Book Reviews · Reviews

Truly Devious ★★★★★

35008814Maureen Johnson has broken my heart in the past (I’m looking at you, Shades of London) and Truly Devious was no different.

Ellingham Academy is a famous private school in Vermont for the brightest thinkers, inventors, and artists. It was founded by Albert Ellingham, an early twentieth century tycoon, who wanted to make a wonderful place full of riddles, twisting pathways, and gardens. “A place,” he said, “where learning is a game.”

Shortly after the school opened, his wife and daughter were kidnapped. The only real clue was a mocking riddle listing methods of murder, signed with the frightening pseudonym “Truly, Devious.” It became one of the great unsolved crimes of American history.

True-crime aficionado Stevie Bell is set to begin her first year at Ellingham Academy, and she has an ambitious plan: She will solve this cold case. That is, she will solve the case when she gets a grip on her demanding new school life and her housemates: the inventor, the novelist, the actor, the artist, and the jokester. But something strange is happening. Truly Devious makes a surprise return, and death revisits Ellingham Academy. The past has crawled out of its grave. Someone has gotten away with murder.

Maureen Johnson hooked little Maggie’s heart with 13 Little Blue Envelopes when I was just starting to get into the YA age group. Then I fell in love with her Shades of London series when I started using Audible on my commutes to school. And now, Truly Devious has hooked it’s claws into my heart.

Maureen has a stellar command of mystery and magic, of tossing in a twist at juuuuust the right moment to keep you reading way past your bedtime. The choice to intersperse snippets from the 1936 mystery surrounding Truly Devious and the Ellingham murders never felt intrusive. Whenever those pieces came up in the narrative, I never felt annoyed or cheated out of Stevie’s story, which was set in the modern day. In fact, I enjoyed getting snippets of interviews between the detective and the suspects and chapters following Albert Ellingham. It informed my reading and built a richer story.

Beyond that, I loved Stevie. She was clever, witty, a bit of an outcast and her anxiety spoke true to my heart. Not only that, but the queer representation was stellar itself. It never felt like it was there for “Diversity Points” but rather it felt like a natural part of the world, which as it turns out, is exactly like our real world. Shocker, I know.

Truly Devious was another great read from a favorite author of mine and it’s got its claws hooked directly into my heart. I honestly can’t wait for the rest of the series!

Truly Devious releases on January 16th, 2018.

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2018 Resolutions

There are a lot of things I’d like to get accomplished this year. Some are pretty far reaching, but some I think I can handle. Then again, if there’s some heavy depression sessions in my future, who knows. Every step is taken one day at a time.

Writing Goals

I’m looking to finish my YA Fantasy (which is in it’s tenth draft and featuring an all new rewrite) by the end of March. Ideally, I’d have most of it done before the start of the semester (which is in like, two weeks!) so that when I end up working with an editor, I have most of the draft done.

I’d also like to have aforementioned YA Fantasy polished and ready to query by graduation (!!!).

Reading Goals

Fifty books. That’s my minimum for the year; and I don’t mean like the fifty I do for a semester where some of it’s plumped up with picture books. I mean fifty YA books. Majority written by women, especially women of color and queer women, preferably.

School Goals

Try not to break down while writing my thesis.

Oh, also write a thesis.

Oh, and graduate as part of the first WCYA class from SNC. But that’s practically a given so long as I manage the others on this list.

Oh, and make Pablo cry at my graduation.

Personal Life Goals

Start running again. I won’t say that I liked running (cause I’d be a dirty, dirty liar) but I enjoyed the movement of it. I usually had better days when I ran.

Find a therapist and work on my mental health.

Love myself a little more, when I can.


All in all, I think it’s a pretty robust list, and these are things I think would make for a better me. I’ve struggled with my self image and self love for a very long time, so maybe having this as a reference point, something to look back on during the next year, would be beneficial.

One step a day at a time is still progress.

Book Reviews · Reviews

Conspiracy of Stars ★★★★☆

34848207I only recently came into Sci-fi and I’m glad I did, because it introduced me to Olivia A. Cole’s A Conspiracy of Stars and my emotions are still in tatters.

Octavia has only ever had one goal: to follow in the footsteps of her parents and become a prestigious whitecoat, one of the scientists who study the natural wonders of Faloiv. The secrets of the jungle’s exotic plants and animals are protected fiercely in the labs by the Council of N’Terra, so when the rules suddenly change, allowing students inside, Octavia should be overjoyed.

But something isn’t right. The newly elected leader of the Council has some extremist views about the way he believes N’Terra should be run, and he’s influencing others to follow him. When Octavia witnesses one of the Faloii—the indigenous people of Faloiv—attacked in front of her in the dark of night, she knows the Council is hiding something. They are living in separate worlds on a shared planet, and their fragile peace may soon turn into an all-out war.

With the help of Rondo, a quiet boy in class with a skill for hacking, and her inquisitive best friend, Alma, Octavia is set on a collision course to discover the secrets behind the history she’s been taught, the science she’s lived by, and the truth about her family.

You know the reading went well when you can’t write a review for at least a week after finishing the book because your heart has been stampeded on.

I won’t lie though; A Conspiracy of Stars did take me a hot minute to get into. It was a slow start and there were a lot of info dumps when the main characters were learning something in school, but once the story hit the road, it hit the road running and I just had to keep up.

Octavia is not just smart, she’s tough and curious and determined to do what she thinks she needs to do, even if it gets her in trouble. I loved her for it.

When the story really got started, I honestly couldn’t even put the book down. I just had to finish it, I had to know what was going to happen and when I did, it hurt in the best way possible. I would have given A Conspiracy of Stars five stars, had it not been for the fact that a lot of the problems Octavia ended up facing were fixed by Deus Ex Machina, a.k.a. an adult like a parent or teacher. She was given the answers to a lot of questions instead of figuring it out on her own. I would have liked to see her figure it out herself.

But the writing was solid and amazing, and that plot twist at the end had me literally screaming. The first thing I did was reach out to my good friend and fellow book nerd Jessica Henderson and text her to go and get this book. It was that good.

A Conspiracy of Stars releases on January 2nd, 2018.

Book Reviews · Reviews

Shadow Weaver ★★★★★

31246863An unforgettable, magical journey filled with shadows and wonderful writing, Shadow Weaver is not a book to miss in 2018!

The shadows that surround us aren’t always as they seem…

Emmeline has grown up with a gift. Since the time she was a baby she has been able to control shadows. And her only friend and companion is her own shadow, Dar.

Disaster strikes when a noble family visits their home and offers to take Emmeline away and cure her of magic. Desperate not to lose her shadows, she turns to Dar who proposes a deal: Dar will change the noble’s mind, if Emmeline will help her become flesh as she once was. Emmeline agrees but the next morning the man in charge is in a coma and all that the witness saw was a long shadow with no one nearby to cast it. Scared to face punishment, Emmeline and Dar run away.

With the noble’s guards on her trail, Emmeline’s only hope of clearing her name is to escape capture and perform the ritual that will set Dar free. But Emmeline’s not sure she can trust Dar anymore, and it’s hard to keep secrets from someone who can never leave your side.

The first in a dark middle-grade fantasy duology, MarcyKate Connolly weaves a tale filled with shadows, danger, and magic that has the feel of a new classic.

I picked up this book because my good friend and fellow booknerd JM Tuckerman (Henderson, now! Yaaaay!) read me an excerpt of the first page and I feel in love immediately. The second I could, I hurried over to Netgalley and requested my own copy.

And the second I got it, I couldn’t put it down.

I devoured this book.

MarcyKate Connolly has a way with words and it’s spellbinding. Shadow Weaver is full of beautiful writing and a hauntingly spooky story about a girl and her shadow. You’re rooting for Emmeline from the beginning and the mystery around Dar, her shadow, grows with each page.

I absolutely loved this magical tale and I’m excited to see what MarcyKate Connolly brings to the table next.

Shadow Weaver releases January 2nd, 2018.

Book Reviews · Reviews

Everless ★★★★☆

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A writing style I couldn’t get enough of, but a middle I couldn’t push myself through fast enough. Sara Holland’s Everless was a pleasure and a bit of a pain.

In the kingdom of Sempera, time is currency—extracted from blood, bound to iron, and consumed to add time to one’s own lifespan. The rich aristocracy, like the Gerlings, tax the poor to the hilt, extending their own lives by centuries.

No one resents the Gerlings more than Jules Ember. A decade ago, she and her father were servants at Everless, the Gerlings’ palatial estate, until a fateful accident forced them to flee in the dead of night. When Jules discovers that her father is dying, she knows that she must return to Everless to earn more time for him before she loses him forever.

But going back to Everless brings more danger—and temptation—than Jules could have ever imagined. Soon she’s caught in a tangle of violent secrets and finds her heart torn between two people she thought she’d never see again. Her decisions have the power to change her fate—and the fate of time itself.

The world Holland painted for us was as wonderful and magical as it was cruel. It rang a little close to home, especially with how those in charge of the “money” (or, in this case, the blood) had it a thousand times easier than the common folk.

Holland had a way with language that was immediately spellbinding within the first few paragraph and Everless dug its claws into me and wouldn’t let go.

Even if I wanted it to.

And around the halfway mark, I sort of wanted it to.

Don’t get me wrong; this story about a girl trying to survive in a world where blood is time and time is money was worth the read. I enjoyed the worldbuilding and the plot twists were fun. But that middle, y’all, left something to be desired.

I had to power through the middle and usually if I have to power through something, I know it’s not going to be a fit for me. But I had already fallen in love with the story in the first several pages and I wanted to know if I would love the last few.

I loved the last few pages. When shit hit the fan 2/3rds of the way through, I was glad I kept going.

My good friend, Jessica Henderson, and I discussed Everless a few weeks ago on the Booked All Night podcast, so give it a listen! But be warned–there are MAJOR spoilers for the entire book!

Everless by Sara Holland releases January 2nd, 2018.

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Winter Break

I submitted my final packet of the semester last night and all I need to do is hear back from my mentor and I’ll be good to go.

It’s been a rough semester. Right around the start of October, I went into a deep, downward spiral and my depression just wouldn’t let up. It was a very rough few months. Then I caught some sort of sick about a month ago that hasn’t let up either so things were just not looking great.

But I made it through somehow and here I am on the other side, sniffling and still a little congested, but I’m here.

I’ve sort of come to kind of hate the project I was working on this semester. I know how I tend to write and forcing myself to work on a project I didn’t care for or I knew needed some time on the shelf just sort of made me hate everything I wrote.

My next semester is going to be my editing semester, where I get to work with an editor in the publishing industry who isn’t one of the professors, so I’m a little nervous. I hope that the list of editors is sent out soon and that there’s a dedicated portion for the Writing for Children and Young Adults students.

But, for now, and until residency starts, I’m going to go play some video games, plan my next D&D session, and let myself relax for a little bit. Maybe I’ll get around to my TBR pile…