Tag Archives: book review

The Vanishing Stair (Truly Devious #2) – Maureen Johnson


The Vanishing Stair (Truly Devious #2) – Maureen Johnson

The Vanishing Stair (Truly Devious, #2)

Title: The Vanishing Stair (Truly Devious #2)

Author: Maureen Johnson

Release Date: January 22, 2019

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

Format: Hardcover

Page Number: 384

Source: public library

All Stevie Bell wanted was to find the key to the Ellingham mystery, but instead she found her classmate dead. And while she solved that murder, the crimes of the past are still waiting in the dark. Just as Stevie feels she’s on the cusp of putting it together, her parents pull her out of Ellingham academy.

For her own safety they say. She must move past this obsession with crime. Now that Stevie’s away from the school of topiaries and secret tunnels, and her strange and endearing friends, she begins to feel disconnected from the rest of the world. At least she won’t have to see David anymore. David, who she kissed. David, who lied to her about his identity—son of despised politician Edward King. Then King himself arrives at her house to offer a deal: He will bring Stevie back to Ellingham immediately. In return, she must play nice with David. King is in the midst of a campaign and can’t afford his son stirring up trouble. If Stevie’s at school, David will stay put.

The tantalizing riddles behind the Ellingham murders are still waiting to be unraveled, and Stevie knows she’s so close. But the path to the truth has more twists and turns than she can imagine—and moving forward involves hurting someone she cares for. In New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson’s second novel of the Truly Devious series, nothing is free, and someone will pay for the truth with their life.

5 out of 5 stars


I loved this book. I was engaged the entire time, and wanted to keep reading and learning what would happen. This is the first book in a long time that I’ve had the “okay just one more chapter” over and over again.

The Vanishing Stair follows Stevie Bell coming back to Ellingham Academy to try and solve the Ellingham case from the 1930s. She was sent home after events that happened in the first book, Truly Devious, and finds herself back at the school. She’s allowed to go back to the school because Edward King, her friend David’s father, sends her back to keep an eye on his son. Even though the reasoning behind her being back may not be the most honest, she still finds a way to do some research and questionable exploring with her friends back on the Ellingham campus.

Guys.

This was a fantastic sequel. I don’t know what to do with myself after the ending because I really just want the next book now! It’s crazy because I enjoyed the first book, but this one blew me away.

The characters are great and mysterious and had me wondering THE WHOLE TIME. What is David’s deal? When will they figure out what happened? What was this riddle about from Ellingham?

The riddles and clues throughout this book were so fun to try and figure out. (I totally didn’t, but was just here for the ride lol) I loved the introduction of the new materials and clues Stevie found out about because it added so much to the story.

I’m usually really annoyed by the presence of love triangles, but omg. This is a good one, actually. I really like David, but Hunter is so sweet. David is mysterious, and Hunter is an open book. Hmmm.

The most underrated character in this series is Larry the security guy. He’s so cool and values Stevie so much. He genuinely wants her to succeed and tries to help her stay at the school. What a cool guy. And they trust each other with information about the case yay for real relationships.

I’m really excited to read book three because SO MUCH HAPPENED RIGHT AT THE END. I’m actually shook. It all happened so fast, but I feel like that’s what would have happened if this were a real case. The influx of information would have happened so fast, and Stevie is just so fricking smart. So smart. It blows my mind every time she comes across something new for the case. 

Series:

Truly Devious (Truly Devious #1)

REREAD Truly Devious (Truly Devious #1)

Aubrey Joy

P.S. I Like You – Kasie West


P.S. I Like You – Kasie West

P.S. I Like You

Title: P.S. I Like You

Author: Kasie West

Release Date: July 26, 2016

Publisher: Point

Format: Ebook

Page Number: 330

Source: Libby app

Signed, sealed, delivered…

While spacing out in chemistry class, Lily scribbles some of her favorite song lyrics onto her desk. The next day, she finds that someone has continued the lyrics on the desk and added a message to her. Intrigue!

Soon, Lily and her anonymous pen pal are exchanging full-on letters—sharing secrets, recommending bands, and opening up to each other. Lily realizes she’s kind of falling for this letter writer. Only, who is he? As Lily attempts to unravel the mystery and juggle school, friends, crushes, and her crazy family, she discovers that matters of the heart can’t always be spelled out…

3 out of 5 stars


Predictable? Yes. Still cute? Also, yes.

P.S. I Like You follows Lily and a secret penpal from chemistry class who originally bonded over a shared love for a particular song. Their mutual respect for said song turned into daily letters passed back and forth between them. After daily exchanges and getting to know one another, Lily realizes that she’s fallen for this secret boy. Why oh why did this boy have to only be on paper?! Who was he? Did he also have feelings for Lily?

This book was a little cheesy, but there were also moments I thought were pretty adorable. The whole letter writing thing was super cute and I secretly wish it had happened to me. I’m very partial to letters, so that could be part of it, but also a cute boy waiting on the other end? Sounds pretty great to me.

After Lily finds out who this secret boy of hers is, she freaks her freak out. He’s not who she wants him to be and she holds that against him… viciously. This is the part that bugged me about this book because come on. You obviously like him, why continue hating him in person. Get it together. It just seemed unbelievably childish to me. Can you not set aside your differences to just try and get to know this boy? Honestly.

I loved the family dynamic in this book because they were all so close. One of my favorite things in books is a tightly bonded family because it reminds me of mine. I loved Lily’s siblings and her parents were fun side characters.

The music aspect of this book was a cool choice because we got to see a little more into Lily’s head. She writes lyrics throughout the book and we got backstory on why she wrote them. Pretty nice.

This was a really nice audiobook because it was fast-paced and easy to listen to. I started it on my drive home from school for a weekend and finished it whilst walking to and from class. I’ve fallen in love with audiobooks again YAY!

Would I reread this book? Probably not, but I did enjoy it while listening to it. I think it’s a cute, fast contemporary :)

Guys. I’ve done it. I’ve conquered this reading slump I’ve been in for a few months! I’m actually excited to read again, which is AMAZING. Also, yay for book 20 of the year.

Aubrey Joy

Small Graces: The Quiet Gifts of Everyday Life – Kent Nerburn


Small Graces: The Quiet Gifts of Everyday Life – Kent Nerburn

Small Graces: The Quiet Gifts of Everyday Life

Title: Small Graces: The Quiet Gifts of Everyday Life

Author: Kent Nerburn

Release Date: March 16, 1998

Publisher: New World Library

Format: Hardcover

Page Number: 128

Source: borrowed from friend

In twenty elegant pieces, writer, sculptor, and theologian Kent Nerburn celebrates the daily rituals that reveal our deeper truths. 

A companion piece to Kent Nerburn’s book Simple Truths, Small Graces is a journey into the sacred moments that illuminate our everyday lives. Through the exploration of simple acts, he reminds us to chart a course each day that nourishes the soul, honors the body, and engages the mind. 

Small Graces asks us to observe life’s quiet rhythms, the subtle shifts in perception and changes in light, the warm comfort of family voices; to feel the blessing of birdsong, the solitude of a falling leaf, the echo of footfall in snow-covered woods. By inviting us to recognize the hidden power of the ordinary, Small Graces reveals the mystical alchemy of the mundane made profound by the artistry of a well-lived life.

2 out of 5 stars


ehh.

Maybe I’m just in a weird reading mood, but I didn’t really get anything from this book.

I think theres something beautiful to be said about the small moments in life, I really do, but I also think the beauty in them is getting to see them for yourself. I feel like this was trying to be a guidebook on how to see the world. I also kept thinking “there’s no way this man actually feels these things as often as he does.”

There were some things that I resonated with. The section about family and how it’s weird and beautiful and cool that you choose a spouse or partner, and the family is chosen for you. I agree, it was cool. The rest was just kinda ehh for me.

I think the thought was there and the meaning was nice, but I just don’t really see the point in this being a book….

Aubrey Joy

Review: Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows #2) – Leigh Bardugo


Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows #2) – Leigh Bardugo

Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows, #2)

Title: Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows #2)

Author: Leigh Bardugo

Release Date: September 20, 2016

Publisher: Henry Holt and Company

Format: Hardcover

Page Number: 560

Source: Target

Kaz Brekker and his crew of deadly outcasts have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn’t think they’d survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re right back to fighting for their lives.

Double-crossed and badly weakened, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz’s cunning and test the team’s fragile loyalties.

A war will be waged on the city’s dark and twisting streets – a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of the Grisha world.

3 out of 5 stars


Crooked Kingdom, second book in the Six of Crows duology, follows the misfit crew of Kaz, Inej, Nina, Matthias, Wylan, Jesper, and Kuwei as they unveil secrets, devise intricate and delicate plans, and ruin lives.

I don’t know what it was about this book, but I’m honestly a little disappointed. The writing style is great; a little too detailed for my taste at moments, but still nice. I love the intricacies of the characters. They’re all unique and interesting with well-thought-out back stories.

I think what bothered me about this book was the amount unspoken. I love trying to figure out what happened and why while I’m reading, but I don’t think there were enough clues given to be able to fully understand what was happening before it was explicitly stated. It’s a given that Kaz will come up with crazy plans, but sometimes it would be nice to be in on the secret before it has to be stated. I feel like there was a lot of telling and not showing throughout this book. There was NO WAY to possibly understand every nuance before it was explicitly stated, and that kind of bothered me. Yes, it’s awesome to read about a great plan, but it’s not as satisfying if you don’t get to see how it all unfolds.

SPOILERS AHEAD

The ending was SO UNSATISFACTORY. I knew something was going to happen to someone right at the end, but it just doesn’t really make a ton of sense. It seemed more like a plot device and less like an intentional choice.

Also, where the heck is the romance.

All I wanted was for some romance from these characters who OBVIOUSLY loved each other, and we barely got anything! What’s up with that? I understand this is YA, but why was the number of romantic scenes less than fingers I have on one hand? All I wanted was some cute romance. Again, I think there was too much left to the imagination.

It’s just weird because I really did enjoy a lot of this book, but overall I think my feelings were pretty “okay” about it. I just don’t understand why we couldn’t have had a real romance.

Jesper and Wylan could have EASILY been together for more than half the book. The ending with Kaz and Inej… why not more than that? He never even TOLD Inej about why he hates skin on skin contact. She spilled her heart to him and he couldn’t do the same. I’m just confused.

I see why a lot of people like this duology, but I think the first book was much stronger than this one.

Series:

Six of Crows (Six of Crows #1)

Aubrey Joy

Review: Begin Again: The Brave Practice of Releasing Hurt and Receiving Rest – Leeana Tankersly


Begin Again: The Brave Practice of Releasing Hurt and Receiving Rest – Leeana Tankersly

Begin Again: The Brave Practice of Releasing Hurt and Receiving Rest

Title: Begin Again: The Brave Practice of Releasing Hurt and Receiving Rest

Author: Leeana Tankersly

Release Date: April 3, 2018

Publisher: Fleming H. Revell Company

Format: Paperback

Page Number: 192

Source: borrowed from a friend

What happens when life begins to trip us up and failure starts creeping in? Many of us just keep on doing the same thing, hoping for different results. Some of us look for escape, to find a way out of the mess we feel that we’ve created. But neither enduring nor escaping is ultimately what we need.

The answer is to allow ourselves to begin again, every day, in every part of our lives. Through engaging, lyrical prose, Leeana Tankersley shows women how to forgive themselves, develop new and healthier patterns of living, and do away with resentment and regret. Her life-giving words will free women who are feeling stuck and allow them to clear out the debris to make room for what God wants to do in their lives. To begin again is to open the window, even a crack, to let the breeze of grace come in. It is a call to stop running from our fears. To take one small step toward becoming the brave women we were made to be.

2 out of 5 stars


I enjoyed the message of this book, but the execution was extremely lacking.

Begin Again is a non-fiction, Christian self-help book written by Leeana Tankersley taking stories from her life and noticing how she has chosen to live by the motto “begin again.”

Again, the message is great. Give your life over to Jesus, He will save you, and help you to start over when times are hard and you’re confused with life. I COMPLETELY agree. I’ve been dealing with some hard stuff and big decisions in the last year, and my newfound relationship with Christ has helped me in countless ways. I love being part of a church and reading my Bible; it’s been awesome, so I was really excited about this book because it seemed like I would be able to connect with it.

I was disappointed.

The writing style was just so unpolished that it took away from the purpose of the book for me. This read like a first draft written by a middle schooler. No offense to middle schoolers… a 40 year old woman with an English degree should definitely be able to write better than this.

The chapters were so short and choppy. The sentences were so simple that it made it difficult to read. Come on. You. Do. Not. Need. To. Put. Periods. After. Every. Three. Words. Get it together, honestly.

I am a word nerd. I LOVE sentence structure. Semi-colons are my favorite form of punctuation. The fact that I have a favorite form of punctuation should speak to the fact that I like books and reading. It just doesn’t make sense to me why you would write something so simplistic for the fact of emphasis. Complex sentences make the world-go-round, people!

Another thing that was confusing to me: Unnecessary Capitalization. Um. It makes no sense to me why the word ‘love’ was capitalized… for no reason. It wasn’t representative of anything. It was just the classic meaning of the word. Why does it need emphasis then? There were so many instances of this and it just makes no sense.

The way the stories and chapters were written was so confusing. She would start one story, then randomly jump to another thing, return but be going in a different direction. Bro. Chill out. Introduce the members of your family so I know what your kids’ names are. I don’t want to be confused the heck out about who Elle is in the second to last chapter! The thing with memoirs is that you need to be open about your life in order for them to be successful. I feel like I don’t know this woman because she didn’t explain ANYTHING about herself.

Maybe I’m just in a hypercritical mindset right now, but these are my thoughts. I would still give this a try if you enjoy Christian self-help books; go in with an open mind.

Aubrey Joy

Review: My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies – Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, and Jacob Phillips


My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies – Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, and Jacob Phillips

My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies

Title: My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies

Author: Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, Jacob Phillips

Release Date: October 10, 2018

Publisher: Image Comics

Format: Hardcover

Page Number: 72

Source: Library

Teenage Ellie has always had romantic ideas about drug addicts, those tragic artistic souls drawn to needles and pills have been an obsession since the death of her junkie mother ten years ago. But when Ellie lands in an upscale rehab clinic where nothing is what it appears to be… she’ll find another more dangerous romance, and find out how easily drugs and murder go hand-in-hand.

MY HEROES HAVE ALWAYS BEEN JUNKIES is a seductive coming-of-age story, a pop and drug culture-fueled tale of a young girl seeking darkness — and what she finds there.

3 out of 5 stars


I don’t know. I’m not 100% sold.

This graphic novel follows a girl named Ellie who has been romanticizing addiction her whole life. Her mother was an addict and all her musical heroes were addicted to alcohol or drugs, so she decides to experiment with different substances. The novel starts out with her in rehab and escalates from there.

I don’t really understand the point of this book.

The art style was cool and the color scheme was nice, so I’m adding an extra star for that, but the plot was just dumb. Ellie decides to date this other guy that’s in rehab with her, and she deceives him in the end, but there was no point to her doing that. There just wasn’t a purpose for any of her motives at all.

I liked the flashbacks from her childhood about why she became obsessed with addiction, but it also doesn’t seem like a solid plot device.

This served its purpose of being a quick read. Idk I don’t really have anything else to say about it.

Aubrey Joy

Review: Alice: From Dream to Dream – Giulio Macaione, Giulia Adragna, Jackie Ball, and Jim Campbell


Alice: From Dream to Dream – Giulio Macaione, Giulia Adragna, Jackie Ball, and Jim Campbell

Alice: From Dream to Dream

Title: Alice: From Dream to Dream

Author: Giulio Macaione, Giulia Adragna, Jackie Ball, and Jim Campbell

Release Date: October 2, 2018

Publisher: BOOM! Box

Format: Paperback

Page Number: 144

Source: Library

After moving back to Ohio, Alice is stuck sharing a bedroom with her brother, and worse, sharing his dreams! The bright spot in her life is her best friend, Jamie, but there’s more history between their families than Alice realized, and there are secrets buried deep in their small town that only she’ll be able to explore…but only in her dreams!

From writer and artist Giulio Macaione (Ofelia), Alice: From Dream to Dream is an otherworldly trek into a spectacular world of dreams, nightmares, and being a teenager.

4 out of 5 stars


I LOVED the art style of this graphic novel. I think this is my favorite art style I’ve ever seen in anything, honestly. The colors were beautiful and went together so well, and the illustrations were just amazing. It was so whimsical and well suited for a graphic novel!

This story follows Alice who can experience other people’s dreams. She has been experiencing her brother’s nightmares and has been getting no sleep because of it. The only good part about her life is her best friend Jamie because he helps her deal with school bullies, and is always there for her. When he randomly starts acting differently Alice becomes very confused and sad because their friendship isn’t what it used to be. Jamie gets in an accident and ends up unresponsive and in a coma, so Alice decides she’ll try and use her ability to see other people’s dreams to go and help him.

This was a super cool concept and reminded me a lot of Alice in Wonderland. This could be partly because her name is Alice, so that seed was already planted in my mind, but who knows. I am always intrigued by dreams because mine are ALWAYS so vivid. I have the weirdest dreams out of anyone that I know, and I can pretty much always remember them in the morning. Very strange, but this made me connect with the story more!

I loved the diversity of the cast of characters. Yay for actually having different ethnicities, but not making it feel like you’re just checking off boxes. It’s always so impressive. The main character, her mother, and her brother were all black; her father and best friend were white. It was just nice seeing different groups represented.

All in all I think this was a great graphic novel and would recommend picking it up! The color scheme – 10/10.

Aubrey Joy