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review 2020-04-05 14:29
Stalking Jack
Stalking Jack - Madison Kent

by Madison Kent

 

I have mixed feelings about this book. The prologue was pure info dump and there were many signs of an amateur writer; shoehorning too many subplot lines into the first chapter, showing a limited knowledge of Victorian convention, dialect, British English or proper use of apostrophes, yet the writing was strangely engaging and I took a liking to the main character, Madeleine, early in the story.

 

Madeleine Donovan is a fan of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and fancies herself an amateur sleuth. She lost her family in tragedy and in the process of looking for purpose, travels to London. All the papers are full of stories about Jack the Ripper and a group of English ladies whom she meets shipboard become concerned about a niece who has gone wayward in Whitechapel and could be in danger. Madeleine vows to find her, despite the danger.

 

The premise is actually rather unlikely in Victorian England and the author uses American English for English character's dialogue, but the story itself is engaging and I ignored the occasional cringe and let myself enjoy the story. I think a few words didn't mean what the author thought they meant and the idea of finding bourbon in a 19th century Whitechapel pub just boggles the mind, especially contrasted with an almost encyclopedic history of the nationalities and religions of people who settled in the area shoehorned into a conversation, but I liked the main character and with Alternative History being a popular genre these days, I started treating this as Fantasy and ignored anomalies like decent women casually going out for a drink in a pub in that era.

 

Of all the things technically wrong with this novel, the thing that bothered me most was the attempt to have lower class characters talk in dialect. It read like something out of the hills of Arkansas rather than anywhere in all the history of England. Old ladies wearing pillbox hats (invented in 1930) in 1888 London pales by comparison. Other dialogue was sometimes stilted too. Yet despite all the historical inaccuracies and other problems, the characters were brought to life skilfully and the plot moved along in a way that kept me interested.

 

The editorial mistakes increased later in the book, yet the story itself took on relevance, looking into issues of obsession and addiction in a Victorian setting where opium use was rife. Madeleine is a headstrong character and I found it easy to feel sympathy for her, yet she walks into trouble on many levels and I felt needed rescuing from her own impulses.

 

I actually liked the way the story ended. The explanation of what happened to Jack the Ripper was as plausible as any of the popular theories and there was a wonderfully poetic passage about the way London leaves its mark on a person's soul. Just before the poinsettias all bloom in November English weather (poinsettias are native to Mexico and an old association with Christmas travelled to America when the plants were first cultivated in the U.S. in the early 1900s, long after this story takes place. The tradition never travelled to England and the plants don't survive in under 58 degrees Fahrenheit.)

 

Apparently there is a series and Madeleine becomes a female detective in her native Chicago, but the ripper's story is finished so I won't be following the other books. Perhaps someone who likes detective stories would enjoy them. Hopefully they'll be set in America where the language and cultural references will fit!

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2020-02-28 06:46
Review: Follow Me by Kathleen Barber
Follow Me - Kathleen Barber

 ***I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Netgalley and Gallery Books!***

 

Up until the last 30 pages or so, I would have rated this book as a solid four star. I struggled really hard to decide if I could keep it at a four star but I just can’t. That ending was bad. Really bad. The kind of bad that gets worse the longer I think about it. Almost Stephen King, giant spider bad. Okay, I’m being facetious now, it wasn’t giant spider bad.

T

his was a very compelling book. It starts with an introduction on how the author stumbled onto Reddit threads about installing remote access onto someone’s computer so that you can cyber stalk them without them knowing about it. That’s super creepy. And so this gave the author an idea and away we go. The complexities and problems presented by social media are interesting fodder for the fiction world. It’s unknown enough that you can really delve into the dark part of the human psyche and prey on the terror that lurks there. But it’s commonplace enough that millions of people seem to be okay with sharing every moment of their existence to an online audience that feels like a group of friends, but is in reality a bunch of strangers. It’s an interesting dilemma and this book told it well.

 

I did not particularly like Audrey, it is my one big complaint apart from the ending. She wasn’t very likeable. She is narcissistic, naive, self absorbed and more than a little bit stupid. The entire book is about her almost never doing her actual job and occasionally posting on Instagram. But most of the time she complains to her friends about her endless list of woes and vehemently denies that she has a stalker problem. She doesn’t come around to the idea that someone is stalking her until she literally catches someone peeping in her window. And even then she dismisses it rather quickly as just a creep, doesn’t bother to call the police, and goes about her day. She was a moron and I hoped (a little bit) that her stalker might end up killing her because she was too stupid to continue living. She proved this to me in the ending, which I will get to in a minute.

The stalker’s narrative is okay. It’s creepy at times but mostly just really pathetic. This guy comes across as so socially awkward that he might vomit on a woman’s shoes if she spoke to him. Once things started ramping up, however, I enjoyed his narrative quite a bit.

 

Cat, Audrey’s best friend, is quite possibly the most interesting character. She seems like an intelligent woman who doesn’t easily dismiss that Audrey might have a stalker and urges her to protect herself. None of her suggestions are listened to, but she tried. She is horrified when Audrey begins dating a childhood acquaintance of hers, Max, who knows a secret about Cat that she desperately doesn’t want Audrey to know. I got the sense throughout the book that Cat was in love with Audrey. Although that was never confirmed, I still think there’s some validity to the theory. Why else would you put up with someone so woefully stupid and self absorbed? And not just put up with her but idolize her too.

 

Now we come to the ending. So I am going to make this plain. This is a huge SPOILER. A giant SPOILER. If you do not wish to be SPOILED!!!! then please read no further.

 

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Seriously, really big SPOILER ahead, last warning to jump ship!

 

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So, the ending. They teased me a bit with who the stalker was, but I figured that Max HAD to be a red herring. The author was hitting me over the head with him being a suspect way too hard. And it just simply makes no sense. The idea that he ramped up the stalking to scare Audrey into coming to live with him for protection makes sense. What doesn’t make sense is that you then continue to escalate the stalking behavior until she is frightened of you. WTF? You wanted her to be with you, check. You wanted her to live with you, check. You wanted her to be afraid enough to turn to you, check. And then you continue? Why?

 

Then we have a whole scenario where Audrey gets hurt in a confrontation with Max and Cat comes into the room and believes Audrey is dead. She has a conversation with Max about how he can’t help her and needs to leave, he says that at least he isn’t like Cat. And we get a whole long story about how Cat tried to kill someone at summer camp, and he’ll tell everyone about it if she doesn’t help Audrey. That part wasn’t surprising, the author had been leading us to that for most of the book. But then Cat decides that she needs to kill Max to prevent this. In the process she discovers that Audrey is still alive, and then proceeds to think “Oh no, did she hear us talking about camp? Well, I guess I better kill her.”

 

Wait, hold on, what? None of this makes sense. All of a sudden two rational people are acting like psychotic killers? Where on earth did any of this come from? And isn’t it a bit too coincidental that the person stalking Audrey for eight years just so happens to know her college best friend, and just so happens to know said best friend’s deep dark secret? Nope. There were so many better options available and this one was terribly executed.

Then we get to my favorite part. Audrey recovers and we flash forward to her moving into a new apartment and having a conversation with the old college boyfriend, Nick. Cat is apparently in prison, rightfully so. Max isn’t in prison, just a restraining order. Despite the fact that he was stalking you for eight years, broke into your friend’s house, got into an angry confrontation with you in which you proceeded to almost die. I don’t know that sounds like an arrest-able offense to me. And here is where Audrey proved to me that she is, in fact, too stupid to live. Behold this exchange with Nick:

 

“Be fair,” I said softly, “Max isn’t a psychopath. He’s…well, he’s not wired right, that’s for sure, but he’s not a psychopath. It’s not like he was going to hurt me.”

 

“You don’t know that. Just because he didn’t hurt you doesn’t mean he wouldn’t have.”

“He never would have hurt me.” I said with certainty, “He’s not violent. And he loved me too much.” (Page 284 of the ebook version)

 

Well, isn’t that just so romantic!! He loves her so much that he almost got you killed. But he’s not violent. Isn’t that so sweet! This is worse than all the romanticizing of domestic violence that was prevalent in Young Adult fiction for a while. He literally stalked you for eight years. He took thousands of pictures of you without your knowledge. He broke into your apartment and watched you sleep (Hey Edward! We see you!). He watched you in your apartment for weeks at a time. He intentionally terrified you so that you would move in with him. He demanded that you continue being with him and terrified you so much that you tried to run out of the house and fell down a flight of stairs. But no, you’re right Audrey, he loves you too much to be violent. She’s one of those people who writes love letters to Charlie Manson because “well he never killed anyone”.

 

So that’s it. A great book, with so much potential to be amazing and the ending completely ruined it for me.

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review 2020-02-03 14:16
Review: Escaping From Houdini (Stalking Jack the Ripper #3)by Kerri Maniscalco
Escaping from Houdini - Kerri Maniscalco

 

Syno

 

 

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 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

 

 

Another great book in the Jack the Ripper series, while I really enjoyed this book, I didn’t enjoy it as much as the first two book in the series. But I think that was because if the setting in this book. I’m not a huge carnival and or ship person fan. I did however greatly enjoy the writing and characters. Of course I still live for Wadsworth and Cresswell and just adore them together. I love how their relationship progresses and their overcome obstacles over obstacles. I love their banter and humor just as much as their sweet moments. While it was not my favorite setting I still liked the suspense and murder mystery we got, like in previous books it keeps us on the edge of the seat and guessing. Some things were pretty easy to foretell buy others came by surprise. I also should say that I enjoyed the audiobook a bit more than the actual books. It just adds a bit more to the story, I have not gotten the audio book for this book but most definitely will soon and listen to it again. I also still think that this series would make a great TV series and I would so be down for that. Overall I enjoyed the book, the writing and most of all the characters and I’m looking forward to the next book.

I rate it 4★

 

 

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  Snoopydoo sigi

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review 2020-01-05 23:06
Off*Beat (OEL manga, vol. 2) by Jen Lee Quick
Off*Beat, Vol. 2 (v. 2) - Jen Lee Quick

Colin confronts Tory about his stalking, but Tory lies and pretends that everything Colin noticed is a coincidence. They agree to meet up at Tory's house for another tutoring session (Tory doesn't even bother to ask Mandy to join them this time around), and Paul gets on Tory's case for his hidden motives for "befriending" Colin. It surprises Tory when Colin goes out of his way to spend more time with him. What he doesn't know is that Colin now has his own hidden agenda.

Whereas almost nothing happened in volume 1, volume 2 had actual forward movement. That said, it's still unclear exactly which genre(s) this falls under. It's for sure a mystery. Tokyopop has "Drama/Romance" on the back cover...and I don't know that I agree. Yes, Tory blushed anytime Colin paid attention to him, and if his interest in Colin were purely about finding out more about the Gaia Project, he wouldn't have cared so much how his hair looked before meeting up with Colin. And yes, there was a line of dialogue that indicated that Colin felt drawn to Tory as well, and that it wasn't for a reason that made sense to him. And Mandy seemed like she shipped them, which was...kind of weird (I sincerely hope that there was more of a point to Mandy's existence in this series than noticing feelings brewing between Tory and Colin before they themselves did). So yeah, there could be mutual interest. But Tory's spent the whole series stalking Colin, and Colin spent a good chunk of this volume keeping things from Tory and checking up on him, so I'm not really comfortable with calling it a romance.

And speaking of Tory's stalking, what was with Paul? On the one hand, he lectured Tory about getting closer to the person he was stalking. On the other hand, he later gave Tory all the Gaia Project files he was able to rescue, knowing that this would only feed Tory's obsession.

Although this volume included a few peeks into Colin's home life, I still don't have a clue what sort of secret he might be hiding. He mentioned something called "atunement" (Tory apparently didn't have it) and repeatedly told Tory that he wasn't sick or sickly, even though he certainly seemed like it.

I'm frustrated enough with the lack of information and answers to try getting volume 3 via interlibrary loan. It looks like only 5 libraries own a physical copy, so there's a good possibility I won't get it, but it's still worth a try. And yes, I know I could buy an electronic copy. I don't want to do that. If that's my only option, then I'm just never going to finish the series.

If this is where things end, then I'm somewhat annoyed. Volume 2's pacing was a lot better than volume 1, to the point that I'm wondering whether this could have been a 2-volume series if it had been more tightly written.

Extras:

A short preview of a Tokyopop OEL manga series called Earthlight. I'm not interested in reading more of it.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2020-01-04 21:25
Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts) by L.C. Rosen
Jack of Hearts (and other parts) - Lev A.C. Rosen

Content warning for stalking, victim blaming, homophobia, suicidal thoughts, on-page drug use and drinking, and graphic discussions of sex.

Jack is a gay teen who likes casual sex and isn't interested in being in a committed relationship. Maybe one day - he isn't completely ruling it out - but definitely not right now. While he enjoys having sex, he doesn't enjoy people gossiping about his sex life, and for some reason his sex life is a hot topic among the gossips at school. When his friend Jenna suggests that he write a sex advice column for her personal blog, he reluctantly agrees. Maybe if he works in some true stories about his sex life, the rumors about stuff he's never done will go away. And the posts will be semi-anonymous, written by "Jack of Hearts," so there's no way some future college or employer will google him and see them.

For the most part, the advice column goes surprisingly well, but things take a turn for the worse in his private life. Someone keeps putting notes in his locker. At first they look like love notes, but as time goes on, it becomes increasingly clear that Jack has a stalker.

I got an ARC of this at a conference a while back and only just now got around to reading it. The book came out in October 2018, so that gives you an idea of how long I've had it. It looked good, but I was a little afraid it'd have more sex in it than I wanted to deal with. Now that I've read it, I can say that, yes, the advice columns were extremely explicit and did mention, in graphic detail, some of Jack's past sexual experiences as context for whatever advice he was giving. However, even though Jack has sex multiple times in the story, there were no on-page sex scenes. I appreciated that. The advice columns were one thing, but first person present tense on-page sex scenes, especially in a YA novel, would have felt voyeuristic and gross.

Okay, I'll start with the good. I thought that most of the advice columns were well-done. I could imagine the topics and explicitness crossing lines for some folks - I, personally, thought that the last one about roleplay and BDSM would have been more appropriate in a book aimed at adults than teens - but for the most part I liked the way the topics were handled, with an emphasis on communication and consent. There was even one column addressing the fears of a letter writer who was probably asexual, as well as a column that discussed the fetishizing of gay men by straight women.

I liked Jack reasonably well, even if he occasionally made me want to scream in frustration, and I thought his friend Ben was an utter sweetheart. Although most of the prominent characters in this book were very much into sex, usually casual sex, I liked that there was an effort to say "it's okay for teens to not want to have sex, or to want to wait until they meet the right person or feel like it's the right time." And the story's pacing was good and definitely kept me hooked.

However, here's where I get into the things I wasn't as wild about. The stalking plot had several moments that made me incandescently angry. Yes, I understand that there were teens who would not want to tell anyone if they were being stalked, who, like Jack, would want to just wait and see if the problem would go away on its own. And yes, I understand that there are horrible adults out there who'd react like Jack's principal and not do anything particularly helpful. However, it just kept going on and on and becoming more and more awful. The message the book was communicating boiled down to "there's nothing that could possibly be done to make your situation any better, no one will help you, and even the people who try to help you won't be able to accomplish anything." It did resolve in a positive way, but it felt like a stroke of luck on Jack's part, and even then it almost didn't work out. Things got so bad that I was worried the book was going to end in Jack's suicide.

Jack was so frustrating. Every time one of his friends suggested going to someone for help, he trotted out reasons why that wouldn't do any good or just plain said no. No cops, no telling his mom. Considering the principal's reaction when he was first alerted to the problem, I could understand, but as the notes got darker and more threatening, I had a harder time seeing why he wouldn't try again, with a different adult. His mom would have been perfect, but no, he didn't want to worry her. Jack and his mom often felt more like roommates whose paths occasionally crossed than like parent and child. Giving your son space to grow and figure himself out is one thing, but Jack's mom didn't seem to have any rules beyond "don't get blackout drunk and make sure you practice safe sex." And what good was having a "cool" mom, anyway, if Jack still didn't feel comfortable enough to tell her that a stalker was blackmailing him and making his life hell?

The high school experience depicted in this book was more like what I see in movies than what I remember of my own high school life. It seemed like everyone was having huge parties, drinking, smoking pot, and having sex. Yeah, there were mentions of kids who wanted to take it slower, like Ben, and that asexual letter writer, but the bulk of this was just...are there really people out there whose high school experience is like this?

And while I do think it's good that sex positive YA books exist, there were certain things in this one that crossed the line. For example, there were multiple instances where Jack admitted that he'd used Grindr to find partners, that he'd lied about his age, and that at least one or two of his partners were probably adult men who didn't realize that he was still a minor. The problems with this were never addressed. Honestly, the "hooking up with older men via Grindr" stuff could have been cut from the book without hurting anything - Jack had zero problems finding people his own age to hook up with via parties.

Anyway, it was a quick read, but I definitely had issues with it and am not really sure I enjoyed it. I could see the advice columns being helpful to some readers, though.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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