REVIEW: Capturing the Devil, Kerri Maniscalco (September 10, 2019)

“Come forth and enter if you dare. Come and live freely. Welcome to Chicago.”

The 411: Audrey Rose and Thomas Cresswell have made it to America and their first stop is the Chicago World Fair. But trouble cannot just leave them alone. A string of gruesome murders and disappearances leads Audrey Rose, Thomas and Uncle to jump on the case. And as they run into old friends along the way, Audrey Rose realizes that she might be closer to discovering the killer’s identity than she thought.

Thank you JIMMY PATTERSON presents for sending me a beautiful finished copy and swag 🙂


So, some background just in case you didn’t know – CAPTURING THE DEVIL is the fourth and final book in Maniscalco’s STALKING JACK THE RIPPER series. The series began with (you guessed it) STALKING JACK THE RIPPER (2016), HUNTING PRINCE DRACULA (2017) and ESCAPING FROM HOUDINI (2018). The premise begins with our heroine, Audrey Rose Wadsworth, who defies the expectations of her wealthy upbringing and choses to spend her time with her Uncle, who works with forensic and mortuary science. But when they begin seeing in influx of corpses, they begin to fear that there is a serial killer in their midst. Audrey Rose’s adventures with Uncle and everyone’s book boyfriend, Thomas Cresswell, take them across Europe and even overseas. All four books are historical, gothic YA fiction novels from JIMMY PATTERSON presents.

Now unlike many, STALKING JACK THE RIPPER didn’t knock me off my feet. The story was interesting enough and I loved Audrey Rose and Thomas, but I wasn’t completely sold on continuing with the series. But I am sooooo glad that I decided to read HUNTING PRINCE DRACULA and then the rest of the series. I liked each book incrementally more and CAPTURING THE DEVIL was my absolute favorite of the four.

ENTERING SPOILER TERRITORY

The only thing that felt slightly contrived was the conflict between Thomas and Audrey Rose. Would it have changed the story if they successfully got married at the beginning of the book? No. Just cut down on some drama and sexual tension. But it just seemed (to me) like an unnecessary plot point. However, I did enjoy the #GIRLPOWER moment when Audrey Rose refused to be the “other woman” in this scenario and passed up the opportunity to still be with Thomas if he was forced to marry his betrothed.


MY RATING: ✰✰✰✰

MOVIE + BOOK REVIEW: To All the Boys I Loved Before, Jenny Han

It’s been a while, friends. Work is busier than ever and my free time is now mostly spent catching up on my z’s and conquering my towering stacks of unread books. But last Friday (after a 12 hr workday), I knew I had to do something else before I turned in for the night: watch the TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE movie on Netflix.

And it was so perfect, I really have no complaints at all.

I’m super late to the party and only read the trilogy within the past year—but I loved it immediately. An Asian protagonist, love triangles galore, healthy family dynamics…what is there not to love?

A little 411 for those out of the loop: TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE centers on Lara Jean Covey, a teen who writes secret love letters to her crushes but doesn’t send them. Until they mysteriously get sent. Among the recipients include the boy-next-door, Josh, who also happens to be her sister’s boyfriend and Peter Kavinsky, the most popular guy in school.

Ok. So I am a complete sucker for the “childhood friends to lovers” trope. I will read and watch  everything and anything that includes this plot line. When it comes to love triangles, I rarely side with the wildcard or bad boy/girl. I am almost always exclusively on Team Good Girl/Guy or Team Best Friend. (See my love for Dawson Leery and Jem Carstairs) And I will admit to starting this series completely on Team Josh. Even midway through the first book I was still firmly Team Josh. But then something wonderfully unexpected happened to make me switch sides. And that wonderful thing is Peter Kavinsky.

Oh Peter. Peter K. P. Kavinsky. You perfect human being.

I love me some angst and heartache so book two and three both made me cry. And Netflix, if you don’t pick up the rest of the series, I will storm your headquarters…or write some very impassioned tweets. Ok, maybe I’ll just shake my fists.

<—— LOOK AT THOSE CUTIES. I NEED THEIR ENTIRE LOVE STORY, PLEASE.

Minor spoilers below for the movie 🙂

But this film? Five sugary sweet stars. Lana Condor. Your career better blow up after this. She is the absolute perfect Lara Jean and was so damn endearing the entire film. In fact, all of the casting in this movie was SPOT. ON. I loved Kitty. I loved Margot. I loved that John Corbett was the dad. And, of course, Noah Centineo as Peter K made my entire year.

As is typical of most book to movie adaptations, it doesn’t precisely follow the narrative but does a pretty damn good job. The most striking difference to me, was the almost complete elimination of love triangle element—but it didn’t bother me a bit. And I LOVE love triangles.

I’m going to jump on the bandwagon with all the Asian Americans who are teary over the representation. One of my favorite new authors, Akemi Dawn Bowman, said this on Twitter recently about POC’s in lit: “They deserve a chance to learn, ON THE PAGE, that they are worthy of being the love interest. That being a person of color does not make them less desirable or beautiful or WHOLE than the people who get to be love interests over and over and over again.” And I felt this down to my core.

Jenny Han, thank you for not letting production companies whitewash Lara Jean and the Song sisters. Thank you for showing the industry that a young, Asian woman can be the focus of a successful film. Seeing this movie as a teenager would’ve meant the world to me—and it still means a lot at 28. Along with the recent release of CRAZY RICH ASIANS, I hope this trend only continues an upward trend.

If you haven’t read these books, they are super quick, adorable reads that will warm your heart. If you have access to Netflix, start streaming/downloading now. I’ve watched the movie three times now and my heart is so full.

REVIEW: The War Outside, Monica Hesse (September 25, 2018)

One of my bookish goals for 2018 was to read more historical fiction—a genre I typically do not pick up. And while 12 of my 272 books read have been historical fiction, I’ve generally been in a state of meh about them. When I read the premise for THE WAR OUTSIDE, I was about 75 percent sure I would enjoy it. I did not think it would knock me off my feet with its lyrical brilliance, vivid storyline, and heart wrenching ending.

Let’s just say, if all historical fiction was like this book, it’d be my most-read genre.


The 411: Welcome to Crystal City, Texas, where supposed “enemies” of the U.S. government are kept in an isolated commune. This particular internment camp houses both German and Japanese families—the only one of its kind. And our two protagonists come from both sides:

For 17-year-old Haruko, arrival in Crystal City is the chance to reunite her mother and sister with her father, who was placed there after being accused suspicious activity at work. German-American Margot and her family originally settled in Iowa (holla!) but were sent to Texas after her father attends a meeting for the American Nazi party, seemingly under completely innocent motives. These two would have no reason to interact, let alone get along. Despite the immense odds and the war outside, Margot and Haruko form an inseparable bond that changes the course of their lives.


The setting is World War II, but this story felt entirely too real. You can’t help but make connections with today’s current political climate. I apologize if this feels too partisan, but there a few things that really stuck out to me:

(Note, these quotations come from an uncorrected proof and may be changed for publication.)

In regards to immigration, this quote in particular broke my heart:

“We decided we would come here and we would learn how many original colonies there were, and who wrote the Declaration of Independence. And for what? So they could decide we would never be American enough for them, and put us in here?”

After the 2016 election, John Oliver begged on his show, Last Week Tonight, to keep reminding ourselves that “this is not normal.” Because for those of us who are not currently or have the potential to be affected by this administration, it would be very easy to stop caring. If you haven’t watched that episode, it’s brilliant and I highly recommend, and this quote from Ken, Haruko’s brother, made me think of his words immediately,

“I don’t want you to ever forget where you are. You are a prisoner here. I don’t care if you have a new friend, or if there’s a school newspaper, of if there are books in the library, or if there are community picnics. Or if there’s a football team everyone comes out to cheer for. At the end of the day you’re a prisoner in the only way that matters. If our family wanted to leave they wouldn’t let you.”

Now let’s get to the friendship between Haruko and Margot: it’s beautiful. Their friendship is deep, transcends cultural barriers, and does not define their relationship along platonic or romantic lines. I know that this kind of storytelling is infuriating for some, but I always enjoy it when a writer lets a bond speak for itself without definition. My personal interpretation is that their relationship had romantic undertones in the small (and big) ways they defended each other, talked about the other, and in those rare little confessions of how they were feeling.

I wish I could speak about the ending because it also made my poor little heart burst. It didn’t so much as make my jaw drop, but restore some of my faith in the human race. I’m very picky with my five star ratings and just can’t do it for this one but it’s so dang close. Literally like a 4.95.


MY RATING:  ✰✰✰✰.95
RECOMMENDED READING: The Bear & the Nightingale, The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden


Thank you to The Novl/LBYR for my galley, which I received as part of the Novl Book Squad in exchange for an honest review. THE WAR OUTSIDE is available September 25, 2018.

REVIEW: Jar of Hearts, Jennifer Hillier (June 12, 2018)

Ok. Okokokokokokokokok this book is brilliant. And if you’ve followed me for any period of time, you know that’s not a word I use often.

JAR OF HEARTS by Jennifer Hillier is twisty and dark and sick and So. Freaking. Good.


Georgina aka Geo has been haunted ever since her high school best friend, Angela, vanished without a trace. And she’s about to drop a bomb on her former friends and sleepy little town: Geo helped her then-boyfriend, Calvin James, dispose of Angela’s body after he seemingly killed her. This admission connects Angela to a series of three other murders Calvin is convicted of performing.

We meet Geo again as she is released from jail and attempts to return to regular life. She reconnects with Kaiser Brody, the third point of the Geo-Angela-Kaiser friendship triangle, who is now a cop. But once Calvin escapes prison and more grisly murders start happening, all eyes are on Geo and her connection to Calvin.


JAR OF HEARTS is one of the best serial killer/crime thrillers I’ve read. Each chapter leaves justthe right amount of cliffhanger that you feel the need to continue. The writing is also intensely graphic in terms of description of unsavory things, but I’m weird and desensitized and ate it right up. And no, the jar of hearts is not a literal jar of hearts. But don’t be fooled, this book is brutal. Beautiful, but brutal.  If you are the least bit squeamish, I wouldn’t pick up this book.  See below for more content warnings.

I know this is me saying this, but the twist truly comes out of left-field—and it works. It all works. The ending is so satisfying and I closed this book incredibly happy. I am not surprised at all that it’s already been optioned for film. The story is going to translate incredibly well and I guarantee it’ll have Gone Girl / Girl on the Train-hype.

Now excuse me as I go reserve all of Ms. Hillier’s books at the library.


MY RATING:  ✰✰✰✰1/2
I ALSO SUGGEST:
 Final Girls by Riley Sager
**CONTENT WARNING: gratuitous descriptions of murder/crime scenes (including children), rape/attempted rape, domestic violence


Thank you Minotaur Books for my galley! Jar of Hearts is available June 12.

MINI REVIEWS: June 6, 2018 Book Releases

Excuse this mess of a roundup post, but a gazillion amazing books were released today and there just wasn’t enough time to give each their own post 🙁 Regardless, these are all wonderful books and deserve a place on your TBR. Thank me later.


The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

Stella uses math and statistics daily for economic analysis. When her parents bug her about finding a husband, she starts the only way she knows how: research and lots of practice. So, (duh!) Stella hires a male escort to teach her the ways. Stella, our main protagonist has Asperger’s and Michael is Vietnamese/Swedish.

I have been frequently rereading passages because this book made me so giddy with happiness. I’m always looking for #ownvoices books that have neurodiverse characters. THE KISS QUOTIENT is more graphic than most romances I read but I didn’t even care because I loved these characters so much.

MY RATING:  ✰✰✰✰✰ (one of my fave reads from 2018 so far!)

Thank you Berkley Romance for my e-galley!


Smoke in the Sun by Renee Ahdieh

If, like me, you were completely captivated by Ahdieh’s Mulan-esque retelling A FLAME IN THE MIST, the sequel is here and it’s just as incredible. First, can we talk about the gorgeous cover redesign?! I loved the original cover, but it makes me enormously happy to see an Asian girl on the cover. Picking up where the first book left off, Mariko is on a mission to rescue Okami after he is kidnapped. She returns to her betrothed, Raiden, and is forced to lie about her time with the Black Clan. It’s sooooo good, peeps. You need this book (and series) in your life.

MY RATING:  ✰✰✰✰

Thank you to a fellow blogger who kindly sent me their ARC


Sweet Black Waves by Kristina Perez

This book is a retelling of Tristan and Iseult, which full disclosure, the only knowledge I have is the horrible James Franco film. Our heroine, Branwen, is the cousin and lady-in-waiting to the Princess. She possesses healing magic that has (so far) been dormant. But when she unknowingly saves the life of a mortal enemy, her powers begin to manifest. Add in some forbidden romance, some backstabbing, and an ending that I am SO mad about because I need the sequel NOW, SWEET BLACK WAVES is such a great debut.

MY RATING:  ✰✰✰✰

Thank you to HarperCollins for my galley!


The Bird and the Blade by Megan Bannen

Ok, talk about forbidden love. THE BIRD AND THE BLADE is an enthralling story about the sons of Genghis Khan and a retelling of the opera, TURANDOT. Set in the Mongol Empire, Jinghua finds herself in the company of Prince Khalaf and his father as they journey away from their enemies. Khalaf is set to marry Turandokht and unite the warring empires, if and only if, he correctly answers three riddles. Or else he loses his head. Oh, and during this trek across the Mongol Empire, Jinghua falls in love with Khalaf. The prose is absolutely beautiful. I cannot wait to see what else Bannen comes out with.

MY RATING:  ✰✰✰✰

Thank you to HarperCollins for my galley!


Social Creature by Tara Isabella Burton

This book is Gossip Girl cranked up to the nth degree. I can totally see why it was optioned for film already, it’s totally a cinematic book. When plain Jane Louise makes friends with the glitzy Lavinia, her life completely changes. Soon her days are all parties and booze and she’s loving it. Until she doesn’t anymore. SOCIAL CREATURE is dark and gritty and dirty and when you finish, you’re going to feel like you want to take a shower.

MY RATING:  ✰✰✰.5 

Thank you to Doubleday for my e-galley!

Middle Grade Roundup

I have read some absolutely fantastic middle grade books lately and have been horrible about posting about them. So please enjoy this roundup of middle grade books—they are already available and you can pick them up immediately!

Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake

Twelve-year-old Ivy loves to draw and most of her pictures are of two girls holding hands in a treehouse—she’s never shared her drawings with anyone. She is terrified after a tornado displaces her family and she loses her notebook of drawings. In the days following the event, she begins to find her own drawings in her locker with notes encouraging her to talk to someone about her sexual identity.

This book is BEAUTIFUL and I’m so happy a middle grade book with this topic exists.

MY RATING:  ✰✰✰✰✰


Thank you Disney Hyperion for sending me these galleys!

FRIENDLY TOWN THAT’S ALMOST ALWAYS BY THE OCEAN! by Kirk Fox, M. Shelley Coates

In this first installment to the Topsea series, we watch new kid Davy get acclimated to his new, exciting, and, well…weird school and town. His new classmates are quirky and charming and they all band together to help Davy discover the secrets of Topsea.

This book is super cute and also told in newspaper clippings and web articles. Think ILLUIMINAE-style storytelling.

MY RATING:  ✰✰✰


CHARLIE & FROG by Karen Kane

Charlie is sent to live with his grandparents for the summer, where he encounters a old woman who gives him a frantic message in sign language before disappearing. Charlie teams up with Francine aka Frog, a local deaf girl, who wants nothing more than to become a real detective.

Yay for disability rep in middle grade books! Also yay for positive friendships!

MY RATING:  ✰✰✰1/2


CAPTAIN SUPERLATIVE by J.S. Puller

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s Captain Superlative! Janey is as mesmerized as her classmates when a self-proclaimed superhero shows up at her middle school in a cape. When she reluctantly befriends the avenger, she learns secrets behind the mask and starts to question what it means to be a superhero.

I loved this—such a powerful message about friendship and how we look at our heroes.

MY RATING:  ✰✰✰✰


Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi

Twelve-year-old Aru Shah is known as a bit of a fibber amongst her classmates. She often will make up grandiose stories to fit in with her classmates. When three classmates show up at the Museum of Ancient Indian Art to catch her in a lie, Aru accidentally lets loose an ancient demon, the Sleeper, who is on a mission to wake the God of Destruction. To stop this from happening, Aru must find the reincarnations of the five Pandava brothers and save the world.

As per usz, Chokshi has the most beautiful writing and I cannot wait to read the three remaining books in this series.

MY RATING:  ✰✰✰✰

Thank you Disney Hyperion, Rick Riordan Presents, for my e-galley!


Carnival Magic by Amy Ephron

Siblings Tess and Max return to England for the summer to stay with their Aunt Evie in the magical sounding Devon-by-the-Sea. Tess and Max manage to finagle attending a traveling carnival alone, but promise to meet Aunt Evie in a few hours. While attending the carnival psychic, Tess and Max are transported into a seemingly alternate universe, where they befriend two acrobat siblings. In order to return to life as they know it, they must find their way back through the mysterious House of Mirrors.

I hadn’t read the first book, THE CASTLE IN THE MIST, but still enjoyed this a lot. Such a cute MG fantasy story.

MY RATING:  ✰✰✰

Thank you Philomel books for my galley!