Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson


Title: Truly Devious

Author: Maureen Johnson

Pages: 416

Stevie Bell, an expert in true-crime, arrives at Ellingham Academy with a goal. Her new school has a dark history. In 1936, the kidnapping and presumed murder of Albert Ellingham’s wife and daughter is considered one of the most popular cold cases in the nation. The only clue left behind is a riddle, signed with the psuedonym Truly Devious.

Stevie Bell plans to use her knowledge of true-crime to solve this cold case. First, she must acclimate to her new classmates and their differing passions. But her life at her new school is not as it appears. With the death of one of her classmates, Stevie throws herself into the investigation to find the murderer on campus. Will she be able to solve the case or will the murderer remain at large?

Truly Devious caught my attention when it received a great deal of hype from the YA community. I did enjoy reading this book. Ellingham Academy is a competitive school, only accepting the best of students. It is interesting to learn more about her classmates and how they interact with each other as each of them have a different passion and reason for attending this prestigious school.

The story was told during two different time periods. The story is told primarily through Stevie Bell and her experiences at the academy in present time. Maureen Johnson also interjected two more unique elements that added to the overall story. There were chapters based in 1936, immediately following the two disappearances. We were able to experience the reactions of principal individuals in the 1936 crime. It added value to the story. We also had news articles from the past sparsely included in the story that also added depth to the story.

While it is a different genre of novel than I typically read, I enjoyed reading Truly Devious. However, due to the hype from the book community, I was disappointed that I didn’t enjoy it more. This book is the first in the Truly Devious series. Without knowing that knowledge, you could tell that it was not a standalone novel by reading it. You could tell that it was a part of a series by the way it was written. While I wouldn’t necessarily say that it would be considered information heavy, it was definitely leaning that way. There were parts in the story where I felt like it was lacking. From the synopsis, you had the sense that the story would revolve around solving the cold case. However, the story migrated to solving the current murder on campus.

While I didn’t enjoy the story enough to consider it a great read, it had its moments. It is likely that I will continue in the series by reading The Vanishing Stair. I am interested to see how the story unfolds following the ending we were given. I would also like to see how the characters and their different personalities mesh as they continue this journey together.

Between Shades of Gray

Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they’ve known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia.

Here they are forced, under Stalin’s orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions. Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously–and at great risk–documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father’s prison camp to let him know they are still alive.

It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives.

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Echo North by Joanna Ruth Meyer

Title: Echo North

Author: Joanna Ruth Meyer

# of Pages: 389

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐


Echo North is a mash up of several different fairy tales, including Beauty and the Beast. Don’t let the fact that it is a fairy tale retelling drive you away. The author introduces an imaginative and spellbinding aspect to a well known fairy tale. The story follows a girl named Echo, whose father has disappeared. Months later, she finds him in the forest barely alive. She runs into a talking wolf, who offers to save her father in return for Echo staying with him in his magical house beneath the mountain for a year. As she learns to tend to the house, she discovers the many enchanted rooms within, including a library containing these book-mirrors. Within these stories, she meets a man named Hal who is trapped in these stories. She determines that she must figure out how to save both Hal and the Wolf before her time is over.

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Verity by Colleen Hoover



Title: Verity

Author: Colleen Hoover 

# of Pages: 314

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐


I would label Verity as an adult romantic thriller. The book follows Lowen, a struggling writer who is given a huge break when she meets Jeremy. Jeremy is the husband of the famous author Verity, who is unable to finish her popular series due to injuries resulting from a car accident. When Lowen scours Verity’s office to find information that she needs in order to start the remaining novels, she comes across this hidden manuscript. This manuscript, meant to be seen only by Verity, reveals heartwrenching admissions about tragedies that the family has endured. 

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