Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

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“Roses have both petals and thorns, my dark flower. You needn’t believe something weak because it appears delicate. Show the world your bravery.”
― Kerri ManiscalcoStalking Jack the Ripper

 

Goodreads Blurb

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.

 

Review

If you are a fan of Sherlock Holmes or the recent Jackaby novels by William Ritter then you would absolutely adore this book. Except the main character is a female, and all around awesome.

Audrey Rose is a strong female character who doesn’t bend to societies rules based on gender. She thoroughly enjoys studying as an apprentice underneath her uncle as a medical examiner and they help Scotland Yard solve the case of Jack the Ripper who is terrorizing the streets of London and killing young women and taking their organs for an unknown reason. They do this along with her uncles other apprentice, the dashing but oh-so-aggravating Thomas Cresswell who is a know-it-all and a shameless flirt.

However, the plot thickens even more when Audrey Rose realizes these murders have happened to many women who have worked as maids in her home over the span of her lifetime. And that one had been previously betrothed to her uncle. Can this be mere coincidence? Could she possibly know the killer or even be living in the same house as him?

She and Thomas must find out the truth.

I highly enjoyed this novel. I liked Maniscalco’s writing voice and how witty and sassy she made Audrey Rose and her cousin Liza, I liked how Audrey Rose didn’t let 19th century English society tell her who to be (Propriety be damned!), and it took me by surprise! I had no idea who the murderer was until the last 3rd of the book. It took me quite awhile to catch on.

You know how sometimes you read a mystery novel and you figure out where they’re going with it about halfway through the book? That was not this book. Her style of writing was wonderfully refreshing! I gave this book 5/5 stars. And I received an ARC of the 2nd book, Hunting Prince Dracula, from the Texas Library Association convention this year and will be posting a review of it soon as well. So get ready to leave England and head to Dracula’s castle in Romania for Audrey Rose’s next adventure!

***I do feel like I need to add a disclaimer to the end of this review… this was a pretty dark, gory book. If you are squeamish or not into that sort of story you may not want try this one out. Or if you do be prepared because they go into full detail when they are examining the victims bodies murdered by The Ripper.***

 

Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows #2) by Leigh Bardugo

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“Fear is a phoenix. You can watch it burn a thousand times and still it will return.”
― Leigh BardugoCrooked Kingdom

 

Goodreads Blurb

Welcome to the world of the Grisha.

After pulling off a seemingly impossible heist in the notorious Ice Court, criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker feels unstoppable. But life is about to take a dangerous turn—and with friends who are among the deadliest outcasts in Ketterdam city, Kaz is going to need more than luck to survive in this unforgiving underworld.

 

Review

Alright, so if you’ve read the first book in this duology then you know this is about a crew of friends who dabble in the illegal going-ons in Ketterdam in the Grishaverse. All of the same characters come back into play for this final book in the duology.

Kaz is still calling the shots, even if they are at last minutes and no one else knows what they are. Inej is still ambitious and wants to find her way back to her homeland and family and save other people being kidnapped and sold into slavery. Nina is dealing with the aftermath and withdrawals from taking the Jurda Parem and learning to harness a new ability that has come from the drug. Matthias is still trying to capture her heart and planning for their future. Wylan is finally seeing how horrid his father actually is. And Jesper is mending his relationship with his father and working on becoming a better person for his father and for Wylan.

There’s lots of moral lessons learned int his installment to the duology. I feel like Kaz and Wylan grew the most out of all the characters in the series. Kaz finally realizes what he has with Inej and shows her more kindness than he did in the first book and tries to open up to her more. Wylan basically goes from being a lost boy to a man and taking what’s rightfully his and not apologizing for it. I think Wylan is my favorite character in both books. Inej comes in at a close second.

One thing that I absolutely loved in Crooked Kingdom was how there was a crossover of characters from this series and the Shadow and Bone series. It was really neat to see them interacting together. Especially when they would reference Sankta Alina and knowing what really happened to her. It’s like that excitement I felt when I went to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens and they brought it all the original cast members like Princess Leia and Han Solo.

One thing that surprised me was the death at the end of the story. I don’t want to say who dies because that’s a pretty big spoiler but it was heart breaking and it came out of nowhere! These characters complete impossible tasks on the daily and someone so small and trivial managed to kill one of them. It was so sad. Yet, the actual ending of the book wasn’t. I appreciated that from Bardugo. She takes you on an emotional roller coaster but doesn’t leave you with lingering sadness over the book. Most of the character’s still had a happy ending.

I’m not sure why that character was chosen as the one who was killed off? Maybe because they really didn’t have a home or place in the Grisha world? I’m not sure.

Overall, I gave this book 3.5 stars. While I did really like it, it was a little slow in some parts and seemed very similar to the first book. I wish they had been in a new setting or had bigger changes to the plot. It just felt very much the same.

I hope they make this duology into a movie one day. I think with it’s unique plot it would do really well if it was done correctly. It probably would be somewhat difficult due to the type of magic in the story but it has the potential to be one of a kind and awesome!

 

Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

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Goodreads Blurb

The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.

Now the nation’s fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.

Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.

Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova’s amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling’s secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.

 

Review

I finally finished this one! I started it months ago and had to set it down. Not because I wasn’t enjoying it, I just needed to step away from The Grishaverse for awhile. I started off reading Six of Crows and then went back and read Shadow and Bone and then Siege and Storm. From there I tried finishing the series but I needed a brain break from it.

But I picked it up and wanted to get it read before school started and before the baby got here. And I loved it! I liked how it didn’t have a completely tragic ending. It seemed like a darker series that was heading that way for most of it but I was pleasantly surprised! I’m a sucker for a happy ending.

One thing that I can’t decide if I’m on-board about is who Alina ended up with. I love Mal, don’t get me wrong. I love how they grew up together and always looked out for each other but I feel like they both neglected each other so much. He was always off flirting and messing around with other girls before she get pretty and famous, and she could never make up her mind when it came to all of the men in her life. It just seemed like they both settled in the end.

In my opinion, I was hoping she would end up with Strumhond. I enjoyed his character more than Mal’s and it seemed like they just meshed well. They could have had time to fall head over heels for each other. But I guess in the end, it was best that Alina disappear after what happened on The Fold. Sigh. I just wish he would have fought a little harder for her. It was like each male in her life had something the other two didn’t.

Strumhond had charisma and charm and respect for Alina but was a little cocky.

The Darkling was a mysterious, torutred type who was on the same level as her. (Power wise) And who she seemed the most physically attracted too. But he was evil and awful. Unfortunate.

And then there’s Mal who she had a history with and who was her best friend but who neglected her and denied her until she became someone with power and fame.

It’s like there was no perfect person for her to end up with. But since she lost her power she became who Mal wanted her to be again. I just feel really conflicted about it.

As for the backstory with Morozova and The Darkling. I kind of saw that coming. I knew they would end up being related in some way. It was inevitable. I think that story about Morozova was supposed to be loosely related to Rasputin’s death and the whole myth of Anastasia Romanov surviving the family massacre that happened in Russia. His death seemed similar and there was a girl who miraculously survived… Lot’s of parallels. And Rasputin was thought to be more than just an adviser, he had a strange hold over the czar.

I liked the parallels, it made it interesting. And Ravka seems so Russian anyway. The landscape, the names, the way of life, the politics in the story.

I gave this book 4.5/5 stars because I enjoyed it so much. I am trying to finish up Crooked Kingdom right now and will hopefully have a review up in the next week! I can’t wait till Leigh Bardugo’s The Language of Thorns novel and her Wonder Woman book come out!

 

 

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

The Star Touched Queen

 

“I love you,” he murmured into my hair. “You are my night and stars, the fate I would fix myself to in any life.”
Roshani Chokshi, The Star-Touched Queen

 

Goodreads Blurb

Fate and fortune. Power and passion. What does it take to be the queen of a kingdom when you’re only seventeen?

Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of death and destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire…

But Akaran has its own secrets—thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most…including herself.

 

Review

This book! Omg this book. It has been a great summer for reading. It’s the first summer I’ve gotten to relax and I’m not doing a million and one things so I’ve really enjoyed knocking out a few books on my TBR. I’ve read 24 of 35 books for my Goodreads challenge so far. I’ve been trying to burn through them pretty quick since I know I won’t have a ton of time to read once the baby gets here in September and teaching makes it hard to read for pleasure in the first place.

I picked this book up in Baltimore when we were visiting my husbands family this summer. I’ve been following the author, Roshani Chokshi on Instagram and Twitter for awhile now. She and Sabaa Tahir crack me up but this is the first thing I’ve ever read that she’s written. I know she has a sequel to this book out now, A Crown of Wishes, but from what I’ve read about her she also has some published short stories. And she’s working on a middle grade mythology novel for Rick Riordan’s new mythology publishing line coming out. I’m super excited about it! I love his books and now I love hers!

I was blown away by this book straight away. Her writing style is very eloquent and whimsical and it reminded me a lot of Renee Ahdieh’s writing style. Which might partly be because they’re both writing about Indian mythology and folklore but I just really enjoyed it. The entire story and the world building was so beautiful! Enchanting would probably be the best word for it.

I also highly enjoyed the main character Maya. Yes she’s technically a Princess but she didn’t come off that way. She’s an ambitious character who knows what she wants and loves with everything she has. And I appreciated how Chokshi didn’t make her perfect. Most heroines in books are beautiful, talented, witty, etc. While Maya was quick-witted she was also a normal 17 year old girl. She was has normal teenage insecurities and suffers from mild acne and has nappy hair. Everything about her is great in the book. She’s very relatable and endearing and strong-willed. There’s nothing at all I would change about any of the characters in The Star-Touched Queen.

Then there’s the Dharma Raja, her Prince of Death (Amar) who always finds her. Hubba-hubba! He is Mr. Perfect! I love him! He is patient with Maya and keeps a tree of memories for her to always remind her of their past lives together. He is a deity so he’s had to bring her back multiple times and always finds her because she has a very specific horoscope when she’s born. A dark, and mysterious horoscope that most people fear.

There’s something so romantic about reincarnation and the idea of finding your soulmate in each life. Like in the N’SYNC song “This  I Promise You” from back in the day when J.C. sings “I’ve loved you forever… in lifetimes before.” One of the best lyrics ever! I’ve always wanted to read, and even thought about writing a story about lovers who find each other in each life. This whole story was just really special!

And then Nfritti comes along, who used to be Maya’s best friend in a past life but who is heartbroken over losing her beau, and feels like Maya betrayed her and did not help save him since she’s the queen that rules over death takes revenge on her and Amar. Maya must sift through all of the truth and lies weaved from Nfritti and from the half-truths that Amar has told her since he cannot speak about who he is and what he does until the moon allows it. Putting her blind faith into people is hard to do when the entire world has always been cruel to her and treated her like a pariah because of her unfortunate horoscope.

When Maya doubts herself and makes a huge mistake she must go to great lengths to correct her errors. This is when the story gets really interesting. Maya befriends a crazy, demon horse, aids her old kingdom and little sister who is now grown, and travels far and wide to get back to Amar and defeat Nfritti before it’s too late.

I gave this book 5/5 stars. It’s one of the best romantic stories I have read in YA and just an overall magical ride throughout the book. I can’t wait to order the second book. Chokshi is such an amazingly talented writer!!!!

The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding by Alexandra Bracken

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Goodreads Blurb

“I would say it’s a pleasure to meet thee, Prosperity Oceanus Redding, but truly, I only anticipate the delights of destroying thy happiness.”

Prosper is the only unexceptional Redding in his old and storied family history — that is, until he discovers the demon living inside him. Turns out Prosper’s great-great-great-great-great-something grandfather made — and then broke — a contract with a malefactor, a demon who exchanges fortune for eternal servitude. And, weirdly enough, four-thousand-year-old Alastor isn’t exactly the forgiving type.

The fiend has reawakened with one purpose — to destroy the family whose success he ensured and who then betrayed him. With only days to break the curse and banish Alastor back to the demon realm, Prosper is playing unwilling host to the fiend, who delights in tormenting him with nasty insults and constant attempts trick him into a contract. Yeah, Prosper will take his future without a side of eternal servitude, thanks.

Little does Prosper know, the malefactor’s control over his body grows stronger with each passing night, and there’s a lot Alastor isn’t telling his dim-witted (but admittedly strong-willed) human host. 

 

Review

The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding by Alex Bracken is one of my favorite middle grade novels now. I honestly wasn’t expecting to enjoy it so much! Usually I read middle grade books as fillers in between awesome series I’m reading or if I’m in a reading slump between books. I received an ARC of The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding from the Texas Library Association convention so my book looks a little bit different than the actual published copy of the book. I wish it looked more like the one they went with. I like the fox on the cover and Toad, the kitten with wings is on the back. The one I have is a little plain and looks unfinished.

This is the third novel I have read by Bracken. I read Passenger last year and it took me quite awhile to finish. I think I kept forcing myself to read it when I wasn’t in the mood for the genre because I really liked the book it was just a whippin’ to get myself to finish it. I loved the plot and how it was like Outlander for teens. And then I read The Darkest Minds a few weeks ago and loved it.

But I sped through Prosper Redding. The character is just so strong in his convictions, even if he knows it doesn’t make him the most popular kid. I enjoyed reading about how much he loved his twin sister and how he can really teach kids to stand up for what they believe in.

The setting was awesome in this book too. It was very Halloween-esque. It reminded me a lot of Halloweentown, the Disney channel movie from the early 2000’s. It was full of witches and creatures from the Downstairs (the demon world that Alastor, his parasite demon is a prince of). And while it was a little creepy at times, it was highly entertaining and so different and unique compared to anything else I have ever read. Especially with being a middle grade novel! I can’t wait to get the published version of it when it comes out to keep in my classroom. I think my 7th graders will love it! Maybe we can even read it as a book club book since I run that at my school. It’s a little thick for that but I think the kids would enjoy it a lot and it would be fun to read aloud to them during meetings or at Read-a-loud Lunch.

This book definitely leaves you with a cliffhanger so you know there’s going to be sequel. Prosper always struggles with the idea of making a contract with Alastor, except when one of his family members is kidnapped and taken to the Downstairs. Will he be able to save them from the demon world below? Is he strong enough or will his new demon friends help him?

I hope Alexandra Bracken is working on the sequel as a type this. I want to know what happens! I gave this middle grade novel 5/5 stars.

Sidenote: I posted the above picture with the ARC and my cat Junebug and Bracken responded! She just said “I’m so happy you like this one! And Junebug is a cutie!” It made my day!