Lies Beneath by Anne Greenwood Brown | Book Review

Posted September 19, 2018 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 8 Comments

Lies Beneath by Anne Greenwood Brown | Book ReviewLies Beneath by Anne Greenwood Brown
Series: Lies Beneath #1
Published by Delacorte Books for Young Readers on June 12, 2012
Genres: Paranormal, Paranormal Romance, Romance
Pages: 303
Format: ARC
Source: From the publisher through Netgalley
Amazon Add to Goodreads
4.5 Stars
Calder White lives in the cold, clear waters of Lake Superior, the only brother in a family of murderous mermaids. To survive, Calder and his sisters prey on humans and absorb their positive energy. Usually, they select their victims at random, but this time around, the underwater clan chooses its target for a reason: revenge. They want to kill Jason Hancock, the man they blame for their mother's death.

It's going to take a concerted effort to lure the aquaphobic Hancock onto the water. Calder's job is to gain Hancock's trust by getting close to his family. Relying on his irresistible good looks and charm, Calder sets out to seduce Hancock's daughter Lily. Easy enough, but Calder screws everything up by falling in love--just as Lily starts to suspect there's more to the monster-in-the-lake legends than she ever imagined, and just as the mermaids threaten to take matters into their own hands, forcing Calder to choose between them and the girl he loves.

One thing's for sure: whatever Calder decides, the outcome won't be pretty.

I’d been really worried about Lies Beneath, as a lot of the reviews have been mixed, but I really, really enjoyed this book. I loved so much about it. As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. We have a male narrator! YES! This was so refreshing. Calder is a merman from a family of human-killing mermaids. He was not born this way, but was changed to a merman after falling off a boat and drowning as a young child. Maybe that’s why he’s a bit reformed, and hopes to escape the “school of fish” loyalty and just be his own person. I loved reading his thoughts as he struggled between being who he wanted to be and being who he was created to be. I think Brown did an amazing job writing a male’s thoughts. I’ve always thought that would be a tricky thing to do.

2. This story takes place in an awesome location: Lake Superior. That lake is so mysterious and deep and freezing, and I LOVE that the story took place here rather than in the cliche tropical location. Rather than hearing about rainbow fish and sea turtles, you get to read about sunken ships and the unexplored depths of the lake. We even get a mention of an ancient road down there.

3. I really liked the evil mermaid spin. I was getting tired of the “I wish I were human, but I have this tail, so I’m going to swim around and hope I can fake being human well enough to make you love me” storyline. These mermaids love being who they are. Even Calder does not want to quit being a merman, he just does not want to suck the life out of humans. They all have their own personalities, and don’t sit around suppressing what they are. And the evil thing? It was awesome! Mermaids are made out to be monsters and not humans. It created some suspense and intrigue. I dunno, I guess I’ve always been a bit rebellious myself, so I enjoyed the more gritty and dangerous spin.

4. I really enjoyed the need for revenge that the mermaids had. It consumed their thoughts as they tried to seek revenge on the man they blamed their mother’s death on. Even though these mermaids are considered evil, you have to give them credit for never breaking a promise, and for being extremely loyal to each other. I mean, even though Calder began to change his mind regarding this revenge, his mind was so linked with his sisters’ that he really struggled with an inner turmoil that pulled him in two very different directions.

5. I appreciated Lily’s common sense and vivaciousness. I can’t stand a dumb, quivering-in-her-boots kind of heroine. Lily has a sharp mind and she knows things without having someone beat it into her head with a hammer. And I loved her little sister, Sophie. She is adorable.

6. The Hancock family’s past is vast and dynamic. I loved getting more insight into what happened to make these mermaids so mad, and what mysteries are hidden beneath the surface.

7. The romance was sweet. It was not obsessive or silly. It seemed legit to me. Calder and Lily look out for one another, and have a healthy give and take relationship. Calder is not controlling or stalkery. I mean yes, he lurks in the water outside her home to protect her, but he’s not sneaking in her room to watch her sleep. Lily is not helpless and naive. She can hold her own, and does not frighten easily. I believed this one.

8. I wish the book had spent a little more time on Calder’s sisters. Those girls were so much fun to read about, and they were really what made the book so unique. Hopefully the rest of the trilogy will give us more information on them. They could have their own spin-off series.

All in all, this book is now one of my new favorite mermaid romances. I loved the unique spin, the believable romance, and the interesting characters. I would definitely recommend this for lovers of mermaid books, and it’s also a great one to start on if you’re just dipping your toe into the genre.

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Top Ten Books On My Fall 2018 To-Read List

Posted September 18, 2018 by Jana in Top Ten Tuesday / 41 Comments

Fall officially begins on Friday, and I am so happy! I love fall. It’s probably my favorite season of the year (although I do love winter, too). During the fall season I love reading atmospheric, creepy, gothic kinds of stories. I also love mysteries and romantic suspense. This fall I’ve got a few of these kinds of books that I’d really love to get to, plus a few rich fantasies that sound amazing as well!

Girl At the Grave by Teri Bailey Black
Gothic YA! I am here for it!

Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye
Gothic retelling of Jane Eyre. YES.

Maulever Hall by Jane Aiken Hodge
A creepy, gothic romantic suspense novel that’s been republished recently from its original 1960’s version. There’s amnesia and paranoia and a large country home. Sounds very intriguing!

Tailspin by Sandra Brown
A romantic suspense novel about a pilot and a mysterious delivery.

The Last Woman in the Forest by Diane Les Becquets
Researching a serial killer in the Rocky Mountain wilderness.

A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer
I’ll devour any Beauty and the Beast retelling, and this one sounds perfect!

A Study In Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas
I’ve been really excited to read the Lady Sherlock historical mystery books, and this would be the perfect time to do it!

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn
This kind of sounds like the book version of that movie Disturbia with Shia LaBeouf. I love that movie!

Beware the Wild by Natalie C. Parker
Another gothic YA romance/mystery/horror that I’ve heard great things about! It takes place in the swamps on Louisiana, and having lived there, I can see how creepy and horrifying this book has the potential to be.

The House at Midnight by Lucie Whitehouse
This one sounds so creepy! I love creepy English manors that seem to have their own personalities.

Which books are you hoping to read this fall?
Are you a mood reader who is inspired by the seasons?
What kinds of books do you like to read this time of year?
Have you read any of my picks?

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Interview With Seventh Born Author Monica Sanz

Posted September 18, 2018 by Jana in Uncategorized / 0 Comments

Magic, Myth, & Mischief, hosted by me and Bonnie, is a month-long event that celebrates fairy tales and mythological retellings, as well as retellings of favorite classic novels and books featuring mythical beasts such as mermaids, dragons, and fae! Find the schedule of events and other information here.

Today I’m welcoming Monica Sanz, author of Seventh Born, the the first book in the The Witchling Academy series, to the blog to participate in our fun interview series!


Interview with Monica Sanz

1. What makes your book(s) magical, mythical, or mischievous?
What makes my books magical, mythical, and mischievous is that they feature, well, magic, myth, and mischief! Seventh Born is about an outcast witch learning to control her powers while solving murders with her professor. Not only is her working relationship (and any relationship at all!) with the brooding and handsome professor considered taboo, but Sera has a quick temper and sets things in fire when enraged. If that’s not mischief, then I don’t know what is!

Finvarra’s Circus is based on the Irish folktales of King Finvarra Ethna the Bride, and the Leanan Sidhe. It’s about a girl who sneaks into a magical circus and finds out it’s cursed and she’s the only one who can save them. This leads to a whole lot of trouble for everyone.

2. Which mythical character do you see yourself in the most, or do you relate to most and why?
I have to say faeries, though I don’t think I’m wicked enough to be one. I love nature and magic and feel this oneness with the universe, so I think a faerie is quite fitting.

3. Dragons or unicorns?
Unicorns! Dragons are cool with the fire breathing and all, but unicorns have this untamed beauty and silent strength I’m drawn to. Plus, they have countless magical abilities.

4. Would you rather be a hero or a villain?
I would rather be a hero. I’m a generally happy person and it takes so much energy to remain angry and bitter and filled with the need for revenge all the time. I’d rather go about my life and help people when I can than focus on how I can bring death and devastation. It’s too much work.

5. Would you rather be locked up in a tower or a dungeon?
A tower, for sure! At least in a tower I can see the sun and feel the breeze or enjoy the sound of rain and birds and nature. When I think of a dungeon, I imagine rats and dark and damp cells. It’s all so dreary. Plus, whenever towers are used in stories, it’s one person in a tower versus a dungeon with other prisoners bemoaning their imprisonment. Yes, I think I’d be much happier in a tower.

6. What elements of the tale did you use when incorporating the tale into your own novel?
With Finvarra’s Circus, I incorporated the original tale of King Finvarra and Ethna the Bride quite extensively. I don’t want to say how, but it’s the foundation of the circus and Finvarra’s character. The same goes for the Leanan Sidhe. She’s a beautiful fairy who takes on a human lover and becomes their muse. Lovers of the Leanan Sidhe, however, are said to live brief but highly inspired lives. These two folktales are woven together to create the backstory to Finvarra’s Circus, and the story takes off from there.

7. Which magical/mythical creatures exist in your books?
My newest release, Seventh Born features witches and wizards and a Barghest, which is a mythical dog with enormous teeth and claws. It’s such a fitting creature to include, especially with someone like Sera as a main character. I’m working on book two now, and that will feature a mythological creature, I just can’t say what yet or it’ll spoil the surprise. Finvarra’s Circus is a troupe of mythological creatures so there are faeries, sprites, merrows, centaurs, a unicorn, a fire dragon, and so much more. I loved using their magical identities in their performances, it made everything so much more magical.

8. What made you want to incorporate a myth or folk tale into something brand-new?
It’s fun to take known myths and breathe new life into them, as well as see how our characters interact with whatever tale we choose. With Seventh Born I ended up making up my own lore, but book two is heavily based on a few myths and it’s made for a very atmospheric and creepy story which I’m super excited about. With Finvarra’s Circus, it just happened that the book was based on these folktales so I had no say in the matter. If the mythology wasn’t included, the book wouldn’t exist.

9. Have you seen any recent fairy tale/myth movie/television adaptations? If yes, which ones and what do you like most about it/them?
One of my favorites is not recent but I have to gush about it because it’s so romantic. Ever After: A Cinderella Story is such a gorgeous and heart-warming movie. I remember watching it when I was younger and falling in love with the fairy tale all over again. Drew Barrymore is fantastic as Cinderella and I felt her frustration at how she was treated but at the same time she had this desire to belong and be loved and to have a family with these people that hated her. Dougray Scott was such a handsome and believable prince and loved how his character grew humble throughout the movie. I would totally recommend watching it. I think I may watch it again soon.


Seventh Born by Monica Sanz
Published by Entangled TEEN on September 4, 2018
Genres: Young Adult — Paranormal, Romance
Add to Goodreads • Amazon

Abomination. Curse. Murderer. All names hurled at eighteen-year-old Seraphina Dovetail. As the seventh-born daughter to a witch, she’s the cause of her mother losing her powers and, in turn, her life.

Abandoned as a child, Sera dreams of becoming an inspector and finding her family. To do that, she must be referred into the Advanced Studies Program at the Aetherium’s Witchling Academy. Her birth order, quick temper, and tendency to set things on fire, however, have left her an outcast with failing marks…and just what Professor Nikolai Barrington is looking for.

The tall, brooding, yet exceedingly handsome young professor makes her a proposition: become his assistant and he’ll give her the referral she needs. Sera is quickly thrust into a world where witches are being kidnapped, bodies are raised from the dead, and someone is burning seventhborns alive. As Sera and Barrington grow ever closer, she’ll discover that some secrets are best left buried…and fire isn’t the only thing that makes a witch burn.


About Monica Sanz

Monica Sanz has been writing from the moment she could string together a sentence. Her stories have come a long way from mysterious portals opening in the school cafeteria, transporting classmates to distant worlds. A classic by the name Wuthering Heights is responsible for that. She’s been lost to dark romances and brooding fictional men ever since. Now she writes about grumpy professors, cursed ringmaster, tortured soul collectors, and the girls they fall in love with.

Monica’s books have received many accolades on the social writing website Wattpad. She’s accumulated over six million reads, eighty thousand votes, and fifteen thousand comments since posting her books on the website. She is also a member of the Wattpad4, a group of writers who host weekly Twitter chats on the subjects of writing and publishing.

When not lost in one of her made-up worlds, she can be found on the sunny beaches of South Florida where she resides with her husband and their three children or scouring YouTube for new bands to feed her music addiction.

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An Entreaty for Under-Represented Mythological Creatures In Recent Fantasy | Blogger Guest Post

Posted September 17, 2018 by Jana in Guest Post / 1 Comment

Magic, Myth, & Mischief, hosted by me and Bonnie, is a month-long event that celebrates fairy tales and mythological retellings, as well as retellings of favorite classic novels and books featuring mythical beasts such as mermaids, dragons, and fae! Find the schedule of events and other information here.

I’m so excited to welcome Amber of The Literary Phoenix to the blog today to share with us her strong feelings on the subject of lesser-used mythological creatures in recent fantasy novels!


An Entreaty for Under-Represented Mythological
Creatures In Recent Fantasy

If you would humor me, I would like to open this post with a bit of a game. I will list a series of names, and Dear Reader, I challenge you to find what they have in common.

Edward Cullen
Barnabas Collins
Jean-Claude
Eric Northman
Dracula
Spike
Lestat de Lioncourt
Adrian Ivashkov
Kurt Barlow
Marceline

If you are thinking, “They’re all vampires!” then you would be correct! The ten names listed above are a mere handful of famous vampires, one of the most popular creatures to grace fantasy novels since their invention in 1887 with Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

There was a time when it was almost impossible to pick up a new YA fantasy and not find a vampire lurking inside. There is a list on Goodreads with 385 teen vampire books and 1594 adult vampire books. I could start reading right now and it would take me about 20 years to read all the books on these lists.

While vampires are fun, there are a lot of other mythological beasts out there begging for some attention in fiction. Today, I’m going to introduce you to three underused magical creatures with a lot of potential.

The Phoenix

The phoenix is grossly underused in fantasy. As a creature, it is a symbol of renewal and rebirth. In Egypt, it was called “Bennu” and sacred to Heliopolis (god of the sun). In Greek myth, the phoenix lived several centuries before burning up in a nest of myrrh and other finery, and being reborn from the ashes. Chinese legend recognizes it as “Feng Huang” – it was part of the union of yin and yang, representing the Empress.

Despite its majesty and the respect it held in ancient culture, the firebird is oft forgotten in fantasy novels. You can find the phoenix in a variety of supernatural romance novels, but I believe the most famous example is Fawkes, Dumbledore’s pet and companion in the Harry Potter series.

Goodreads has a list of 43 books tagged “phoenix”.

The Gorgon

Gorgons are a bit less common than phoenixes, as they are exclusively found in Greek Mythology. The most famous gorgon is Medusa, who was slain by Hercules, but she also had two sisters just as vain as herself who were transformed into hideous monsters by the gods. As far as the mythos goes, there’s no in-depth mention of them… what are their stories?

Goodreads has a list of 23 books tagged “medusa”.

The Selkie

Finally, the selkie is a form of shapeshifter. I first learned about selkies a couple years ago when I was listening to S.J. Tucker’s “For the Girl in the Garden“, a companion album to In the Night Garden by Catherynne M. Valente. The selkie comes from Scottish legend, and is a creature capable of shedding its seal skin and becoming human. Unlike your traditional shapeshifter, selkies require their seal skin in order to return to their original form.

This is asking for an epic quest of a selkie girl trying to retrieve her stolen skin from a hunter! It would fit really well into YA fantasy, so someone please get on top of this.

Goodreads has a list of 153 books tagged “selkie”.

These three are but the tip of the iceberg as to the opportunities available to in the world of underused fantasy creatures. Many of the creatures J.K. Rowling features in her Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them have a mythological background, and that book is a good starting point if you’re interested in learning a little more about magical creatures.

I would like to beseech you, dear readers and writers: before picking up a pen or your next great read and seeking out a vampire, witch, or werewolf… try something a little different! Take a chance on a minotaur. Try your luck with a banshee. You never know what stories these other creatures have to tell.

About Amber

Author of half a dozen unpublished fantasy tales, book blogger, Ravenclaw, cat lover, and dreamer. Historian. Seeking first class tickets to Oz or Neverland.
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Fairytale Retellings In the Real World: Melanie Dickerson’s Medieval Fairy Tale Series | Blogger Guest Post

Posted September 14, 2018 by Jana in Guest Post / 4 Comments

Magic, Myth, & Mischief, hosted by me and Bonnie, is a month-long event that celebrates fairy tales and mythological retellings, as well as retellings of favorite classic novels and books featuring mythical beasts such as mermaids, dragons, and fae! Find the schedule of events and other information here.

I’m so excited to welcome Rachel of Bookworm Mama to the blog today to share her love of Melanie Dickerson’s fairytale retellings, set in medieval times!


Fairytale Retellings In the Real World:
Melanie Dickerson’s Medieval Fairy Tale Series

by Rachel of Bookworm Mama

Fairy tales have always held a special place in my heart. The romance, the charming prince, rescues, fights, daring adventures…And let’s not forget the gorgeous dresses. Please tell me, I am not the only one who still can’t decide if the blue or the pink “Sleeping Beauty” dress is the prettiest…

There is just something magical about getting lost in a fairy tale. Singing mermaids and flying carpets however, aren’t real. What if…these fairy tales were told in a REAL world setting? Sure, they may not be any glowing hair that heals people, but THIS Rapunzel, could have actually been a real person…in fact, I’m convinced she is real.

Enter Melanie Dickerson’s books. The first book I read by Melanie Dickerson was The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest, part of her three book A Medieval Fairy Tale series, which my husband surprised me with for my birthday a few years ago. In each of the Medieval Fairy Tale books, we see a combination of fairy tales. Swan Lake and Robin Hood for example is what you will find in The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest. I was instantly hooked and desperately needed to get my hands on more of her stories. From Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Cinderella, and Aladdin….Melanie’s stories take you to the era of knights and dukes through Medieval Fiction. The Hagenheim series currently has 8 books with the 9th (a Mulan retelling) releasing soon. I still have a few of these stories to catch up on myself, for they are worth savoring.

Written as Young Adult books, I believe fairytale fans of all ages will enjoy Melanie’s books.

Be prepared to fall in love when you pick up one of these stories. Whether you start from the beginning of the series or dive into your favorite fairy tale story first, you are sure to want more. You can find all of Melanie’s books listed on her website.

What is your favorite fairytale?


About Rachel

Rachel enjoys reading, reviewing books, and sharing her passion for literature at www.bookwormmama.org. She’s a virtual assistant and shares the small-town life with her husband and children.

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Heartless by Marissa Meyer | Book Review

Posted September 13, 2018 by Jana in Blog Tour, Book Review, Young Adult / 5 Comments

Heartless by Marissa Meyer | Book ReviewHeartless by Marissa Meyer
Published by Feiwel and Friends on November 8, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Retelling, Romance
Pages: 464
Format: ARC
Source: From the Publisher
Amazon Barnes & Noble Add to Goodreads
3.5 Stars
Long before she was the terror of Wonderland — the infamous Queen of Hearts — she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.

Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the yet-unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend and supply the Kingdom of Hearts with delectable pastries and confections. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next Queen.

At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the king's marriage proposal, she meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship.

Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

Well… that was pretty insane. lol. Let me preface this review by saying that I am not a fan of Alice in Wonderland. I did not like the movie as a kid, and I’ve never read a retelling (or even been interested in reading one). I read this book based solely on my love for Marissa Meyer and The Lunar Chronicles, which is one of my very favorite series ever in life. We saw how she wrote Queen Levana’s backstory in Fairest, and I was super intrigued to see her write another villain’s story. Marissa did a wonderful job with the Queen of Hearts, and even though I’ve never been a fan of the Wonderland world I really enjoyed reading about it in Heartless. As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. Since when do I love a villain? Maris

sa is so good at making you fall in love with the characters who you know will end up doing nothing but breaking your heart in the end. Catherine is sweet and spunky and so full of innocence and hope. I just loved her personality and

her quirky love of baking and her sarcasm. We all know how she turns out, but boy was I hoping for a different outcome.

2. Jest. *swoon* Oh my goodness. I love that court joker so much. He’s so witty and charming in a broody, nerdy, adorkable kind of way. Right at the beginning of the story the King of Hearts (who is the grossest, slimiest, giggliest, creepiest guy I’ve read about in a long while) throws a ball that Catherine attends. Partway through Jest makes a grand appearance, mesmerizing everyone there. He captured Catherine’s heart immediately, and he captured mine right along with it.

3. The supporting characters are all so much fun. I really liked the Hatter, and he was one of my least favorite characters from the old Disney movie. I also loved Cheshire and the turtle and the lion and Raven. What a fun little band of whimsical characters.

4. Speaking of whimsy, ho boy. Marissa is

a wonderful writer, and I got so caught up in some of her scenes. Such beautiful storytelling. At the same time, though, the whimsy got to be a little much for me at times. We’re in Wonderland, though, right? When in Wonderland, expect over the top.

5. So many yummy treats adorn the pages of Heartless. I got so hungry reading about all of Catherine’s dessert creations!

6. The story is about so much more than the origin of the Queen of Hearts. We’ve got all these other characters (like Peter Peter the Pumpkin Eater) and characters from other kingdoms and a Jabberwock and we really get to see wha

t all of Wonderland was like before Lewis Carroll’s story.

7. This story is SO heartbreaking. We all know that Catherine becomes the Queen of Hearts. How can anyone go into this not knowing that, right? Well… I knew, and I still kept hoping things would go my way. I wanted my perfect ending. Her decline to queendom and the reasons behind that decline just completely broke my heart. All the characters broke my heart in some way, but it had to happen. I don’t even know why I thought this wouldn’t happen. Haha.

All in all, this was a fun vacation from my comfort zone! Marissa Meyer was able to get me to enjoy a story that I was convinced I would not like. I’m not familiar enough with Alice In Wonderland and the other companion stories to really understand everyone’s role in Heartless, but I got the general idea and think Marissa did an awesome job of making a timeless classic her own. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves Alice, Wonderland, Marissa Meyer, great fantasy, and stellar writing. I can’t wait to see what Marissa does next!

heartless promo

This review was originally posted on October 15, 2016 as part of Macmillan’s Countdown to Heartless blog campaign. It was been re-posted for some extra love.

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Author Interview with Kerri Maniscalco | Escaping From Houdini Blog Tour (+ Giveaway)

Posted September 12, 2018 by Jana in Author Interview, Blog Tour, Giveaway / 7 Comments

Author Interview with Kerri Maniscalco | Escaping From Houdini Blog Tour (+ Giveaway)

Welcome to The FFBC’s blog tour of Kerri Maniscalco’s Escaping from Houdini! As one of the brand new co-owners of The Fantastic Flying Book Club, I had the exciting privilege of organizing this blog tour (creating the tour banner was especially fun!) and am delighted to be hosting Kerri’s welcome interview here on my blog as well! This book has been my #1 anticipated release of 2018, and for very good reason. Pretty sure you’re going to love it!


Author Interview with Kerri Maniscalco

Jana: Hi Kerri! I hosted an interview with you on SJtR back in 2016 as part of the Debut Author Challenge I host, and I’m super excited to talk to you again! As the biggest fangirl ever in life for the Stalking Jack the Ripper series, I’m so excited to talk to you about Escaping from Houdini and the rest of the series!

Kerri: Hi Jana, I remember! Thank you for continuing to support the series, it means the world to me!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

1. When did it dawn on you that you wanted to be a writer?
Writing is always something I’ve done for fun, but I never really thought about doing it professionally until around 2009. When I was little I’d make scripts for my Playskool farm animals—I’d give the cows a backstory as to why they were on the pillow/field and the family dynamics of the farmers. (And then I’d make my poor dad take videos so I could watch it back and see what parts needed improving…I was a weird kid ;)

2. How many unpublished and half-finished books have you written?
Oh gosh, I think there’s like seven or eight full novels that I trunked before selling SJTR. Fun fact: I rewrote some scenes, but used a good portion of a trunked book in HUNTING PRINCE DRACULA.

3. Who is in more control of your writing: you or your characters? Why?
I think it’s a little of both. Before I sit down to write, I always like to know who my characters are as people, what their interests are, what secrets people would be surprised to learn about them. From there I give myself a loose outline of where I’d like them to end up, but they usually surprise me with how they get there.

4. Which takes you longer: researching the subject matter of your books or writing your books?
Research! First drafts are always the hardest for me because I can’t just sit down and write everything out. I spend a lot of time stopping to look up some tiny detail and it can take upwards of two or three hours to find something that literally is like a sentence long. It’s hard to switch back and forth from creative to mechanical in those early stages, but I am ALL about revisions.

5. What have you learned about writing since your debut, Stalking Jack the Ripper? What have you learned about yourself?
I’ve learned to be much less structured in some ways and to think outside the box. Since I’d written so many novels before SJTR, I thought I had my method down. Cue writing to a deadline and everything I thought I knew about how to draft a book went flying out the window. It really is a MUCH different experience. Once I figured out that I could write however I needed to in order to finish that first draft, things went much easier and I was SO much less stressed about it.

6. What’s been your favorite experience with a fan of you/your books?
Oh gosh, I have been SO blown away by the huge response from readers. So many people connect with Audrey Rose and her determination to live her life as authentically as possible. One of my favorite things though has been from a teacher who reached out to me. A student in his class dreamed of being a forensic pathologist and was getting made fun of by classmates. He handed her SJTR and said she felt vindicated in pursuing her dreams.

7. As an author, what would you say has been the best compliment you’ve received?Honestly, any time someone tells me they connect with any of my characters is such a huge compliment. As a reader, getting lost in a story is so huge for me, and to have my own readers say they were transported from any hard times in their life? I get teary just thinking about it!

8. Tell us about an early reading experience of yours, when you really fell in love with books.
My grandmother used to read to my mom while she was pregnant with her, and people would make fun of her and say the baby couldn’t hear her. Well, my mother is a HUGE reader. Both her and my dad would take me and my sister on weekly trips to local independent bookstores, or to the library. My entire childhood is filled with memories of hunting down the most magical book and staying up way too late to finish it.

9. What’s been your favorite read so far this year?
This is a trick question, right??? I loved LEGENDARY by Stephanie Garber. I also adored ENCHANTEE by Gita Trelease. GIRLS OF PAPER AND FIRE by Natasha Ngan. GIRL AT THE GRAVE by Teri Bailey Black. THE WICKED KING by Holly Black. I could go on…

10. What are you up to when you’re not writing?
I’m either reading or cooking! I absolutely love being creative in the kitchen and would have probably ended up doing something in the restaurant business if the writing thing didn’t work out.

ABOUT THE BOOK/SERIES

1. Why Houdini?
Originally I’d planned on having this story be about Tesla, but, alas, there’s a movie out that features him and a Victorian circus. I started researching Houdini and thought he was a MUCH better fit and the rest is history!

2. I love that Escaping from Houdini takes place aboard an ocean liner. Tell us about it! What about this setting is special?
Having a closed setting is something I’ve always been interested in writing, though it’s always been slightly terrifying too. I think that I really enjoyed the challenge of having this confined space, though. Everything felt claustrophobic and the idea of a murderer running wild on a cruise ship gives me chills. I’m always looking for new ways of including tension in my books, and this was too fun to pass up.

3. Is there a particular scene in this book that you’re excited for your readers to experience?
The opening sequence is pretty fun. But I also really like the other carnival acts and performances. I’m probably most excited for readers to see the ship transform each night to reflect whichever act is on stage. I really enjoyed imagining this extravagant dinner show being juxtaposed by murder.

4. Do you have a favorite quote from this book?
I had a really great time with Mephistopheles’s character and most of his lines. Regardless of the havoc he tries to cause, his dialogue was always so much fun to write. I think when he says, “So, I inquire once more, which will you lose before the week is through? Your heart? Your head? Perhaps,” he drawled, face cast in shadows as the chandeliers dimmed slowly before winking out, “you will lose your life, your very soul, to this magical traveling show.” It captures everything I’d tried to infuse into this book and more.

5. Audrey and Thomas are perfection. How did you dream up this dynamic duo?Initially I’d been interested in doing a VERY loose retelling of Sherlock and Watson. Except I wanted my Dr. Watson to be a young woman struggling to find her way in a world run by men. I decided to scrap that and continued with my own characters and their own struggles, but some traits from their original inspiration remained. One of my favorite things is watching two characters banter—and that “will they, won’t they” vibe slays me.

6. Thomas is a swoony dreamboat. Is he inspired by anyone you know?
Haha I get asked this question a lot, and while I’m sure there are plenty of Thomas Cresswell’s out there in real life, this one lives strictly in my imagination. (I don’t like mixing my personal life or relationships/friendships into my work, just in case someone finds my portrayal of them less than flattering. It would make for awkward dinner chats.)

7. If you could tag along on any of the murder cases across the series so far, which one would it be?
This is hard! There’s aspects of each one that I’d love to be a part of. Being on the ground during the Ripper murders would have been something. But…being in Dracula’s castle while studying potential vampire attacks would also be fun. I’m scared of cruises, though I like boats, but I’d probably want to see the performances of the Moonlight Carnival. Plus, since Audrey Rose has got Thomas, that leaves Mephistopheles up for grabs ;)

8. If you could spend a day with one character from your book, who would it be? What would you do together?
Thomas would be either super fun or super annoying to hang out with, depending on which version of him showed up. I’d love to spend time in Mephistopheles’s workshop, watching him engineer some of the more elaborate carnival acts. But I’d definitely choose Audrey Rose over everyone. I’d love to go have high tea and talk about forensics and anything else that we felt like.

9. Is there anything you can share with us about the 4th and final book in the Stalking Jack the Ripper series?
I’m being VERY tight-lipped about this book, but readers can expect murder, mystery, romance, betrayal (intentional or accidental), and a story that ties everything—from the novella + bonus content to the main books—together into one, satisfying conclusion. The title and cover will probably be revealed in the early part of the new year, and I am VERY excited to share more soon!

10. Do you already have a plan for what you’ll be doing next after this series is complete?
I always have several ideas going at once, and there’s a few that I’d love to explore more of. Two or three would be within the SJTR universe, (different standalones) but there are also other stories I’d really like to tell outside of this world too. I’d started one right before SJTR sold, and I keep eyeing it up, waiting for the perfect time to dive back into that dark, fantasy world.


Escaping from Houdini by Kerri Maniscalco
Series: Stalking Jack the Ripper #3
Published by Jimmy Patterson on September 18, 2018
Genres: Young Adult — Historical Fiction, Mystery
Add to Goodreads • Amazon • B&N • Book Depository

In this third installment in the #1 bestselling Stalking Jack the Ripper series, a luxurious ocean liner becomes a floating prison of scandal, madness, and horror when passengers are murdered one by one…with nowhere to run from the killer. .

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?


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.

Website | Twitter | Instagram
Author photo credit: Kelli Maniscalco @ Dogwood Lane

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Top Ten Amazing Books That You Rarely Hear About

Posted September 10, 2018 by Jana in Top Ten Tuesday / 20 Comments

This week we’re talking hidden gems in books! Which books do you love that didn’t get enough buzz when they were released? Which amazing books do we never hear about anymore that need some extra love? My picks are below!

The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron
Roman Crazy by Alice Clayon
I Temporarily Do by Ellie Cahill
Heir to the Sky by Amanda Sun
The Caged Graves by Dianne K. Salerni
What Is Hidden by Lauren Skidmore
Renegade by J.A. Souders
The Unlikely Romance of Kate Bjorkman by Louise Plummer
The Summer My Life Began by Shannon Greenland
Welcome, Caller, This Is Chloe by Shelley Coriell

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The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater | Mini Audiobook Review

Posted September 10, 2018 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 8 Comments

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater | Mini Audiobook ReviewThe Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
Published by Scholastic on October 18, 2011
Genres: Fantasy, Mythology
Pages: 409
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audible
Amazon Add to Goodreads
5 Stars
It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.

Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.

I read and loved Maggie Stiefvater’s Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy years ago before I started blogging, and was captivated by her storytelling and beautiful writing style. The Scorpio Races sounded like something I would love and I immediately aded it to my TBR, but then The Raven Boys came out a year later and I DNFed it (I know, I know… total black sheep here), so I was worried Maggie was a one hit wonder for me (especially since Books of Faerie duology was just ok for me). Needless to say, I was worried that I’d never love another Stiefvater book and that broke my heart a little. But I LOVED it. I’ve broken this review up into sections: my thoughts on the audiobook and my experiences listening to it, and then my thoughts and feelings about the story itself and the world and the characters. If you’re not interested in the audiobook, feel free to skip the first section!

Audiobook Thoughts:

While looking for a great audiobook to listen to, I remembered how much Brittany loved Steve West’s narration of The Scorpio Races, and that he made her really fall in love with Sean Hunter. I listened to the sample and YES STEVE WEST, so I jumped right in. Basically, the stars aligned and I took a leap of faith regarding Maggie and audiobooks (because those don’t always work for me either). I am so glad I did, because I loved this book and I loved listening to it more than I think I would have loved reading it. Steve West’s voice drew me in and took hold of my heart. His voice drips with emotion and feeling, and he brought Sean to life. I think I fell a little in love with both Sean and Steve. Hehe. Whoops. Fiona Hardingham’s voice really complimented Steve’s. I loved listening to both of them, and the personality and depth they brought to the characters. I loved the musical bits that were composed by Maggie throughout the book. It totally set the celtic tone of the story and transported me right to the beaches of Thisby. I tried to actually read the book instead of listen to it one day because then I could read faster, but I just couldn’t do it. I made it a page and things felt so wrong. This is truly a book to listen to.

Story Thoughts:

This. Story. It has become a part of me, and I loved it so much. It’s very simple: a girl named Puck feels compelled–both by the need for money and the need to prove herself to herself–to enter the races and become the first female ever to do so. Sean, the reigning champion of these races needs to win, too, but not for the same reason Puck does. They both need it, they both need each other, they both need Thisby, and they both need their horses. This is their story. It’s not just about racing. It’s not just about horses. It’s about two lonely, incomplete souls risking everything to gain everything. They are both incredibly flawed and lost, and they find something in each other. I wouldn’t say this is a romantic book in the lovey-dovey sense. There’s definitely intrigue and feelings, but it’s romantic in the sense that it’s emotional. There’s so much feeling and mystery surrounding the water horses and the people who ride them. The mystical aspects of the island and the races themselves made me forget I was even reading anything. It’s really hard to explain.

Maggie’s prose and style is so breathtakingly beautiful that it almost hurts. I love how she so intricately weaves her words together to create such a perfect and mesmerizing atmosphere. The story alternates back and forth between Sean’s and Puck’s points of view, and it’s done in first person. I usually do not like first person or multiple points of view, but they are both done so well in this book.

There’s so much I can say about Thisby and the characters and the yummy food, but I don’t want to spoil the surprise. I think the synopsis is vague for a reason. That’s the magic! Bottom line, I LOVED The Scorpio Races. It’s the perfect fall story, with an eerie atmosphere; biting, salty winds; harsh waves; and monstrous creatures that will take you a bit by surprise, with their viciousness and intellect. These horses are magical in more ways then one. I do hope you pick up a copy and discover the magic and mystery of autumn on the tiny island of Thisby.

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Interview with A Touch of Gold Author Annie Sullivan

Posted September 7, 2018 by Jana in Author Interview / 2 Comments

Magic, Myth, & Mischief, hosted by me and Bonnie, is a month-long event that celebrates fairy tales and mythological retellings, as well as retellings of favorite classic novels and books featuring mythical beasts such as mermaids, dragons, and fae! Find the schedule of events and other information here.

Today I’m welcoming Annie Sullivan, author of A Touch of Gold, the magical retelling of the Greek myth of King Midas, to the blog to participate in our fun interview series!


Interview with Annie Sullivan

1. What makes your book magical, mythical, or mischievous?
My young adult book, A Touch of Gold, is magical and mythical! Not only does it involve the daughter of King Midas who has deadly gold powers, but it also deals a lot with Greek mythology and the Greek gods.

2. Which mythical character do you see yourself in the most, or do you relate to most and why?
Dragons! There are so many stories about dragons. They can be friendly or ferocious—or maybe they’re shape-shifting humans. I just love the possibilities that dragons bring to a story. Plus, when I think of fantasy, dragons are one of the first things to come to mind. Not to mention that I’m always cold, and I feel like a fire-breathing dragon would always be warm.

3. What magical power do you wish you had?
I would love either the power to heal or to fly! I think healing would be great because you could help so many people and make their lives better. But the power to fly would be awesome because you could get places really quickly with a great view!

4. If you found yourself trapped in a fairy tale or myth, which would you want it to be?
I would want to be Belle in Disney’s version of Beauty and the Beast. Belle is such a strong character. She sets out to find and rescue her father. Plus, she’s very selfless. And don’t even get me started on that library she gets when she marries Beast ;)

5. Mermaids or fae?
Mermaids! There’s just something so intriguing about half-human beings who can swim in the sea. So much of the sea is unexplored that you never know what could be hiding down there.

6. Hans Christian Andersen, Grimms Brothers, or Disney?
Disney!!! I love a happy ending, and Disney tends to have that more than the other. Plus, they have lots of catchy songs.

7. What are your favorite fairy tales and/or myths? Why are you drawn to them?
I love any fairytales with a fun adventure and a promise of a love story. There’s just something so familiar and heartwarming about good overcoming evil and people finding true love or just finding out that they’re stronger than they ever though they could be.

8. Who are your favorite villains of lore?
I’ve always been interested in Ursula. In the Disney version, she and Triton are siblings, and yet, she’s been cast out. People clearly still go to her for solutions to their problems. I’d like to know why exactly she and her brother had a falling out.

9. Would you rather be a hero or a villain?
I’ve always wanted to be a hero, but I do often think that villains can sometimes have more flair and style than heroes. But at the end of the day, I would want to be the one saving and sacrificing for others, and I would want people to like me.

10. Would you rather be locked up in a tower or a dungeon?
Tower all the way! Dungeons have too much of a reputation for being dark, dreary, cold, and full of rats. I’d much rather have a tower. Plus, if there’s a window, then you could have nice views and sunshine, so at least there’s that. I feel like a tower would be easier to escape from in some ways too

11. What elements of the King Midas myth did you use when incorporating the tale into your own novel?
I used a lot of Greek mythology since the King Midas myth is originally a Greek myth. I also used a few creatures inspired by other Greek myths. I wanted the world of A Touch of Gold to have familiar elements but also new twists on a world people sometimes think they know.

12. What sets your retelling apart from other retellings of the same story?
There really aren’t many retellings of the King Midas story, but mine is truly unique because it focuses on the daughter of King Midas who has gold powers of her own. In the original myth, King Midas’s daughter is such a forgotten character. She’s a means to an end so her father learns his lesson. I wanted to bring her to the forefront and explore her life—and her curse—after she was turned to gold as a child by her own father.

13. What lesson do you want your readers to learn from your retelling?
I want readers to learn that they’re stronger than they ever thought. I also want them to see that maybe something they thought was a flaw may actually turn out to be their greatest strength. I want them to come back to the real world after reading A Touch of Gold and be a little more hopeful.

14. What made you want to incorporate a myth into something brand-new?
I love fairytales, but I’ve always wondered about what would happen if one element or another was changed. How would that change the story? I also love looking for the forgotten characters—like the daughter of King Midas—who might have a story of their own to tell.


A Touch of Gold by Annie Sullivan
Published by Blink on August 14, 2018
Genres: Young Adult — Mythology, Retelling, Fantasy
Add to Goodreads • Amazon • B&N • Book Depository

King Midas once had the ability to turn all he touched into gold. But after his gift—or curse—almost killed his daughter, Midas relinquished The Touch forever. Ten years later, Princess Kora still bears the consequences of her father’s wish: her skin shines golden, rumors follow her everywhere she goes, and she harbors secret powers that are getting harder to hide.

Kora spends her days locked in the palace, concealed behind gloves and veils, trying to ignore the stares and gossip of courtiers. It isn’t until a charming young duke arrives that Kora realizes there may be someone out there who doesn’t fear her or her curse. But their courtship is disrupted when a thief steals precious items from the kingdom, leaving the treasury depleted and King Midas vulnerable. Thanks to her unique ability to sense gold, Kora is the only one who can track the thief down. As she sails off on her quest, Kora learns that not everything is what it seems—not thieves, not pirates, and not even curses. She quickly discovers that gold—and the power it brings—is more dangerous than she’d ever believed.

Midas learned his lesson at a price. What will Kora’s journey cost?


About Annie Sullivan

Annie Sullivan is a Young Adult author from Indianapolis, Indiana. Her work has been featured in Curly Red Stories and Punchnels, and her novel, Goldilocks, won the Luminis Books Award at the 2013 Midwest Writers Workshop. She loves fairytales, everything Jane Austen, and traveling and exploring new cultures. When she’s not off on her own adventures, she’s teaching classes at the Indiana Writers Center and working as the Copy Specialist at John Wiley and Sons, Inc. publishing company, having also worked there in Editorial and Publicity roles. You can follow her adventures on Twitter (@annsulliva).

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