Friday, September 22, 2017

Audiobook Review: Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas

Title: Tower of Dawn
Series: Throne of Glass #6
Written by: Sarah J. Maas
Published: September 5, 2017 by Bloomsbury Children's Books

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: In the next installment of the New York Times bestselling Throne of Glass series, follow Chaol on his sweeping journey to a distant empire. 

Chaol Westfall has always defined himself by his unwavering loyalty, his strength, and his position as the Captain of the Guard. But all of that has changed since the glass castle shattered, since his men were slaughtered, since the King of Adarlan spared him from a killing blow, but left his body broken. 

His only shot at recovery lies with the legendary healers of the Torre Cesme in Antica—the stronghold of the southern continent's mighty empire. And with war looming over Dorian and Aelin back home, their survival might lie with Chaol and Nesryn convincing its rulers to ally with them. 

But what they discover in Antica will change them both—and be more vital to saving Erilea than they could have imagined.

I was not planning on reading this right now but I needed a new audiobook and after hearing that it was more complex that originally thought I decided to jump it up the TBR. And I'm so glad that I did. Because seriously, this book was amazing. For one thing, this is more than just a quick Chaol one shot to explain where he has been. This is a complex and elaborate book in the Throne of Glass series. We seriously learn so much about the world and the characters in Tower of Dawn. I want to make one thing clear, if you like the Throne of Glass series and were planning on skipping this one, DON'T. It is essentially reading for the series.

The reason I say this most is the way that Sarah expands the world in this book. First we get to explore the Southern Continent, which is one more land mass in the world that we have yet to see until now. It reminded me a lot of the Western portion of Erilea. There are mountains, desserts, and seas and we got to see all of that. Sarah explains it in immersive details so that you can see each new location and feel like you're there. We also learned a lot more about the people of the Southern Continent. A lot of the book is spent with the khaganate, which is the rulers of the Continent. And oh do they have an interesting succession plan. The khagan always has many children and then when they are about to die they decide which of their children the most worthy of the throne. Needless to say it makes for a lot of scheming and infighting which was totally fascinating to me. In general it was just really interesting to explore a new culture in this book.

But when I say Sarah expands the world in this book I don't just mean physically. I also mean the magically world and the history and mythology that was established in the rest of this series. Tower of Dawn drops some serious knowledge bombs on us about important characters and concepts that have a huge bearing on the final conclusion of this series. So many of them caught me completely off guard and were absolutely fascinating. This is my favorite thing about this series. It'a so elaborate and intricate. I was not expecting to learn much in this book but I did. Oh boy, did I. When the book was over my mind was racing and going a million miles a minute trying to figure what it all means and how it will impact the end game. It was fantastic.

The thing that I don't think was entirely fantastic however was the plot development. Now don't get me wrong, it was engaging and kept me reading from beginning to end, but it wasn't totally what I expect from Sarah. It kind of lacked some cohesion. Or maybe I was missing what the overall arc of this book was. There were a lot of reasons for Chaol and Nesryn to go to Antica and the book really explored all of them, and resolved them, which was nice. But in general it sort of just felt like a way to get the characters somewhere to reveal major information. And that the original reason wasn't the actual reason for the book. I mean this is a 600 page book that was supposed to be a novella. How? In what world could this have been a novella. I mean maybe as Sarah started writing the book just got away from here and it became this, which is fine, but that worries me for the final book in the series. But in general, I just think the world overshadowed the plot. And despite loving the world I needed more from the plot here.

As for the characters, I did really like them. The focus of this book is on Chaol and Nesryn. I've always had a bit of a frustrated enjoyment of Chaol. I think hems a really interesting character in that he is allowed to be incredibly flawed and still heroic. And in this book is goes through a really great journey of self-discovery as he deals with his back being broken. I really liked the way Sarah handled this. It felt very real. I can't speak to the handicapped rep but I have seen some reviews from people who strongly identify with it. But to me, Chaol is all about being a brash self-sacrificing noble idiot. And that Chaol comes out in full force in this book. There were so many moments where I was like "Chaol you giant jerk, why did you say that?" But I still love him because he does acknowledge those screw ups. He's not perfect but he's learning. Nesryn I have less to say about. I never fully connected with Nesryn, either in previous books or this book. She is a great strong female protagonist in that she's complex like all of Sarah's other characters but I just think there are so many more interesting characters in this series.

Speaking of interesting characters, Yrene Towers. As expected the heart from The Assassin and the Healer came back in a big way in this book. And I absolutely loved Yrene. I loved seeing her healing magic at work, I loved seeing her interact with the other characters, I love how fierce and strong she has become, and I like that she is still so caring and kind. Her and Chaol had some really amazing interactions. I think Celaena/Aelin would be so proud of the way that she is able to put Chaol in his place. I can't believe she did it again but Sarah made me ship something different. Not that I ever full committed to Chaol and Nesryn but I wanted him to move on from Aelin. And I was really glad to see him find his equal in Yrene. I didn't think I would but by the end of this book I was shipping those two so hard. And yes, there are some decisions the two of them make that I don't fully agree with but I definitely ship it.

All in all, Tower of Dawn was a really good read. I was expecting an interesting diversion to keep me connected to the Throne of Glass world but I found an elaborate new read with tons of key information for the series and good character development.

I give Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas 9 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy. If you are a Throne of Glass fan you should definitely pick this one up. It has some really vital information for the series and you will definitely need to read it before the final book. But don't think it won't have you desperately needing that last book in the series because I want it even more now.

Have you read Tower of Dawn? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Life Update: I Quit My Job and I'm Moving

Hi Everyone,
I hope you don't mind but I am taking a break from your regularly scheduled content to talk about something a little bit more personal. Yes, friends, this will not be a post about books. As the title leads you to believe, this is a post about my life. Although it does relate to books and blogging because it may cause a little bit of hiccups from the blog. I'm going to try and maintain my usual schedule but things are going to be very different for the next few weeks. Okay, let's dive right in...

1.) I Quit My Job (and got a new one)

For the past seven and a half years I have worked for a non-profit environmental organization. I don't often talk about my work here or on social media because honestly I just need a break from it. It's nice to have that work/life balance and the blogosphere has definitely helped me balance it all in the past four years that I have been more involved in it.

But the company I work for unites diverse communities to protect the environment and public health and make democracy work for all. I've been a community organizer in that doing a few different things including canvassing, event planning, and working with community groups to speak truth to power. It's a very thankless job. It's the kind of job that never really has a finish line. You just keep plugging away and moving the finish line. And after awhile the thing I liked most about the job became the thing that frustrated me. I felt like I was never going to win and that was just too hard after four years. After some personal struggles with my mental health this winter it became apparent that I needed to move on.

Enter a new opportunity. A friend of mine owns a start up called Interview Connections. It's a company that does online marketing and media with a specialization in podcasts and guest bookings. The company has been growing a lot in the past couple of years. Every time she is hiring she texts me and tells me I should come work for her. This time when she did I said tell me more. Well we talked more seriously and she ended up making a job just for me. I'll be doing the guest bookings, managing the staff, and planning training. I'm really excited for the new challenge and to work with my friend (and a few others who work for the company again).

2.) I'm Moving

Well part of why I had been reluctant in the past to work for my friend is that it would have meant moving. And like to a new apartment, no to three states away. But to be honest, I wanted to move but it was just too much work. So when I said yes I knew it required the move but I was ready for it.

For the past four years I have lived in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I never expected to be here that long. I assumed that this would just be a few year stop before I went somewhere else. But somewhere along the way I started enjoying Pittsburgh. It's a really cool place. It's not the old industrial Pittsburgh that it used to be. And like a lot of Rust Belt cities there is a lot of focus on revitalizing through science and technology. Plus there's great restaurants and a pretty active arts scene with plenty of festivals, museums, and theater. In the time I have lived here I have also met some amazing people. I joined a book club and made some good friends with the ladies there who also love YA. Special thanks to Michelle from Pink Polka Dot Books who introduced me to the book club and has become a good friend. Also in my time here, my brother and then girlfriend, now wife, moved here. They had a baby about six months ago and I am so in love with that little girl who is my goddaughter. Needless to say, I had a lot of reasons to stay.

And yet I am moving back to Rhode Island. Just after college I moved to Providence, Rhode Island to work for Americorps. One of the first things I heard when I moved there is Rhode Island grows on you. And it definitely grew on me. I lived for six years in Providence and I loved it. In the four years I have lived here in Pittsburgh I have only been back twice and both times it made me realize how much I missed it. I missed the beaches and ocean breezes, I missed the history of the region, I missed the music scene, the food, the neighborhoods, the friends I made there. Rhode Island is the place where I felt like I fit in. It felt right. And so I am so excited to move back.

But.. moving is a lot of work. I have lived in the same apartment for four years and in that time I have accumulated a lot of stuff. Obviously a lot of books. I have five times as much books as I had when I first moved here. But also a lot of other stuff too. A lot of furniture, a lot of clothes, a lot of stuff. I've known I was moving for weeks and I still haven't done much packing. Mostly I have just been culling things from my life. Throwing stuff away, donating stuff, just getting rid of everything that I have collected all these years. But this weekend I spent a lot of time packing and I'm not even close to being ready to move.

I have to be out of my apartment by the end of the month so the next ten days there will be a lot of packing and cleaning. And then I will be spending two days loading up the truck and two days driving back there. My Dad is coming down from NY to drive the truck so I can drive my car which is super helpful. And I have hired movers when we get to RI so we don't have to unload anything. But then I have to unpack everything before I start my new job on the 4th.

So why am I telling you all of this? Well because there is so much work to do in the next two weeks that I am not sure how much time I will have to read. What that means is that I am also not sure how much time I will have to review books and post here on the blog. As much as I want to read in October I am going to have a lot going on in my life. So bear with me if I am not able to post five times a week like I usually like to. I have some posts planned already and a book I have not yet reviewed which comes out in October so I won't totally disappear, but still.

Okay, that is all I got. That is my life update for the time being. I will still be around and you can always tweet me. I hope to come back in the same way I was before but until I know for sure how everything will go with the new job I don't know. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Hunting Prince Dracula Blog Tour: Interview with Author Kerri Maniscalco and Giveaway

I'm so excited to be a part of the blog tour for this book. If you saw my review on Monday you know that I loved Stalking Jack the Ripper (it was one of my favorite books of last year), and I was not disappointed by Hunting Prince Dracula (it will probably be one of my favorite books of this year). So I was really happy to help spread the word about this book.

In addition to that, I really like Kerri. I've been chatting with her on Twitter for over awhile now and I was able to meet her both at BEA in 2016 and at ALA this year. She is just a total sweetheart. So because of that I am super excited to have an interview with Kerri.

Hunting Prince Dracula
(Stalking Jack the Ripper #2)
by Kerri Maniscalso
Publisher: Little, Brown & Co.
Release Date: September 19, 2017
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Thriller

 photo addtogoodreadssmall_zpsa2a6cf28.png photo B6096376-6C81-4465-8935-CE890C777EB9-1855-000001A1E900B890_zps5affbed6.jpg

Synopsis: In 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.

Hi, Kerri! I'm so excited tobe able to ask you a few questions. I loved your debut Stalking Jack the Ripper and I can't wait to read the sequel Hunting Prince Dracula. I'm excited for our readers to learn more about you and the book. Okay, let's dive right in.

Thank you so much! I’m excited about the questions and am so excited to be here!

General Questions About The Book

Can you explain the series in ten words or less?

Sure! Victorian Era Gothic Nancy Drew meets Sherlock.

How would you describe the main characters of Audrey Rose and Thomas? What Hogwarts Houses would you sort them in?

I LOVE this question! I usually describe HUNTING PRINCE DRACULA inHP terms: (a forensic academy full of Slytherins go Ravenclaw on each other while trying to solve murders in Dracula’s castle), so this is fabulous. I think they’d both be sorted into Ravenclaw, though they do have some maybe Raverin.

(As a Slytherclaw myself I love this answer. I told Kerri when she said this on Twitter that this is my personal Hero's Journey because I was a teenage Slytherin but now I'm a total Ravenclaw.)

What can you tell us about the setting of the book? I know in this one we are headed to Romania.

Most of the setting takes place at Bran Castle, which is a magnificent fortress located in the his-toric region of Romania known as Transylvania. I’ve definitely taken liberties with the interior ofthe castle and have included really fun, subterranean tunnels for the characters to explore. It’s filled with chambers that feature “fun” surprises for them.

 What inspired you to write this series?

I really wanted to read a book about a girl like me—one who loves forensic science. My grand-mother was always one of my biggest supporters, so I used my love of forensics and my grandmother’s love of“whodunits” and came up with the idea of a gothic Nancy Drew-type series. Women in STEM are amazing and it felt right to feature that passion in my main character.

Do you have a favorite scene? One that you’re excited for readers to experience? (No spoilers of course).

I do! There’s a scene in HPD that I’ve been holding back on since SJTR and it has to do with Thomas Cresswell. I think readers will totally know the scene when they get to that chapter...I believe it’s 29. 

This series involves solving unsolved murders. What unsolved crime would you want to solve?

I still stand by wanting to know who Jack the Ripper really was—his case is still so captivating after all of these years, it would be nice to have closure. I also have always been intrigued by the Black Dahlia case.

Questions About Your Writing Process.

When you write are you a plotter or a pantser?

A little of both, actually. I always have an idea of how I want the story to play out—a lot of times I’ll write out character sheets with details of all the players before I begin. I also like to write up a short three or four hundred word blurb for myself. (Much like the sort of jacket copy you read on books.)

I also have this thing called the “The 3 C’s”of drafting I sort of live by:
1. Cursing
2. Crying
3. Chocolate

I know a lot of writers listen to music, and some use Pinterest to visualize everything. How do you get into the frame of mind to write?

I ADORE using my Pinterest board! I’m a visual person, so anytime I can find a picture that’s similar to what’s in my head, I’m in a happy place. I also am a huge fan of taking writing breaks to listen to music that sets a certain mood or atmosphere for whichever scene I’m currently working on.

I love your Pintrest board! It was how I got verification that I was right about how this book was going to be about Dracula after I read SJTR. Before seeing that it was just a theory. If you want to check out Kerri's Pinterest here it is.

Which book was harder to write, this book or the first book in the series and why?

Definitely HUNTING PRINCE DRACULA! I was terrified of the second book curse, and writing to deadline is SO HARD. I normally like to write in a linear fashion...starting from chapter one and going on until I reach the end, editing as I go to fine tune it before sending it off to critique partners, revising, rinsing and repeating until my dark heart’s content. Deadline writing is much different. I wrote scenes out of order (based on what was feeling like the most natural scene for me that day), and fit it all together chapter by chapter. It was stressful since it wasn’t my usual process, but I actually love writing that way now!

When you were writing did you start with the setting or the plot?

Before I started drafting SJTR I’d say I started with the setting. I knew I wanted to write about a girl who studied forensics, sort of have her be a female Dr. Watson, but thought there needed to be more tension based on why that would be difficult for her. When I read about some badass female doctors during the 1840’s and beyond, I knew I wanted to set it in the 19th century. After that, there was only one case that jumped out, waving its hands to be solved by this brave heroine.

What research did you do for the book?

I think it might be easier to ask what research I didn’t do;) Everything. From the setting to the dresses to Victorian protocol to upper class versus lower class, folklore regarding strigoi and pricolici, research on Vlad the Impaler and his family, the list truly goes on and on.

Questions About You

Favorite book?

I have several that I reread occasionally, but growing up I loved WHERE THE SIDEWALK ENDS by Shel Silverstein.

Favorite TV show?

I LOVED the Victoria series on PBS and can’t wait for the second season.

Favorite Movie?

I’m a huge fan of Shakespeare and absolutely LOVE Baz Lurhmann’s Romeo and Juliet.

Favorite Song?

Ohh. Too hard! I listen to songs based on mood and it changes often. Right now I’m listening to“Burial”by Miike Snow.

Name 3 fictional places you would move to in a heartbeat?

Wonderland, Fantasia, and Velaris.

Name a recent book that you read which would recommend to our book lovers.

GIRL AT THE GRAVE by Teri Bailey Black which is perfect for fans of SJTR, or SKY IN THE DEEP by Adrienne Young, this epic Viking-inspired fantasy. Both are coming out in 2018 and need to be on everyone’s pre-order lists.

Oh, I want to read Sky In the Deep. It's one of my most excited debut of next year. I'll have to look into Girl at the Grave though.

If you were trapped on a desert island what would your island be made of?

 Mangoes. I could eat them all day long. Oh...are we talking about food this just me? If not food, then abalone shells. Totally not functional but it would be gorgeous at sunrise and sunset!

That sounds amazing and totally realistic. I'm sure somewhere out there is an island full of mangoes and one full of shells. I mean I have definitely seen beaches made out of shells. It must exist.

Thanks so much for being here Kerri. It was my pleasure getting to interview you and get to know you a little bit more.

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.

    2 copies of Stalking Jack the Ripper and Hunting Prince Dracula
    US & Canada Only
    No Giveaway accounts

a Rafflecopter giveaway

There you have it folks, my interview with Kerri Maniscalco, author of the Stalking Jack the Ripper series including the newly released Hunting Prince Dracula. Hunting Prince Dracula is officially out there in the world so get yourself to a bookstore and pick it up. It's soooo good. If you need a little encouragement here is my review which was posted Monday. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Books on My Fall TBR

A weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

The Rest of September

Invictus by Ryan Graudin  - Add to Goodreads
I loved the Wolf by Wolf series and I am so excited about this one. I mean it's about time travelling pirates who are stealing from the Titanic. I mean... COME ON!

There's Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins  - Add to Goodreads
Unlike a lot of people I didn't love Anna and the French Kiss. But I am super excited about this book. I hear it's like a classic teen horror. It's also the special Halloween book we decided to review for the podcast I am a part of.

October: Magical Realism

Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore   - Add to Goodreads
I loved Anna-Marie's first two books and I am so excited to read her next one. Plus it sounds totally fantastic and interesting.

All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Steifvater  - Add to Goodreads
I love Maggie and her books. I especially really enjoyed The Raven Boys and that magical system makes me think that Maggie will probably do a really good job with magical realism.

Before the Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray - Add to Goodreads
The next book in The Diviners series is finally coming out! I am sooo excited to read it and find out what is happening next for Evie and the others. Plus it's Halloween so, you know, gotta scare myself a little bit.

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao  - Add to Goodreads
I am so excited about this Evil Queen retelling/origin story with an Asian setting. I have heard good things about this book and I cannot wait to read it.

The Book of Dust: Le Belle Sauvage by Phillip Pullman  - Add to Goodreads
More books in the universe of The Golden Compass series is always cause for excitement. I know it's not really a sequel and isn't about Lyra but more in the world has me absolutely pumped.

The Knowing by Sharon Cameron  - Add to Goodreads
The Forgetting was one of my favorite books of last year. It totally surprised me in the best possible way. So obviously I am super pumped for the next book set in this world.

November: Science Fiction

 The Empress by S.J. Kincaid  - Add to Goodreads
One of my most anticipated books of the year. I mean I loved The Diabolic so much and I didn't even know there was going to be a sequel. But there is a sequel and I need it in my life real bad!

Artemis by Andy Weir  - Add to Goodreads
I loved The Martian so much and I cannot wait for more from Andy Weir. He's such a fantastic science fiction writer and this new story sounds amazing. Even if I didn't like the author I'd still want to read it.

Renegades by Marissa Meyer - Add to Goodreads
I am a huge Marissa Meyer fan and a huge fan of books about superheroes, so naturally this is a match made in heaven for me. I was over the moon last week when Macmillan granted my wish on Netgalley and approved me for this book. I can't wait to read it.

 Retribution Rails by Erin Bowman  - Add to Goodreads
I loved Vengeance Road so much! I am super excited to read its companion novel. I love most YA Westerns and that one was one of my favorites so I am excited for more.

There you have it. Some of the books I am most excited to read this fall. Do we have any in common? What books made your list? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Monday, September 18, 2017

ARC Review: Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco

Title: Hunting Prince Dracula
Series: Stalking Jack the Ripper #2
Written by: Kerri Maniscalco
Published: September 19, 2017 by Jimmy Patterson Books (Little Brown Books)

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: In 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.

**** I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher  in exchange for an honest review. This fact has not changed my opinion. ****

This book was so fantastic! You probably know that I was hotly anticipating this book and was incredibly excited to receive a copy in the mail from the publisher. T I loved Stalking Jack the Ripper and I was excited to read the second book in the series for more Audrey Rose and Thomas, more mystery, and more historical settings. And that is exactly what I got. I got an amazing historical mystery.

The thing, I think, that most impressed me about this book was the mystery. I really enjoyed the mystery in Stalking Jack the Ripper but I did find it a little predictable. That was not the case with this book. This mystery definitely came as a surprise for me. There were some aspects that I was able to predict but the big reveal was definitely shocking and I loved that. I do wish there were a little more clues along the way but I'm not too mad at it. It's sometimes hard to catch me off guard and I appreciate a book that is able to do that. Plus I went into this book hoping for an interesting and engaging mystery which is what I found in this book.

I think I may have been more excited about this book than the last one because of the fact that the main mystery and plot revolved around Dracula. I love all books that involve Dracula, be it the fictional vampire or the actual historical figure Vlad Tepes. And I was not disappointed by this one. Kerri definitely did her research into the figure and his history and incorporated them in interesting ways. She also incorporated a lot more of the Romanian and Eastern European folklore as well. It gave the book a great atmosphere and slightly dark quality to it. These books are not scary but the have the perfect kind of fall and Halloween atmosphere for me. I mean we're dealing with serial killers so of course there is plenty of blood and murder. It added a great dimension to the book and because we're talking about Dracula it gave the impression of supernatural quality while still being rooted in truth.
v That's a pretty apt assessment of the book, rooted in truth but still full of atmosphere. I'm a big fan of historical fiction and I like when it takes actual historical figures and/or events and explores them in a more creative way. This book definitely had that creative part down but it also had the historical. I love the Victorian setting because of the tendencies for females to break out of gender norms and that is definitely something that Kerri explores here. But it also such a lush setting. The historical setting here was just that. From the Orient Express to the Transylvanian castle it was amazing to explore these historical settings and what they were like at the time. It was also really interesting to explore what forensics was like back them. This aspect was particularly interesting because of the school that the characters attended. In general I really loved the historical fiction setting of this book.

However, my favorite thing about this book was the characters. In the two books I have become completely attached to Audrey Rose and Thomas. Audrey Rose is a fantastic protagonist. She's tough, resourceful, intelligent, and up for any adventure. I love the fact that she is trying to be genuinely herself even if it's not what is expected of her but also worries about what society thinks of her. She's trying to be a forensic investigator but still maintain her femininity and those are my favorite kinds of strong characters. And then there is Thomas. This is very much a Thomas book as we learn more about him and his past. I absolutely adore Thomas. He's everything also tough, intelligent, and resourceful. And in this book he was even more flirty. He has a great roguish quality to him. Plus, oh the banter. The banter between these two was so good!

This book also had some really good secondary characters. The school allowed us to meet a whole host of new and different characters. Most of them didn't get a ton of screen time which made them not all that memorable but I did like Professor Radu who had this great Remus Lupin quality to him, and Anastasia who was a fun companion for Audrey Rose. But I think my favorite new character was Thomas's sister Daciana. She was really fun and another example of a female who is breaking away from gender norms. Plus her interactions with Thomas were great. But I will say, I did miss some of the characters that were introduced in the first book like Liza and Audrey Rose's Uncle so I hope they come back in the last book. Something makes me think they will.

On the whole, Hunting Prince Dracula was an amazing read. I was hotly anticipating it and I was not disappointed. It had an amazing plot full of mystery and the perfect amount of atmosphere, a great lush historical setting, and amazing characters you will fall in love with.

I give Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco 9.5 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: BUY! If you liked the first book you have to read this one. And if you haven't read it and you like historical mysteries or are looking for a fall read that is dark but not scary then check this one out.

Have you read Hunting Prince Dracula? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Friday, September 15, 2017

Speak Easy, Speak Love Blog Tour: Guest Post and Giveaway

Hi Everyone,
I'm so excited to be a part of the blog tour for Speak Easy, Speak Love. I've wanted to read this book ever since I first learned about it. Not only is it historical fiction set in the 1920's but it involves bootleggers, speak easies, and all kinds of fun stuff from the era. But on top of that it's a Much Ado About Nothing retelling which involves a hate to love relationship and plenty of laughs. I love Shakespeare retellings and I'm excited for this one. 

So... because of my enjoyment of Shakespear retellings, I had to ask the author about Shakespeare. So scroll down for McKelle George's response when I asked about Shakespeare's comedies but first a little bit about the book.

Speak Easy, Speak Love

by McKelle George
Publisher: Greenwillow Books/ HarperCollins
Release Date: September 19, 2017
Genre: Young Adult, Retellings, Historical
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Six teenagers’ lives intertwine during one thrilling summer full of romantic misunderstandings and dangerous deals in this sparkling retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.

After she gets kicked out of boarding school, seventeen-year-old Beatrice goes to her uncle’s estate on Long Island. But Hey Nonny Nonny is more than just a rundown old mansion. Beatrice’s cousin, Hero, runs a struggling speakeasy out of the basement—one that might not survive the summer.

Along with Prince, a poor young man determined to prove his worth; his brother, John, a dark and dangerous agent of the local mob; Benedick, a handsome trust-fund kid trying to become a writer; and Maggie, a beautiful and talented singer; Beatrice and Hero throw all their efforts into planning a massive party to save the speakeasy. Despite all their worries, the summer is beautiful, love is in the air, and Beatrice and Benedick are caught up in a romantic battle of wits that their friends might be quietly orchestrating in the background.

Hilariously clever and utterly charming, McKelle George’s debut novel is full of intrigue and 1920s charm. For fans of Jenny Han, Stephanie Perkins, and Anna Godbersen.


I asked McKelle to tell us a little bit about the Shakespearean comedies because we tend to just learn about the tragedies and some of my favorite Shakespeare is the comedies. Here's what she said:

Okay, I’m going to try and keep this short and not turn this into a massive academic essay, but I actually have a lot to say about this. In high school, I hated Shakespeare: mostly because I couldn’t understand it. We studied Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Macbeth, and Othello (all tragedies). It wasn’t until a, I was introduced to comedies, and b, I saw Shakespeare performed the way it’s meant to be, that I started to truly it.

Students tend to study the tragedies more because, as scholars and critics judge, the Bard’s most complex and beautiful writing appears in the tragedies. Likewise, people tend to adapt the tragedies more and retell them because there seems, at first glance, to be more substance: more emotional depth and realism to play around with.

But hear me out:

The tragedies are beautiful and complex and great, sure, but I believe some of Shakespeare’s most political writing is found in his comedies. In fact, several of the so-called comedies are billed as problem plays because while initially billed as such, there’s a lot of dark, psychological drama sprinkled into the laugh-out-loud funny.

Consider The Merchant of Venice and Taming of the Shrew. The first has an antisemitic premise (casting the Jewish Shylock as the villain), and the second is sexist (setting up Kate to be ultimately “tamed”),and yet, it is to Shylock that Shakespeare gives the humanizing and beautiful speech that contains the famous line, “If you prick us, do we not bleed?” At the end of Shrew, when a beaten Kate addresses the women of the audience and says, “Come, come, you froward and unable worms,” it is chilling.

Both of these monologues are chilling and uncomfortable. It’s hard to know what Shakespeare intended because he famously gave very few stage direction, but it’s also hard not to think carefully and critically about what’s being said between the lines.

Shakespeare was no dummy. He was popular as his plays were being performed—often in front of nobility and the Queen—and anything too radical might have gotten him executed. Likewise, preaching didn’t do much good either. I like to think Shakespeare was entertaining people into change, weaving empathy and forward thought into the plays with jokes and marriage—not death and gore.

Much Ado About Nothing gets one of Shakespeare’s finest feminist characters in Beatrice. Beatrice is independent and smart, and even though she doesn’t want a husband,it’s for the sake of her own independence, not because she hates men (of whom she is gently teasing in the beginning of the play). Unlike Kate, Beatrice isn’t made to change who she is to be with Benedick, and unlike characters like Rosalind, she also doesn’t ditch her female friendships once a man comes along.

This is one of my favorite Beatrice’s moments:

With no sauce that can be devised to it. I protest I love thee.
Why then, God forgive me!
What offence, sweet Beatrice?
You have stayed me in a happy hour. I was about to protest I loved you.
And do it with all thy heart. BEATRICE I love you with so much of my heart that none is left to protest.
Come, bid me do anything for thee.
BEATRICE Kill Claudio. (4.1.293-303)

She’s like, I love you! Kill your best friend. Like, yeah fine I admit it, but that doesn’t change the situation, pal.

To me, the 1920s was a uniquely feminist decade and that was why I set Speak Easy, Speak Love in that setting . . . and then tried to make people laugh. Hopefully I succeeded.

McKelle George is a reader, writer of clumsy rebels, perpetual doodler, and associate librarian at the best library in the world. She mentors with Salt Lake Teen Writes and plays judge for the Poetry Out Loud teen competitions (but has no poetic talent herself). Her debut young adult novel Speak Easy, Speak Love comes out from Greenwillow/HarperCollins in 2017, and she currently lives in Salt Lake City with an enormous white german shepherd and way, way too many books.


• 1 ARC of SPEAK EASY, SPEAK LOVE by McKelle George
• Pre-order swag including:
• 1 signed SPEAK EASY, SPEAK LOVE bookplate
• 1 signed SPEAK EASY, SPEAK LOVE postcard
• The full set of SPEAK EASY, SPEAK LOVE character cards •

Thanks everyone for stopping by