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

This week I read:

I LOVED this book! And I stayed up WAY too late reading it! Some people have a natural gift for reading people . . . what happens when the FBI recruits them while they’re still teenagers? In full disclosure I did guess who the villain was, but I didn’t care. I loved the characters, the storyline, everything. Every once in a while a book comes along where I have to pick the sequel up immediately – and this was one of those books!

Barnes is officially to blame for my sleep deficit! This is the 4th book I’ve read by her this year, the 2nd in this series, and she’s quickly become one of my YA favorite authors. The stakes are no less serious in this sequel, the characters no less likeable, the storyline no less suspenseful! Teenage angst and twisty plots? I’m addicted! I just broke my book buying diet to buy the next installment!

I just started:

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Monday (Mini #BookReview) Madness

This week I read:

There’s so much going on it this book! A teenage boy struggling to reconcile the wild stories his grandfather told him with reality after his loss. A mysterious island where he meets mysterious children that give him a glimpse into his grandfather’s past. And . . . Nazis? Yeah, Nazis. But the author does an excellent job of weaving all the threads together, making the outlandish and impossible seem quite sane and able. I found myself accepting even the paranormal-ish aspects of the book without question. An enjoyable adventure!

I’ve read several of White’s books before, and can usually count on her for a good thrill. This one felt different from the start, though. Usually her books center around the suspense of who will be murdered, but this one starts with the murder and switches between what led to the crime and the trial. Still a compelling read, but it didn’t keep me on the edge of my seat quite as much as I’d hoped. It did, however, wrap up with a nice twist!

I just started:

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Monday (Mini #BookReview) Madness

This week I read:

This was a really interesting book. The author creates a work of fiction while also drawing on her own family roots based on being one of Cotton Mather’s descendants. She parallels the Salem Witch Trials to modern day bullying in high school while also weaving in a some ghosts and modern day witches. It was fun and suspenseful, with likeable characters, witty dialogue, and plenty of action. I enjoyed this one so much I already bought the sequel!

I’m quickly becoming a big fan of Weiland’s books on the craft of writing! They’re full of useful information, they’re entertaining, and with the many examples she gives using both popular books and movies, they’re easy to understand. I’ve always focused on plot when writing because while reading, even a book full of characters I hate can keep my attention if the plot is good enough, but after reading this I’m going to work on making my stories deeper by developing my character arcs!

I just started:

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Monday (Mini #BookReview) Madness

This week I read:

This is an ARC of a book PLL’s author Sara Shepard wrote with a 16 year-old influencer, and I have to say that, unfortunately, it shows. While the story is good and shows an interesting insider’s view of the influencer industry, it’s not quite as compelling as Shepard’s books usually are, and there’s something distinctly juvenile about the writing style. I’d say this one’s best for younger readers. 3.5 stars rounded up to 4.

Secret organizations, ancient families, and a school that teaches its students deadly skills? Yes, please. This was a fast paced, enthralling YA book that was so much fun that I had to start the sequel ASAP, even though book one has a nice conclusion if you don’t want to read on. Plenty of fun and useful info too!

I just started:

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Monday (Mini Book Review) Madness

This week I read:

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Very simplistic in its style, and a little bumpy in places, but it’s a CLUE pastiche! CLUE!!! After a childhood (and adulthood) spent defending my undefeated CLUE championship title, I feel like there was no way that I couldn’t have loved this book – and I did! Looking forward to the next book in the series! 

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I didn’t enjoy this one quite as much as The Sundown Motel, but still a solid, suspenseful ghost story. Plenty of atmosphere and mystery made this a hard book to put down!

I just started:

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Monday (Mini Book Review) Madness

This week I read:

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This was sweet, and cute, and everything good. I didn’t like it as much as Simon, but it checked all the boxes you look for in a feel good YA story. Quick and easy and fun (and funny!), well developed characters and a plot that makes you care.

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I almost DNFed this multiple times. There were too many POV characters, and Hawkins didn’t develop them well enough in the beginning for me to keep them straight and know who was who, which I found frustrating. It finally picked up about 60% in. Yikes! It ended up a decent story, but I doubt I’ll read one of her books again.

I just started:

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Flawless (Pretty Little Liars #2) by Sara Shepard ~ Fiction Book Review

162089I keep asking myself why I’m reading these books. I’m slightly ashamed of myself. But the honest truth is that I’m reading them because I can’t stop! They’re my guilty pleasure. When I’m reading an adult book, I’m thinking of these and wishing I was reading them instead.

In the second installment of the Pretty Little Liars series, the girls are back with new drama and old worries. The reader learns more about “the  Jenna thing” while more potential suspects for A’s true identity are introduced. The suspect pool is then reduced the only it truly can be – by a death.

These aren’t the best written books and honestly I find some of the characters so vapid and annoying that I want to slap someone, but they are addictive, and I NEED to know who A really is. So what this YA series lacks in the literature department it makes up for in knowing how to keep a reader hooked – and, as most writers will tell you, that’s a vital skill to have! 5 stars!

Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard ~ Fiction Book Review

162085I’ve heard about the TV show, Pretty Little Liars, and while I’ve never seen an episode, I have humored the thought that in another life (younger, more time, if I knew what channel it was on) it might be a show that I’d watch. I had no idea that it was based on a book series, though, until I found it at my local Friends of the Library book sale for a quarter.  What follows are my honest thoughts about this book. (Don’t judge.)

I wasn’t particularly impressed by the writing. I was quite worried to discover that I was reading about 7th graders, then quite relieved to find the characters are only that young for the first chapter. These girls are much naughtier than the adult women in the books I normally read. (Not that I wasn’t this age myself and that I don’t realize what goes on – I claim the 5th on ever misbehaving myself in any way – but I was slightly shocked that mothers let their daughters read this, and could not decide at what age I’d expose my daughter, if I had one, to this book.) I didn’t connect with any of the characters, and was almost through the book by the time I was able to keep them straight.

BUT – I’m hooked. I have to know what happens. Who is A? What does she have in store for these girls? I couldn’t sleep after finishing this book because I was so busy listing suspects and scenarios to identify and/or explain A. I’ll admit it – I felt myself blushing when my husband looked at the cover of this book, then at me with a questioning look – but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that this series is my newest guilty pleasure. 4.5 stars.

 

 

 

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