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.

My Top 10 Books of 2018

It’s that time of year where we take a look back at everything we have read this year and come up with our best of the year.  It’s a tough job but not one we take lightly.  It’s been a very diverse year for me.

1.Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi –This fantasy was like nothing I’ve ever read.  A little bit of magic, a little bit of adventure and a little bit social commentary.  It took me on a wild ride as Zelie discovers her own powers and does what she can to help her people from the evil King who has done all he can to erase her people.  It was a breathtaking first book.

2. A Cruel Prince by Holly Black-Holly Black is at her best when she is writing about fairies.  It really is her element.  The lush world that Black has created is so rich and vibrant that I almost wanted to go if it wasn’t filled with blood thirsty fairies.  Looking for a fantasy full of royal intrigue this one is also for you.

3. Shades of Magic Trilogy by V.E. Schwab –Technically I read the first book last year but I finished the trilogy so I’m counting them all as one.  It was one wild fantasy series.  From truly vile villains, pirates, royalty magic and supernatural forces it really did have everything but never felt too much.

4. Dread Nation by Justina Ireland- This one I think I liked for the very beginning. Jane was born a slave but when the dead of Civil War come back to life, Jane is sent to a boarding school that teaches her and other girls of color how to fight zombies so they may one day work in a nice home as protection.  Jane is resourceful, smart and funny.  She knows how to kill a zombie. 

5. The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fischer –Carrie was truly one of a kind and is sorely missed.  Her diary that she wrote while filming the first Star Wars was honest, raw and funny.  Really what you would expect from Carrie Fischer.

6. Shadow and the Fox by Julie Kagawa- Add a little fox, a trained warroir with a demon infused sword and Japanese mythology and you get one fun book.  I really enjoyed the story building and characters as they try to steal save the scroll that will summon the dragon that will grant wishes was great.

7. Two Dark Reigns by Kendare Blake- The third book in the series was definitely a keeper.  I mean they all were but it was still great.  We finally get to see more of the world outside of Fennbirn Island and how the Queens became to be.  The mythology is really coming together and it’s going to lead to an epic finale.

8. Wildcard by Marie Lu – Emika is so cool. As she unravels the mysteries and tries to save not just Hideko from himself but everyone else from an even bigger conspiracy.  It was a fun novel and reminder that not everyone on the internet is your friend.

9..Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir- Elias, Laia and Helene are on opposite sides of the fight against the Nightbringer and keeping the balance. It’s a thrilling race against time to bring down the Nightbringer and the Empire and Elias Mom, who is just frightening.

10. Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson- I’m still waiting for the last book in her Shades of London series but this filled the void. Who doesn’t love a good boarding school mystery?  Stevie decides she wants to go to this exclusive boarding school because she wants to be the one to solve it’s biggest mystery of who kidnapped and killed the daughter and wife of the school’s founder.  Twice and turns abound in this one. 

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.

Books We Can’t Wait to Read in 2018

can't wait books 2018

What books can you not wait to read in 2018?  I have lots of course but here are 10 that I really Really can’t wait to read next year.

  1. War Storm by Victoria Aveyard. (May 15, 2018) The final book in her Red Queen Series.  Will Mare and the Scarlet Guard be able take down the Silvers.  Will Maven get overthrown?  Will Cal stop being a dumbass?
  2. Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi. (March 6, 2018) This sounds so amazing! I can’t wait to read it.  Zelie comes from a long line of maji but the new crown prince wants to banish magic from the kingdom.  Zelie has one chance to save magic and her people.
  3. Restore Me by Tahereh Mafi (March 6, 2018) It’s been 4 years since the end of the Shatter Me trilogy ended or so we thought.  Restore Me is going to pick up at the end of Ignite Me. Juliette is the Supreme Commander and Warner is on her side but now that she has the world at her finger tips, what’s next?
  4. Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir. (May 22, 2018) It’s been two years since A Torch Against the Night came out and I’ve been eagerly waiting this one. Laia, Elias and Helene are all in perilously situation.  I MUST KNOW WHAT HAPPENS NEXT!
  5. Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson. (January 16, 2018) I’ll admit I was hoping it would be the next book in the Shades of London series but I’m just so glad that Maureen has a book coming out.  I do love a good mystery and good ghost story too.
  6. The Cruel Prince by Holly Black. (January 2, 2018) So happy that Holly is back with a new series about fairies because no one does fairies like Holly Black.
  7. A Case for Jamie by Brittany Cavallaro. (March 6, 2018) The final book in the Charlotte Holmes trilogy can’t come soon enough.  In true Holmes form, Charlotte has really sabotage herself and Watson can’t forgive her.  They try to move on with their lives but someone wants them back together and well I want them back together too.
  8. Dread Nation by Justine Ireland. (April 3, 2018) The American Civil War is interrupted when the Dead of the battlefields come back to life. Jane is in combat school to learn how to take down the dead and with this comes opportunity but Jane wants more. Soon she is wrapped up in a conspiracies and plots that the dead are the least of her worries.
  9. Untitled Sequel to Renegades by Marissa Meyer. (November 6, 2018) Renegades was such a great book and can’t wait to read what’s next.  Nova has successfully infiltrated the Renegades and her old friends are no longer around to blow her cover.  Will she betray her new friends or cement herself as a villain.
  10. The Fates Divide by Veronica Roth. (April 10, 2018) Carve the Mark may have been problematic but it was still good.  I’m curious how things will turn out for Cyra and Akos. Will they be able to escape their destinies or are they running right into them?
  11. The Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor. (No set date) I’m not sure this is coming out in 2018 but I really hope so.  Strange the Dreamer was so beautiful I can’t wait to find out what happens next, especially after what happened at the end.
  12. Throne of Glass #7 by Sarah J. Maas. (September 4, 2018) The final book in the Throne of Glass series and it’s been quite a ride for Aelin and friends.  Who knows how it will all end.  Well I guess Sarah J. Maas does but for everyone else it’s anyone’s guess.
  13. Untitled (WarCross #2) by Marie Lu. (No set date) Another one I’m not sure if it’s coming out in 2018 but I’m pretty sure. I was riveted by the first book and I’m looking forward to meeting the “hacker” and all the potential he is inevitably going to cause.
  14. Heart of Venom by Sherrilyn Kenyon. (2018) It also doesn’t have a set date besides 2018.  It’s either the first in the Shadows of Fire series or #9 in the Chronicles of Nick series.  However you want to look at it, it’s a switch in tone and focus for Kenyon’s Dark-Hunters.  With a duel narrators of the Cyprian Malachai (Nick’s Son) and the Ambrose Malachai (Nick Himself) we find out if Nick truly does embrace his destiny or if the sacrifices he made at the end of Intensity was enough to forge his own path.
  15. Immortal Reign by Morgan Rhodes. (February 6, 2018) The final book in the closest YA book to Game of Thrones with it’s epic scope, world building and body count was originally scheduled to come out this month but was pushed back.  I’m sure the extra two months will be worth the wait.
  16. Aru Shah and the End of Times by Roshani Chokshi. (April 3, 2018) The first book to be published under Rick Riordan’s new imprint highlighting stories from authors and characters from around the world.  Aru Shah takes on Hindu legends to save her mother and classmates.
  17. Untitled by Maureen Johnson. (No set date) The Shadow Cabinet, the last book released in the Shades of London series had me on the edge of my feet and it’s been so long since it came out.  I’m not sure that the next book is coming out in 2018 but Maureen has mentioned on twitter that she has two books coming out in 2018 so it’s a safe bet. *crosses fingers*
  18. Untitled by Kendare Blake. (September 4, 2018)  I didn’t know that the Three Dark Crowns was originally planned to be a duology. I’m glad that Kendare Blake and her publisher decided to extend it because there are so many things about this world and these character left to be explored.
  19. Untitled by Traci Chee (2018) The final book in the Sea of Ink and Gold Series.  Sefia and Archer continue to fight what is written and defeat their destiny while also staying ahead of their enemies.
  20. The Smoke Thieves by Sally Green (May 1, 2018) I’m interested in this one since this in the first book that Sally Green has published since she ended her Half Bad trilogy two years ago.  Half Lost left me broken and in tears. I’m not sure if I’m ready for that again but I can’t wait to see what Sally does next.