Stalking Jack the Ripper

Stalking Jack the Ripper (Stalking Jack the Ripper, #1)Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Genre: Mystery, Historical Fiction, YA
Publisher: Jimmy Patterson
Series: Book One of Stalking Jack the Ripper

No Spoilers!

Seventeen-year-old Audrey Rose Wadsworth was born a lord’s daughter, with a life of wealth and privilege stretched out before her. But between the social teas and silk dress fittings, she leads a forbidden secret life.

Against her stern father’s wishes and society’s expectations, Audrey often slips away to her uncle’s laboratory to study the gruesome practice of forensic medicine. When her work on a string of savagely killed corpses drags Audrey into the investigation of a serial murderer, her search for answers brings her close to her own sheltered world. 

Did anyone else ever have a chapter of history, or a sub-group, or something similar that they were obsessed with? I’ve had several over the years, including the Romanov Family, Dinosaurs, Queen Elizabeth I, and Cleopatra. But one interest that has always stuck around is centered around death. No, I’m not insane, but I am completely fascinated with the history and development of forensic science (did you know that Sherlock Holmes is the first detective to use a magnifying glass at a crime scene?), and for a while I went through a phase that was centered around two men: Jack the Ripper and HH Holmes, two of the most prolific and fascinating serial killers of all time.

Naturally, when I saw this book advertised I knew I had to get my hands on it. A young woman facing off against Jack the Ripper? Sign me up!! I almost bought it on my kindle when it first came out, and I can’t remember exactly why I ended up deciding against it, but I’m just as happy I didn’t. I didn’t pick this up until the other day, and I managed to get my hands on a signed copy!!

The Mystery

Stalking Jack the Ripper has everything that I look for in a good mystery book. Of course, I’m not going to spoil who did it, but I am going to say, you’re never entirely certain who did it (I really didn’t figure it out until a chapter or two before the Big Reveal). You are always left wondering, and knowing that not everything is adding up (there are times that you will be CONVINCED that you know who the Ripper is, but then something else will be revealed and you’ll be confused again).

History

One thing that frightened me about picking up this book, is that its based on a real historical event that I know a great deal about and set in a historical era that a lot of people mess up. I was very excited then, when I started reading it, to see how close to history it actually is. I was very impressed. Reading through it there was nothing that struck me as hugely wrong or inaccurate and it flowed easily, the setting not getting in the way of the story at all.

I will warn you though, if you’re easily grossed out by blood, guts, and gore, you don’t want to read this. Victorian London was not a clean and pleasant place to be, and this book isn’t afraid to tell it like it is. It is also about a forensic scientist, so there are autopsies and discussion of ripping into bodies (don’t judge me for knowing this, but the aforementioned autopsies are very realistic).

If you’re interested in how close to history this is, make sure you read the author’s notes at the end, where she talks about what she changed (some minor details that I didn’t pick up on and you probably won’t either) and why she did it.

Reading Progress and Updates

  • 02/20
    • marked as:
      • to-read
  • 10/06
    • marked as:
      • currently-reading
    • page 25
      • 7.0%
      • “I dreamed of a day when girls could wear lace and make up-or no make up at all and don burlap sacks if they desired-to their chosen profession without it being deemed inappropriate.”
      • She’s more forward thinking than most of the people of today!
    • page 48
      • 14.0%
      • “Just because I studied cadavers didn’t mean I couldn’t appreciate beautiful garments.”
      • Once again she sums me up perfectly.
    • page 144
      • 42.0%
      • “Wear your assets like a blade, Cousin. No man has invented a corset for our brains. Let them think they rule the world. It’s a queen that sits that throne. Never forget that. There’s no reason you can’t wear a simple frock to work, then don the finest gown and dance the night away. But only if it pleases you.”
      • Cousin Liza knows what’s up.

Overall

I read the entire book on the day I bought it (shoutout to my doctor who was an hour late starting my appointment!) so clearly it will pull you in. My mom was also thrilled when I came home with it, because apparently she’s had it on her TBR for months as well.

This is also the first book from James Patterson’s new publishing imprint Jimmy Patterson (real original name you picked there, hon) and if the rest of them are anywhere near as good as this one, I cannot wait to read them. I hope they continue to hold any books that they might consider for publication to this standard.

Any fan of murder mysteries or historical fiction is going to love this book, even if YA isn’t your usual genre. Its a book that could be read or enjoyed by people of all ages because, yes, it is a bit long, but the content isn’t too mature or too difficult (don’t think its easy or beneath you though!). Just make sure you read the History section of this review for information on some things that you might not like if you’re easily grossed out.

Now, who’s going to write me an H.H. Holmes book?

A Study in Charlotte

A Study in Charlotte (Charlotte Holmes, #1)A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Genre: Mystery, YA, Retelling/Spin-off
Series: Book 1 of Charlotte Holmes
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

Read for the Pokemon Indigo League #ReadThemAllThon

No spoilers.

The last thing Jamie Watson wants is a rugby scholarship to Sherringford, a Connecticut prep school just an hour away from his estranged father. But that’s not the only complication: Sherringford is also home to Charlotte Holmes, the famous detective’s great-great-great-granddaughter, who has inherited not only Sherlock’s genius but also his volatile temperament. From everything Jamie has heard about Charlotte, it seems safer to admire her from afar.

From the moment they meet, there’s a tense energy between them, and they seem more destined to be rivals than anything else. But when a Sherringford student dies under suspicious circumstances, ripped straight from the most terrifying of the Sherlock Holmes stories, Jamie can no longer afford to keep his distance. Jamie and Charlotte are being framed for murder, and only Charlotte can clear their names. But danger is mounting and nowhere is safe—and the only people they can trust are each other.

I cannot completely express my love for this book. It is honestly one of the best things I’ve read in a very long time, and I’m probably going to read it again before the sequel comes out (something I rarely do except for High Fantasy which I have to re-read in order to remember all the characters).

Characters

Jaime

Jaime is the Watson of this story, and as such he serves as the main character and POV (save for a short excerpt by Charlotte at the end). He’s really likable and easy to become invested in as he struggles to make sense of everything that’s been happening to him. Just like Watson in the original stories, Jaime serves as an important link between Holmes and the auidence, who asks the questions that need asked so that we as readers can understand what happens in the genius’ head.

Charlotte

The descendant of Sherlock Holmes who is not quite as like her ancestor as you may be expecting. Charlotte is a really fun character and really has a great deal of depth. She is allowed to grow and and learn, not just as a super genius, but also as a teenage girl, and struggles with a lot of girl problems on top of the murder.

Milo

Milo, the brother of Charlotte, serves as the Mycroft of this story, however, he’s far less pompous and annoying and far more of just a very nerdy guy who does (at times) manage to care at least a little for his sister (although, most of it is less for ‘Lottie’ and more to preserve the family name).

The Murder

I don’t read mysteries very often, because I often find them to be a bit boring and I can almost always guess ‘who done it.’ I am pleased to report that was not the case in A Study in Charlotte for almost all of the book. Yes there were some parts that I figured out, but other things were as much a surprise to me as they were to Jaime and Charlotte.

Because this is set up to be like the Sherlockian stories, it follows in the same format where the auidence knows less than the main character. That was one of the things that made the classic Sherlock stories so popular, because, unlike in all the other mysteries of the time, it was actually impossible to know everything because Holmes always knew more than he was letting on (and because Watson was the primary storyteller, you never knew more than him).

Overall

This really reminded me of a book I reviewed not too long ago, Buzzkill by Beth Fantaskey, and that’s a really good thing (in case you don’t know, Buzz Kill is one of my favorite mystery books EVER).

Anyone who is a fan of mysteries should give this book a try, even if retellings and reimaginings aren’t your thing. There are a lot of nods to Arthur Conan Doyle’s work, and discussion of them among the characters, but it still can stand on its own as a great read.

Deep Blue

Deep Blue (Waterfire Saga, #1)Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Publisher: Scholastic, Disney Press
Series: Book 1 of the Waterfire Saga

This review contains no spoilers.

Serafina, daughter of Isabella, Queen of Miromara, has been raised with the expectation – and burden – that she will someday become ruler of the oldest civilization of the merfolk. On the eve of the Dokimí ceremony, which will determine if she is worthy of the crown, Sera is haunted by a strange dream that foretells the return of an ancient evil. But her nightmare is forgotten the next day as she diligently practices her songspell; eagerly anticipates a reunion with her best friend, Neela; and anxiously worries about Mahdi, the crown prince of Matali, and whether his feelings toward her and their future betrothal have changed. Most of all, she worries about not living up to her mother’s hopes.

The Dokimí proceeds, a dazzling display of majesty and might, until a shocking turn of events interrupts it: an assassin’s arrow wounds Isabella. The realm falls into chaos, and Serafina’s darkest premonitions are confirmed. Now she and Neela must embark on a quest to find the assassin’s master and prevent a war between the mer nations. Their search will lead them to other mermaid heriones scattered across the six seas. Together they will form an unbreakable bond of sisterhood as they uncover a conspiracy that threatens their world’s very existence.

I didn’t even connect this to being by the same woman who wrote A Northern Light, when I first read through it. Its such a big step away from the historical aspects of that book that I was amazed that the same woman was able to write both. Looking back however, I see that her style, heavy on the details, still shines through. Some people don’t like the almost info-dump like style of the book, but I didn’t mind it. Thats the kind of book that I like, with rich imagery, history, and setting. The more I know about the background the happier I am. Thats just how I read.

I really liked the plot and most of the characters – there was, of course, a love story, and what seems to be a set up for a love triangle (but since other reviews on Goodreads didn’t mention it, I won’t risk spoiling it) – but other than that it was pretty good and mostly romance-free. There was a lot of action and a lot of girl power, as well as plenty of diversity and history/culture thrown in.

Words

If you don’t like puns, don’t read this book.

  • An all-night wave is what we would call a rave (a party with drugs)
  • Wrasse means ass (and there are also badwrasses and jackwrasses)
  • Curentsea is money
  • Gobies and Gupies are insults
  • Transparensea is an invisibility spell
  • Merl is a girl, and a merlfriend is, you guessed it, a girlfriend.
  • Instead of family trees we have family corals
  • RaySay is the language of Manta Rays
  • Pesca is the language of anchovies
  • Dolpheen is, you guessed it, the dolphin language

I’m sure I missed plenty of the absurd word plays that are in this book, which may or may not be a good thing. Some people thought that the words and the jokes made the books less believable and too childish, but for me, personally, they only served to enhance my enjoyment of it.

Characters

Sera: I really liked Sera. She’s a well balanced character who wants desperately to be immature, but forces herself to grow up and be a leader for her people’s sake. She understands that, even though she might want to do other things, she accepts that she has a responsibility.

Neela: Sera’s best friend, Neela wants to be a fashion designer when she grows up. Did I mention she’s Indian? She and her people all live off the coast of India, and have therefore picked up a lot of the culture.

Matali: Sera’s betrothed who is nothing like the boy that she remembers. He’s grown into a punk since she last saw him, and no longer the romantic that she remembers.

Overall

I liked it quite a bit. Some people, as I briefly mentioned earlier, thought that it was too childish for their tastes (mostly citing the puns) and thought that it should be marketed to younger readers. While I think middle grade readers would love this book, I also see no reason that YA readers shouldn’t check it out as well. Its a funny, well written book about Mermaids, what else is there to ask for?

Astonishing X-Men: Gifted Novelization

Astonishing X-Men: Gifted Prose NovelAstonishing X-Men: Gifted Prose Novel by Peter David

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Genre:
Publisher:
Series:

This Review does have spoilers because comics are pretty dang predictable and this is a really old one, so anyone who cares about spoilers has probably read it.

Also, Spoiler Alert: No one stays dead in comics.

The X-Men have evolved. Cyclops and Emma Frost re-form the team with the express purpose of “astonishing” the world. But when breaking news regarding the mutant gene unexpectedly hits the airwaves, will it derail their new plans before they even get started? As demand for the “mutant cure” reaches near-riot levels, the X-Men go head-to-head with the enigmatic Ord, with an unexpected ally – and some unexpected adversaries – tipping the scales Experience the blockbuster re-imagining of the X-Men like never before in this new adaptation.

My friend convinced me to get this because she wants me to get into X-Men and I have a hard time reading comics, so she decided that a novelization would be a good stepping ground. Well, it worked, and I ended up having to buy some actual comics because the sequel(s) to this are not available in book format.

Parts of it were a little predictable, but I think that might just be because my friend has told me so much about the X-Men that I knew where it was going.

Characters

Kitty Pryde aka Shadowcat

Kitty was the main character and narrator of most of the book, which made me want to strangle her. As you’ll see in my Reading Progress section down below, I put the book down for almost a month, and thats because I couldn’t get over her whining in the first chapter.

“I hate Emma Frost” “Colossus is dead” “I love Colossus” “My life was ruined by the X-Men” “Emma Frost sucks” “I want to rejoin the X-Men, but I also don’t” “My parents don’t understand” “I’m a jew” “I hate my hair” “Emma Frost doesn’t wear enough clothes and also she sucks” “I always have to save everyone” etc,etc. It felt like a lot more than one chapter.

On the bright side, she has a pet dragon – Lockheed – who does make a few appearances. And once she stopped complaining about Emma she was actually pretty interesting.

Scott Summers aka Cyclops

Jean was dead at this point, she died before it even started (I think she holds the record for most deaths of a comic character, although, don’t quote me on that), so Scott did what he does best: find either someone who looks like Jean Grey or another Telepath to bang (because, you know, telepaths can make you think they look like Jean).

Emma Frost aka White Queen

She was a good guy in this, or, at least, hanging out with the good guys. She’s still a jerk and more or less amoral, she just wants to bang Scott.

Logan Howlett aka Wolverine

His very first scene is talking about trying to get drunk and how hard it is for him, because of how distressed he was over Jean’s death. He took it worse than Scott, apparently.

Then he went to the Xavier School and beat the crap out of Cyclops (and threatened to beat up Kitty for getting in the way, but she didn’t take any of his crap).

Piotr Rasputin aka Colossus

My favorite X-Man who was dead when it all started (he and his sister had both died a little while earlier to create a cure for the “Legacy Virus” which for some reason meant people had to die to create a cure). The good news is he didn’t stay dead for long.

Beast aka Hank McCoy

I really like Hank. He made a bunch of great references, and at one point he was moping in a park and this little girl ran up to him all excited because she thought he was Sully from Monster’s Inc and he played along!

Charles Xavier aka Professor X

He wasn’t in this at all, because he was “on sabbatical”

Reading Progress

  • 05/11
    • marked as: currently-reading
    • page 5
      • 1.0%
      • Kitty just made a Harry Potter reference and now I love her.
    • page 6
      •  1.0%
      • Nope. I did not give Colossus permission to die before this even started
  • 05/29
    • page 24
      • 7.0%
      • “Scott Summers was dying” is a great way to start a chapter.
    • page 28
      • 9.0%
      • So he wasn’t actually dying, unfortunately.
    • page 39
      • 12.0%
      • Kitty’s Harry Potter joke makes her slightly less annoying. Slightly.
    • page 55
      • 18.0%
      • So how many times has Scott “loved, married, and lost” Jean now?
    • page 62
      • 20.0%
      • Hank, if Scott was ready to “pull his cranium out of his nether regions” he wouldn’t be Scott.
      • Yes that quote is exactly what Hank told Scott to do.
    • page 102 33.0%
      • “Perry the Platypus” Really Hank!?
    • page 125
      • 41.0%
      • And now a Titanic reference. Beast really must love television.
    • page 136
      • 44.0%
      • And Kitty quotes Indiana Jones!
    • page 196
      • 64.0%
      • YESSSSSSS. HES BACK.
    • page 239
      • 78.0%
      • Colossus and Nick Fury have the best banter.
      • Colossus kept making fun of Fury for being a “capitalist” and Fury kept calling him a “commie” and they both were having a blast. (Fury ended the banner by saying “man I miss the Cold War”)
    • page 255
      • 83.0%
        • FASTBALL SPECIAL
    • page 255
      • 83.0%
      • “As for Wolverine, there were many rules that he was capable of ignoring, but the laws of physics were not among them”
    • page 264
      • 86.0%
      • Another Fastball Special. Don’t the Xmen have any other tricks?
    • page 270
      • 88.0%
      • “Boy’s named ‘Rasputin,’ should have known he wouldn’t be that easy to kill.” The history nerd in me is happy. Very happy.
      • Also: can we respect the time that Illyana Rasputin (Colossus’ sister) got into a fight with Natasha Romanov. If you know Russian history you’ll know who won.
    • marked as: read

The Jedi Path

The Jedi Path: A Manual for Students of the ForceThe Jedi Path: A Manual for Students of the Force by Daniel Wallace

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Genre: Media Tie In, Scifi
Publisher: becker&mayer! Book Producers

There are no spoilers in this review, because there’s nothing to spoil in this book (it has no plot).

This ancient training manual, crafted by early Jedi Masters, has educated and enlightened generations of Jedi. It explains the history and hierarchy of the Jedi Order, and what Jedi must know to take their place as defenders of the peace in the galaxy — from mastery of the Force to the nuances of lightsaber combat.

Passed down from Master to Padawan, the pages of this venerable text have been annotated by those who have held it, studied it, and lived its secrets. From Yoda and Luke Skywalker to Count Dooku and Darth Sidious, they have shaped the content of the book by leaving mementos tucked within the pages, tearing out pages, and adding their personal experiences as tangible reminders of the lessons they’ve learned.

Through wars and rebellion, only a single copy of this manual has survived. It is now passed on to you.

The ancient Masters who wrote the text: Fae Coven, Grand Master and head of the Jedi Council; Crix Sunburris, Jedi Ace starfighter pilot; Restelly Quist, Jedi Chief Librarian; Skarch Vaunk, Jedi Battlemaster and lightsaber expert; Bowspritz, Jedi Biologist and expert on the Living Force; Sabla-Mandibu, Jedi Seer and Holocron expert; Morrit Ch’gally, Jedi Recruiter; Gal-Stod Slagistrough, Jedi leader of the Agricultural Corps.

Jedi who added personal commentary: Yoda, Thame Cerulian, Count Dooku, Qui-Gon Jinn, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker, Ahsoka Tano, Darth Sidious, and Luke Skywalker.

Its written as a sort of ‘in universe non-fiction’ but because its in our universe now, it counts as fiction (yes, unfortunately, Jedi aren’t real and science hasn’t managed to make lightsabers…… yet).

It reminded me of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them or Quidditch Through the Ages, because of the set up of having the character’s notes scrawled in the margins. The text itself is a little bit dull, it is a textbook after all, but the notes make it well worth the read. I did learn a lot about the Jedi and their history, which makes watching the movies even more fun (for me, now my friends want to strangle me for talking too much), but it also just fleshes out some of the characters (the commentators) in a way the movies don’t always.

Vault Edition

Way back when this first came out I decided to pay extra for the collector’s edition, it comes in a fancy mechanical case that you can push buttons to open and it has lights and sound, and stuff in the pages. I’m glad I did.

Removable features: A letter tracing the book’s history, a severed Padawan braid, a metal Jedi Credit medallion, a Jedi starfighter patch, a burned poster of the Jedi Code, a map of the Jedi Temple, a lightsaber diagram sketched on the back of a napkin from Dex’s Diner, and a note on the missing pages torn from the book by a Sith.

Overall

If you’re a huge Star Wars fan – like me! – I’d definitely recommend the special/vault edition. If you’re more of a casual fan, I think you can still enjoy the Manual itself. Its just a funny, fairly short read that manages to give a lot of insight into the everyday lives and traditions of some of the most famous people in a Galaxy Far Far Away.

The Crossroads

The Crossroads (Haunted Mystery, #1)The Crossroads by Chris Grabenstein

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Genre: Mystery, Paranormal, Horror, Middle Grade
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Series: Book One of The Haunted Mysteries
Purchase: Book Depository

This review contains no spoilers.

ZACK, HIS DAD, and new stepmother have just moved back to his father’s hometown, not knowing that their new house has a dark history. Fifty years ago, a crazed killer caused an accident at the nearby crossroads that took 40 innocent lives. He died when his car hit a tree in a fiery crash, and his malevolent spirit has inhabited the tree ever since. During a huge storm, lightning hits the tree, releasing the spirit, who decides his evil spree isn’t over . . . and Zack is directly in his sights.

I’m not usually a fan of the horror genre. I’m the easiest person in the world to scare (but don’t try because I will harm you), but I really love this book. Yes it’s about ghosts and yes it can be terrifying at times, but overall it’s just a really funny story about a boy and his family trying to move on from the death of Zack’s mother and his father’s new marriage.

I would never have picked this up if I hadn’t been required to read it for a class in sixth grade (ah yes, the days of reading aloud in class. I’m so glad that’s over!). But I’m very grateful that I was made to read it because it’s had such an impact on me.

All of the characters are really great. There is no evil-stepmother trope in this book, which is another great thing about it. Judy, his new step-mom, is actually one of the best parts of the book. She’s a children’s author who is incredibly kind to her new stepson, and genuinely wants the best for her new family. Zack’s mother doesn’t have much of a role, but I can tell you I didn’t like her.

The POV jumps around a lot, but that only adds to the suspense and the general enjoyment of the book. At first all the the POVs seem completely disconnected – a divorced man, an old woman, a nurse, Zack, – but by the end of the book they all come together and you realize that they’ve been telling the same story the whole time.

The Author

Chris Grabenstein is one of the authors I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, and my copy of the book is autographed. If he’s ever near you at an event – he came to my local Children’s Festival of Reading – then you really ought to stop by and listen to him speak.

In my Book Sacrifice Tag, I expressed an opinion about him that I stick to: he is a great man but he would benefit from a course in forensics. Here’s why, copied straight from my post:

In one of the later books, someone is murdered by shooting him in the head and then to cover their crime they put him in his car, jam the accelerator, and slam it into a tree so it looks like a car crash. That’s not how forensics work. Even if the bullet melted (as the character said it would) there would be signs of bullet trauma that the fire from the engine exploding wouldn’t cover. I met Mr. Grabenstein (fantastic man!) in person and I had to bite my tongue not to tell him this.

The Rest of the Series

I have read the rest of the series, and I will review it on here at some point, however, I do have to forewarn you that none of them are quite as good as the first one. Read them by all means, but please be prepared to be saddened and a little disappointed. Or if Zack’s mother interests you (no spoilers, just a tiny ear worm).

Featured Image

I took this, as I did with most of my featured images. It’s of my copy of the book (very well worn because I’ve read it more than once), and the “Crowd Favorite” award I got for my Marie Antoinette Costume.

Overall

I’d reccomend this book for any fans of horror. It won’t be the scariest thing you’ve ever read, but I highly doubt you’ll regret reading it. Fans of comedy should check this out too, as I said before it’s hilariously funny. Even if you don’t like horror or don’t usually read it (or it terrifies you like it does me), you should still check this out.

I believe it is technically middle grade, but older readers will love it too (I still love it, my mom loves it, the sixth grade english teacher who introduced me to it loves it).