The Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson – Review

Welcome back to the review of the sequel to Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson. The Vanishing Stair was an amazing sequel and a definite four star read for me. The mystery was explored some more, new secrets were revealed and the cliffhanger ending was amazing.

This review may contain minor spoilers. Read at your own risk.

Book: The Vanishing Stair

Author: Maureen Johnson

Series: Truly Devious

Rating: ★★★★☆

Summary: All Stevie Bell wanted was to find the key to the Ellingham mystery, but instead she found her classmate dead. And while she solved that murder, the crimes of the past are still waiting in the dark. Just as Stevie feels she’s on the cusp of putting it together, her parents pull her out of Ellingham academy.

For her own safety they say. She must move past this obsession with crime. Now that Stevie’s away from the school of topiaries and secret tunnels, and her strange and endearing friends, she begins to feel disconnected from the rest of the world. At least she won’t have to see David anymore. David, who she kissed. David, who lied to her about his identity—son of despised politician Edward King. Then King himself arrives at her house to offer a deal: He will bring Stevie back to Ellingham immediately. In return, she must play nice with David. King is in the midst of a campaign and can’t afford his son stirring up trouble. If Stevie’s at school, David will stay put.

The tantalizing riddles behind the Ellingham murders are still waiting to be unraveled, and Stevie knows she’s so close. But the path to the truth has more twists and turns than she can imagine—and moving forward involves hurting someone she cares for. In New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson’s second novel of the Truly Devious series, nothing is free, and someone will pay for the truth with their life.

Quote: “All the money, all the power—none of it compares to a good book.”

The Good:

*Mystery. In this book, the Ellingham mystery takes center stage and I really like that because that’s the main reason why I picked up the first book to start with. I was also eager to find out what happened to Ellie and what her secret was. Solving two mysteries at the same time was a little mind-exhausting, but still so much fun.

*Characters. I liked Stevie much more in this book. She didn’t sound so whiny, and she seemed much more mature. Nate was always my favorite, but I loved him even more in this book. His reluctant but fierce loyalty to Stevie and always helping her when it is against his better instincts is very touching. My favorite quote by him: “Why. Do. People. Do. Stupid. Things.” (Stevie answers: “Because we’re stupid.”)

*Ending. Chaima’s review of The Vanishing Year conveyed my thoughts on that ending so well. That cliffhanger is probably the best I’ve ever read and it’s making me crave the third book so much! So many questions were answered, but at the same time, they opened doors for even more theories. I’m pretty sure I’ve solved it, but there are still several unanswered questions and it ended on such a tense note and I really really need the third book.

(As you can see, there is a reason why I usually read series when all the books in it are out, instead of waiting a WHOLE YEAR for the next one.)

Quote: “The real magic rocks are the friends we make along the way.”

The Bad:

*David. What. Is. His. Deal. He totally went off in this book and seems to have no regard for his or anyone else’s future. I understand that Stevie might have broken his heart, but he shouldn’t just throw his life away just for the fun of it.

*Riddle. There’s a crucial riddle in this book and it’s solution wasn’t what I expected at all. I thought that the answer was something no ordinary person would think to do. I don’t know, maybe I’m just not good at solving riddles/thinking outside the box?

Quote: “Detection has many methods, many pathways, narrow and subtle.”

The Wrap:

All in all, I REALLY liked this, I would recommend it, and I hope you enjoy it if you read it.

One sentence summary: A great sequel with an intriguing mystery, amazing cliffhanger, and lovable characters.

Overall, 4 shinning stars

Have you read The Vanishing Stair? What did you think? Did that ending make you crave more of the Truly Devious series? Do you think you’ve solved it? Let’s chat in the comments!

Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson – Review

Welcome to another book review! I hope you are having a fantastic start to this new and wonderful month. Today’s review is of Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson. This book was okay. I liked the mystery and there is diversity and representation, but I felt like the new mystery overshadowed the Ellingham kidnappings and murder.

Book: Truly Devious

Author: Maureen Johnson

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Summary: 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.

Quote: “When you have enough power and money, you can dictate the meanings of words.”

The Good:

*Mystery. If ya’ll haven’t realized it yet, I love a good murder mystery. Especially ones that are cold cases and the killer has come back to commit more murders. And this story delivers that. I loved the idea of the Ellingham Murders and I was super excited to join Stevie on the quest to solve them. Tiny hints were given through-out the story and I was engrossed by the two timelines, one from 1936 when the kidnappings happened, and the present day. I loved it, and I was super disappointed that this ended up more about the new death than the Ellingham mystery, but I was still super intrigued and immediately picked up the second book.

*Representation. You do not know how happy I was to see some diversity/representation in this book. Janelle, Stevie’s best friend, is described as a person of color and is also a lesbian. During their initial tour of Ellingham, we also meet a girl who’s in a wheelchair and a hijabi. Stevie suffers anxiety and has panic attacks. It was just so nice to see a group of people who aren’t perfect, who are from different backgrounds, and who are still awesome amazing people.

*Characters. I liked Ellie. She was so vibrant, confident, and cool, but beware of being in her company for too long. Janelle is perfect. She’s a builder and super handy with tools, yet she dresses up and wears make-up and perfume. It’s nice to see her not being a stereotypical female mechanic character who wears overalls and doesn’t even know that makeup exists etc. Nate is probably my favorite. I loved the fact that he’s socially awkward, pale as a ghost, and loves to write. The way he doesn’t know how to communicate, is forever grumpy and pessimistic, and who would do anything to help Stevie even though it goes against his better judgement just made him an amazing character and a super loyal friend.

*Setting. To be honest, I liked the setting of the story. Ellingham Academy is located on top of a mountain in Vermont. There is only one road in and it is very very rough. The remoteness of the place made it seem more surreal and also narrowed the cast of suspects down to whoever was staying there. The description of mountain air and the beauty of the woods was amazing and I loved it.

Quote: “You have to take things as they are, not how you hear they’re supposed to be.” 

The Bad:

*Writing style. The beginning of the book and I aren’t best friends. I just thought it felt a little off and a little bit more telling than showing. But it got much better and I ended up enjoying it.

*Character voice. I didn’t feel like Stevie was a teenager. She sounded a bit childish. I didn’t feel like the characters in general were teenagers but more like fourteen/fifteen than seventeen.

*New Mystery. I was honestly disappointed that this was more about the new mystery than the Ellingham case. The only reason I probably finished this was because of the new secrets being revealed about the Ellingham mystery throughout the story and maybe because I needed more Nate, Ellie, and Janelle.

Quote: “Where her books were, she was. Get the books right and the rest will follow.”

The Wrap:

All in all, I liked this, I would recommend it, and I hope you enjoy it if you read it.

One sentence summary: An okay book with an intriguing mystery, and great characters.

Overall, 3 stars

Have you read Truly Devious? What did you think? Am I the only one that was a little disappointed that the mystery wasn’t that focused on the Ellingham murders? Let’s chat in the comments!

WWW Wednesday #12

Welcome to another WWW Wednesday post! I hope you’re having a wonderful day. WWW Wednesday is a meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World of Words.

The Three W’s are:

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you think you’ll read next?

Let’s get started!

What I just Finished:

Long Road to Mercy by David Baldacci. This was a two star read. I thought it was pretty cliche compared to other Baldacci books and I didn’t really like the main character. (I loved Ms. Blum though!)

Review hopefully coming on Friday 🙂


The Sacrifice by Indrajit Garai. This was my first ARC and I was super excited! I loved the last short story in this book the most. Overall, it made me sit back and wonder about life and how some people face hardships and still manage to smile, love and forgive.

Review here.


What I’m Currently Reading:

Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson. I’m about to start this one! Hopefully I’ll enjoy it 🙂

What I Want to Read Next:

As soon as I’m done with Truly Devious, I hope to pick up it’s sequel, The Vanishing Stair, right away!

That’s it for this Wednesday. What are you reading? Have you read any of the books mentioned? What did you think of them? Let’s chat in the comments! (Be sure to link to your WWW)

WWW Wednesday #11

Hello friends! Welcome to another WWW Wednesday post! I hope you’re having a wonderful day. WWW Wednesday is a meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World of Words.

The Three W’s are:

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you think you’ll read next?

Let’s get started!

What I Just Finished:

One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus

Review for this is going up tomorrow 🙂

What I’m Currently Reading:

The Sacrifice by Indrajit Garai
Long Road to Mercy by David Baldacci

I hope to finish The Sacrifice over the weekend and start Long Road to Mercy right away.

What I Want to Read Next:

Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

I may or may not get my hands on this, but I really hope to!

That’s it for this Wednesday. What are you reading? Have you read any of the books mentioned? What did you think of them? Let’s chat in the comments! (Be sure to link to your WWW)!

WWW Wednesday #9

Hey, whats up? (The sky. Get it? I know, absolutely cringe worthy joke). Welcome to another WWW Wednesday post! Hope ya’ll are having a great day. WWW Wednesday is a meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World of Words.

The Three W’s are:

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you think you’ll read next?

Let’s get started!

What I Just Finished:

Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus
The Vanishing Year by Kate Moretti

Just finished Two Can Keep a Secret and The Vanishing Year over the weekend. TVY’s review is going up tomorrow, and TCKS’s review is going up next week.

What I’m Currently Reading:

Nobody by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus

I put Nobody off to finish the previous two, but I’m ready to finally start this! I’m also excited to try One of Us is Lying.

What I Plan to Read Next:

Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson
The Shining by Stephen King

I hope to get to read these soon enough!

That’s it for this Wednesday! What books are you all reading? Link up to your WWW posts in the comments below, and if you don’t have a blog, just answer the prompts in the comments anyway!

Quote: “Let’s be reasonable and add an eighth day to the week that is devoted exclusively to reading.”Lena Dunham