Review // Escaping from Houdini by Kerri Maniscalco

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Escaping from Houdini by Kerri Maniscalco
Stalking Jack the Ripper #3
Publisher: JIMMY Patterson
Publication Date: September 18th, 2018
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Source: Purchase
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 416

Summary (from Goodreads):

In this third installment in the #1 bestselling Stalking Jack the Ripper series, a luxurious ocean liner becomes a floating prison of scandal, madness, and horror when passengers are murdered one by one…with nowhere to run from the killer. . 

Audrey Rose Wadsworth and her partner-in-crime-investigation, Thomas Cresswell, are en route to New York to help solve another blood-soaked mystery. Embarking on a week-long voyage across the Atlantic on the opulent RMS Etruria, they’re delighted to discover a traveling troupe of circus performers, fortune tellers, and a certain charismatic young escape artist entertaining the first-class passengers nightly.

But then, privileged young women begin to go missing without explanation, and a series of brutal slayings shocks the entire ship. The strange and disturbing influence of the Moonlight Carnival pervades the decks as the murders grow ever more freakish, with nowhere to escape except the unforgiving sea. It’s up to Audrey Rose and Thomas to piece together the gruesome investigation as even more passengers die before reaching their destination. But with clues to the next victim pointing to someone she loves, can Audrey Rose unravel the mystery before the killer’s horrifying finale?

So, I'm going to start this review off by saying that I absolutely adore this series with my whole heart. But this one was not my favorite. I feel like this is the book in the series that is suffering from sequel slump.

This book picks up shortly after the end of Hunting Prince Dracula. Audrey Rose, Thomas, and Audrey's Uncle are on the RMS Etruria on their way to America to solve a case. But on their trip, they wind up with a new case to solve as the bodies of young women start turning up during the evening carnival performances. And it looks like someone in the carnival is the killer, but they have to figure out who it is before they arrive in America and the killer gets away.

I am not 100% sure why this book didn't so much do it for me like the other two did.

I feel like Audrey Rose taking Mephistopheles up on his midnight bargain was really out of character for her. The only things that she seemed to truly think through in this book were in dealing with the bodies and sorting through the evidence and clues they found.

I feel like Thomas was just really unimportant in this book? Like, I feel like he didn't offer anything serious in this one? I don't remember the first two books super well, but I don't remember thinking that he was basically just comic relief in them. Because of Audrey Rose's bargain with Mephistopheles, she couldn't really hang out with him all that much and it seemed like when she got a moment with him, Mephistopheles showed up and took her away for something or other.

Now, let's get to the romance. I went into this book thinking that Audrey Rose and Thomas were a ROCK SOLID PAIR. I saw people talking about how there was a love triangle in this book and I was like..

What is your definition of a love triangle, people?!

But holy crap, there was a love triangle in this book. Like, in all reality, I can see why Audrey Rose felt the way she did in this book. But at the same time... No. I feel like she never should have ended up in the situation to begin with because it just seemed so... wrong for her to do. Also, they are perfect together. Like, honestly, Thomas deserves more than this.

Beyond that, some of the thought processes in this book felt repetitive to me. I feel like there were parts where I was confused on what exactly was happening, but that could be because I was reading this book so fast because I wanted to finish one of my spookathon books DURING spookathon.

But on the plus side, Audrey Rose was still her badass, feminist self. I loved seeing her and her cousin Liza interact. I liked seeing her working her magic. Thomas was still his same shamelessly flirty, ridiculous self. The mystery was interesting and it was interesting to see how it all connected in the end.

I liked the carnival aspect of the book. I liked the performers. It took me a bit to warm up to Mephistopheles because he was always in the way of my ship. I feel like based on the name of this book, Houdini should have been a bigger part of the story. Like Stalking Jack the Ripper was about the Ripper murders, Hunting Prince Dracula was a good name for a book that took place in Dracula's castle and was about murders reminiscent of a vampire attack. But Escaping from Houdini just doesn't seem super fitting after finishing the book.

Overall, I did enjoy this book, I loved seeing Audrey Rose and Thomas again and seeing them work their magic to solve a case, but this was definitely my least favorite in the series so far. I will definitely revisit that thought next year when the last book comes out and I do a full reread though! Maybe if I take more time to read it, it will turn out better for me.

Have you read Escaping from Houdini yet? What did you think of it?

Review // Leaping Wolf by JP Harker

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Leaping Wolf by JP Harker
Caledon Saga #2
Publisher: JPH
Publication Date: June 9th, 2017
Rating: 4 Stars
Source: Author
Format: Paperback
Pages: 604

Summary (from Goodreads):

Lepidus is defeated and Rhianwyn’s precious Caledon is at peace, but still Gawan of the Gorvicae is troubled. What future is there for men like him in a world with no more need for warriors? With his tribe saved he knows that he ought to be contented, but more and more he finds himself dwelling on his past, and the life he abandoned for what he thought was a greater duty. Though amends for that will have to wait as, even as the alliance of tribes is formed, the Caledon seems ready to collapse. Rhianwyn is struggling for control, Gawan’s own tribe is leaderless, and with unexpected enemies arising from the south, Gawan suspects the time for warriors may not be over yet...

Leaping Wolf picks right back up where Wildcat left off. The battle at Second Nantwyn is over and Lepidus is defeated. The warriors of the Caledon are headed back to Bryngarth to deal with funerals, picking new Chieftains, and worrying about what they're going to do with themselves if they can't fight each other anymore.

They don't have to worry about this for long though because the Chieftain of one of the Caledon tribes is murdered and the warriors are needed once again.

Where Wildcat felt like it dealt more so with Gaian politics, this book seems to focus more on tribal and intertribal politics. You get to see how the Caderyn hold trials for people accused of crimes and how they decide things. You get to see the Gorvicae hold a moot to choose a new Chieftain. Since the Caledon is such a new thing, you get to see how they kind of try to include other tribes in their decision making now. It was all very interesting.

There is so much more to this book than what you get in the synopsis. It's so vague! I feel like I got to the end of what I was expecting to find in this book and there was so much book left! And I didn't know what to expect from it. Not a complaint, more of an observation. I personally prefer to not know too much about the book I'm going into.

This book mostly follows Gawan. I wasn't really sure how I felt about this in the beginning just because I didn't particularly like him that much in the first book. I thought he was kind of a grumpy butthead, but he really grew on me throughout this book. He's really reasonable and values honor. He is dealing with a lot of feelings in this book. I liked understanding what was going on in his head.

There is still a lot of Rhianwyn in this book, which I liked. I really liked Rhia and how she always tries to make the best decisions for her tribe and for the Caledon as a whole. She makes some tough decisions in this book.

There is a bit of romance in this book, but it either ends poorly or is unrequited. I am not hopeful for happily ever afters in this series at this point. I just hope that the characters I like come out alive! D:

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I feel like it was a solid sequel. Once again, there was a lot of internal stuff going on with the characters, which made it feel a bit slow just because I feel like that isn't something I notice in the books I usually read.

It made me like characters I didn't particularly care for, which always feels like a big plus to me. I kind of predicted which of the potential Gorvicae Cheiftains was working with the shady guys. I'm really excited to read the next one because I want to know what kind of shady business these guys are up to.

Also, this book hurt my feelings twice. I got a little teary-eyed a couple times and honestly, it's so unfair. Marius deserves better than this!

If you haven't read Wildcat yet, you totally should and then you should come and talk to me about it!

Review // Grace and Fury by Tracy Banghart

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Gracy and Fury by Tracy Banghart
Grace and Fury #1
Publisher: Little, Brown Books For Young Readers
Publication Date: July 31st, 2018
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Source: Purchase
Format: Audiobook
Pages: 320

Summary (from Goodreads):

In a world where women have no rights, sisters Serina and Nomi Tessaro face two very different fates: one in the palace, the other in prison.

Serina has been groomed her whole life to become a Grace - someone to stand by the heir to the throne as a shining, subjugated example of the perfect woman. But when her headstrong and rebellious younger sister, Nomi, catches the heir's eye, it's Serina who takes the fall for the dangerous secret that Nomi has been hiding.

Now trapped in a life she never wanted, Nomi has only one way to save Serina: surrender to her role as a Grace until she can use her position to release her sister. This is easier said than done. A traitor walks the halls of the palace, and deception lurks in every corner. But Serina is running out of time, imprisoned on an island where she must fight to the death to survive and one wrong move could cost her everything.

Grace and Fury is a story about two sisters who live in a world where women have no rights. They don't get to choose who they marry or what they do with their lives. They can't read or cut their hair. Everything is done by a man's say so.

Serina has been trained for her whole life to become a Grace for the Superior, basically the leader of the country. Graces are chosen in an event that felt very similar to what goes on in the Selection series, but slightly different. I think each city or province of the nation sent one girl to go to a party to be seen by the Superior and at the end of the night, he chooses three girls to stay on as his new Graces.

Serina is chosen to go to try to become one of the heir's first Graces. She wants this terribly to try to give her and her sister (as her handmaiden) a better life. But when the new Graces are announced, it isn't Serina that is chosen as one, but her sister Nomi, who caught the heir's eye.

Shortly after that, Serina takes the fall for Nomi when she is caught holding a book that Nomi stole and reciting from memory a favored childhood story.

Nomi is forced to go on alone as a Grace, something she never wanted for herself, and Serina is sentenced to Mount Ruin, basically a prison island that no one ever comes back from. Nomi has to try to use her position to free Serina. Serina has to try to survive on this island that is trying to kill her, but where she seems to have more freedom than she ever did before.

Grace and Fury isn't a book that I thought I was going to like as much as I did. I used an Audible credit on it because I thought it sounded a bit interesting, but wasn't expecting too much from it. Maybe it was because I was sucked into the audiobook, I don't know, but I had fun listening to this story.

This story is primarily about Serina and Nomi and the relationship between them as sisters. There is a bit of romance in the story for each of them, but it takes a backseat to the relationship they have with each other. They never stop thinking about how they're going to escape their individual situations and save the other one.

Nomi is more of a rebel, she taught herself to read and she wants more for herself than she will ever be able to have in this oppressive society. Serina is more accepting of her situation and wants to make the best of it by becoming a Grace.

The story is told in a dual POV between Nomi in the palace, trying to figure out what happened to Serina and trying her hardest not to catch the heir's eye, and Serina, trying to figure out how to stay alive on Mount Ruin and learning that she too has some rebelliousness in her.

Nomi's POV felt very much like what I remember of The Selection. Granted, they are all chosen as Graces, but the aim is to be the one that the heir chooses to be with on his birthday when he can finally BE WITH his Graces. Except only one of the three girls actually wants that for herself. It's got all the formal "princess-y" training and fancy outings and dresses and what not.

Serina's POV felt to me kind of like a less brutal Hunger Games in that, every time there is a delivery of prisoners and rations to the island, the new prisoners are sorted off into the 5 different groups on the island and each group picks a fighter to go head to head to win the rations for their group. And it is a fight to the death. You can submit, but if you do, you are pretty much disowned from your group and on your own.

There is a plot twist in the end of this book that I definitely saw coming and is very reminiscent of the plot twist in another big YA series.

Overall, this book didn't really feel like anything new. It was a bit predictable and nothing really felt surprising about it. But I still really enjoyed it. I loved that the main focus of the book was the sisters wanting to get back to each other and I can't wait to read the sequel! I am excited to see where the story will go.

Have you read Grace and Fury yet? Do you have any good recommendations that focus on a sister relationship?

Review // These Rebel Waves by Sara Raasch

Monday, July 30, 2018

These Rebel Waves by Sara Raasch
Stream Raiders #1
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: August 7th, 2018
Rating: DNF
Source: Emma @ Miss Print
Format: Physical ARC

Summary (from Goodreads):

Adeluna is a soldier. Five years ago, she helped the magic-rich island of Grace Loray overthrow its oppressor, Argrid, a country ruled by religion. But adjusting to postwar life has not been easy. When an Argridian delegate vanishes during peace talks with Grace Loray’s new Council, Argrid demands brutal justice—but Lu suspects something more dangerous is at work.

Devereux is a pirate. As one of the outlaws called stream raiders who run rampant on Grace Loray, he pirates the island’s magic plants and sells them on the black market. But after Argrid accuses raiders of the diplomat’s abduction, Vex becomes a target. An expert navigator, he agrees to help Lu find the Argridian—but the truth they uncover could be deadlier than any war.

Benat is a heretic. The crown prince of Argrid, he harbors a secret obsession with Grace Loray’s forbidden magic. When Ben’s father, the king, gives him the shocking task of reversing Argrid’s fear of magic, Ben has to decide if one prince can change a devout country—or if he’s building his own pyre.

As conspiracies arise, Lu, Vex, and Ben will have to decide who they really are . . . and what they are willing to become for peace.

**DNF @ ARC page 85**

These Rebel Waves by Sara Raasch was one of the books that I was really anticipating in 2018. I know I mention this a lot, but I freaking love pirate books. I feel like I can't get enough of them. I also really enjoyed the Snow Like Ashes series also by Sara.

But I got 85 pages into this book and I was kind of dreading having to pick it back up every time I put it down. I am already woefully behind on my reading, but I feel like I might have put myself in a reading slump if I had kept going with this book.

I personally don't necessarily mind books that focus on political aspects of the book's world or books that focus on the religion of that world, but from what I gathered in 85 pages, this book felt like it was going to be quite heavily focused on both of those things. And I just wasn't there for it.

It also had 3 POV characters and, while I have grown to appreciate multiple POVs more, I still don't love it.

When I started to really feel the drag, I looked up on Goodreads to see if I thought it would be worth continuing with this book and I just don't think it would have been. It seems that there wasn't going to be much pirate-y stuff going on and also there apparently really aren't any gay pirates in this particular book. Also a lot of people said that the magic system, which is something that really interested me about this book, was confusing. Or something along those lines.

I might pick this book up again sometime in the future. I think if I could have gotten further into it something interesting might have started happening (I was kind of bored while reading this) and it would have gotten better. But at this point in time, I just didn't care enough to try.

Overall, this book wasn't as much of a hit with me as I would have hoped. Maybe someday I will be inclined to try this book again, but I don't know. If you don't mind books that are could be heavily focused on politics and religion, you could like this book. Because that was really where this one went wrong for me.

Have you read These Rebel Waves yet? Did you like it?

Review // The Darkest Legacy by Alexandra Bracken

Monday, July 23, 2018

The Darkest Legacy by Alexandra Bracken
The Darkest Minds #4
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Publication Date: July 31st, 2018
Rating: 5 Stars
Source: Alexandra Bracken
Format: Physical ARC

Summary (from Goodreads):

Five years after the destruction of the so-called rehabilitation camps that imprisoned her and countless other Psi kids, seventeen-year-old Suzume "Zu" Kimura has assumed the role of spokesperson for the interim government, fighting for the rights of Psi kids against a growing tide of misinformation and prejudice. But when she is accused of committing a horrifying act, she is forced to go on the run once more in order to stay alive.

Determined to clear her name, Zu finds herself in an uncomfortable alliance with Roman and Priyanka, two mysterious Psi who could either help her prove her innocence or betray her before she gets the chance. But as they travel in search of safety and answers, and Zu grows closer to the people she knows she shouldn't trust, they uncover even darker things roiling beneath the veneer of the country's recovery. With her future-and the future of all Psi-on the line, Zu must use her powerful voice to fight back against forces that seek to drive the Psi into the shadows and save the friends who were once her protectors.

From #1 New York Times best-selling author Alexandra Bracken comes a harrowing story of resilience, resistance, and reckoning that will thrill loyal fans and new readers alike.

So, I don't think this will come as a surprise to any of my regular blog followers, but The Darkest Legacy by Alexandra Bracken was my most anticipated book of 2018. It was made even more exciting by the fact that it was the first Darkest Minds novel that I got to look forward to because I originally discovered the series after In the Afterlight came out.

It absolutely lived up to the hype I gave it! I absolutely adored this book. I adored Zu. I adored the new characters that we get to follow. I pretty much loved everything about it. :')

I don't want to give too much of this book away because Alex has said that she believes that this book is better to go into not knowing TOO much. So to give a super brief summary of the plot: The Darkest Legacy follows Zu, five years after the events of In the Afterlight, where she is basically a spokesperson for the government, speaking on behalf of her fellow Psi. At one of her scheduled speeches, something awful happens that she ends up being framed for and she has to go out and try to clear her name with the help of a couple new characters.

I think it's safe to say that there is a bigger picture here, but you're going to have to read it to find out what it is.

I think that the best way to do this review is to talk about what I liked and what I didn't like.

What I Liked:

I loved Zu as a protagonist. I love that she is using her voice after spending 90% of the trilogy being afraid to speak. I loved that you can see bits and pieces of the other characters in her after they spent so long being each other's family. I love that there are points in this book where she doesn't pretend to be fine when she's not.

I feel like that's something you see a lot. A character is asked if they're okay when there is something bothering them and they said that they're fine. But Zu came out and said she wasn't really fine on several occasions and that was something that I liked seeing. It's okay to not be okay.

I also loved the new characters that we meet, Roman and Priyanka. Roman definitely gives Liam a run for his money for being so soft and just generally perfect.

Priyanka reminds me a lot of Vida. At the beginning I wasn't sure if I was going to like her because I was like, "She's not beiNG NICE TO ZU." But I loved Priyanka, she has a lot of attitude like Vida, but is a little bit less.... vicious?? I don't know what the best word I'm looking for is here, but I loved her.

I loved seeing the new characters interact with Zu. I liked seeing how they dealt with each other when they didn't trust each other, but even though it took them awhile to warm up to each other and trust each other fully, they were always kind of there for each other and helping each other and I loved their friendship. Lol, how many times can I get "each other" into one sentence??

I looooved the romance. The romance is definitely not a big thing in the book, it's very similar to how the romance went in The Darkest Minds. It's so slow and sweet and I. Loved. It.

I loved seeing what the world was like for psi kids this long after the camp closures. Seeing what may have gotten better, what may have gotten worse, what new problems they were having all together. I just generally love this world that Alex Bracken has created and I could read book after book after book that takes place in it.

I loved seeing what the original cast of characters was up to! It would be good to keep in mind when you're reading this book that this is not like The Darkest Minds 2.0. This book doesn't follow the same characters. Your favorites from the original books are still super important to Zu, but they're not necessarily as important to this story. I feel like if I hadn't seen something like this from Alex, I might have been disappointed about the lack of my favorite original characters, but since I knew to expect this, I was probably able to enjoy the book more. So if you're reading this review before reading the book, you should keep that in mind!

What I didn't like:

There really isn't anything that I didn't like about this book. If I were going to make a complaint though, I would say that I think the ending was rushed. When I was starting to get close to the end I was thinking there was no way this story could get resolved in so few pages.

It does get resolved, but there is a bit of a time jump and then they're in the middle of the op that is how they resolve the current problems. I would have liked to know how they got from point A to point B with a little bit more detail. And then there is one burning question that I have about something at the end.

But this book definitely ends in the same way as In the Afterlight. The story is resolved, but the problems for the psi don't end there. There is definitely room for more stories in this world. Which, the ending isn't a complaint about the book, I'm glad that it ended like that so that I can hope for more books in this world.

I guess I might deduct half a star for the ending being a bit rushed, but I felt like it was resolved satisfactorily in such a short amount of time and I'm gonna bump it up to five stars anyway because I'm just so impressed with this book.

Overall, I adored this book. I am so glad that this book lived up to the hype I gave it. If you liked The Darkest Minds series, you obviously need to read this. And if you haven't read the series, but you like  books about kids fighting against the government, you should definitely read this series.

Have you read The Darkest Minds series? Are you looking forward to this book?
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