Tag: Historical Fiction

BOOK REVIEW: Stalking Jack the Ripper (Stalking Jack the Ripper #1) by Kerri Maniscalco

BOOK REVIEW: Stalking Jack the Ripper (Stalking Jack the Ripper #1) by Kerri ManiscalcoStalking Jack the Ripper (Stalking Jack the Ripper #1)
by Kerri Maniscalco
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
Book Depository
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

Presented by James Patterson's new children's imprint, this deliciously creepy horror novel has a storyline inspired by the Ripper murders and an unexpected, blood-chilling conclusion...

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.

The story's shocking twists and turns, augmented with real, sinister period photos, will make this dazzling, #1 New York Times bestselling debut from author Kerri Maniscalco impossible to forget.

 

 “Didn’t your family warn you against sneaking around at night alone?” he asked. “Dangerous things linger in the dark.”

Halloooo therreee. It seems I’m catching up and producing enough reviews to halfway feel like myself again!!!! And it. Is. GLORIOUS. And I’m so happy to be reviewing a book my dear friend, Brittney, has been unflinchingly begging me to read for ages. It’s not often I’ll pick up a book that has creepier tendencies, but when I do, they sometimes become my absolute favorites (a la Jazz from I Hunt Killers).

But where this book was strong in its witty writing and intriguing characters, there were also some flaws that I couldn’t help but to be bothered by (and the matter gets worse in book 2…but I wouldn’t let that effect the rating of this installment, of course!). As I always like to repeat: Let’s start with the sour, then we’ll get to the sweet. And oh, let me tell ya, Thomas was as sweet as it can get.

I stood, and Thomas joined me, eager to move onto our next mission.
“Hurry along, then,” I said, grabbing my orchid and securing it safely in my journal. “I want to sit by the window.”
“Hmm.”
“What now?” I asked, losing patience.
“I usually sit by the window. You may have to sit in my lap.”

I know this is going to get me kicked in the teeth, metaphorically speaking, for saying this, but I found that Audrey Rose really, really loved to get haughty about being a woman who deserved the same equality as a man. Now

I’m not sayiiinnngggg women shouldn’t be treated equally-I NEVER said that-howeverrrr, when a point is repeated, well, repeatedly, it begins to lose its importance. Just let the dead horse lay, as they say, and stop beating it. Like I said, I noticed it here in this book, but it didn’t really get on my nerves TOO BAD until book two. Or maybe I’m just confused because I read them so close together….either way, girl needs to stop. She’s said it enough I’m sure even the corpses she’s operating on got it through their thick, dead skulls.

“…the dead speak to those who listen. Be quieter than even them.”

Secondly, I was so SOOOO excited and into her and Thomas’s banter. From the beginning (this is a plus) my heart went into overdrive when they first met, because Thomas was just an outspoken little soul who couldn’t help but to get under her (and everyone else’s) skin. But, again, being inside Audrey Rose’s head just kind of got….annoying. NOT BADLY SO, but enough that I balked near the end when she’d proclaim what a fiend and a scoundrel Thomas was. I ADORE Thomas, but sometimes saying things so much just ruins the whole effect-such is the case with her repetitive proclamations-both about Thomas’s idiosyncrasies and being a wholly capable woman who is able to handle herself just as the men do.

I was determined to be both pretty and fierce, as Mother had said I could be. Just because I was interested in a man’s job didn’t mean I had to give up being girly. Who defined those roles anyhow?

NOW. Onto the pleasant and sweet-Which far surpassed the sour.

All in all this story was super addicting. I loved the fast-paced feeling, yet it was handled in a manner in which you didn’t feel rushed. It was day-to-day and we were constantly on the lookout for Jack the Ripper. Shrouded in mystery, each page had me guessing who near Audrey Rose could possibly be the killer. You just knew it was someone she was in close proximity with, yet she was missing key clues to really pin it down. Was I right in the end? Yes and no. Was it somewhat obvious? Not particularly. But I did like how the author handled everything so that we constantly questioned everyone’s intent, were constantly second guessing ourselves, and really how it made me feel like a damned fool because I was like a chicken running around with its head cut off.

This story was also quite creepy-not in the way you will feel if you continue onto the second (castles and secret tunnels and creepy creepy crawlers, oh my!), but enough that it had me looking over my shoulder. Who said alleyways aren’t creepy? As the book came to its haunting conclusion, I began shaking in a way that I haven’t for a book in…I don’t know how long. I’m talking stomach flutters of actual TERROR, people, a dread I couldn’t grasp onto. Reading each page slower than the last not to savor, but because my fear had grown so immeasurable I could hardly breathe, for I didn’t know what horrors each new page possessed. That alone deserved 4 stars! However, this book caused loss of breath for two reasons, and one isn’t so scary as the last…

Thomas held a hand up, shaking his head. Fine. “What makes you sure I even need a partner? I’m quite capable of doing things on my own.”
“Perhaps it’s not you who would benefit from our partnership,” he said quietly.

Thomas. Thomas Cresswell. Be still my heart…sweet, cocky, and socially inept, this boy stole my heart INSTANTLY. It wasn’t so much that he was different or special or anything, but I suppose it’s just his mannerisms, the way he handled himself. I love that he knew he wanted to be with Audrey, so he went for it. He went in for the kill at each present opportunity, never once allowing her to believe he had any other intention. He knows what people say about him, and he knows what they think, but never once does he let it bother him…or is it more that he didn’t let his insecurities show? I think this defines Thomas to a tee-outwardly cocky, but a soft, insecure, unsure of himself boy who is fiercely loyal and only wishes to be accepted by those he loves. And….I simply adore him. What else is there to say? He’s simply marvelous and he would literally do anything to win Audrey Rose’s heart. He’d do anything to protect her, and his love is genuine. You can’t ask for more than that.

Without lifting his head from his own journal, he said, “Not having any luck figuring me out, then? Don’t worry, you’ll get better with practice. And, yes”—he grinned wickedly, eyes fixed on his paper—“ you’ll still fancy me tomorrow no matter how much you wish otherwise. I’m unpredictable, and you adore it. Just as I cannot wrap my massive brain around the equation of you and yet adore it.”

This book was a nice little surprise-whenever you repeatedly hear something about a story, you really can’t expect much lest the hype monster devour you. But with this story I was pleasantly surprised and pleased beyond words. With a clever mystery, enrapturing characters full of banter, and nail-biting suspense, your heart will surely break for these spell-binding characters. And, if I’m being completely honest, I do have a soft spot for our MC because, well, her name is scary close to my baby girl’s name-Aubrey Rose. OOPS. So…there you have it. I’m biased and refuse to relent…and it doesn’t hurt that the author knows what she’s doing.

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BOOK REVIEW: Wolf by Wolf (Wolf by Wolf #1) by Ryan Graudin

BOOK REVIEW: Wolf by Wolf (Wolf by Wolf #1) by Ryan GraudinWolf by Wolf (Wolf by Wolf #1)
by Ryan Graudin
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
Book Depository
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

Her story begins on a train.

The year is 1956, and the Axis powers of the Third Reich and Imperial Japan rule. To commemorate their Great Victory, Hitler and Emperor Hirohito host the Axis Tour: an annual motorcycle race across their conjoined continents. The victor is awarded an audience with the highly reclusive Adolf Hitler at the Victor’s Ball in Tokyo.

Yael, a former death camp prisoner, has witnessed too much suffering, and the five wolves tattooed on her arm are a constant reminder of the loved ones she lost. The resistance has given Yael one goal: Win the race and kill Hitler. A survivor of painful human experimentation, Yael has the power to skinshift and must complete her mission by impersonating last year’s only female racer, Adele Wolfe. This deception becomes more difficult when Felix, Adele twin’s brother, and Luka, her former love interest, enter the race and watch Yael’s every move.

But as Yael grows closer to the other competitors, can she bring herself to be as ruthless as she needs to be to avoid discovery and complete her mission?

From the author of The Walled City comes a fast-paced and innovative novel that will leave you breathless.

 

 
You must never forget the dead.
Remember and be rended. Be rendered.
Look straight, where the danger is.
Inhale.
Exhale.
Reach the bottom of the breath
                                                                                                              And shoot.

Wolf by Wolf challenged me in ways I can’t even begin to explain. But maybe this is a good start:

There’s this hilarious moment in the Grinch with Jim Carrey (what part ISN’T hilarious with him in that movie?) when he says: ‘Kids today: So desensitized by movies and television.’

And I think that applies here. I believe with my whole heart I’ve had my blinders on. I’ve had one EXTREME soft spot since I was a child (though, I have [and always have had] MANY because I’m an extremely empathetic person), and they are of the furry, four-legged variety. But any animal, really. My point is this: I have read so many fucked up books throughout my life, but the only books that have ripped at my heart and pissed me off most have centered on animal abuse, dogs dying or being murdered, etc.. You get the picture.

And I’m not blind. I know what goes on in the world-But I’ve always turned my head in the other direction. Does that make sense? I’m one of those people who tries to see the good in everyone, who wants to believe all these bad things aren’t happening, who was always SO naïve, and still am, really, and just…I wanted to shut all the bad things in the world out. I don’t want to know about it. I don’t want to hear about it. I don’t want to cry-especially with animals.

And like I said-I’ve never not known what goes on…I just turn a blind eye or a deaf ear. And then something miraculous happened: My little girl was born. Now I am so beyond sensitive to the world and it’s issues and I CRY. ABOUT. EV-ER-Y-THING. I just can’t turn a blind eye anymore and it all kills me inside. I swear, I’m a depressed, swirling tornado of sad feels…all because of one amazing little human.

Live? In a world of fangs and lonely?
Or die. In a cage of smoke and needles.

So when I picked up this book, this book that would have just been so epic before Aubrey girl…I didn’t expect how much the graphic content would disturb me. Now, it didn’t effect my rating-you know, hearing about the concentration camps…because, honestly, it made me care, and isn’t that the point? But, I guess what I’m saying is that this book hit me hard in the gut…and I wasn’t expecting it.

Not alone. It was a cruel irony that this was the message she had been chosen to deliver. She, the loneliest of all. The girl without a people. Without a face. The girl who was no one. Who could be everyone.

This book may have been fiction, but it was so much stronger than that. And I by no means am glorifying this heinous event-in fact, it’s quite the contrary. It made me so much madder, because, frankly, it’s so easy to learn about the past and then choose to forget about it. It caused me to remember all I have learned and I understand the weight so much more now that I’m older and am choosing to process this.

Adele didn’t beg. Her eyes were ice and slit. She stared past the gun, straight at Yael. “Who are you?”
Not What do you want? or What are you doing here?
Who are you? Who? Who? Who?
Why, of all questions, this one?

But onto the story-

Yael’s mission is to assassinate Hitler. It’s her job to join the Axis Tour and win so she can attend the Victor’s Ball where she will follow through with her mission to end his reign. In this altered history, Hitler won and what we see is his glorified horrible idea of what is perfect and what happens to those he deems unworthy. Yael is a part of the resistance, she’s a survivor of one of his concentration camps and vows to end his life to save countless others-to avenge those she loved and lost before, to honor their memories.

Yael swallowed. But the tangle stayed.
Did it matter? One life. A drop in a vast, vast ocean of hundreds, thousands, millions.
Yes, pounded the hollow of her heart. Yes, cried her wolves.
It mattered. All of them mattered. All of the hundreds, thousands, millions. Vast, vast…
Would it ever end?

But during the race, she must defy the odds while battling with other hungry previous victors, all the while pretending to be someone who knows her past indiscretions, secrets, allies…and love interests.

She thought she was ready for this mission. Ready for anything.
But not this. Not relationships.
This wasn’t something she could fake.

I saw from some of my friends they weren’t huge fans of Luka, but I’m inclined to disagree. I found him to be some of my favorite moments of the story-especially near the end. His hurt is palpable, his desperation to win Yael/Adele over-it broke my heart. But, more than that, their flirtations and banter were by far one of the most lighthearted things about this novel-I absolutely loved how they interacted with one another….even though Yael is falling head over heels for a guy who doesn’t even know she exists.

“Sometimes I miss this. You. Me. Secrets. Stars.” His words curled out with the smoke—wisps of burning air that actually looked pretty. “I thought I was invincible. Before you.”

Love, lies, betrayal, and loyalties…they are all tested in this race of all races. Yael is tangled in a web of lies, deceit, and power-hungry opponents-but who can she trust among them and who will help her reach her ultimate goal? She went into the race knowing these men were monsters…but is there more to them than meets the eye? And though she thinks herself to be a monster, can she defy her internal struggles and break free of the restraints and heartbreak her whole life has been constructed around? Can she avenge all her loved ones?

This story is a good one, but being as tired as I am I can’t read it all together, so I had to read it in bits and pieces, so I really can’t say if this should have been five stars [instead of my 4] or less. I’m going with my gut and saying something was missing for this to have been perfect, but it was extremely entertaining and continually broke my heart. So that counts for something.

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BOOK REVIEW: Beauty of the Beast (Fairy Tale Retellings #1)

BOOK REVIEW: Beauty of the Beast (Fairy Tale Retellings #1)Beauty of the Beast (Fairy Tale Retellings #1)
by Rachel L. Dementer
Purchase on: Amazon
Book Depository
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

Experience the world’s most enchanting and timeless love story—retold with a dark and realistic twist.

A BEAST LIVING IN THE SHADOW OF HIS PAST

Reclusive and severely scarred Prince Adam Delacroix has remained hidden inside a secluded, decrepit castle ever since he witnessed his family’s brutal massacre. Cloaked in shadow, with only the lamentations of past ghosts for company, he has abandoned all hope, allowing the world to believe he died on that tragic eve twenty-five years ago.

A BEAUTY IN PURSUIT OF A BETTER FUTURE

Caught in a fierce snowstorm, beautiful and strong-willed Isabelle Rose seeks shelter at a castle—unaware that its beastly and disfigured master is much more than he appears to be. When he imprisons her gravely ill and blind father, she bravely offers herself in his place.

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

Stripped of his emotional defenses, Adam’s humanity reawakens as he encounters a kindred soul in Isabelle. Together they will wade through darkness and discover beauty and passion in the most unlikely of places. But when a monster from Isabelle’s former life threatens their new love, Demrov’s forgotten prince must emerge from his shadows and face the world once more…

Perfect for fans of Beauty and the Beast and The Phantom of the Opera, Beauty of the Beast brings a familiar and well-loved fairy tale to life with a rich setting in the kingdom of Demrov and a captivating, Gothic voice.

* * *

Beauty of the Beast is the first standalone installment in a series of classic fairy tales reimagined with a dark and realistic twist.

* * *

Disclaimer: This is an edgy, historical romance retelling of the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast. Due to strong sexual content, profanity, and dark subject matter, including an instance of sexual assault committed by the villain, Beauty of the Beast is not intended for readers under the age of 18.

Beauty of the Beast is a slow-burn romance that features a descriptive, richly detailed, and atmospheric writing style. (l

I need to scream the word *TRIGGER* because there is extremely graphic rape. It is not glorified but it is extremely disturbing.

The writing hooked me from page one. I mean seriously guys, this might be the best prologue I’ve ever read. I was floored and TOTALLY into it. I had no doubt it was going to be a five star book.

And then things started to change. First of all, I need to commend the writing. I can’t even tell you how many lines I highlighted because of how beautifully written this book is. The rest? Perhaps its personal preference, but the story just didn’t work for me.

While the story is reminiscent of the Disney version (probably the closest I’ve read yet), it still holds up on its own as unique. No magic here folks, and it is MUCH darker. Not to mention the issues the book deals with (everything from abuse, rape, PTSD, etc.) Does it handle them well? Most of the time, yes, but I definitely had some issues with it. Especially with the rape. No, it is not glorified in the least OR made romantic in any way, but my question is… why? Why describe it in great detail? (No, it isn’t the beast who does it. It’s the ‘Gaston’ character – FYI.) I don’t know, I was just disturbed.

The other issues I had were the pacing. While I wanted to soak up the language, I was also trying to keep my eyes open for large chunks at a time.

The overall story (I.e. the romance) was okay at first, but then got cheesy, lustful, and just not my cup of tea. I think I’m just done reading Beauty and the Beast retellings. It’s more than likely personal taste, but I’m just not into the disturbed man going after the damsel in destress trope. I’m probably in the rare on that one. This book also reminded me of ‘Romancing the Duke’ – so that’s probably a good tell on whether or not you’ll like this. I see some comparing it to Phantom of the Opera and that kinda fits too (but I LOVE Phantom of the Opera soooo I don’t know.)

Additionally, I didn’t connect to the romance. The author was certainly going for the ‘healing’ aspect of romance – where both characters involved are recovering from PTSD – but I just didn’t buy it. Lust overtook the healing aspect and it just felt awkward at times.

I don’t want to say too much more, aside from that I DID appreciate little bits, for instance – Isabelle DOES stand up to Adam when he crosses a line / personal boundaries.

Anyway, I think I’m a rare one here, as I’ve seen only positive reviews for the most part. But it just wasn’t my cup of tea, unfortunately.

BOOK REVIEW: Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

BOOK REVIEW: Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri ManiscalcoStalking Jack the Ripper (Stalking Jack the Ripper)
by Kerri Maniscalco
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
Book Depository
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

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

Wow okay this was super fun. I mean really – if you’re in the market for YA Sherlock Holmes with a badass heroine and a super snarky (and charming) sidekick, definitely pick this up. I do have some mixed feelings about parts and I’ll admit I skipped some chunks because ew, not for me. Some of the ending really rubbed me the wrong way, but you can see those details below in the spoiler tag.

Aubrey Rose is basically an unconventional female in her society. She’s super into education and volunteers her time at her uncle’s lab studying forensic science. And we get all the gory details, lol. So if you’re here for that kinda thing, you’ll enjoy it. If not, just skip over it. I’d say the story is just as enjoyable without the details of the… dead.

And then she meets the cocky, ever so flirty Thomas Cresswell who is pretty much Captain Carswell Thorne from the Lunar Chronicles reincarnate. Ohmigosh he is pretty much the reason I loved this book. The banter and everythinggggggg yessss give me more.

“Thomas smiled at my eye roll, puffing his chest up and standing with one foot proudly resting on a chair as if posing for a portrait. “I don’t blame you, I am rather attractive. The tall, dark hero of your dreams, swooping in to save you with my vast intellect. You should accept my hand at once.”

Anyway, a string of murders starts going down and as the story progresses, Aubrey starts to realize the murderer might be connected to her family somehow. And of course, Thomas is there to annoy Aubrey while she figures it all out.

“If I don’t murder you this afternoon, it’ll be a gift sent directly from God Himself, and I vow to attend services again,” I said, holding a hand against my heart.
“I knew I’d get you to church eventually.”

I would just like to say, for the record (and friends can vouch for me…) I KNEW WHO THE MURDER WAS ALL ALONG. So I win a cookie or something, right? I KNEW IT I KNEW IT I KNEW IT.

Anyway, I definitely was not into the saence part and I skipped it. Spirits are just not my thing, yo. I don’t feel like I missed out on much.

***Minor spoilers below – don’t read if you want to keep the mystery alive!***

As far as the ending, I definitely felt a bit of glee knowing I guessed the killer, but aside from that, it was just really sad. I actually even teared up a bit. And honestly, some of it really rubbed me the wrong way. (view spoiler)

But as far as the set up for the next book, I’m super on board with that. I’m already REALLY looking forward to it and trying to beg my way to an arc lol. Mostly I’m just hoping for lots of time with Thomas Cresswell, though I hope the banter stays alive!

BOOK REVIEW – Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan

BOOK REVIEW – Echo by Pam Muñoz RyanEcho by Pam Muñoz Ryan
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
Book Depository
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

Winner of a 2016 Newbery Honor, ECHO pushes the boundaries of genre, form, and storytelling innovation.

Lost and alone in a forbidden forest, Otto meets three mysterious sisters and suddenly finds himself entwined in a puzzling quest involving a prophecy, a promise, and a harmonica.

Decades later, Friedrich in Germany, Mike in Pennsylvania, and Ivy in California each, in turn, become interwoven when the very same harmonica lands in their lives. All the children face daunting challenges: rescuing a father, protecting a brother, holding a family together. And ultimately, pulled by the invisible thread of destiny, their suspenseful solo stories converge in an orchestral crescendo.

Richly imagined and masterfully crafted, this impassioned, uplifting, and virtuosic tour de force will resound in your heart long after the last note has been struck.

For a few hours, Echo healed my cynical heart with pure hope. Beautifully written and compelling, what I will call an historical fairytale – with all the hardships that come with it – enchanted me from the very first page, and my interest never wavered : Friedrich, Mike, Frankie, Ivy… They all earned a little place in my heart.

One might say that these stories are not free of some kind of simplistic resolution (and I agree), but in my opinion the novel’s worth lies elsewhere : in the heartwarming and hopeful messages that music can bring people together and that we all can find the place where we belong, no matter how different we think we are, no matter how intolerant our contemporaries are being, no matter how idiotic and selfish people can be.

As it turns out, I shouldn’t have worried about the age target. If I could see straight away that the story was aimed at children, I think that there’s a reason we adults come back to fairytales sometimes. As much as I love my Dark Fantasy novels, as much as I complain about the stupid and intolerant comments I see every day on the social medias, there’s a part of me that needs to believe. I wouldn’t be a teacher if I didn’t hope for the future to be more open-minded, more accepting, less scared of differences.

Everyone needs to believe in a better world once in a while, to let a bright day overtake the clouds of ignorance.

Now I’ll patiently wait for someone to translate Echo in French to throw it into my pupils’ hands.

PS. I’m rating this book according to its age rank.

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