Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco – Review

Cover- Hunting Prince Dracula

Published: September 19, 2017

Publisher: Little, Brown & Company

Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction

Series: Stalking Jack the Ripper #2

Pages: 434 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 2.5/5.0

Synopsis:

In this New York Times bestselling sequel to Kerri Maniscalco’s haunting #1 debut 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


Stalking Jack the Ripper was one of the coolest YA books I had the privilege to read in 2016, so naturally I was looking forward to its sequel, Hunting Prince Dracula. I mean, a brilliant girl defying 19th century societal standards by studying the dead and also trying to solve the Ripper murders? How could it not be awesome!? SJtR was most definitely an impressive book, but just based on the title of the sequel I was hesitant yet hopeful.

Obviously, Vlad Dracula was dead long before the late 1800’s so Hunting Prince Dracula wasn’t based on a true murder as the first first book was. This, in my opinion, took away from the allure the first book had. This was 100% fictional with a richly historied setting and a great deal of silly scares and restrained feelings. Audrey Rose and Thomas travelled to Bran Castle, Romania to study at the greatest forensics school in Europe, but they arrive to find that they must compete with seven other brilliant minds for a mere two spots in the upcoming class. Thus begins the competition… or not. Considering they’re supposed to be attending classes and studying rigorously, it feels as hardly any time at all is spent doing these things. Instead, Audrey Rose and Thomas are sneaking about in the middle of the night (when do they sleep?) with each other, with near strangers, and most unwisely of all, by themselves. Let me tell you, if people were turning up exsanguinated you better believe I wouldn’t be sneaking around at night by myself or with someone. Also, the competition was mostly mentioned in passing or very briefly and the classmates were shallow puddles of characters. They may as well have not existed.

While Hunting Prince Dracula was very entertaining, I found Audrey Rose and Thomas to have irritating character flaws, or shortcomings, or whatever. Thomas for the life of him cannot keep his mouth shut when he should and makes Audrey Rose look weak and womanly in front of a room full of smirking men several times (idiot). Audrey Rose is hallucinating and suffering from PTSD after the traumatic events of the first book. She spends 60% of the book about to have a nervous breakdown and she can hardly perform the forensic duties she used to excel at. Yeah, these are believable and possible events and emotions, but to focus SO MUCH of the book on these two things was about to drive me nuts. I’m reading this book because I loved this nearly Sherlockian duo do their murder solving forensic thing in Stalking Jack the Ripper and for goodness sake, that’s what I expect them to do!!! I like characters with emotional depth and multi-faceted personalities, internal crises but Audrey Rose and Thomas both fell kind of flat for me here.

Overall, this book was just not up to par with Stalking Jack the Ripper at all. I wanted to love it, but the best I can say is that it was entertaining, had a beautiful cover, and gave depth to Thomas’s history. I love the Romanian setting – Bran Castle is beautiful and full of history; plus, Eastern European folklore is pretty hot in the fantasy genre right now. I dearly wish this book had captured the fear it was trying to evoke and that the secondary characters had of been fleshed out significantly. There will be a third book in the series and my fingers are crossed that it will be just as good as the first book and I can politely ignore the sophomore slump.

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Friday Face Off: 11/24/17

The Friday Face Off is a weekly meme created by  Books by Proxy where bloggers can share their favorite book covers. A theme is set each week, bloggers pick a book that fits the theme, select various covers, and then pick their favorite. Upcoming themes can be found on Lynn’s Book Blog.


This week’s Friday Face Off theme is:

‘I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently’ – a cover featuring snow

I knew exactly what I wanted to feature this week – The Ice Princess.

Aaaand the winner is the first one because it’s definitely creepier than the others, which is fitting for this crime novel. This was also a pretty good book if you’re interested.

IP

Waiting on Wednesday: A Time of Dread by John Gwynne

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine where bloggers feature a book that we just can’t wait to get our hands on!


Cover- A Time of Dread

US Release: January 9, 2018

I feel like I’m a little late to the game since this has apparently been released in the UK already (you lucky people). I’ve only to wait a few more months here in the US for John Gwynne’s newest book. A Time of Dread returns us to the same world as The Faithful and the Fallen series, but 100 years later. The Ben-Elim rule the Banished Lands, but evil still lurks. I can’t wait to see what Gwynne has in store for his readers with this one!!!

Perfect Shadow by Brent Weeks – Review

Cover- Perfect Shadow

Published: November 7, 2017 (Sp. Ed.)

Publisher: Orbit

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Night Angel #0.5

Pages: 144 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 3.0/5.0

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:

Discover the origins of Durzo Blint in this original novella set in the world of Brent Weeks’ New York Times bestselling Night Angel trilogy.

“I got a bit of prophecy,” the old assassin said. “Not enough to be useful, you know. Just glimpses. My wife dead, things like that to keep me up late at night. I had this vision that I was going to be killed by forty men, all at once. But now that you’re here, I see they’re all you. Durzo Blint.”

Durzo Blint? Gaelan had never even heard the name.

***
Gaelan Starfire is a farmer, happy to be a husband and a father; a careful, quiet, simple man. He’s also an immortal, peerless in the arts of war. Over the centuries, he’s worn many faces to hide his gift, but he is a man ill-fit for obscurity, and all too often he’s become a hero, his very names passing into legend: Acaelus Thorne, Yric the Black, Hrothan Steelbender, Tal Drakkan, Rebus Nimble.

But when Gaelan must take a job hunting down the world’s finest assassins for the beautiful courtesan-and-crimelord Gwinvere Kirena, what he finds may destroy everything he’s ever believed in.


Brent Weeks has come to be one of my favorite fantasy authors, particularly for his Lightbringer series which I binge read last year (or was it this year?). The Night Angel trilogy took a little longer to grow on me – I was unimpressed by Kylar for the most part, but the secondary characters helped things out. The prospect of reading a story focused on Durzo Blint was interesting because of his long history.

Perfect Shadow describes the transition of Gaelan Starfire into the persona of Durzo Blint as we know him in the Night Angel trilogy – master wetboy (how I loathe that term) of the Sa’Kage. It starts off with this stomach churning scene of him climbing up a poop chute in a castle to murder owner/occupant of said castle. Yuck, though vaguely amusing. Then he goes on to assassinate a few more people, hook up with Gwinvere Kirena, and ruminate on his past. All in all, very typical Durzo.

This book wasn’t long enough to really give me feels either way, hence the 3 stars. I will note that this special hardcover edition of Perfect Shadow also includes the I, Night Angel short story that I was not a particular fan of.

Currently Reading: 11/20/17

Cover- Steal the Stars

Steal the Stars by Mac Rogers and Nat Cassidy

I’ve been curious about this one since it showed up on my doorstep several weeks ago. This is a novelization of a Tor Labs podcast and so far I’m liking it. Pretty good for halfway through, right? While not slowly paced, it’s just now starting to really pick up.

 

I’m also listening to the audiobook of Oathbringer this week, which is great because I’m pulling long shifts Mon-Wed! I love it so far!

 

Deadhouse Landing by Ian C. Esslemont – Review

Cover- Deadhouse Landing

Published: November 14, 2017

Publisher: Tor Books

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Path to Ascendancy #2

Pages: 400 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 5.0/5.0

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:

Return to the turbulent history of what would become the Malazan Empire…

After the disappointments in Li Heng, Dancer and Kellanved wash up on a small insignificant island named Malaz. Immediately, of course, Kellanved plans to take it over. To do so they join forces with a small band of Napans who have fled their home. However, Kellanved is soon distracted by a strange and dangerous ancient structure. Back in Li Heng, Dassem, now the proclaimed Sword of Hood, finds himself being blamed for a plague which leads him to a crisis of faith – and searching for answers.

During all this, the neighboring island of Nap threatens war and allies are beginning to wonder about Kellanved’s sanity. Dancer now faces a hard choice: should he give up on his partnership? Especially when his friend’s obsession with shadows and ancient artifacts brings the both of them alarmingly close to death and destruction. After all, who in his right mind would actually wish to enter the Deadhouse?


So just one thing – why the heck didn’t this book get promoted like books that are actually garbage with a nice cover do???? Every single book set in the Malazan world that I’ve read is awesome (I can’t attest to the Bauchelain and Korbal Broach ones) and the Dancer’s Lament was ICE’s best book to date. It stands to reason that Deadhouse Landing should be just as good, if not better (which it was) so… does that mean Tor felt it didn’t need the promotion? Last I checked I think this book had a cover or title but no release date and next thing I know it’s on NetGalley two weeks prior to its release – SURPRISE!

Let me step off my soapbox now and give you an actual review.

Deadhouse Landing was a SOLIDLY WONDERFUL sequel and it made me so nostalgic about the main series that I suddenly want to destroy my schedule and do a 6 month re-read. I stopped periodically to squeal at my husband about a character that just showed up because the powers are gathering on Malaz and the gang is getting together (!!!!!). Dancer and Wu show up on Malaz Island and promptly buy this shack of a bar called Smiley’s and they hire on some Napans who are obviously hiding out from their mainland brethren. Just a few familiar faces here… Surly, Cartheron, Urko… no big deal, right? That’s just the tip of the iceberg! Dancer and Wu/Kellanved end up wandering through Shadow, facing off against the Hounds, walk up to the Deadhouse, and buy a ship that’s an even bigger dump than Smiley’s. All in all it’s a fantastic book.

What I love about the Path to Ascendancy series is it shows the reader how Dancer and Kellanved met and how the powers that exist in the MBOTF series come together. This is the prequel everyone wanted! I could blather on for many sentences about characters that show up, events, plots, blah blah blah but that would be very spoilery and I don’t want to be that person. All I can advise is this – if you’ve read the main Malazan Book of the Fallen series by Steven Erikson, then you’ll enjoy this immensely. If you haven’t read any of these books then Dancer’s Lament is a good place to start too. Deadhouse Landing was a fantastic read, less philosophical than Erikson’s books, but it’s classic Malazan greatness nonetheless.

Stacking the Shelves: 11/18/17

Stacking The Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga’s Reviews and it’s all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. You can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!


1711-2017-111979890888908007 (1)

Check out that Lannister drink coaster!

So, this is seems to be smaller than my usual haul, but it’s also only been a few weeks since my last Stacking the Shelves post so that means I’m doing good, right!?

Received for Review:

Blood and Sand by C.V. Wyk

I LOVE GLADIATORIAL COMBAT IN MY BOOKS!!! When this was pitched to me I was thrilled and so I signed up for the blog tour. Keep an eye out for my review for this on its release date – 1/16/18. Thanks to Tor Teen for the ARC.

Perfect Shadow by Brent Weeks

What a cute little hardcover! It’s so wee compared to a normal book. This is a novella focusing on how Durzo Blint became Durzo Blint. Also included is the short story I, Night Angel. Thanks to Orbit for the finished copy!

Daughters of the Storm by Kim Wilkins

Norse influenced epic fantasy where five sisters beat down their evil stepbrother. Count me in. Though this is slated to release in the US in March 2018, it looks like it was first released in 2014 (Australia maybe?). Thanks to Del Rey for providing an ARC!

Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant

AHHHH this book!!! I don’t really do horror, but the paranormal/mythology/science thing presented in the synopsis of this book meant it automatically went into my request list. Killer mermaids. Yes. Many thanks to Orbit/ Hachette Audio for the audio copy.

Deadhouse Landing by Ian C. Esslemont

HOORAY!! I may have had few books in this haul, but they are all very exciting to get, particularly this one. I love the Malazan world, so naturally I requested this and promptly read it. Review will be up tomorrow!! Thanks to Tor/NetGalley for a review copy.

My Purchases:

Cover- Oathbringer

Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson

My only purchase was at least an excellent one. I picked up the audio copy of this since I’ll be pulling long shifts this week at work in preparation for a long weekend. The hardcover will come into my possession at a later date because have you seen those endpapers??? Excellent so far!

Friday Face Off: 11/17/17

The Friday Face Off is a weekly meme created by  Books by Proxy where bloggers can share their favorite book covers. A theme is set each week, bloggers pick a book that fits the theme, select various covers, and then pick their favorite. Upcoming themes can be found on Lynn’s Book Blog.


This week’s theme is:

17th November 2017 – Snap! – a cover featuring a double image or reflection

I found a number of indie books with beautiful covers that fit the theme… alas, there was only one version of those covers. After much searching I settled on Stealing Snow

Tough to pick a favorite – some actually look like they should be covers on horror novels! I think this is my favorite because of the frost patterns and the monochromatic look.

Snow4

Waiting on Wednesday: Starless by Jacqueline Carey

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine where bloggers feature a book that we just can’t wait to get our hands on!


Cover- Starless

I admit, I’ve never read anything by Jacqueline Carey before. I have Kushiel’s Dart on my Kindle, but simply haven’t gotten around to it, despite wanting to read it. I came across Starless in my upcoming release hunt and was pretty much sold just reading the synopsis. Looks like this will be a June 12, 2018 release from Tor Books and I’m looking forward to it! Perhaps by then I’ll have been able to read Kushiel’s Dart too.

Jade City by Fonda Lee – Review

Cover- Jade City

Published: November 7, 2017

Publisher: Orbit Books

Genre: Fantasy

Series: The Green Bone Saga #1

Pages: 512 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

Synopsis:

FAMILY IS DUTY. MAGIC IS POWER. HONOR IS EVERYTHING.
Magical jade—mined, traded, stolen, and killed for—is the lifeblood of the island of Kekon. For centuries, honorable Green Bone warriors like the Kaul family have used it to enhance their abilities and defend the island from foreign invasion.

Now the war is over and a new generation of Kauls vies for control of Kekon’s bustling capital city. They care about nothing but protecting their own, cornering the jade market, and defending the districts under their protection. Ancient tradition has little place in this rapidly changing nation.

When a powerful new drug emerges that lets anyone—even foreigners—wield jade, the simmering tension between the Kauls and the rival Ayt family erupts into open violence. The outcome of this clan war will determine the fate of all Green Bones—from their grandest patriarch to the lowliest motorcycle runner on the streets—and of Kekon itself.

Jade City begins an epic tale of family, honor, and those who live and die by the ancient laws of jade and blood.


Jade City has really been permeating my social media pages lately – Orbit has their usual promos, but I’ve seen lots of other readers posting reviews, book hauls, etc. The synopsis and the statement that it was like The Godfather meets epic fantasy had me pretty pumped to read this one. My hopes were up and my expectations were high and it ended up being a really good book. Just not an amazing, can’t stop thinking about it book.

The story was such that I had no trouble reading 100+ pages at a time over the course of a week – filled with physical action, emotional drama, and a hefty dose of clan workings. Jade City primarily follows three Green Bones of the Kaul family who are leaders of the No Peak clan. Kaul Lan is the Pillar, or clan leader, and he’s intelligent and capable, though perhaps not violent enough to stand against the rival Mountain clan. Kaul Hilo is the Horn of the clan, enforcing law on the street, collecting tithe from the Lantern Men, and fighting back against territory encroachments. Kaul Shae has been estranged from her family for several years following the scandal of her relationship with a foreign military man and subsequent departure from the country to attend business school. At the start of Jade City, she has just returned to Kekon and hopes to make her own way in life without the influence of her prominent family. Shae and Hilo ended up being my favorite of all the characters as they were the most vibrant and interesting. Lan was admirable, though he lacked the flair of his younger brother Hilo and Shae’s interesting history.

The plot was well-executed and I thought the pacing was just right. Yeah, there was politicking and lots of unfamiliar terms but it wasn’t difficult to follow along with and this was interspersed with satisfying amounts of action and/or violence. This book basically details the beginnings of a serious gang war that will have potential world-wide impact, so this isn’t candy and sunshine. Fonda Lee threw in a few fantastic surprises with one in particular changing the course of the book.

Overall, I think Fonda Lee’s first foray into adult fantasy was solid and I hope the series continues to gain strength. The post-war Japan vibe was really awesome and I especially appreciated the history of Kekon and the Green Bones that was thrown in. Things like that give fantasy (or any genre) depth and body that make re-reads extra enjoyable. I’ll certainly be keeping my eye on Fonda Lee’s future releases!