YA Book Review: WARCROSS by Marie Lu

YA Book Review: WARCROSS by Marie LuWarcross (Warcross, #1) by Marie Lu
on September 12th 2017
Pages: 368
Goodreads
four-stars

For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.

Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.

WARCROSS is such a thrill ride! The story reads so quickly I had to reign myself in from reading it in one sitting. However, Warcross had other ideas, and soon I found myself more than 2/3rds done with the book. Capturing your attention from the very first chapter, the book immerses you into the story, just like actual virtual reality.

WARCROSS is set between New York and Tokyo in the not so distant future where virtual reality is a “normal” part of daily life. In this world, everyone is obsessed with playing WARCROSS, a virtual reality game created by Hideo. Our heroine Emika Chen is a rainbow-haired code/hacker wiz trying to make ends meet by hunting down criminals in the cyber world/Dark web.

When Emika gets hired by Hideo Tanaka, I was pleased. He clearly appreciates her brilliance, and respects her for her abilities. Hideo himself is mainly a mystery to everyone. However, he does let his guard down when he is with Emika. The romance that sparks between them seems genuine, and a bit awkward as both characters have a hard time letting down their emotional firewalls.

Marie Lu does a lovely job executing her characters and giving them so much depth. I love what a badass gamer Emika is.  Usually people dismiss girls as being legit gamers. Which is why it is important that Emika can code, hack and is pretty much a cyber genius.

I love the world that Marie Lu creates in WARCROSS. It isn’t too far-fetched or even completely impossible to think that this could be our actual “real” world one day. With how technology is progressing it might even be closer than we think. I am curious to see where the next book might take the world building.

WARCROSS does have a few plot twists thrown into the story, and though one I pretty much guessed from the start, the second I did not see coming at all. The cliffhanger at the end had me going WHAT? NO! WHY??? OMG…I need to know what happens next!!!

Between the fantastic world building and the “life” that Marie Lu puts into her characters, WARCROSS is a book that all genders can truly appreciate and enjoy reading. Needless to say, I will definitely be reading the next book in the series.

WARCROSS is a fast read, jam packed with action and a super cool virtual reality world. I highly recommend it to lovers of YA and science fiction books.

four-stars

Hunting Prince Dracula Blog Tour: Trick or Treat Costume/Cosplay Ideas

Welcome to the Hunting Prince Dracula Blog Tour! Today is my turn to showcase something fun in honor of the upcoming release of Kerri Maniscalco’s second novel Hunting Prince Dracula. After reading Kerri’s first book Stalking Jack the Ripper, I couldn’t wait for the next one. When I heard the new book in the series revolves around the myth of Dracula, I already knew I would love it.  The last time I participated in the tour for Stalking Jack the Ripper, I did a special peak into Audrey Rose’s closet (click here to check it out). Taking inspiration from that post, I am going to provide you with some ideas for potential cosplay/ trick or treat costumes for dressing up like the characters in Hunting Prince Dracula.  Make sure to out my review for Stalking Jack the Ripper and Hunting Prince Dracula.

In the book, our main characters Audrey Rose and Thomas Cresswell start off on the Orient Express on their way to Romania. Here are some ideas for what they might be wearing.

 

Audrey Rose Travel Dress:

 

 

 

Audrey Rose Cape (for staying warm on sleigh rides with Thomas):

 

Audrey Rose Castle Grounds Exploring: 

 

Thomas Cresswell:

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While at Bran Castle, Audrey Rose would probably try to wear less “frilly” attire, so here are some ideas for the perfect dresses to attend lectures and handle body parts.

 

Audrey Rose Lecture Attire:

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Thomas Cresswell/Other Male students at the Academy:

 

Daciana Cresswell (Thomas’s sister!)

 

 

Audrey Rose Christmas Ball Attire (Inspired by the Yellow dress Audrey Rose admires in the village):

 

Thomas Cresswell Christmas Ball Attire:

Victorian Gowns and costumes are elaborate works of art, but with a little imagination, revamping or heading to a good rental costume store you can accomplish pulling off these looks and many more. Here are a few “modern spins” on Audrey Rose’s Victorian fashions…

 

But if you really want to be authentic, I would recommend finding a costume store that rents more elaborate costumes, or even go on Ebay or Etsy if you can afford to buy it.

 

Make sure to check out the rest of the tour and remember that Hunting Prince Dracula goes on sale on September 19th, 2017.

 

 

Title: Hunting Prince Dracula
Author: Kerri Maniscalco
Publisher: Jimmy Patterson
Publication date: September 19, 2017
Pages: 448
Formats: Hardcover, eBook
Find it: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | IndieBound

 

 

Synopsis (from goodreads.com):

In this hotly anticipated sequel to the haunting #1 bestseller 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.

 

 ***

PRAISE FOR HUNTING PRINCE DRACULA

“There are plenty of suspects and red herrings as well as tense escalations….A scenic, twisty mystery.”

Kirkus Reviews

 “Readers of the previous mystery will be thrilled to have more of this likable duo. [A] delightful romp into an 1888 Gothic mystery with a hint of romance.”

School Library Connection

 

ABOUT KERRI MANISCALCO

Kerri Maniscalco grew up in a semi-haunted house outside NYC where her fascination with gothic settings began. In her spare time she reads everything she can get her hands on, cooks all kinds of food with her family and friends, and drinks entirely too much tea while discussing life’s finer points with her cats.

Her first novel in this series, Stalking Jack the Ripper, debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. It incorporates her love of forensic science and unsolved history.

Follow Kerri on Social media links:

Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Website | Tumblr | Pinterest

 

TOUR DATES

Week One

August 21: Paper Cuts: Hunting Prince Dracula Playlist
August 22: Literary Legionnaire: Review of Hunting Prince Dracula
August 23: Books & A Cup of Coffee: Character Mood Boards
August 24: Artic Books: Hunting Prince Dracula Playlist
August 25: 21st Century Once Upon A Times: A “Drink Your way through SJTR: Tea Edition”

Week Two

August 28: Hiver Et Café: History of Prince Dracula
August 29: Justice Reads: Review of Hunting Prince Dracula
August 30: Nicole’s Novel Reads: Travelling Etiquette and tips for Victorian Women
August 31: Sophie Reads YA: Favourite Stalking Jack the Ripper Fanart
September 1: LILbooKlovers: Top Ten Quotes from Stalking Jack the Ripper

Week Three

September 4: One Way or An Author: Hunting Prince Dracula Phone Backgrounds
September 5: A Blinding Book: Hunting Prince Dracula Aesthetic
September 6: Rants & Raves: Review & Snacks
September 7: Rattle the Stars: Hunting Prince Dracula Playlist
September 8: A Gingerly Reviews: Hunting Prince Dracula Review

Week Four

September 11: The Plot Bunny: Hunting Prince Dracula Trick or Treat Costume Ideas
September 12: Blame it on The Books: Hunting Prince Dracula Review
September 13: The Reader & the Chef : Hunting Prince Dracula’s Menu
September 14: Books, Tv, and More…Oh MY!!: Top Ten Favourite Traits of Audrey & Thomas
September 15: Unquenchable Reads : GIF, GIFS, and more GIFS

Week Five 

September 18: Rattle the Pages : A Glimpse Back in Time: Vlad The Impaler edition
September 19: Beyond the Book Reviews: Character Wears of the 21st Century
September 20: The Heart of a Book Blogger : Hunting Prince Dracula Mood Board

 

GIVEAWAY : Enter for your chance to win an

ARC of Hunting Prince Dracula

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Book Review and Blog Tour Stop: Mighty Jack and The Goblin King by Ben Hatke

by Ben Hatke
Published by First Second Genres: Fantasy, Graphic Novel, Middle Grade
five-stars

Happy Book Birthday to Mighty Jack and The Goblin King by Ben Hatke! What is a book birthday you ask? Well, hopefully there is cake involved (I always have a way of finding cake), but it’s also the magical day that a new book gets published/released for sale. Today is also my turn on the blog tour for this fantastic graphic novel. Make sure to check out all the stops on the tour (here), and to read my review below.


Title: Mighty Jack and The Goblin King

Author: Ben Hatke

Pub Date: Sept 5th, 2017

Publisher: First Second

Genre: Middle Grade – Graphic Novel – Fantasy

My Rating: 5 STARS!

Amazon | Goodreads

 

 

Synopsis:

The garden behind Jack’s house has gone wild with creatures set loose by the magic beans Jack and his kid sister Maddy planted. One particularly mean creature has kidnapped Maddy and carried her off. Now Jack and his neighbor Lilly must follow her to a world between worlds beyond the vines and stalks, where giants grind the bones of human children to feed their beast in the castle up above, and a fearsome goblin king rules down below. It’ll take more than Lilly’s bag of concoctions and tricks, and more than one hero, to rescue Maddy, reunite Jack’s family, and bring them all safely home again.

 

My Review: 

I gobbled up Mighty Jack and The Goblin King probably about as quickly as a giant would, and I am not ashamed about it. I loved every single page from start to finish. This is the second book in the Mighty Jack series written and illustrated by the talented Ben Hatke. Mr. Hatke uniquely captures the essence of the traditional Jack and the Beanstalk fairy tale, but manages to give the story an unexpected twist all his own.

 

The narration is quick and fun, simple enough for younger readers to stay focused and committed to the storyline. One of my favorite “voices” in the novels is the goblins. While reading their dialogue I read/heard their voices sounding very similar to Yoda, which to me is a plus. Honestly, this is probably my brain being weird, but I found them delightfully strange.

However, what truly makes Might Jack and the Goblin King shine is the stunning illustrations. Every single page is jam packed with action and with color. You won’t want to take your eyes off of them, and my favorite illustrations were of the goblins themselves, especially the adorable gobblets.

 (Can these gobblets be made into little stuffed animals? I totally want one..or ten.)

 

The story revolves around the three main characters Jack, Lilly and Maddy, but the main focus is on Jack and Lilly. They are on a mission to rescue Maddy from being fed to the Giants’ “beast” (some type of machine thingy). While on their journey they are separated and both must push ahead on their own. I like how the author incorporated the family dynamic into the story, and also the importance of being a good friend. Lilly is my new hero, I love her take charge attitude and how clever and brave she is. Both our heroes learn important lessons, but the story never comes off as being “preachy” at any point. It all occurs very naturally.

There is even a little bit of romance in the story, and it is so AWKWARD! However, it is also sweet and perfectly relatable for the newly turned teenage reader.

While you don’t have to read the first book in this series, I would recommend you do. Because it will give you some back story on our characters and from whom they got their “magic beans” from. Hopefully the next book will have some answers as to who he is.  As well as a whole new adventure for our trio. I can’t wait!

If you are looking for a fun and lively graphic novel filled with adventure for a middle grade reader, look no further than these awesome Mighty Jack books. It will charm even the pickiest of readers with its beautiful illustrations and interesting creatures.

Thank you to First Second for providing me with a finished copy of Mighty Jack and The Goblin King in return for my review and participation in this blog tour.

 

About the Author:

Ben Hatke is the author and illustrator of the New York Times–bestselling Zita the Spacegirl trilogy, the picture books Julia’s House for Lost Creatures and Nobody Likes a Goblin, and the graphic novels Little Robot and Mighty Jack. He lives and works in the Shenandoah Valley with his wife and their boisterous pack of daughters. benhatke.com

 

 

five-stars

Book Review: Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

Book Review: Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa BashardoustGirls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust
Published by Flatiron Books on September 5th 2017
Pages: 384
Goodreads
four-half-stars

Frozen meets The Bloody Chamber in this feminist fantasy reimagining of the Snow White fairytale

At sixteen, Mina's mother is dead, her magician father is vicious, and her silent heart has never beat with love for anyone—has never beat at all, in fact, but she’d always thought that fact normal. She never guessed that her father cut out her heart and replaced it with one of glass. When she moves to Whitespring Castle and sees its king for the first time, Mina forms a plan: win the king’s heart with her beauty, become queen, and finally know love. The only catch is that she’ll have to become a stepmother.

Fifteen-year-old Lynet looks just like her late mother, and one day she discovers why: a magician created her out of snow in the dead queen’s image, at her father’s order. But despite being the dead queen made flesh, Lynet would rather be like her fierce and regal stepmother, Mina. She gets her wish when her father makes Lynet queen of the southern territories, displacing Mina. Now Mina is starting to look at Lynet with something like hatred, and Lynet must decide what to do—and who to be—to win back the only mother she’s ever known…or else defeat her once and for all.

Entwining the stories of both Lynet and Mina in the past and present, Girls Made of Snow and Glass traces the relationship of two young women doomed to be rivals from the start. Only one can win all, while the other must lose everything—unless both can find a way to reshape themselves and their story.

My Review: 

Girls Made of Snow and Glass is an enchanting and unique take on the tale of Snow White. This character driven story mainly focuses on two young women. The first is Mina, who thanks to her magician father has a heart made of glass. Because of this, Mina is unable to love or feel for others, causing her to focus instead on obtaining power. Eventually she finally succeeds in her quest by marrying a widowed King, who has a young daughter named Lynet. Little does Mina know at the time, that her own father takes part in Lynet’s creation by making her out of snow upon the request of the king in the exact image of his dead wife. At first this is not a problem, but as Lynet grows up Mina starts to feel she could lose her power and position in court to Lynet.

Melissa Bashardoust does a brilliant job when it comes to creating and developing her characters. Mina believes that the ability to love will forever elude her. She pushes everyone away, but is desperately lonely and wanting of love. As the reader, you can’t help but feel a bit of compassion towards her, and even understanding. Though you still have concerns about her obsession with power and how calculating her mind can be.

Lynet has been living under the constant shadow of her dead mother. Even her own father is creepily obsessed with how much she looks like his departed wife. Lynet struggles to find her own identity, and takes dangerous risks to prove she isn’t a fragile delicate thing. Even so, Lynet is left wondering if she’ll ever be free of her mother’s ghost. As well as how she can be her own person without betraying Mina – the only mother she has ever known.

What I love the most about Girls Made of Snow and Glass is that the author does not follow all the core concepts of the original Snow White. This tale isn’t about an aging, bitter queen hating on the beautiful young princess.  Their relationship is complex, like most mother/daughter relationships are. In the end they do work together to help one another, which isn’t what I was expecting. However, I'm happy that the author pushed away from the usual path most retellings take, and created something completely her own.

Aside from the wonderful character development, there are also some deeper and difficult themes that this novel addresses. From perceived gender roles, the relationship of Lynet and her father, and the complex relationship of a mother and daughter. All of which I am sure will make fantastic topics for discussion at any book club, or reading group.

While the world building needed more development and various plot points were not fully explained (i.e. Why/how Mina controls the Southern territories? ), I am still very much in love with what Melissa Bashardoust created within these pages (I want more!!!). It was refreshing to read a story that had such two very different, yet strong female points of view. Though the first half is on the “slower” side, it is necessary in order to give the reader the background needed for both characters, and to further their development.

Girls Made of Snow and Glass is a beautifully delicate and inventive snow-covered retelling that perfectly merges together the traditional Snow White with something delightfully new and unexpected. I would highly recommend it to all lovers of fairy tales, magic and femine empowerment.

Thank you to the Flatiron Books for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

 

Pre-Order Incentive:

Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust goes on sale Sept 5th, 2017, click here to find out about the sparkly gift you can receive if you preorder this magical book.

four-half-stars

Sisterhood of the Traveling ARC: Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco

Welcome to the Sisterhood of the Traveling ARC, a feature started by Elizabeth from Tea and A Tantrum, Nicole from Nicole’s Novel Reads) and myself. We have been loyal fans of Ms. Kerri Maniscalco since she first debuted her novel Stalking Jack the Ripper. It is actually the first ARC we featured when we started the Sisterhood of the Traveling ARC (you can read our reviews here).

We thought it only fitting to now give our thoughts and attention to Kerri Maniscalco’s latest novel Hunting Prince Dracula. Make sure to check out our reviews and come back next month for when the official blog tour for the book begins (I will be doing a feature on costume ideas for trick or treating as Audrey Rose and Thomas).

Title: Stalking Jack the Ripper
Author: Kerri Maniscalco
Publisher: Jimmy Patterson
Publication date: September 19, 2017
Pages: 448
Source/format: Publisher/ARC

AMAZON

GOODREADS

 

 

 

Hunting Prince Dracula is everything I hoped for and more. Kerri Maniscalco once again conjures up an atmospheric and eerie tale full of blood and murder. Starting right up where Stalking Jack the Ripper left of, the two main characters Audrey Rose Wadsworth and Thomas Cresswell find themselves on the Orient Express on their way to study at the Academy of Forensic Medicine and Science in Romania. However, when a “vampiric-styled” murder occurs on their train, things are set in motion that will ultimately lead our duo to go on the hunt for Prince Dracula.

One of the many aspects of Kerri’s writing that I love is her attention to detail. She clearly puts a lot of research and time into creating her setting, plot, characters and timeline. I am in awe at how flawlessly she recreates travel on the Orient Express train, and the beauty of the Romanian countryside. As the reader, I felt completely immersed in the story.

Another one of my favorite things about Kerri’s books is her characters. We get a whole new array of interesting characters in Hunting Prince Dracula, and even “meet” Thomas’s sister. However, no other character will hold a place in my heart like Audrey Rose and Thomas do. I love their witty banter, and flirting. I am glad to see their relationship blossoming in Hunting Prince Dracula.

Unlike Stalking Jack the Ripper, I had a much harder time figuring out who the murderer turns out to be in Hunting Prince Dracula. The constant suspense in the story kept me guessing and on the edge of my seat. My favorite scenes are of Audrey Rose and Thomas stalking the bowels of the castle in search for clues. I found it very funny, and endearing that both Audrey Rose and Thomas share a fear of spiders.

When the reveal finally comes at the end, I was utterly surprised and thrilled. I absolutely love how Kerri sealed it all up nice and bloody. I am still in shock, but it is PERFECT and my dark little heart loved it.

Overall, Hunting Prince Dracula is delightfully full of atmosphere, beautiful scenery, lots of Audrey/Thomas moments and a thrilling ending. Hunting Prince Dracula is a definite MUST READ for all lovers of mystery and suspense.

Now to eagerly await the next installment, and daydream about where Audrey Rose and Thomas will go next, and who they might encounter.

** I received a copy of HUNTING PRINCE DRACULA from the publisher, in return for an honest review and to be featured on The Sisterhood of the Traveling Arc. **