Review | Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

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.

Title: Stalking Jack the Ripper

Author: Kerri Maniscalco

Genre: YA/Historical fiction/mystery

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

This was a really enjoyable read with some things about it that really bugged me. A fairly mixed bag in general, but still worth a good 3.5 stars in my book!

The book is very much about afternoon tea and analysing corpses. If that turns your stomach then this isn’t for you (I know, afternoon tea gives me nightmares too…), but to be honest it isn’t done as graphically as I thought so you still might be safe to give it a try!

The determination of Audrey despite the limitations of women in her time really endeared me to her and I think was one of the main reasons I enjoyed the book as much as I did.

What I liked:

Historical Etiquette:

It was really nice to have little touches of the etiquette from the time of Jack the Ripper, like how Audrey and Thomas weren’t supposed to call each other by their first names unless they were married so it was *scandalous* at the time. Or how having afternoon tea was a necessity if you wanted to stay relevant in society. It helped ground me in the time period which I really appreciated.

Drama and gore:

Oh boy was there a lot of this. The mystery and intrigue surrounding Jack the Ripper is still just as good today as it ever was, so having this as the central plot really made this book incredibly dramatic. And the detail in which Audrey describes the victims is so morbid that you really feel like you’re there.

Suspense:

The mystery in this book takes a while to solve, and if you know the history of Jack the Ripper then you’ll know how many people he kills before he disappeared, so obviously there’s a lot to see before everything is solved. A lot happens in this book, and there are a fair few red herrings in the murder mystery, so it keeps the suspense amped up through a lot of the book! This made it extremely hard to put down.

Medical knowledge:

Audrey is a person who loves learning about science, and doing autopsies in her spare time. She begs her uncle to be able to go to his classes (though we then only get to see one of them in the beginning… does she not go again?) so obviously she has a lot of medical knowledge.

I loved Reading Artemis and Martian, so I’m very much the kind of person who loves to read a good fiction book with some very good science in it too. This book really tried to do that and I very much appreciated it, with little touches here and there of Audrey really knowing her stuff when it came to forensic science. It was a little lighter in places than I’d have liked, but still a lot more than quite a bit of YA out there at the moment.

Iffy bits:

Audrey is grabbed a lot… and faints a lot?:

For someone who seems to be the feminist of her time, Audrey does do a lot of simpering, fainting from *emotions* and lets herself be grabbed and pulled around a lot. I’d have liked to see her stand up for herself and push away assumptions that her female constitution wasn’t strong enough to deal with things, especially since she does autopsies in her spare time.

Romance slightly rushed:

Thomas was a very good character, I admit, but the romance between him and Audrey really could have done with another book or two to really get going. It feels like Audrey’s flip to suddenly being in love with him was very much that – a flip – and it doesn’t feel real enough to make me care about it as much as I wanted to.

Over Description in the writing:

Oh my god please stop. I was confused as to why I felt a little apart from the writing while reading this, until I read sentence after sentence in this sort of structure “like a porcelain doll, easily fractured, discarded when broken so quickly”. Like, I get it, she is treated like a doll. Couldn’t this sort of thing have been said in one short sentence rather than the run on one we get?

I mean, this might have shortened the book quite a bit, but it really would have helped make some scenes a lot snappier than they were.

I guessed the killer:

This is the big disappointing thing for me. I knew who the killer was around halfway through the book and then the rest was me kind of frustrated at Audrey for not figuring out the same clues I did. It was supposed to make Thomas seem like some sort of Sherlock type character, but to me it just made Audrey seem a little ignorant.

To be fair, this didn’t lessen the gravitas of the final scene one bit for me. It was still spooky and scary and I loved it. I would have just loved it that tiny bit more if I had the surprise in the same way Audrey did.

All in all though, this was a good and fun read. I very much look forward to reading the next book ‘Hunting Prince Dracula’ because I adore both Dracula and Vlad the Impaler! Hopefully the writing has settled a bit from this book also, then it could easily be a five star read for me.

Review | To all the boys I’ve loved before by Jenny Han

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the story of Lara Jean, who has never openly admitted her crushes, but instead wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed.

But one day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed, causing all her crushes from her past to confront her about the letters: her first kiss, the boy from summer camp, even her sister’s ex-boyfriend, Josh.

As she learns to deal with her past loves face to face, Lara Jean discovers that something good may come out of these letters after all.

Title: To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before

Author: Jenny Han

Genre: Contemporary

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This book is seriously vying for top spot in my ‘Most cute and adorable contemporaries of 2018’ mental ranking chart. It’s just so pure and a complete feel-good book that I don’t think you can help but love it!

To be honest, I loved it so much I think I read it in only 2 days so this review will be particularly short in comparison to my others. Short but sweet! (Hopefully)

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before is a very cute book. The premise is that Lara Jean has been writing these love letters any time she feels herself falling in love, to work through it, and these letters have somehow been sent out to the boys who were never meant to see them. From then the drama amps up, with a fake relationship, a super close-knit family, and a whole lot of emotional growth, this is absolutely the kind of book to read in the sun by a swimming pool or snuggled in a cosy armchair while it rains cats and dogs outside.

If you can’t tell, I fell in love with this book a little bit!

What I loved:

The changing dynamic between siblings:

I love when a book shows how close siblings can be but also how that closeness changes over the years. This book starts pretty much on top of those changes as Margot leaves for University in Scotland right at the beginning. Suddenly Lara Jean is the ‘oldest sister’ and has to figure out how to act with her little sister and her Dad, you can really see how she starts to mature throughout the book.

The pure closeness of the family:

I also adore a tight-knit family, since my own is so close and it’s nice to see that in other families too, and Lara Jean’s family just love each other so much. The Dad is actually really refreshing since he tries so hard to be their friend and keep their traditions in the home that you can’t help but love him. A good sisterly bond will always make me love a book even more and this one has it in spades!

Driving anxiety:

This was something I didn’t even realise that I wanted to see in a book until I read it! I really hate driving. I love it as an easy way to get from A to B without paying a tonne of money or taking hours, but the act itself is scary as hell. You’re driving a metal death machine at insane speeds! And finally, a character who feels the same as I do! Seriously, a big positive in a future partner for me is if they’re happy to do all the driving. It really endeared me to Lara Jean and I felt very close to her.

Lara Jean being the most adorable thing:

Her mannerisms, her nervousness, her spontaneity! Everything about her was just so adorable and it made it so easy to love reading about her.

Boys being sensitive sweethearts:

Too often in Romance books, even contemporaries, the main guy love-interest is a brutish, controlling guy who just stomps around making the main character and myself hate him until the tension builds so much and they snap and kiss. Somehow this fixes the massive gaping flaws in the guy’s personality and he’s just a big teddy bear after then (or even worse, he stays the same and it’s a toxic relationship that’s dangerously romaticised…).

In TATBILB this is completely different, with both guys being very sweet and genuine. The worst they seem to do is be a bit snarky or have an undeserved reputation from what I can see. It’s nice and refreshing to see actual positive relationship examples in a book like this, and I hope young people don’t settle for the toxic ‘masculine’ guy when they know that this is far healthier and actually possible.

Anything I disliked??

Maybe… Some of Lara Jean’s jumping to conclusions? But even then, that made a lot of the book dramatic and more interesting, and when I was that age I did the same!

Overall, READ THIS BOOK! Then watch the film because it’s adorable in such a similar way, and was very loyal to the book.

Unboxing | Illumicrate August 2018 Oh So Criminal Box

Hi All! I thought I’d do something different for my blog post today and do an unboxing and review of the latest Illumicrate box ‘Oh So Criminal’.

I love book subscription boxes, but the UK ones have especially stepped up their game in recent years with both Fairyloot and Illumicrate putting fantastic quality items in their boxes!

So, first things first:

There was an awesome ‘Villains are my Bag’ tote bag with very good quality straps. It feels really well made and who doesn’t love a good pun?

This was designed by KDP Letters and is so gorgeous I am absolutely going to be using this as my main tote bag from now on.

Next was a coaster by Katie Abey and a mirror with a Holly Black quote from White Cat designed by Reverie and Ink. Both very pretty, though I may not use the coaster, I may put the mirror in my handbag and be reminded of how awesome Holly Black’s writing is every time I use it.

Then, we have a Six of Crows lanyard with ‘No Mourners, No Funerals’ on it by Fable and Black which is my favourite quote from that series! This will be so useful at work and I get to show off my love for Leigh Bardugo’s characters all over the office.

Next were some prints and postcards: A Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy one by Jamila Mehio which is so cute and I love those two so much, a Tempests and Slaughter and a Girls of Paper and Fire postcard, and a little card advertising the 10 best upcoming books as chosen by Harper 360.

And then we have a candle by Even Wick Candles called ‘Perfect Heist’ which smells like Sweet Melon, Water Lily and Musk. Not my favourite smell when it comes to candles, but still a very nice one. And a sampler of The Sisters of the Winter Wood which I can’t wait to read!

Next (yes I’m still going because this box was crammed full!) we have a necklace by Down The Rabbit Hole which is so adorable I wear it all the time! It says ‘Antagonist’ on one side and ‘Protagonist’ on the other, it’s so hard to choose which to be. Also, there was a nail file with a little Jay Kristoff quote from Nevernight on it by Hey Atlas Creative. Again, another super useful item because I always have a nail file in my bag and glass files are the nicest!

And Last but not least, the book! I have to admit I was a little disappointed this box didn’t contain an Advance Reader Copy like Illumicrate usually add, but with all the cool stuff in it I really couldn’t help but love it anyway!

The book was an awesome copy of Catwoman by Sarah J. Maas with purple sprayed edges (!!!) and the most gorgeous cover ever. It wasn’t signed but again, it was so pretty I wasn’t too bothered.

Overall I’d say the value of the items in this box must be around £50 or more! Given this box costs around £30 that’s an incredible added value and I can’t help but love Illumicrate boxes every time I receive them.

Have you ever got an Illumicrate box?

Review | Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

Each year, eight beautiful girls are chosen as Paper Girls to serve the king. It’s the highest honor they could hope for…and the most cruel.

But this year, there’s a ninth girl. And instead of paper, she’s made of fire.

In this lush fantasy, Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most oppressed class in Ikhara. She lives in a remote village with her father, where the decade-old trauma of watching her mother snatched by royal guards still haunts her. Now, the guards are back, and this time it’s Lei they’re after–the girl whose golden eyes have piqued the king’s interest.

Over weeks of training in the opulent but stifling palace, Lei and eight other girls learn the skills and charm that befit being a king’s consort. But Lei isn’t content to watch her fate consume her. Instead, she does the unthinkable–she falls in love. Her forbidden romance becomes enmeshed with an explosive plot that threatens the very foundation of Ikhara, and Lei, still the wide-eyed country girl at heart, must decide just how far she’s willing to go for justice and revenge.

TW: violence and sexual abuse.

Title: Girls of Paper and Fire

Author: Natasha Ngan

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

[DISCLAIMER] I am reviewing an advanced reader copy of this novel, so please allow for various changes between this and the final version. This did not influence my review at all.

Girls of Paper and Fire, for me, was a story about feminism and marginalisation. The paper castle are marginalised because of the demon-skewed rule, and the Paper girls themselves are used as trophies or fetishes by the Demon King himself. It covered how women are seen as property, and how we see others of a different race to us a either ‘lesser’ or ‘greater’ in some way.

Add to that, the slow-burn f/f romance and this book is officially a winner!

Let’s start with the things I liked:

Worldbuilding:

This world is so unique and detailed. I loved the demon/animal/human hybrids and how this affected the world. The power dynamics are a very good allegory for racism; seeing one type of person as better or more worthy than another, which is always nice to see being dealt with well. The Asian side to it is also lovely, and a culture we don’t see as much of in YA fantasy. I hope we’ll keep seeing more and more of it, and done well too.

Plot speed:

A lot happens in this book, even forgetting to count the entire world that Natasha builds in a good level of detail for the first book in a series, but it doesn’t happen too quickly. We get to see the hatred for the King rise to its peak, the romance between the two paper girls in a slow burn, and fragments of the mystery surrounding the main character’s mother be revealed piece by piece. I liked it and I never felt too rushed.

Delicate take on hard issues:

It’s hard to write a book with various kinds of assault in it and various different reactions to it without being accused of any glorifying of it. Girls of Paper and Fire manages to deal with these issues, not shy away from them, while also giving us the understanding of how wrong they truly are and how hard people fight to survive them. It was really nice to read and I appreciated the honesty.

Easily dislikeable evil character:

The King is a demon, sure, but his personality besides that is what makes him evil here. His blatant racism against the paper caste, his complete lack of empathy and respect for women, his terrifying rage and abuse… I could go on for pages!

Now the few iffy bits:

Characterisation:

Some of the characters were a bit stiff and a little stereotypical. I judge harshly the twin characters with names that pair well or rhyme: Tim and Tom, Jess and Bess, etc. This book had those and yes, it bothered me – being an identical twin myself I don’t like to give people excuses to only see us as a pair and never as individual human beings. I understood they’d both be Paper girls because if you’re taking people solely on attraction, it’s likely that both twins would cover that, but especially since we saw practically nothing of their personalities, this was the only thing notable about them and I wasn’t impressed.

Plot holes:

A couple of things minimally bugged me and I’ll try and say them without spoiling anything. Firstly, where did the herbs come from? And also, why is the King randomly guarded to within an inch of his life one minute, and the next alone? Those would make more sense once you’ve read the book, but again, tiny things.

Jumpy fight scenes:

The fight scenes are a little rushed and a little quick. A bit more description and detail would have gone a long way to make them flow a bit better and be a bit easier to follow exactly what’s happening.

There was also an issue I had with the final scene which had a similar problem to the ‘Indiana Jones and the Raider of the Lost Arc’ in that I don’t think the main character really changed what would have eventually happened anyway if she hadn’t been there. I don’t think this was a major flaw, just something that I thought was interesting.

Overall though, this was an awesome book, and one I’m incredibly excited about! If the ending of this book is anything to go by, it’s likely to have a sequel and I can’t wait for it to come out!