Review: The Hand on the Wall by Maureen Johnson

Over three books, Stevie has been trying to figure out what happened to Alice Ellingham after she was kidnapped in 1936. The truth is truly tragic. I wont’ say what happened to her because I don’t want to spoil it but the whole affair is sad. At the end of the last book, Stevie had solve the mystery who was responsible of the kidnapping but was too afraid to tell anyone. She was too afraid that her evidence was too circumstantial but if she solved it and it’s over than what does she do next. Things have already gotten out of control. Two students have died and Stevie’s mentor has also died. David has run away and after another accident is forcing the school to close down immediately. The students don’t want to leave. There is too much left unsolved so they stay despite the massive blizzard. As Stevie unravels the mysteries we get a glimpse of what really happened and how things went off the rails from the beginning. So many people could have been spared if greed hadn’t taken over everyone. True today as it is back then. Over the series, Stevie has really grown. She has learned to deal with her anxiety. She works through her insecurities because she knows that she has more to discover and learn. A reminder to all of us not to give up despite the obstacles. I did enjoy this series. It was funny and heartwarming and a good mystery. Now if only she would finish her Shades of London series.

Quick Review: One of Us is Next by Karen M. McManus

While One of Us is Lying was a steamroller with the mystery happening in the first book. One of Us is Next is more of a slow burn. It eases us into the mystery.. It takes place 18 months after the events of the first book. The “Bayview Four” have all graduated and all have stated college except for Addy, who decided to take a year off and works at a local restaurant. She works with fellow student, Phoebe who also lives across from her and her sister. Maeve, Bronwyn sister is still friends with Addy and hangs out often at the restaurant that Addy works. Usually with her friend and ex boyfriend.Knox. They find themselves once again at the mercy of a mysterious gossip but instead of Simon’s app, it’s a Truth or Dare game via text message. Clearly the student body and really the administration learned nothing from the last time because everyone immediately gets sucked into the game and the gossip and the school teachers are kinda useless. There is mention of a new “no tolerance” policy that was put into place after Simon’s death but obviously not working.. There were some pretty unsubtle bullying happening in plain sight of the whole school and at no time did any teacher or administrated got involved. I would say there are not very good at their jobs. On a whole it was a good companion to the first book and the resolution is pretty devastating. It wasn’t as good as the first one but still a solid read. Mystery readers will want to find out what happened next at Bayview high.

Quick Review: A Question of Holmes by Brittany Cavallaro

I thought that the Charlotte Holmes series was only so supposed to be a trilogy. In fact, it was in my year-end review of Series I said good bye too last year. So talk about a surprise to find out that there was a fourth book. It’s always a little unnerving when an author decides to extend their series beyond the original plans because sometimes the story just isn’t there to support it. I felt that A Case for Jamie ended things pretty well. Lucien Moriarty was caught and Jamie and Charlotte were able to have a reconciliation. They didn’t know where their relationship was going to go but they knew that they were going to have some kind of relationship. I thought it was good way to end it. This book really wasn’t necessary but also not unwanted or unwarranted. Charlotte and Jamie are in Oxford for summer courses and while they are there they pick up a case. The year before, the drama department had a series of unfortunate accidents that ended with a student disappearing. The stakes are not as high this time, since the mystery has nothing to do with them but it still works. Charlotte is healing from the all the trauma of the past couple of years and from her family. Living with her Uncle Leander has really been good for her. It also, as well as this case, has given her time to figure out what she wants to do with her life and who she is. It also gives her time to truly work out her feelings for Jaime. I missed Jamie’s narration but it was fascinating to be on Charlotte’s head a little more. Getting a first hand account of not just how she deduces but also how she is processing her own trauma. I think we expect people to get over the trauma quickly and move on but it’s not the simple. We don’t change over night and that is what this novel illustrates. It’s a little bittersweet but also very healthy. I’m glad we had this final chapter. It may not have been as exciting as the previous books, it did give us the true closure we needed.

Review: The Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson

I really do love a good mystery, especially when it’s well done. I thought I knew what was going to happen only to find that I was wrong. The clues were there but unless you were paying attention, you completely missed it. Just as many of the characters. Stevie is an amateur sleuth who wants to solve one of the greatest mysteries in American history. The Ellingham Academy was started by an eccentric millionaire. He had a dream to have the brightest kids study at his school and focus on what they want. An educational experiment unlike any other but when his wife and daughter were kidnapped and another student was killed during the first school year, the school became infamous. Despite it’s history, the school still strives and Stevie is determined to solve it’s most famous mystery. The problem is that once she arrives another student is killed and another goes missing. Her conservative parents pull her out of the school for fear it isn’t safe only to be convinced by their employee, Senator Edward King (not so subtlety modeled after Steve King) that the school is safe. Of course, King has his own reasons for Stevie to return. His son, David, is also a student at Ellingham and Stevie and him have a complicated relationship. Stevie doesn’t like making a deal with King but her want to go back overrides her concerns. A bright spot is when the author of the definitive book on the Ellingham case needs a student to help with research on a new edition of the book. Soon Stevie is making breakthrough in the case but at what cost. This is the middle book in the trilogy and they often times feel slow but this one moved at a pretty fast clipped. One of the revelations, I knew it was coming but I wasn’t expecting it to come midpoint of the book, really throwing me off. It was a great misdirection by Johnson, to get us to focus on one direction while the answer was in the other direction. There were answers and part of the original crime was answered but who so many more are still unanswered. Who killed Iris Ellingham and is Alice alive? What happened to David and Hunter and how do they play into the mystery? Were Hayes and Ellie’s death really accidents or did they know something more? I’m really looking forward to the finale next year.

Review: Ripper by Isabel Allende

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This novel started off well. Amanda, a high schooler, is sure her mother has been kidnapped by a serial killer who has been stalking the streets of San Francisco for the past few months. Then, the story flashes back to before the first of the murders and you get to meet Amanda (who is a little bratty, but lovable), her grandfather (who is awesome), her mom, Indiana (who is flighty) and Amanda’s online friends who all play an online role-playing game called Ripper. Indiana is a healer at a clinic (she does massage, magnets, and aromatherapy) and some of her patients, her ex-husband and his secretary, her former in-laws, and her boyfriend figure into the tale as well.

 

This novel had a huge cast. Maybe its the Summer of Novels with Huge Casts?

 

I liked this well enough at the beginning. But, the more of it I got through, the more there was about it to dislike. I wasn’t really sure what was going on with the online role-playing game. Also, Indiana was a little grating. Finally, there is a twist at the end that was soapy, stereotypical and garbage-like and then another twist that was telegraphed and obvious. Meh. On the positive side, Edoardro Ballerini who read the audiobook did an excellent job of

 

I wanted to like this book, because I’ve liked other Isabel Allende books in the past, but it wasn’t for me. For everything that was good about it, there was at least one thing that was equally bad or worse about it. I was not a fan.

Review: Cryer’s Cross by Lisa McMann

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This is the first book for my pop culture homework assignment! And it was so good! Okay, but before I start gushing about how much I like the book, let me tell you about it.

 

The small town (population: 212) Cryer’s Cross is  in the grip of a tragedy. Tiffany Quinn, a sophomore in high school, has disappeared. They search for her but do not find her. The school year ends, the season turns and then the following Fall another student also goes missing. The town once again comes together to search for a missing student. What is going on and why was Nico, the second missing student, distant and forgetful in the days leading up to his disappearance? The story is told from the perspective of Kendall Fletcher, high school student and best friend of Nico. To add to the mystery, the school has two new students, Marlena and Jacian Obrian, who have moved to Cryer’s Cross with their parents to help their grandfather with his farm. The cops interrogated Jacian about Tiffany’s death. Is Jacian involved in the missing persons case or is he just a grumpy high schooler who is pissed that he had to move before his senior year to the middle of nowhere? (Also, maybe the townsfolk just a little bit racist?)

 

Okay, now to gush about this book. I love Kendall. She is amazing. Much of the plot is driven forward by Kendall’s obsessive-compulsive disorder. I liked that she was portrayed as a whole person and just as a disorder. I also liked that this wasn’t a story about OCD. I also loved Jacian and Marlena. They are amazing characters. Beth and I were discussing it, and Jacian is definitely book boyfriend material.

I enjoyed this book and if you like paranormal horror/mystery, you should try it.

Okay, now for a bit of a spoiler.

Continue reading

Review: A Case for Jamie by Brittany Cavallaro

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**Some Minor Spoilers**

I’m actually sorry that this was only a trilogy as there are so many Sherlock Holmes canon that she could have played with but it was a satisfying ending.  The Case for Jamie takes place a year after the ending of The Last of August.  Both Jamie and Charlotte are still reeling from the events of the last book and the death of August Moriarty.   Jamie is back at school doing his best to get his grades up to get into a college.  He has a new girlfriend and is still playing rugby but really he’s just going through the motions.  He misses Charlotte but can’t bring himself to forgive her for what she did.  Charlotte for her part is doing what she does best.  Investigate.  She’s trying to figure out what Lucien’s next move is as she knows that they haven’t seen the last of him.  She’s doing her best not to fall back into her destructive behaviors and missing Jamie too.  Strange things start to happen to Jamie at school.  He’s already a little paranoid from his experience in the last year and starts to lash out and everyone around him.  It’s clear that he’s struggling with PTSD.  As things start to spiral out of control, it becomes clear that even though he and Charlotte are no longer together, someone out there wants to get the band back together.  We go back and forth between Jamie and Charlotte’s point of views as we piece together what’s going on.  As the reader who has the benefit of knowing both sides making it much easier to come to the conclusion faster than our heroes but it was so well constructed it didn’t take away from the mystery.  I felt actually quite proud of myself that I was able to piece it together before the formidable Charlotte Holmes.  *pats self on back*  I really liked both of these characters.  They were both relatable in through own ways.  Jamie being the clueless boy who just want’s to fit in and have friends and Charlotte the overachiever who is consistently looking for approval.  They’ve spent the last three books trying to accept themselves for who they are and not who people perceived them to be.  At the end they are still working on that as it’s not something that happens overnight but they have truly learned their lessons.  I also liked that after everything that happened they didn’t just immediately get back together.  While reconciliation is on the horizon, they both realized there were things about themselves that were not good for each other and took time work on themselves and get to know each anew.  It’s a good lesson for us to learn.  Mystery fans out there, I encourage you pick this series up.  I think you will love it.