Book Review

Book Review: Small Spaces (Small Spaces #1) by Katherine Arden

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: Middle Grade Horror
Length: 218 pages
Author: Katherine Arden
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Release Date: September 25th, 2018
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

New York Times bestselling adult author of The Bear and the Nightingale makes her middle grade debut with a creepy, spellbinding ghost story destined to become a classic

After suffering a tragic loss, eleven-year-old Ollie only finds solace in books. So when she happens upon a crazed woman at the river threatening to throw a book into the water, Ollie doesn’t think–she just acts, stealing the book and running away. As she begins to read the slender volume, Ollie discovers a chilling story about a girl named Beth, the two brothers who both loved her, and a peculiar deal made with “the smiling man,” a sinister specter who grants your most tightly held wish, but only for the ultimate price. 

Ollie is captivated by the tale until her school trip the next day to Smoke Hollow, a local farm with a haunting history all its own. There she stumbles upon the graves of the very people she’s been reading about. Could it be the story about the smiling man is true? Ollie doesn’t have too long to think about the answer to that. On the way home, the school bus breaks down, sending their teacher back to the farm for help. But the strange bus driver has some advice for the kids left behind in his care: “Best get moving. At nightfall they’ll come for the rest of you.” Nightfall is, indeed, fast descending when Ollie’s previously broken digital wristwatch, a keepsake reminder of better times, begins a startling countdown and delivers a terrifying message: RUN. 

Only Ollie and two of her classmates heed the bus driver’s warning. As the trio head out into the woods–bordered by a field of scarecrows that seem to be watching them–the bus driver has just one final piece of advice for Ollie and her friends: “Avoid large places. Keep to small.” 

And with that, a deliciously creepy and hair-raising adventure begins.

NO SCARECROWS FOR ME.

Wow this was SPOOKY for a middle grade read! Had me shivering a few times at the absolute creepiness of those scarecrows. Hard NOPE. I will not be hanging around a corn maze or pumpkin patch after dark, better believe that.

This was a good book though. A quick audio book read that kept me interested and worried for all involved. It was an interesting tale and strong characters. I enjoyed Ollie. She really fit the middle school narrative (in a good way). Ollie was coping with loss, friendships and finding a way to take on the fear in front of her.

It’s fast-paced and reminds me of why I love Arden’s writing [if you’re new here, The Winternight Trilogy is one of my favorite series EVER]. I will happily keep reading anything she publishes and this is no exception. An eerie atmosphere with budding friendships really brought this book home. I have definite plans to continue this series!

Overall audience notes:

  • Middle grade horror
  • Language: none
  • Romance: none
  • Content warnings: minor bullying, loss of a loved one, grief and depression

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Book Review

Book Review: A Murderous Relation (Veronica Speedwell #5) by Deanna Raybourn

Rating: ☆☆☆
Audience: Historical fiction / Mystery
Length: 308 pages
Author: Deanna Raybourn
Publisher: Berkley Books
Release Date: March 10th, 2020
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Veronica Speedwell and her natural historian colleague Stoker are asked by Lady Wellingtonia Beauclerk to help with a potential scandal so explosive it threatens to rock the monarchy. Prince Albert Victor is a regular visitor to the most exclusive private club in London, known as the Club de l’Etoile, and the proprietess, Madame Aurore, has received an expensive gift that can be traced back to the prince. Lady Wellie would like Veronica and Stoker to retrieve the jewel from the club before scandal can break.

Worse yet, London is gripped by hysteria in the autumn of 1888, terrorized by what would become the most notorious and elusive serial killer in history, Jack the Ripper–and Lady Wellie suspects the prince may be responsible.

Veronica and Stoker reluctantly agree to go undercover at Madame Aurore’s high class brothel, where another body soon turns up. Many secrets are swirling around Veronica and the royal family–and it’s up to Veronica and Stoker to find the truth, before it’s too late for all of them.

LET DOWN.

A big, unfortunate let down.

This wasn’t my favorite of the series by far. Lets go ahead and get into it.

First off, I have spent FOUR books waiting for Veronica and Stoker to admit some feelings. Finally got all of that at the end of the previous book, A Dangerous Collaboration. Super excited, wonderful, revelations. Then, in the last dang book of the series I was expecting a lot more fireworks and flair (and a tiny bit of steam) between them, and NOTHING. There is one good moment between them, at the literal end and I am needed more to love this. I kept waiting for them to just have a chance to kiss and chat, but no.

Instead, time was spent rehashing old plot from the first book. Yes, the same story (which I will omit in-case you’re reading this before reading the first book). Brought in most of the same characters, got stuck in the same situation, and got out of it with the usual flair. WHY. It was like this entire series had rolled through all it had, but still needed to conclude somehow. I was hoping this was going to focus more on Jack the Ripper (mentioned throughout because his murders are happening during this book). Nothing was as I expected.

Those two big paragraphs pretty much sign-off on why I had a hard time loving this and felt entirely let down about everything. I have loved these characters and time period setting. I’ll miss this series, and definitely feel bitter with how this wrapped up.

Overall audience notes:

  • Historical fiction / Mystery
  • Language: a little light
  • Romance: kiss; one scene at the end – very little detailed
  • Violence: guns, swords, kidnapping, physical, murder

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Book Review

Book Review: A Dangerous Collaboration (Veronica Speedwell #4) by Deanna Raybourn

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: Mystery / Historical fiction
Length: 323 pages
Author: Deanna Raybourn
Publisher: Berkley / Penguin Random House
Release Date: March 12th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Victorian adventuress Veronica Speedwell is whisked off to a remote island off the tip of Cornwall when her natural historian colleague Stoker’s brother calls in a favor. On the pretext of wanting a companion to accompany him to Lord Malcolm Romilly’s house party, Tiberius persuades Veronica to pose as his fiancée—much to Stoker’s chagrin. But upon arriving, it becomes clear that the party is not as innocent as it had seemed. Every invited guest has a connection to Romilly’s wife, Rosamund, who disappeared on her wedding day three years ago, and a dramatic dinner proves she is very much on her husband’s mind.

As spectral figures, ghostly music, and mysterious threats begin to plague the partygoers, Veronica enlists Stoker’s help to discover the host’s true motivations. And as they investigate, it becomes clear that there are numerous mysteries surrounding the Romilly estate, and every person present has a motive to kill Rosamund.

A Curious Beginning | A Perilous Undertaking | A Treacherous Curse

AT LAST.

I’ve been given something to work with because hot dang I was about to burn this series alive. I love how well this held my attention and that there wasn’t much dragging in the story. Things kept moving and the curious moments were always around the corner.

If you haven’t been following along with these reviews (I’ve linked them above), I have been desperately waiting for Stoker and Veronica to get their feelings in check and FINALLY admit something to each other. Geez. That was a long time to wait. I’m still not wholly satisfied, but I’m grateful for the small part it did give. There wasn’t as much banter in this book, but Veronica and Stoker still kept things lively. I love their contrasting (yet similar) personalities and how they play off of each other.

This installment was leaps better than the previous book. I found the mystery much more intriguing and couldn’t put my finger on who the villain/villainess was. Until they came on the page with a gun in their hand I was wondering who it would be. There was a much appreciated setting change that threw more mystical lore into the mix. I liked meeting the new characters and the creepy vibes of being in a castle.

I liked the background information I got on Stoker’s brother, Tiberius. It really humanized his choices and personality from the previous books. I found myself really liking his character by the end and feeling sorry for his situation.

There was a definite set up for [what I believe] is the last book. I’m curious how it will all end because of the villain that will be at the forefront of A Murderous Relation.

Overall audience notes:

  • Historical fiction + mystery
  • Language: very little
  • Romance: a few kisses
  • Violence: murder, poison, near drowning, guns; nothing extremely gory

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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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