Author: Kerri Maniscalco

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Jun 05

Can’t Wait Wednesday #7 – Capturing the Devil

Books/Writing 0

I’m joining in the fun with a Can’t-Wait Wednesday, a weekly meme hosted at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Usually the books are ones yet to be released. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

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Can’t Wait Wednesday #7 – Capturing the DevilCapturing the Devil (Stalking Jack the Ripper, #4) by Kerri Maniscalco
Published by Jimmy Patterson on September 10, 2019
Pages: 448
Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World WideBuy on Amazon
Goodreads

In the shocking finale to the bestselling series that began with Stalking Jack the Ripper, Audrey Rose and Thomas are on the hunt for the depraved, elusive killer known as the White City Devil. A deadly game of cat-and-mouse has them fighting to stay one step ahead of the brilliant serial killer---or see their fateful romance cut short by unspeakable tragedy.

Audrey Rose Wadsworth and Thomas Cresswell have landed in America, a bold, brash land unlike the genteel streets of London they knew. But like London, the city of Chicago hides its dark secrets well. When the two attend the spectacular World's Fair, they find the once-in-a-lifetime event tainted with reports of missing people and unsolved murders.

Determined to help, Audrey Rose and Thomas begin their investigations, only to find themselves facing a serial killer unlike any they've heard of before. Identifying him is one thing, but capturing him---and getting dangerously lost in the infamous Murder Hotel he constructed as a terrifying torture device---is another.

Will Audrey Rose and Thomas see their last mystery to the end---together and in love---or will their fortunes finally run out when their most depraved adversary makes one final, devastating kill?

I’m pretty sure EVERYONE has heard of this series already and probably already seen the cover for the final, but I’m just so freaking excited for it!! Not only is it the conclusion of the Aubrey and Thomas story (and damn it, he had better be treated RIGHT in this one), but it’s about the Devil in the White City! I actually read a book about that awhile ago (book wasn’t great, but the story was super interesting), so I’m really eager to see how Kerri brings the events to life. And of course…AUBREY AND THOMAS. Oh my gosh. How am I going to survive until September?!?

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Nov 21

Review of Escaping from Houdini

Book Reviews 0 ★★★½

Review of Escaping from HoudiniEscaping from Houdini (Stalking Jack the Ripper, #3) by Kerri Maniscalco
Published by Jimmy Patterson on September 18, 2018
Genres: Historical, Young Adult
Pages: 416
Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World WideBuy on Amazon
Goodreadsthree-half-stars

In this third installment in the #1 bestselling Stalking Jack the Ripper series, a luxurious ocean liner becomes a floating prison of scandal, madness, and horror when passengers are murdered one by one…with nowhere to run from the killer. .

Audrey Rose Wadsworth and her partner-in-crime-investigation, Thomas Cresswell, are en route to New York to help solve another blood-soaked mystery. Embarking on a week-long voyage across the Atlantic on the opulent RMS Etruria, they’re delighted to discover a traveling troupe of circus performers, fortune tellers, and a certain charismatic young escape artist entertaining the first-class passengers nightly.

But then, privileged young women begin to go missing without explanation, and a series of brutal slayings shocks the entire ship. The strange and disturbing influence of the Moonlight Carnival pervades the decks as the murders grow ever more freakish, with nowhere to escape except the unforgiving sea. It’s up to Audrey Rose and Thomas to piece together the gruesome investigation as even more passengers die before reaching their destination. But with clues to the next victim pointing to someone she loves, can Audrey Rose unravel the mystery before the killer’s horrifying finale?

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“Truth is a blade. Brutal and ice cold. It cuts. Sometimes when spoken carelessly it even scars.”

Escaping from Houdini (Book #3 in the Stalking Jack the Ripper series) was one of my most anticipated books of the entire year. I absolutely adored the first two – which, if you haven’t read and have the slightest interest in doing so STOP READING because there will be spoilers for those two books – and so I was delighted to find out that the original planned trilogy was being expanded to four. Audrey Rose Wadsworth and Thomas Cresswell…I can’t get enough of them, or the deliciously creepy situations their forensic passion leads them into! That said, I have to admit this book was my least favorite of the series so far. You can see my review of the first, Stalking Jack the Ripper, and the second, Hunting Prince Dracula, by clicking the linked titles!

Can’t help it, this is what I thought of through the first few chapters. 😛

I really do hate to say it, but in some ways it feels completely unnecessary…like why spend an entire book on the trans-oceanic voyage from Europe to America? I understand it makes for a really creepy atmostphere, when people are being MURDERED and you know for absolutely certain they are on the ship with you and no way to get off of it in the middle of the ocean…but still. Anyway, maybe that’s just me, and I’m butt-hurt because I was really looking forward to seeing what they did in America and also seeing how the series ended.

//SMALL POTENTIAL SPOILERS for character-type stuff, not plot//

My People

Other than the maybe-not-necessary part of my feelings on the book…OMG WADSWORTH. What happened?!? Where did the stalwart, strong-minded girl I knew go? What…just what. Here, maybe a screenshot of my actual agony as I read will help:

Not only was she suddenly needing smelling salts, but the way she treated Thomas…I really struggle to accept that it was justified. In the grand scheme of things, I understand why she did it. She put trying to find the killer and figure out what was going on ahead of her own feelings, but in the process I really feel she treated Thomas as if he was just an automaton without any kind of emotion. It felt like a kick to the stomach. And, as we all remember (riiiiight, you did read the other books), for all his cold, calculating, analytical brain cells, our boy does actually have a heart a few fibers of insecurity running through it. Now, in an author note at the end, Kerri Maniscalco actually addresses this entire issue, and WHY Wadsworth acted the way she did. I get it. I’m just not completely on board with it and I feel like it quite possibly forever altered her relationship with Thomas. Can relationships recover from setbacks? Absolutely. Do they? Sometimes. So I guess we will just have to wait and see in book four…HOW am I going to wait another year??

Plot

“This isn’t the first time you’ve removed a cravat, is it?”
“It would be the first time I used it to strangle someone, though.”

The mystery aspect of this one wasn’t as hair-raising as either one of the other two books. Enjoyable, yes, and I didn’t have a very good theory until about 65-75% of the way through the book (perhaps because I was so hung up over Wadsworth and Cresswell’s woes). It was very flashy and atmospheric but not all that exciting. After the first couple of bodies you kinda/sorta knew what to expect.

The “show” aspect was interesting and really gave a different flavor to the setting than you would expect from a ship. It was very circus-y and all the minor characters introduced created ALL kinds of red herrings and hangups.

Things That Did Surprise Me

“Be cautious with who you give your heart to. And be even more wary of those who wish to steal it.”

First, totally did not see the cousin thing coming. That was intriguing and really added another layer to the story. Next, do not go into this expecting Houdini to play a large part. The title is somewhat misleading. Third, WHO THE HELL is this circus master dude and WTF is he playing at (this question is mostly answered by the end but geez I hated this guy’s guts for most of the book). Fourth, I still adore Mrs. Harvey. I don’t think I mentioned her in my other reviews, but she is just the absolute BEST with her “nightcaps” and look-the-other way style of chaperoning.

Overall, I’m giving Escaping from Houdini 3.5 stars. I really wanted to give it 4 but it just bummed me out too much, between the “meh” mystery factor and the “ACK!!” relationship factor.

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three-half-stars

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

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Nov 08

Hunting Prince Dracula Review

Book Reviews 0 ★★★★★

Well, I didn’t get nearly as many books read for the Halloween Read-A-Thon as I had hoped! But, I did manage two – and look at me go, getting a review up within a couple of weeks of reading. 😉 Hehe.

Hunting Prince Dracula ReviewHunting Prince Dracula (Stalking Jack the Ripper, #2) by Kerri Maniscalco
on September 19th 2017
Genres: Historical, Thriller, Young Adult
Pages: 434
Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World WideBuy on Amazon
Goodreadsfive-stars
two-flames

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.

First of all: POSSIBLE SPOILERS FOR BOOK 1 IN THIS SERIES – you can read my review of Stalking Jack the Ripper if you don’t want to be spoiled but are intrigued by this post. If you haven’t read SJTR you are SO missing out, please go read right now. KTHXBAI.

Hunting Prince Dracula was the PERFECT book to start off my HalloweenWR. The atmosphere is thick and foreboding and raise-the-hair-on-the-back-of-your-neck creepy. Not for the faint of heart either, are the detailed descriptions of cadavers and dissection. I found them enormously cool and interesting but they might gross out some people. The Victorian trappings are lovely as well – all the fancy dresses and clothes, and rules (which Audrey and Thomas are only too delighted to break), and THIS CASTLE OMG. I want to live in a castle. Or even just near a castle. And a forensics school, IN Dracula’s castle…where do I sign up?? I would need some heat though. That forest in those mountains and in a stone castle…pretty sure my fingers and toes would drop off. That said, I would totally plan an entire vacation (how about a month, shall we?) around visiting Dracula’s castle and the area surrounding.

I mean. Wouldn’t you?

Audrey Rose and Thomas are just as adorable in this book as in the last. I didn’t QUITE understand why they danced around their attraction to each other SO MUCH in the first part of the book…it kind of felt like Audrey had regressed in her Victorian prudishness…but maybe I’m remembering things from the first book wrong. I know they had only kissed like…once, I think? Thomas is just as abrasive and unaware of societal rules as ever, only now he is SO concerned about Aubrey that he makes some well-meaning but nearly unforgivable blunders. The tension is veeeeeeery drawn out through the book but I thought it was cute and sweet.

We also get to meet Daciana, Thomas’s sister in this book, and she is a very exciting addition to the cast. She is spunky and hilarious and completely unafraid of all the Victorian rules – she does what she thinks is right and what will make her and those she loves happy. I hope we get to see more of her but from the ending of this book I think she gets left behind for the next. Boo.

I’m slightly obsessed with castles, ok?

Okay, so the plot. Obviously, SOMEONE is leaving bodies around…someone who seems strangely obsessed with the bloodline of Dracula (the real one, not the Bram Stoker one). Naturally, Audrey Rose and Thomas have to investigate. Because the real authorities, also naturally, are bumbling around doing not much of anything. Things escalate, more people go missing, they discover SO MANY SECRETS in the castle (ahem – secret passages and tunnels – WHEN CAN I LIVE IN A PLACE WITH SECRET TUNNELS?), and no one is who they seem to be or who they are supposed to be. It’s deliciously creepy and just when you thought you knew who you could trust…

I will admit, I didn’t see that ending coming. I had a sneaking suspicious that THAT person had something to do with it, but then once a certain OTHER event occured…you know, it’s really hard to review mystery books, because of the risk of giving something away. But the ending was TOTALLY creepy and TOTALLY worth it.

Do I even need to discuss the setting? *points at pictures above * It was beautiful and I am insanely jealous of anyone who gets to so much as VISIT a place like that, let alone live there. Even in a time without heat. 😛

5/5 stars. I am so put out that we have to wait ANOTHER ENTIRE YEAR for Book 3!

I hope you enjoyed my review of Hunting Prince Dracula! Follow me on social media to keep up with more reviews and bookish posts!

   

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five-stars

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Oct 21

Book Review: Stalking Jack the Ripper

Book Reviews, Books/Writing 12 ★★★★

Book Review: Stalking Jack the RipperStalking Jack the Ripper (Stalking Jack the Ripper, #1) by Kerri Maniscalco
Published by Jimmy Patterson on September 20th 2016
Genres: Historical, Mystery, Thriller, Young Adult
Pages: 336
Goodreadsfour-stars

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.

costume-party

This was my Creepy Cover pick for the Halloween Read-a-thon (hosted by the lovely Lauren at Wonderless Reviews)! So far, out of three Halloween reads, it’s been my favorite. 🙂

First of all, look at that gorgeous cover! I could practically reach out and touch the silk of that dress. Also I swear I see blood on the knife, every time I see it out of the corner of my eye. But when I look at it closely, of course there’s nothing there. And that, my friends, is why this was my Creepy Cover. Because no matter how many times I look at it…I see that blood (it’s probably the combination of the lip color with the knife when I just glance at it…but still). Oh, and inside at many of the chapter beginnings, there are these AWESOME old creepy pictures.

Like this.

Like this. Courtesy Wikipedia.

I’m fascinated by unsolved true crime. Yes, I am one of those people. At the same time, I like keeping a semi-safe distance between me and the crime. Hence, Jack the Ripper fits the bill because he’s obviously dead by now. Phew. All the same, this book raised the hairs on the back of my neck. While simultaneously causing me to tear up in the final chapter. Like what IS this mix of emotions, even?!?

Audrey is a scientifically minded young woman with a backbone of steel. She is fascinated with the human body and despite the VERY suspicious appearances, studies under her uncle, a professor with an unsettling obsession with the dead (now we call it forensic science). I love the way she flaunts society while at the same time enjoying what fashions suit her own fancy. Of course, this also involves disobeying her extremely protective father, who honestly comes across as rather unhinged after the passing of her mother. She still cares deeply for him, despite her constant frustrations with the limitations forced on her. Audrey’s brother, Nathaniel, is another sympathetic character. He deals with the loss of their mother much differently, seeming to have picked up and moved on as a sadder, melancholy person concerned only with his family and holding them together. Her motivation for studying science above and beyond what’s considered proper really resonated with me:

It was then that I knew I’d rely on something more tangible than holy spirits. Science never abandoned me the way religion had that night…God no longer held dominion over my soul.

Yessssss. I’ll join you in hell, dear sister.

Ahem. Moving on. *insert “Fight Song” playing in the background*

Then there is Thomas, the quirky, socially awkward student with the face of an angel and tongue of a viper. He’s annoying in an endearing sort of way. Every time I was about to be all, “Awwwww,” he would make some other caustic remark that made me want to slap him. Like for real slap, not pretend slap. He gets better and we get inside his crusty exterior more and more as the story goes on, though, and by the end I was feeling very charitable towards him, indeed. In the way one feel charitable to a naughty but adorable puppy.

Yep. Like that.

The hunt for the serial killer (a term not yet coined) Jack the Ripper – first called Leather Apron by the press (look at me, learning things!) keeps the plot moving along briskly. The attention to historical detail in this book is AWESOME, even if there were a few liberties taken that made me roll my eyes. Like at one point Audrey’s cousin says women should be able to wear a certain type of clothing to “go to work.” Um…wealthy women in the 1880s most definitely did not “go to work.” Just saying. I understand Audrey is something of a revolutionary, but to maintain believability I think a couple things like that should have been edited out. I do love the way she comes into her own through the story, and THAT part is handled exceptionally well.

“This who deserve respect are given it freely. If one must demand such a thing, he’ll never truly command it. I am your daughter, not your horse, sir.”

The creep factor is amazing. At first I thought it was going to be relatively tame (flaying bodies open and lots of blood really don’t bother me, ummm…sorry?), but the psychological aspect of it really starting affecting me about a third of the way in and I couldn’t put it down at all! I started it in bed one night…and quickly decided to finish the rest in broad daylight. 😛 I was by turns fascinated, horrified, and at the last just so very sad. The foreshadowing was incredible – which means it was so skillfully done that I was completing flailing in chapter before the reveal and while I felt completely broadsided, immediately saw the clues I’d missed.

My biggest issue with the book is actually the romance. Thankfully, it’s more of a sub-plot, but I think the whole thing would have been better by just hinting at possibilities to come instead of anything actually happening. In the first several chapters it’s WAY too distracting and it really seems out of place for Aubrey’s character. Contrary to popular opinion, it seems, I think you can have a very successfully told YA story without having any romance at all. Sometimes “just-friends” friendships are the strongest ones we have.

Overall, 4 out of 5 stars.

Monsters were supposed to be scary and ugly. They weren’t supposed to hide behind friendly smiles and well-trimmed hair. Goodness, twisted as it might be, was not meant to be locked away in an icy heart and anxious exterior. Grief was not supposed to hide guilt of wrongdoing.

 

four-stars

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