Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

stalking-jack-the-ripper-by-kerri-maniscalcoTitle: Stalking Jack the Ripper
Author: Kerri Maniscalco
Series: Stalking Jack the Ripper, #1
Pages: 326
Publisher: Jimmy Patterson
Release Date: September 20th 2016

      “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.

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“Everything was most certainly not okay, and this was no mathematical equation; my hands were covered in blood. I frantically wiped them off on my bodice, but it was no use. Blood stained my fingers in a crimson accusation.”

Stalking Jack the Ripper is a nice blend of thrills and mystery. With a likable protagonist and detail-oriented story, this work of historical fiction was really fun to read. Jack the Ripper stories can be really intriguing as they are based on a mystery that’s never been solved and authors can do what they will when it comes to filling in the blanks. Though novels that center around the idea that the forward-thinking protagonist is not like other girls in her time period can be annoying at times, I still enjoyed reading about how Audrey Rose defied societal expectations and appreciated that most of the men in her life helped her instead of hindering her ambitions. I also liked that the author was sure not to put down other females or femininity itself in order to elevate the protagonist.

Aside from a couple of instances where I found it frustrating that Audrey Rose made the foolish mistake of wandering alone at night by herself with a serial killer on the loose, the protagonist was a character I could really get behind. Her interest in science stems from her mother’s passing and her eccentric uncle’s work with the dead, both as a professor and an assistant to the police, help her achieve her goals. Despite Stalking the Ripper‘s commitment to detail, the story does gloss over the fact that Audrey Rose’s grandmother was from India. I think this could have been a really defining and interesting part of the protagonist’s identity, but only a couple of times is this mentioned and I would have liked to have heard more about this part of Audrey Rose’s family.

I really liked the exchanges between Audrey Rose and her uncle’s assistant Thomas. He’s a little too sure of his deductive skills, which may drive the protagonist crazy, but also challenges her to be better herself. There were also times where he was sociably awkward one moment and adeptly flirtatious the next, which could be confusing. Stalking Jack the Ripper‘s mystery wasn’t too hard to unravel, as I had a pretty good idea of who the killer was pretty early on, but it was still entertaining to see the mystery unravel and I’m looking forward to seeing what new mystery Audrey Rose solves in the next book.

Rating: 4/5

★★★★

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All In by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

All In by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Title: All In
Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Series: The Naturals, #3
Pages: 378
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Release Date: November 3rd 2015

      “Three casinos. Three bodies. Three days.
      After a string of brutal murders in Las Vegas, Cassie Hobbes and the Naturals are called in to investigate. But even with the team’s unique profiling talents, these murders seem baffling: unlike many serial killers, this one uses different methods every time. All of the victims were killed in public, yet the killer does not show up on any tape. And each victim has a string of numbers tattooed on their wrist. Hidden in the numbers is a code—and the closer the Naturals come to unraveling the mystery, the more perilous the case becomes.
      Meanwhile, Cassie is dealing with an equally dangerous and much more painful mystery. For the first time in years, there’s been a break in her mother’s case. As personal issues and tensions between the team mount, Cassie and the Naturals will be faced with impossible odds—and impossible choices.”

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      “You close your eyes and remember coming up behind her. You remember closing your hands around the chain. You remember her fighting.
      You remember the moment when she stopped.”

In All In, Jennifer Lynn Barnes’s third installment in her Naturals series, Cassie and the crew tackle another serial murder case, but the pasts of several teens come back to haunt them. Barnes writes very plot-driven novels that manage to be fast-paced and engaging, but also gives room for her characters to breathe. Sometimes a story focuses so much on interpersonal relationships that the plot takes a backseat, but Barnes’s ability to create a mystery that needs to be solved is what really stands out to me with this series.

Cassie, Dean, Lia, Michael, and Sloane are very different from one another, they all have individual hang-ups and there’s always that underlining conflict among some of them, but at the end of the day, they are willing to fight for one another. Cassie spent so many years growing up with only her mother to rely on that trusting other people and opening up to them is something she struggles with. Haunted by all the unanswered questions surrounding her mother’s murder, Cassie’s drive stems from the guilt she feels over her mother’s death and the belief that she can do something to make up for it. As the child of a serial killer, Dean’s whole identity is tied to what his father did. He constantly wrestles with himself over his ability to step into the mind of a serial killer and if this means that he’s capable of committing murder himself. If I have any criticism of this third installment, it’s that I wanted to see more of Dean’s character arc.

Of all the characters, I think Lia is the most puzzling. She’s less defined by her ability to spot a lie than her ability to tell a convincing one. She doesn’t give a lot away, is curt, and sometimes purposefully rude. I’m hoping the final installment introduces more of her past, which I believe will round-out her character more. Michael is a character that I find frustrating. In the first two books, I really found it hard to like him, but this novel really helped in resolving some of the issues I had with him. Sloane is the one character that I felt I knew very little about going into this one, but the plot hits really close to home for her and gives us a glimpse at this incredibly intelligent and vulnerable girl.

All In adds a lot of layers both to the characters and the overall plot of the series. The story is compelling and never suffers from unnecessary pauses. I’m really eager to see how the author resolves a really interesting storyline she introduces at the end of this one, but also a little afraid of where it might take these characters that I’ve grown rather fond of.

Rating: 4/5

★★★★

The Cellar by Natasha Preston

the-cellar-by-natasha-preston

Title: The Cellar
Author: Natasha Preston
Series: The Cellar, #1
Pages: 347
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Release Date: March 1st 2014
**I received a copy of this book from the publisher, which does not influence my review** 

      “Nothing ever happens in the town of Long Thorpe – that is, until sixteen-year-old Summer Robinson disappears without a trace. No family or police investigation can track her down. Spending months inside the cellar of her kidnapper with several other girls, Summer learns of Colin’s abusive past, and his thoughts of his victims being his family…his perfect, pure flowers. But flowers can’t survive long cut off from the sun, and time is running out…

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“I collapsed on the step, grasping the wall to stop myself from falling down the stairs. The door slammed shut, sending a shiver down my spine. Now I was trapped.”

Natasha Preston’s The Cellar is a psychological thriller that is both disturbing and hard to put down. When Summer is kidnapped, she is forced into a utterly terrifying situation. Though not alone, Summer is coerced into playing the part of “Lily,” one member of her kidnapper’s imaginary family. Unable to escape, Summer is trapped in her kidnapper’s cellar with three other captive women. She quickly learns that Clover is not a man that should be trifled with. His growing unpredictability and willingness to silence anyone who speaks against him has crushed any hope any of these women have for getting out. In order to survive, Summer must play by his rules, but days are passing quickly and with them, the chances that the police will find her at all.

What makes this novel truly horrifying is how realistic it actually is. Summer doesn’t take any dangerous chances, but one evening she crosses paths with a deranged individual who sees an opportunity to take her when no one else is around. Confused and completely overpowered, Summer can do nothing but obey Clover’s every command if she wants to survive. Desperate for escape, she looks to her fellow captives for help, but it quickly becomes clear that they are too scared to try anything drastic. Rose, who has been kept in Clover’s cellar for years, seems to have accepted this new reality and in many ways seems content. Poppy is less so, but follows Roses’s lead. The only one that is just as desperate as Summer to escape is Violet, but Clover makes it very clear that he will not tolerate any kind of rebellion.

The Cellar was very effective when it came to its multiple points of view. The large majority of the novel focuses on Summer and her experience inside the cellar, how she learns to adapt to this new world, and her growing need to escape. We also get Lewis’s point of view, Summer’s boyfriend, and how he tries to cope with her disappearance. His perspective gives readers a look at Summer’s family and the police investigation surrounding his girlfriend’s disappearance. Though unnerving and sometimes difficult to fully understand, we get a glimpse of who Clover is and the twisted logic that motivated him to kidnap these women. Unable to discriminate between right and wrong, Clover, whose real name is Colin, has taken it upon himself to rid the world of evil and protect the makeshift family he has put together at whatever cost.

The Cellar is more horrifying with every page turned as Clover grows even more violent and the reader, along with Summer and Lewis grow more desperate for these women to be found before it’s too late.

Rating: 4/5

★★★★

October Fright: (Mini) ARC Review – One Was Lost by Natalie D. Richards + Giveaway

One Was Lost by Natalie D. Richards

Title: One Was Lost
Author: Natalie D. Richards
Series: N/A
Pages: 320
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Release Date: October 4th 2016
*I received a copy of this book through a giveaway hosted by Armchair BEA, which does not influence my review.* 

      “Murder, justice, and revenge were so not a part of the plan when Sera set out on her senior camping trip. After all, hiking through the woods is supposed to be safe and uneventful.
      Then one morning the group wakes up groggy, confused, and with words scrawled on their wrists: Damaged. Deceptive. Dangerous. Darling. Their supplies? Destroyed. Half their group? Gone. Their chaperone? Unconscious. Worst of all, they find four dolls acting out a murder—dolls dressed just like them.
      Suddenly it’s clear; they’re being hunted. And with the only positive word on her wrist, Sera falls under suspicion…

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In Natalie D. Richards’ One Was Lost, an innocent school camping trip turns deadly and four teens must find a way to survive when they discover someone may be out to harm them. If you’re looking for a novel this month to get you in the mood for Halloween, but isn’t too intense when it comes to horror, One Was Lost might be for you. One of the most interesting things about this book is that although it was told in first person, we still get a chance to get to know the secondary characters beside the protagonist Sera. Lucas, Emily, and Jude had their own stories and brought their own issues to the story. I personally really liked Lucas and felt that we got to know him compared to the other two. One of the reason for this is Sera’s flashbacks, which added depth to their relationship and helped in the development of Lucas’ character. I do think that both Emily and Jude had more to offer and in terms of character development, the book might have worked better with multiple points of view. The story felt very limited and isolating at times and while this echoed what was happening to the characters in the story, there were moments when Sera would mention her relationship with her mother or father and it really made me want to read more about these different relationships. One Was Lost isn’t particularly groundbreaking when it comes to the thriller genre and its scares aren’t necessarily the most unique, but it’s a good book to pick up for October when you want to spend time with reads that will have you checking your locks before bed. Cover is linked to Goodreads.

Rating: 3/5

★★★

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Giveaway time! I currently have an ARC of Natalie D. Richard’s One Was Lost that I’d love the opportunity to share with another reader, so I am hosting a little giveaway. A few rules:

  1. Giveaway will run from October 2-14th.
  2. This giveaway is limited to the US due to shipping costs.
  3. You must be 18 or older to enter (or have your parents’ permission).
  4. The winner of the giveaway will be selected randomly and emailed on the 15th (you will have 48 hours to respond or another winner will be chosen).
  5. Prize will be mailed to you within a week of your response.
  6. To enter, click on the Rafflecopter link below.

A Rafflecopter Giveaway

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The Long Game by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

The Long Game by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Title: The Long Game
Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Series: The Fixer, #2
Pages: 360
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Release Date: June 7th 2016 

      “For Tess Kendrick, a junior at the elite Hardwicke School in Washington, D.C., fixing runs in the family. But Tess has another legacy, too, one that involves power and the making of political dynasties. When Tess is asked to run a classmate’s campaign for student council, she agrees. But when the candidates are children of politicians, even a high school election can involve life-shattering secrets.
      Meanwhile, Tess’s guardian has also taken on an impossible case, as a terrorist attack calls into doubt who can—and cannot—be trusted on Capitol Hill. Tess knows better than most that power is currency in D.C., but she’s about to discover firsthand that power always comes with a price.

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“The closer you’d been to death, the easier it was to feel him breathing down your neck—and the necks of those you loved.

Jennifer Lynn Barnes’s political thriller, The Long Game, is jam-packed with action and plenty of mysteries that will keep you guessing throughout. The sequel to The Fixer, this novel follows Tess Kendrick as she continues to navigate the political landscape of her new school Hardwicke, while dealing with extremely complicated family relationships. In the first book, Tess was thrust into a world wholly unlike the one she grew up in. Her sister Ivy is a well-known political “fixer” and this coupled with Tess’s own drive, made her peers seek her out in order to fix their own problems. In The Long Game, Tess has come to terms with this role. She hasn’t gone so far as to offer her services to other students, but she won’t turn down someone in need. Tess is a character whose convictions motivate her to take on almost impossible tasks, but she’s smart and determined, making her a force to be reckoned with. Tess is also stubborn and unforgiving. Her need for answers sometimes makes her reckless and her defensive walls make it difficult for people to get close. After the revelation in the first book, Tess isn’t sure where she stands with Ivy. I enjoyed the progression of their relationship and look forward to seeing how it further evolves. Tess endures a lot in this novel and she comes to understand more about who she is and how much the people in her life mean to her.

Tess has inadvertently gathered a group of friends to help her in fixing the problems at Hardwicke. Vivvie Bharani went through terrible circumstances in the first book, but she’s finally settled in with her aunt and is never happier than when she is helping others. Asher Rhodes is the kind of fun-loving friend everyone should have. He’s loyal and funny and brings a lighter tone to the group. Henry Marquette is the most reluctant of the group. Defined largely by his unwavering principles and steady presence, Henry feels like the cornerstone of the group, the one that let’s everyone know when that their schemes might just be too crazy to work. Of Tess’s friends, Henry is the most developed and I think this is one of the reasons I like reading about him so much. He has a lot in common with Tess, both have been lied to and manipulated. They don’t easily trust, so the moments they open up to each other were some of my favorites.

The Long Game is filled with secrets and lies, unpredictable moments, and a twist that will have you screaming. I did not expect The Long Game to be an emotional roller coaster, but that’s just what it was. A thrill ride from start to finish, this sequel is sure to surprise readers and have them begging for more.

Rating: 5/5

★★★★★

Blood of My Blood by Barry Lyga

Blood of My Blood by Barry Lyga

Title: Blood of My Blood
Author: Barry Lyga
Series: Jasper Dent, #3

Jasper “Jazz” Dent has spent his entire life in the shadow cast by his serial killer father, Billy Dent. He thought he could be smarted than Dear Old Dad, but Jazz’s quest to outwit his father has left him alone and bleeding from a gunshot wound. But Billy isn’t done with his son just yet. After saving him, Billy leaves Jazz with the knowledge that he has someone he loves. Jazz has two choices: let the authorities chase Billy, who spent most of his life being ten steps ahead of them, or sacrifice everything and go after Billy himself.

“I’m not afraid of you.”
“Course not. You’re not smart enough to be afraid of me.”

Barry Lyga’s Blood of My Blood, the final book in his Jasper Dent series, sees its protagonist finally confront his father and the disturbing memories still lurking in the back of his mind. Jazz has grown up trying to convince himself that all the thoughts embedded in him by his father can somehow be overcome. But in this final installment, the ruthlessness, the cunning, and the dark thoughts are the only way Jazz can finally put a stop to Billy Dent’s murderous rampage. To stop Billy, Jazz must be willing to sacrifice his own humanity and become the killer his father raised him to be.

Billy Dent may be the most menacing and twisted villain I’ve ever come across in fiction. He’s smart, strong, cold, and there is something disturbingly warm about him when it comes to Jazz. Billy’s voice cuts through the pages, far more distinctly and more clearly than any of the other characters in this series. Billy is not the only sinister antagonist in this final book and as impossible as it seems, there is someone far more vile. Someone who will have you wondering if therapy might be a viable option not only for the characters but also for yourself as a reader.

Barry Lyga’s series deals with the age old question of nature vs. nurture. Whether or not one’s own will-power is enough to overcome these damnable influences. If you weren’t uncomfortable reading the first two books, this final one will certain do the job. With twists, murder, and cruelty at every turn, Blood of My Blood brings the series to a ferocious conclusion.

Rating: 4/5

★★★★