In an effort to cut down on posts and burnout, my Review Roundups will feature 2-4 books I’ve read or listened to recently. Sometimes they’re newer releases and sometimes they’re all backlist titles. My ARC reviews usually get the solo treatment. Enjoy the mini reviews!
Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson
Series: Truly Devious #1
Genres: Young Adult, Mystery/Thriller
Published by Harper Collins on January 16th 2018
Also by this author: Let It Snow, The Vanishing Stair, The Hand on the Wall, The Box in the Woods, Nine Liars
Format: Hardcover (420 pages) • Source: Library
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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.
I love books about boarding school and have really been meaning to read Maureen Johnson, so it’s only natural that TRULY DEVIOUS intrigued me right away. I requested it from the library before it even came out, so my hold came in immediately. I quickly started reading… and quickly finished in two sittings. I read 70% of a 400+ page book in one night and could not stop reading if I tried, even though my eyes kept closing on me from exhaustion.
I was fascinated and intrigued by the story from the very beginning. Everything from the setting (remote Vermont boarding school for incredibly smart kids) to the mixing of past and present (1936 when the first murders and kidnappings happened and present day when Stevie attends the school) kept pulling me in. While there were some parts that dragged a little and even confused me (why so many characters?!), I was hooooooked. Stevie was an interesting main character and I LOVED her interest in true crime. I’m a podcast addict when it comes to that topic as well. Her friends and housemates were all unique and compelling from the beginning, even though it was sometimes hard to keep track of all the characters involved.
There are a lot of different threads that get woven together and little clues to pick up throughout the story. I feel like I might have picked up on hints everywhere so I hope I remember them and they end up being relevant later! I’m so bad at solving mysteries and right now I’m not sure what to think. There’s the original mystery from the past, where the school’s founder lost his wife and daughter to a kidnapping and a student (who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time) died. There’s also a possibly-connected mystery happening at the school while Stevie is there but I won’t give details on that; it happens in the second half of the book and the synopsis does vaguely mention it.
I’m so excited that this is going to be a trilogy because really there are so many different elements of the story to unpack over time. Even if one mystery gets solved in book two, there are still quite a few more to get solved in book three. The ending was a definite cliffhanger but not as bad as I expected. I cannot wait to see what happens next.
Renegades by Marissa Meyer
Series: Renegades #1
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
Published by Macmillan on November 7th 2017
Also by this author: Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, Winter, Fairest, Stars Above, Heartless, Wires and Nerve, Gone Rogue , Archenemies , Supernova
Format: Hardcover (556 pages) • Source: Purchased
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From #1 New York Times-bestselling author Marissa Meyer, comes a high-stakes world of adventure, passion, danger, and betrayal.
Secret Identities. Extraordinary Powers. She wants vengeance. He wants justice.
The Renegades are a syndicate of prodigies — humans with extraordinary abilities — who emerged from the ruins of a crumbled society and established peace and order where chaos reigned. As champions of justice, they remain a symbol of hope and courage to everyone... except the villains they once overthrew.
Nova has a reason to hate the Renegades, and she is on a mission for vengeance. As she gets closer to her target, she meets Adrian, a Renegade boy who believes in justice — and in Nova. But Nova's allegiance is to a villain who has the power to end them both.
I loved the Lunar Chronicles (including the spinoff graphics novels) and was a fan of HEARTLESS, so clearly I was excited about more books from Meyer! I waited a little bit to read this one though because honestly it’s huuuuuge. My book club decided to read it for February so I finally forced myself to get over it and get reading. I made the mistake of starting it a little too late and I was nervous about finishing in time, but I ended up binge-reading the last 250 pages in one sitting. Damn.
I think this book could have been more effective and engaging if about 200 pages were cut out. I always say this for long books, but I have no idea how that could actually happen. I mean, I enjoyed all the scenes that were included. I don’t think TOO many of them felt unnecessary. I was always intrigued by the story and the parts with action, but there were many parts that were just too dragged out or repetitive. Ingrid and Nova had the same argument at least three times in the book – it just felt unnecessary to rehash it repeatedly. There was one paragraph where Adrian was “snarling” twice. One of my book club friends made a Goodreads status that said how the book is a lot of telling instead of showing, which could be the problem.
I really enjoyed meeting morally-gray-Nova and adorable Adrian. I’m super curious about the next book, especially based on that ending (that surprised me but maybe I should have saw coming). I hope to learn more about other peoples’ powers and some of the interesting things happening at their headquarters as well.