Mini Reviews #8: Truly Devious, There There and Skyward

Hi everyone! Today, I’m going to talk about three books I finished recently. I didn’t think I had much to say about these books, but once I started writing, I got carried away. I promise my mini reviews aren’t always this long.

Truly Devious (Truly Devious #1) by Maureen Johnson

So many people were talking about this book a few weeks ago on Twitter so I gave in to FOMO and borrowed the audiobook from the library.

Truly Devious is set at a prestigious private school in Vermont founded by early 20th century tycoon, Albert Ellingham. Shortly after the school opened, Ellingham’s wife and daughter were kidnapped and a student was murdered. The only clue the kidnapper/murderer left was riddle signed “Truly Devious.” The book alternates between this event and present-day where we follow Stevie Bell, a true-crime aficionado, who is determined to solve this decades-old crime.

Honestly, this book was just okay. Most of the characters were forgettable, the mystery was 👌🏿, albeit a little unrealistic in some aspects, and the cliffhanger ending was frustrating as hell. What I liked about this though was the atmospheric setting, diversity (there’s mental health rep with Stevie who battles depression and anxiety, POC rep and LGBTQ rep), and how promising the mystery was because it felt like everyone was a suspect.

I liked Stevie and admired her passion for crime solving, but the way she waltz onto a crime scene and talked to whoever she wanted during an investigation was kind of ridiculous. At some point while reading I thought, “How is she doing this and where are the police?” The only reason I’m continuing this series is because I want to know whodunnit. I wish the mystery had been solved in this book because I feel forced to continue.

There There by Tommy Orange

I read There There for the Goodreads Choice Awards challenge I’m doing this year. This book wasn’t on my initial TBR, but after I saw that NYT article about A.J. Finn, I took The Woman in the Window off my TBR and added this. This book was nominated for best Debut of 2018.

There There is a beautiful and harrowing novel about urban Native American life, identity, and oppression. It follows 12 characters, who are connected in some way, as their life moves toward a huge Powwow event in Oakland, CA. The story builds to a devastating and violent ending that truly shook me up.

I had no clue what to expect going into this because I hadn’t read the synopsis. I’m kind of glad I didn’t because I was really intrigued and captivated the entire time. There There centers Native American voices and presents a multifaceted and nuanced depiction of 12 individual experiences. These characters deal with alcoholism, depression, domestic violence, drug violence, suicide, poverty, loss of culture and identity, and other challenges that Native Americans face.

The story is devastating and the end left me in state of shock and confusion, but the writing is beautiful and rich. There’s no closure in this and I felt melancholic after reading it, but I think that was the author’s intention. Overall, Tommy Orange is a remarkable storyteller and I look forward to reading more of his work.

Skyward (Skyward #1) by Brandon Sanderson

Skyward was my first Brandon Sanderson book ever. I’ve had an interest in reading his work for a few years because of his popularity, but felt hesitant and afraid I’d walk away angry because a lot of male SFF writers don’t know how to write women/girls. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case here.

Skyward is space opera about a teenage girl who’s dreamed of being a fighter pilot her entire life. Unfortunately, she’s faced with many obstacles along the way because her father—a pilot—deserted his team during a battle and was shot down by his team for this cowardice act. Thematically, this is a story about following your dreams in the face of adversity and how you respond when the odds are stacked against you. It’s also about family and the complexities of life.

I’m going to be completely honest, I didn’t understand most of the technical stuff in this book because I’m not that into science fiction and I’m also not verse in high-speed flying (that’s a me + physics/hard sciences + heights don’t go together thing). HOWEVER, I enjoyed this immensely and couldn’t put it down. The characters were great, the humor was on point, the plot unfolded nicely, and while I had some difficulty visualizing the battle scenes, those scenes were quite exhilarating to read.

I was really impressed with Sanderson’s storytelling, world-building and liked that his writing style isn’t dense or verbose. But what really stood out to me was Spensa’s growth. Spensa is dramatic, filled with bravado, slightly impulsive and her understanding of the world is very black and white. Flight school challenges in every way and we see her develop naturally . In addition to Spensa’s growth, the female friendships were *chef’s kiss* I loved that all of the characters were multidimensional, including the AI character, and the adults had an integral role in the story.

I didn’t give this five stars because as much as I loved this book, it was too long and the last twist at the end left something to be desired aka the explanation was a little confusing. Otherwise, this was a great read with a fantastic heroine. I don’t know how many books are planned in this series, but I’m looking forward to the next one.

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8 thoughts on “Mini Reviews #8: Truly Devious, There There and Skyward

  1. I’ll be in the same boat when it comes to skyward- I’m not that into sci fi so I’m sure the sciencey parts will go over my head too 😉 But I’m really glad it was hard to put down. Shame about truly devious. Great reviews!

    Liked by 1 person

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