple of college age guys who are harassing her at a fair when all she wants to do is have fun and play some Whack-a-Mole. They are attracted but Drix doesn't get her number because he sees her as being out of his class. They meet again the next day when he comes to the Governor's to learn what his obligations are to the Governor's program. He needs to make a number of campaign appearances and talk about the program. Elle is also involved in the campaign charming donors and pushing her dad's agenda. Despite being told to keep away from each other because her parents have decided that a romance would change the focus of what they need the kids to do, Elle and Drix do spend time together getting to know each other.

Both kids have all kinds of hurdles to overcome. Drix doesn't know who he can trust. He thinks he took the fall for his best friend and keeps waiting for him to say he was sorry. He is also concerned about his younger sister's dependence on a boyfriend who isn't at all good for her. He's also afraid to go back to music because he fears that he'll be swept back into the self-destructive pattern he was in before. Elle is gradually coming to realize that all the compromises her parents are pushing on her, from the stylist and the lack of support for her desire to accept an internship to foster her talent for programming, have caused her to almost lose herself. It takes quite a while to realize that her parents are using emotional abuse and even longer to stand up to them.

This was another emotionally wrenching title from an author known for them. I enjoyed this story and this romance and recommend it to fans of the genre.

Favorite Quotes:
My muscles tense, yet my perfectly practiced smile slips upon my face because Mom has told me to never let my anger leak out in public. I hate the word beautiful. Hate it. The word beautiful somehow gives the world permission to make wrongful assumptions about me, like that I don't have a brain. Beautiful somehow gives men permission to say the phrase as a secret password in my direction, and should therefore fall at their feet. Beautiful makes people believe they can say anything they want about or to me and that I shouldn't be angry.

Nothing in the universe could be more wrong.
I understand trying to please someone you think loves you. To keep that love, you keep twisting and bending yourself to become who they want you to be until you eventually break. There's a hole in them, a hole they need filled, and they want you to become the circle that will fit into them and make them complete, even though you're a square. It's an awful place to be, the person responsible for someone else's happiness, because being human, we're going to fail.
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

ARC Review: The Final Six by Alexandra Monir

The Final Six
Author: Alexandra Monir
Publication: HarperTeen (March 6, 2018)

Description: Set in the near future, this action-packed YA novel—already optioned by Sony Pictures—will take readers out of this world and on a quest to become one of six teens sent on a mission to Jupiter’s moon. This is the next must-read for fans of Illuminae and The Martian.

When Leo and Naomi are drafted, along with twenty-two of the world’s brightest teenagers, into the International Space Training Camp, their lives are forever changed. Overnight, they become global celebrities in contention for one of the six slots to travel to Europa—Jupiter’s moon—and establish a new colony, leaving their planet forever. With Earth irreparably damaged, the future of the human race rests on their shoulders.
For Leo, an Italian championship swimmer, this kind of purpose is a reason to go on after losing his family. But Naomi, an Iranian-American science genius, is suspicious of the ISTC and the fact that a similar mission failed under mysterious circumstances, killing the astronauts onboard. She fears something equally sinister awaiting the Final Six beneath Europa’s surface.

In this cutthroat atmosphere, surrounded by strangers from around the world, Naomi finds an unexpected friend in Leo. As the training tests their limits, Naomi and Leo’s relationship deepens with each life-altering experience they encounter.

But it’s only when the finalists become fewer and their destinies grow nearer that the two can fathom the full weight of everything at stake: the world, the stars, and their lives.

My Thoughts: Humans have trashed the Earth. Climate change has raised the oceans and drowned many cities. Humanity's last best hope is to choose a team of six teenagers to go on a mission to Jupiter's moon Europa to terraform it for a new home for humanity.

This book tells the story of the twenty-four kids who will be competing for the six spots. The book is told from two points of view.

Leo is an orphan from Rome who lost his parents and beloved younger sister when when a tsunami wave hit Rome. As the story begins, he is getting ready to die himself since he has no more hope. He has been chosen to represent Italy primarily for his swimming ability. He has a positive attitude about going to Europa because it will help humanity and there is nothing left on Earth for him.

Naomi is a science nerd. While her family has had to move to higher ground a couple to times, she still lives with her parents and her beloved younger brother who has a defective heart. The last thing she wants to do is go permanently to Europa and leave her family. She doesn't have a choice, though, because being chosen is equivalent to being drafted. All the kids are also told that if they deliberately try to be sent home, they will be prosecuted and imprisoned.

This story follows the training the kids go through including injections that are supposed to help them survive on Europa. Noami's roommate has a bad reaction to the injections and washes out of the program. Another of the candidates goes crazy which Naomi believes is because of the injections but the kids are told that he had a previously undiagnosed psychological issue. Naomi becomes more and more sure that the kids aren't being given the whole story and begins to do some research using hacking software her brother slipped to her as a going away present.

She and Leo begin a friendship which leads to a romance even though he is still convinced that the mission is a good one even while Naomi becomes more and more sure that it is not. There are also interpersonal problems for the kids to deal with two. Leo's rival for the dive expert on the mission is Beckett Wolfe who happens to be the nephew of the President of the United States. He is willing to do anything to sabotage Leo's chances including an attempted murder.

The story was exciting, action-packed and had a nice romance. It also begins a series. I have read a few similar books recently. THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY by Katie Slivensky, NYXIA by Scott Reintgen, and UNEARTHED by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner all have a similar themes for science fiction fans who want more while waiting for book 2.

Favorite Quote:
He gives me a wink that is meant to be reassuring but instead ties my stomach in knots. This is the problem with being a science nerd -- I can't share in the public's hope for this mission. I know too much. I know the laundry list of things that can -- and invariably will -- go wrong.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from Edelweiss. You can buy your copy here.

Friday, March 2, 2018

ARC Review: The Science of Breakable Things by Tae Keller

The Science of Breakable Things
Author: Tae Keller
Publication: Random House Books for Young Readers (March 6, 2018)

Description: An emotionally-charged new classic about the science of hope, love, and miracles! Natalie's uplifting story of using the scientific method to "save" her mother from depression is sure to take root in readers' hearts!

How do you grow a miracle?
For the record, this is not the question Mr. Neely is looking for when he says everyone in class must answer an important question using the scientific method. But Natalie's botanist mother is suffering from depression, so this is The Question that's important to Natalie. When Mr. Neely suggests that she enter an egg drop competition, Natalie has hope.

Eggs are breakable. Hope is not.
Natalie has a secret plan for the prize money. She's going to fly her mother to see the Cobalt Blue Orchids--flowers that survive against impossible odds. The magical flowers are sure to inspire her mother to love life again. Because when parents are breakable, it's up to kids to save them, right?

An extraordinary debut about the coming-of-age moment when kids realize that parents are people, too, and that talking about problems is like taking a plant out of a dark cupboard and giving it light. Think THE FOURTEENTH GOLDFISH meets THE THING ABOUT JELLYFISH.

My Thoughts: Twelve-year-old Natalie is having a bad year. Her mom seldom leaves her room and seems to have turned into not-Mom. She is worried about her botanist mother and a little angry at her too. Luckily, she has the support of her best friend Twig who keeps school interesting with her big personality. She also has a new friend in Dari who is here from India with his parents.

Natalie has a plan to fly her mother to see the Cobalt Blue Orchids that she has been studying. They are unique plants that can suck up toxins in the soil and become a beautiful blue color. She is hoping that seeing the flower she loves will make her mother feel better and reconnect to life. But she needs money which is where the Egg Drop contest comes in. First Place has a $500 prize.

Natalie, Twig and Dari spend most of the school year working on their contraption to keep their egg from breaking. This egg drop project is what they will all be using for their year-long science project on the scientific method. Twig and Dari have come up with big questions that their research will answer but Natalie's question takes a while to develop.

Natalie has quite a year of growth and change. Since the story is told from Natalie's point of view, I was left with a number of questions. It didn't appear that her mother was receiving any kind of treatment for her depression despite the fact that her father is a therapist. It also looked to me that the changes in Natalie, i.e. daydreaming, lack of interest in school work, and failure to complete assignments, were being ignored by the school. It felt like Natalie was being left to cope on her own both at home and at school.

This was an interesting story about a child dealing with a parent's mental illness which was well-written and thought-provoking.

Favorite Quote:
But my secret thought was about how Dad had talked to Mikayla and her mom about the "situation," and I didn't know what he's said and I didn't want anybody else to know about Mom. I felt like maybe it made her look bad, and I didn't want her to look bad, especially in front of the Menzies. Maybe I was embarrassed by her. I didn't want to be.
I received this one in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

State of the Stack #69 (March 1, 2018)

This is my monthly State of the Stack post. It is my way to keep track of my review books and to hopefully reduce the stack that I have waiting for me. I take a look at my review commitments on or near the first of the month. Link with Avalalinha's Books (description below) to check out other people's progress. She has just recently started a meme about review books.

Here is my Review Books Spreadsheet I list them in publication order and sort them by month. I can quickly see how many books I have for each date. Ideally, this keeps me from over-committing to review books. Check my spreadsheet to find out where I got each book.

I also do this post because sometimes (frequently) review books sit on my stack for a while before I read and review them. I try to read and review books within two weeks of publication date. Sometimes I can't, though, if too many books are releasing on the same date or if the book arrives too near its publication date and my calendar is already full.

I am very grateful to the authors and publishers who support my reading habit.

My Review Pile

Bad Neighbors by Maia Chance (April 10)
The Shadow of Death by Jane Willan (April 10)
Lord of the Pies by Nell Hampton (April 10)
Whispers of the Dead by Spencer Kope (April 17)
White Rabbit by Caleb Roehrig (April 24)
Reckless Rescue (The Explorers) by Adrienne Kress (April 24)
Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian (April 24)
Shattered Mirror by Iris Johansen (April 24)
The Outcast by Taran Matharu (May 1)
What You Want to See by Kristen Lepionka (May 1)
No Cure for the Dead by Christine Trent (May 8)
Flowers and Foul Play by Amanda Flower (May 8)
Cake & Punishment by Maymee Bell (May 8)
Better Off Read by Nora Page (May 8)
Beyond the Pale by Clare O'Donohue (May 8)
Pairing a Deception by Nadine Nettmann (May 8)
Mayfly by Jeff Sweat (May 8)
The Other Lady Vanishes by Amanda Quick (May 8)
The Plastic Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg (May 15)
The Queen of Sorrow by Sarah Beth Durst (May 15)
The Game Can't Love You Back by Karole Cozzo (May 15)
Onyx & Ivory by Mindee Arnett (May 15)
Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe by Preston Norton (June 5)
City of Bastards by Andrew Shvarts (June 5)
Sweet Black Waves by Kristina Perez (June 5)
How We Roll by Natasha Friend (June 5)
The Bird and the Blade by Megan Bannen (June 5)
Monday's Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson (June 5)
The Body in the Ballroom by R. J. Koreto (June 12)
Last Girl Gone by J. G. Hetherton (June 12)
Death and a Pot of Chowder by Cornelia Kidd (June 12)
The Lost Books: The Scroll of Kings by Sarah Prineas (June 26)
My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, & Jodi Meadows (June 26)
Now You See Her  by Lisa Leighton & Laura Stropki (June 26)
The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James (July 3)
Somebody's Daughter by David Bell (July 10)
When Life Gives You Demons by Jennifer Honeybourn (July 17)
Nyxia Unleashed by Scott Reintgen (July 17)
Between Frost and Fury by Chani Lynn Feener (July 24)
Contagion by Erin Bowman (July 24)
The Impossibility of Us by Katy Opperman (July 31)
The Girl You Thought I Was by Rebecca Phillips (July 31) 
Sea Witch by Sarah Henning (July 31)

These Rebel Waves by Sara Raasch (August 7)
Nine by Zach Hines (August 7)
The Truth Lies Here by Lindsey Klingele (August 21)

Read and Gone by Allison Brook (Sept. 11)

I Read This Month

These are listed in the order I read them. Links go to my reviews for all that have been posted already. Otherwise, the date the review is scheduled for is listed.
  1. The Policeman's Daughter by Trudy Nan Boyce (Feb. 28)
  2. Hooked on a Phoenix by Ashlyn Chase (March 1) 
  3. The Science of Breakable Things by Tae Keller (March 2) 
  4. Searcher of the Dead by Nancy Herriman (March 7)
  5. The Final Six by Alexandra Monir (March 7)
  6. Lethal in Old Lace by Duffy Brown (March 8) 
  7. Under the Shadows by Gwen Florio (March 10) 
  8. Bones Don't Lie by Melinda Leigh (March 13)
  9. Deja Moo by Kirsten Weiss (March 14)
  10. Losing Leah by Tiffany King (March 14)
  11. The Broken Girls by Simone St. James (March 17)
  12. Deadly Secret by Tara Thomas (March 20)
  13. Lost Crow Conspiracy by Rosalyn Eves (March 21) 
  14. Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi (March 23) 
  15. Falling Star by Terri Osborn (March 24) 
  16. Ice Wolves (Elementals) by Amie Kaufman (March 26) 
  17. The School for Psychics by K. C. Archer (March 28) 
  18. The Window by Amelia Brunskill (March 28) 
  19. They Lost Their Heads! by Carlyn Beccia (March 30) 
  20. A Death of No Importance by Mariah Fredericks (March 31)
Read Previously, Reviews Posted This Month
  1. Look for Me by Lisa Gardner (Feb. 1)
  2. Tempests and Slaughter by Tamora Pierce (Feb. 2)
  3. A Cold Day in Hell by Lissa Marie Redmond (Feb. 3)  
  4. Death & the Viking's Daughter by Loretta Ross (Feb. 7)
  5. The Sweetest Kind of Fate by Crystal Cestari (Feb. 7) 
  6. The Cat of the Baskervilles by Vicki Delany (Feb. 8) 
  7. The Ambrose Deception by Emily Ecton (Feb. 9) 
  8. The Philosopher's Flight by Tom Miller (Feb. 10) 
  9. No One Can Know by Lucy Kerr (Feb. 12) 
  10. Honor Among Thieves by Rachel Caine & Ann Aguirre
  11. A Murder in Bloomsbury by D. M. Quincy (Feb. 14) 
  12. Pitch Dark by Courtney Alameda (Feb. 14) 
  13. Fire and Bone by Rachel A. Marks (Feb. 16) 
  14. Hidden Fate by Tara Thomas (Feb. 20)
  15. Twisted End by Tara Thomas (Feb. 20)
  16. Darkest Night by Tara Thomas (Feb. 21)
  17. The Tombs by Deborah Schaumberg (Feb. 21)
  18. Collision Point by Lora Leigh (Feb. 22) 
  19. Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman (Feb. 23)
I Added These Books

These are listed in the order I received them. Links go to Amazon. Date published is listed in parentheses.
  1. When Life Gives You Demons by Jennifer Honeybourn (July 17)
  2. Between Frost and Fury by Chani Lynn Feener (July 24)
  3. Sweet Black Waves by Kristina Perez (June 5)
  4. How We Roll by Natasha Friend (June 5)
  5. Airports, Exes, and Other Things I'm Over by Shani Petroff (May 15)
  6. The Impossibility of Us by Katy Upperman (July 31)
  7. The Game Can't Love You Back by Karole Cozzo (May 15)
  8. The Outcast by Taran Matharu (May 1)
  9. Mayfly by Jeff Sweat (May 8)
  10. Onyx & Ivory by Mindee Arnett (May 15)
  11. These Rebel Waves by Sara Raasch (Aug. 7)
  12. The Lost Books: The Scroll of Kings by Sarah Prineas (June 26)
  13. My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows (June 26)
  14. The Truth Lies Here by Lindsey Klingele (Aug. 21)
  15. The Bird and the Blade by Megan Bannen (June 5)
  16. Now You See Her by Lisa Leighton, Laura Stropki (June 26)
  17. Monday's Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson (June 5)
  18. Contagion by Erin Bowman (July 24)
  19. The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James (July 3) 
  20. The Girl You Thought I Was by Rebecca Phillips (July 31)
  21. Sea Witch by Sarah Henning (July 31)
  22. Nine by Zach Hines (Aug. 7)
  23. The Other Lady Vanishes by Amanda Quick (May 8)
  24. Last Girl Gone by J. G. Hetherton (June 12)
  25. Read and Gone by Allison Brook (Sept. 11)
  26. Death and a Pot of Chowder by Cornelia Kidd (June 12)
  27. A Death of No Importance by Mariah Fredericks (April 10)
  28. What You Want to See by Kristen Lepionka (May 1)
  29. Nyxia Unleashed by Scott Reintgen (July 17)
  30. Falling Star by Terri Osburn (March 27)
Next Month's Plan

I had a good reading month finished 20 Advanced Reading Copies. I have finished all the review books on my March calendar and have written and scheduled the reviews. I have read some of my April releases already but still have nine to read. I also have quite a bunch of books to read for May release with bunches releasing on May 8.

I also added a bunch to my review calendar last month with release dates out until September. While I will probably still browse NetGalley and Edelweiss this month, I really don't need to add any books that are releasing before August if I want to be able to fit in any of my own TBR mountain of books.


I am also linking up with the State of the ARC meme. Here is the explanation and rules.

State of the ARC is a monthly meme at Avalinah’s Books meant to motivate you to finish up all your long overdue ARCs (Advanced or Early Reader Copies). You can track your reading progress and link up with your own post. Most commonly it comes out on the 30th of every month.

Rules of State of the ARC:

  • Mention that you’re linking up with State of the ARC @ AvalinahsBooks, which is a fun way to share our ARC progress, challenges, wins, woes and mishaps.
  • Include the link to this post, or the current State of the ARC post. You can use my State of the ARC image too.
  • Don’t forget to visit all the other people in the link-up and comment.
  • And most importantly – have fun!

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Book Review: Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

Truly Devious
Author: Maureen Johnson
Series: Truly Devious (Book 1)
Publication: Katherine Tegen Books (January 16, 2018)

Description: 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.

My Thoughts: This was an excellent mystery whose only flaw was the cliffhanger ending. I want books two and three RIGHT NOW.

Stevie Bell has been accepted at the Ellingham Academy in rural Vermont. The school was founded by a tycoon in the 1930s to provide a free education to students from a wide variety of backgrounds and with a wide variety of interests. Her housemates include and inventor, a novelist, an eccentric artist, an actor, and a character steeped in mystery. Stevie wants to solve mysteries and the one most on her mind is the kidnapping and disappearance of the school founder's wife and daughter in 1936. While the wife's body was found, the child's was not.

Stevie has read all the books about the mystery. She has gathered thousands of pages of research including court transcripts, FBI interviews, and newspaper clippings. She is glad to be at the school and away from the parents who don't understand her and who support a political candidate she can't stand.

The curriculum caters to her interests and she is kept busy with schoolwork and the day to day activities of a boarding school. Stevie is worried about the usual things: fitting in and making friends. Stevie also suffers from anxiety and takes medication to combat panic attacks. These things all fit in around her research.

When Hayes, the actor, comes to her and asks for her help recreating the kidnapping, she pulls in Nate to do the writing while she provides the technical details. They gather together with other friends to produce a video. But then Hayes dies in one of the tunnels that riddle the school. Was it a tragic accident? Or is there a new murderer stalking Ellingham Academy?

I loved the writing in this book. The story was descriptive, lyrical, and often sort of creepy. Stevie is a great character who sometimes gets so focused on crime solving that she neglects the people in her life. David was a fascinating character who provides quite a puzzle to Stevie even as they begin a tentative romance.

Fans of mysteries, boarding schools, and romance will all enjoy this story and be eager to find out more when books two and three are available.

Favorite Quote:
Schools may be famous for many things: academics, graduates, sports teams.

They are not supposed to be famous for murders.
I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.