Backlist Briefs – Mini Reviews for FAR FROM THE TREE and HUNTING PRINCE DRACULA
Published by HarperTeen on October 3, 2017
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
A contemporary novel about three adopted siblings who find each other at just the right moment.
Being the middle child has its ups and downs.
But for Grace, an only child who was adopted at birth, discovering that she is a middle child is a different ride altogether. After putting her own baby up for adoption, she goes looking for her biological family, including—
Maya, her loudmouthed younger bio sister, who has a lot to say about their newfound family ties. Having grown up the snarky brunette in a house full of chipper redheads, she’s quick to search for traces of herself among these not-quite-strangers. And when her adopted family’s long-buried problems begin to explode to the surface, Maya can’t help but wonder where exactly it is that she belongs.
And Joaquin, their stoic older bio brother, who has no interest in bonding over their shared biological mother. After seventeen years in the foster care system, he’s learned that there are no heroes, and secrets and fears are best kept close to the vest, where they can’t hurt anyone but him.
Robin Benway’s Far From the Tree is an incredibly moving and engaging read that grabbed hold of all of my emotions and didn’t let go until long after I reached the final page. It made me laugh, it made me cry, and sometimes it just really made me sad and frustrated. Why? Because Far From the Tree isn’t just a book about family. It also touches on some important social issues that really resonate, such as teen pregnancy and the stigma that seems to follow the teen mom but not the teen dad; the many fears that plague both kids who have been adopted as well as those who are stuck in the foster care system; the impact addiction can have on a family; and so many more.
Far From the Tree follows three teenagers, Grace, Mia, and Joaquin, who are related by blood, but who have never met because their mother gave each of them up soon after they were born. Grace and Mia were both adopted as babies, but Joaquin was never adopted and has spent his entire life drifting in and out of foster homes. Grace has lived most of her life knowing that she was adopted, but until a heart-to-heart conversation with her parents, she had no idea that she also had two siblings out there in the world. She sets out to find them and it’s just such an incredible moment to watch the three of them connect and gradually start to bond with each other, gradually sharing more and more about themselves, including most importantly, fears, whether rational or irrational, that have plagued them for most of their lives.
It’s incredibly easy to fall in love with all three siblings because Benway does such a wonderful job making each interaction feel authentic as she poignantly captures the awkwardness and all of the emotions that Grace, Mia, and Joaquin experience as they realize they’re not as alone as they each thought they were. If you’re looking for a beautifully written contemporary novel that explores what it truly means to be a family, look no further than Robin Benway’s Far From the Tree. 5 STARS
Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco
Also by this author: Stalking Jack the Ripper (Stalking Jack the Ripper, #1), Kingdom of the Wicked
Series: Stalking Jack the Ripper #2
on September 19, 2017
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Historical Fiction
Also in this series: Stalking Jack the Ripper (Stalking Jack the Ripper, #1)
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.
Hunting Prince Dracula is the second installment in Kerri Maniscalco’s Stalking Jack the Ripper series. I loved the first book in this series so much and I’m happy to report that the second book is just as good, if not better, than the first!
Audrey Rose and Thomas Cresswell were just as fabulous this time around, as they traveled together to Romania to study forensic medicine. Their witty and flirtatious banter fills the pages and serves as a fantastic counterpoint to the dark atmosphere and the danger that they of course find themselves enmeshed in once they enter the school, which turns out to be a super creepy castle. I don’t want to give away any details about the mystery itself but there’s blood, bodies, bats, stakes through the heart, and oh so much more, including the threat that perhaps the infamous Vlad the Impaler has returned from beyond the grave.
While the overall formula for Hunting Prince Dracula is quite similar to that of the first book – there’s a mystery to be solved and Thomas and Audrey Rose get on each other’s nerves as they set out to solve it – what took the second book to a different level for me was the emotional turmoil that Audrey Rose experiences as a result of some of the things she learned about her family at the end of the first book. It’s a thread that follows her throughout Hunting Prince Dracula and it adds some welcome depth to her character, although I of course already loved Audrey Rose because she’s so ahead of her time and is such a feminist. I love watching her verbally filet anyone who tries to tell her she shouldn’t be at the school studying forensics. She just has such a feisty, take no prisoners attitude and I love it (as does Thomas)! I can’t wait to get my hands on the third book in the series to see what’s in store for Thomas and Audrey Rose next! 4 STARS
Two diverse, stellar reads, Suzanne! I think Far from the Tree sounds amazing, emotional and gah — so good!
Oh yeah, Far from the Tree made me tear up several times while reading. Gah, those kids and everything they were feeling.
I dont usually read contemporary, but Far From the Tree may be a book I need to get ahold of! I love family drama, and this idea sounds so unique. Thanks for sharing your thoughts😁
It’s definitely a good one if you like family drama.
I’m glad you liked Far From The Tree. I have that book sitting on my TBR shelf, but I’ve been putting it off because I heard it was depressing. Great reviews!
It could be a little depressing at times just because of what the kids were going through.
I truly wanna start reading Stalking Jack the Ripper series, I heard so many great things about the first instalment, and Hunting Prince Dracula sounds so good! Knowing that you enjoyed both, and this second instalment perhaps was even better, it just makes me wanna read the series more 😀
It’s a fun series!
I liked Stalking Jack the Ripper but didn’t love it so I’ve been curious about the sequel. It does sound like one I will have to check out! I was wondering how the ending of the previous book would affect her moving forward. Far From the Trees sounds like a must read too!
Far from the Tree was such a lovely book. I definitely recommend that one!
Oh yay, I’m so glad you liked Hunting Prince Dracula. I just adore that series! And I still need to read Far From the Tree but I’ve heard awesome things and yay for five stars.
Right? That series is so great. Can’t wait to read the Houdini book!
I felt the same way about Far From the Tree, and I have read and absolutely adored several other Benway books since that one. She is just fabulous.
I need to read more of Benway’s books for sure. That one had me in tears a couple of times while I was reading, lol.
Far From the Tree sounds amazing – it seems sad but also hopeful that after so many years, you find out about these family members that you had no idea existed. I can’t imagine the emotions that would go along with that, but it seems like the author does a great job in capturing them.
Yes, it made me cry a couple of times while reading, once because it was so sad and then later because I was just so happy for the characters.
You know I wouldn’t think the Jack the Ripper/ Hunting Prince Dracula would be my thing, but I don’t know this sounds pretty good? I like that it’s got good humor along with the creepiness. Plus I haven’t read any vampire stuff in a while. This sounds great!
It’s a pretty fun series 🙂
I can see why you gave that book five stars! It’s fantastic when a book can give you so many different emotions, laughing and crying and frustration and everything. And I’ve heard about the banter in the other series. It sounds so fun!
Yep, I’m a complete sucker for books that can do that to my emotions.
I like the sound of Hunting Prince Dracula 🙂
It’s such a fun series!
I thought that Hunting Prince Dracula was stronger than Jack the Ripper; I can’t wait to experience Houdini! And I love the phrase “verbally filet”!
I can’t wait for Houdini either!
I LOVED Far From The Tree also. Great review!