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.

Daughters of Ruin

Daughters of RuinDaughters of Ruin by K.D. Castner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Fantasy, YA
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Series: N/A (sadly it seems to be a stand alone)

This review contains NO spoilers.

Meet rumor with quiet, treason with cunning, and vicious with vicious.

Rhea, Cadis, Suki, and Iren have lived together since they were children. They are called sisters. They are not. They are called equals. They are not. They are princesses. And they are enemies.

A brutal war ravaged their kingdoms, and Rhea’s father was the victor. As a gesture of peace, King Declan brought the daughters of his rivals to live under his protection—and his ever-watchful eye.

For ten years they have trained together as diplomats and warriors, raised to accept their thrones and unite their kingdoms in peace. But there is no peace among sisters, and all plans shatter when the palace is attacked. As their intended future lies in ashes, Rhea, Cadis, Suki, and Iren must decide where their loyalties lie: to their nations, or to each other.

Alliances shift and the consequences are deadly in this stunning fantasy debut from K. D. Castner.

First off, I just have to say how much better this was than I expected.

I picked it up because it sounded mildly interesting, and like something that I wouldn’t really mind reading a little bit of, not because I thought it was going to be phenomenal (lets be real, the plot sounds kind of weird), but man, did it exceed my expectations.

You never know what’s going to happen next, and you never grow bored. The POV is constantly switching between the four sisters, and there is more than one storyline that is explored as it works its way toward the main climax.

Characters

The characters are one of the strongest parts of this, because they’re all so diverse. Unlike many YA books, each character is allowed to change and grow, instead of just one central character getting all the attention. Everyone has their own motivations, and no character does what you’re expecting them to.

Rhea

I felt as though Rhea was the sister I cared about the most, and that may be because she certainly got more attention from the author (she also seemed to have it pretty rough, more than she got credit for at least) and her POV scenes were usually some of the best.

Cadis

I really liked her. I could see why people hated her (particularly during the Rhea POV scenes) and it almost made her struggles that much more relatable.

Suki

Suki’s scenes are some of the most interestingly written I’ve ever seen in a book. I won’t spoil too much, but she’s completely insane and you can tell that just from her POV. Some other reviewers described it as jarring, but to me it fit perfectly.

Iren

Iren was a character that I always knew was up to something, but in a way that it made me want to keep reading about her. She’s quite incredible, and might be my second favorite of the sisters.

Overall

The worst thing about this book, is that I don’t think theres going to be a sequel. So if cliffhanger endings with no hope of resolution aren’t for you, you may want to put this aside and move onto the next book. However, if that’s your thing, or you just like a good action – adventure book with some fantasy elements, then I highly recommend this.

The Princess in the Opal Mask

The Princess in the Opal Mask (The Opal Mask, #1)The Princess in the Opal Mask by Jenny Lundquist

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Publisher: Running Press Kids
Series: Book one of The Opal Mask
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade

There are spoilers, but they are at the bottom and hidden under a read more.

Every Fairy-Tale Ending Has a Price. . .

Orphaned as a child in the crumbling village of Tulan, Elara is determined to learn her true identity, even if it means wielding a dagger. Meanwhile, in Galandria’s royal capital, Princess Wilha stands out as someone to either worship or fear. Though no one knows why the king has always made her conceal her face—including Wilha herself.

When an assassination attempt threatens the peace of neighboring kingdoms, Elara and Wilha are brought face to face . . . with a chance at claiming new identities. However, with dark revelations now surfacing, both girls will need to decide if brighter futures are worth the binding risks.

This is the story of Wilha and Elara, two girls from vastly different social circles who are thrown together seemingly by chance. There’s a lot of drama and political intrigue happening and it never gets too dull.

The point of view changes between Wilha and Elara, and both are equal. There were times that neither one was interesting and times that both had me on the edge of my seat, but never was I completely fed up with one or the other.

One thing I will say about this – that I appreciated as someone who thinks our society values sex far too highly – is that its completely clean. I cannot tell you the last time I read a book that only had one reference to “desire” (I mean, there’s talk about love and marriage, but that’s different).

My biggest complaint with this book is when Wilha describes a half-face mask by saying “it covered my entire face except for my chin, lips, and nose.” It was so grating and such a poor descriptor – if half your face is exposed, it doesn’t cover your “entire face” no ifs, ands, or buts – that I had a hard time trusting many of the descriptions after that. Its a rather petty thing to complain about, but its how I felt nonetheless.

Another annoying thing – although 98% of fantasy books are guilty of this – is the royalty owning too many clothes. Before steam power and cotton it just wasn’t feasible for anyone EVEN THE RICH to own as many clothes as Wilha is seen to have.

Characters

Wilha

I really liked her for the most part. There were times that she was slow to pick up on things or just plain stupid, and she had moments of selfishness, but it all made since. Who wouldn’t make the choices she did if they’d been through everything she has?

Elara

Elara had a problem with listening. She was so caught up in the ‘my life is worse than everyones’ that she failed to see the truth about Wilha. I’m not saying Wilha had it worse, but I am saying they are both very much victims.

Patric

I didn’t really like him either. He’s very judgmental and if he really does care for Wilha as much as he claims he wouldn’t flip out over her being betrothed.

Cordon

He was just plain rude and I didn’t end up liking him. Its nice to see someone who doesn’t feel bound by all their childhood promises (because if we were I would have a very unpleasant maid of honor if I ever get married).

Overall

It was a good book, although it was a total cover buy and sat on my shelf for several years before I read it. I did enjoy it, for the most part, but there were parts that I wasn’t interested in, or things – like the mask and dress issue – that detracted from my enjoyment.

However, if you like fantasy thats a quick, easy read with lots of action and plot I think you’ll like this book. I did enjoy it enough to put the sequel on hold at the library, but not enough to give it a four or a five star review.

Spoilers

Continue reading “The Princess in the Opal Mask”

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?

The Gathering Storm

The Gathering Storm (Katerina, #1)The Gathering Storm by Robin Bridges

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fantasy, YA
Series: Katerina Trilioy
Purchase: Book Depository

There are no spoilers in this book review.

St. Petersburg, Russia, 1888. As she attends a whirl of glittering balls, royal debutante Katerina Alexandrovna, Duchess of Oldenburg, tries to hide a dark secret: she can raise the dead. No one knows. Not her family. Not the girls at her finishing school. Not the tsar or anyone in her aristocratic circle. Katerina considers her talent a curse, not a gift. But when she uses her special skill to protect a member of the Imperial Family, she finds herself caught in a web of intrigue.

An evil presence is growing within Europe’s royal bloodlines—and those aligned with the darkness threaten to topple the tsar. Suddenly Katerina’s strength as a necromancer attracts attention from unwelcome sources . . . including two young men—George Alexandrovich, the tsar’s standoffish middle son, who needs Katerina’s help to safeguard Russia, even if he’s repelled by her secret, and the dashing Prince Danilo, heir to the throne of Montenegro, to whom Katerina feels inexplicably drawn.

The time has come for Katerina to embrace her power, but which side will she choose—and to whom will she give her heart?

This is really an alternate history or historical fantasy. The author simply took Russian legends, myths, and fairytales and said “wait, what if all of these were real? And what if it was set during the Industrial period?” Its the time of Faberge and Tchaikowsky and Tostoy, where Russia is becoming a player on the European scene, and culture flows freely between Moscow and the west.

It was a breath of fresh air, Russian folk lore is so different than the England centric mindset that most books are written in, and it played so well into the changes that were happening. It wasn’t very much earlier that Russia was completely isolated from the outside world.

I think my one complaint is how confusing things could get. I kept forgetting who was related to whom, and what girl went with which family, and how many kinds of “creatures” there were, and who had what power. It was written by someone who seemed to know a lot about what she was writing about, but unfortunately I think sometimes she also forgot that her readers are not as knowledgeable.

There were a couple of cringe worthy moments, some things that just could not have happened that way, and a lot of dumb luck on the characters part, but overall its good. Even the love triangle wasn’t that bad, although, it was a bit predictable (aren’t they all?) and played on the “bad boys as sexy” stereotype.

Characters

Katerina: I’ve seen complaints that she was ‘boring’ and, for the most part, I disagree. She had her moments, and she’s not the strongest main character that was ever written (but she’s a whole lot better than most!)

Pyotr: I’m gonna be real, the only reason I remembered Katerina’s brother’s name was because its one letter away from the name of my favorite X-Man (Piotr Rasputin). He wasn’t very memorable, but he care deeply about his sister.

Alix: There’s a plot twist with her that I won’t spoil, but I’m not suer what I think about it. She didn’t show up as a character after we heard about the twist, so I can’t wait to see where its taken in book two.

Prince Danilo: My opinion of him is that he reminds me of a beetle and not in a good way. I would certainly not describe him as “dashing,” perhaps “slimy” would be more apt.

George Alexandrovich: I have a bit of a love hate relationship with this character. He’s stubborn (in his defense, he cares about his country) and rude to Katerina at times, but then again, he does help her (and then do a complete personality flop and fall madly in love with her).

Overall

Its a good book, and I really did love it. As soon as I finished it, at about 1am mind, I put the next book in the series on hold at the library (thankfully there’s no waiting list).

If you like historical fiction or fantasy – or the animated Anastasia film – I think you’ll really love The Gathering Storm.

Expiration Day

Expiration DayExpiration Day by William Campbell Powell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Dystopian, Scifi
Publisher: Tor Teen
Series: None

There are no spoilers in this review. 

This was sent to me (a long time ago, mind you) by the publisher. This has not impacted my review.

What happens when you turn eighteen and there are no more tomorrows?
It is the year 2049, and humanity is on the brink of extinction….

Tania Deeley has always been told that she’s a rarity: a human child in a world where most children are sophisticated androids manufactured by Oxted Corporation. When a decline in global fertility ensued, it was the creation of these near-perfect human copies called teknoids that helped to prevent the utter collapse of society.

Though she has always been aware of the existence of teknoids, it is not until her first day at The Lady Maud High School for Girls that Tania realizes that her best friend, Siân, may be one. Returning home from the summer holiday, she is shocked by how much Siân has changed. Is it possible that these changes were engineered by Oxted? And if Siân could be a teknoid, how many others in Tania’s life are not real?

Driven by the need to understand what sets teknoids apart from their human counterparts, Tania begins to seek answers. But time is running out. For everyone knows that on their eighteenth “birthdays,” teknoids must be returned to Oxted—never to be heard from again.

I will confess that when I first saw this book I thought, “Ugh, another dystopian novel” and kept putting it off. I finally picked it up, got oh-so hooked, and finished it in a day. The writing style from the beginning is funny and witty and I found myself invested in the main character, Tania.

Parts of the book were a bit creepy, what with not knowing which of the kids were real and which were fake, and just the idea of robot kids is a bit distressing to me. But at the same time its a great look into

Characters

Tania: The narrator and main character, who narrates the book to her diary as if she’s writing for an alien in the future. She’s pretty sure that she’s one of the last real children on Earth, because people have mysteriously become infertile. Couples who want children but can’t have them get creepily realistic robot children known as Tekniods. Tekniods are so real that people don’t always realize they’re fake – until they have to return to the factory around their 18th birthday. Understandably, this world has a high divorce rate right around the time people’s children reach 18 and tragically ‘die.’

Ginger Mop aka John: is another kid that Tania is pretty sure is real. He’s a hacker, fighting back against the government who’s hiding things from the people. He helps Tania learn to do that as well, and helps her find herself.

Siân: Tania’s best friend, is a little obnoxious, but that may be because she’s a suspected fake robot child. She has a heart though, and doesn’t abandon Tania even after a major metaphorical bombshell is dropped. She had me happy crying before page fifty.

Overall

This is one of the best dystopian books I’ve ever read, and thats coming from someone who doesn’t even like that genre. Any fan of Dystopia/Sci-Fi should definitely pick this up.

A warning though, if you don’t appreciate good Shakespearian and Mythology references this may not be the book for you. Prior knowledge is not essential, and Tania would make a good teacher.