A Reader’s Paradise: Designing My Dream Reading Space

I was approached by Molly from arhaus.com for a project that she is working on where people describe and design their dream reading spaces.  I thought this sounded like a lot of fun so I said I’d be happy to take part.  For me, the ideal reading space would be located in a quiet, secluded area of my house so that there isn’t a lot of distracting foot traffic.  The furnishings would be simple and I would go for a light and airy look – not quite beachy, but definitely headed in that direction with ocean blues, sandy colors, and a lot of white.  I’d want an oversized cozy reading chair, preferably one that allows me to put my feet up, and lots of pillows and a throw blanket (again for the cozy factor).  Since I’d be reading all the time in my dream space, I’d also want ample lighting as well as sheer curtains to let in lots of natural light.  Endless bookshelves would be a must as well, not just for my books themselves, but also to hold bookish knick knacks, fun bookends, etc.  Aside from the books themselves, decorations would be at a minimum, maybe a few literary art prints like the cool Pride and Prejudice one in my mood board below or something similar.  Last but not least, I’d finish off the decor with a few of those bookish themed candles that are so popular.

Dream Reading Space by thebookishlibra

 

Products used in the mood board:

1.  Grand Chaise Oversized Chair from shabbychic.com

2.  White Billy Bookcase from ikea.com

3.  Blue Printed Pillows from etsy.com

4.  Clarence Floor Lamp from arhaus.com

5.  Sheer Curtains from potterybarn.com

6.  Home is Where the Books Are Art Print from etsy.com

7.  Pride and Prejudice Art Print from etsy.com

8.  I Read Past My Bedtime Bookends from etsy.com

9.  Enchanted Library Jam Jar Candle from etsy.com

 

So, if you could design your own ideal reading space, what would you include?

Book Review: Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova

Book Review:  Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida CordovaLabyrinth Lost (Brooklyn Brujas, #1) by Zoraida Córdova
four-stars
Series: Brooklyn Brujas
Published by Sourcebooks Fire on September 6th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction
Pages: 324
Source: Purchased
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads

Goodreads Synopsis:  Nothing says Happy Birthday like summoning the spirits of your dead relatives.

Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation…and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she can’t trust. A boy whose intentions are as dark as the strange marks on his skin.

The only way to get her family back is to travel with Nova to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland…

MY REVIEW

Zoraida Córdova’s Labyrinth Lost is the first book in the Brooklyn Brujas series and it follows sixteen year old Alex, who is just trying to live her life as an average teen in Brooklyn, New York.  Alex, however, is anything but average.  She comes from a long line of magical brujas and brujos, which are witches, so everyone in her family is eagerly anticipating the moment when her magical powers finally awaken.  The problem is that Alex doesn’t want her powers. Her family doesn’t realize it, but Alex’s magic has long since awoken and she thinks she accidentally caused something bad to happen with it since she couldn’t control it.  Because of that, she wants to parts of this magic and so has hidden her magic from others  for as long as she could.

Eventually, however, her family finds out and they throw her the traditional Deathday celebration. This celebration is a family blessing of sorts, including both living family members as well as the spirits of those who have died, which ensures every bruja and brujo’s magic works as it should.  As they are preparing for the Deathday celebration, Alex meets a new friend, Nova.  She is immediately drawn to Nova, although she’s not sure she trusts him because he acts so mysterious.  She confides in him that she doesn’t want her powers and he suggests a spell she can use to eradicate them during the Deathday ceremony.  Alex attempts the spell during the ceremony and, much to her horror, it backfires and banishes her entire family to another realm, an in-between world of sorts, called Los Lagos.  The rest of the book focuses on Alex’s quest to travel to this other world and to right her wrong and save her family.

LIKES

There were so many things I loved about this story that it would take me all day to list them, but here are some standouts for me.

Unique WorldbuildingLabyrinth Lost feels like a cross between Alice in Wonderland and Orpheus’ journey to the underworld to save Eurydice, and then on top of that, it is also filled with a rich history of Spanish and Latin American legends.  Córdova uses this unique combination of ingredients to create one of the most incredibly original worlds I’ve encountered since I started reading fantasy novels.  It’s equal parts creepy and magical and you can’t even begin to guess from one moment to the next what Alex will face on her journey across Los Lagos.  There’s a portal to the other world that must be traveled through, then there’s a ferry that must be taken across a river of souls where souls actually try to grab at the ferry’s passengers, not to mention fierce monsters that are prowling around just waiting to attack, and there’s even a random a tea party, complete with little toad stool chairs, in progress.  I really flew through these pages because I just couldn’t wait to see what Alex would encounter next.

DiversityLabyrinth Lost scores high marks in diversity. In addition to use of Latin folklore, the main character is a person of color and she is also bisexual.  (For those who are fans of love triangles, there’s one in this book and it’s f/f/m).

Family Relationships – I loved how Labyrinth Lost had such a huge focus on family and how important one’s family is.  Even though their relationships tend to be complicated, as most families are, Alex is so close to both her mom and her two sisters and it kills her to think they are suffering because of what she did.  She is willing to risk everything, including her own life, to do whatever she needs to do to free them from Los Lagos.

Coming of Age Story – I love reading journeys of self-discovery and Alex’s journey definitely fits the bill.  When the novel first opened, I honestly didn’t even really like Alex that much. She came across as very selfish and spoiled, and so in many ways, she was my least favorite character. That said, however, she shows such tremendous growth as she devotes herself to saving her family and learns to embrace her magic and all it entails along the way.  By the end of the novel, I ended up loving Alex.

DISLIKES

I won’t really call this a dislike because it’s more “Man, I really wish there was more of this” and that involves Alex’s friend and eventual love interest, Rishi.  Rishi is so devoted to Alex that when she sees this random open portal in Alex’s backyard and can’t find Alex anywhere, she dives into the portal without hesitation because she wants to make sure Alex is okay.  Beyond the fact that she’s totally devoted to Alex, however, we don’t really learn that much about her.  I loved the little glimpses of her personality that we did get and really wanted more.  I’m glad this is just the first in the series so there’s hope for more about Rishi.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Labyrinth Lost is such a unique and memorable read. I loved learning about the Latin folklore and look forward to exploring it further when the next book in the Brooklyn Brujas series is released.

RATING:  4 STARS

four-stars

About Zoraida Córdova

Zoraida Córdova is the author of The Vicious Deep trilogy, the On the Verge series, and Labyrinth Lost. She loves black coffee, snark, and still believes in magic. She is a New Yorker at heart and is currently working on her next novel. Send her a tweet @Zlikeinzorro.

Waiting on Wednesday – Spotlight on Calling My Name by Liara Tamani

New WoW“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, which encourages fellow bloggers to spotlight upcoming releases that we’re excited about.

My “Waiting On” Wednesday selection for this week is Calling My Name by Liara Tamani.  I first saw this book listed on Edelweiss and what caught my eye and got me really excited about it was that it was described there as being “ideal for readers of Jacqueline Woodson, Jandy Nelson, Naomi Shihab Nye, and Sandra Cisneros.”  These are all authors that I enjoy so I definitely want to see what Calling My Name is all about. I also love a good coming of age story and it sounds like this will fit the bill on that front as well.

Calling My Name by Liara Tamani

Publication Date:  October 24, 2017

From Amazon.com:

Taja Brown lives with her parents and older brother and younger sister, in Houston, Texas. Taja has always known what the expectations of her conservative and tightly-knit African American family are—do well in school, go to church every Sunday, no intimacy before marriage. But Taja is trying to keep up with friends as they get their first kisses, first boyfriends, first everythings. And she’s tired of cheering for her athletic younger sister and an older brother who has more freedom just because he’s a boy. Taja dreams of going to college and forging her own relationship with the world and with God, but when she falls in love for the first time, those dreams are suddenly in danger of evaporating.

 

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I’d love to hear what upcoming book releases you’re waiting on this Wednesday? Leave me your link in the comments below and I’ll stop by and check out your WoW selection for this week. 🙂

Top Ten Tuesday – My Top 10 Biggest Book Turn Offs

top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a fun weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is Top Ten Things That Will Make Me Instantly NOT Want To Read A Book.  I actually struggled with this topic because there aren’t too many things that will guarantee I won’t even attempt to read a book.  There are a few though so here’s my list.  

My Top Ten Biggest Book Turn Offs

 

1. CHILD ABUSE – I just can’t bring myself to read a book if I know in advance that a child will be abused.

2. ANIMAL CRUELTY – Same thing here. If I’ve heard there is animal cruelty, I’m going to pass.  I just finished reading The Female of the Species this past weekend and I wish I had known up front about the scene with the puppies so that I could have skipped over it.  Thankfully it was a small scene and it wasn’t graphic, but it still broke my heart.

3.  HORROR – I don’t do horror. At all.  Not movies or TV shows and especially not books. I enjoy a good mystery or psychological thriller, but no thanks to all of the super scary and gory stuff.  I read as an escape and being terrified is not an escape for me.

4. BIOGRAPHIES – Sometimes I’ll make an exception, but typically biographies not for me because I find them such a dry read.  I do enjoy autobiographies though because I do like hearing about someone’s life in their own words.

5.  WOMAN NEEDS A LOVE INTEREST TO FEEL COMPLETE –  I don’t know if this is classified as Chick Lit or  if it’s something else altogether, but the turn off for me are those books where the main character is so obsessed with either the man she is involved with or she’s focused on nothing but finding her next big romance.  Life is just horribly incomplete because she’s not involved with someone romantically.  Or maybe she even starts out as a strong, independent female character but then she suddenly turns into a puddle of goo because she thinks she has met Mr. Right.  Those kinds of stories just drive me crazy.

 6. GRATUITOUS, GRAPHIC SEX – I’m not a prude by any means and don’t mind the occasional sex scene in books that I’m reading, but I find it a turn off if every few chapters my characters are going at it like bunnies, especially if it adds nothing to the plot and is actually in the way of the plot advancing.

7. LOVE TRIANGLES – Sometimes I’ll make an exception if there’s an unusual twist when it comes to the love triangle, but for the most part, I just find these so cliche and unrealistic.

 8. TOO MUCH DESCRIPTION / TOO LITTLE ACTION – Although I do love gorgeous descriptions in novels, I know that if a novel is more description than it is action, I’m going to end up bored.  I recently experienced this with The Bone Witch, which I found to be filled with endless beautiful descriptions of the clothing the witches wore, but felt like the book was predominantly description and that not much of anything actually happened.

9. MAIN CHARACTER IS TOO PERFECT – I like characters that are messy and flawed and who make mistakes. If they’re too perfect, I just can’t relate to them and so lose interest.

10.  UGLY  COVERS – I feel horrible for even putting this one on here, but just as I have been known to want to read a book simply because it happens to have a gorgeous cover, I confess that I have also been known to shun a book altogether if it has what I consider to be hideous cover.  I know, I know! I shouldn’t be judging books by their covers.  *goes and sits in the corner*

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Question:  What are some of your biggest book turn offs? Do we have any in common?

ARC Review of The Leavers by Lisa Ko

ARC Review of The Leavers by Lisa KoThe Leavers by Lisa Ko
four-stars
Published by Algonquin Books on May 2nd 2017
Genres: Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 352
Source: Netgalley
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Goodreads Synopsis:  One morning, Deming Guo’s mother, an undocumented Chinese immigrant named Polly, goes to her job at the nail salon and never comes home. No one can find any trace of her.

With his mother gone, eleven-year-old Deming is left with no one to care for him. He is eventually adopted by two white college professors who move him from the Bronx to a small town upstate. They rename him Daniel Wilkinson in their efforts to make him over into their version of an “all-American boy.” But far away from all he’s ever known, Daniel struggles to reconcile his new life with his mother’s disappearance and the memories of the family and community he left behind.

Set in New York and China, The Leavers is a vivid and moving examination of borders and belonging. It’s the story of how one boy comes into his own when everything he’s loved has been taken away–and how a mother learns to live with the mistakes of her past.

This powerful debut is the winner of the 2016 PEN/Bellwether Prize for fiction, awarded by Barbara Kingsolver for a novel that addresses issues of social justice.

 

MY REVIEW

The Leavers is a very compelling and timely read that explores what happens to a Chinese family living in New York when immigration suddenly becomes an issue and one of them is forced to leave the country.  It follows the life of Deming Guo, an eleven year old Chinese American boy who lives in Brooklyn, New York.  He shares an apartment with his mother, Polly, who is an undocumented Chinese immigrant, Polly’s boyfriend Leo, as well as Leo’s sister, Vivian and her son.   Things are a little tight, but they all do the best they can and it’s the only family Deming has ever known so he’s comfortable with the arrangement.

Then one day Polly doesn’t come home from work.  No one seems to know what happened to her.  Days, weeks, even months go by without a word from her.  Deming vaguely remembers his mother talking about wanting to move to Florida for a better job and sadly assumes that she has chosen to do so and just left him behind.  Then Leo disappears as well, and soon after, Vivian decides she can no longer take care of Deming and surrenders him so that he can be adopted by someone who can.  Deming ends up being adopted by an old white couple and thus begins a new life in upstate New York where the couple lives.  The rest of the novel explores how being left behind by his mother shapes basically every aspect of Deming’s life.

LIKES

Deming’s Journey:  I just found Deming’s story so heartbreaking because he seems so lost most of the time, like he has no idea who he really is and just doesn’t really fit in or belong anywhere.  Even as he moves into adulthood, no matter where he goes and what he tries to do – whether it’s attend college or even to pursue his passion, which is music, the question of what happened to his real mother always casts its shadow over him. He grows up feeling it’s somehow all his fault that his mother abandoned him.  In this sense, Lisa Ko has crafted The Leavers into a coming of age story because Deming (or Daniel as his adoptive parents have renamed him in an effort to ‘Americanize’ him) spends much of the story trying to figure out who he even is.  This search for identity is a major theme.

Flawed Characters:  The older Deming/Daniel gets, the more determined he becomes to find out the truth about why his mother left him.  Lisa Ko adds another layer to the story at this point by adding in Polly’s point of view and having Polly fill in the gaps in the original story that we’ve been following.  We learn what really happened to her and what she has been doing ever since and why she didn’t make more of an effort to get back to her son.  It’s a painful story and Polly definitely made some regretful choices along the way that she has been forced to live with, but her flaws are what make her human and what make her story so moving.  Even though I was angry with her at first for not figuring out a way to reunite with her son, by the end of her story, I found myself forgiving her.

DISLIKES

The only reason I haven’t given this novel full marks is that even though seeing the effects of deportation on both mother and son made for a powerful read, I felt like it sometimes made the story too broad in scope, especially when there were alternating chapters between the son as a boy, the same son as a grown man, and then partway through, we suddenly had chapters from the mom as well. It sometimes took me a few minutes to figure out who the narrator was as I began a new chapter. Even though it confused me at times, however, I still thought it was wonderful read overall.

FINAL THOUGHTS

With its poignant exploration of how deportation can rip families apart and ruin lives, it’s very easy to see why Lisa Ko’s The Leavers won the 2016 Pen/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction.

RATING:  4 STARS

 

Thanks so much to Netgalley, the author, and Algonquin Books for providing me with an e-galley of this book in exchange for an honest review. This in no way impacts my view of the book.

four-stars

About Lisa Ko

Lisa Ko is the author of The Leavers, a novel which won the 2016 PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction and will be published by Algonquin Books in May 2017. Her writing has appeared in Best American Short Stories 2016, The New York Times, Apogee Journal, Narrative, O. Magazine, Copper Nickel, Storychord, One Teen Story, Brooklyn Review, and elsewhere. A co-founder of Hyphen and a fiction editor at Drunken Boat, Lisa has been awarded fellowships and residencies from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, the MacDowell Colony, the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, Writers OMI at Ledig House, the Jerome Foundation, Blue Mountain Center, the Van Lier Foundation, Hawthornden Castle, the I-Park Foundation, the Anderson Center, the Constance Saltonstall Foundation, and the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center. Born in Queens and raised in Jersey, she lives in Brooklyn.

Discussion Post: Why I’m So Slow to Write Book Reviews

Hey, look at me! I finally got up the nerve to write another discussion post.  I don’t know why I find these so intimidating, but since I made it a blogging goal to write more of them, here I go trying to achieve my goal.  Since I’m way behind in the reviews I need to write at the moment, I figured a relevant discussion topic for me right now would be why the heck it takes me so long to write a book review, haha!

Sometimes I think I must be the slowest reviewer on the planet.  No matter how much I love or hate a book, I just cannot sit down right after I finish reading and churn out a review.  Those who know me well would probably say it’s because I’m a master procrastinator and, yes, I confess that’s probably part of it, but there’s more to it than that. There is a method to my madness!

I don’t know about other book bloggers, but often, my first impression after finishing a book doesn’t hold up if I take a few days to reflect on it.  Sometimes my opinion sinks a bit and I feel myself starting to nitpick details that maybe didn’t initially bother me but the more I thought about them, they more they did.  Other times, I actually think more highly of a book after thinking more about the story, its characters, structure, etc. and realizing how truly well crafted a book is.  Maybe I just like to over-think books, I don’t know, but doing it this way does work for me in that I feel like my reviews end up more accurately reflecting my true feelings about what I’ve read than if I had immediately written them.  But  man does it wreak havoc on my schedule!  I seem to always be juggling 2 or 3 books that I’ve finished reading but don’t feel ready to write about yet, along with whatever books  I’m currently reading.  In that sense, I’m very envious of those who are able to immediately sit down and make that review happen.

To keep the juggling act manageable so that I don’t get stressed out, I always take notes while I’m reading and I do jot down my initial reactions as soon as I finish.  This helps me to not forget any of the book’s pertinent details (like all of the characters’ names, which I’m very prone to forget if I don’t take those notes!) and it also gives me a good starting point for my review once I’m finally ready to write the review.  Sometimes I only need to reflect on a book for a day or two before I’m ready to finalize my thoughts, while others I can easily sit on for a week or more.  Labyrinth Lost, for example, is one that I’ve been sitting one for over a week now. I really loved the read, but I’m still trying to decide what I really want to say about, what made it so meaningful for me.  I think I’m  finally ready to write that one, but since I was stuck on it, I pushed it aside and wrote  several other reviews in the meantime where my thoughts were more solidified.  As I’m gathering my thoughts for the reviews, in many ways, I feel like I’m composing the review in my head so once I’m finally ready to sit down and write, thankfully the review comes together pretty quickly.  With that being said, here are some books I’ve recently finished reading and have been reflecting on that I’ll (hopefully!) be posting reviews for soon:

The Leavers by Lisa Ko

When We Collided by Emery Lord

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova 

* * * * *

So, what kind of book reviewer are you?  Are you able to write yours immediately after finishing a book or do you need to sit on them for a few days like I do to fully wrap your mind around what you’ve read?

Book Review: Stalking Jack the Ripper

Book Review:  Stalking Jack the RipperStalking Jack the Ripper (Stalking Jack the Ripper, #1) by Kerri Maniscalco
four-stars
Series: Stalking Jack the Ripper #1
Published by Jimmy Patterson on September 20th 2016
Genres: Historical Fiction, Young Adult Fiction
Pages: 326
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads

Goodreads Synopsis:  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.

 

MY REVIEW

Kerri Maniscalco’s Stalking Jack the Ripper is, as its title implies, a retelling of the murderous rampage of infamous serial killer, Jack the Ripper.  As I was reading, I couldn’t help but think of it as a cross between the Sherlock Holmes detective stories, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and then on a more modern note, a little Forensic Files with a touch of Rizzoli and Isles thrown in.  The end result is a novel that will keep you on the edge of your seat and thoroughly engaged.

LIKES

Maniscalco does a wonderful job of fleshing out her main character, Audrey Rose Wadsworth and making her seem so realistic.  She’s fiercely independent, headstrong, and sassy as all get out, which makes her such a fun character to follow.  Even with the overriding creepy serial killer plot, Audrey Rose still managed to make me chuckle quite a few times throughout the novel.   You just never know what she is going to say at any given moment, but you can pretty much guarantee that it will be completely inappropriate based on society’s expectations.  Speaking of society’s expectations, Audrey Rose truly doesn’t give a flip about those and instead is way ahead of her time and wants to pursue a career in forensic medicine.   When the novel opens, she is, much to her father’s chagrin, working as an apprentice to her Uncle, who is an expert in the field. I kept thinking to myself “She’s like a Victorian Era Maura Isles” (from the popular series Rizzoli and Isles).

Maniscalco also adds a character flaw or two, which serve to further humanize Audrey Rose.  Recklessness, in particular, seems to be a hallmark trait of hers.  While it’s easy to admire how passionate Audrey Rose is about catching this serial killer who is on the loose, at the same time, I wanted to scream at her at times for lurking around in shady areas of the city and putting herself in harm’s way trying to catch him in the act.  It was downright infuriating actually. For someone who is clearly supposed to be quite intelligent, Audrey Rose definitely doesn’t always make the smartest choices.

Speaking of infuriating, let me talk about another main character, Thomas Cresswell.  Cresswell is another student of Audrey Rose’s uncle and may actually be the most arrogant and annoying person on the planet.  However, he is as brilliant as he is arrogant and annoying and somehow the combination actually works to make him incredibly charming. Weird, right?  As they study the Ripper’s victims, Cresswell’s powers of deductive reasoning are so astute that every time he spoke, he reminded me of a young Sherlock Holmes.  From the moment they meet, he gets under Audrey Rose’s skin and their chemistry is off the charts.  I don’t know if I would ever buy into them as a couple, but they are quite the dynamic duo as they work together to solve these murders.

Aside from these two entertaining main characters, Maniscalco also does a brilliant job of making the reader feel as if they are truly in 19th century London and that there really is a killer on the loose.  It was clear Maniscalco did her research on every aspect of the story.  The descriptions of the city feel authentic and the atmosphere at night is utterly creepy.  You can practically sense the danger lurking around every corner, which makes for a real page turner.

 

DISLIKES

I think my only real dislike was that even though this was a retelling and so the author had creative license to make Jack the Ripper whoever she wanted him to be, I still had the murderer figured out way too soon. In that sense, I was a little disappointed.  The murderer’s reasoning for the killings was quite another matter though. Totally did not see that coming and liked the unexpected Dr. Frankenstein-ish twist.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

I very much enjoyed Stalking Jack the Ripper and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in historical fiction, anything to do with the crimes of Jack the Ripper, or even an interest in forensic medicine or 19th century society’s expectations for its young women.  I would issue a word of caution to anyone who doesn’t like to read about blood and gore, however. As is probably expected since we’re dealing with the Ripper and his victims and we’re examining the victims from the vantage point of forensic scientists, the descriptions of the victims are quite graphic and stomach-turning.  It’s definitely not for the faint of heart.  If that doesn’t bother you though, it’s a fascinating read.

 

RATING:  4 STARS

four-stars

About Kerri Maniscalco

Kerri Maniscalco grew up in a semi-haunted house outside NYC where her fascination with gothic settings began. In her spare time she reads everything she can get her hands on, cooks all kinds of food with her family and friends, and drinks entirely too much tea while discussing life’s finer points with her cats.

Her first novel in this series, Stalking Jack the Ripper, debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. It incorporates her love of forensic science and unsolved history.

Waiting on Wednesday: Spotlight on Hunting Prince Dracula

New WoW“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, which encourages fellow bloggers to spotlight upcoming releases that we’re excited about.

My “Waiting On” Wednesday selection for this week is Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco.  I just finished reading Stalking Jack the Ripper, the first book in this series,  over the weekend and absolutely LOVED it.  (I’ll be posting my review tomorrow so be sure to stop back by and check it out!)  The way that the first book ended had me just dying for more Audrey Rose and Thomas Cresswell, so I was thrilled to see that a second book is already slated to come out later this year and that it focuses on Audrey Rose and Thomas traveling to Romania together. And don’t even get me started on the book being about Vlad the Impaler.  As if Jack the Ripper wasn’t notorious enough!

Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco

Publication Date:  September 19, 2017

From Amazon.com:

n this hotly anticipated sequel to the haunting #1 bestseller 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.

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I’d love to hear what upcoming book releases you’re waiting on this Wednesday? Leave me your link in the comments below and I’ll stop by and check out your WoW selection for this week. 🙂

Top Ten Things That Will Make Me Instantly Want to Read a Book

top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a fun weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is Top Ten Things That Will Make Me Instantly Want To Read a Book.  This was a pretty easy topic for me this week because there are some key things that if I read them in a book’s blurb, that book is totally going on my TBR no matter what.  I’m definitely a sucker for certain settings and for certain time periods, but there are also certain topics that are guaranteed to attract my interest.  And if more than one of these can be found in the same book, hold me back because that baby is going straight to the top of my TBR pile! 

Top Ten Things That Will Make Me Instantly Want to Read a Book

 

BOOKS THAT ARE SET IN MY FAVORITE CITIES & COUNTRIES

My favorite places in the world are New York City, Paris, and Italy. These settings are pure magic for me, each in their own way, so I’m drawn like a moth to a flame to pretty much any books set in these locations.  Doesn’t matter if they’re contemporary stories or historical fiction, it’s all about location, location, location for me.

1. NEW YORK CITY

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2. PARIS, FRANCE

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3.  ITALY

BOOKS THAT ARE SET IN CERTAIN TIME PERIODS

Another huge draw for me are books that fall within certain time periods.  If a book is set during World War II, I’m definitely going to read it and same goes for books set during the Jazz Age and during the 1960’s.  As you can imagine, Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale became a must-read for me as soon as I heard that it was set in Paris during World War II.

* * * * *

4. THE 1920’S

* * * * *

5.  WORLD WAR II ERA

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6. THE 1960’S

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BOOKS THAT FOCUS ON CERTAIN TOPICS

 

7. FAIRYTALE RETELLINGS

Fairytale retellings are a fairly new interest for me, but I have to say that they have become quite an obsession because they’re always such fun and creative reads. I love the idea of putting a unique spin on a familiar tale.

* * * * *

8. FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS

Some of my favorite books are those that deal with families and their day-to-day lives. I love books that explore the parent-child bond, sibling rivalries – basically, you name it, I’m interested if it relates to family.

* * * * *

9. MENTAL ILLNESS

When I was in college, I double major in English Lit and Psychology, so I think books that explore mental illness appeal to that part of my personality.  I like that there are more and more books that focus on mental illness, seeking to educate people on a more personal level that is so much more accessible than a dry psychology textbook could ever hope to be.

* * * * *

10. INTROVERTS

As an introvert, it’s a guarantee that I will read ANY book that has a main character who is considered an introvert.  Those are the literary characters that I relate to most in the world so there’s no way I’m passing up a book where I know the character will be totally relatable.

* * * * *

Question:  What are some things that will instantly make you want to read a book? Do we have any in common?

Book Review: Our Chemical Hearts

Book Review:  Our Chemical HeartsOur Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland
three-half-stars
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers on October 4th 2016
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 320
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads

Goodreads Synopsis:  John Green meets Rainbow Rowell in this irresistible story of first love, broken hearts, and the golden seams that put them back together again.

Henry Page has never been in love. He fancies himself a hopeless romantic, but the slo-mo, heart palpitating, can’t-eat-can’t-sleep kind of love that he’s been hoping for just hasn’t been in the cards for him—at least not yet. Instead, he’s been happy to focus on his grades, on getting into a semi-decent college and finally becoming editor of his school newspaper. Then Grace Town walks into his first period class on the third Tuesday of senior year and he knows everything’s about to change.

Grace isn’t who Henry pictured as his dream girl—she walks with a cane, wears oversized boys’ clothes, and rarely seems to shower. But when Grace and Henry are both chosen to edit the school paper, he quickly finds himself falling for her. It’s obvious there’s something broken about Grace, but it seems to make her even more beautiful to Henry, and he wants nothing more than to help her put the pieces back together again. And yet, this isn’t your average story of boy meets girl. Krystal Sutherland’s brilliant debut is equal parts wit and heartbreak, a potent reminder of the bittersweet bliss that is first love.

 

MY REVIEW

Our Chemical Hearts is an engaging story about first loves. Author Krystal Sutherland takes her readers on a journey to explore the highs and the lows of falling in love for the first time.  We follow Henry Page, a young man who has never been in love before.  While finding the girl of his dreams is definitely on his radar, Henry is content for the time being to focus on his school work and on his work at the school paper.  He has devoted himself to the paper for years and is hoping to land the Editor job as he begins his senior year.  When he meets Grace Town, the new girl at school, however, his life is turned upside down.  He wouldn’t have expected a girl wearing oversized boy’s clothing, with a bad haircut and questionable hygiene to be the girl of his dreams, but there’s just something about Grace and so he begins to pursue her, learning very quickly that there’s way more to Grace than meets the eye and much of it is tragic.  Even though he senses the relationship is probably trouble, Henry falls head over heels for Grace anyway and so their roller coaster of a journey begins….

LIKES

I think Sutherland’s biggest strength in this novel is her ability to craft wonderfully complex, flawed characters that immediately grab your attention and your heart and don’t let go.

Henry.  I loved Henry Page.  He totally reminded me of someone I would have been friends with in high school or maybe even dated.  He’s funny and charming in a semi-dorky kind of way, the word “adorkable” comes to mind actually. Henry has also never been in love before, so he has an innocent, almost vulnerable, quality about him that made me feel very protective of him, especially once he started falling so hard for Grace Town that he started to neglect his school work and his editorial duties at the school paper.  Even though Henry could see that the relationship probably wouldn’t end well, he was still drawn to Grace like a moth to a flame.  I knew he was in trouble as soon as he started snooping, and found Grace’s Facebook page.  The Grace he sees on Facebook doesn’t even remotely resemble the Grace he knows.  Facebook Grace is smiling, wearing feminine clothes, and looks like every bit the social butterfly.  Henry is even more fascinated by Grace at this point and he becomes obsessed with trying to “fix” her.

It was so frustrating to watch him on the path he was on, but at the same time, it made his character feel all the more authentic because we’ve all been there at some point.  You can’t help who you fall in love with, even if it’s just your idea of what that person should be, and sometimes broken hearts are a rite of passage when it comes to love and romance.

Grace.  I can’t say that I loved Grace Town the way I loved Henry, but I was initially drawn to the same mysterious qualities about her that initially attracted Henry to her.  Grace is an incredibly complex character, mainly because of all of the details about herself that she tries to hide from everyone around her.  Like Henry, I found her fascinating and wanted to know more about her. The more I learned, however, the more my heart just broke for her.  Her eccentricities are not just her trying to be quirky and mysterious, but instead run so much deeper than that.  I don’t want to give away any specific details, but I will say that Grace has recently suffered a huge loss and that she feels so responsible for that loss that her life has become little more than her trying to atone for her “sin.”   I was so torn about her relationship with Henry because even though he was neglecting his school work, etc, because of her, I could also tell that she desperately needed a friend and Henry is such a good guy that I knew he could have been a great friend to her.  Just seeing their hilarious conversations on Facebook was proof of that.  Even though Grace was still full of secrets, she still opened up to Henry more than she opened up to anyone else around her.

Henry’s Circle of Friends.  As compelling as the two main characters were, I also adored Henry’s friends Lola and Murray.  Not only were they wonderful friends to Henry, but they also provided a lot of levity to balance the seriousness of what was going on with Grace.  Murray is from Australia and has found that doing endless Crocodile Dundee impressions surprisingly serves him quite well when he wants to woo the ladies. Lola works on the newspaper with Henry and their relationship is especially entertaining.  Lola was the first girl Henry ever kissed and not too long after that moment, she came out and announced she was a lesbian.  Ever since, they have had the long-running joke that Henry’s such a bad kisser that he turned Lola gay.  I just loved the banter and the overall dynamic of this circle of friends, especially how they had Henry’s back when it came to Grace.  They could tell the relationship was probably a bad idea but ultimately knew all they could do was be there for Henry no matter what happened.  These friendships were probably what I enjoyed most about the book.

Henry’s Parents:  Kind of a sidebar here, but if Henry is ”adorkable,” he definitely gets it from his parents.  They were so cute and so corny. I loved it every time they turned up in the story, especially when they would go out of their way to embarrass Henry in front of Grace.

DISLIKES

I won’t really call them dislikes, but there were a couple of things about the story that knocked my overall rating down a little lower than it might otherwise have been.

Grace and Henry’s afternoon ritual.  Once they start hanging out, every afternoon Henry walks Grace home, Grace then hands Henry the keys to her car and he drives them both back to his house. Then Grace leaves her car at Henry’s house and walks off in the opposite direction of where she lives, with no explanation as to where she’s going.  It’s another mysterious to Grace, of course, and while it does end up being relevant to Grace’s backstory, I got a little bored reading about it day after day.

Grace’s living arrangements.  It’s probably just me that felt this way, but I thought the mention of Grace’s awkward living arrangements near the end of Our Chemical Hearts made her story feel a little less believable.  Up until that point, everything that had happened felt so completely authentic – an experience any of us could have.  But then this implausible living arrangement was mentioned and we were unexpectedly given a tour of Grace’s home environment and that part just felt over the top to me.  It didn’t ruin the story or anything but it just felt like an unnecessary dramatic element.

FINAL THOUGHTS

If you’re looking for a solid contemporary read about first loves, broken hearts, friendship, and the idea that you can’t choose who you fall in love with or how long that love may last, then definitely give Our Chemical Hearts a try.  Even with the couple of issues I had with it, I still very much enjoyed the read overall.

RATING:  3.5 STARS

 

three-half-stars

About Krystal Sutherland

In her own words:

“Hello. It’s me.

I am Krystal Sutherland, writer of books. Or, more specifically, I am the writer of one book, Our Chemical Hearts, which was published in October 2016 by Penguin in the US and ANZ, Hot Key in the UK, and various other publishers in more than 20 countries around the globe.

I was born and raised in Townsville, in the far north of Australia. Since moving to Sydney in 2011, I’ve also lived in Amsterdam, which was awesome but cold, and Hong Kong, (though I speak neither Dutch nor Cantonese).

Growing up, I never dreamed of being a writer. I wanted to be a) a florist, then b) a volcanologist, then c) an actress. It wasn’t until shortly after my 18th birthday that I sat down to write my first (terrible) novel.

Our Chemical Hearts, thankfully, is slightly better than that hot mess. Nonetheless, I’m notoriously bad at explaining what it’s about, except to say that it involves the terribly tragic and awful experience of falling in love for the first time.

I have no pets and no children, but in Amsterdam I owned a Dutch bicycle called Kim Kardashian. It was somewhat difficult to get along with; I was fond of it regardless.”

Source:  krystalsutherland.com