Monthly Wrap-Ups

November Wrap-Up

Happy December, Everyone! Time is flying by and now it is full speed ahead into Christmas. November was such a great reading month for me. I managed to read 4 books total, but I didn’t have a lot of time to write up individual reviews throughout the month. So, I thought I would do a monthly wrap-up with 4 mini-reviews. So here goes:

Roomies by Christina Lauren ✰✰✰✰

I was in the mood for something lighthearted and fun over the Thanksgiving weekend and Roomies was a perfect choice. It definitely indulged my weepy romantic side, but it was also really well written. The characterization of both Holland and Calvin was so unique and really gave a sense of the whole person, not just who they were in terms of the relationship and the plot. I loved that the authors included all of their embarrassing moments – including Holland’s obsession with her “hot subway busker,” and Calvin’s marriage lies to his family back home in Ireland. These were all very real and relatable moments. My only complaint here was that I never really questioned either character’s motives in the same way they questioned each other. So it was a little frustrating at times to watch the two of them essentially make up things to be upset about. But overall, this was a perfect feel-good romantic comedy with really adorable characters.

Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren ✰✰✰✰

img_1016Ok, full disclosure, I read Roomies so fast that I needed another feelgood romance to finish out the long Thanksgiving weekend. Since I loved Roomies so much, I picked up Josh and Hazel. This was a really cute “friends to lovers” troupe with a fun twist. Ok, Hazel herself is really the twist. She was so unlike any female lead character I’ve read. She is unapologetically over-the-top, loud, blunt, free, and absolutely amazing! I loved that even though she’d been told time and time again that she was “too weird” or “too crazy” she never changed. She never altered herself in any way or attempted to please anyone but herself. For that, I give Christina Lauren a big high five. Hazel’s personality contrasted so well with Josh’s uptight demeanor and they made such a funny pair of opposites. I also really loved the Portland vibes. Having lived there for two years, I can definitely see someone like Hazel being happy and thriving in this amazing city. Thanks for keeping Portland weird Christina Lauren.

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager ✰✰✰✰

The second I read that this book took place at a creepy summer camp in upstate New York where a mysterious crime once took place, I was all in. Emma is a prominent New York artist who returns to the summer camp she attended at age 13 to confront the unsolved disappearance of her 3 cabin roommates 15 years prior. Once Emma actually arrives back at the camp, she starts to uncover cryptic clues and messages left by the girls. She has to unravel these clues in order to finally figuring out what happened to them. This novel was so fast paced and kept me guessing the entire time. It led me on a wild goose chase. Emma herself is constantly following different leads and theories, and I was following right along with her. Every time I thought I had it figured out, a new clue appeared and it was right back to square one. With about 5 pages left in the book, I thought everything was nicely wrapped up. I was completely wrong! Another crazy plot twist left me stunned. This was a perfect mystery with a crazy fun plot twist! My only complaint was that at times there was this weird time warp happening- where things happened exactly as they did in the past. Even down to what the camp served for dinner. I am not sure if all of this was intentional, but it took away from the believability at times.

The Witches of New York by Ami McKay ✰✰✰✰

After Halloween, I was really feeling the witchy vibes. Although the plot took a little while to pick-up for me, I loved the mood of this book. Witch grimoires, talking ravens, crafting spells, reading tea leaves- all of this created such an irresistible mood. The 1880s (Gilded Age) New York was the perfect setting for this story- gas lamps, horse-drawn carriages, bowler hats, parasols, plus the growing urbanization of the city. Adelaide, Beatrice, and Eleanor, our witches, are powerful women, but still, have to hide their talents for fear of persecution. With the start of Women’s Suffrage at this time, their little tea shop becomes a safe haven for all women seeking change. The overall message of the story was a really powerful one about what women can accomplish when they come together.

So that is my November Wrap-Up! Here’s to some more cozy holiday reads in December! Happy reading! 

-Erin

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Reviews

Review: Escaping From Houdini ~ by Kerri Maniscalco

Review: Escaping From Houdini (Stalking Jack the Ripper #3) ~ by Kerri Maniscalco

416 pages ~ Young Adult, Historical Fiction

2018~ Jimmy Patterson

My Rating: 4/5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Goodreads Description: 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?

My Thoughts:

Both Stalking Jack the Ripper and Hunting Prince Dracula are two of my favorite YA historical fiction novels. Kerri Maniscalco does an amazing job of capturing the Victorian aesthetic. All her books have a very “vintage detective” feel (for lack of a better word)- kind of Agatha Christie meets Nancy Drew. It was so much fun being back with my favorite sleuthing Victorian lovebirds. Everything we love about them is still there, but we also get to see them grow as individuals too. This crime was as unpredictable and fascinating as the other two books, and I loved following along with all of the clues- though they didn’t do me much good in figuring out the murderer. It was a great ride from start to finish.

Below were some highlights for me:

  • The whole set up of the Moonlight Carnival was amazing! The performers all had interesting backstories that connected so well with their talents. Their talents were also so unique to Victorian carnivals. They were all mysterious, and a little creepy, but they all still felt really likable to me. Methosopholes was the perfect mysterious, master of ceremony.
  • Like the other two books in the series, this book was full of lovely, rich description- every detail of the ship was covered in detail, the clothing that every character and performer wore, even the food that was served was described in detail.
  • The connection between the tarot cards/playing cards and the murders was next level creepy. I loved getting these clues at each new murder.
  • The murder was completely unpredictable- maybe this is a result of my poor sleuthing skills, but I had absolutely no idea who the killer was. I would like to go back and read some key moments to see if there were any clues that I might have missed.
  • The humor and banter between Thomas and Audrey Rose continued to elicit laughs and smiles from me. Though I would have liked more of it, their relationship/partnership continues to be my favorite part of the series.

Spoiler below:

-The only aspect that I didn’t love was the love triangle. I really appreciate what Maniscalco was doing by adding in another potential love interest for Audrey Rose, and I think it worked in some ways. It was nice to see that Audrey Rose would never settle and that she would continue to question what it is she really wants. I liked that she considered another life and another option for herself. I also liked that Thomas never tried to force Audrey Rose or demand that she choose. He was willing to set her free and support her no matter what she decided. My only issue with the love triangle was that I felt like her interest in Mephistopheles was half-hearted. It was so obvious to me that she was never going to pick him over Thomas, so the whole angst of it all just felt unnecessary and a little forced.

-I actually really like Mephistopheles and I would have liked him more if he had been working with Thomas and Audrey Rose to solve the murders, rather then just trying to seduce Audrey Rose and get her to agree to bargains that were so obviously ploys to get her alone.

-Also, so many of the romantic/flittery moments between Audrey Rose and Mephistopheles felt so similar to some moments between her and Thomas. So it was a little awkward to read.

Overall, this series will forever be one of my favorites. The Victorian world that Maniscalco has created is perfect- I love the aesthetic and feel of each destination. From the Gothic streets of London to Bran Castle, and now to a deadly floating carnival. Thomas and Audrey Rose are so endearing and I love how they work as a team. Both Audrey Rose and Thomas don’t subscribe to typical Victorian beliefs and I love that about them. I have heard the criticism that this makes them unrealistic characters, but I find it really refreshing. It is great to read about a strong confident Victorian girl who refuses to accept society’s role for her. And a Victorian boy who sees the girl he loves as an equal and a partner. I’m so excited that there is another book coming! Hopefully next year. I Can’t wait for another adventure with these two.

As always, I would love to hear from you! Happy reading, everyone!  

For more information on Kerri Maniscalco and her books, check her out on Goodreads

Follow me on Instagram @somewhereinpages & Goodreads @erinrossi

Reviews

Review: Clockwork Princess ~ by Cassandra Clare

Review: Clockwork Princess (The Infernal Devices Series book 3)~ by Cassandra Clare

567 pages ~ Young Adult Fantasy

2013~ Simon & Schuster Teen

My Rating: 5/5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Goodreads Description:

A net of shadows begins to tighten around the Shadowhunters of the London Institute. Mortmain plans to use his Infernal Devices, an army of pitiless automatons, to destroy the Shadowhunters. He needs only one last item to complete his plan: he needs Tessa Gray.

Charlotte Branwell, head of the London Institute, is desperate to find Mortmain before he strikes. But when Mortmain abducts Tessa, the boys who lay equal claim to her heart, Jem and Will, will do anything to save her. For though Tessa and Jem are now engaged, Will is as much in love with her as ever.

As those who love Tessa rally to rescue her from Mortmain’s clutches, Tessa realizes that the only person who can save her is herself. But can a single girl, even one who can command the power of angels, face down an entire army?

Danger and betrayal, secrets and enchantment, and the tangled threads of love and loss intertwine as the Shadowhunters are pushed to the very brink of destruction in the breathtaking conclusion to the Infernal Devices trilogy.

“Sometimes when you cannot decide what to do, you pretend you are a character in a book, because it is easier to decide what they would do”

My Thoughts:

Ok, now that I have finally finished the whole series, I can reflect back on how I felt going into it. I was honestly not expecting to love it this much. I had watched a few episodes of the Shadowhunter series on Freeform with my daughter and I honestly thought it looked super cheesy. However, I was complete attracted to the Victorian aesthetic and so many people had recommended it. So, I thought at the most it would be a fun fantasy. It was fun, there is tons of action, humor, and romance, but I did not expect to be so moved by these characters and to fall so in love with Cassandra Clare’s writing. She has not only managed to craft a beautiful love story between these characters, but she has thoroughly paid homage to the Victorian era and its literature. Below were some high points for me:

  • My favorite thing about the final book in the series was way that Clare was able to clearly express the bond between Will, Jem, and Tessa, and the love they have for each other.

“They say you cannot love two people equally at once,” she said. “And perhaps for others that is so. But you and Will—you are not like two ordinary people, two people who might have been jealous of each other, or who would have imagined my love for one of them diminished by my love of the other. You merged your souls when you were both children. I could not have loved Will so much if I had not loved you as well. And I could not love you as I do if I had not loved Will as I did.”

  • Clare is also so good with plot! Sometimes with fantasy the epicness of the plot can overshadow what is going on with the characters. Here, the dangers which the characters were up against (Mormain, the automatons, ect), mirrored their own internal struggles, questions, and shortcomings. Everything just melded together so well.
  • I know I mentioned this in my Clockwork Angel review, but I just love the way Clare was able to make the novels feel so Victorian. This consistently kept me immersed in that era as I read.
  • The parabatai connection between Will and Jem was so beautiful described in this book- the rune, the knife, glimpses of the ritual- I loved this element of their bond and the way Clare made it feel so scared and otherworldly.
  • There are so many great minor characters here:

Magnus Bane – his need to protect Will and his desire to find true love despite his impossibly long and tedious existence

Woolsey Scott – the aesthete-werewolf – his snarky loathing of everything

Henry – his inability to make anything that works, but still be completely charming

Sophie- who is finally able to fight for herself and what she wants 

  • Lastly- I loved that the final message of the book was connected to human goodness and redemption. That although we are such flawed creatures, there is always the potential for goodness.

“There was human goodness in the world, she thought- all caught up with desires and dreams, regrets and bitterness, resentments and power, but it was there.”

There was so much tragic beauty in these novels and I won’t soon forget these characters.  Ok, I’m obviously complete trash for these books and should probably end my rant now.

For more information on Cassandra Clare and her books, check her out on Goodreads

Follow me on Instagram @somewhereinpages & Goodreads @erinrossi

Reviews

Review: Clockwork Prince ~ by Cassandra Clare

Review: Clockwork Prince (The Infernal Devices Series book 2)~ by Cassandra Clare

498 pages ~ Young Adult Fantasy

2015~ Simon & Schuster Teen

My Rating: 5/5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Goodreads Description:

In a time when Shadowhunters are barely winning the fight against the forces of darkness, one battle will change the course of history forever. Welcome to the Infernal Devices trilogy, a stunning and dangerous prequel to the New York Times bestselling Mortal Instruments series.

The year is 1878. Tessa Gray descends into London’s dark supernatural underworld in search of her missing brother. She soon discovers that her only allies are the demon-slaying Shadowhunters—including Will and Jem, the mysterious boys she is attracted to. Soon they find themselves up against the Pandemonium Club, a secret organization of vampires, demons, warlocks, and humans. Equipped with a magical army of unstoppable clockwork creatures, the Club is out to rule the British Empire, and only Tessa and her allies can stop them.

The human heart has hidden treasures,

In secret kept, in silence sealed;

The Thoughts, the hopes, the dreams, the pleasures,

Whose charms were broken if revealed

Charlotte Bronte, “Evening Solace”

My Thoughts: I loved so much about Book 1- The use of Victorian Literature and Poetry, the descriptions of Victorian London, the humor, the inclusion of the Occult, and characters….ahhhh! So much to love! And Book 2 was even better. This book had a much faster pace, the plot held my interest even more than book 1, and although I do not normally like love triangles, this one was so beautifully done that it made this book my favorite in the series so far.

Below were some of my favorite scenes and elements from Book 2:

  • The opening scene of Will in the Cross Bones Graveyard buying ingredients from Ol’ Molly – the ghost who is hunting for her lost wedding ring. This scene was so creepy and gothic!
  • Tessa and Jem visiting the Poet’s corner in Westminster Abbey- this was a special nod to book worms everywhere
  • The Irish Cook, Bridget, who only sings sad Irish ballads all day- this was such a funny addition to normal, trivial parts of the plot and was something that all the characters bonded over
  • I loved how the Shadowhunter world expanded in this book – we get to see the workings of the Clave, the other Institutes, the Silent Brothers, the Mortal Sword, information on Parabatai, and the backstory of other well-known Shadowhunter families like The Herondales.
  • The backstory on Mortmain plus Tessa’s sympathy for him – this added an interesting layer to the “villain” role that Mortmain inhabits especially because he wasn’t actually in this book
  • Victorian outlook on women’s issues was more of a focus in this book. We see Charlotte fighting to keep her position as head of the London Institute against Lightwood, who claims: “women cannot run an Institute; women do not think with logic and discretion but with the emotions of the heart.” We also see Tessa’s own views about women’s sexuality and her belief that women are supposed to be more restrained and sexually chased than men. It was great to see women in this time period challenge these stereotypes and realize their own desires, authority, and power.
  • One of my absolute favorite characters was Woolsey Scott- I loved that he represented the “aesthetes” of Victorian London, he reminded me of Oscar Wilde with his “velvet jacket, knee breeches, and a trailing scarf with paisley print,” and his wit, and humor. He even lives in Chelsea, the artistic, literary area of Victorian London.
  • We also get to see Tessa and Sophie train to fight as Shadowhunters- I loved this element because it showed both girls becoming stronger, more determined, more self aware, and more confident. Tessa especially grows into her role as “Boadicea” in book 2.
  • There is so many different types of love in this book. We have the brotherhood between Jem and Will- these two are two of the best male characters and their devotion to each other was so so lovely; we have restrained, reserved love between Charlotte and Henry; the sweet, protective love between Jem and Tessa; the all consuming, burning-up type of love between Will and Tessa – I thought it was so great to see all of these different types of love represented in a time period that frowned on anything other than “traditional” love.
  • I found Tessa’s love for both Will and Jem to be so authentic and sweet. Her love for each boy was so different, but both felt very real to me. In turn, each boy loves her in such a different way.

“She could not stop herself from comparing the two- Jem with his odd combination of delicacy and strength, and Will like a storm at sea, slate blue and black with brilliant flashes of temper like heat lightning.”

  • I was so nervous going into Book 2 for the love triangle that I felt sure was coming, but Clare really did an amazing job of making this part of the plot feel genuine- it was heartbreaking, but at the end of the book I understood why each character felt the way they did and why they made the choices they did.

I will definitely be moving to my list of favorite YA Fantasy Series, EVER!  As always, I would love to hear from you! Happy reading, everyone!  

Read my review of book 1 of this series, Clockwork Angel – HERE 

For more information on Cassandra Clare and her books, check her out on Goodreads

Follow me on Instagram @somewhereinpages & Goodreads @erinrossi

Reviews

Review: Clockwork Angel ~ by Cassandra Clare

Review: Clockwork Angel (The Infernal Devices Series book 1)~ by Cassandra Clare

476 pages ~ Young Adult Fantasy

2015~ Simon & Schuster Teen

My Rating: 4.5/5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

Goodreads Description:The year is 1878. Tessa Gray descends into London’s dark supernatural underworld in search of her missing brother. She soon discovers that her only allies are the demon-slaying Shadowhunters—including Will and Jem, the mysterious boys she is attracted to. Soon they find themselves up against the Pandemonium Club, a secret organization of vampires, demons, warlocks, and humans. Equipped with a magical army of unstoppable clockwork creatures, the Club is out to rule the British Empire, and only Tessa and her allies can stop them.

My Thoughts:

As a fan of YA Fantasy I have wanted to read Cassandra Clare’s work for a while now. Although I have heard tons of recommendations on the order in which her books should be read, I decided to go with my gut and start with The Infernal Devices series. I started with this series because I adore the Victorian Era – its literature, ideology, and aesthetic. I just find it fascinating. Knowing that Clare was going to mix up this era with magic, demons, and angel warriors? I was completely on board. I didn’t know what to expect with Clare’s writing, but I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. I loved her use of metaphor, and her gorgeous descriptions of London. She really did justice to the Victorian era in every possible way!

Below were some high points and low points for me:

High Points

  • Connection to Victorian Literature and Poetry- I loved the way that Clare wove Victorian Literature in to the narrative. Every chapter starts with a sample of poetry from this era and they all tied so beautifully to the narrative. Also, since Tessa is a bookworm, so much of the way she sees the world in connected to the books of this era and it was really cool to see how all of these great works of literature colored her outlook on life. The connection to the literature was also double sided because it was used to show a connection between Tessa and Will, and it also works as a connection between the reader and the writer. Overall- this was just brilliantly done!

“Are there any bleak moors in it, shrouded in mysterious mists? Ghostly brides wandering the halls of ruined castles? A handsome fellow rushing to the rescue of a beauteous yet penniless maiden?”

“No,” Magnus said.

“Then Tessa won’t have read it, either.”

  • Victorian aesthetic & historical accuracy -wow, this book was just so….Victorian! Everything felt so on point. From Tessa’s outlook on women and there lack of “blood lust,” Jessamine’s desire to be a “lady,” the illusion to Darwin via the clockwork creatures, Jem’s illness and “opium” addiction, people’s fascination with Jem and his “foreignness,” and the wonderful descriptions of Victorian London, and its fashion. Clare did such a great job of capturing all of this!

“He was staring out at the city, a black outline against the reddened sky. The dome of St. Paul’s shone through the mucky air, and the thames ran like dark strong tea below it, bracketed here and there with the black lines of bridges.”

  • Wit/Humor- The banter between Will, Jem, and Tessa was lovely. Their wit reminded me so much of Oscar Wilde and it seemed to fit so well with this time period.

“One must always be careful of books,” said Tessa, “and what is inside them, for words have the power to change us.”

“I’m not sure a book has ever changed me,” said Will. “Well, there is one volume that promised to teach one how to turn oneself into an entire flock of sheep-”

  • Magic and The Occult- Since the Victorians were obsessed with Spiritualism and the Occult, I thought that Clare’s decision to make Mortmain and the other members of the Pandemonium Club “mundanes” added another layer to the Victorian aesthetic of the book- seances, ouija boards, spirit cabinets, ect, but also to their desire to become more powerful via dark magic.

Low Points

  • The only thing that I didn’t love was the foreshadowing of the love triangle. It was glaringly obvious that we can expect a love triangle between Jem, Will, and Tessa. While I am not normally a fan of the love triangle, I do understand how Tessa could eventually fall in love with both Will and Jem. They are both such complex, haunted, and intriguing characters. I am a little apprehensive going forward with this love triangle, but I have a feeling that Clare will make it work.

Overall, this made my Victorian-lovin’ heart very happy! It had all the elements of a great YA Fantasy, plus, an author who clearly set out to pay homage to this era and its literature. I am starting book 2 immediately! Happy reading, everyone!  

For more information on Cassandra Clare and her books, check her out on Goodreads

Follow me on Instagram @somewhereinpages & Goodreads @erinrossi