Book Review: Capturing the Devil

Capturing the Devil by Kerri Maniscalco

Audrey Rose Wadsworth and Thomas Cresswell have landed in America, a bold, brash land unlike the genteel streets of London. But like London, the city of Chicago hides its dark secrets well. When the two attend the spectacular World’s Fair, they find the once-in-a-lifetime event tainted with reports of missing people and unsolved murders.

Determined to help, Audrey Rose and Thomas begin their investigations, only to find themselves facing a serial killer unlike any they’ve encountered before. Identifying him is one thing, but capturing him—and getting dangerously lost in the infamous Murder Hotel he constructed as a terrifying torture device—is another.

Will Audrey Rose and Thomas see their last mystery to the end—together and in love—or will their fortunes finally run out when their most depraved adversary makes one final, devastating kill?

Audrey Rose and Thomas arrive in New York and soon learn about a killer who seems reminiscent of their Ripper in London. Though they thought they had stopped him back in London. Clues lead the couple to Chicago and the World’s Fair, where people have been going missing. America’s first serial killer is their most evil foe yet.

Capturing the Devil is the fourth and final installment to the Stalking Jack the Ripper series. I enjoyed this take on HH Holmes, and several of his actual victims are mentioned or featured along the way. The story is quite a bit lengthier than its predecessors, as there is more of a developed side story with the romance between Audrey Rose and Thomas. I preferred the gothic, mystery storyline and was glad when they arrive in Chicago and the suspense increased. I only wish we had more time in the “Murder Hotel,” as the climactic showdown could have been played up even more. However, it was still intensely thrilling, with a fun epilogue. I certainly enjoyed this unique series.

SciFi Book Review: Star Trek: The Next Generation: Collateral Damage

Star Trek: The Next Generation: Collateral Damage by David Mack

The past returns to haunt Captain Jean-Luc Picard—a crime he thought long buried has been exposed, and he must return to Earth to answer for his role in a conspiracy that some call treason. Meanwhile, the U.S.S. Enterprise is sent to apprehend pirates who have stolen vital technology from a fragile Federation colony. But acting captain Commander Worf discovers that the pirates’ motives are not what they seem, and that sometimes standing for justice means defying the law….

Collateral Damage follows the recent line of Star Trek: The Next Generation novels, post TV series. Following the Section 31 coup, Captain Picard is indicted and put on trial. So, Worf commands the Enterprise as they rush to assist various outposts under attack. The Nausicaans want revenge for losing their homeworld to the recent Borg war, which they blame on the Federation.

This latest novel was a lot of fun. The suspense of the trial was well-paced and didn’t get bogged down. And the Nausicaan storyline was surprisingly poignant as well. The highlight, for me, was a subplot narrated in first person by Okona (from the TNG episode “The Outrageous Okona” played by Billy Campbell.) Which, of course, made me want to rewatch the episode. Okona is a funny, brash, and flirtatious scoundrel – perfect for comedy relief. Events build to a surprising ending that I didn’t expect from Worf. With legal drama, espionage, danger and suspense, and a bit of humor – this was another solid and exciting installment in my favorite series.

Fantasy Book Review: The Revenge of Magic: The Last Dragon

The Revenge of Magic: The Last Dragon by James Riley

Fort Fitzgerald can’t stop having nightmares about the day his father was taken from him in an attack on Washington, DC. In these dreams, an Old One, an evil beyond comprehension, demands the location of the last dragon. But other than some dragon skeletons dug up with the books of magic on Discovery Day, Fort has never seen a dragon before. Could there still be one left alive?

And weirdly, Fort’s not the only one at the Oppenheimer School having these nightmares. His new roommate, Gabriel, seems to know more than he’s letting on about this dragon as well. And why does everyone at the school seem to do whatever Gabriel says? What’s his secret?

Fort’s going to need the help of his friends Cyrus, Jia, and Rachel, if he’s going to have any chance of keeping the Old Ones from returning to Earth. Unless, the Old Ones offer something Fort could never turn down…

The Last Dragon is the 2nd installment in The Revenge of Magic series. Fort has a plan to get his father back, but keeps it a secret from his friends which drives a rift between them. Gabriel is a mysterious, new character. And we finally get a closer look at the Old Ones and where they come from. This installment answers a lot more questions and amps up the danger and suspense. The last novel was a good foundation for the characters and school, but the story really takes off in this book. It’s fast-paced and full of mystery, magic, and drama. This is a very fun and exciting story for Middle readers on up. And the next in the series can’t come soon enough.

SciFi Book Review: Time Shards

Time Shards by Dana Fredsti and David Fitzgerald

Our world is gone, instantly replaced by a new one made of scattered remnants of the past, present, and future, dropped alongside one another in a patchwork of “shards”. Monsters from Jurassic prehistory, ancient armies, and high-tech robots all coexist in this deadly post-apocalyptic landscape.

A desperate group of survivors sets out to locate the source of the disaster. They include 21st century Californian Amber Richardson, Cam, a young Celtic warrior from Roman Britannia, Alex Brice, a policewoman from 1985, and Blake, a British soldier from World War II. With other refugees from across time, they must learn the truth behind the Event, if they are to survive.

Amber is on a date when suddenly everything around her changes in an instant. Dangerous predators as well as humans from throughout time have converged and splintered the landscape. She meets various individuals from throughout the past as they try to figure out what’s going on and just try to survive.

Time Shards is the first in an intriguing science fiction series. I loved the premise, and thought this sounded unique. I loved the distinct time periods melding together. History meets scifi. There is quite a bit of violence and intense suspense, reminiscent of Alien or Predator. But the plot is great and once the characters came together, it becomes more than just a fight for survival. There are a diverse cast of characters – from relatable individuals to loathsome. This action-packed thriller builds to a climactic ending that left me eager to read the next in the series which recently released.

Fantasy Book Review: Dragonwatch: Master of the Phantom Isle

Dragonwatch: Master of the Phantom Isle by Brandon Mull

Cursed by the Key of Forgetting, Seth has lost all memory of his past—his relationships, his experiences, and who he really is. For now he will align with his new mentor, Ronodin, the dark unicorn, who takes him to the Phantom Isle, the secret gateway to the Under Realm. Though Seth is not formally a prisoner, Ronodin wants to use him and his shadow charmer powers for his own dark ends.

Kendra is frantic to find her missing brother, but the quest will take her and her companions, including Warren, Tanu, and Vanessa, far from Wyrmroost to Crescent Lagoon—a recently fallen dragon sanctuary made up of many islands and underwater domains. Its caretaker has regained a foothold on one of the islands. If Kendra and her friends can save that sanctuary, they might uncover the answers they need to rescue Seth.

With each sanctuary the dragons overthrow, Celebrant, the Dragon King, comes closer to the dawn of a new Age of Dragons. With the forces of darkness on the march, can Kendra and her allies gather enough power to win the epic dragon war?

Master of the Phantom Isle is the 3rd book in the Dragonwatch series, an offshoot/continuation of the Fablehaven series. Seth has been kidnapped to the Under Realm without any of his memories. All he knows is what he’s told from the dark unicorn Ronodin. Meanwhile, his sister Kendra tries to find him while trying to keep the sanctuaries from falling.

Fablehaven is one of my all-time favorite children’s fantasy series, and this continuation has been a lot of fun. The danger and suspense has escalated. But there’s still plenty of fun and humor. There are so many interesting characters (that somehow don’t get confusing) and still a fascinating plot with a lot going on. The dialog with Seth was a bit annoying at times, as he asks questions incessantly. And somehow Ronodin doesn’t get sick of it? Readers really don’t need to know every detail. Thankfully, that let up a bit by the end of the story. Kendra and her friends also get to visit a new sanctuary that is very unique, with fun new characters. These are long novels, but easy reading. A lot of adventure, mystery, and magic is packed in. And I still didn’t want it to end. The next installment can’t come soon enough!

SciFi Book Review: Heartwood Box

Heartwood Box by Ann Aguirre

When Araceli Flores Harper is sent to stay with her great-aunt Ottilie in her ramshackle Victorian home, the plan is simple. She’ll buckle down and get ready for college. Life won’t be exciting, but she’ll cope, right?

Wrong. From the start, things are very, very wrong. Her great-aunt still leaves food for the husband who went missing twenty years ago, and local businesses are plastered with MISSING posters. There are unexplained lights in the woods and a mysterious lab just beyond the city limits that the locals don’t talk about. Ever. When she starts receiving mysterious letters that seem to be coming from the past, she suspects someone of pranking her or trying to drive her out of her mind.

To solve these riddles and bring the lost home again, Araceli must delve into a truly diabolical conspiracy, but some secrets fight to stay buried.

Araceli moves in with her aunt in a tiny town where an odd amount of people have gone missing. Araceli finds a mysterious box and seems to be communicating with a young man from the past. Then, when her closest friend goes missing, Araceli decides to do some dangerous investigating with the help of her new friends.

Heartwood Box is a captivating standalone story, reminiscent of The Lake House letters through time and the creepiness of X-Files. I love stories that have to do with time travel and changing the past. So, I had a really fun time trying to figure out what was happening up to the big reveal. There is plenty of mystery, suspense, and teen drama in this unique Young Adult science fiction novel. While I’m not a fan of insta-love, especially through a handful of letters, it was a cute side story and added to the overall mystery. This thrilling story culminates to an exciting finale that doesn’t disappoint.

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