September 16, 2022

What I've Been Reading: 2022 recap

This has been a big year for me in terms of my reading. At the beginning of the year, I set my Goodreads reading challenge at 30-- a number I thought would challenge, but not overwhelm me as I was still a student up until my graduation in the spring. I've had some incredible months that saw me reading up to eight books (February), whereas I didn't finish a single book in April, May, or June. Despite this, I've been able to keep up with my goal and I'm currently "right on track!" with 21/30 books read as of today. It's been a while since I've updated with what I've been reading, so let's get into it!

Instead of recapping all 21 books, I picked out the ones that stood out to me the most. I managed to whittle down the list to around half of what I've read-- I guess I've read some pretty good books this year! Here's the short list of my favorites so far:

Hold Back the Tide by Melinda Salisbury

A creature feature with familial secrets and a hostile small town.

Finale (Caraval, #3) by Stephanie Garber

The final book in the Caraval trilogy, Finale did not disappoint. I began this trilogy last year and I was quickly immersed in the vivid world that Garber created. I was really pleased that all three books in this trilogy never lost their momentum.

To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

The Little Mermaid, but lethal. This book was a last-minute addition to my Amazon cart earlier this year, but it ended up sweeping me off my feet. This is a standalone novel about the deadliest siren and a notorious siren killer with a touch of romance and a lot of action. 

Ninth House (Alex Stern, #1) by Leigh Bardugo

I started the audiobook for Ninth House back in 2020 during a move, but working full time while maintaining a full-time university curriculum put all of my reading on hold. This is my most recent read and it was incredible. It's a slow burn with tons of flashbacks, exposition, and background information that you're thankful for once things start coming together. The intimate knowledge that's provided to you throughout the book makes for characters that you really care about and sympathize with. I read a lot of books, and many of them are entertaining and tell good stories-- I even like many of the characters that I encounter. Few, however,  make me care about them. I found myself truly concerned and invested in the characters' well-being. I can't wait for Hell Bent, the second book in the series that'll be released next January (the day before my birthday!).

Ruin and Rising (Grisha, #3) by Leigh Bardugo

The conclusion to the Grisha trilogy. I was ultimately pleased with the trilogy's conclusion. I can't wait to read the Six of Crows duology!

Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass, #1) by Sarah J. Maas

This was my first SJM read and it didn't disappoint. It played on some well-known fantasy tropes, but I thought they were done well. I burned through this book quickly and have already continued with the series, as well as the novellas that precede the first novel.

An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson

A unique fantasy world where the fae and humans co-exist tenuously. Humans are able to provide "crafts" for the fae who are unable to do it themselves, occasionally providing the humans that have served them with enchanted items. I loved the unique relationships between the fae and humans, as well as the worldbuilding and magic system Rogerson created. I already have her other novels on my TBR.

The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones

How dare this book make me cry. This was such a beautifully written story about magic and zombies. This book was full of mystery and action, but also explored love, loss, and grief in such a beautiful, unexpected way. I'm tearing up as I recall reading this book, so I'm moving on.

Stalking Jack the Ripper (Stalking Jack the Ripper, #1) by Kerri Maniscalco

THIS. BOOK. WAS. SO. MUCH. FUN. I actually have a dedicated review for this book that I'll link here. I absolutely devoured this story. It's a murder mystery first and foremost, but I really enjoyed the romance sprinkled throughout. I love Audrey Rose and Thomas, and I can't wait to continue their stories with the rest of the series.

The Bone Shard Daughter (The Drowning Empire, #1) by Andrea Stewart

I saved the best for last with The Bone Shard Daughter. There aren't enough words to describe how I feel about this book. I'll go as far as saying that this book is tied with Rebecca by Daphne du Marier for my favorite book of all time.

Like Ninth House above, I really, really, cared about these characters. There were moments when I hesitated turning to the next page because Stewart made me so deeply afraid of what would happen next. (I immediately picked up The Bone Shard Emporer-- its sequel-- but I've been putting off reading it for that exact reason.) This book has it all, and it's no wonder I keep seeing it at the top of lists of those who've read it. It's a book about magic and mystery, sure, but it's so much more than that. I don't want to give anything else away, so just do yourself a favor and pick this book up.


The Bone Shard Empire (The Drowning Empire, #2) by Andrea Stewart

I've gotta rip the band-aid off eventually.

Kingdom of the Wicked (Kingdom of the Wicked, #1) by Kerri Maniscalco

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

This was another book that I began reading in 2020 but that school got in the way of. I've started the book over, so I'll soon have the quintessential dark academia book under my belt!

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Bunny by Mona Awad

The Death of Jane Lawrence by Caitlin Starling

House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherland

The Library of the Dead (Edinburgh Nights, #1) by T.L. Huchu 

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Babel by R.F. Kuang

Belladonna (Belladonna, #1) by Adalyn Grace 

You can add me on Goodreads here!

If you're interested in joining Book of the Month, you can use my link here to get yourself set up with your first box!

What have you read this year? Let me know!

September 3, 2022

Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco: A Spoiler-Free Review

I finally cracked open my copy of Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco this week and I devoured it in just a couple of days. It's been a while since I've done a book review, so I thought this would be the perfect opportunity! 

The book follows Audrey Rose Wadsworth, a highborn daughter to a Lord who is passionate about the forensic sciences-- a male's field that is considered beyond inappropriate for women. Despite her status and home in Belgrave Square, Audrey Rose spends most of her time apprenticing with her uncle alongside her arrogant classmate Thomas. There, they perform autopsies and strive to advance the field of medicine. When her uncle begins assisting police in the gruesome murders plaguing the Whitechapel neighborhood of London, the three set out to identify and catch the killer dubbed Leather Apron. Later, the killer will give himself the nickname by which we all know him-- Jack the Ripper. 

This book immediately transported me into Audrey Rose's world and never let me go. Maniscalco filled the book with such rich detail and imagery that I was clinging onto her every word. Nothing felt redundant or over-explained. I had my suspicions about who Jack could be (which were later proved correct) but these were based on mere subtleties-- they weren't given away easily. The author did a great job at setting up the plot and at times I was even questioning my own theory. 

The novel dealt with family dynamics, grief, romance, and of course the murders themselves. I think the author did a great job at not overdoing any of the themes, creating a perfectly balanced story with the murders in the spotlight. Not only was it evident how much Audrey Rose cared for her family, but she also recognized her own entitlements and others' circumstances that they had no control over. I particularly thought her view of the women who found themselves in sex work in 1880s London to be revolutionary for the time period. 

"It was such an unfair, cruel world for women. If you were a widow or your husband or family disowned you, there were few avenues available for feeding yourself. It hardly mattered if you were highborn or not. If you couldn't rely on someone else's money and shelter, you survived the only way you could."

I especially liked Audrey Rose's character and that she wasn't "not like the other girls" because of her interest in the forensic sciences. She still very much enjoyed getting dressed up, and even enjoyed the time spent with her cousin, Liza, who she'd previously thought to be a typical highborn socialite. I really liked their exchanges and watching Audrey Rose's prejudices toward her cousin dissipate as she realized Liza's quiet genius, later noting, "My cousin was smart, unabashedly feminine, and comfortable playing by her own version of society's rules."

Overall, this book was such a fun read. It's been a long time since I've read a book this exciting. As I've already said, it hooked me from the start and never let me go. Each chapter was filled with more mystery and death that continually raised the stakes until its satisfying conclusion. This is going to be one of those books I wish I could read for the first time all over again. This is the first book I've read by Maniscalco, and I'm so glad that I already own Kingdom of the Wicked because I can't get enough of her writing. And yes, I've already purchased the second book in the series: Hunting Prince Dracula.

Rating: 9/10

Note: I would warn readers that are squeamish to perhaps look elsewhere as there are a lot of descriptive scenes that may be uncomfortable or difficult for some to get through.

All opinions expressed are my own. You can add me on Goodreads to keep up with my current reads here!

August 23, 2022

industry abandoned: an outing with my Lumix GF1

I received my Lumix GF1 in late June and I had really been neglecting it. So, I've been getting to know the 13-year-old camera over the last week and I've been having a ton of fun with it. I recently accompanied Andrew to his office and took the outing as an opportunity to bring my GF1 along. 

August 18, 2022

alabama antiquing

During our week-long stay in Alabama, I had the absolute pleasure of going antiquing a few times. While I'm an avid thrift shopper, I never pay much attention to antique stores. I really have no good reason, as they're right up my alley. Nevertheless, I had a great time and found some really neat pieces! It's also been quite a while since I've shared a thrift haul, so I think a post like this is long overdue!

The first stop we made was by total happenstance. Andrew's mom, grandmother, little sister, and I had such a fun time driving down random Alabama backroads until we came across a town they recognized. Conveniently enough, a small antique shop that they'd been to once before was right around the corner. So, of course, we had to go in! I found such great finds here, and it's what really changed my perception of antique shops.

Sammy's Antiques -- Wilsonville, Alabama

As I've mentioned before, I collect vintage Dooney & Bourke All Weather Leather bags, and I was thrilled to find this one in a style and color that I don't yet have! I held my breath as I checked the price tag and let out a massive sigh of relief when the price turned out to be reasonable.

I'm an absolute sucker for stuffed animals, bonus points if they're old and/or handmade. The cashier working that day actually made the two cats a long time ago. I love old, handmade things, but especially those that have a story. It makes them that much more special to me.

I also picked up a pendant of a gnome standing by his little mushroom house. It really made me smile, and I think the cashier was a bit confused as to why I'd want it. He hangs out on the corkboard right above my desk where I get to appreciate him every day!

Andrew's nana insisted on getting me this mug for my recent graduation and I couldn't argue. It's feeding my coffee mug addiction and I'm not mad at all!

Sweet Pickins' Antique Mall -- Childersburg, Alabama

A couple of days later we went out to a couple more antique shops. While this day didn't feel as fruitful as the first, I found one of my favorite items on this outing. Our first stop at Sweet Pickins' didn't yield much, but I did find this bird wall hook which I'm excited to hang.

The Brass Bear Antiques -- Hoover, Alabama

Our second stop of the day was the one I was most looking forward to. I'd only been to the Brass Bear once before, and I couldn't wait to go back. It's a massive indoor antique mall and thoroughly combing through it could easily be a full day's affair, but we only had an hour or two. I first found a lovely crocheted pillow and some old horseshoes for just a couple of dollars each. There was an adorable booth with quite a few books, and I found a copy of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke, which has been on my TBR. Finally, I found the most precious stuffed rabbit which I believe to be very old. I became instantly attached despite trying and failing to explore other booths. He's extremely firm and seems to be stuffed with real cotton. I named him Rupert, and he rode with me in the front seat the entire 14-hour car ride back to Pennsylvania. 

Chelsea Antique Mall -- Chelsea, Alabama

On our last day in Alabama, I made a quick stop at one last antique mall where I picked up several pieces of costume jewelry, the coolest brass wall clip, and the antique postcards pictured above with the horseshoes. 

There were certainly many more pieces that I would have loved to lug home with us, but storage was limited. Now that I'm more familiar with antique malls, I can't wait to explore more in my area! I hope you guys like the return to this format-- let me know if you want more posts like this! 

Enjoy some of the other interesting items I saw during our various antiquing trips.