Review: The Box In The Woods by Maureen Johnson

I absolutely LOVED the Truly Devious series, so I was thrilled when I learned that Maureen Johnson was writing another mystery featuring the same characters! I rarely preorder a book, preferring instead to wait until it appears in one of the half dozen Kindle daily deal emails I receive, but I knew had to get my hands on this one as soon as possible, so I purchased this one months before its release date. After what seemed like eons of waiting, finally the day came when I got to see beyond the cover to the actual pages of the book!

While I really enjoyed this story, it was definitely different from the previous novels in the series. For one, it felt darker, which I didn’t mind at all, but there were other differences that were an uncomfortable fit, like a too tight sock. The supporting characters (Stevie’s friends) felt a little off to me, maybe because they didn’t have as much of a chance to show their personalities in this one. They almost felt like window dressing to me – only there to serve a specific purpose instead of adding to the dynamics of the plot.

But I think the biggest difference for me was the mystery itself. There aren’t many suspects in this one, so the big payoff of the reveal is more focused on the how and why of the crime. The author does leave a trail of breadcrumbs for readers to follow, and while I don’t mind when I can’t put all the clues together early, when the motivation of the killer comes to light it this one, it almost felt like it wasn’t fair play.

Ultimately, I did like this book, but suspect I would have enjoyed it more had it used characters I was unfamiliar with. After waiting so long to reconnect with Stevie and the gang, the reunion felt a little underwhelming, but Maureen Johnson puts on a good show! 4.5 stars!

From Goodreads:

The Truly Devious series continues as Stevie Bell investigates her first mystery outside of Ellingham Academy in this spine-chilling and hilarious stand-alone mystery.

Amateur sleuth Stevie Bell needs a good murder. After catching a killer at her high school, she’s back at home for a normal (that means boring) summer.

But then she gets a message from the owner of Sunny Pines, formerly known as Camp Wonder Falls–the site of the notorious unsolved case, the Box in the Woods Murders. Back in 1978, four camp counselors were killed in the woods outside of the town of Barlow Corners, their bodies left in a gruesome display. The new owner offers Stevie an invitation: Come to the camp and help him work on a true crime podcast about the case.

Stevie agrees, as long as she can bring along her friends from Ellingham Academy. Nothing sounds better than a summer spent together, investigating old murders.

But something evil still lurks in Barlow Corners. When Stevie opens the lid on this long-dormant case, she gets much more than she bargained for. The Box in the Woods will make room for more victims. This time, Stevie may not make it out alive.

Monday (Mini #BookReview) Madness: Lisa Unger’s House Of Crows Novella Series

This week I read:

This novella series is about 4 adults who were friends as teenagers, a dark secret that they share, and the past that’s come back to haunt them.

This was a good introduction to the novella series. In this book we’re introduced to the major characters and we get a glimpse of their troubled pasts as well as the creepy house at the center of the mystery.

In the 2nd part of the series, we learn more about the dynamics of the characters’ childhood friendships, their adult relationships, and the darkness that followed them from their past into their present.

In the 3rd part of the series, we learn that things aren’t always as they seem. Danger lurks around every corner, and no one is safe.

The conclusion to the series packs a wallop with enough tension, suspense and unexpected twists to keep the reader on the edge of their seats! All in all a creepy, atmospheric series.

I just started:

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Monday (Mini #BookReview) Madness

This week I read:

Gifted teens in Vegas? What’s the worst that could happen? The 3rd installment of The Naturals series presents a tightly plotted, super smart mystery that deepens the arc that connects all the books. We get to know the characters, their backgrounds, and their motivations better as the author teases the reader with answers they so desperately want, all while deftly laying clues for them to solve the case at hand.

This final installment wraps the series up nicely. I’m sad that it’s over, but now maybe I can finally get some sleep! 🙂 Barnes is a master of creating tension and suspense even as the events teased throughout the series finally come to fruition. The stakes are high – not just because they’re life or death, but because it feels like you’ve come to know the characters and are invested in their fates. There you are, holding your breath, hoping for the best, and then whammy! What an emotional rollercoaster!

This novella picks up 6 years after the novels leave off. I was eager to read more about the characters I had come to know over the course of the series, and to discover how they had evolved as they aged. The case presented in this one was interesting and had a nice twist, but there was something missing. It felt a bit rushed, not just because there was a clock ticking down, creating a sense of urgency and suspense, but because the time usually spent with the characters and their development was missing. This was like a 2 hour movie paring down to a 1/2 hour show with half the cast. Good but not great.

I just started:

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Monday (Mini #BookReview) Madness

This week I read:

Three friends who share a mysterious secret from their past find themselves treading water as their lives start to unravel. Has the past come back to haunt them? Or is the threat a reality? This was good, but not my favorite by this author. A bit predictable and unbelievable at times. I enjoyed the dynamics of the friendship and the character development more than the suspense, which is rare for me.

Four college friends – or are they frienemies – meet up for a reunion. When the secrets come out, so do the claws, but some will pay more than others. Who do you trust when everybody’s a suspect? I enjoyed my time with this twisty mystery but wish I hadn’t pegged the culprit as early as I did.

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Monday (Mini #BookReview) Madness

This week I read:

I loved the idea behind this book – a club of high schoolers who celebrate their love of all things horror by pulling pranks and ‘fear tests’ on their fellow students. But even better than that, I loved the execution of this book! It’s all fun and games until someone takes it too far . . . that’s when things get really interesting. The thrills, the chills, the ‘everybody’s a suspect’ kept me gripped until the very end! My only complaint would be that the ending left so many questions unanswered – I can only assume that means there’s a sequel!

Three 12 year old girls who have been researching the man at the center of a local urban legend sneak out of a slumber party and go to the train yard, where one of them gets severely beaten. But who’s to blame?

It’s certainly a compelling plot, and brings to mind news reports surrounding murky figures such as slender man. Gudenkauf had me hooked! She does a good job of providing plenty of suspects for the reader, and while the twist had occurred to me while reading, it and was the one I had hoped she wouldn’t take, there’s no denying that I couldn’t put this book down!

I just started:

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Monday (Mini #BookReview) Madness

This week I read:

This book was spooky and creepy and seriously messed up! What begins with a teenage girl who has a supernatural ability to find things using her power to locate and end the reign or terror of a man who ‘feeds’ on the souls of children ends with the same girl – now a woman – trying to save her own son from the same man. At it’s core it’s a book about people with special powers who use them for good or evil, but it’s so much more than that. The character development and atmosphere are downright literary coupled with a sense of dread that makes your toes curl!

Take a remote setting, add plenty of secrets, and trap a group of people with someone who wants revenge and you have the recipe for success! This suspenseful story took me on a sleighride to thriller land! Plenty of atmosphere and a cast of characters who all had something to hide kept me glued to this book until the end – best of all, it kept me guessing! Hard to believe it’s a debut!

I just started:

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Monday (Mini #BookReview) Madness

This week I read:

A couple leaves their baby home alone while they’re at a dinner party next door, and even though they check on her every half hour, she’s missing when they return. All the characters are hard to like, but they’re all possibly the culprit. This book was twisty and suspenseful, but some of it was hard to swallow, and while I appreciate a book where nothing is as it seems and everyone’s a suspect, this one might have taken it a touch too far for me. Still, a good, entertaining read.

The mean girl frienemies trope taken to an entirely different level! This thriller bounces back and forth between a 10 year college reunion and the characters’ freshman year, where they’re struggling to make the adjustment to their new lives – and each other. Backstabbing, lies and drama ensue until the unthinkable happens. Now someone wants revenge for what happened all those years ago, and the stakes are higher than ever – because the truth may not come out, but the claws will!

I just started:

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Monday (Mini #BookReview) Madness

This week I read:

An Olympic hopeful gets injured, which leads to the discovery of an aggressive form of cancer, which in turns reveals that her parents aren’t biological. The modern day scenes alternate with scenes of two girls in a mental hospital and their exchange of letters afterwards. This one kept me guessing because I wasn’t sure who was who, and who was the bad guy. It made me think and feel and kept me off balance. Nice and twisty. A good summer beach read.

This book is a fictional account of what may have happened when Agatha Christie disappeared for 11 days in 1926. The idea itself is quite compelling – the mystery behind the mystery writer. It certainly kept me reading, but – perhaps because it was based on a real life occurrence – it wasn’t as twisty as I would have liked. Entertaining, but somewhat disappointing. I would have liked more from Christie’s character.

I just started:

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Monday (Mini #BookReview) Madness

This week I read:

This book was awesome! It was fast paced, suspenseful, and had a couple of nice surprises in store for the reader. The main character is in her senior year of high school – and the witness protection program. She just wants to keep her head down, blend in, and make it through the last 6 weeks of school so she can attend college and leave the program forever. But as long forgotten memories start to resurface, other demons from her past come back as well. A perfect thriller for your summer reading list!

Four college friends go to a remote Alaskan island to spend the summer working on their art – but they aren’t the only ones who show up! This was a gripping, fast paced story that kept me turning the pages. Plenty of suspense, but with a few minor plot hiccups that I would have missed entirely had I not been so intent on solving the mystery! The writing was a little rough in places, and it wasn’t completely unpredictable, but it was enjoyable, easy reading.

I just started:

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Monday (Mini #BookReview) Madness

This week I read:

This book drew me in and wouldn’t let me go. It had a bit of everything – secrets, suspense, dogs – even some humor for levity. I loved the characters and the plot – a girl who was found feral and alone in the woods when she was young now, as a teenager, trains search and rescue dogs with her adopted family and they get called to help search for a little girl who’s gone missing – was intensely compelling. As if that wasn’t enough, many things are not as they seem. I loved this book and was surprised to find the author wrote another book I read recently, “The Inheritance Games”, which I enjoyed, but this one was so much deeper and more emotional!

The plot of this book is all in the title, and given what it’s about, how could I not give it a try? But I was still taken by surprise, because it was so much more than I expected! It’s hard to express why I enjoyed this book so much without giving too much away, but the setting, the culture, the empathy the author creates all worked together in a way that had me hooked! Short and almost sweet.

I just started:

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