The Maidens by Alex Michaelides | Book Review

Pages: 337

Genre: mystery, crime

It has lots of trigger warnings, I would recommend to look them up before reading it.


Edward Fosca is a murderer. Of this Mariana is certain. But Fosca is untouchable. A handsome and charismatic Greek Tragedy professor at Cambridge University, Fosca is adored by staff and students alike—particularly by the members of a secret society of female students known as The Maidens.

Mariana Andros is a brilliant but troubled group therapist who becomes fixated on The Maidens when one member, a friend of Mariana’s niece Zoe, is found murdered in Cambridge.

Mariana, who was once herself a student at the university, quickly suspects that behind the idyllic beauty of the spires and turrets, and beneath the ancient traditions, lies something sinister. And she becomes convinced that, despite his alibi, Edward Fosca is guilty of the murder. But why would the professor target one of his students? And why does he keep returning to the rites of Persephone, the maiden, and her journey to the underworld?

When another body is found, Mariana’s obsession with proving Fosca’s guilt spirals out of control, threatening to destroy her credibility as well as her closest relationships. But Mariana is determined to stop this killer, even if it costs her everything—including her own life.

My thoughts

two out of five stars

I didn’t expect just how much of the crime genre format this book would have, where it put upon itself certain boundraries like having to introduce all these very shady characters so that you hopefully will be guessing who, if more than one, is the real murderer. It seems like that choice also makes for most of the elements I dislike. For exmaple the protagonist Mariana has to tell you everything about herself and her grief over her dead husband upfront to make space for the plot and the other character introductions. Like my thoughts on the introduction already at 40 pages in was – You ever read a story that is so obviously written by a man, even if you have no single quote that bad to pull from?* Mariana was the ultimate psychotherapist dealing with grief and being stalked by her patient, but never seeming too scared or concerned. It was made worse when I looked up the author, who seemingly has also studied and worked within psychotherapy.

As the story continued I leaned more about it being a choice to make her so very stereotypical therapist, but there were certain spots where I wasn’t sure. The book always has the allure of gods and wherever they are real along for the ride, but it’s obvious the author doesn’t intend for it to be magical realism. But then it’s weird to bring in these people that can read others so well and how the therapist Mariana can «feel» a person’s anger like this:

“She felt a burning sensation in her stomach, a prickling in her skin – which she associated with anger.

But whose anger? Hers?

No – it was his.

His anger. Yes, she could feel it.”

Which doesn’t a good detective novel make, I would say, when there’s no clues to follow only the protagonist feeling other’s emotions. I think the character of Edward Fosca is the most well-done, when he is in focus or rather when Mariana here and there focuses on him as a suspect, yet we never get any reason behind his eccentric behaviour. He isn’t a difficult character to write, just make him a “The Secret History” professor mixed with a Hannibal poise and charm (even if seen through Mariana’s eyes) and make everyone constantly describe him as dazzling. He is the one that brings most of the good elements of Ancient Greek stories and this study group society of Maidens that is his special students who he controls, which also where the dark academia elements are. It’s obvious the author has studied at Cambridge, and so the setting in general and the lonely feeling it can be as a student is described well. So is the red tape you can get around if you know the right people, as is the basis of Mariana’s investigation as she’s not a detective. The twists were half-way obvious and half-way surprising, but it kind of ends on that note and nothing else that is out of bounds is ever explained. And in that way any depth Mariana might have given the other characters doesn’t linger, they don’t stand out on their own.

At a certain point, if you are to write a book which includes such truly gruesome acts as this did, it does the whole book a disservice to just throw it in as a reveal for the murderer and their backstory at the end. Also the young wealthy women of the Maidens have no reaction to when their classmates are being murdered, and whether they are next, and it’s never looked further into other than being pointed out and explained as a bad (maybe abusive is used? I don’t remember) group dynamic.

How did I feel reading this book: I read it quickly, but I was annoyed a lot of the time, some of the time I was impressed by the details and certain scenes, but it never lasted. I would not recommend this book and I now would say I disagree with the dark academia genre it has been thrown into as well. Murders happen in the “The Secret History” by Donna Tartt and others, but the whole focus is on the psychological obsessions and breakdowns in the group leading to it.

*About this obviously being written by a man; as I finished up the review it seems like a thing very many has picked up on. As this review from Natalie so perfectly puts it: “It is glaringly apparent Michaelides struggled to truly understand women and how they think and behave; their fears and motivators, and relegated them to orbiting around men and their influence.”

The Hand on the Wall (Truly Devious #3) by Maureen Johnson | Book Review

Pages: 369

Genre: young adult mystery

My thoughts

Rating out of five: four stars

At the start of the book I really felt the heaviness of it being the third one, in that it felt both a bit much of the same setup, setting and storyline. But that quickly faded as the plot really picked up speed and Maureen Johnson impressed me by how she managed to tie up everything around the multiple and connected murder mysteries these three books has followed. It takes turns, it brings dramatic scenes while seamlessly switching between the past mysteries and the present ones. There is some less focus on the characters’ personalities than previously, but it feels natural because Stevie is so obsessed with finally figuring everything out and is isolating herself. It’s written in this perfect way of showing how everyone around her at the boarding school is working on their projects and overcoming their griefs, but we only see glimses of what’s around her because Stevie is most of the time too much in her own head to pay attention. Still, for those reasons, it doesn’t have the same bright moments in between the murders as the previous books had.

The lack of David (which is the main romantic lead) for most of the novel was also explained with great care when it all came down to it, which played well into the focus and creating different tensions in Stevie’s life. She and David has hurt each other with playing into the hands of outside forces like David’s far-right politician dad (who aspires to become president). It showed in how cruel they at points are to each other, without removing the chance of redemption, which is a well-balanced feat. Some people seem to hate this romance, but it does feel like their problems is caused by personal differences and past betrayals more so than “hating each other” or lacking chemistry. In general, the characters of these books have always been very good at their thing (which got them into this special boarding school), but not been the most all-round likeable characters, which I’m personally very fine with. When it comes down to it everything in this book has the backdop of power and money, which ties the nearly fantastical stories Stevie is uncovering to a familiar reality.

I realized the next book in the series is the some of the same cast, but a new story and setting, which is exciting!

hospital stay & new tbr books | Bi-Weekly Update

New book posts:

Other books I’ve been reading:

  • The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel A. van der Kolk (non-fiction, metal health)
  • When I Arrived at the Castle by Emily Carroll (queer graphic novel)
  • A great, short book in norwegian about magic/shamans in sami culture and especially the “witch trials” in the north of Norway. It’s strange the darker parts we learn of other countries’ history in school, but not so much our own.
  • Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse (urban fantasy, post-apocalyptic, author is familiar with Navajo culture through her husband & the protagonist is Navajo)

Added to TBR:

  • Beneath the Dead Oak Tree by Emily Carroll because I read & liked her other graphic novels “When I Arrived at the Castle” and “Through the Woods”
  • Peace Breaks Out by John Knowles because I read & liked Knowles’ other, much more well-known novel “A Separate Peace” and both are set at the same boarding school, so I expect all of the classic & dark academia vibes, maybe even more homosexual undertones. I’m going to enjoy writing my queer take of a review on A Separate Peace, because although the author has denied it, there’s some definite “I’m in love with my bestfriend” moments there. As I mentioned on tumblr as I read this book in one night; “I’m 47 pages in, and had to google it to make sure since the main character is once again remarking on very specific things, like how much this athletic boy’s skin radiates, like you know – boys being boys often do ??”
  • The Magus by John Fowles (classics, mystery) because why not. And the intriguing promise of “a young Englishman who accepts a teaching position on a remote Greek island, where he befriends a local millionaire. The friendship soon evolves into a deadly game, in which reality and fantasy are deliberately manipulated, and Nicholas finds that he must fight not only for his sanity but for his very survival.”
  • Red Dragon (Hannibal Lecter) by Thomas Harris (horror, psychological thriller) – yeah, two weeks ago I wondered whether “rewatching two seasons of Hannibal in two days are not what you should do when you’ve been sick” before having to reconnect with society and actual people. I did survive going into society, if barely – like truly, corona made its upswing again where I lived just as I stepped my foot out that door. But now that I’m stuck with myself again, why not read Hannibal as well.
  • The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton is a mystery/thriller I’m sceptical if I’m going to like, I’ve seen reviews that leads me to believe it’s a very hit or miss type of book. But many of them describe it as ‘devilish’ because everyone is unreliable, which I see as a positive and what I’m looking for right now.
  • A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin because I always say I need to read more of her work, which are classics of the fantasy/science fiction genre, but I never seem to get around to it.
  • Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir (fantasy) because while it was released last year, it’s gotten so many good reviews (goodreads average 4.20!!!) and I’m definitely here for the queer necromancers.
  • A Winter’s Promise by Christelle Dabos (YA fantasy, dark academia), recommended to me by a friend.

Posts I’ve loved by other bloggers:

I started reading through more blog posts from others again prior to the hospital visit, but it did give me time to spend and I found some enjoyment through posts like these –

  • ONLINE BOOKSHOPS TO SHOP AT INSTEAD OF AMAZON: BREAKING UP WITH AMAZON (PART I) by arub unwritten: I rarely buy books now and they’re mostly from norwegian bookstores. But I have also automatically bough books from bookdepository for the convenience, before I started to feel bad about that. Then I found this post which gives a pretty neat introduction, especially to other stores to look into. And it includes which places the stores ship too! Should be a requirement, jeez. Hive was pretty empty (for me at least) considering the corona-struggle of shipment, but I’ll definitely check in with them in the future again.
  • Ink-Stained Forest’s Literature Journey where they talk about exactly that, but it was a familiar & beautifully written type of journey, an example of what place and function literature can have in your life, and how it can vary over time. It also made me want to sit down and truly look at if I also have these almost episodic changes to what type of book or genre I read and the function that fills. Even if I switch between reading both for reflection and enjoyment, without always going into a book knowing which one I’ll most likely get more of.
  • Fall Reads by your reading needs by forgot second breakfast (which is a unique & impressive name): a good, short list of fall reads that gives you spooky, adventure, athmosphere & romance and reminds me I want to get to Gideon the Ninth soon.
  • Mathematical science fiction books from Book Riot: I’ve been looking for lists like these for so long! I cannot tell you accurately enough the struggle to find these types of books (or fantasy), then separate the bad mathematics from the badly promoted mathematics, but the part it plays in the book is good enough. I’m not talking about brilliant even, just good enough!! I can vouch for Zero Sum Game being good (I haven’t sat down researching all the math topics mentioned, but it seems legit and has a fun kind-of-supernatural part), although you might have different problems with that one if you’re not ready for a lot of bloodshed and morally gray characters.
  • Favorite Villains by Mary Drover: I’ve been too into villains this autumn and here was a few new ones I’ve yet to put on the never-ending TBR list of them, hahha.

Three things on my mind:

  • I had to start this week off by going to the emergency room at 5 am for major stomach pain, then I was at the hospital for five days. I’ve just been released, but they did not find out what happened even with a lot of tests. So I’ve yet to eat proper food without throwing up, meaning I was let go with a “come back if you don’t get better”. I have crohn’s disease already, which can affect your entire intestine, as well as a gallbladder diagnosis, and lung trouble that we don’t yet know the cause of – so it could be basically anything is what I’m saying. I wrote a mini-post about it just now, surprisingly it’s very reflective on illness, empathy & friendship. If there’s something I’ve done this week it’s spending a lot of time thinking, staring out into nothing. And while very original thoughts doesn’t appear right then, I’ve found it does start up this process and suddenly you find yourself with new insights, ideas and opinions.
  • An extremely specific hospital-college crossover pro-tip; if going to the hospital for closer to a week, send a message to the people you live with or, if you’re like me and extremely drugged on pain killers & pain, have one of them message the others explaining the situation. Because if not you end up with my scenario where one of the people you talk most to just happens to have a strange week where he doesn’t see the others that much and suddenly it’s been three days and he’s like “where are you?” and oops, you realize the mistake. It’s already a funny mistake, but jeez, I feel bad for both of us in this scenario… It took three whole days!
  • My friend & roommate is reading Harry Potter for the first time and discovering book fandoms. Mainly draco tiktok, which my slytherin self had to realize how many good content creators was behind it. So she is talking about wanting to write fanfics. I have to admit I’ve never written fanfiction, but I don’t know how to tell her I genuinely put a lot of effort into writing through high school. I sent the message “what do you think the chance is that I’ve ever written 50k words on a project?” and got “you? never” instantly in reply. For reference my WIP is about four times that (and needs to be cut down considerably to be useful for anything). Mostly because, looking back, you can truly see the quality of my writing progress through which parts are written first and years later, because I write weird (that’s for another time). But oh, how much this made me rethink how much of a book-nerd I seem in real life; even with the amount of books I own, apparently not a big enough one. We’re mostly all nerds here at my uni, but I am truly a book nerd as well and it’s going to be a more difficult time proving it than I thought.

Anti-heroine & Action in the Cas Russell Series by S. L. Huang

The series so far (2020) consists of Zero Sum Game #1, Null Set #2, Critical Point #3

Pages: 336, 312 and 368

Genre: thriller/mystery type of book with some science fiction aspects, mostly in people with ‘superpowers’ (used for more bad than good)

It’s truly going into the pile (in my head) of favourite books.


For the first book as to not spoil anything;

Cas Russell is good at math. Scary good. The vector calculus blazing through her head lets her smash through armed men twice her size and dodge every bullet in a gunfight, and she’ll take any job for the right price.

As far as Cas knows, she’s the only person around with a superpower…until she discovers someone with a power even more dangerous than her own. Someone who can reach directly into people’s minds and twist their brains into Moebius strips. Someone intent on becoming the world’s puppet master.

Cas should run, like she usually does, but for once she’s involved. There’s only one problem…
She doesn’t know which of her thoughts are her own anymore.

My thoughts

Rating out of five: five stars, four stars, four stars

I was looking for a character like Cas when I started this series, which I think is the clue to liking it. What you’re dealing with is mob/cartel level of action and bloodbath, where the side characters are everything from cops turned ‘personal investigators’ to trained assassins and sharpshooters. Not to mention the whole ‘evil organization’ thing going on, which turns out to actually have a whole epic scheme going on. The bad reviews I’ve seen has made me angry in that they’re mostly people who hate the cold calculated voice that Cas brings to this, but surely they’re warned that this isn’t some young adult book and that she’s grown up with this level of violence, even as the lack of knowledge of her background becomes a bigger and bigger plot point.

Cas is deadly, supernaturally so, with some question-marks at the end of that remark. The more science fiction and supervillains with powers parts comes through in the second and third book more, but I liked it. The math parts I expected to be bad from the synopsis, but they were an interesting part of her abilities, and plays a good role in the books. As the math lover I am, I would’ve wanted even more of it, but it’s like drizzled in there so that it can be ignored by those who would want to. It adds a bit of magic, almost.

The level of action, the mystery of Cas’ past, the level of gray area of morality (turning completely black at some points), the bad guys with a conscience – it all really made me love this series. The ‘superpowers’ are original, the writing funny in a dry way. It has everything I was looking for in a fast-paced, but exciting read. But then I do love the character of Rio as well, the emotionless being he seems to be. I mean who can’t be interested after a sentence like this –

“Ms. Russell,” said Dawna delicately, “I am not sure you are fully aware of Mr. Sonrio’s skills. His ability to be effective—it borders on the unrealistic. He has destroyed entire governments. Leveled armies. Found and obliterated terrorist cells the intelligence agencies of several continents were chasing their tails trying to pursue. He has altered the course of nations. A lone man.” Her voice was calm, factual, and very serious. Huh. So that was what Rio did in his spare time. I’d had no idea he was that impressive. I’m not going to lie: I was jealous.

Book Haul #2

I rarely buy books, compared to a lot of book blogs. But finally I’ve gathered enough recent buys. Also I just bullet-pointed the interesting parts to me of those synopsis because some make them way too long.

These shallow graves by Jennifer Donnelly

  • Mystery; main character’s dad is murdered and she investigates

A brief history of time by Stephen King

  • Physics <3<3

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

  • I love Murakami’s writing usually
  • Magical realism ❤
  • Set in Tokyo
  • I cannot decipher everything that the synopsis says happen in this book, only that it follows a lot of people, including a writer, a cult, a private investigator, a bodyguard and a women’s shelter?? Is that right? Sounds like Murakami

The body in pain by Elaine Scarry

  • One of my goals of 2019 was to find out how to describe pain, which might sound strange, but makes sense I promise. This was the place to start, according to a lot of sources.


In the Woods (Dublin Murder Squad #1) by Tana French

  • Set in Dublin
  • Murder investigation following a detective
  • Promising lots of mystery

Demons Lie (A Girl’s Guide To Witchcraft And Demon Hunting #1) by Sherry D. Ficklin

  • Main character out for revenge on mother’s murder
  • Killing demons
  • High school graduation a big thing??
  • Hinting at main character turning darker

A very large expanse of sea by Tahereh Mafi

  • Main character is a muslim girl who’s sixteen living in the US after 9/11 dealing with harassment


Dutch Girl: Audrey Hepburn and World War II by Robert Matzen

  • About Audrey Hepburn during the Nazi occupation in Netherlands, which I’ve never considered
  • Parents was pro-nazi from what I see from the synopsis
  • Story of how she suceeded as a ballerina

How to Fracture a Fairy Tale by Jane Yolen

  • Rewritten fairy tales

Have you read any of these books? Or bought any other books you’re excited about?

The Truth About Keeping Secrets by Savannah Brown | Book Review

Pages: 336

Genre: young adult, lgbt characters

About the book

Sydney loses her dad abruptly in a car crash. He was a therapist, helping a lot of people. But with the job came keeping a lot of secrets. After the funeral June, a popular girl Sydney has never talked much to, starts to show interest and they become friends. Their sudden bond doesn’t make much sense to Sydney or anyone else. It’s a story about grief and how differently people deal with it, about friendship and relationships, and discovering who you are and what your limits are.

My thoughts

Rating out of five: four

I started out this book with high hopes and immediately loathing how slow it felt.. So far I’ve liked Savannah’s poetry, but while the writing in this book is direct and easy to follow, I didn’t like it overall. The book starts with a huge a loss. And if you’ve ever lost someone, you know that pain and emptiness – this book doesn’t described it particularly elegantly or extraordinarily – resulting in how a beginning that felt really bland. It wasn’t before I was halfway through the book that it started to really pick up.

When Savannah Brown stepped up the action, the writing, characters and mystery really came together. This book describes my first experience being drunk nearly perfectly, and I was laughing out loud. Probably because Sydney also likes to have much control, at least over herself. It’s in passages between characters where I really feel how Savannah is my age and a recent teenager. The questioning of sexuality. The use of technology and phones. It was all really well done.

It’s one of those books that is so difficult to pitch to someone without spoiling the plot, as it has mystery-vibes to it as Sydney tries to figure out who’s harassing her and what happened to her dad. I completely recommed it though! Be prepared to perhaps cry (like I did towards the end).


Some particularly interesting parts:

  • The inclusion of a webside similar to the recently banned r/watchpeopledie was unexpected, obviously this protagonist becomes obsessed with the macabre as a coping strategy and she walks the reader through her thoughts around that, as well.
  • The relatable moment of an introvert being like “is she this touchy feely with everyone or am I special?” – it’s an issue.
  • The back and forth of whether Sydney’s view of June was something she had created in her head, on a pedestal, or if their relationship was much more real than that
  • Olivia seems like a very shitty friend?? Like I get that there’s some unreliable narration through Sydney’s eyes, but come on. She feels so realistic.
  • The out of body moment Sydney has when she watches the video of her dad was one of the better written parts and while it was harrowing to the character, it was really a moment I’ll remember in this book
  • A very satisfying, but still realistic ending!

Favourite quotes

“This was when I realized why, exactly, I got along with June, and why it was so easy to trust her: she didn’t treat grief like a problem to be solved, but a constant to be endured.”

“I’m worried that I’ve made you out in my head to be something that you’re not.’ June was silent for a moment, then said, in a small voice, ‘I’m worried I did the same thing for you. […} Like looking out of a window of a house I was locked inside.”

If We Were Villains by M. L. Rio

Pages: 370

Genre: contemporary mystery, set in a college


On the day Oliver Marks is released from jail, the man who put him there is waiting at the door. Detective Colborne wants to know the truth, and after ten years, Oliver is finally ready to tell it.

Ten years ago: Oliver is one of seven young Shakespearean actors at Dellecher Classical Conservatory, a place of keen ambition and fierce competition. In this secluded world of firelight and leather-bound books, Oliver and his friends play the same roles onstage and off: hero, villain, tyrant, temptress, ingénue, extra. But in their fourth and final year, the balance of power begins to shift, good-natured rivalries turn ugly, and on opening night real violence invades the students’ world of make believe. In the morning, the fourth-years find themselves facing their very own tragedy, and their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, each other, and themselves that they are innocent. 

Audiobook review

The narrator is good, except for how he’s trying to do the female voices. Every heard one narrator dub tv series? It’s hilariously bad. Also there’s a lot of characters in the friend-group to meet all at once at the beginning, so I actually picked up the text version the second chapter and went back to really understand who each of them is, because there’s no good separator in the audiobook (except for bad female voices). I would recommend physically reading this one, I was packing for a trip and wanted to get throught it.

My thoughts

Rating out of five: three

I picked this book up because of its college/university setting and saw it recommended for those who liked “The secret history” by Donna Tartt. That book is much better than this one, in a lot of ways. They both do have a “dark academia” vibe – which I recently learned was a thing and I love it. I wanted to give it an extra star for that alone, but then I saw that ending and thought hell no, I was bored through too many parts of this book.

I’m happy I read the book, because it had its entertaining points as the characters uncover dark things about the others and themselves. It’s very centered on the characters and who’s friends and enemies as they all attend the same class. So it’s dark and dramatic, which also comes through in the greek plays they perform. The theater parts were very nice details, going through the whole book and giving it more texture and depth. You can see how the characters are pushed to excell and that they know that themselves, before they start to unravel from guilt. Still, I didn’t feel the characters was given enough space to show how supposedly three-dimensional they was. Instead the author seemed to make them do things out of character, playing on “well, you don’t know when they’re acting or not” which sure is an explanation, but doesn’t help on feeling that connection for the reader.

I both loved and hated the writing at points. On one hand it has some really pretty lines, like “Dense forest surrounded it on all sides except one, the north shore, where the trees were thinner and a strip of sandy white beach shimmered like diamond dust in the moonlight.” On the other hand, so much annoyed me. Mostly the author’s choices, like the ending or having Richard be described as a person everyone hated, which then made us miss out on later feeling sorry for him. The characters in this book doesn’t feel like villains because there were no sense of feeling sorry for Richard, because his character was so violent. The bolder choice would’ve been to make him sympathic. I just felt like a lot of depth was missing, there were hilariously little moral dilemmas for the reader watching this play out. I get that it’s part thriller and part mystery, but as I didn’t think who killed him was such a big mystery, a more cohesive and focused history or plot would’ve been better.

What I felt reading this book: mostly entertained and intrigued, annoyed at writing choices. And I was laughing at myself for chosing to read this hours before a weekend of partying with classmates. It was a nice weeked, but I did think of this book as we were driving into the snow-filled forest.

Head On by John Scalzi

Genre: Sci-fi

Pages: 335

Look at this great, minimalistic cover! It’s so perfect. Well, maybe the person should’ve been a threep (robot). 



Hilketa is a frenetic and violent pastime where players attack each other with swords and hammers. The main goal of the game: obtain your opponent’s head and carry it through the goalposts. With flesh and bone bodies, a sport like this would be impossible. But all the players are “threeps,” robot-like bodies controlled by people with Haden’s Syndrome, so anything goes. No one gets hurt, but the brutality is real and the crowds love it.

Until a star athlete drops dead on the playing field.

Is it an accident or murder? FBI Agents and Haden-related crime investigators, Chris Shane and Leslie Vann, are called in to uncover the truth―and in doing so travel to the darker side of the fast-growing sport of Hilketa, where fortunes are made or lost, and where players and owners do whatever it takes to win, on and off the field.

My thoughts

Rating out of five:


I was drawn in by the interesting plot, especially as it’s techonological development to combat illness. What I got was an fbi agent Shane discovering bodies, getting into accidents, Shane and his partner Vann trying to connect it all together and find the motives. In the middle it seems very messy, and not in a good way.

Everything is happening around the two fbi agents, mostly not caused by their actions. They are two pieces in a game where I have barely been introduced to the world, let alone who or what could be behind the murders. I can’t bring myself to care when someone dies that early on, even if it’s to kickstart the need for Shane’s investigation in this story. For the Hilketa player I was almost half into the book before I felt bad for him, with some details on how much pain he must’ve been in.

I think this would work very well as a tv series, where you get to see the threeps and Hilketa game from the start. For the most part I think so because you can watch and judge the other people in the story, try to find the murderer yourself, where here you don’t really get details on characters. The book included things like how Shane’s treated differently because he’s a Haden, both at work and in private, what being an Haden means and some of how the sport Hilketa works. But it’s a lot of information that needs to go out just for the reader to understand what the fbi agents are doing. For example that statistics in Hilketa is displayed in this one public way, and changing that can be illegal because here is the information it gives on players, so it’s a lead. Trying to do that without information dumps (which I think was well done!), along with introducing characters connected to it, and that there’s more than one murder. It’s a lot and while I found it surprisingly easy to follow, it made the investigation, and such the story, slower and less focused on characters.

This is the standalone follow-up to a book called Lock In, which I haven’t read. I would’ve like to know more about how the locked in syndrome and Haden people started out, with the development of the threeps. I looked it up and it seems like the short book Unlocked contains all the backstory, so I would like to read that too. It’s free here, and while the writing or plot doesn’t give you insight in Head On, if you’re interested it seems to be a smart 60-pages read before the other books.

I would recommend this book to people who are excited about the concept, but be aware that it’s a mix of sci-fi and fbi murder investigation. The feeling this book gave me: excitement about the sci-fi aspects with the robots and medical technology, but strange annoyance at the murder investigation.


Thank you to Tor Books for receiving a copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson | Review

Pages: 420

Genre: young adult, mystery


Ellingham Academy is a famous private school in Vermont for the brightest thinkers, inventors, and artists. It was founded by Albert Ellingham, an early twentieth century tycoon, who wanted to make a wonderful place full of riddles, twisting pathways, and gardens. “A place” he said, “where learning is a game.”

Shortly after the school opened, his wife and daughter were kidnapped. The only real clue was a mocking riddle listing methods of murder, signed with the frightening pseudonym, Truly Devious. It became one of the great unsolved crimes of American history.

True-crime aficionado Stevie Bell is set to begin her first year at Ellingham Academy, and she has an ambitious plan: She will solve this cold case. That is, she will solve the case when she gets a grip on her demanding new school life and her housemates: the inventor, the novelist, the actor, the artist, and the jokester. But something strange is happening. Truly Devious makes a surprise return, and death revisits Ellingham Academy. The past has crawled out of its grave. Someone has gotten away with murder.

My thoughts

Rating out of five:


I really hoped this would be a fantastic book, because Maureen Johnson seems like a brilliant person and I already know she’s a good author, so I’ll say upfront I went into this with all the expectations. This book is the most perfect young adult murder mystery I’ve ever read, and I read a lot as a child. Possibly not as many as the main character Stevie, but I’m not planning on going to a boarding school to solve a murder either.

the characters

The characters are very different and all supposedly gifted, though the book could’ve showed more of their abilities. But they seem like complex people, and their different personalities is shown well. Everyone from Stevie’s parents who are supporting a much hated politician (senator?), to the teachers and classmates like Janelle who build awesome machines and wear lemon baby-blue dresses. Or Ellie who lies there clothed in bathtubs, talking about Paris and art, instantly accepting Stevie’s interest. Stevie also has her distinct voice, and the social insecurities (especially in friendships) were relatable. Almost forgot to mention the author Nate among all the cool ladies. He comes with quotes like this:

“It’s two thousand pages and nothing happens. It’s all terrible. I wrote the first book and then I forgot how to write. It used to be that I would sit and write and I would go into some other world—I could see it all. I was totally in another place. But the second it became something I had to do, something in me broke. It’s like I used to know the way to some magical land and I lost the map. I hate myself.”

Nate was unable to bring himself to lie. “I feel kind of better,” he said to Stevie. “I think you’re even more screwed than I am.”

the plot and story

It amazed me how overall relatable to the current time and teenagers this book felt. Let’s just say I’ve highlighted a lot of quotes, amazed at the accuracy. Another thing I loved was the plot, which I can’t say much about without spoiling the book. The murder mystery and boarding school parts are really good, and I love seeing Stevie trying to figure out the pieces of the puzzle. As well as the teachers treating them like teenagers, like not allowing access when the police is involved, which other books seem to get wrong.

some negative opinions

Here’s the things I’ve had a problem with in past similiar books and didn’t disappear in this one: past police interviews. They’re so dry, they need to be that to seem semi-realistic. I don’t want to read more than two pages of them, and only if someone turns into a dragon midways.

Also there’s paralell stories with Stevie in one and another girl at Ellingham Acadamy from the past, who was murdered early on. The stories didn’t overlap enough to really be interesting, it was a lot of tension between the characters in the past, but I didn’t know enough of them to care. They simply slowed down the plotline of Stevie. I realized more towards the ending that they surely will or already have presented some crucial clue to the murder mysteries, but I couldn’t bring myself to care in the moment.

Which leads me to my final negative point, that it ends in the middle of it all. I think that was better than making it one very long book, for marketing reasons and because it’s young adult. But this one just came out, I’ll have to wait at least a year for any kind of resolution, perhaps even longer as I now realize it’s a trilogy. Well, I’m already captured by this story.

all in all

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for a good murder mystery, especially if young adult and at a boarding school sounds good to you. I grew up on mysteries like Nancy Drew and Veronica Mars, and this book really brought me back there.  

more favourite quotes

“She felt like someone walking out onto the branch of a tree, feeling it bounce and give under each step. And she loved the feeling.”

“I have no idea. The guy looks like he came out of a 3-D printer.”

“Stevie distinctly felt part of her soul die. She hoped it wasn’t an important part.”

“reading books in class because there was nothing new to be learned, so the time might as well be spent doing something useful.”

“Hayes said sorry. Hayes always said sorry. He said it was a joke, but . . . you don’t get to say that, you know? You don’t get to frighten people and threaten them and say you’re only kidding. Because you’re not.”

All Fall Down by Ally Carter | Review

Pages: 250

Genre: young adult – mystery

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Grace is absolutely certain of three things:

1. She isn’t crazy. 2. Her mother was murdered. 3. Someday she’s going to find the man with the scar, and then she is going to make him pay.

My thoughts 


“All Fall Down” is overall a good young adult book with lots of action, likeable and mysterious characters and plot twists. While I didn’t find it as entertaining as the Heist society, or the mysteries as well though out as those of the Gallagher girls, it’s a nice beginning of a new series by Ally Carter.

The plot gets a slow, hesitant applause from me. A girl who no one believe when she says someone killed her mother? Sure. Living at a embassy? Better. Spying? Great concept. The characters? Mixed feelings. Predictability? Halfway into the book I could guess the ending, even if I was only partly right.

The flow of the book wasn’t like it should have been either. Some places the writing got messy because suddenly a lot of action needed to happen simultaneously. It’s especially a problem towards the ending. I have read worse, but it throws you off, especially for younger readers.

“Keep your chin up. Eventually, you will meet someone who cares about your opinion. I’m so sorry I’m not her.” 

That quote describes Grace pretty well. I’ve always liked Ally Carter’s previous characters and Grace is no exception. She’s a sarcastic, brave, spontanious, witty and a paranoid person. Really, she jumps off brick walls into different countries. What is there not to like? However, she’s also troubled, in a way that added something to the story. First I thought she got panick attacks, which she does in a way, but it’s more like flashbacks. I don’t know if that was the best way to tell this story, but it works? Kind of. Something else I miss is the relationship between the characters. There are so much potential there. COME ON, they’re embassy kids. From all over the world, all different kids stuck in the same situation. The diversity, stories, cultures and friendships that could have been exchanged. But you really don’t get to hear a lot from them. Mostly it’s because Grace is stuck in her own head, which I can understand, but I feel like they haven’t got enough time together. Perhaps in the next book. Right now the other kids seem more like ghosts who follows her, but only because they’re bored.

There are also a few very cheesy elements in this book, like the fine line between peace and war. Could really this bunch of kids, actually teenagers – they just act like kids, start a war by running around? The adults seem to think so, but they don’t do anything about it. Except for those cheesy conversations and “don’t worry about it”. I’m not buying it.

I want to say I just felt a little too old for this book, but my eleven-year-old self would definitely like this book. It’s well-written in places, in others it seems unfinished. The plot is built on too many assumptions for it to feel remotely real. Teenagers, even if they act like kids, aren’t that far off from the rest of the world as this book make it seem. Especially not if they’ve grown up around dimplomats, I would believe. Still, I’ll read the next book when it comes out.