Truly Devious

Author: Maureen Johnson

Series: Truly Devious #1

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

Release Date: January 16, 2018

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A fun and exciting tale of mystery, murder, cold cases, and an exclusive academy for gifted students to come and learn makes for an engaging read that was just plain fun.

Albert Ellingham always wanted to give back to others and show that learning is best when viewed as a game. He established Ellingham Academy in the foothills of Vermont for the best and brightest. It wasn’t long after the school was opened before disaster struck, Albert’s wife and daughter were kidnapped and sent clues as riddles by someone calling himself Truly Devious. Years later, Stevie Bell, a true crime obsessed teen makes her way to Ellingham Academy; she wants to finish out her school years there but also solve the mystery of what happened all those years ago. Just as Stevie is starting to figure out the mystery, Truly Devious returns bringing death back to Ellingham Academy. Murders from both past and present collide in this fantastic start to a wonderful series.

I have to say that I started this series out of order, I read the fourth book not realizing there were three previous novels in the series. I loved the fourth so much I had to start at the beginning. Truly Devious is the start of a magnificent series; Stevie Bell is a fun and engaging protagonist as a modern-day Sherlock to seek out the answers no one else has been able to find. Stevie along with her new housemates turn the story into a game of Clue, who did it, how and why. So many questions to answer, only some are answered in this edition of the series, my guess is all will be answered by the end of the series. The mystery of what happened in the past and how it ties into the present time is what kept me glued to the page. Stevie has a tenacity about her and the way she won’t give up until the case is solved makes her a precocious yet engaging character. Her relationship with the others in the house is a high point that made me relate to her even more; going to a new school is hard, what makes it even harder is going to the school to solve a murder no one else has been able to solve for decades. Even though not all the answers were wrapped up at the end, I was satisfied with the conclusion but left thirsty for more. I can’t wait to see what the next in the series has in store. I recommend this for those that love Young Adult mysteries with lots of twists and turns. My only negative would be the little adult language used throughout, not a lot but enough to make me hesitant to recommend to younger readers.

Escape from the Everglades

Author: Tim Shoemaker

Series: High Water #1

Publisher: Focus on the Family

Release Date: July 6, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A fantastic thriller for young adults that is fierce, gripping, and full of more suspense and less fluff, making for a wonderful read!

Parker Buckman is the son of a park ranger stationed in the Everglades, a place full of danger both in the water and out of it. When Parker ends up mauled by an alligator and almost dies, he can’t help but see it as a place full of death. The only thing he wants is to get out while he still has a chance. His dad puts in for a transfer, but before they can leave, a friend goes missing.  Parker knows can’t leave until he helps find her. Together with his friends, they search high and low throughout the Everglades and discover alligators aren’t the only monsters they are facing.

The first thing I have to say about this book is WOW!! There was so much suspense and action I felt like I was getting a workout as my heart rate got high at times. I loved the action and suspense, especially for a young adult. The next thing that made it such a great read for me was the fact that it was clean, there was no language, it never got too graphic and I will feel completely comfortable letting my eleven-year-old son read this one. So many young adult novels out there are filled with content that I just don’t feel comfortable exposing my kids to. I am grateful for authors that have figured out how to write a great thriller for young adults without filling it with language or content I wouldn’t approve of them reading. This was definitely an adventurous read with the alligator attacks and drama on land. Both boys and girls will love this one I believe, something there for everyone to enjoy. I recommend this to readers that enjoy a high suspense read with very little fluff to fill the pages, great characters and a storyline that is riveting.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

The Box in the Woods

Author: Maureen Johnson

Series: Truly Devious Mystery #4

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

Release Date: June 15, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A fantastic YA thriller that kept me enthralled in the story and unable to put it down!

Stevie Bell needs a good mystery. She helped catch a killer at her high school and now she feels lost with nothing to do having to live a normal, boring life. Then, she gets a message from the new owner of Sunny Pines, formally called Camp Wonder Falls, where there is an unsolved case from decades ago. The Box in the Woods Murders, four camp counselors were killed in the woods and their bodies left on display outside Barlow Corners. The new owner of the camp wants the mystery solved and brings in Stevie to help. Stevie is curious about the case and agrees to come if she can bring some of her friends. As they arrive at the camp and start investigating, it quickly becomes clear that someone doesn’t want them there. The more they investigate things, the more danger they are in and this just might be the case Stevie doesn’t make it out alive from.

First off, I did not realize this was the fourth in a series when I started this book, I didn’t even realize it until I finished. That being said, I was fully able to enjoy this story without having read the first three in the series. The characters were fun, witty, interesting, and full of vigor that kept me glued to the page. They were like a modern-day Scooby gang solving mysteries together. Even though Stevie is young, it wasn’t hard for me to believe her and the way she went about solving the crimes. She found clues that no one else was able to find and put them all together just like the pieces of a puzzle. After reading it, I am dying to go back and read the first in the series and see where it all started and how these characters came together. The story had a great flow to it and tension at all the right spots. The back and forth timelines can sometimes throw things off and take readers out of the story, but here it brought the story to a whole new level. This was my first time reading a book by Maureen Johnson, but it definitely won’t be my last. I recommend this to readers that love a good mystery and having it solved in just the right way.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Denied

Author: Mary Keliikoa

Series: Kelly Pruett Mystery #2

Publisher: Self

Release Date: May 11, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Crafty, clever, and totally unexpected!

PI Kelly Pruett is recovering from her last case after taking over her father’s PI business, when she is approached by a friend from the past.  A very pregnant friend is looking into why she hasn’t heard from her father since she has been trying to contact him for over a month.  They had a falling out a few months ago and now she wants to make amends before she has the baby so that he or she can know their grandfather.  As Kelly dives into the case, she discovers a world of gambling, mafia, sickness, betrayal, and illegal dumping.  Can Kelly unravel the case before someone silences her from uncovering the truth?

I haven’t read the first book in this series, but the second pulled me in quickly and did a good job of filling in some backstory.  I’m sure there would have been more had I read the first, but I think this can be a standalone.  Kelly is a very strong woman to be going through everything with her ex-husband, ex-best friend, and PI business.  Her persistence and perseverance was fun to watch when she just couldn’t let things drop. I also like the supporting role of Detective Kuni and hope to see more of him in future stories.  I also thought that tying in the experiences of living with a deaf daughter was a neat aspect.  I plan to go back and get the first to tie it all together, but I’m also looking forward to the next installment.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

High Treason at the Grand Hotel

Author: Kelly Oliver

Series: Fiona Figg Mystery #2

Publisher: Level Best Books

Release Date: January 5, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Fiona Figg returns in another mystery that may be her last!

After the success of her first mystery in getting close with Frederick Fredericks, Fiona is again dispatched by Room 40 on another mission, this time to Paris.  At least this time she gets to be herself.  Upon arriving in Paris, she finds that her passport has been stolen but manages to get passed off as a Captain’s wife.  She then realizes that her contact is nowhere to be found and takes a room at the Grand Hotel where Frederick Fredericks is staying.  Even though she is supposed to be herself, she brings plenty of disguise with her and transforms herself into Harold the bell boy.  Now able to move throughout the hotel inner workings with ease, she finds roadblocks with the hotel staff, but manages to get on serving duty at a local party.  When she is discovered with a bloody knife over the body of a dead countess (yet again) she quickly finds out that her spying days may be over!

If you thought Betrayal at Ravenswick was a hoot, wait till you read High Treason at the Grand Hotel.  I wasn’t sure that Fiona could get herself into more trouble, but she proved me wrong.  This new cozy mystery was laced with misfortune, but she ultimately prevailed at a high price.  As with the first, there was still plenty of humor, but it took quite a bit of serious tone as the story went.  Fiona gets mixed up in a serial killer’s ring of murders, which she thankfully helps solve, but not before some of the characters meet their unfortunate fate.  She also witnesses a firing squad execution.  Again, this book has many historical characters from the time that make it worth the read and the research if you’re interested.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Betrayal at Ravenswick

Author: Kelly Oliver

Series: Fiona Figg Mystery #1

Publisher: Level Best Books

Release Date: March 10, 2020

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A new cozy mystery series has captured my attention!

Fiona Figg’s life has begun to crumble apart.  After four years of happy marriage, she decides to surprise her husband at work one day and finds him in the arms of another woman.  With little other course, she gets a divorce and decides to focus on her work in Room 40 at the War Office in London.  She wishes that she could get out of London to avoid running into her ex-husband and his new wife and she soon gets her wish.  She is offered the chance to retreat to Ravenswick Abbey to spy on a South African war correspondent named Frederick Fredericks.  After arriving at Ravenswick, she is quickly caught up in a domestic dispute that delves into the murder of a countess.  Fiona must maintain her cover and assist in the murder case to appease all parties.  Be careful what you wish for!

Sometimes you just need a cozy mystery to forget about your day and that is exactly what readers will find with Betrayal at Ravenswick.  This book was equal parts serious and humorous as Fiona bumbles around undercover as a male doctor.  It is easy to find an emotional connection with Fiona on her losses but also find yourself telling her that it’s not a good idea to go through with what she has planned.  It’s easy to become her friend as you read the story.  I’ve always enjoyed this genre and having in set during World War I was an even better reason to read it.  That book is based on some historical characters, so if you know much about Room 40, it makes it that much more fun to read.  This book is suited for an older audience, but I believe many will enjoy it.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

The Art of Deception

Author: Leonard Goldberg

Series: Daughter of Sherlock Holmes #4

Publisher: Minotaur Books

Release Date: June 16, 2020

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Yet another fantastic installment to the Daughter of Sherlock Holmes series!

To be visited by Scotland Yard to consult on a case is not out of the ordinary for the Watsons, but a case involving vandalism of fine art seems a bit low on the docket for them.  But as Joanna Watson knows, nothing is really as it seems until you truly observe.  As the Watsons visit the crime scenes, it becomes apparent that the vandal isn’t simply vandalizing the paintings, but the manner he is doing it shows that he is looking for something hidden behind the canvas.  As they begin to unravel the mystery, more than just art begins to arise, including murders.  Will they be able to determine who is behind the vandalism before he finds what he is looking for?

As always, Leonard Goldberg has crafted yet another thrilling tale for readers to devour and try to match wits with Joanna Watson, the daughter of Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler.  These books are just good, clean reads and this was no exception.  I love that Goldberg has developed a new line of mysteries that readers are able to enjoy and try to see if they can figure out the culprits before Joanna does.  And true to form, there is usually an unexpected twist or two at the end that will keep your mind whirling to keep up!

Fractured Tide

Author: Leslie Lutz

Publisher: Blink YA Fiction

Release Date: May 5, 2020

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Not at all what I expected, but in the best of ways! Leslie Lutz has crafted a fun, chilling and engaging tale that will leave readers glued to the edge of their seats.

After her father is sent to prison, Sia ends up helping her mother run their scuba diving tours business. Still a teenager, she has taken on more responsibility than most her age. Together they go out and explore the reef and find secrets in sunken crafts. On their latest dive things don’t go as planned, a mysterious creature emerges from the deep, their boat sinks and Sia washes up on the shore of a deserted island with even more mystery. When she finds the other survivors from the boat, it is the first good sign since they started out that morning. The island isn’t what it seems and Sia’s best hope for finding answers are at the center of the island where the most danger is also. With their last hope fading and Sia looking to save herself and the others, they make their way through the jungle to hopefully find a way off the island and back to their families.

This was unlike any book I have read in a long time. The science fiction element to it was interesting and kept the story flowing quickly and fluidly. Writing this from Sia’s diary was interesting and unique. For a little while I wasn’t sure what to think of all that Sia was being put through. Even at the end, I had to scratch my head at the way it all played out. Without giving anything away, I will say I am still satisfied with the ending even with the questions I have. That’s a rare combination, to be satisfied and still have questions, not something that happens often and only a very talented author can do that with their writing and please the reader. Sia’s relationship with each of the other characters is what made the story work. She is a great protagonist and the story wouldn’t be the same with anyone else in that role, but I really liked the interactions with Sia and Sarah, their relationship was real and genuine. There weren’t any fake niceties between the two of them and every aspect of why they acted the way they did towards each other made perfect sense with the story. I love when a story unfolds as it should and nothing feels forced.  I would recommend this book to readers that enjoy a well-crafted science fiction thriller that will give you goose bumps and knowing the next book you pick up won’t be near as good.  

Two Reasons to Run

Author: Colleen Coble

Series: Pelican Harbor #2

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: September 8, 2020

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

With terrorism, a family’s safety at stake, and more suspense to keep you on the edge of your seat, Two Reasons to Run is a must read!

Police Chief Jane Hardy is still learning to live with the fact that she has found her son. Her father kept so many secrets from her and now her son’s father Reid is in her life whether she wants him to be or not. When she is approached by a local woman saying her son is missing, she starts looking into the disappearance and possible murder on the oil platform Zeus. Soon, she is in the middle of a terrorist plot to bring down the oil platform with the life of her son is now in jeopardy. Reid has been investigating the oil platform as well for a documentary and they together work to expose who is trying to bring the platform down and keep their son safe. Tensions fly as they get closer to catching a killer but also further from the safety for their family that they are trying so hard to bring back together.

Two Reasons to Run is the second installment in the Pelican Harbor series; normally books like these, romantic suspense series, don’t always have to be read in order. They might have some of the same characters but each one has a new set of protagonist male and female that we get to see work through their problems to try and be together. With this one though, I had read the previous book, but it had been a while and I felt like I needed to go back and reread it to fully get the story in front of me. The further I got in the story, the better I remembered what had been happening and was able to follow along. That said, this is not one for a new reader to pick up without knowing the back story of the characters. One of the best aspects of this story was the family relationship Jane had and the way it tugged at the emotions. When her son is threatened, especially since she had just gotten him back in her life, it took the stakes to a whole new level. This was a great sequel with so much more at stake for the characters that readers will have no problem making a personal connection and letting the story pull at their hearts as they turn the pages. I was able to read this one very quickly and really felt pulled into the story once it got going. The end was very satisfying but also left open enough for another in the series to follow. I recommend to readers that have read the first in the series and are ready for far more action, suspense and romance. 

Everywhere to Hide

Author: Siri Mitchell

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: October 6, 2020

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

With a unique disability and witness to a crime, Whitney Garrison is the perfect protagonist in this top-notch new thriller!

Whitney Garrison has survived an abusive boyfriend, law school and growing up with a unique disorder, face blindness. She is working at a local coffee shop and tutoring kids to make enough money to survive until she passes the bar and gets a job at a high-end law firm. She has done all this on her own, not wanting to burden her father and let him know the mistakes she has made. One afternoon she inadvertently witnesses a murder; even though she saw the killer, she has no idea what the killer actually looks like. He could be right in front of her and she would have no idea.  He follows her every move and thinks she has information he is willing to kill for. Both the local detective, Leo Baroni, and the Feds get involved trying to keep Whitney safe and find their murderer.

Everywhere to Hide is a unique read that kept me guessing and on the edge of my seat, not an easy task with as many thrillers as I read. I loved Whitney for the protagonist in this story. She has gone through a tremendous amount in her short life so far, and even with her face blindness, she never plays the victim card. She finds a way to work around the problems she faces and learn and grow from the experiences. The face blindness was a new one for me, I have never read anything with that as an issue for one of the characters, it was unique and intriguing. Always wondering if Whitney was about to interact with the killer and not know it made the story that much more thrilling for me and kept me glued to the page. Leo was a great character to be there for her and the way Mitchell brought on the romance aspect of the story was just right for me. It was subtle but enough was there to make it believable and easy to follow. Little hints were dropped throughout that helped everything that happened by the end make total sense. This story is a fun blend of complicated mystery and fun thrill rides, the type of book that can be read in one sitting because you are so sucked into the story. I recommend this to readers that enjoy a fun, clean thriller that will keep them guessing and smiling with delight long after they turn the last page.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.