3 stars

The Hand on the Wall by Maureen Johnson

Today I’m taking part in the blog tour for The Hand on the Wall by Maureen Johnson, the final book in the Truly Devious trilogy. This was a fun mystery trilogy to read, despite some minor gripes!

The Hand on the Wall by Maureen JohnsonThe Hand on the Wall by Maureen Johnson
Series: Truly Devious #3
Genre: Mystery
Release Date: 21st January 2020
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Rating: three-stars

Ellingham Academy must be cursed. Three people are now dead. One, a victim of either a prank gone wrong or a murder. Another, dead by misadventure. And now, an accident in Burlington has claimed another life. All three in the wrong place at the wrong time. All at the exact moment of Stevie’s greatest triumph . . .

She knows who Truly Devious is. She’s solved it. The greatest case of the century.

At least, she thinks she has. With this latest tragedy, it’s hard to concentrate on the past. Not only has someone died in town, but David disappeared of his own free will and is up to something. Stevie is sure that somehow—somehow—all these things connect. The three deaths in the present. The deaths in the past. The missing Alice Ellingham and the missing David Eastman. Somewhere in this place of riddles and puzzles there must be answers.

Then another accident occurs as a massive storm heads toward Vermont. This is too much for the parents and administrators. Ellingham Academy is evacuated. Obviously, it’s time for Stevie to do something stupid. It’s time to stay on the mountain and face the storm—and a murderer.

In the tantalizing finale to the Truly Devious trilogy, New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson expertly tangles her dual narrative threads and ignites an explosive end for all who’ve walked through Ellingham Academy.

The Truly Devious series is one that started out really strong. I was hooked by the mystery in the first book, and by Stevie’s love for true crime, and so I absolutely flew through these books.

That said, Truly Devious is still the strongest book in the series. I strongly believe that the following two books, The Vanishing Stair and The Hand on the Wall, should have been combined into one book. The Vanishing Stair turned into a filler, and The Hand on the Wall lacked the same snappy writing that I loved in Truly Devious.

That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy The Hand on the Wall, because I did. I enjoyed learning even more about Ellingham Academy, and I enjoyed reading about all the reveals and the characters putting everything together. It was a lot of fun, and I always enjoyed how Johnson flicked between the past and the present day with her storytelling.

Another thing I really enjoyed about The Hand on the Wall was the side characters and their relationships. Not David, of course (more on him later), but Stevie’s other friends are all pretty wonderful, and contributed a lot to the story. I could have read a whole book just about the friendship group, to be honest.

Now, David. I hate him. His relationship with Stevie is the most unhealthy thing, and I’m honestly annoyed and upset and offended that Maureen Johnson keeps trying to push this pairing on readers – especially since the majority of her readers are teens.

My exact problem with David is how he spent two books completely ignoring Stevie. He spoke over her, he refused to speak to her, and he flat out pretended she didn’t exist, no matter how much she tried to address him. He later claimed this was partly for her protection, which is bull. I’m so unhappy with this unhealthy relationship, and I’m really unimpressed that Johnson kept it going.

The Hand on the Wall isn’t a bad book, but it’s certainly not the strongest in the series. It was fun to get some closure and to see the friendship group again, but I couldn’t get over the unhealthy relationship or the fact that the final two books should really have been combined into one.

Woven in Moonlight by Isabel Ibañez

Today I’m taking part in the blog tour of Woven in Moonlight by Isabel Ibañez! It’s a very solid fantasy debut inspired by Bolivian politics and mythology.

Woven in Moonlight by Isabel IbañezWoven in Moonlight by Isabel Ibañez
Genre: Fantasy
Release Date: 7th January 2020
Publisher: Macmillan
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Rating: three-stars

Ximena is the decoy Condesa, a stand-in for the last remaining Illustrian royal. Her people lost everything when the usurper, Atoc, used an ancient relic to summon ghosts and drive the Illustrians from La Ciudad. Now Ximena’s motivated by her insatiable thirst for revenge, and her rare ability to spin thread from moonlight.

When Atoc demands the real Condesa’s hand in marriage, it’s Ximena’s duty to go in her stead. She relishes the chance, as Illustrian spies have reported that Atoc’s no longer carrying his deadly relic. If Ximena can find it, she can return the true aristócrata to their rightful place.

She hunts for the relic, using her weaving ability to hide messages in tapestries for the resistance. But when a masked vigilante, a warm-hearted princess, and a thoughtful healer challenge Ximena, her mission becomes more complicated. There could be a way to overthrow the usurper without starting another war, but only if Ximena turns her back on revenge—and her Condesa.

Woven in Moonlight was a really good read! It took no time at all to get into, and I found myself reading it very quickly as I was completely enamored by the world building. The author has done a fantastic job building this world that is inspired by Bolivian myths and politics, and because she was clearly quite invested in her craft, I was as well.

I think the world building was the strongest point of the book, as the main plot of Ximena being a decoy was a bit of a let down. Ximena’s character or personality may have had something to do with this, as she was far too open about everything she was talking about. Because she kept talking about herself and her background, and because she was so impulsive, the whole decoy plot point fell apart, as it didn’t really make much sense.

I wasn’t too keen on the romance, but this is YA so what can you do? I often feel very meh about YA romances nowadays, so to be honest I wasn’t expecting much.

Overall, Woven in Moonlight is a solid debut, and if you’re into YA fantasy then I would recommend picking it up!

Three Things I Know Are True by Betty Culley

Three Things I Know Are True by Betty CulleyThree Things I Know Are True by Betty Culley
Genre: Contemporary
Release Date: 7th January 2020
Publisher: HarperTeen
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Rating: three-stars

This moving debut novel in verse about a teenage girl dealing with the aftermath of an accident that nearly takes her brother’s life is a stunning exploration of grief and the power of forgiveness.

The reminder is always there—a dent on the right side of Jonah’s forehead. The spot you’d press when you felt a headache coming on. The bullet tore away bone, the way dynamite blasts rock—leaving a soft crater.

Life changes forever for Liv when her older brother, Jonah, accidentally shoots himself with his best friend Clay’s father’s gun. Now Jonah needs round-the-clock care just to stay alive, and Liv seems to be the only person who can see that her brother is still there inside his broken body.

With Liv’s mom suing Clay’s family, there are divisions in the community that Liv knows she’s not supposed to cross. But Clay is her friend, too, and she refuses to turn away from him—just like she refuses to give up on Jonah.

In 2020 I’m going to be bringing back my Debut Showcase feature in which I showcase debut books and authors. Throughout the year there will be interviews, giveaways, reviews, and other fun things for you to take part in. Check out previous posts in this feature here, and take a look at my introduction post and my list for January’s debut books!

Three Things I Know Are True has the honour of being my first review of 2020, and my first featured debut book! I have to admit that I don’t usually care for novels that are written in verse. Something about it just stops me from connecting to the book like I would with normal prose.

This was still the case for Three Things I Know Are True. I really, really enjoyed it, but because I struggled with the format in which it is written, I couldn’t truly connect with it. That said, the book gave me a lot to think about and it has stuck with me for over a month after finishing it.

Three Things I Know Are True is a truly emotional story about a girl whose brother has been paralysed after playing around with a gum. It gave me so much to think about in terms of the topic at hand – gum control in the US. I don’t think the author advocated for either side of the debate overly strongly, but she did lay out the situation and the reasoning behind people’s opinions.

I really, really enjoyed this book, and I think if it had been written in normal prose, it would have hit me a lot harder. As it stands, I was still hit quite hard by the situation that the characters were in, but there was definitely some disconnect there.

I would highly, highly recommend reading Three Things I Know Are True, so please don’t be put off by my star rating. If you enjoy novels told in verse then this is a book that you should definitely read. The characters manage to draw so much emotion and the relationships between the characters was a joy to read about.

Review: What She Found in the Woods by Josephine Angelini

Review: What She Found in the Woods by Josephine AngeliniWhat She Found in the Woods by Josephine Angelini
Genre: Thriller
Release Date: 25th July 2019
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Rating: three-stars

Running from a scandal at her New York private school, Magdalena heads to her family home to recover under the radar.

Over-medicated and under-confident, she's fearful she'll never escape her past.

Until she meets Bo out hiking. Wild, gorgeous and free, he makes her believe she might finally be able to move on.

But when a mutilated body is discovered in the woods, Magdalena realises she can't trust anyone.

Not even herself.

I mean, What She Found in the Woods was a good book. It was decent. I enjoyed it a lot, and it kept me engaged. But I don’t think this is going to be an all time favourite, and to be honest the most memorable parts weren’t the thriller aspects at all.

I really enjoyed what Josephine Angelini did with this book. The main character, Lena, was enjoyable to read about because there were so many sides to her personality. She has a mysterious past, and she has apparently done something really wrong, and it’s a slow journey to learn what that is. I really liked the slow burn and revelations about her past experiences.

The love interest, Bo, is so sweet and cute, and while I didn’t SHIP ship it (I almost never do any more), I thought his relationship with Lena was adorable… for the most part. I had a few issues with it, that I won’t go into because of spoilers, but I will say there was so much insta-love. So much.

I’m also questioning the fact that Bo’s family were basically less aggressive anti-vaxxers but hey, let’s not be a downer.

Overall, this was a decent book, but it’s not one I’ll immediately go to to recommend to thriller readers.