Book Review

Book Review: Stalking Jack the Ripper (Stalking Jack the Ripper #1) by Kerri Maniscalco

Rating: ☆☆☆ 1/2
Audience: Young adult historical fiction + mystery
Length: 326 pages
Author: Kerri Maniscalco
Publisher: Jimmy Patterson
Release Date: September 20th, 2016
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

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.

THOMAS CRESSWELL IS MY NEW FAVORITE.

Okay, this was new. I haven’t read a book quite like this with the take on someone trying to catch a historical serial killer. WHAT FUN RIGHT? Mostly.

My biggest issue, that curbed my rating significantly was how easy it was to know who the murderer was. I truly picked them out from the moment they walked onto the page. Since he ended up because Jack, I was downtrodden and it made it hard for me to keep picking up the book.

BUT, I was enjoying the heeeeeck about of Thomas. He is my new favorite and I loved every single moment of his shameless flirting with Audrey Rose. SO STINKIN’ CUTE. I clearly couldn’t get enough of him, and their relationship alone is why I will read book two at some point.

Audrey Rose was a great character herself too. Even in the time period she was a strong, independent woman who was going to make sure every man in her way would give her the time of day. Though she was too blinded to see the answer to her troubles, I loved her dialogue and interactions in general.

The plot itself was fine, but like I previously stated when you immediately know who the killer it, it takes away from everything else. I love historical fictions though. And am really curious where this goes from here. The ending was nicely put together with an opening for the next book.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult historical fiction + mystery
  • Language: none
  • Romance: a few kisses
  • Violence: a lot, detailed murders, mentions of cannibalism, detailed violence by knives

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Book Review

Book Review: Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆  
Audience: World War II Historical Ficiton
Length: 502 pages
Author: Martha Hall Kelly
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Release Date: April 5th, 2016
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Inspired by the life of a real World War II heroine, this debut novel reveals a story of love, redemption, and secrets that were hidden for decades.

New York socialite Caroline Ferriday has her hands full with her post at the French consulate and a new love on the horizon. But Caroline’s world is forever changed when Hitler’s army invades Poland in September 1939—and then sets its sights on France.

An ocean away from Caroline, Kasia Kuzmerick, a Polish teenager, senses her carefree youth disappearing as she is drawn deeper into her role as courier for the underground resistance movement. In a tense atmosphere of watchful eyes and suspecting neighbors, one false move can have dire consequences.

For the ambitious young German doctor, Herta Oberheuser, an ad for a government medical position seems her ticket out of a desolate life. Once hired, though, she finds herself trapped in a male-dominated realm of Nazi secrets and power.

The lives of these three women are set on a collision course when the unthinkable happens and Kasia is sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious Nazi concentration camp for women. Their stories cross continents—from New York to Paris, Germany, and Poland—as Caroline and Kasia strive to bring justice to those whom history has forgotten. 

WHAT A BOOK.

WOW. This is the one of the best historical fictions about World War 2 that I have ever read. This was utterly amazing. Made me want to cry, throw things, and feel all sorts of emotions. I barely recognized how long the book actually was, it kept me interested and involved the entire time.

We had Catherine, an older woman in NY who falls in love with a man that has a life back in Paris. She spends her wars years hoping that Paul is okay and raising money and items for all those she can. I loved her personality and hope she held onto, until she didn’t. UGH. I hoped for a more complete ending for her, but I also understood. This wasn’t a book for happy endings, but enduring til the end.

Kaisa destroyed me from one end of this book to the other. She was the subject of horrid trials at Ravensbruck. Her story line caused me to struggle the most. I hadn’t heard much history from the women’s concentration camp and I loved the focus this author put on it. I learned so much and yet again had to cope with how awful humanity can be. Watching Kaisa encounter trial after trial brought out so many emotions.

I can hardly talk about Herta, but I’m also glad she was in the book. It was an interesting perspective to have someone who was pro-German during the time period. She made me so angry, but having this unique take compared to the two others balanced the entire story.

These three characters (that were based off of people actually involved in the war) was outstanding and well thought out. I couldn’t put this book down.

Note: this book does not hold back on describing what happened. Please read at your own caution.

Overall audience notes:

  • Historical fiction about WW2
  • Language: very little
  • Romance: some kisses, an almost fade-to-black scene
  • Violence: whips, guns, death by animal mauling, starvation
  • Trigger warnings: rape, sexual assault, mention of self harm, self-harming (by cutting), attempted suicide, child abuse, PTSD, surgical experimentation, loss of loved ones

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Book Review

Book Review: Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: Historical fiction + Contemporary + Romance
Length: 361 pages
Author: Chanel Cleeton
Publisher: Penguin/Berkley
Release Date: February 6th, 2018
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

After the death of her beloved grandmother, a Cuban-American woman travels to Havana, where she discovers the roots of her identity–and unearths a family secret hidden since the revolution…

Havana, 1958. The daughter of a sugar baron, nineteen-year-old Elisa Perez is part of Cuba’s high society, where she is largely sheltered from the country’s growing political unrest–until she embarks on a clandestine affair with a passionate revolutionary…

Miami, 2017. Freelance writer Marisol Ferrera grew up hearing romantic stories of Cuba from her late grandmother Elisa, who was forced to flee with her family during the revolution. Elisa’s last wish was for Marisol to scatter her ashes in the country of her birth. 

Arriving in Havana, Marisol comes face-to-face with the contrast of Cuba’s tropical, timeless beauty and its perilous political climate. When more family history comes to light and Marisol finds herself attracted to a man with secrets of his own, she’ll need the lessons of her grandmother’s past to help her understand the true meaning of courage.

OKAY, THIS BOOK HURT.

When Audible has a two for one sale using your credits, you use them. I had a Bookstagram friend help me decide on this one and y’all, not disappointed. I definitely recommend as an audiobook too. The voices of the two POVs are soothing and it’s easy to imagine everything they’re describing.

The intense passion and love for Cuba that I could feel radiating off the book was astounding. I felt this. It made me so conflicted myself because I understood both sides of the the characters stories and how desperately everyone was searching for peace, even when two poor choices stood before them. Everything that happened/is happening to the nation they love really had me emotionally wrecked.

The stories themselves, whoa. I didn’t realize how much the romances were going to play a part in this book. They brought out so many more layers that had me gasp and yell as I heard what was happening and couldn’t believe it. Some truly devastating moments that I’m still upset about. The whole concept of life isn’t fair is driven home.

I loved the flip back and forth in time and getting to know Elisa and Marisol on new levels. It goes to show you don’t always know everything about your own family. The connections and lasting relationships brought in side-characters that I could get behind as well. A lot of love between family, friends, care-givers, and relationships and how this love carries over a lifetime.

The historical aspects of this book brought Cuba to life and I was swept off my feet by this tale. I am definitely going to be checking out Cleeton’s next book!

Overall audience notes:

  • Historical fiction + romance + contemporary
  • Language: sh* used once
  • Romance: a few kisses, two fade to black scenes (with really no description prior)
  • Violence: guns, physical, off-screen torture, mentions and depictions of war

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Book Review

Book Review: Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: Fiction
Length: 368 pages
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Release Date: March 5th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Everyone knows Daisy Jones & The Six, but nobody knows the reason behind their split at the absolute height of their popularity . . . until now.

Daisy is a girl coming of age in L.A. in the late sixties, sneaking into clubs on the Sunset Strip, sleeping with rock stars, and dreaming of singing at the Whisky a Go Go. The sex and drugs are thrilling, but it’s the rock and roll she loves most. By the time she’s twenty, her voice is getting noticed, and she has the kind of heedless beauty that makes people do crazy things.

Also getting noticed is The Six, a band led by the brooding Billy Dunne. On the eve of their first tour, his girlfriend Camila finds out she’s pregnant, and with the pressure of impending fatherhood and fame, Billy goes a little wild on the road.

Daisy and Billy cross paths when a producer realizes that the key to supercharged success is to put the two together. What happens next will become the stuff of legend.

The making of that legend is chronicled in this riveting and unforgettable novel, written as an oral history of one of the biggest bands of the seventies. Taylor Jenkins Reid is a talented writer who takes her work to a new level with Daisy Jones & The Six, brilliantly capturing a place and time in an utterly distinctive voice.

ACHINGLY CAPTIVATING.

First off, listen to this as an audiobook if possible. It was so cool having so many voices. It really brought everything to life. I felt like I was listening to one of those MTV Behind the Music shows about some band. It made it a really quick listen (it’s only 9 1/2ish hours, not sped up).

The only thing iffy about listening to it fast, and on audio is sometimes it would get choppy switching to character after character. It wasn’t every single page, but I did notice it occasionally.

This was super addicting. I didn’t know how I was going to feel about it when I started, but dang, I couldn’t stop listening. It truly was a lot of sex drugs, and rock n’ roll. Holy cow. I was shocked by all of the things that this band did and went through. And yet, it was even more shocking, because these kind of things probably happened at a time or another with bands.

I honestly hated every character at one point, and loved them at others. I loved how at odds I was with each person’s choices, but how I wanted them to be happy and fulfilled anyways. I was happy to understand decisions and have true endings to everyone so I could feel like the story had closed.

At times I was so distraught with the emotions brought out by the story line. I anxiously awaited what tore this band apart, and y’all, it was exactly what this story needed. The little twist made sense and really hit home the struggles that can occur in these situations.

Reese Witherspoon is amazing at choosing books for her club, I yet again really enjoyed reading another one of her picks.

Overall audience notes:

  • Adult fiction
  • Language: a lot of strong language
  • Romance: a lot of sex, but not detailed; more, they had sex over there, they did that last night kind of explanations
  • Violence: underage drinking, drug abuse, parental neglect
  • Trigger warnings: cheating spouse, drug and alcohol addictions, abortion, depression

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Book Review

Book Review: The Kingdom of Copper (The Daevabad Trilogy #2) by S.A. Chakraborty

Rating: ☆☆☆☆ 
Audience: Historical fiction + fantasy
Length: 619 pages
Author: S.A. Chakraborty
Publisher: HarperVoyager
Release Date: January 8th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Return to Daevabad in the spellbinding sequel to THE CITY OF BRASS.

Nahri’s life changed forever the moment she accidentally summoned Dara, a formidable, mysterious djinn, during one of her schemes. Whisked from her home in Cairo, she was thrust into the dazzling royal court of Daevabadand quickly discovered she would need all her grifter instincts to survive there.

Now, with Daevabad entrenched in the dark aftermath of the battle that saw Dara slain at Prince Ali’s hand, Nahri must forge a new path for herself, without the protection of the guardian who stole her heart or the counsel of the prince she considered a friend. But even as she embraces her heritage and the power it holds, she knows she’s been trapped in a gilded cage, watched by a king who rules from the throne that once belonged to her familyand one misstep will doom her tribe.

Meanwhile, Ali has been exiled for daring to defy his father. Hunted by assassins, adrift on the unforgiving copper sands of his ancestral land, he is forced to rely on the frightening abilities the maridthe unpredictable water spiritshave gifted him. But in doing so, he threatens to unearth a terrible secret his family has long kept buried.

And as a new century approaches and the djinn gather within Daevabad’s towering brass walls for celebrations, a threat brews unseen in the desolate north. It’s a force that would bring a storm of fire straight to the city’s gates . . . and one that seeks the aid of a warrior trapped between worlds, torn between a violent duty he can never escape and a peace he fears he will never deserve.

I LOVE THESE CHARACTERS.

First off, WE JUMPED 5 YEARS? After I got over that shock I was immediately drawn back in to this amazing and addictive world. This series needs more traction, IT’S SO GOOD.

Now now, I know I said all of that and gave it four stars. Four stars is still fantastic! And I have reasoning. This book was much more heavily focused on the politics and schemes of the kingdom. So much so that I missed a lot of action. I was definitely invested, but about 200 pages left and I was surprised at how long it was taking me to get through it. Especially because I was loving it! I think having to pay a lot more attention to make sure I didn’t miss anything caused me to be a little dulled by it all.

BUT. The last 150 pages? ARE YOU KIDDING ME. There was no way to put the book down. A lot of the politicking and scheming all made sense at once when all heck broke loose. We had some plot twists (that I’m proud of myself for figuring out beforehand), extra wicked parents and a city crumbling. YES TO ALL THE DRAMATICS.

Am I behind the maaaaaybe something between Ali and Nahri? I DON’T KNOW. I’m still stuck on Dara. The romance is truly a tiny piece of these books, yet anytime these *little* things happen I’m curious what part it will play in the finale.

Nahri is still brave, brash and bold. I love her so. She’s one of my favorite heroines. Stands up for herself, works hard, passionate about so many things. I think it’s amazing how much she does for herself which is why I think the romance is so low in this, GIRL AIN’T GOT TIME FOR THAT (it’s no lie I love books with a love aspect, but in some books it’s really amazing when I don’t even mind that there isn’t some).

Ali and Dara are these two souls that will run me ragged by the end of this. So complicated, tortured and unwilling to compromise. BOTH OF THEM. Ugh. I have hope and love for them though so I *believe* things will work out.

I just love how expertly crafted these three main characters are. Nahri, Ali and Dara all have a dramatically different perspective on their home and the issues within. It makes it feel like there isn’t a “weaker” POV because they are all so captivating.

I’m also not sure where I stand on about a handful of other characters either. A lot of people made a lot of mistakes in this book. Which I feel is total book two territory (another reason for my lower rating). Gotta build up for the last book.

Overall audience notes:

  • Historical fiction + fantasy
  • Language: a little (a handful of the f-word)
  • Romance: a kiss
  • Violence: poison, knives, physical, magic, torture, murder, war
  • Trigger warnings: slavery, human trafficking, talk of past threats of rape

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Book Review

Book Review: The Gilded Wolves (The Gilded Wolves #1) by Roshani Chokshi

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: YA Historical Fantasy
Length: 388 pages
Author: Roshani Chokshi
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Release Date: January 15th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

No one believes in them. But soon no one will forget them.

It’s 1889. The city is on the cusp of industry and power, and the Exposition Universelle has breathed new life into the streets and dredged up ancient secrets. Here, no one keeps tabs on dark truths better than treasure-hunter and wealthy hotelier Séverin Montagnet-Alarie. When the elite, ever-powerful Order of Babel coerces him to help them on a mission, Séverin is offered a treasure that he never imagined: his true inheritance.

To hunt down the ancient artifact the Order seeks, Séverin calls upon a band of unlikely experts: An engineer with a debt to pay. A historian banished from his home. A dancer with a sinister past. And a brother in arms if not blood.

Together, they will join Séverin as he explores the dark, glittering heart of Paris. What they find might change the course of history–but only if they can stay alive.

WENT IN NERVOUS, WALKED OUT HAPPY.

I feel like the hype for this book was ALL OVER THE PLACE. I couldn’t scroll down my Instagram feed without seeing a photo and hearing about the hype. And because of that I instead let myself sit on it for a few months. Then, my library got a digital copy, nobody had it checked out so I gave it a chance. This turned out sooo much better than I thought and I found myself really loving it overall.

I was enraptured from the beginning with the historical aspects of everything. I LOVE HISTORICAL FANTASIES. It combines my two favorite genres into spell-binding stories. The setting was (Paris – 1889) unique from most books I’ve read. A lot of research went into this. So much research that at times I felt it was a bit dense. I couldn’t wrap my head around all of the mathematics problems throughout. The historical pieces were easy to follow, but hard to grasp all together. There was an intense amount of information thrown at you about how the world worked. It was substantially more than I bargained for which is why I settled on four stars. I didn’t think it needed everything it presented to still be stellar. Even more so, I still have no idea how the magic system fully works.

With all of those complications the way it was woven it was really cool. I was amazed at how the characters, organizations, and the world itself were put together. So while a bit of an enigma, also super fascinating and impressive. This was my first Chokshi book and I’m glad this was the one I picked up!

The characters though, what an amazing, diverse, witty group. I was nervous going in having heard that it’s similar to Leigh Bardugo’s, Six of Crows. Yes, the similarities are there, but each member of this family is vastly different. The representation in this book was incredible! It made the book stand out [in the best way]. I intensely loved watching all of their interactions with each other. This book was focused more on the heist and these friendships rather than relationships (but don’t you worry, some of that is in there too!). Fantastic banter that would make me smile and moments where I wanted to hug everyone brought this home for me.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult historical fiction fantasy
  • Language: very little
  • Romance: some kisses, some tension, & remembering some dalliances
  • Violence: poison, physical, mental (through magic)
  • Trigger warnings: bullying, racism, child abuse

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Book Review

Book Review: The City of Brass (The Daevabad Trilogy #1) by S.A. Chakraborty

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Audience: Historical fiction fantasy
Length: 533 pages
Author: S.A. Chakraborty
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Release Date: November 14th, 2017
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Nahri has never believed in magic. Certainly, she has power; on the streets of 18th century Cairo, she’s a con woman of unsurpassed talent. But she knows better than anyone that the trade she uses to get by—palm readings, zars, healings—are all tricks, sleights of hand, learned skills; a means to the delightful end of swindling Ottoman nobles. 

But when Nahri accidentally summons an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to accept that the magical world she thought only existed in childhood stories is real. For the warrior tells her a new tale: across hot, windswept sands teeming with creatures of fire, and rivers where the mythical marid sleep; past ruins of once-magnificent human metropolises, and mountains where the circling hawks are not what they seem, lies Daevabad, the legendary city of brass, a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound. 

In that city, behind gilded brass walls laced with enchantments, behind the six gates of the six djinn tribes, old resentments are simmering. And when Nahri decides to enter this world, she learns that true power is fierce and brutal. That magic cannot shield her from the dangerous web of court politics. That even the cleverest of schemes can have deadly consequences. 

After all, there is a reason they say be careful what you wish for…

THIS IS HOW TO START A SERIES.

Whoa, hot dang, THIS IS MY JAM. Magical fantasy historical fiction-ness? Y’all I CAN’T EVEN. I am an emotional wreck after consuming this and am so glad Fiction No Chaser’s review convinced me to read it.

YOU’VE READ THIS RIGHT? If not, I recommend with my entire bookish soul. I feel that should be the end of this review, but also, let me throw out some more pieces to love.

This world-building was *in sing-song voice* faaaaabulous. I was there. I also love books with djinn in them, so I should have expected this to be a winner from the synopsis. This book kept a beautiful pace of slow, to action, and round again that kept me wanting to flip pages even during the “slower” sections.

Nahri is the heroine I didn’t know I had been missing in my fantasy reads lately. Girl is stubborn, feisty, full of self-preservation (that will leave her enemies, IN RUINS, mark my words) and crazy intuitive. She is brilliant and kept me on my toes because she actually made good choices in bad situations. I also love that Nahri wasn’t a damsel in distress. Even better, she actually sucked at what she was supposed to be great doing. Why is this better? Because I personally can’t stand it when a character is all of a sudden great at every little thing. That’s not realistic. You gotta work for it.

I don’t even know where I stand on the romance aspect. I will say, I LOVE Dara. What a great character. A 1400+ year-old Daeva (djinn) who has fears (like water), and is so hardened by his past that he’s become a biiiit jaded. He’s also on occasion, not the nicest, and has some things to work through (let me help you Dara…). I could not get enough of him. He is so dynamic. Dara is swiping weapons and destroying people in one breath, and following around Nahri like a love-lorn creature AND I AM HERE FOR IT. I have no idea where this lands me for book two. Stay tuned.

Ali. I don’t know where I stand on this guy. He’s conniving, yet caring. And for the life of me WHAT SIDE ARE YOU ON? I need to know. Prince Ali will ruin me, I can almost guarantee it. At least, if Dara doesn’t first. All of his sly moves are driving me batty and I love it. I love it.

Shout-out appreciation moment for some side characters. These were well built in their own right. Especially King Ghassan. I flippin’ thought he was fantastic. He has so many plans and I want to know them all. The King wasn’t one-sided and gave a lot more to the story as a whole. And really helped build the political back-drop for The City of Brass. Also, Jamshid. He needs a bigger spotlight, because I will do anything to make sure he’s happy. I want to tell you more, but because I’m a spoiler-free review type, I digress. But trust me, you’ll love him too.

The twists and turns and the intense history lesson I got from this book has me waiting at my door for The Kingdom of Copper to arrive. If you even *like* fantasy I would highly consider picking this up. It was amazing.

Overall audience notes:

  • Historical fantasy
  • Language: a little strong language
  • Romance: a kiss
  • Violence: knives, magic, poison, animal mauling, very descriptive in the amount of blood/gore

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