Book Review: Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

Rating: 3.5/5

I really really wanted to like this book.

Book CWs

  • Character Death/Murder
  • Child Death/Murder (Teens)
  • Drugs
  • Alcohol
  • Anxiety (MC has anxiety)
  • Cliff hanger ending

Premise

A long time ago, Albert Ellingham founded a Elingham Academy in Vermont as a school for the best and brightest teen prodigies. After the school opened, his wife and daughter were kidnapped by an unknown assailant known only as “Truly Devious”. The case was never solved.

Many many years later, Stevie Bell, a young teen obsessed with solving mysteries, begins her first semester at Ellingham Academy with the goal of solving the famous cold case. Almost as soon as Stevie begins getting used to her new classmates and pursuing leads, Truly Devious resurfaces and a student is, once again, mysteriously murdered.

Review (Kind of Spoilery)

(I don’t think there’s a way of reviewing this book without having some vague spoilers since the biggest issue is the ending so you can stop reading here if you want.)

Okay, I really really thought I was going to be head over heals for this book. I loved Maureen’s The Name of the Star (you’ve probably heard me say this like 500 times in other reviews) and I have always loved crime mysteries. Putting those two things together, I thought this was going to be my best read of the year.

Sadly, I was so very mistaken.

The first two pages of this book got me so absolutely hooked before the first chapter even began. This feeling continued throughout pretty much all of the book…that is, until I got to the ending.

The ending is the worst thing I could have ever imagined. In that it’s not an ending at all! I’m pretty okay with cliffhanger endings but absolutely nothing was resolved in the end. Nothing was even solved at the end. I read an entire crime mystery where no questions were answered. I was so upset! What kind of book does that??

The reason I gave this book 3.5 stars despite the ending was because it was pretty darn good in creating the right atmosphere for a mystery book. Like I said, I was enjoying it a lot until I got to the end. It had good details, amazing flashbacks, and great suspense. It just didn’t amount to anything.

I was also really annoyed with the main character. Stevie is supposed to be a kind of teenage Sherlock Holmes and she pretty much sucked the entire book. She was so amazingly bad at putting things together. Rory (the MC in The Name of the Star) was better at solving things than Stevie was and Rory’s just some random American girl!

I do still think that I’ll continue the series regardless of how angry this book made me. I’m hoping the next book is better than the first and can provide me with some sort of conclusion at the end.

Book Review: The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton

Rating: 5/5

A thriller that actually had me on the edge of my seat.

Book CWs

  • Death
  • Widespread Infection
  • Sexism
  • Suspense

Premise

A military satellite crashes near a small town of Piedmont, Arizona. Almost immediately after it’s opened, all of the towns inhabitants suddenly drop dead.

After discovering the town’s desolation, a protocol known as “Wildfire” is set in motion. The Wildfire group consists of several scientists who, having predicted the inevitability of alien biological warfare, have set up a secret laboratory made specifically to quarantine unknown pathogens.

Operating in the deepest, most secure level of the facility, the scientists must work fast to stop this new organism (labelled the Andromeda Strain) before it spreads to the rest of the world.

Review

The Andromeda Strain was a book recommended to me by my partner to satisfy the Alchemy prompt in House Battles. I have pretty much started actively avoiding adult novels because I keep not liking them, so I was pretty certain I would hate this book.

Fortunately for me–and I guess also my partner–I actually really enjoyed it!

I do want to warn anyone who might be thinking about reading The Andromeda Strain that it is pretty science heavy. The book revolves around a team of scientists so it dives pretty deep into scientific details; it even has some diagrams and photos to illustrate some characteristics of the strain. I admit that I skimmed through the heavier passages but I did appreciate the dedication to making the book read like an actual government file.

The thing that surprised me the most about this book was that it affected me (in a psychological thriller type of way) more than any other book that I’ve read. There were times where I was literally freaking out about what was coming next. I had to actively force myself not to read ahead and spoil everything. There were also a surprising amount of times where I found myself laughing despite the serious nature of the story.

I know there are a lot of comments on Goodreads that say the ending was “anti-climactic” but I thought the ending was absolutely perfect. I can’t say much more without spoiling the book but I really did think it had a satisfying conclusion.

30 Interesting Questions Tag

I was tagged by Emily! (A month ago. I’m so sorry.) Unfortunately I don’t know who created this tag, but if anyone else does please let me know so that I can credit them!

1. What are your nicknames? What do you prefer to be called?

I mean my nickname is Jenny/Jen. I don’t use my real name on my blog but I have several nicknames from that.

2. How often do you doodle? What do your doodles look like?

I don’t doodle much because I never can decide on what to doodle. I think my anxiety is incompatible with doodling. Sometimes I’ll decide I want to doodle in the margins of something and then I start panicking that my doodle isn’t going to be good enough and that someone will see and be like wtf is that? You call that a doodle?

3. What do you do if you can’t sleep at night? Do you count sheep? Toss and turn? Try to get up and do something productive?

I usually just lie there. It’s pretty unproductive.

4. Do people consider you to be talkative or quiet?

I guess quiet. It really depends on who I’m around but my default is quiet around people I don’t know.

5. What makes you cry?

Uh, everything? I’m such a sensitive crier. I’ll cry during like any movie and I cry when I’m angry.

6. What is your biggest pet peeve?

I really hate when people sing in public.

7. How many times a day do you look at yourself in the mirror?

No idea. If we’re only counting mirrors than like as little as possible since the only times I’m really around mirrors is when I’m in a bathroom. If we’re talking about reflections then I have no idea. I generally don’t like looking at myself but I also have this need to see my reflection to make sure I’m not completely hideous.

8. What is the strangest thing you believed as a child?

I believe a lot of strange things, even as an adult. I guess one thing that I believed as a child that I definitely don’t believe in anymore was that I was convinced that monsters could come out of toilets when you flushed them. I’m not even kidding. I would flush a toilet and then run out of the bathroom and into another to wash my hands.

9. What is the guilty pleasure you enjoy too much to give up?

Probably tweezing. I tweeze my body hair and some of my partners’. Not really for beauty purposes –like I don’t tweeze my eyebrows–but I enjoy the feeling of pulling out hair. It’s weird, I know.

10. Who performs the most random acts of kindness out of everyone you know?

Uhhhh. I have no idea. I’m sorry.

11. How often do you read the newspaper? Which sections?

I don’t read newspapers. I avoid news because everything in this world sucks and is super sad. If I were to read a newspaper, I’d do like the comics/puzzle sections.

12. Which animal scares you the most?

I mean I hate big spiders and centipedes. I don’t know which one I’d be more terrified of if I found it on my body. I think with bigger animals I’m not too scared of them because I would just accept that I’m going to die.

13. Are you more likely to avoid conflict or engage with it?

Avoid. I’ve been avoiding conflict my entire life.

14. What is the most recent compliment you’ve received?

My partner compliments me several times throughout the day. Looks like the last one might have been “you’re so wonderful!”.

15. What question are you tired of hearing?

I mean, in general, I’m tired of hearing questions that make huge assumptions about me just cause I teach math and have a degree in it. So many people are like “you’re good at math, calculate this random thing” and like no? I don’t work like that?

16. What is the strangest thing you have eaten?

I don’t eat many strange things but probably a fish eyeball.

17. Do you have a whole lot of acquaintances or just a few very close friends?

I’d say few close friends. I don’t go out or hang out with people much.

18. Do you have a catchphrase?

Not that I know of.

19. What’s your all-time favorite town or city? Why?

I don’t have a lot of favorites so I don’t know how to answer this question. I visited Kalaupapa on Moloka’i a few years ago and it was an incredible experience. We basically didn’t have access to internet and it was really nice experiencing the community and nature surrounding that place.

20. If you had to change your first name, what would you change it to?

My first name isn’t Jenny so probably Jenny. Possibly Keira.

21. When was the last time you lied?

Bruh I lie all the time because it’s in my sense of humor so I have no idea. One time I told my friend that I didn’t know how to swim (I was born, raised, and currently live in Hawaii) and I was shocked that she believed me.

22. What’s something that amazes you?

Technology. I have no idea how anything works.

23. Would you rather be the first person to explore a planet or be the inventor of a drug that cures a deadly disease?

I kind of want to say neither. I feel like if I were the first to explore a planet, I’d probably die. I also feel like if I invented a drug to cure a deadly disease, I would have probably had some collateral damages in the form of human (and animal) deaths. So maybe first to explore a planet.

24. What is your favorite amateur activity?

Dancing maybe?

25. What was your first thought when you got up this morning?

“I don’t want to wake up”

26. What is your favorite song (at least at the moment)?

I don’t have a favorite song but I really enjoy the song Taki Taki.

27. List someone you know and describe them in five words.

Rob: loving, caring, beautiful, strong, smart

28. You can select one person from history and have them truthfully answer one question. Who would you select and what would the question be?

OH GOD PLEASE DON’T MAKE ME DO THIS

29. Which celebrity or artist do you resemble the most?

I have no idea. I just asked my partner and he doesn’t know either. My ex told me once that I looked like Alessia Cara.

(My partner just said Beyoncé and I’m just gonna go ahead and ignore that outright lie)

30. What do you want me to know?

Be friends with me! I want book friends! LOL

Anyone who wants to be tagged, let me know and I’ll link to your blog or whatever in this post!

Audiobook Review: The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

Rating: 5/5

Words cannot express how much I adore this book.

Book CWs

  • Character Death
  • Murder
  • Paranormal Creatures
  • Gore

Premise

Aurora (Rory) Deveaux is an American who, after her parents move to Bristol, begins attending Wexford Academy in London. What she thinks will be a casual study abroad experience turns in to much more when someone begins killing women in a re-enactment of the Jack the Ripper murders.

Rory finds herself thrust into the action when a woman is murdered just outside her dorm and she discovers she may be the only witness the police have.

Review (No Spoilers)

The Name of the Star is by far my favorite book of all time. The first time I read it was my sophomore year of college at the recommendation of a friend who lived across the hall. I haven’t talked to her in years but every time I think about this book I feel the need to thank her all over again.

This is, I believe, the third time that I’ve listened to the audiobook narrated by Nicola Barber and I feel like every time I listen to it, I love it even more. For one, she puts on these amazing accents. Rory has a southern American accent and there are several variations of British accents in the characters she meets at school. I am American myself and I basically have no idea if these accents are good but god I love listening to them so much.

For my next point, I need to give you some background about my relationship with audiobooks. The first audiobook I ever listened to was Dracula and it was on a road trip with my brother from Indiana to California. I’m from Hawaii but I went to undergrad in Indiana and my brother, who lives in Cali, was borrowing my car over the summer. We chose Dracula because both of us figured that we would fall asleep at random times during the book but we had both read it before so skipping sections wouldn’t be the end of the line.

Ever since then, I’ve decided to only listen to audiobooks of books that I’ve already read. That way when I inevitably get distracted, I can still follow along with the story. I think this incidentally helps my review because now I can compare my experience reading the physical book vs. listening to the audiobook.

I have to say that I much prefer listening to the audiobook.

Now, I wouldn’t say that about all audiobooks. I just think that it’s because I really like Nicola Barber as the narrator. Aside from the awesome accents, I think she does a great job with pauses and tone changes. Her narration made me feel much more in the story. If that makes any sense.

There are some nit-picky things that I didn’t like but none of them took away from my love of the story. For example, Nicola pronounces New Orleans in the weirdest way. She also sometimes slips up in her accents. Her narration voice is a “standard” American accent but sometimes it will turn southern for a few words out of no where (which I think is particularly strange because I don’t think Nicola is Southern). I kind of don’t blame her though because I have no idea how she keeps track of all the voice changes she has to make.

I recommend this book with all my heart. I want anyone and everyone to read this book at least once.

Book Review: Wilder Girls by Rory Power

Rating: 4.5/5

I read this book for House Battles and it turned out to be much more than I thought. I was happily surprised!

Book CWs

  • Disease
  • Character Death
  • Animal Death
  • Profanity

Premise

Raxter School for Girls, a boarding school located on a remote island, is forced into quarantine after a mysterious disease breaks out, infecting and killing the many living creatures (including humans) that live there.

The government sends the school rations and promises to send a cure once they perfect it. The only thing the girls have to do to ensure this is follow the one basic rule of quarantine: no unauthorized person is allowed outside of the school walls.

When Hetty’s best friend Byatt suddenly goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her, including breaking quarantine. It doesn’t take long before Hetty realizes that things may not exactly be what they seem.

Review (No Spoilers)

Wilder Girls is the Slytherin book for House Battles and, being a Slytherin, I felt like I was obligated to read it. I had seen the cover all over instagram and twitter so I knew that it was hyped, I just never really bothered looking into what it was about.

When I read the sleeve summary I was shocked; I had no idea that its premise was so dark! In fact, if I had known the premise beforehand, I probably would have bought this book a lot sooner.

This book exceeded so many of my expectations. For one, it was super tragic but also incredibly riveting. I never imagined that I would get as caught up in reading this story as I did.

I do want to mention that I found the characters to be pretty selfish and unlikeable. I’m sure those of you who have read the book know what I’m talking about–I don’t want to spoil anything for those who haven’t.

I also had a hard time imagining what the people looked like. The disease (the Tox) mutates each girl in a different way so sometimes it was hard to picture a character since I was busy trying to remember what part of them was significantly changed.

Overall, I would definitely recommend Wilder Girls to anyone who is thinking about reading it. I just hope you’re prepared for this book to take you on an emotional roller coaster because that’s exactly what it did to me.

Book Review: Carrie by Stephen King

Rating: 3/5

A horror story that I found boring for the first half but pretty good for the second.

Book CWs

  • Death
  • Bullying
  • Abuse (Physical and Emotional)
  • Mind Controlling
  • Profanity

Premise

Carrie White has been subject to her religious mother’s abuse since she was a child. So much knowledge about the human body has been kept from her that when she experiences her first period in the girls locker room, she thinks she’s bleeding to death.

Bullied basically her entire life by her peers, the period incident only causes further ammunition for her classmates, and she soon finds herself being pelted with tampons and pads while she lies naked and helpless on the floor.

After being rescued by her PE teacher and sent home, Carrie realizes that she has the ability to move things with her mind. She would never use it to really hurt anyone–at least she didn’t plan to–that is, until prom night happened.

Review (No Spoilers)

The reason I picked up Carrie was because I saw a few people reading it for some August readathons and there seemed to be a consensus that it was a scary book. I didn’t really know what it was like to be scared by a book and I jumped at the new opportunity.

I decided to read this book for the Astronomy class challenge in House Battles–I have not at all figured out what to count my books for in Mythothon so don’t ask– so I only read it at night. I thought this would be totally fine because it’s a relatively short book and reading horror at night felt like a different type of challenge in itself.

Unfortunately, the experience did not pan out as I had hoped. I started the book under the belief that I would finish it in one sitting but I found it extremely hard to do that. The main reasons being that I was super bored for over half the book.

Since I’m new to horror books, I wasn’t aware that a lot of them do a flashback type of storytelling where the event of interest has already occurred. In Carrie, you already know something terrible involving Carrie White is going to go down on prom night from the start of the book; you just have to weave your way through the flashbacks to figure out what actually happened.

My problem with this was that I would often mentally checked out while reading some of the articles/interviews written after the incident. (I mean I also sometimes checked out during the flashbacks too but less often). I have this issue with adult books where I think they say too many things that I don’t care about and this proved to be the case with Carrie.

I read a few GoodReads reviews where people expressed that Carrie seemed like it was a 100 page novel that wanted to be longer and so random things were added in to give it volume. I kind of felt the same way.

On top of begin bored during half of the book, I found the writing style to be frustrating. This was my first Steven King novel so I’m not used to his writing but he had these parenthetical statements littered throughout the book. They would be placed to interrupt a sentence in ways that I thought were annoying and confusing. Here are some not-spoilery examples:

She could, she knew she could be
(what)
in another place.

Carrie (page 32)

The idea that she had let him fuck her
(do you have to say it that way yes this time I do)
simply because he was Popular, for instance.

Carrie (Page 36)

I was happy when I finally got to the Prom Night (Part Two) portion of the book because that’s when things started picking up. The last part of the book was by far the scariest portion, though it came at the expense of me not understanding what Carrie’s powers actually are.

The ending was satisfying as I felt like it ended the way almost any horror novel should end, with an open conclusion.

Book Review: Fifty Shades of Grey by E L James (Please Don’t Read This Book)

Rating: 1.5/5

This was the most frustrating thing I’ve ever read.

Book CWs

  • Abuse (physical, sexual, emotional)
  • Sexual Assault
  • Statutory Rape
  • Stalking

Premise

Anastasia Steele is a senior in college who is just about to graduate. When her friend Kate becomes sick and cannot interview wealthy businessman Christian Grey, Ana steps in to take her place.

What Ana didn’t expect was that after the interview, both she and Christian would be come drawn to each other in ways that neither of them were prepared for. Will they be able to make their romance last?

Review (No Spoilers)

So I didn’t include this in the premise but by now I’m sure that pretty much everyone knows that this is a BDSM romance story. I also think that a lot of you have probably heard the mixed reviews that this book has gotten. I have to say that all the negative things were so true and I honestly wish I had never read this book.

I tried to pick this book up years ago because I was curious about all the hype (positive and negative). I got maybe 1/4 of the way through before I gave up. Up to that point I had found myself laughing at how ridiculous everything was.

The reason I tried to reread this book again was for the Defense Against the Dark Arts prompt in House Battles which is to read a book you DNFed. I figured Fifty Shades would be a quick read and that I’d be able to get through it fairly painlessly.

I was wrong.

This book made me so angry while I was reading it. Christian is a controlling, abusive POS and Ana just forgives him for anything because she’s so hot for him. *insert eye roll* I couldn’t believe that this book was written and I definitely couldn’t believe that so many people actually liked it.

The sad part is I think it had the potential to actually be a good story if E L James just took the time to not perpetuate abuse and to do research into how to portray BDSM in a healthy way.

I gave it 1.5 stars because Kate was the best thing to ever happen to this book and Ana actually stood up for herself at one point that had me literally cheering (though she felt bad for doing it afterward which was annoying). I don’t recommend this to anyone.

Book Review: The Things She’s Seen by Ambelin & Ezekiel Kwaymullina

Rating: 5/5

I’m not sure I understand what the heck was happening in this book but I completely adored it.

Book CWs

  • Death
  • Supernatural Beings
  • Implied Torture/Sexual Assault

Premise

Beth Teller died in a tragic car accident when a truck lost control and plowed into her Aunt Viv’s car. Now that she’s dead, only her father is able to see the spirit left behind.

Beth’s father is a detective who has just been assigned a new case. Outside of a small town in Australia, a house for troubled children has burned down, leaving one unidentified corpse in the rubble.

Determined to help her father get over her death, Beth goes all in helping him solve this case. Originally thought to be an accidental fire, her and her father find themselves thrown into a net of crime that goes far beyond the mere burning of a home.

Review (No Spoilers)

I bought this book on a whim when I was in Barnes & Noble for #bookhaul. I basically was going through all of the hardcover books on the bookhaul shelf and reading the little snippets on the sleeves. I was intrigued by the ghost aspect of the story so I decided what the heck, why not give it a try?

I read this book in a day as a part of my September readathons and loved it. It’s pretty short so it’s not hard to finish it in one sitting and the story was pretty fast paced so it kept me hooked. Plus, murder mysteries will always have a special place in my heart.

The main reason I enjoyed this book so much was that it had such an interesting story to tell in a unique way. There are two POVs that tell the story and Catching’s chapters are written in prose. As a result, sometimes I had absolutely no idea what was happening but not in a bad way.

The Things She’s Seen is a ghost story that tells so much in such a small amount of pages. It’s a story of death. It’s a story of grief. It’s a story of aboriginal history. And most of all, it’s a story of hope.

Book Review: The Last Little Blue Envelope (13 Little Blue Envelopes Sequel)

Rating: 4/5

I liked this a lot more than the previous book. The story kept me interested and the main character was more bearable than before.

Book CWs

  • Cheating
  • Blackmail
  • Parent abandonment
  • Death

Premise

Last summer, Ginny received instructions from her recently deceased aunt in the form of 13 little blue envelopes. The letters took her through several European countries and presented her with some amazing life experiences. Unfortunately, before she could open the last one, her backpack was stolen.

Fast forward a few months when Ginny receives an email from a man named Oliver who claims to have Ginny’s envelopes. Attached to his email is a preview of the final message along with instructions to meet him in London if she wants her things returned.

After making some arrangements, Ginny makes her way to London only to discover that the final letter contains directions to her three separated art pieces that must be put together to form her aunt’s final work.

Oliver, who has read up on the small fortune that Ginny made by selling her aunt’s previous paintings, reveals that he will only give her the final message if she splits the profits with him 50/50. To ensure that he receives his money he has Ginny sign a contractual agreement with the art dealer and declares that the only way Ginny can get the pieces is if they go together.

Review (No Spoilers)

First of all, I have to go on a little rant because I absolutely hate the hardback book covers for this series. The paperback covers are the cutest things and I am so upset that they don’t make hardbacks with the same covers.

Sorry! To the review!

I originally gave this book 4.5 starts on GoodReads after I finished it but after some reflection I wasn’t exactly sure why. I remember having a small discussion with my partner on how I was planning on giving the book 4.5 stars but felt that I was only giving it that high of a rating because of how disappointing the first book was. As a result, I decided to lower it down to 4.

That being said, this book was, in my opinion, much better than the first. I wouldn’t say that it’s one of my favorites but it definitely reassured me that I still like Maureen Johnson.

My arguments with the first book was that the story was unrealistic and the MC was confusing as heck. This book not only started off with more of an explanation as to why her parents would let her travel to Europe on her own but I also felt like Ginny was a lot more relatable. I found myself more engaged with this book than with the previous.

Some unfortunate negatives were that Keith was pretty freaking annoying in this book when I actually liked him in the previous one. On top of that there are several mentions/suggestions of cheating which if you don’t know me, I absolutely despise cheating in stories as much as I do in real life.

I think I’d recommend this tiny little series to anyone who is looking for some quick and cute reads.

Book Review: Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey

Rating: 4/5

I lowkey bought this book as a joke and was pleasantly surprised with how much I liked it.

Side note: As a hardcover lover, I’m really sad this book is only available in paperback.

Book CWs

  • Virgin Trope
  • Sexually explicit scenes
  • Abuse
  • Sexism

Premise

Georgie Castle has had a crush on her brother’s best friend, Travis Ford, for a very long time. She works her dream job as a birthday party clown but as a result, her family has never taken her seriously. Even at the age of 23, they still treat her like a hopeless child.

Travis Ford was a star major league baseball player but after a career-ending shoulder injury, he was forced to return to his hometown. After a call from his agent, he learns that he might be able to re-enter the baseball scene as a sports commentator! There’s one small catch: he needs to show the network that he has grown past his reputation as the womanizer with a bad attitude.

In an effort to pursue their own self-interests, the two decide to enter in a fake relationship. They both agree that they are romantically incompatible and so the deal is to end once Travis gets his job offer.

The physical attraction between the two every time they are together in undeniable. Will they be able to accept their no-strings-attached fake relationship?

Review (No Spoilers)

Okay, as I said before, I bought this book as a total joke. I’m not even kidding.

One of the blogs I follow (shoutout to bookswhitme!) reviewed this book (read her post here!) and pointed out some of the completely cringe-worthy lines in it. I went to her GoodReads and read all of her kindle highlights in the book and I was dying at how ridiculous the book seemed. I absolutely needed to purchase it for myself.

I will not deny, this book had some hilarious scenes that I’m pretty sure were not written to be funny–the dirty talk basically had me laughing out loud constantly–BUT the story itself was pretty darn great. I was definitely not expecting to finish this book feeling empowered as a woman but that’s exactly what happened.

I will say though that as pointed out in Whitney’s review, the virgin-trope is pretty strong in the first half of the book so if that’s not your thing, I’d skip over those parts. Nevertheless, I actually really enjoyed this book. I might even say I recommend it.

P.S. I just have two main questions after reading this: why did Travis have permi-boner the entire book and why is it that apparently no one seemed to ever notice???