North Texas Teen Book Festival 2018

This post is a little late but I loved this day so much that I still want to share it with y’all! I had the opportunity to attend the North Texas Teen Book Festival – Educator Day this year in April.

I usually attend the Texas Teen Book Festival in Austin but I had a baby a few weeks before it this year so I was happy to get invited to the North Texas one! And while I like the setting at St. Edward’s in Austin for the Texas one better, I really liked the author lineup they had at this one.

And I was lucky enough to get to attend the author luncheon. I sat at a table next to authors such as Morgan Matson, Roshani Chokshi, and Holly Black! I was awestruck the entire time. I barely ate any of the $50 lunch I paid for. During the luncheon Leigh Bardugo, Dhonielle Clayton, Sabaa Tahir and Renee Ahdieh spoke about diverse books in YA and middle grade.

I got to meet Leigh Bardugo, Cassandra Clare, Sabaa Tahir, Renee Ahdieh, Roshani Chokshi, Dhonielle Clayton, and Holly Black personally. It was such a neat experience. I forgot my Aru Shah and the End of Time book in the car but I stopped Roshani Chockshi while she was talking to some people and asked to take a picture with her because we were currently reading that novel in our book club at school and I knew the kids would think that was cool! They loved it. I sent the picture out to them on Remind and they were so excited. She is so sweet and humble. I loved all of them!

I definitely plan on going back next year. I got to connect with some librarians and English teachers across North Texas and hear some really cool panels about diverse books and needing broader representation for people of different cultures and for there to be more books written with LBGTQ representation. I also enjoyed all of the world building and setting panels. Those always fascinate me!

The books pictured above were the books that were given to me and the ones I got signed. I came home with a nice little stack. I fully plan on attending this even next year too, along with the one in Austin. I can’t wait!

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Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young

 

Skyinthedeep

 

Goodreads Blurb

OND ELDR. BREATHE FIRE.

Raised to be a warrior, seventeen-year-old Eelyn fights alongside her Aska clansmen in an ancient rivalry against the Riki clan. Her life is brutal but simple: fight and survive. Until the day she sees the impossible on the battlefield — her brother, fighting with the enemy — the brother she watched die five years ago.

Faced with her brother’s betrayal, she must survive the winter in the mountains with the Riki, in a village where every neighbor is an enemy, every battle scar possibly one she delivered. But when the Riki village is raided by a ruthless clan thought to be a legend, Eelyn is even more desperate to get back to her beloved family.

She is given no choice but to trust Fiske, her brother’s friend, who sees her as a threat. They must do the impossible: unite the clans to fight together, or risk being slaughtered one by one. Driven by a love for her clan and her growing love for Fiske, Eelyn must confront her own definition of loyalty and family while daring to put her faith in the people she’s spent her life hating.

 

Review

It’s been a minute. But that’s okay because I just read a super awesome book and I can’t wait to tell you about it! My mom grabbed an ARC of Sky in the Deep at TLA for me this year and had it signed. Huzzah! I was thrilled to say the least. Vikings, yes! Bad ass female character, yes! Intriguing plot line with a brother mysteriously is back from the dead and fighting you across the battlefield, yes! Steamy, slow burn romance, YAAAASSSSS!

This standalone novel earned 5 stars from me. I loved the characters (Eelyn + Fiske = True ❤ 4eva), I loved the setting, the plot, the world building, the Viking culture, and all of the grey areas in this book. I really loved how the relationships were not all black and white. There were some definite grey areas that make it relatable. For one, the betrayal between Iri and Eelyn. I don’t feel that it’s ever actually resolved nor do I feel like something like that in real life ever would be. You can’t take a sting out of something like that and Eelyn knows this but more importantly Iri knows it too. But he doesn’t really beg forgiveness. He leans more towards the “I’m sorry you feel that way, sister but this is my life now”.

And then the whole “Do we trust Eelyn, or has homegirl lost her mind” vibe coming from Myra and Aghi. Of course they’re extremely apprehensive about Eelyn coming back out of nowhere with the enemy in tow. It would be crazy if they were like SURE ARCHENEMY COME INTO MY KITCHEN AND HAVE SOME NICE VIKING TEA. No. I’m glad that not everything was easy in this novel. I appreciated the complexity of relationships of all the characters.

Of course Iri’s relationship with both of his families. Because how could that not have some grey in there? Talk about having a “complicated” relationship status.

Especially Fiske and Eelyn’s. He knows he’s mad about her early on but realizes that she’s a little crazy, if not a little immature in the beginning with a lot of life changes happening around her so he doesn’t push the subject. I loved reading all of the little hints he would drop her. He would casually throw a statement of unreadable undying love at her and then walk away all broodily. It was the cutest thing ever.

I don’t really have many dislikes for this novel. I feel like Young did an amazing job for her debut. Some small things I noticed were that Eelyn sobbed A LOT. Not that she didn’t have a right too. She definitely seemed like the moody 17 year old who covers up heartbrokenness and change with anger but she would start sobbing about just about everything. I don’t know, maybe I’m being too tough on the girl. She lived a hard Viking life anyway. Another thing that seemed a tad bit distracting in the beginning of the book was there are quite a few short, punctuated sentences. I think they’re used for emphasis but I think that could have been edited a little better.

I feel like I need to comment on the title of this book. I was so confused about the meaning in the beginning. When I first heard about it I thought it was about a girl named Sky but it’s actually based off a beautiful scene that takes place in the book. I thought that was creative and needed to be noted. It’s one of my favorite scenes in the book.

Lingering Questions

I merely want to add this section to the review because Young has stated on her Instagram that she is in the process of writing a companion novel to Sky in the Deep, and that we will see Eelyn and Fiske make an appearance in it.

  1. Are the Herja actually supernatural? In the book they’re described as having white eyes. Are they actually demons or are they just taking some crazy berserking drug that makes them look otherworldly?
  2. What are the relationships between the Riki and Aska clans like after the Herja battle and after they decided to end the fighting season?
  3. Do Iri and Runa stay in Fela or does he go to Hylli since everyone in his adoptive family move their for Eelyn? I feel like the novel leaves the impression that they stay but Runa’s parents are both dead now and everyone else Iri loves has now moved down to the fjord.

 

The Girl in The Tower by Katherine Arden

gitt

 

Goodreads Blurb

Orphaned and cast out as a witch by her village, Vasya’s options are few: resign herself to life in a convent, or allow her older sister to make her a match with a Moscovite prince. Both doom her to life in a tower, cut off from the vast world she longs to explore. So instead she chooses adventure, disguising herself as a boy and riding her horse into the woods. When a battle with some bandits who have been terrorizing the countryside earns her the admiration of the Grand Prince of Moscow, she must carefully guard the secret of her gender to remain in his good graces—even as she realizes his kingdom is under threat from mysterious forces only she will be able to stop. 

 

Review

I love both of these books. I love the light romance between Vasya and Morozko, I love the setting, the characters, the entire plot, the book covers, everything! I’m anxiously awaiting The Winter of the Witch release later this year. Vasya is one of my favorite female characters in a book. She’s so strong-willed, brave, caring, and honest. We need more strong, female characters in literature! Move over Bilbo! 😛

I feel like this second book was all about her having to grow up and learning how to be conscious of other peoples desires and less impulsive. She has a tougher time in this book versus the first book because she is no longer at home, no longer has a parent, and is thrown into her older brother and sisters world at court in Moscow. She must learn to behave herself and fit into the role of a woman instead of a young girl. Her brother and sister have now spent several years away from the frontier and at court and do not understand why she still behaves the way she does.

To tame her, they try and find her a husband. All the while, Vasya is trying to unravel the mystery behind all of the village burnings in the countryside and all of the young girls being kidnapped. She and Solovey, her horse, are the only ones able to track down the raiders. And she ends up catching up to her brother Sasha at a monastery but he does not want to reveal her as a female because of the gender roles of the time. It would ruin her reputation.

He ends up bringing her to court where a mysterious guy takes an interest in her, even as a male. Which makes his character very confusing and his motives unclear. I don’t want to put too many spoilers in this review because it’s a rather large piece of the plot 🙂

Anyway, this novel is all about the journey to adulthood, making the right decisions, romance, and the relationship between a girl and her horse. I think Solovey is my favorite character in these books. He’s hilarious! And is always looking out for Vasya.

The Bear and The Nightingale by Katherine Arden

 

Junebug

Goodreads Blurb

At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind–she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed–this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.

 

Review

This was my first read of 2018. My mom had read it and recommended it to me around Christmas time. I have actually owned the book since it came out in early 2017. I bought it because I thought the cover was so beautiful, and since seeing the UK version I’m not sure which I love more.

This novel follows the main character, Vasilisa Petrovna, through her life and upbringing in medieval Russia, or Rus as it was called back then. Arden’s depiction of the time period and the way of life is absolutely amazing. I feel as if I learned so much about the way the people lived and about how Christianity was integrated into their way of life. For instance, to stay warm during the harsh winters the family had a sort of platform built above the stove in the house and that is where they all slept together to stay warm through the winter. Pretty cool, huh?

And out on the frontier the people actually believed in these types of guardians, domovoi, that watched over their house and animals. Like you leave scraps of food for the house domovoi to protect you and your family and you feed the stable one to protect and care for the horses. It was very fascinating to read about. And the domovoi reminded me of Calcifer from Howl’s Moving Castle which was cool.

Throughout all of this you’re also learning about the folklore, such as Morozko, basically our version of Jack Frost and his brother is basically Death. But the less people believe in them, the more they fade away. So when the church begins to rise to power in Moscow the domovoi and Jack Frost and the Bear begin losing their powers slowly as people convert. The church sees it as evil and giving into demons when the frontier people leave offerings to the domovoi.

And when this happens The Bear becomes stronger and evilness corrupts the land, turning all of the sprites and wood nymphs to bad instead of good. And as the story progresses you learn that Vasya is the only person who can help, because she has special powers that her grandmother had.

This novel actually leaves you with a bad taste in your mouth in regards to the church and it’s priests. Everything about them are corrupt and close-minded. And the Father who comes to Vasya’s town to convert the people is a really horrible person. It’s like he loves Vasya because she represents everything he cannot have, such as freedom and her love of the wilderness, but he hates her too. I think he blames her for tempting him, which is sick and twisted. And I didn’t like how her brother decided to leave to join the church because I really liked his character in the beginning of the novel so it was a shame to see him leave. I thought he would have stayed to protect the family and to watch over Vasya.

Vasya’s father also finds a new wife from Moscow when he goes to marry off his eldest daughter. He is already in the good graces of the royalty because his wife came from that family so they offer him a slightly “crazy” daughter for him to marry and take away to the woods. She’s actually related to his late wife. But you come to find out that she has been endowed with the same gifts as Vasya but she’s been raised in a place that shuns the domovoi and anything of the like so she thinks she is always seeing demons.

She hates Vasya because she sees that she is at peace with this gift and she assumes she is a devil-child instead of a normal girl.

I loved seeing how the family dynamics came into play during this time period. It was very unique and I feel as if I learned a lot. Not to mention this book also has a slight romantic twist along with a magical bird that becomes a sassy horse. It was a magical wintertime read from beginning to end and I devoured the second book as soon as I finished this one. The Winter of the Witch, the third and I think last installment in this series is due to come out this fall if I’m not mistaken. It’s one of my most anticipated reads for this year!

I gave this book 5/5 stars. It was wonderful and everyone should read it. A warning for younger/young adult readers though, it gets pretty dark. There are some graphic elements to this book, such as when they are describing this cultures take on vampires. It was much darker than I thought it would be but no less fascinating.

 

Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo

wonderwoman

Goodreads Blurb

Daughter of immortals.

Princess Diana longs to prove herself to her legendary warrior sisters. But when the opportunity finally comes, she throws away her chance at glory and breaks Amazon law—risking exile—to save a mortal. Diana will soon learn that she has rescued no ordinary girl, and that with this single brave act, she may have doomed the world.

Daughter of death.

Alia Keralis just wanted to escape her overprotective brother with a semester at sea. She doesn’t know she is being hunted by people who think her very existence could spark a world war. When a bomb detonates aboard her ship, Alia is rescued by a mysterious girl of extraordinary strength and forced to confront a horrible truth: Alia is a Warbringer—a direct descendant of the infamous Helen of Troy, fated to bring about an age of bloodshed and misery.

Together.

Two girls will face an army of enemies—mortal and divine—determined to either destroy or possess the Warbringer. Tested beyond the bounds of their abilities, Diana and Alia must find a way to unleash hidden strengths and forge an unlikely alliance. Because if they have any hope of saving both their worlds, they will have to stand side by side against the tide of war.

 

Review

This review hurts me to write. Especially since I’ve been MIA for 3 months since having a baby I hate to start my reviews out with this one. But honestly, I just haven’t read many books that I really love since before baby girl was born. The few that’s I’ve read have let me down except for the graphic novels I read. But I ended up giving Wonder Woman 2 stars on Goodreads. Maybe it was just my preference because I saw a lot of people who gave it wonderful reviews but for me it did not pick up until about page 235.

I went in thinking I would love this book… it’s Wonder Woman and it’s Leigh Bardugo writing it. I love Bardugo’s other books. But it fell flat. I feel like the whole middle part of the story was drug out and slow. It felt like she wasn’t sure how to get from point A to Point B. I much prefer her fantasy writing style and her ability to world build.

Out of all the characters Diana was my favorite and then Alia’s sassy friend. Alia fell a little short for me. She was needy, lost, and never seemed to get her footing.

And I much preferred reading about the island Diana was from. Tek and her mother made more interesting plot lines and added better character dynamics to the story. I hope they’re on the island more in the next one.

I ended up giving this one 3 stars. For preference I might have given it a lower rating but Bardugo is an extremely talented writer and I think this book just wasn’t my cup of tea. However, I’m sure big fans of Marvel and of Wonder Woman would enjoy it.

Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai

Inside Out

 

Goodreads Blurb

For all the ten years of her life, Hà has only known Saigon: the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, and the warmth of her friends close by. But now the Vietnam War has reached her home. Hà and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope. In America, Hà discovers the foreign world of Alabama: the coldness of its strangers, the dullness of its food . . . and the strength of her very own family.

 

Review

This was such a quick read! One, it’s written in verse instead of prose. Two, it was a wonderful read so I zipped through it in a day. I originally ordered this book from Amazon because I was looking for a good nonfiction novel to read with my 7th graders this years. And I love the fact that it’s written in verse. I don’t think many of my kiddos have read any books written in verse so it will be good to expose them to that too. And the book is full of symbolism and figurative language to touch on poetry as well. As well as tie in some history aspects of the times (1960-1970’s) and how Communism impacted the whole world.

The story of Ha is based on the author’s life in Saigon in the beginning and then later it’s about how she, her mom, and brothers take refuge in the United States to get away from the Communism in Vietnam. They are hosted by a family in Alabama so that one of her brothers can work as an apprentice car mechanic for the man of the house.

There, Ha and her brothers must adjust to American culture and have to deal with their peers bullying them daily. The author explains it later in the book, that when she moved to Alabama it took her years to realize that she and her family represented what all of these kids were seeing on their TV screens at home and that they had never actually seen Vietnamese people in rural Alabama before. So if the kids were being mean to her she finally realized they were just copying what they were hearing and seeing at home from their parents and from the American news anchors.

I can’t imagine what that kind of culture shock would be like. Ha talks about her memories in Saigon, her friends, the plant life, the food, the landscape and how much she misses all of these things. From reading the book and have never been to Vietnam, they sound sooooooooo different. I cannot imagine. It almost sounds like they moved to a different planet.

I don’t read too much nonfiction so I was really glad I liked it! I think one of the last nonfiction books I read was Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand about the World War II pilot and his crew members that survived on a raft for months. And I actually read that one with my kiddos and they liked it so much that we started an after school book club where we finished the YA adaption of the book and watched certain parts of the movie.

I’m hoping Inside Out & Back Again will interest them as much! And I think it would be great as a film if they ever decide to adapt it! I’d definitely go see it.

 

Never Fade by Alexandra Bracken

Never Fade

 

Goodreads Blurb

Ruby never asked for the abilities that almost cost her her life. Now she must call upon them on a daily basis, leading dangerous missions to bring down a corrupt government and breaking into the minds of her enemies. Other kids in the Children’s League call Ruby “Leader”, but she knows what she really is: a monster.

When Ruby is entrusted with an explosive secret, she must embark on her most dangerous mission yet: leaving the Children’s League behind. Crucial information about the disease that killed most of America’s children—and turned Ruby and the others who lived into feared and hated outcasts—has survived every attempt to destroy it. But the truth is only saved in one place: a flashdrive in the hands of Liam Stewart, the boy Ruby once believed was her future—and who now wouldn’t recognize her.

As Ruby sets out across a desperate, lawless country to find Liam—and answers about the catastrophe that has ripped both her life and America apart—she is torn between old friends and the promise she made to serve the League. Ruby will do anything to protect the people she loves. But what if winning the war means losing herself?

 

Review

I’m really liking Alexandra Bracken’s books. I can’t decide if I liked this book better or the first one, The Darkest Minds, more… I really missed Zu in this one but at least the majority of the characters came back together! I tried going to Barnes & Noble yesterday to find the third book In the Afterlight, and they didn’t have it 😦 So I ended up buying The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virture by Mckenzie Lee instead. Maybe next time they’ll have it or I’ll just break down soon and buy it off of Amazon.

I think Ruby and Liam’s relationship seemed a little more over the top in this one but I loved the new characters Jude and Vida. Vida is the best! I love people who are super caring and protective but they don’t want you to call them out on it. Her tough exterior is entertaining and endearing even though she doesn’t want it to be.

And have you seen the new covers for these books? They’re even better than the original ones! *Photos from Alex Bracken’s website * I think the Never Fade one is actually my favorite.

 

I don’t want to put any spoilers in this review since it’s just the second book I’m reviewing but the ending was heart wrenching. So so so so so so sad. I wasn’t expecting it! It’s the first time that Bracken pulled on my heartstrings like that and it was very sudden. You’ll know what I’m talking about once you get to the ending. All I can say is, have a box of tissues next to you. All you want to do is console everyone in the end but the team knows they must go on and help the rest of the kids stuck in these awful camps if they ever want their life to be somewhat normal again. What is surprising to me is that Liam and Chubs aren’t exactly in the same boat with Ruby.

In the first book Liam seems like he’s going to end up being a martyr just to help everyone escape the camps but he flip flops in Never Fade. I don’t know if things got too real for him or he just feels like he has something to lose now (Ruby), but he just wants the 3 of them to go into hiding and to protect themselves and to go to California to make sure Zu and her cousin made it there. I think Chubs just wants to be with his friends or his family and that he’s tired of running the way they have been.

The third book sounds like it’s taking them more westward and in the direction of Zu no matter where they end up. I can’t wait to pick it up but we move this week and we’re having our baby the next week so reading may take a backseat for awhile. I have a few more reviews coming for A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi and a middle grade novel called Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai, a nonfiction novel about the author’s life leaving Saigon in the 70’s and moving to Alabama in the United States.

 

 

Lord of Shadows (The Dark Artifices #2) by Cassandra Clare

LOS

 

Goodreads Blurb

Would you trade your soul mate for your soul?

A Shadowhunter’s life is bound by duty. Constrained by honor. The word of a Shadowhunter is a solemn pledge, and no vow is more sacred than the vow that binds parabatai, warrior partners—sworn to fight together, die together, but never to fall in love.

Emma Carstairs has learned that the love she shares with her parabatai, Julian Blackthorn, isn’t just forbidden—it could destroy them both. She knows she should run from Julian. But how can she when the Blackthorns are threatened by enemies on all sides?

Their only hope is the Black Volume of the Dead, a spell book of terrible power. Everyone wants it. Only the Blackthorns can find it. Spurred on by a dark bargain with the Seelie Queen, Emma; her best friend, Cristina; and Mark and Julian Blackthorn journey into the Courts of Faerie, where glittering revels hide bloody danger and no promise can be trusted. Meanwhile, rising tension between Shadowhunters and Downworlders has produced the Cohort, an extremist group of Shadowhunters dedicated to registering Downworlders and “unsuitable” Nephilim. They’ll do anything in their power to expose Julian’s secrets and take the Los Angeles Institute for their own.

When Downworlders turn against the Clave, a new threat rises in the form of the Lord of Shadows—the Unseelie King, who sends his greatest warriors to slaughter those with Blackthorn blood and seize the Black Volume. As dangers close in, Julian devises a risky scheme that depends on the cooperation of an unpredictable enemy. But success may come with a price he and Emma cannot even imagine, one that will bring with it a reckoning of blood that could have repercussions for everyone and everything they hold dear.

Review

I’ve had lots of luck with sequels lately. First I fell in love with the sequel to Stalking Jack the Ripper and now I have fallen in love with the sequel to Lady Midnight. I enjoyed Lady Midnight I just think it took me awhile to get back into the Shadowhunter world after not reading it for a few years. I devoured The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices back in college, but then there was kind of a dry spell where there weren’t any new Shadowhunter books for awhile. I think they were busy making the movie and trying to figure out the TV show there for a few years.

But I could not put Lord of Shadows down. I finished it within a week, which is no easy feat with these books because they’re HUGE! I thought I wouldn’t have it finished by the time the baby got here in September. I had already mentally prepared myself that it was most likely the last book I was going to finish during summer. But I completed it and now I’m onto Never Fade by Alexandra Bracken. The sequel to The Darkest Minds. Another sequel! I guess it’s just been a catch up summer for me! I finished all of my professional development by the first week of July so I’ve had lots of time to read.

Lord of Shadows seemed much more emotional to me than the first book. I loved all of the Edgar Allan Poe references and the “Annabel Lee” poem in it but I couldn’t get into it right away. However, I was fully invested in all the characters by the second installment to the series. I loved them all. Emma, Christina, Gwyn, Ty, Livvy, Kieran, Mark, and then the appearances throughout the book by our old favorites Magnus and Alec. The whole plot seemed more cohesive than the first book. More was set up, relationships had been built, there was love, betrayal, and all that’s in between.

I loved when they traveled to Faerie too. I think that’s what hooked me at first. I have loved all Fae books since I was a freshman in high school when I read the Wicked Lovely books. The setting drew me in. I love how mystical and barbaric the world is. It’s such a conundrum! And I feel like this reflected in Kieran and Mark’s relationship. Everything with them and Christina was so emotional and twisted, just like all things Fae. You never know what to expect! And it was done really well in this book. There was no sense of hodge-podgeness.

This is why I enjoyed Gwen and Diana’s relationship too. Nothing is black and white with the Fae. It’s all kinds of shades of gray.

The ending of this book was absolutely heart wrenching. Several people died, loyalties were shattered, and you find out there’s more to the Shadowhunter world falling apart. It’s a great lead for the next book in the series. One of the best cliff hangers at the end of a book I’ve seen in awhile. I have no idea how I am supposed to survive until The Queen of Air and Darkness (The Dark Artifices #3) comes out in 2019!!!! That’s two stinking years!

I hear there’s supposed to be another sub-series coming out that feeds out of The Infernal Devices series. Supposedly it’s about the generation of Lightwood’s and Blackwood children that come after Will, Tessa, and Jem’s generation in the early 1900’s. I guess I can bide my time with that. I believe the first book is targeted for 2018 at some point.

In the meantime, I’ve been thinking about trying the TV show out again. I thought the first season was so-so. I watched the first episode of the second season and gave up though. Should I try again? Does it get better? But then I saw a clip of Sarah Hyland as the Seelie Queen and I thought even her acting was bad as the queen. How can you make Sarah Hyland’s acting bad??? I love her in Modern Family! And I think Sebastian has to make his appearance in the second season at some point. That’s another reason I’m interested. I don’t even know who’s supposed to play him. Let me know what you think!

And I gave this book a 5/5 stars. Wholeheartedly, without a shadow of a doubt. It was splendid.

 

Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco

HPD

 

Goodreads Blurb

In this hotly anticipated sequel to the haunting #1 bestseller Stalking Jack the Ripper, bizarre murders are discovered in the castle of Prince Vlad the Impaler, otherwise known as Dracula. Could it be a copycat killer…or has the depraved prince been brought back to life?

Following the grief and horror of her discovery of Jack the Ripper’s true identity, Audrey Rose Wadsworth has no choice but to flee London and its memories. Together with the arrogant yet charming Thomas Cresswell, she journeys to the dark heart of Romania, home to one of Europe’s best schools of forensic medicine…and to another notorious killer, Vlad the Impaler, whose thirst for blood became legend.

But her life’s dream is soon tainted by blood-soaked discoveries in the halls of the school’s forbidding castle, and Audrey Rose is compelled to investigate the strangely familiar murders. What she finds brings all her terrifying fears to life once again

 

Review

This was one of the rare incidences that the sequel was better than the first book. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Stalking Jack the Ripper, but I feel like the story in Hunting Prince Dracula was much more entertaining. Maybe because I enjoyed the setting better. And I really do think Maniscalco’s writing became stronger with the second book. The plot seemed more elaborate and surprised me more in the end than the first book.

I was lucky enough to snag an ARC from the Texas Library Association convention this year. Well… my mom snagged it for me. She’s the librarian at the middle school where I teach. Hunting Prince Dracula will officially come out in September this year, so only one more month! September will be a good month since it comes out then and so does Warcross by Marie Lu. (Which was also spectacular, as most Marie Lu novels are.)

I was hooked on Hunting Prince Dracula throughout the entire novel. Knowing it was going to take place in Vlad the Impaler’s castle in Romania made it intriguing to me. The castle/school seemed creepy and so did many of the students. I kept waiting to see if this book was going to turn out having fantasy elements in it. Which in a way it did but it was still mostly historical fiction. Most of the fantasy aspects came from hearing about all of the myths and legends that surround Romania with vampires and werewolves. I do wish that my ARC had a completed glossary of Romanian translations in the back. It would have been helpful while reading. I guess I’ll have to go buy a copy when it comes out next month. Some of the language was difficult to keep up with.

The ending of this one took me completely by surprise! The whole time you’re wondering is it a real person who lives near the castle committing these copy cat acts to Dracula’s or is it Dracula himself come back to haunt his bloodline? You even see the main character Audrey Rose doubt her thoughts a few times. She always argues scientifically but there’s so many parallels in this spooky place that she can’t help but wonder.

Of course I love the main characers, Audrey Rose and Thomas Cresswell. They’re both witty and Cresswell’s lack of shame in flirting is hilarious. But then you meet new characters like his sister Daciana and the maid Ileana and you love them too! Daciana has about as much shame as her brother and never apologizes for what she believes in. I love her! And Ileana just seems like she knows a little more than she lets on the entire book but she’s also a very good friend to Audrey Rose. You don’t know what to make of her character until the end of the book.

I don’t want to post too many spoilers for this book since it’s not even out yet but I do want to talk about the next novel. And yes, there will definitely be a next one. When the story ends Audrey Rose and Thomas find out they will still be abroad this next year with her uncle as apprentices. And they will be traveling to… AMERICA! You kind of expect that to happen because Audrey Rose drops a few foreshadowing comments here and there about how she’s always wanted to travel there. I think she says New York specifically if I remember correctly. I’m hoping we cross paths with her cousin Liza in the next book since they talk about her traveling abroad the next year as a coming of age thing like Daciana does in this book.

I’ve heard a lot about this type of travel year lately that young adults took in the 19th century. I know there’s a new YA novel out called The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue that it just specifically about a young mans travel year. I wish it was still feasible to do things like that now. Maybe it is… I just don’t know how I’d feel about my daughter traveling on her own with a friend to different countries for a year. Sounds expensive and kind of dangerous. I think for me to be okay with that it would need to be with a study abroad program. But the idea of it sounds marvelous!

Anyway, this book definitely got 5/5 stars from me. I highly recommend it. It is dark like the other book but it’s wonderful! Rich with Romanian folklore and all things Dracula. I cannot wait until the next one debuts. I’m already having withdrawals.

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.***