Quick Review: Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

truly devious Stevie Bell is starting at a new school.  The mysterious and illustrious Ellingham Academy.  Started by the infamous and rich Albert Ellingham the for the brightest students.  Ellingham opened his school because he believed education was a game, a game that should be open to everyone so he made it tuition free.  However, the history of Ellingham is tragic.  Albert’s wife and Daughter are kidnapped and another student goes missing. While there was a confession and trial many things about the case have been left unsolved.  Stevie is determined to solve the case. What Stevie didn’t count on was another student dying and a new mystery develops.  Maureen does an excellent job setting up the past mystery with flashbacks and FBI transcripts and interweaving it with the present.  At first it seemed that they cases were related and then they didn’t and then it did again.  She always able to keep you on your toes.  Stevie is ambitious.  She knows that her interest are a bit unusual and it makes it hard for her to make friends.  An issue that makes her anxious. As she tries to solve the mysterious before her she also must contend with school work, friendships and other relationships and forging your own path and not necessarily the path expected of you.  I don’t think I have read a book depict anxiety in such a realistic way before.  It really gets to the heart of how anxiety can paralyze a person but also shows how one can overcome those thoughts.  Stevie is a great role model in that respect.  The cast of characters around Stevie are interesting and I’m sure we will get more of them as the series progresses but I have to give a shout out to my boy Nate.  He is the friend that everyone needs because he was willing to put himself in uncomfortable position because he saw Stevie was in a bad place and it was the push that Stevie needed.  That’s a true friendship.

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Review: Knit One, Kill Two by Maggie Sefton

I listened to this book while commuting to work with my car pool buddy. In it, Kelly Flynn returns to her hometown in Colorado following the murder of her aunt. This is the mystery that is solved in the novel. Who killed Aunt Helen? Why? Along the way, she meets her aunt’s knitting friends, who teach her to knit, and she uncovers secrets from her aunt’s past that may be the key to solving the murder.

This was a fun book. I particularly enjoyed that knitting was portrayed realistically and there weren’t any unrealistic buy-ins (like a single mother who supports herself and her child in a city where you knows no one by selling custom hand knits.) Kelly was believable. The yarn shop owner was believable. The other customers were believable. Since a lack of believability drives me crazy, these were all positives for me.

There were some moments where I wanted to know less about what people were feeling, but I’m also impatient and I wanted to know if I guessed the villain.

I would recommend this.

Quick Review: The Last of August by Brittany Cavallaro

last-of-august Let’s be honest.  Sherlock Holmes is a dick.  I haven’t read any of the books but every character based on the novels, whether it’s Benedict Cumberbatch, Robert Downey Jr. or Hugh Laurie they are all Grade A assholes.  Charlotte Holmes is no different.  And you know what, it’s kind of wonderful.  Now don’t get me wrong.  Charlotte may be a genius but she’s not a role model either.  Too often, female characters in book, movie and TV shows have to be likable and often one dimensional.  This includes when they are the main character.  Male protagonists don’t have this problem.  They can be a dick and still be the hero.  Charlotte is cold and calculated.  She doesn’t adhere to social norms and doesn’t try to fit in.  She is also a recovering drug addict teenage girl that is less then a year removed from being sexually assaulted.  In other words, she complicated and complex as her great great great great literary grandfather and that’s just fine.  Like Sherlock Holmes, Charlotte is humanized by her Watson.  Jamie keeps her from completely losing her humanity but he’s also her weakness as she is his.  Jamie frequently asks why he continues to stay friends and be in love with Charlotte when she often ignores him, insults him and is constantly puts himself in danger but every time he has a chance to leave he can’t.  Instead, he puts himself in the line of fire to try to protect each other.  In their own way Jamie and Charlotte try to protect each other only to hurt each other even more.  It’s complicated and complex.  They are a powder keg ready to blow.  Charlotte still dealing with the trauma of her rape and Jamie is respectful of that but he can’t deny his own feelings and wants.  There is this thread of tension because you know they both want more from each other but unable to give it.  There is always frustration and relief but also realism in it.  One does not just get over something like that and one does not turn off ones feelings each other.  Both Charlotte and Jamie are allowed to show all their faults.  They are allowed to be unlikable.  They complicated and complex and it’s wonderful.

Quick Review: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

six of crowsIf you loved Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha series and you love crime capers then you are going to love Six of Crows.  Set after the events of her last series but this time in Kerch, a country not far from Ravka, six criminals are tasked with a suicide mission that has little to no chance of being accomplished but the pay out is good.  Kaz, Inej, Jesper, Nina, Matthias and Wylan are all flawed and interesting characters with varying degrees of criminal presents or pasts.  Each bring their own set of skills that are vital to the mission.  Inej, aka the Wraith, is a trained trapeze artist who can scale walls and quietly gather information. Jesper is a sharpshooter with a gambling problem, Nina is a Heartrender, who can kill you without even touching you.  Matthias is a convict who is part of a religious society that hunts down Grisha.  Wylan is the son of a rich merchant who likes to blow things up and Kaz is their mysterious leader.  He worked his way up in the Barrel to rule but it’s all to get revenge on the man he blames for the death of his brother.

A new drug called Jurda Panem has been developed and it strenghtens Grisha powers to impossible powers.  This could change the whole balance of the world.  How can people defend against the Grisha if they have unchecked powers? Kaz is hired by the Merchant Councils to rescue the man who created it from a Fjerdian prison that is inescapable.  Kaz goes about to assemble his team who don’t exactly get along but must work together if they are going to succeed or just survive.  This story has so many plot twists and misdirections it’s like Oceans 11.  You have to question everything you read because what you think is happening is not all that is really happening. It’s not just all the action that makes this book a good read.  It’s the characters.  They are all compelling and interesting with full backstories.  All with the exception of Wylan who is the only one not to have a chapter written from his point of view.  Probably because out of all them he’s the outsider of the group.  He’s not a criminal and he’s not from the barrel.  Kaz says he’s only there as leverage against the council and he knows how to blow things up but I think it’s more than that.  I look forward to knowing more about him. 

Matthias is a warrior who’s goal is eradicate the Grisha as he feels they are unnatural.  It’s one thing to arrest and execute Grisha in one’s own country but it takes balls to go other countries, tracking down Grisha, capturing them and bringing them back to Fjerdia and then putting them on trial and executing them.  He captured Nina but thanks to a storm she rescued him.  In attempt to save his life again, she accuses him of slave trading but things go south when he is actually thrown in jail for it.  Nina befriends some people (for lack of better term) to help get him out as she feels responsible.  Inej was captured and sold to a pleasure house until Kaz came and made her apart of his gang.  Now she’s his spy, the Wraith, but all she wants to do is go home and find her family. Jesper, a former farm boy who came to Kerch as a student and found gambling instead.  He’s also hiding things, one being that he is also Grisha.  I’m pretty sure I know another one of his secrets too.  Let’s just say, I ship Jesper and Wylan, if you get my gist.  Kaz is the most intriguing.  Coming out of nowhere to being a major player in the Barrel.  He’s smart and ruthless and more of a mystery than everyone.  He’s hellbent on revenge against the man he believes is responsible to the death of his brother but he’s  also a 17 year old boy so well, he has those annoying feelings to deal with.

So for fans of the Grisha series and Oceans 11 type movies this is the book for you. It’s fun, lots of action, lots of double dealings, backstabbing, mystery and potential romance.