Book Review

Book Review: The Beautiful (The Beautiful #1) by Renée Ahdieh

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: Young adult historical fiction + romance + paranormal
Length: 448 pages
Author: Renée Ahdieh
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Release Date: October 8th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

In 1872, New Orleans is a city ruled by the dead. But to seventeen-year-old Celine Rousseau, New Orleans provides her a refuge after she’s forced to flee her life as a dressmaker in Paris. Taken in by the sisters of the Ursuline convent along with six other girls, Celine quickly becomes enamored with the vibrant city from the music to the food to the soirées and—especially—to the danger. She soon becomes embroiled in the city’s glitzy underworld, known as La Cour des Lions, after catching the eye of the group’s leader, the enigmatic Sébastien Saint Germain. When the body of one of the girls from the convent is found in the lair of La Cour des Lions, Celine battles her attraction to him and suspicions about Sébastien’s guilt along with the shame of her own horrible secret.

When more bodies are discovered, each crime more gruesome than the last, Celine and New Orleans become gripped by the terror of a serial killer on the loose—one Celine is sure has set her in his sights . . . and who may even be the young man who has stolen her heart. As the murders continue to go unsolved, Celine takes matters into her own hands and soon uncovers something even more shocking: an age-old feud from the darkest creatures of the underworld reveals a truth about Celine she always suspected simmered just beneath the surface.

At once a sultry romance and a thrilling murder mystery, master storyteller Renée Ahdieh embarks on her most potent fantasy series yet: The Beautiful.

VAMPIRES?

I hesitantly picked this book up because I love Ahdieh’s books, but I heard the hypeness over the apparent vampires in this book [note: not a fan of vampire books, never really have been]. My cautionary read turned out a lot better than I thought. And I know I liked this much better than others BECAUSE there were barely any vampires in the entire book.

Ahdieh’s writing is always wonderful. I was easily invested in the story and enjoyed reading it. I love the setting, especially having traveled there, it really added to the atmosphere and vibe of old world New Orleans. The mystery and mythical combination is a tune I can love.

The romance was good, when the love triangle wasn’t in play. UGH. It didn’t need that at all to add to it (though now apparently it’ll play a big part in book two). Jury is still out and how the rest of this will unfold, but I was definitely shipping Celene and Bastien. I love the sultry banter and romantic moments they had. The ending left me all up in arms and I need a resolution.

I liked Celene for the most part. Her lack of communication skills were obvious and annoying. Celene could have had a better friendship with Pippa if she would trust her for one minute. The amount of inner dialogue she had about not telling anyone anything was running me ragged. An inability to communicate anything can really sour a character. Otherwise, I enjoyed her braveness and her courage against her situation.

Oh yes, those vampires? Well throughout the book I really couldn’t figure out who the mystery chapters were (in the vampires POV). I honestly didn’t know until they showed up on the page. That was satisfying to be on edge the entire time with who was attacking Celene and her cohorts. I definitely think they underworld of New Orleans will play a much bigger role in the second book since all of the reveals didn’t come out until the second half.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult paranormal, historical fiction romance
  • Language: a little strong
  • Romance: some kisses, an almost love scene with a little detail
  • Violence: gory murder description
  • Trigger Warning: attempted rape (never in full detail, discussed as part of Celene’s past with a few paragraphs dedicated to how he attacked her)

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Book Review

Book Review: Capturing the Devil (Stalking Jack the Ripper #4) by Kerri Maniscalco

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: Young adult historical fiction mystery + romance
Length: 453 pages
Author: Kerri Maniscalco
Publisher: Jimmy Patterson
Release Date: September 10th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

In the shocking finale to the bestselling series that began with Stalking Jack the Ripper, Audrey Rose and Thomas are on the hunt for the depraved, elusive killer known as the White City Devil. A deadly game of cat-and-mouse has them fighting to stay one step ahead of the brilliant serial killer—or see their fateful romance cut short by unspeakable tragedy.

Audrey Rose Wadsworth and Thomas Cresswell have landed in America, a bold, brash land unlike the genteel streets of London they knew. But like London, the city of Chicago hides its dark secrets well. When the two attend the spectacular World’s Fair, they find the once-in-a-lifetime event tainted with reports of missing people and unsolved murders.

Determined to help, Audrey Rose and Thomas begin their investigations, only to find themselves facing a serial killer unlike any they’ve heard of before. Identifying him is one thing, but capturing him—and getting dangerously lost in the infamous Murder Hotel he constructed as a terrifying torture device—is another.

Will Audrey Rose and Thomas see their last mystery to the end—together and in love—or will their fortunes finally run out when their most depraved adversary makes one final, devastating kill?

BEST OF THE BUNCH.

Okay. I can officially say I’m glad I read this after being very frustrated with how book three went down. This was a solid ending that wrapped everything up liked it needed to be.

BUT FIRST. Let me just say, I do not appreciate why the marriage was postponed. I haaaaaaate stuff like that y’all. Hate. And that’s pretty much why it’s a four star. I think they should have gotten married and solved the murder together, married. There wasn’t angst adding the drama in.

Now, THOMAS CRESSWELL. Seriously one of my top bookish boyfriends. I can’t get over him. The sweet and precious moments between Thomas and Audrey Rose were written so beautifully. I swooned over and over at the writing. Lyrical and utterly romantic. Thomas is amazing. We won’t discuss Audrey Rose, though I will say this was the best version of her I’ve seen in the series. The least annoying.

I’ve seen some lower reviews for this because they wanted more of the mystery aspect. These books are romance books at their base. They really are. If you’re interested in them, definitely know that going in. My expectations went much better when I knew I was going to be getting a lot of romance (which we know I prefer anyways).

The plot line of this book kind of went: romance, romance, mystery, mystery, romance. It felt a little disjointed. There was a big focus on the romance, then it dove off into just about solving the murders, then the epilogue finished off the romance. It worked out okay, but I think they could have been combined better.

I’m satisfied and happy with this series and would still recommend it to those interested. I liked the historical fiction aspects and of course, THOMAS CRESSWELL. The writing is well done and even the frustrating moments don’t ruin the enchanting story it is.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult historical fiction romance + mystery
  • Language: very little light
  • Romance: kisses, make-outs, a little detailed love scene, another fade to black scene
  • Violence: very detailed descriptions of multiple murders, physical attacks

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Book Review

Book Review: The Valiant (The Valiant #1) by Lesley Livingston

Rating: ☆☆☆☆  
Audience: Young adult historical fiction / fantasy
Length: 372 pages
Author: Lesley Livingston
Publisher: Razorbill
Release Date: February 14th, 2017
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Princess. Captive. Gladiator.

Fallon is the daughter of a proud Celtic king, the sister of the legendary warrior Sorcha, and the sworn enemy of Julius Caesar.

When Fallon was a child, Caesar’s armies invaded her homeland, and her beloved sister was killed in battle.

Now, on the eve of her seventeenth birthday, Fallon is eager to follow in her sister’s footsteps and earn her place in the fearsome Cantii war band. She never gets the chance.

Fallon is captured and sold to an elite training school for female gladiators—owned by none other than Julius Caesar. In a cruel twist of fate, the man who destroyed Fallon’s family might be her only hope of survival.

Now Fallon must overcome vicious rivalries and deadly fights—in and out of the arena. And perhaps the most dangerous threat of all: her forbidden yet irresistible feelings for Cai, a young Roman soldier.

HERE FOR FEMALE GLADIATORS.

I read this based off of a recommendation an old friend gave me. She reads a lot of the books I recommend and I wanted to do the same for her (since we have very similar tastes). Y’all, this was a great book! I’m so happy I picked this up and definitely want to read the next one.

The setting was off the charts. I am fascinated by the Roman Empire and its history. I haven’t come across many (if all, because I can only thing of Blood and Sand right now), that use Rome has a historical fiction setting. LOVE IT LOVE IT. I found the interweaving of real life people like Julius Caesar and Cleopatra to be thrilling. I personally didn’t know that there were even female gladiators to begin with! I enjoyed reading the little note at the end about some of the history Livingston found to add some background to these fierce ladies.

Romance was fine. That was probably the only downside to The Valiant. I thought it was starting off slow (which I’m totally cool with) because Cai wasn’t in the story that much. Then I realized…he’s really not in the story that much. Until the later second half of this book do we see him more consistently. Any interactions between Cai and Fallon are full speed ahead while I’m trying to catch up with if I even ship them or not. It left a bit to be desired, but I’m hopeful in the next book I’ll get a larger flourish of them together.

There was a twist or two I did see coming that didn’t ruin the plot for me. I actually liked where it went and how all of the information played into Fallon’s life. Fallon was an amazing heroine. Brave, a bit stubborn, loyal and real. I cheered for her in her battles and on and off the fields of battle.

I’m curious how everything will further unfold in the next book. Caesar and Cleopatra are definitely playing a part in it and I think that is so cool. I didn’t even know that they actually had a relationship until this book (and a bunch of Googling afterwards).

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult historical fiction / fantasy
  • Language: none
  • Romance: a few kisses
  • Violence: gladiator battles, sword fighting, arrows; fairly bloody and gory
  • Trigger warnings: witnessing the loss of a loved one, slavery (Fallon is taken by a Roman slave trader and sold to a house for female gladiators)

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Book Review

Book Review: Lovely War by Julie Berry

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Audience: Young adult historical fiction + romance
Length: 480 pages
Author: Julie Berry
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Release Date: March 5th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

A sweeping, multi-layered romance with a divine twist, by the Printz Honor-winning author of The Passion of Dolssa, set in the perilous days of World Wars I and II.

It’s 1917, and World War I is at its zenith when Hazel and James first catch sight of each other at a London party. She’s a shy and talented pianist; he’s a newly minted soldier with dreams of becoming an architect. When they fall in love, it’s immediate and deep—and cut short when James is shipped off to the killing fields.

Aubrey Edwards is also headed toward the trenches. A gifted musician who’s played Carnegie Hall, he’s a member of the 15th New York Infantry, an all-African-American regiment being sent to Europe to help end the Great War. Love is the last thing on his mind. But that’s before he meets Colette Fournier, a Belgian chanteuse who’s already survived unspeakable tragedy at the hands of the Germans.

Thirty years after these four lovers’ fates collide, the Greek goddess Aphrodite tells their stories to her husband, Hephaestus, and her lover, Ares, in a luxe Manhattan hotel room at the height of World War II. She seeks to answer the age-old question: Why are Love and War eternally drawn to one another? But her quest for a conclusion that will satisfy her jealous husband uncovers a multi-threaded tale of prejudice, trauma, and music and reveals that War is no match for the power of Love.

CLOSED THE BOOK WITH TEARS IN MY EYES.

Y’all. When I first read the synopsis I thought it was a bit curious to combine Greek mythology with World War 1. I have heard good things about this book and decided to give it a shot, IT WAS AMAZING. SERIOUSLY.

The writing was absolutely beautiful. This had some insta-love that we all know I’m weary of. This is one of those times when it worked out flawlessly. The writing really captured my soul and it had me cheering on both of these couples through their trials.

Hazel and James were my precious broken souls. Oh how I love them. I was most involved in their story and was wrapped up in the nuances of the few chance meetings they got over the months while James was in the trenches of France. Lovely War showed a lot about the human condition. Struggling with having to kill others, PTSD, explosions, loss of friends and family. I felt the atrocities of war brought to an awful light.

Aubrey and Coletter were a wonderful relationship to watch flourish too. As an inter-racial couple in this time period the amount of awful things they had to deal with just to be together makes my stomach turn. They both had the hope and fight to be with one another and I begged for them to get a happy ending.

The narration of the story by the gods (mostly Aphrodite) was definitely unique. Thought it was a bit odd at first, but the deeper I got into the story, the more it all made sense. Bringing in Ares, Apollo and Hades brought new point of views. By the end their was an even bigger love story between Aphrodite and Hephaestus. I thought this played out beautifully and connected all the dots in the end.

One of my favorite tidbits was that it’s mostly set in World War 1. I’m always looking for different historical fiction books set in time periods I don’t normally read about.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult historical fiction + romance
  • Language: a few words
  • Romance: some kisses
  • Violence: war, physical, guns, see trigger warnings for more
  • Trigger warnings: racism, hate crime, PTSD, sexual assault (unwanted grab and kissing), descriptions of the trenches and battle scenes

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Book Review

Book Review: Hunting Prince Dracula (Stalking Jack the Ripper #2) by Kerri Maniscalco

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: YA Historical fiction + mystery
Length: 435 pages
Author: Kerri Maniscalco
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Release Date: September 19th, 2017
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

In this New York Times bestselling sequel to Kerri Maniscalco’s haunting #1 debut 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.

STILL ONLY HERE FOR THOMAS CRESSWELL.

This wasn’t bad. I think it’ll probably be my favorite of the entire series.

I keep expecting these books to have a better plot line, because it keeps forcing whatever mystery is happening in my face rather than letting the romance really shine. And so far I’ve been disappointed twice. I think HPD would be better if everything was turned more towards the relationship between Thomas and Audrey Rose. BECAUSE THOMAS Y’ALL.

I fear every story will repeat the same saga. Murder, murder, run around, fight with Thomas, love Thomas, murder, solve it quickly. That’s what I see in my future, yet here I am already downloading book three. There’s something oddly catchy about these books and I think it all goes back to THOMAS Y’ALL.

Cleary, I have a new book boyfriend and he really holds all of the cards here. I love his banter, confessions of love and the general way he swaggers about. This paragraph may be small, but my love for Thomas is large. I understand why everyone reads these for him, I’m doing the same dang thing.

Audrey Rose is fine. She’s still one of those main characters that runs around scatter-brained and trying to accomplish everything while accomplishing nothing.

I liked the change in setting and though the mystery around Dracula was cool. We got to meet a lot of interesting characters and I didn’t pick the bad guy out super early so that’s a plus. I’m captivating by listening to these audio books.

Really though, THOMAS Y’ALL.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult mystery + historical fiction + romance
  • Language: none
  • Romance: some kisses
  • Violence: murder, baths of blood, bodies being drained of blood, autopsies, near drownings

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Book Review

Book Review: A Perilous Undertaking (Veronica Speedwell #2) by Deanna Raybourn

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: Mystery + Historical Fiction + Romance
Length: 338 pages
Author: Deanna Raybourn
Publisher: Berkley Books
Expected Release Date: January 10th, 2017
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

London, 1887. At the Curiosity Club, a ladies-only establishment for daring and intrepid women, Victorian adventuress Veronica Speedwell meets the mysterious Lady Sundridge, who begs her to take on an impossible task–saving society art patron Miles Ramsforth from execution. Ramsforth, accused of the brutal murder of his mistress, Artemisia, will face the hangman’s noose in a week’s time if the real killer is not found.

But Lady Sundridge is not all that she seems, and unmasking her true identity is only the first of many secrets Veronica must uncover. Together with her natural-historian colleague, Stoker, Veronica races against time to find the true murderer. From a Bohemian artists’ colony to a royal palace to a subterranean grotto with a decadent history, the investigation proves to be a very perilous undertaking indeed….

THE TENSION IS PALPABLE.

Seriously, Veronica and Stoker. GET WITH THE PROGRAM AND KISS FOR REAL ALREADY.

Oh y’all. I’m LOVING these books! I know I’m only saying that after two of them, but they’re so good and quick to read!

I love that the mystery keeps me on my toes. Its the forefront of each book and it’s in enough of the spotlight that you’re intrigued, but it doesn’t overshadow the main character development. I always have my guesses on who’s the culprit, and whenever the unveiling scene happens I’m surprised with more information to round out the whole book.

Veronica is still the same sassy, full of banter, does what she pleases kind of character. I love that she has continued to make decisions for herself and isn’t swayed by others perceptions of her. It’s nice to follow a confident heroine who can also understand when she needs help or encouragement. I am living for her partnership with Stoker. I sincerely hope they are endgame by the time I finish this series or I’ll RIOT. That kind of chemistry and interactions HAS TO LEAD TO SOMETHING. I’m going to sit here tapping my fingers anxiously until I find out more. I’m hoping it happens soon or the waiting will then become ridiculous.

There were a lot of great scenes throughout this novel. I found myself smiling and laughing at different conversations and wittiness of characters. Veronica and Stoker are easy to love and cheer for. The side characters are charming themselves and don’t take up so much page time that they overshadow the story. I’m curious how Veronica’s background will continue to change the narrative as these mysteries continue.

I like that we got more information about Stoker at last. I believe the third book really focuses on him so it will be nice to receive even more. Learning about him and Veronica has been in bits and pieces over both books. I am grateful there’s not any info dumping, but rather a gradual increase in further knowing these two as they get to know each other.

Overall audience notes:

  • Mystery + Historical Fiction + Romance
  • Language: none
  • Romance: a kiss, a lot of sexual innuendo and conversations (the mystery revolves around a sex club)
  • Violence: murder, guns, physical

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Book Review

Book Review: A Curious Beginning (Veronica Speedwell #1) by Deanna Raybourn

Rating: ☆☆☆☆  
Audience: Mystery + historical fiction + romance
Length: 339 pages
Author: Deanna Raybourn
Publisher: Berkley Books
Release Date: September 1st, 2015
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

London, 1887.

After burying her spinster aunt, orphaned Veronica Speedwell is free to resume her world travels in pursuit of scientific inquiry—and the occasional romantic dalliance. As familiar with hunting butterflies as with fending off admirers, Veronica intends to embark upon the journey of a lifetime.

But fate has other plans when Veronica thwarts her own attempted abduction with the help of an enigmatic German baron, who offers her sanctuary in the care of his friend Stoker, a reclusive and bad-tempered natural historian. But before the baron can reveal what he knows of the plot against her, he is found murdered—leaving Veronica and Stoker on the run from an elusive assailant as wary partners in search of the villainous truth.

THIS SLOW-BURN PARTNERSHIP IS AMAZING.

I read this based off a recommendation on Bookstagram and I was HOOKED.

I love Veronica. She is sassy and snarky and my kinda woman. I love that she chooses her own path and pursues the things she is passionate about. Veronica took her situation into her own hands (accepted some needed help) and figured out what plan would work best for her.

Stoker though? YES. Oh my goodness. Rugged, wild, gruff, yaaaaaas. But among those qualities is also the fact he never tried to control Veronica. They disagreed and argued, and then he would know she was going to make her own choices, AND HE WAS OKAY WITH THAT. They’re not even in a relationship, yet this slow-burn is going to ruin me. I can’t wait to see how they develop over the series. I hope they’re end game.

The mystery was great too. It actually kept me on my toes. The release of information was a slow trickle that was interesting and really added to each scene. It was crazy how everything actually unfolded. I did not see the entire picture at all. It loosely reminds of a better version of Stalking Jack the RIpper (which was fine, and I haven’t read the other books yet, but that’s kind of a vibe I got). So if you like those books, I would definitely recommend these!

There’s a big historical aspect to this as well since it’s set in London, 1887. That plus a mystery and some romance-esque things made for a solid read. I love a good historical aspect when it fits the plot well.

Overall audience notes:

  • Mystery + historical fiction + romance
  • Language: none
  • Romance: some witty/flirty banter; discussion of having relations, but no actual scenes
  • Violence: murder, fire, physical. guns; somewhat bloody/gory

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