Review

Book Review: Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

Stalking Jack the Ripper

Title: Stalking Jack The Ripper

Author: Kerri Maniscalco

Published by: Jimmy Patterson

Publishing date: September 20th 2016

Genre:  Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Mystery

Pages: 326

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.

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A little story about me and this book

I recieved this book in exchange for an honest review a long time ago, I was supposted to be part of the blog tour that took place like 9 months  ago. A lot of things happened in my personal life at that time and they made it impossible to read and review this book. I actually read the first two pages and I didn’t enjoy them, but I didn’t know if it was me because I had so much going on or if it was the book.

This January I finally decided to give this another try and I ended up really enjoying this book. It actually has one of my new favorite ships, which is one of the main reason that I enjoyed this book so much. I didn’t post my review back in January because I was gonna wait until the release date of the second book was closer, but since the arc copies of book 2 are starting to make it to readers, I feel like this is a good time to help increase the excitement for this series.

Without further ado, here’s the review!

The review

Stalking Jack the Ripper is set in 1888 and it’s based on the murders commited by Jack the Ripper, who terrorized London with his brutality during this time. The author takes full advantage of this premise and she makes this a very atmospheric book, with fog, a mystery vibe and a eerie feel to it. At the same time, there’s a lot of grusome scenes and imaginery, there’s blood and organs and this is very descriptive when it comes to how the victims were murdered.

In the midst of this background, there’s Audrey Rose, the main character, an extremely intelligent girl that spends the book struggleling and defying the gender restrictions of her time. She is definitely not, what in her time would have been considered, a proper lady,  she spends her days opening dead bodies and she is fascinated by anatomical dissection.  It’s amazing to have a main female character in a YA book that it’s into science or a science related field, because it doesn’t happen that often. Going back to Audrey, for someone so intelligent, she is incredibly reckeless and impulsive, and in her desire to not conforme to society’s gender ideas she puts herself at risk repeatedly throughout this book.

On the other hand, there’s Thomas, the other main character in this book, he’s also incredibly intelligent and has really good deduction skills. Another very important thing about Thomas is that he’s a complete flirt and his responses are always witty and sarcastic.  Also,  he is really arrogant and he doesn’t try to hide it. Both  Thomas and Audrey are very strong-willed, and that makes the dynamic between them incredible, they work well together but there’s also a lot of chemestry that goes beyond crime-solving partners. There’s banter and bickering but also smart conversations. Honestly, this is a swoon worthy romance.

The problem with this book is that the mystey aspect is a bit a predictable, really early on is easy to tell who Jack the Ripper is.  Nonetheless, the book keeps you wondering when the main characters are gonna realise who the culprit is and that manages to keep the suspense alive.  Another minor issue with the book, is that  Audrey and Thomas do a lot of ‘stalking’’ throughout the story and that ends up helping little to solve the crimes. The ‘stalking’ is a bit pointless and it reveals to be more reckless than courageous.

Rating: 4,2 stars

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Book Review: How to Make a Wish by Ashley Herring Blake

 how-to-make-a-wish

Title: How to Make a Wish

Author: Ashley Herring Blake

Published by: HMH Books for Young Readers

Publishing date:  May 2nd 2017

Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult

Pages: 336

All seventeen year-old Grace Glasser wants is her own life. A normal life in which she sleeps in the same bed for longer than three months and doesn’t have to scrounge for spare change to make sure the electric bill is paid. Emotionally trapped by her unreliable mother, Maggie, and the tiny cape on which she lives, she focuses on her best friend, her upcoming audition for a top music school in New York, and surviving Maggie’s latest boyfriend—who happens to be Grace’s own ex-boyfriend’s father.

Her attempts to lay low until she graduates are disrupted when she meets Eva, a girl with her own share of ghosts she’s trying to outrun. Grief-stricken and lonely, Eva pulls Grace into midnight adventures and feelings Grace never planned on. When Eva tells Grace she likes girls, both of their worlds open up. But, united by loss, Eva also shares a connection with Maggie. As Grace’s mother spirals downward, both girls must figure out how to love and how to move on.

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*I received an ARC through Netgalley in exchange of an honest review. The release date for this book is May 2nd 2017

How to Make a Wish is a character driven book with a really quiet story, it takes turns being heartbreaking, honest, complicated, adorable and heartwarming. Something that makes this book incredibly special is the fact that it’s #ownvoices in terms of sexuality, both the author and the main character are bisexual. The way in which Grace’s bisexuality is describe in the book feels real and honest and the way her bisexuality  is treated and viewed by other characters as something normal is so meaningful. The representation in this book is accurate and thoughtful and it’s not limited to bisexuality, there’s also amazing representation with the love interest, Eva, which is a biracial lesbian girl and I think this is especially important because there’s so little accurate representation of biracial people that having such a positive and relevant representation means a lot.

One of the best things about this book is the romance, Grace and Eva are really cute together and their interactions are really smart and entertaining. There are some steamy moments in this book; there are make out scenes and a sex scene and I think there is so much sex positivity and also  it’s amazing to see how Grace and Eva always make sure the other is comfortable with what they are doing, they always ask for verbal consent and I think the fact that that is portrait makes this a really valuable book. Also, there’s  female masturbation in this book and again the sex positivity is off the charts, it’s shown like something natural and normal and that’s incredible. Furthermore, it’s delightful to see an amazing platonic relationship between a girl and a boy being present in this story. Grace and Luca are best friends,  there are no secondary motivations, neither is in love with the other, they are just friends and that is refreshing.

Now, for the heartbreaking part of this book, one of the main parts of the story revolves around this raw, painful and honest depiction of the relationship between Grace and her mother. Maggie, Grace’s mother, is an unreliable parent, she’s reckless, unpredictable and clueless, she puts her child in impossible situations and this part is so well-written that it’s easy to feel and connect with Grace’s anger, sadness and her feelings of helplessness. There’s so many moments between Grace and Maggie that are so profundly heartbreaking that they make reading this book really hard. On the other hand, there’s Eva, who’s mother just passed away and this book explores grief in a devastating way. There’s this scene in the beach when Grace and Eva first meet that it’s so heartbreaking and raw, that it’s hard to imagine how someone is able to write a scene that can make the reader feel so much. Another thing that it’s magnificent in this book is the fact that as much as Grace makes Eva feel better, Eva’s grief doesn’t go away, it’s always there and that so incredibly honest and sad.

Overall, this was a fantastic book with a diverse cast of characters and a story that at times makes you feel devastated and at other times can be heartwarming.

Rating: 4,5 stars

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Book Review: If the Dress Fits by Carla de Guzman

if-the-dress-fits

Title: If the Dress Fits

Author: Carla de Guzman

Published by: Midnight Books

Publishing date:  October 15th 2016

Genre: Romance, new adult

Martha Aguas kind of has it all–she’s an accountant who loves numbers, an accident-prone puppy that loves her, and the perfect wardrobe. 

Yes, she wears a dress size 24, her bras don’t fit and she’s never had a boyfriend, but so what? 

It becomes a big deal when her perfect cousin Regina announces her engagement to Enzo, the only boy she’s ever loved (he doesn’t know, so don’t tell him!) Suddenly Aguases from all corners of the globe are coming for the event, and the last thing Martha wants is to be asked why she still prefers her lattes with a waffle on the side. 

Thank god for Max. Goofy, funny, dependable Max, who finds himself playing the fake boyfriend at the family festivities. But why does it feel like only one of them is pretending?

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I received this book through a giveaway hosted by the amazing Marianne @Boricuan Bookworms . Thank you so much for giving me the chance to read this book! 

If the Dress Fits is a funny and cute romance story. This is a #ownvoices book both for being overweight and being Filipinx. The main character, Martha, is plus sized woman of color and she has a positive relationship with her weight, which makes this story really valuable. The love interest is Max, a biracial veterinarian, who loves to read, is really romantic and quotes books in random moments. They are both interesting characters and it’s entertaining to read about them.

The romance in this book is on point, the relationship between Martha and Max is adorable. It’s easy to tell from the beginning that they care for each other and that they are really supportive of one another. Max sees through Martha and calls her out when she isn’t honest with herself. This book is a perfect example of fake dating and the best friends to lovers trope done right, they allow some emotional moments and makes this book really swoony.

One of the best parts of the book is that it’s set in the Philippines and it’s amazing to see the vibrant cultural represented, this book is fasicnating and insightful. There is also an incredible family dinamic in this book that is really amusing, all the family members –  the titas, the grandma, the dad, the sister and Regina- are interesting and captivating, even when they don’t show up so often. They can be annoying and make thoughtless comments at times, but there’s still a lot of love and support between them.

The only minor problem with this book is the Enzo storyline, he is a guy Martha went to university with and there’s history there and now he is marrying her cousin; all that storyline feels a bit unnecessary . It would have been amazing to read more about Max instead of all the parts about Enzo.

Rating: 4 stars

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Book Review: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling

is-everyone-hanging-out-without-me

Title: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

Author: Mindy Kaling

Published by: Crown Archetype

Publishing date:  November 1st 2011

Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir

Pages: 222

Mindy Kaling has lived many lives: the obedient child of immigrant professionals, a timid chubster afraid of her own bike, a Ben Affleck–impersonating Off-Broadway performer and playwright, and, finally, a comedy writer and actress prone to starting fights with her friends and coworkers with the sentence “Can I just say one last thing about this, and then I swear I’ll shut up about it?”
 
Perhaps you want to know what Mindy thinks makes a great best friend (someone who will fill your prescription in the middle of the night), or what makes a great guy (one who is aware of all elderly people in any room at any time and acts accordingly), or what is the perfect amount of fame (so famous you can never get convicted of murder in a court of law), or how to maintain a trim figure (you will not find that information in these pages). If so, you’ve come to the right book, mostly!
 
In Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, Mindy invites readers on a tour of her life and her unscientific observations on romance, friendship, and Hollywood, with several conveniently placed stopping points for you to run errands and make phone calls. Mindy Kaling really is just a Girl Next Door—not so much literally anywhere in the continental United States, but definitely if you live in India or Sri Lanka.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? is both funny and insightful at times. Some other times however, this book misses the mark by a lot. Comedians or people trying to be funny so often rely on making fun of marginalized groups and their struggles to make people laugh and, unfortunetly, Mindy Kaling ends up falling into this trap. She jokes about hate crimes, rape, throwing acid at people and she uses being depressed as a synonim to being sad. None of those things are okay, none of those things are funny and all of those things are problematic. On the other hand, she talks about body positivity and beauty standards, she talks about being the daughter of immigrants and she talks about beign a woman of color. She talks about all these things honestly and unapologetically. This book is full of these contradictions, it goes from trying to be funny by dealing with important subject in careless ways  to making thoughtful commentary on some other important issues. 

Beyond that, the more interesting part of this book is when Mindy talks about working as a writer. The chapters where she talks about her job are brilliant. She is insightful and entertaining; she talks about how success in college doesn’t always means success outside of it, how hard is to find a job as a writer, how you end up taking jobs that are of little interest to you, but also about good things like getting success for something you wrote or  getting to work with people that you admire and that help you be better at your job. Those parts of the book where she talks about the good and the bad of being a writer are what makes parts of this book captivating.

Nontheless, there are a lot of chapters that felt like they were just there to fill space. Instead of talking about writing and about her job, Kaling spends big part of this book talking about her childhood, her teen years, how much she doesn’t like sports and other random stuff. The main problem is that she addresses those subjects by trying to be funny but not completely succeding at it. She doesn’t talk enough about what she actually does, what made her famous and what made her book possible in the first place, instead she talk about a bunch of random stuff in a not so entertaining way. It would be much more fascintaing to hear anecdotes about her shooting The Office, about having writers block, about sexism in comedy, than hearing various anecdotes about how much she hates sports (there are a lot of these type of anecdote, like a lot of them!).

Overall, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? is honest and insightful about the life of a writer. But when Kaling is not talking about writing, she often is neither funny nor captivating, and a lot of times, by trying to be funny she can be insensitive and hurtful.

Rating: 3 stars

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Book Review: God Smites and Other Muslim Girl Problems by Ishara Deen

god-smites

Title: God Smites and Other Muslim Girl Problems

Author: Ishara Deen

Published by: Deeya Publishing Inc.

Publishing Date: January 15th 2017

Pages: 236

LIKE NANCY DREW, BUT NOT…

Craving a taste of teenage life, Asiya Haque defies her parents to go for a walk (really, it was just a walk!) in the woods with Michael, her kind-of-friend/crush/the guy with the sweetest smile she’s ever seen. Her tiny transgression goes completely off track when they stumble on a dead body. Michael covers for Asiya, then goes missing himself.

Despite what the police say, Asiya is almost sure Michael is innocent. But how will she, the sheltered girl with the strictest parents ever, prove anything? With Michael gone, a rabid police officer in desperate need of some sensitivity training, and the murderer out there, how much will Asiya risk to do what she believes is right?

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*I recieved a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. * 

God Smites and Other Muslim Girl Problems is a funny, charming and interesting book that talks about the problems Muslims have to deal with in everyday life, particulary, Muslim teenage girls. The heart of this book is the main character Asiya, she is funny and smart, she has a unique voice that shines throughout the book, she cares deeply about other people, while being a bit naive at times.

Furthermore, the humour in this book is absolutely brilliant and that comes from being honest and outspoken about things that are not often talked about in YA and turning the awkwardness that can surround topics like sex and religion in something funny. Some of the funniest moments in the book are when Asiya has conversations with God, she thinks about the most innapropiate things while she prays or simply talks to God in her head. Those moments were relatable and hilarious, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t moments where that those same subject are addressed seriously and with thoughtfulness, but there’s a good balance between the funny and the serious.

Also, the way this book talks about muslim problems is insightful and it can be uncomfortable in its truths. As this books addresses Muslim problems, it also shows perfecly that not all Muslims share the same ideas or have the same interpretation of what the Quran says. They are a community, they are part of the same religion, but that doesn’t mean they are all the same, that they all have the sames opinions or attitudes. They are all individuals and have their own personalities and their own ways of seeing and understanding the world.

The relationship between Asiya and her parents is really important to the story and religion plays a big role in that relationship. Sometimes it’s really frustrating to see how her parents refuse to listen and are really overprotective, but at the same time, it’s easy to see that they love her and want the best for her. Not to mention, that the relationship developes throughout the book, and by the end, the door starts to open for a more open and honest relationship between Asiya and her parents.

Moreover, the relationship between Asiya and Michael plays a big part in the story and the scenes between them are extremely cute; the whole ‘I don’t really know you yet, but you are nice and I like you’ thing was written so well, because it didn’t feel like insta-love. Asiya likes Michael but she reminds herself throughout the book that she doesn’t knwo him that well and that she doesn’t know if she can trust him, which was refreshing. On the other hand, Michael is a mystery and he is not enterely trustworthy; only time will tell if he is good enough for Asiya. Additionally, Asiya’s best friend, Abby, is amazing. Even if she isn’t in the book that much, her character shines and it seems she is going to be a lot more present in the next book. Asiya and Abby’s relationship is definitely a great representation of a healthy female friendship.

Finally, this books manages to be funny and insightful at the same time; the writting is incredibly strong, the pace is even throughout the book and the mystery is not predictable. Likewise, the main character has a unique voice and the other characters feel real and flesh out.

Rating: 4,2 stars

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Review

Book Review: My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

my-brilliant-friend

Title: My Brilliant Friend (The Neapolitan Novels #1)

Author: Elena Ferrante

Published by: Europa Editions

Publishing Date: September 25th 2012

Genre: Historical Fiction, Adult, Italian Literature

Pages: 331

A modern masterpiece from one of Italy’s most acclaimed authors, My Brilliant Friend is a rich, intense, and generous-hearted story about two friends, Elena and Lila. Ferrante’s inimitable style lends itself perfectly to a meticulous portrait of these two women that is also the story of a nation and a touching meditation on the nature of friendship.

The story begins in the 1950s, in a poor but vibrant neighborhood on the outskirts of Naples. Growing up on these tough streets the two girls learn to rely on each other ahead of anyone or anything else. As they grow, as their paths repeatedly diverge and converge, Elena and Lila remain best friends whose respective destinies are reflected and refracted in the other. They are likewise the embodiments of a nation undergoing momentous change. Through the lives of these two women, Ferrante tells the story of a neighborhood, a city, and a country as it is transformed in ways that, in turn, also transform the relationship between her protagonists, the unforgettable Elena and Lila.

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My Briallian Friend is a quite and personal book, it focuses almost entirely in these two girls, Elena and Lila, that are incredible dislikeable at times and really complex characters throughout the entire book. This is their story, from early childhood until their teenage years, and it doesn’t have much more plot than that, which can make the story slow at times. Nonetheless, reading about this two very different girls and the complicated friendship they have is never boring because the story is impeccably written with delicacy and intelligence and that makes the expirience of reading it delightful.

There are two topics that are especially interesting throughout the book: the first one is the relationship between poverty, education and violence and the second one is this exploration of living with the enemy in your neighborhood. My  Brilliant Friend does a very good job of showing the cycle of poverty: the way doors close for people without economic resourses; how even a brilliant girl sees her education interrumpted because of material circunstances; how gender plays a huge role in who gets to do what; what education can mean to the life of a person; how it can pull him or her out of that cycle of poverty; and ultimately, how violence becomes interwined in the life of people in conditions of extreme poverty and little education.

You could say this is a book plaged with tension and one of the main reasons is that it portraits the time after WWII, when people that were in opposite sides during the war had to live together. The book shows how the girls -even when they don’t really understand what is happening- pick up on the tension that is suffocating their neighboorhood. Most people relate wars with a larger scale, countries fighting each other or different sides fighting in a civil war, and even when thinking about the people involve in war it’s about what they go through during the war and not so much what happens after. In that sense, it is really interesting to read about war enemies in such a small scale, the setting is a poor neighborhood in Napoles, and realizing that when everything is said and done this people that supported different sides still have to live together and the fact that the war is over doesn’t mean they stop beliving in whatever they believed in or stop hating whoever they hated before, but they are forced to cohabitate and poverty plays an important role in that.

Finally, My Brilliant Friend tells the story of two complex girls, that have a complicated friendship and  live surrounded with violence and old tensions, while making a poignant commentary on the relationship between poverty and education.

Rating: 4 stars

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Review

Book Review: Delicious Temptation by Sabrina Sol

delicious-tentation

Title: Delicious Temptation

Author: Sabrina Sol

Published by: Entangled Publishing, LLC

Publishing Date: May 16th 2015

Genre: New Adult, Romance, #ownvoices

Pages: 236

Amara Maria Robles is a good girl. So good that she gave up her dreams of becoming a renowned pastry chef to help her parents with their struggling Mexican bakery. Yet her parents reject any changes she suggests, and refuse to sell her mouth-watering confections. Clearly being a good girl isn’t paying off. So when her brother’s sexy ex-best friend walks into the bakery, Amara’s tempted to be very bad indeed…

After a scandal twelve years ago, resident bad boy Eric Valencia has returned to make things right with his family and friends. One glance at Amara and her wicked curves, however, and Eric finds himself thinking about how she’d feel beneath him—something he promised Amara’s brother he would never think about, let alone do.

But this bad boy is in deep trouble…because Amara’s determined to have her cake, and Eric, too.

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Delicious Temptation is an okay book, it has its steamy moments and it talks about delicious Latin American desserts, but the writing isn’t that strong  and because of that the plot lacks originality and it’s easy to predict and the characters end up being two dimensional and very formulaic. Amara is the ‘typical’ good girl, a bit naive, she lets her parents make decisions for her even when she’s 26 years old, she is bit inexperienced when it comes to sex and she wants to be ‘bad’ for a little while. That’s the reason she ends up with the male protagonist, which again is the ‘typical’ bad boy. He doesn’t have much of a personality, he is a really jealous guy but at the same time he can be caring and supportive.

One of the things that makes this book interesting is the fact that it’s a new adult book where the main characters are Latinxs, which isn’t that common. Nonetheless, those characters are written in a way that follows a mold used by a lot of the new adult novels out there and the Latino heritage gets a bit lost because of that. Other that the traditional food and random Spanish phrases, it was hard to tell it had Latinx main characters, which it’s a shame, but it’s more a mistake in the writing than in the representation of latinxs itself.

In term of representation, it’s worth noting that the best part of the book is the Latin American food and desserts, which are portrait in such an authentic and accurate way that while reading you can perfectly imagine how good they would taste. This part of the book is the only one that feels unique, it’s the redeeming aspect, and it’s what leaves the reader with the sensation that there was potential in the story and that there may be something to look forward in the other books in this series.

Finally, Delicious Temptation is a story that, while predictable and full of unoriginal characters, shows the potential of the author to show Latino culture in an honest and accurate way.

Rating: 3 stars

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