Friday, February 22, 2019

The Vanishing Stair (Truly Devious #2) Review

Hello, all!

I read Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson last year and loved it (review here). So it's no surprise that the sequel, The Vanishing Stair, was one of my most anticipated releases for 2019. Lemme just say, it did not disappoint.

A quick recap of the first for those not familiar: Stevie Bell is a young true crime aficionado who hopes to one day become a detective. She's enrolled at Ellingham Academy, a Vermont boarding school that is tailored to students with various talents. It's also the site of an unsolved kidnapping/murder case that happened in the '30s. Stevie has made it her mission to solve this cold case, and during the events of her investigation, one student is killed and another flees after being suspected of having something to do with it. Stevie and her friends, including her semi-crush David, are thrust into trying to find out who's behind these murders before it's too late.

**Potential Spoilers Ahead**

Pub Date: 1-22-19
Young Adult - Mystery 
We pick up pretty much right after the events of Truly Devious, with Stevie's parents taking her out of Ellingham following the death of student Hayes and the disappearance of Ellie, who Stevie slightly accused of having something to do with the tragic events. Stevie has been desperately trying to get back to Ellingham, and her wish comes true but not necessarily how she was imagining. Senator Edward King, David's snake of a father, has offered to bring her back on one condition: she has to keep tabs on David, who has started acting out once Stevie left, and make sure he stays in line.

Finally back at Ellingham, Stevie is quick to jump back into where she left off trying to uncover the truth behind the Truly Devious murders that happened back in the '30s. Stevie is paired with Dr. Fenton, a local professor who wrote one of the most famous books about the case, as a fact checker for her new novel. Between trying to keep David in line without him finding out why, and retracing Ellie's footsteps to see how and where she ran off to, Stevie isn't putting her full focus on the bigger mission at hand. Then while digging up information for Fenton, who Stevie gradually feels is also hiding something, she stumbles onto a massive lead that blows the decades long unsolved case wide open.

I loved coming back to this world and these characters. The true crime aspect and following Stevie along as she collects these clues and ties all the connections together is so fascinating. I'm also a sucker for the whole boarding-school-in-the-fall vibes. With this one, I found a new appreciation for Stevie's group of friends as well. Nate is so cranky and sarcastic; Janelle is lovely and caring; and Larry the security guard is so protective over Stevie. I was really impressed with the way the story and case developed. There were twists that I didn't see coming. Like the first book, Johnson blends the present investigation with the past events, this time including perspectives from the students, Francis and Edward (who were slightly touched upon in the first book as the potential writers of the Truly Devious ransom poem), and a little taste of Dottie, the student who was part of the murder. My only gripe is that I felt like the whole story could've been wrapped up in this book, rather than waiting a whole year for a third. This also means this book ended on a major cliff hanger, and if you thought the first book's cliff hanger was good, this one blows that out of the water. I seriously need the next book ASAP. If you're looking for a little mystery in your life, check this series out!

Rating: 4.5/5




Wednesday, February 20, 2019

OwlCrate February Review

Hello, all!

The theme for this month was Whimsical Beasts and it was so fun! Let's get into it.


First up was this little gemstone looking soap by Leeloo Soaps. I love the color of this and it has a really nice fresh scent.


I love a good bobble hat, and this purple one by Michelle Gray is so cute. I may not be the biggest fan of the whole unicorn trend, but I do always like a Harry Potter reference.


Last months box mentioned we would be getting something Spirited Away related in this one, and I'm so happy with it! This little Haku keychain was designed by Four Seasons Fox, and it makes me want to have a Studio Ghibli marathon ASAP.


I love when subscription boxes give you something practical. This umbrella was created by Anne Lambelet and features a bunch of creatures and magical beasts from Harry Potter. I was also really happy to get this because the umbrella I always keep in my car recently broke, so this is perfect.


I was surprised to find a second book in the box this month, but it's one that I've heard so much about. It's an exclusive edition of the graphic novel, The Tea Dragon Society, and I love tea and dragons, so I can't wait to read this one.


The main book for the month was Crown of Feathers by Nicki Pau Preto. On one hand, this is a story of survival, war and riding phoenixes into battle. On the other, it's a story about the bonds of sisterhood and the limits they'll stretch before ripping forever. Veronyka is a war orphan who dreams of being a phoenix rider. After being betrayed by her sister, Veronyka disguises herself as a boy in order to join the Rider ranks. Once she starts settling in, her sister turns up and unveils a tangled web of lies between the two that threatens to change everything. All the while, the empire has uncovered the Riders and is doing everything in their power to destroy them once and for all.

I hadn't heard of this book before, but it seems interesting. I also really love the pin for this month designed by Ink and Wonder Designs. Lemme know what you thought of this months box!

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Top 5: Love Songs

Hello, all!

As it's the day of lovey-dovey-ness, I thought what better than a Top 5 dedicated to the songs that inspire those heartfelt feelings.


1. If I Should Fall Behind- Bruce Springsteen: The Boss is known for being a gruff mans man, but boy, does he know how to sing a pretty song. This is all about staying beside one another and helping each other through the hard times, and it's just lovely.

Favorite lyric: "If as we're walking a hand should slip free / I'll wait for you / And should I fall behind / Wait for me"


2. "These Arms of Mine"- Otis Redding: This song makes me want to get married just so I can use it as my wedding song. I've loved it since the first time I heard it in Dirty Dancing, and if it's good enough for Baby and Johnny, it's good enough for me.

Favorite lyric: "These arms of mine, they are yearning / Yearning from wanting you / And if you would let them hold you / Oh, how grateful I will be"


3. "Wouldn't It be Nice"- The Beach Boys: This is such a happy, fun love song and it never ceases to put a smile on my face whenever I hear it.

Favorite lyric: "Happy times together we've been spending / I wish that every kiss was never ending / Oh, wouldn't it be nice?"


4. "Your Song"- Elton John: Could I really have a Top 5 without this? It's such an iconic love song and no matter how many times you hear it, it still makes you all warm inside.

Favorite lyric: "I hope you don't mind that I put down in words / How wonderful life is, now you're in the world"


5. "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out"- The Smiths: Maybe a slightly unconventional pick, but Morrissey just knows how to yearn. It's one of my favorite songs by The Smiths and I just love it so much.

Favorite lyric: "To die by your side / Well, the pleasure - the privilege is mine"

Do you have any favorites? Lemme know!




Tuesday, February 12, 2019

99 Percent Mine Review

Hello, all!

I recently found out that there's a book genre called "chick-lit", and it's pretty much rom-com's in book form. And if you weren't aware by now, I love a good rom-com. One of my favorite reads last year was The Hating Game  by Sally Thorne (which I just found out got a movie deal!), and when I saw she was coming out with a new novel at the end of January, I rushed to be the first in line at my library.

Pub Date: 1-29-19
Adult - Contemporary
99 Percent Mine follows Darcy Barrett, who has traveled the world and met a lot of men, but none who compare to her childhood friend (and crush) Tom Valeska. The only mark against perfect Tom is that Darcy's twin brother, Jamie, claimed him as his best friend first. Despite continuous efforts on Darcy's part, Tom has stayed off limits and loyal to Jamie. After finding the man of her dreams when she was 8, and a photography career that peaked when she was 20, Darcy has learned to settle for just good enough.

When the twins inherit a ram-shackled cottage from their grandmother, they're tasked with bringing it back to its former glory in order to sell the property. Darcy plans on jumping on a plane as soon as the renovations start, but that all changes once she sees a familiar face on her porch: house-flipper extraordinaire, Tom has come in all his tight t-shirt glory and he's single for the first time in almost ten years.

Suddenly, Darcy has a change of heart and decides to stick around and help with the job under the guise of not wanting her brother to ruin the inherit magic the cottage has. Getting close to a sweaty Tom isn't so bad either, or the fact that he's reignited her love of photography. As sparks start to fly, Darcy realizes sharing part of Tom just isn't good enough, she wants all of him.

I read this entire book in one day because I just couldn't put it down. Thorne's writing is quick, witty, and adorable. It literally reads like a popular rom-com movie. I could just see it all playing out in my head as I was reading. Her characters are relatable, and actually feel and act like real people. Like most in this genre, it does lean a bit towards the cheesy and slightly predictable side, but I don't really mind much. If you're looking for a fun fast read, I definitely recommend!

Rating: 4/5

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Mini Thoughts

Hello, all!

Both of these books I received through Netgalley and the publishers, so a big thank you to them! I also decided to start including my ratings of the books I review going forward to give you all a more well-rounded view of what I thought, in case you don't follow my Goodreads.

Pub Date: 2-19-19 by
Simon & Schuster
Adult - Fiction - Mystery
Who Killed the Fonz?- James Boice: This was described as being if Happy Days were an '80s crime noir, and that immediately drew me in. The story follows Richie, now Richard, Cunningham who is a 40-something down-on-his-luck Hollywood screenwriter. After a bad meeting with his agent, he gets even worst news: his best friend from back home, the Fonz, has died in a motorcycle accident. When Richard goes back to Milwaukee for the funeral, he uncovers something fishy about the way Fonzie died-- it was no accident, it was murder. I was a fan of Happy Days growing up, and so I really enjoyed all the nods to the show, and how the chapters were laid out like the days of the week like in the theme song. It was also a very quick read, but I felt like it took almost half the book to really get into the mystery behind Fonzie's death, and it turned out to be a bit predictable. Even though I wished it was a bit grittier, I did enjoy it for the nostalgia factor.

Rating: 3/5

Pub Date: 2-12-19 by
Berkley Publishing Group
Young Adult - Fantasy - Retellings
The Beast's Heart- Leife Shallcross: Once I saw that this was essentially a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, but from the Beast's perspective, I knew I wanted to read it. However, I was incredibly disappointed. The Beast has been alone for centuries until one day a weary traveler stumbles upon his lands. He offers the stranger food and hospitality from the shadows, and once the man falls asleep, the Beast looks into his dreams and see a beautiful girl he wants for his own. The following day, as the man is leaving, the Beast manipulates him into plucking a rose from his garden. In exchange for this flower, the man must bring his daughter, Isabeau, to stay in his castle with him. The Beast knows the man will not grant his wish, but Isabeau goes despite her father's protestations. From there, the story just really goes downhill for me. I felt there was just no connection between the two, and what I did feel was obsessive and uncomfortable. I also didn't like Beast's actions throughout, such as spying on her family with his magic mirror and constantly proposing marriage despite Isabeau saying no every time. Aside from those issues, I also felt the writing itself was heavy and boring, and felt myself losing interest the longer the story went on. This whole thing was really just not my cup of tea.

Rating: 2/5

Friday, February 1, 2019

Collectibles Haul

Hello, all!

I'm back again with another little haul of sorts. You all know by now how much I love a collectible, and so here are just a few I've picked up/received lately.


Beetlejuice is one of my favorite movies, and I picked up a Pop of the ghost with the most a few months ago, so obviously I needed to have Lydia as well. The second I heard Funko was making her in her wedding dress, I knew I needed it to be mine.


I'm a big fan of Weird Al (I actually have a Weird Al tattoo), so when I saw this at Barnes and Noble I immediately added it to my pile. I mean, just look at that tiny accordion and checkered Vans!


Funko had posted a pre-order for their Lost Boys Pops early last year, and I didn't even hesitate before adding this one of David into my cart. They were supposed to be released over the summer, but then they kept getting pushed back and back and back. Then finally this little baby showed up months later, and it was totally worth the wait. Now, whenever I look at it I can't stop going, "Maggots, Michael. You're eating maggots."


For Christmas, my Mom got me this cute little Q-Fig of Hermione casting a spell and I love it. I'd never seen a Q-Fig before, but I actually really like them.


This is probably my favorite thing I picked up: a chocolate frog replica. I saw various YouTubers who were talking about this, and then I stumbled upon it at Barnes and Noble and got super excited. The replica itself is made of a silicone type material, so it kinda wiggles when you move it, and it comes with the wizard trading card too. There's so much detail that went into this and I love it.

So, there's my latest additions to my ever growing piles of stuff. Hope you enjoyed!

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

LitJoy Crate January Review

Hello, all!

The first theme for this year was Pirate Thief, so let's jump straight into it.


First up was this print of Captain Rolfe from the Throne of Glass series designed by Salome Tortladze. This is the first time I've ever received something by her in a subscription box before, but I dig her style. It's exactly how I pictured Rolfe while reading the series.


Can you have a pirate theme without something drinking related? This little shot glass was a LitJoy exclusive, and it's a cute little addition for your bookshelf.


Next up was another exclusive item, a Pirates of the Caribbean inspired charm bracelet. I'm not a huge fan of the PotC movies, I think I only saw the first two and only liked the first, but I do like these types of bracelets.


These coasters featuring four famous pirates were designed by EvieBookish. They're really nice quality and I'm always a fan of her designs.


What goes hand in hand with pirates? A sea monster, of course! This kraken banner is really fun on its own or can be used as a pin banner. Mine did come untied, but that's no big deal. Then we had two more of the LitJoy Collectors Trading Cards of Manon and Lysandra from the Throne of Glass series. Both of these are some of my favorite characters in that series, especially Manon, so I'm super excited about these.


This month LitJoy included two books. The first was Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne. This follows the story of Stella, who is living on a spaceship which has been orbiting around an ice-encased Earth for two hundred years. With no prospects, Stella will do anything to leave, and jumps at the chance to be a governess on the private ship, the Rochester. The captain, Hugo Fairfax, is notoriously moody and a bit of a drunk, but he's kind to Stella. While on the ship, Stella discovers that someone is trying to kill Hugo, and the more she digs the more she uncovers a conspiracy aboard the Rochester. This is supposed to be a Jane Eyre retelling in space, so I'm interested to see how it plays out.


The main book of the month was Ship of Smoke and Steel by Django Wexler. In the lower wards of Kahnzoka, the great port city of the Blessed Empire, 18 year old Isoka is a ward boss who enforces the will of her criminal masters by way of the power of Melos, the Well of Combat. When her unique ability is discovered by the government, she's arrested and taken before the Empire and assigned a difficult mission: steal Soliton, a legendary ghost ship that no one has ever returned from, and if she fails, her sister's life is forfeit. Isoka must become part of Solition's brutal crew and confront an even darker magic than what she possesses.

This month they put the book in its own little cloth bag, which I thought was a nice touch. To be honest, although I did like some of the stuff they sent, this box sorta left me a little underwhelmed. Hopefully next month will be a bit more exciting!