Mrs. Ashworth’s review of Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

29589074In April, 1936, millionaire and founder of the Ellingham Academy, Albert Ellingham, received a riddle. A threat, signed “Truly Devious”. No one took it seriously at the time, because if there was anything Ellingham appreciated and nurtured, it was a love a good game. The Ellingham Academy just so happened to be a special free school for the gifted and talented, one where students were encouraged to use their brains. Unfortunately, soon afterward, one of the brightest students, Dottie Epstein, met a tragic end at the bottom steps of the tunnel leading to the glass-domed structure at the center of the lake behind the house. No one solved the crime. But Stevie Bell, of the current-day Ellingham crop, has decided that her school project will be to solve the murder. The problem: once Stevie starts broadcasting the news, another riddle appears, and another murder takes place, and the list of suspects for the current murder includes many of her classmates. Is the latest murderer a copycat, or has Truly Devious returned to keep the original case cold?

I appreciate a good mystery, and this certainly fits the bill.  It’s the first book in a series, so be prepared for a “to be continued…” at the end.

Mrs. Ashworth rates this book 4/5

Tags: betrayal, friendship, identity, light romance, mystery realistic fiction, suspense

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Isha’s review of The Scarlet Pimpernel by the Baroness Emma Orczy

51-bt9jwyqlThe novel begins in a very Tale-Of-Two-Cities-esque manner, as this book is set during the French Revolution, and the writing feels similar. It also dances around the ideas of conforming to societal norms prevalent during the Reign of Terror, in a very Tolstoy-way.

Soon, however, the story concentrates on the strained relationship between a man and a woman, and the increasing interest in France and England regarding an anonymous and controversial man, known as the Scarlet Pimpernel, who dresses in a mask and saves French Aristocrats from the guillotine. Another major part of the plot regards the apparent danger the woman’s brother is in (for helping the Pimpernel), and the woman’s internal conflict regarding whether to save her brother at the expensive of the safety and life of the anonymous hero.

I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys more classic, formal writing (as it might be frustrating to those who do not enjoy that sort of diction). As mentioned previously, it also reminded me of Tolstoy’s writing due to the sheer number of characters and their complicated web of relationships, as well as the descriptions of how high class society functions (similar to The Age of Innocence, as well).

I also recommend this to readers who enjoy mystery novels. While this book is not necessarily of mystery genre, the suspense regarding the identity of the Scarlet Pimpernel is equally thrilling.

This book would also be enjoyable to those who are fans of superheroes such as Batman and Spiderman! This book was particularly fascinating because I read elsewhere that many superhero stories such as Batman and Spiderman are all loosely based off of this novel, which was written and published in the early 1900s! While I am not necessarily an avid fan of superhero movies and comics, I am aware of the stories and watch the movies. Thus, it was fun to pick out aspects of the novel reflected in modern culture! (Hint: You can find many parallels between the symbols Batman leaves behind, and the ones the Scarlet Pimpernel utilizes, and similarities between the public opinion of the Scarlet Pimpernel and Spiderman!)

Happy Reading!

Isha rates this book 5/5

Tags: adventure, classic, French history, light romance, mystery, suspense

Paul’s review of The Family Romanov by Candace Fleming

the-family-romanov-candace-flemingSurrounding the mystery of the shooting of the last Romanovs, this book delves into the personal and political background of the Czar Nicholas II’s family’s murder in 1918, and beyond. Written almost like a diary with daily entries of important events, Fleming follows the daily life of the Russian royal family, their activities, interests, personalities, and problems, using multiple sources including people who actually worked for them. In addition to a description of the pivotal events of the Russian Revolutions of 1917, the major social causes are documented, showing the desperate situation of the peasants and city workers in imperial Russia, as well as the disastrous involvement in the Great War. Even to this day, scholars continue to figure out what happened to the last Romanov family, but this book brings some sense of closure to their case.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a great historical mystery, and a detailed description of the Russian Revolutions and seeks a greater knowledge of the Romanov family, as this book only covers a few years in depth, including many images. It is quite helpful in understanding what happened and why. I was quite surprised how the author was able to paint a detailed picture of the shooting, even explaining who died when and where, showing the collaboration with forensic scientists. This book is actually quite an easy read because of its story- and journal-like structure, so there is no need for a degree in history to comprehend the language used in this book.

Paul rates this book 5/5

Review: The Chess Queen Enigma by Colleen Gleason

23565495In the third book of the Clockwork Scarab series, Mina Holmes and Evaline Stoker are asked to become bodyguards for Lurelia, the princess of Betrovia, who is carrying a letter that has important information about the whereabouts of a chess queen that has been lost for centuries. Later on, when the princess is attacked and kidnapped, she reveals that someone has been blackmailing for the letter about the chess queen. As part of a scheme to find out more about the blackmailer and Pix’s shady dealings, Mina and Evaline go to a men’s club. Although the girls do not find Pix, they learn that he has been kidnapped and make plans to find him. The girls find Pix strapped to a chair connected to electricity by the Ankh from book one of the series. Will the girls save Pix and discover the secret of the chess queen? Or will they fall into the trap that a devious enemy set for them with the help of someone who they considered their friend?

I would recommend this book to readers interested in fantasy and who enjoy plot twists. Before reading this book, check out the Clockwork Scarab and Spiritglass Charade, Book 1 and 2 of the series.The book has paranormal elements such as time travel and vampires, and parts of romance. Though the book is filled with many plot twists as people who were thought to be friends reveal their true image, the ending of the book is perhaps the biggest plot twist of all as it goes against the entire story. However, the identity of their enemy from Book 1 is still not revealed, despite Mina’s firm conclusions.

This reviewer rates the book 4.5/5

Cassandra’s review of The Reader by Traci Chee

25064648“If anything could be a book, there was no telling what you could learn, if you knew what to look for. Smooth river stones spelled out across a mossy floor. Lines drawn in the sand. Or inscribed on the side of a fallen log, half-obscured by twigs and mulch: This is a book.” The Reader by Traci Chee begins with Sefia, who escapes to the forest with her aunt Nin after her father is viciously murdered. The two of them are able to survive in the wilderness together until Nin gets kidnapped. Suddenly on her own, Sefia will do anything in her power to rescue Nin. Her only clue is a strange rectangular object left behind by her parents, something she comes to realize is a book. Sefia slowly learns how to read, unearthing the Book’s secrets, which could explain the cause of all of her misfortune. With the help of legendary pirates and a boy-soldier, Sefia sets out on a dangerous adventure to rescue her aunt. Through the journey, she learns more about the world around her and the power she has to change it.

I loved The Reader!!! It took me a while to get into it (especially when the point of view switched from Sefia to Lon), but after I got through a slight reading slump, I breezed through the book. The characters are wonderful! Sefia is a tough girl with a strong moral conscience. I loved how there are multiple story lines that run through The Reader, which eventually intertwine in a plot twisting way. The balance between character development (the “slow” moments) and action was perfect. Also, it is hard to pinpoint an evil character, because you get an idea of how everyone is thinking [omniscient narration]. I would recommend The Reader to anyone who likes fantasy. (The Reader kind of reminds me of Six of Crows.) I can’t wait till the second book comes out!!

Cassandra rates this book 5/5

Natalie’s Review of Newt’s Emerald by Garth Nix

24737347A slightly magical girl disguises herself as a man in order to reclaim her magical emerald. She turns out to be more resourceful than the men around her believe her to be, but her affection for a man she meets hinders her successful recovery of the gem.

I recommend this book for people who enjoy historical fiction involving magic and a sweet romance. However, those who enjoy mystery might be disappointed by the book’s anticlimactic resolution that’s atypical of mystery novels.

Natalie rates this book 3.5/5

 

Review: Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason

41f0anc74bl-_sy344_bo1204203200_Mina Holmes and Evaline Stoker are not as different as they seem. Although Mina possesses mind blowing powers of deduction and Evaline is constantly searching for new vampires to kill, both are committed to discovering the connection between the mysterious death of two girls and Egyptian scarabs even if it means putting their own lives at risk. As they reluctantly join forces to solve this mystery, both of them develop romantic interests in two extremely intriguing men. The plot of this story is filled with a few twists and can be interesting to the reader. I liked that the female characters had desirable traits such as courage, passion and even empathy. However, the ending did not reveal the true identity of the woman who had referred to herself as the Ankh and who had been highly involved with the mystery of the Egyptian Scarabs.

The Clockwork Scarab is the first in a series of four captivating books. I would recommend this book to readers who enjoy mysteries with some elements of romance. Although some romance is involved, the mystery and the setting is the main focus of the novel. Details of Evaline’s encounters with a man named Pix and Mina’s encounters with Dylan are smoothly integrated into the plot of the story.

This reviewer rates the book 4.5/5