The Ripper’s Wife by Brandy Purdy

In The Ripper’s Wife, Brandy Purdy marries two true stories: that of Jack the Ripper, whose identity remains unknown (unless you believe this), and the story of James and Florence Maybrick. While some evidence suggests that James Maybrick was the Ripper, none of it is authenticated.

When you choose to read a novel about Jack the Ripper, you can’t expect it to be wildly pleasant. I didn’t know the real story of James and Florence Maybrick, but if you do, you know that’s not very pleasant either. Readers shouldn’t go into this book expecting a heartwarming story that will leave them feeling good.

The Ripper's Wife Front Cover (Kensington Publishing)

The Ripper’s Wife Front Cover (Kensington Publishing)

THE PLOT: Florence Chandler and James Maybrick meet on a ship and have a whirlwind courtship. Florie is 18 and American. Maybrick is English and in his 40s, but these differences don’t matter as much to them as they do to others. They marry, have a magical honeymoon, and settle in Jim’s home…and that’s where everything goes wrong. Jim is a hypochondriac addicted to arsenic, strychnine, cough syrups, and various other snake-oil remedies. When Florie discovers his well-stocked medicine cabinet, he hits her, beginning a long career of brutal wife-beating. They live with Jim’s two brothers: Michael, who hates her, and Edwin, who wants Florie for himself. Florie is introduced to Jim’s “old friend” Mrs. Briggs, a woman jilted by Jim for Florie, yet who somehow has the running of his household. Once children enter the picture, Mrs. Briggs hires the horrible Nanny Yapp, who also defies Florie at every turn (along with wearing her clothes).

When Florie discovers that Jim is unfaithful on top of everything else, she starts an affair with his business partner. Jim finds out immediately, and this triggers him to become Jack the Ripper. He wants to kill his “wife-whore,” but he doesn’t want his children affected by the notoriety they would receive if their father murdered their mother. He murders prostitutes in her place and delights in confounding the police. When Jim becomes truly ill, he reveals his actions to Florie. But when he dies, everyone conspires to have Florie convicted of his murder.

MY TWO CENTS: I’d like to read a different Brandy Purdy book and see if I really like her writing style. The book is mostly in first person from Florie’s point of view, except for the excerpts from Jim’s diary, in which he chronicles his career as the Ripper in great detail. It’s a mess of repetitive blathering, overlong descriptions of the prostitutes’ backgrounds (especially Mary Kelly’s), and extremely foul language. What you’d expect to find in the diary of a madman, but not enjoyable reading! Even without the Ripper parts, the story of Florie Maybrick is hideously depressing. Before her conviction, she lives as the plaything of various men. She doesn’t have one single ally. She’s the “crass American” in an English world, so she has no friends. She’s not even allowed to run the household or raise her children. The only joy she gets out of life is from compulsive shopping. Of course, after her conviction, things are worse. She spends 15 years in prison, and when released, her children want nothing to do with her. Her life continues a downward spiral until she’s destitute, completely alone, and living in a fantasy world.

Otherwise, the book isn’t badly written, although some readers won’t enjoy all the descriptions of settings and items. There are also a few really convenient plot points, like Florie meeting her grown son on the day he “accidentally” drinks poison, or being in the right places at the right time to view some of her adult daughter’s tragic life.

BOTTOM LINE: The book did elicit a strong emotional response from me, but it’s not one that I would want others to experience! I would really only recommend this book if you are a Brandy Purdy fan or interested in Ripper lore. I mostly enjoyed the writing style, though, and would like to read a different book by this author.

TEACUP RATING: Two-and-a-half out of five teacups. I couldn’t stop reading it, but afterward, I kind of wish I had.

WARNING: This book contains graphic descriptions of drug abuse, violence, and extremely foul language. If these are things you don’t appreciate, I recommend avoiding.

ON SALE DATE: The book will be on sale in paperback and eformats on October 28, 2014.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

 

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Captive (Blackcoat Rebellion #2) by Aimée Carter

After reading Book 1 in the Blackcoat Rebellion, Pawn (reviewed here), I was happy to get an ARC of Book 2, Captive. This volume may seem fairly short, clocking in at just 298 pages, but it’s full of action.

Captive Front Cover (Harlequin)

Captive Front Cover (Harlequin)

SPOILER WARNING: This review will contain spoilers for Book 1, Pawn.

 

THE PLOT: At the end of Pawn, Kitty Doe had discovered that the real Lila Hart was still alive, and Daxton Hart was actually a masked former V. Kitty is still playing the role of Lila, but she hasn’t told Knox (real Lila’s fiancé) that Daxton doesn’t have amnesia like he’s pretending. Knox is trying to lead the Blackcoats, but Kitty is stubbornly throwing some chinks in his plans. Then Kitty is caught trying to get papers revealing fake Daxton’s real identity out of his office. She manages to hide the papers, but her boyfriend Benji is killed…by Knox. Daxton has Kitty sent (as Lila) to Elsewhere, the horrible prison/hunting grounds for Is and criminals. Kitty is rebranded with an X, losing her precious VII forever, and somehow has to manage to survive Elsewhere. But does she even want to survive without Benji? Whose side is Knox really on? Who is fake Daxton? And why were there papers on Kitty’s pre-Lila past in the safe?

MY TWO CENTS: The action really starts once Kitty arrives in Elsewhere. We’re introduced to a bunch of new characters: prison guards, prisoners, snitches, and secret Blackcoats. The reader doesn’t know who Kitty should trust, and there are several curves I didn’t see coming. I think the overall plot moved along quite nicely by taking Kitty away from Benji and Knox and throwing her into a den of wolves. It also helps develop Kitty’s character, since much of the action is instigated by her immaturity at the beginning of the book. We finally learn about Kitty’s heritage.

BOTTOM LINE: This was a fairly tense read. I enjoyed this book as much as, maybe more than, its predecessor, and am very much looking forward to the final book in the series, Queen.

TEACUP RATING: I give Captive four out of five teacups for suspense and action.

ON SALE DATE: Captive will be available in hardcover and eformats on November 25, 2014.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Amazon Vine in exchange for an honest review.

 

The Word Exchange by Alena Graedom

I owe this author a big apology. I have been reading this book since April. It NEVER takes me this long to read and review a book. All I can say is, I had a lot of trouble getting into it and STAYING into it, yet I really wanted to finish it.

Word Exchange Hardcover (XX)

Word Exchange Hardcover ((Knopf Doubleday)

THE PLOT: In a slightly futuristic world, almost all written word has been replaced by devices called Memes that respond to thought. Anana is searching for her father, Doug, who worked on the North American Dictionary of the English Language and refused to use Memes. Helping her is her coworker and father’s colleague, Bart, who also serves as an alternating narrator. Bart is in love with Ana, but is also sort-of friends with her ex, Max, whose company is introducing an even more invasive version of the Meme. Is he behind Doug’s disappearance? Then people start showing signs of aphasia…mixing up words and making up fake words in an illness known as “word flu.” Will technology wipe out language as we know it?

MY TWO CENTS: As an editor, I thoroughly abhor what texting and Twitter have done to our language. Language is being dumbed down to fit in 144 characters or less, and new “words” like vacay make me sick. In that mindset, I was totally ready to enjoy this book and its message. Unfortunately, I feel like the message got a bit lost in an overly long sea of too many words. I realize that wordiness is part of the punchline, but an author also needs to keep the reader moving along. Maybe the editor needed to be more brutal in streamlining it. I got bogged down in the reading so many times that I finally switched to the audio version about 1/3 of the way through. I will say that I connected with Bart as the narrator more than I connected to Anana.

BOTTOM LINE: A great premise, but a little too detailed and dragged out, and too many unimportant characters. Some readers love it; I found it okay. I wanted to love it.

TEACUP RATING: Three out of five teacups.

ON SALE DATE: Available now in hardcover, eformats, and audio. It will be released in paperback will be released on 2/3/15.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Atlantia Sample Chapter by Ally Condie

Atlantia Front Cover

Atlantia Front Cover (Dutton/Penguin)

I’m not sure what drew me to check out this sample chapter. It might have been the cover, or the title; and when I read the summary copy, I thought, “Why not?” Having read it, I’m definitely interested enough to check out the book. In a different dystopian twist, most humans now live in a city under the ocean. In a coming-of-age ceremony, teens choose whether they will live out their lives in the underwater city or be transported to the surface and, therefore, separated from their family and friends forever. Only one person from each family can go above. Rio always wanted to go to the surface. But after their mother dies, Rio’s twin, Bay, convinces her to stay. So in the ceremony, Rio chooses Atlantia…and Bay goes next, choosing the surface! Since Bay is immediately hustled away to the transport, Rio is left wondering what made Bay choose going above. Was it something as mundane as a boy? Now Rio wants to escape the city, but it’s never been done. The only person who might help is Rio’s estranged aunt, who’s known as a sea witch.

I have not read Ally Condie before, but I was drawn in by her descriptions of the city and the immediate suspense she created during the ceremony. There are some Little Mermaid parallels, but not a direct retelling by any means. I’m interested to see where this goes.

Atlantia will be released in hardcover, eformats, and audio on October 28, 2014.

Note: Review is based on a sample chapter provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

So, Anyway… by John Cleese

Disclosure: I am a John Cleese fan. I love Python, of course, but also Fawlty Towers, A Fish Called Wanda, Fierce Creatures, and pretty much anything else Cleese shows up in. So this review is coming from a pretty established fan, but perhaps not a superfan. I don’t have every sketch memorized, for instance.

So, Anyway... Front Cover (Random House)

So, Anyway… Front Cover (Random House)

THE COVERAGE: This is an autobiography of John from his birth (including some background on his parents and grandparents) more or less to the founding of Python. THIS IS NOT A BOOK ABOUT MONTY PYTHON. (If you want the Python book, check out The Pythons: Autobiography by the Pythons.) I will say, though, that many of his experiences are linked to things we see later in his career, so I won’t say it’s DEVOID of Python. We’re taken though his school days to his work with the Footlights through an abbreviated teaching career and into his work on New York and then with the BBC. Graham Chapman is the Python most involved, since John worked with him longest (before Python). There is quite a lot on At Last the 1948 Show and The Frost Report.

MY TWO CENTS: What’s great about the book is to see John’s experiences as he lived them, from his perspective, which is a lot more fun than reading your standard Wikipedia article.  I imagined John’s voice as I was reading, and there are several fall-on-the-floor hilarious stories (which become even funnier if you imagine John presenting them). Plus, it’s amazing to reads this and think, “This is how a legend evolves.” Not that Mr. Cleese presents himself as a legend, although he should. I also loved reading about his friendships with other legends, especially Marty Feldman (and, of course, Graham Chapman).

BOTTOM LINE: No fan should miss this, and nonfans should give it a try and find out what they’re missing. A bunch of my friends are getting copies of this book for Christmas; it’s too bad it doesn’t look like the audio book will be available by then.

TEACUP RATING: Absolutely five out of five teacups. I hope Mr. Cleese writes more books about his experiences.

ON SALE DATE: Available in hardcover and eformats on November 4, 2014. An audio version is listed on Amazon with no date, but I’ll be watching for it.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Ensnared Trailer!

A.G. Howard has released a trailer for Ensnared, the final book in the Splintered trilogy! Check it out here:

Ensnared Final Cover

Ensnared Final Cover

I’ve really enjoyed these books, and I can’t wait to see how the series ends. Ensnared releases on January 13, 2015 in the US.

The Jewel (Jewel #1) by Amy Ewing

The Jewel has an absolutely gorgeous cover, similar to its HarperTeen family members The Luxe and The Selection. If you put a glorious ballgown on the cover, it’s probably going to catch my interest (and that of its target market, teen girls). So how is the book behind the cover?

The Jewel Front Cover (HarperCollins)

The Jewel Front Cover (HarperCollins)

THE PLOT: Like many dystopian novels, this world is divided into levels: the Marsh (the poor), the Smoke (factories), the Farm (food production), the Bank (merchants), and the Jewel (royalty). But royal women can’t bear their own children, or aren’t allowed to. Instead, teen girls from lower levels are tested to see if they have the power of the auguries, magic that allows them to change an object’s appearance and even make something grow. If positive, the girls are taken from their families and farmed to become surrogate birth mothers for royalty’s children.

Violet is one of these girls, and she’s about to be sold at auction. She’s purchased by the Duchess of the Lake and forced to leave behind her name, her friends, her family, and her entire identity. Supposedly, once she has borne the Duchess a child, she will be sterilized and sent to a quiet area to live out her life with other surrogates.

There are many catches to this scenario, though, including: Violet will have to bear a daughter and make the fetus develop quickly to beat all the other royal women trying to match a daughter up with the son of the Exetor. Using the auguries to that extent causes nosebleeds, dizziness, fainting spells, and maybe even death. The Duchess is cruel, using physical luxuries as both carrot and whip to ensure Violet’s cooperation. Finally, Violet meets a boy who’s as much of a slave as she is, but a forbidden love develops. Is there any scenario where Violet can ever be a person in her own right?

MY TWO CENTS: I felt that too many things were going on in this story. Segregated society, forced surrogate mothers, magical powers, weird feuding royalty…it’s not like it was difficult to keep track of what was happening; it just felt like a lot of elements thrown together.

I’m also trying to figure out what this book might be saying about the empowerment (or lack thereof) of women. On one hand, the Lone City seems to be run entirely by women; men seem to play a very minor role. Surrogates are even artificially inseminated. On the other hand, the royal women are all gossipy, backbiting, and devious. Their power is based on negative behavior. The surrogates have all the power to produce future generations of royalty, yet they are completely powerless to choose pretty much anything for themselves. So what message are we to take away?

Despite these concerns, The Jewel is immensely readable. While it’s true that the message is ambiguous, and Violet doesn’t have the strength or intelligence of a lot of her dystopian heroine counterparts, the writing really sucked me in. I just wanted to keep reading. I didn’t want to put down. Plus, it ended on a serious cliffhanger (with some elements that I saw coming, granted), so I’ll be looking out for the sequel.

In some ways, The Jewel reminded me of VC Andrews books like Heaven, Dawn, and Ruby. A poor but talented teenage girl is catapulted from poverty to the very heart of wealthy society, but of course the price for bountiful food, sumptuous living arrangements, and glamorous clothes is measured in self-esteem instead of money. Her foster mother can be kind, but only to achieve her own ends, and is abusive more often than not.

BOTTOM LINE: While not great literature by any means, the writing drew me in. I’m officially calling it a guilty pleasure. If you like VC books, you might want to give this one a try. I’ll definitely be waiting for the sequel.

TEACUP RATING: Out of five teacups, I give The Jewel between three-and-a-half and four.

ON SALE DATE: The Jewel is available now in hardcover and eformats.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Amazon Vine in exchange for an honest review.

 

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