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My Progress:

12 / 30 books. 40% done!

2024 Literary Escapes Challenge

- Alabama (1)
- Alaska
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- California (3)
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- Georgia (1)
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- Australia (1)
- Canada (1)
- England (10)
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- Ireland (4)
- Italy (1)
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My Progress:

28 / 51 states. 55% done!

2024 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

My Progress:

22 / 50 books. 44% done!

2024 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge

23 / 50 books. 46% done!

Booklist Queen's 2024 Reading Challenge

My Progress:

48 / 50 books. 96% done!

2024 52 Club Reading Challenge

My Progress:

40 / 52 books. 77% done!

2024 Build Your Library Reading Challenge

My Progress:

26 / 40 books. 65% done!

2024 Pioneer Book Reading Challenge

15 / 40 books. 38% done!

2024 Craving for Cozies Reading Challenge

My Progress:

10 / 25 books. 40% done!

2024 Medical Examiner's Mystery Reading Challenge

2024 Mystery Marathon Reading Challenge

My Progress

12 / 26.2 miles. 46% done!

Mount TBR Reading Challenge

My Progress

25 / 100 books. 25% done!

2024 Pick Your Poison Reading Challenge

My Progress:

64 / 104 books. 62% done!

Around the Year in 52 Books Reading Challenge

My Progress

43 / 52 books. 83% done!

Disney Animated Movies Reading Challenge

My Progress

69 / 165 books. 42% done!
Monday, January 30, 2017

YA Jack the Ripper Novel Just Okay

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Audrey Rose hides a secret desire behind her high-born Victorian facade.  The 17-year-old is fascinated by science, specifically forensics, the science of crime and death.  As often as she can, Audrey Rose sneaks away from the home she shares with her paranoid father and protective older brother to her uncle's laboratory.  An unofficial apprentice, she watches and learns all she can from her Uncle Jonathon's study of recently-deceased bodies.  Disguised as a young man, she even attends his lectures on forensics at a local boy's school.  

When Jonathon starts receiving the corpses of women brutalized in similar ways, it becomes apparent that a serial killer is on the loose in London.  With the help of a handsome schoolmate, Audrey Rose is determined to find the killer.  To her shock, the clues lead her in the one direction she doesn't want to go ...

I find books about forensics, especially in the earliest days of the discipline, intriguing, so naturally I wanted to give Stalking Jack the Ripper, a debut novel by Kerri Maniscalco, a go.  What did I think?  Well, it tells a compelling story.  Familiar, yes.  Predictable, yes.  But I still found myself engrossed.  Even though I could tell where the plot was going, I wanted to know how it all wrapped up.  My biggest problem with the novel was with our heroine, Audrey Rose.  A wealthy Victorian young woman flitting off to a bloody lab and gory crime scenes frequently without raising many eyebrows seems extremely far-fetched.  The fact that she cares nothing about her reputation or family name means she risks little by dabbling in the "dark arts," making her story less tense and urgent than it could have been.  Audrey Rose also seems more interested in science than humanity, which makes her difficult to empathize with at times.  Considering all this, I didn't end up enjoying Stalking Jack the Ripper nearly as much as I thought I would.  It kept me reading, but in the end, it was just okay for me.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me a little of A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for brief, mild language (no F-bombs), violence, and blood/gore

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of Stalking Jack the Ripper from Changing Hands Bookstore with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.

Creepy Took An Odd, Odd Book

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

When Daniel's dad loses his job in Connecticut, the family must make a dramatic change.  Moving to an old abandoned home in rural Woodville, West Virginia, results in profound culture shock, especially for Daniel and his 7-year-old sister, Erica.  The city kids are picked on by the locals, who spin terrifying yarns about an evil conjure woman who lives in the woods near the home in which the Andersons are living.  Fifty years ago, a young girl disappeared from their house—it's said she was "took" by Old Auntie, forced into slavery for the witch and her bloodthirsty razorback hog.

Daniel refuses to believe the tall tales, no matter how creepy they are.  Then, he realizes just how strangely Erica has been acting since they moved to West Virginia.  His parents are so wrapped up in their own drama that they haven't noticed anything, but Daniel has.  And it's freaking him out.  When Erica disappears one day, he knows she's been "took."  How can Daniel get his sister back?  And who is the ragged girl who appeared in her place?  Can a puny 7th grader really take on a powerful conjure woman—and win?  Daniel is about to find out ...

I'm not sure what to say about Took by Mary Downing Hahn except that it is an odd, odd book.  I seriously can't think of any other way to describe it.  It's creepy, yes, and compelling in a way.  It's also unrelentingly sad and scary—too much so for its intended audience, in my opinion.  I can't imagine handing Took to a child, even one who enjoys scary stories.  It's not all that well-written either, considering the characters are flat and the prose is much more tell than show.  I did finish reading the book as I wanted to find out what happened, but overall, I didn't find it a very satisfying read.  

(Readalikes:  Reminded me a little of Doll Bones by Holly Black)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for violence and scary images

To the FTC, with love:  I borrowed a copy of Took from my children's elementary school library as part of my volunteer work with the school's reading program.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets a Wonderful, Worthy Follow-Up

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

(Note:  While this review will not contain spoilers for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from its predecessor, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.  As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.)

After a momentous year at Hogwarts, Harry Potter can't wait to return.  His summer break has seemed endless—not only are the Dursleys as horrible as always, but also Harry's forbidden from using magic, and he hasn't received even one letter from Ron, Hermione, Hagrid, or anyone else.  Have his new friends forgotten about him already?  Things become even more ominous when a strange elf named Dobby appears in Harry's room warning him that if he returns to school, terrible things will happen.

Irritated but undeterred, Harry returns to Hogwarts—to his studies, to his friends, to his home.  Despite a few new faces in the crowd (including a self-absorbed new teacher and a budding reporter who won't leave Harry alone), it's business as usual at the magical school.  Well, as usual as it gets at Hogwarts!  The real trouble starts with whispers about a mysterious Chamber of Secrets and what's being kept inside it.  When several students end up petrified (frozen like statues), fear sweeps through the school.  Who is attacking the kids?  Some suspect Hagrid, who hides secrets about his own school days.  Harry refuses to believe his friend is capable of such a thing.  It's as ludicrous as the rumor that Harry himself is responsible.  Desperate to clear his name, Harry and his friends will have to find the culprit themselves.

Although the first Harry Potter novel will always be my favorite, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is just as exciting.  It introduces interesting new characters like loyal Dobby; self-absorbed Gilderoy Lockhart; and Fawkes, a remarkable phoenix; as well as a new Hogwarts mystery for Harry to solve.  Filled with all the magic of the series debut, it's a worthy follow-up that is fun, engrossing, and wholly enjoyable.  I loved the novel when I read it the first time and I adored it the second time around.  Revisiting Hogwarts is like going home—always a pleasurable experience!

Since I shared my favorite quotes from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, I'll leave you with some goodies from The Chamber of Secrets:

"'Because that's what Hermione does," said Ron.  'When in doubt, go to the library.'" (p. 255)

"'You will also find that help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it.'"  -- Albus Dumbledore, to Harry Potter (p. 264)

"'It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.'"  -- Albus Dumbledore, to Harry Potter (p. 333)

(Readalikes:  Other books in the HP series, including Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone; Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban; Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire; Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix; Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince; Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows; Harry Potter and the Cursed Child; Quidditch Through the Ages; Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them; and The Tales of Beedle the Bard)


If this were a movie (and it is!), it would be rated:

for scary images and violence

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets when it first came out in the U.S. in 1999.
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