Top 10 YA Reads of 2017

Another year has gone by, dear readers. It hardly seems possible. Where did the time go? I think this means I’m getting old. BUT, that’s neither here nor there…

Inevitably, at the end of the year, this reader/writer looks back at what she wasted spent her time on the last twelve months. In retrospect, I feel pretty good about my year, all-in-all. I got a lot done, much of it fun. Here are some of the things I’m going to count as wins:

  • I spent an entire year in my position at the Library, and saw some awesome things happen there. Our team gained several new staff members, all with unique strengths and talents, and I feel very fortunate to be able to work with them on a daily basis. We implemented a lot of new programs, and introduced some non-traditional materials, and our patrons ❤ ed them. So that’s pretty cool.
  • I prevailed in the Great Reading Contest of 2017. I have to give props to my little sis, though, because she found/recommended some great books to me that I may not have otherwise come across. And I have a feeling that the GREAT READING CONTEST OF 2018 isn’t going to be so easy a win, because now she has her Competition Pants on.
  • I spent an entire year writing regularly, like, with goals and accountability partners and stuff. That was WAY new for me. I also tried not being a pantster, and did a little plotting. Because of this, I
  • Wrote a book. From scratch, start to finish. And it wasn’t even that hard. (Not to belittle the time and work authors put into their books – I mean, it’s really hard work. It was just not nearly as hard when I did the groundwork ahead of time.) It’s got me thinking that maybe the “planning” thing isn’t such a bad idea.

In addition to looking back over some goals met, I am also obliged to include the inevitable “Best of” year-end list. As most of you know, I read across a lot of genres, but particularly like to read YA. So this list in particular highlights my Top 10 YA Reads of 2017. Picking only ten books was SO hard. If I had no life, and no other responsibilities, I could have done a Top 30 list. But, alas, I am a grown-up, so you only get ten.

I don’t have any “official” criteria by which I judge books. But they have to hold my attention, and I have to care about the characters. I don’t like books with sucky characters. That’s just straight-up honesty.I don’t have any patience for whiny, helpless characters (most of the time female, which I also take exception to. Like, why can’t more people write strong, capable, ladies who can wear lipstick while twirling nun chucks?). I end up wanting them to die, and I’m fairly certain that’s not the intent of the author. So to make the list, the book had to have good characters.

I am one of those crazies who likes a complex plot. Linear simplistic plots are complete snoozefests, and tell me one of two things: 1) the author lacks imagination enough to carry off an interesting subplot, or 2) the author thinks his reader isn’t intelligent enough to follow multiple lines. Either way, simple = boring. Give me a broken/multiple timeline story with different narrators and POVs any day over something linear and sensible. So to make the list, the book had to have a complex plot.

Interesting settings are the cherry on top of sprinkle-laden whipped cream covering the hot fudge book sundae. An imaginary setting isn’t necessary, but I want to see something that makes the setting different. A book can take place in a completely conventional location – say, New York City – but be presented in a completely unique way, and that engages my own imagination. So to make the list, the book had to have an interesting setting (though this wasn’t a deal-breaker).

Without further ado, here they are, in numbered, but no particular order:

10 The Reader1. The Reader by Traci Chee – I put off reading this book for the longest time. Heaven only knows why. It was clever and beautiful, and about a Book that holds All The Power. And it has pirates. Lots of pirates. There’s mystery and murder and magic, and really, what more can you want? You can read my full review here.

10 The Girl at Midnight2. The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Gray – This book (well, this trilogy, really) was the sleeper of the year for me. I picked it up on a whim because, well, dragons, and read the whole trilogy in three days. The heroine is sassy and stabby and isn’t afraid to say exactly what she’s thinking. And did I mention there are dragons?

10 Caraval 3.Caraval by Stephanie Garber – Can we all just take a minute to appreciate a book about a magical, slightly murdery island that is a little reminiscent of a nightmarish Wonderland?

10 The Casquette Girls 4.The Casquette Girls by Alys Arden – I have so much love for this book (and its sequel, The Romeo Catchers). Vampires (but not sparkly ones, thank the godstars), ghosts, voodoo, and witchery set in New Orleans? With a double helping of red beans and rice, thank you very much. You can read my entire review of this book here.

10 Six of Crows 5.Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo – Riff-raff, street rat, I will buy that. Throw in some revenge, criminal masterminding, an enigmatic gang leader, and the most ballsy heist since Oceans 11, and you’ve got a great story.

10 Strange the Dreamer 6.Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor – Beautiful, beautiful blue monsters. And “Strange” isn’t an adjective. That is all.

10 A Study in Charlotte 7.A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro – A (in my opinion) brilliant new take on the Holmes/Watson dynamic, where Holmes is appropriately infuriating yet awesome, and Watson actually has some agency.

blog nevernight 8.Nevernight by Jay Kristoff – Murder wrapped in death wrapped in killing dipped in blood, with a smart- mouthed, cigarillo-smoking female antihero protagonist who has a license to kill. Jay Kristoff is basically a god. (Note: this is arguably not a YA title…)

10 The Dark Days Club 9.The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman – Proof that women can do anything – even hunt demons in a corset. Oh, and resist the patriarchy.

10 Lord of Shadows 10.Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare – Flawed characters with good intentions who keep secrets from one another in an effort to protect each other, but end up putting each other in more danger because of their stubbornness. Sassy, stabby Emma and scheming Julian. You can read my full review of this book here.

In reality, there were so many good books I read this year. Kudos to all of you authors out there who keep giving us amazing stories to read. I can’t wait to dive into 2018.

My next reads are:

Batman: Nightwalker by Marie Lu

The Speaker by Traci Chee

A Darker Shade of Magic by Victoria Schwab

How’s that for an awesome lineup?!

Au revoir.

“This is a Book”

I’ve had this book sitting on the top of my TBR pile for months now, and I finally got to it. I’m so glad I did, because I loved it, and now I’m a little annoyed that I waited so long to read it. I will not make the same mistake with The Speaker.

I really liked the concept of this book. It takes the idea that books include *all the knowledge* and sprints away with it. But in this society, land, world people don’t know how to read, or even what writing is. It is not something that is taught, not something that is desired. Except by a very few. And these few control the fate of the realms.

In some ways the story is cliche – young girl loses parents and all she holds dear, and is forced to venture out into the big, wide, scary world alone, and learns she has a rare and secret superpower, which, of course, others want to take advantage of. But that’s where the “been there, done that” stops. Nin is not helpless, and she is not foolish; she is no damsel in distress. In fact, she becomes the hunter, the rescuer, and attempts to take her fate and her future into her own hands.

Along the way, she befriends a ship full of pirates (because what girl doesn’t need a handsome captain and scallywag crew on her side?) and rescues a boy whose greatest talent is murder (who happens to be a mute, by the by). So, really, nothing typical here.

This book had a couple of things I really liked:

  • This book is not for the faint of heart. It has multiple storylines, and multiple timelines, which I ❤ ❤ ❤ . The threads weave in and out of one another, sometimes knotting together, sometimes barely touching, but the end result is a beautiful, intricately crafted tapestry. I so appreciate authors who assume their readers are intelligent, and Traci Chee does not make things easy for her readers. She expects them to follow and keep up, and she tells the story unapologetically.
  • Many books which feature a disabled or special needs character (no matter what it is that makes them so), whether intentionally or not, portray that character as somewhat less than. When I understood that Archer couldn’t speak, I was nervous that he would be shown as more of a victim than anything, someone to be pitied. This was not the case. At all. Though it took him a little time to get his bearings, and to settle in with Nin, he was never a victim. It was almost as if he was just waiting for me, the reader, to understand him, before he revealed himself. (And perhaps this was Chee’s intention – for her readers to experience what Nin experienced with Archer.) Archer is strong, he is smart, he is kind, which makes his ability to kill someone with a flick of his wrist even more important.

I like it when books surprise me in a good way, and this one certainly did. There is mystery, there is love, there is danger, there is adventure, there is heartache – all ingredients for a great story.

Peace out, my friends.

 

Crooked and Saintly

One of the reasons I enjoy YA literature is because YA authors are willing to write about absolutely anything and everything.  They are not self-conscious, they are not pretentious, they are not shy.  What they are is brave.  And inventive. And original. I mean, cyborg Cinderella? Check. Time-traveling pirates? Ahoy. Gender-bent Dracula origin story?  Savage.  It’s my firm belief that YA authors take full advantage of the fact that there are a lot of people out there who want to read stories that speak to their imagination – that make them feel wonder and confusion and atmosphere.

I recently sat down with the most recent release of an author I feel is one of the most unique currently writing in the genre.  That is to say her books are straight up cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs.  They’re disorienting and magical and confusing, and represent all the best things about YA literature.  And when I finished reading All the Crooked Saints the only thing I could think was: what must it be like to live in Maggie Stiefvater’s head?

The book is about – (waves hand vaguely in the air) – darkness and monsters and love and slightly creepy, miracle-hungry owls. It’s hard to pin down, really.  The narrative is written in omniscient POV, which isn’t done a lot, and it took a little getting used to.  I can’t begin to tell you how many times in the first fifty pages I just looked at this book and said, “It’s so WEIRD.” But a good weird, not a bad weird. And it took me a while to catch on to all the intricacies of the miracles and the anti-miracles (as I came to think of them), but once I did, I steamrolled ahead.

In all honesty, what kept me reading was the characters. The Soria family is wholly unique and individual, and unlike anything I’ve ever come across. In a way, they’re unrelatable because of their remarkable gift; on the other hand, it made me care about them all the more.  They represent the best and worst aspects of humanity, in that they have the ability to work amazing miracles, but those miracles also call forth unimaginable darkness. And it’s worth mentioning that there are a lot of adults in this book – all of whose stories play an important role in the events of the book. That is something very different for a YA read. I liked it, and think it added richness to the overall tapestry of the narrative.

The story of the Sorias of Bicho Raro, Colorado, teaches lessons about people and humanity, and the miracles coupled with the inescapable darkness speak of deeper truths. But there is a shiny, glittery spark of hope here, too. Stiefvater does not crush all dreams (though she is completely capable of doing so). Individuals at the mercy of their darkness can choose to face that darkness, accept the truth of the part of their soul it represents, and banish it. In essence, if they are true to themselves, they are freed. What greater lesson can there be?

If you’re a Stiefvater fan, this one is a little different, even for her.  Ye be warned.  I even recall one particular tweet in which the author herself referred to this as “my weird little book”. Enough said.

 

 

 

When Fiction Becomes Reality

If you’re a loyal (or even an occasional) reader, you know that I ❤ New Orleans with a capital ❤ . I love the history, the food, the people, the music… There is always something going on in NOLA, and if you’re there and are bored, it’s your own fault. My darling husband and I just returned from NOLA, where we spent several days doing some touristy stuff (no matter how many times you visit, the nighttime ghost tours of the French Quarter are always a must), and a lot of wandering around on our own.

There’s no real way to adequately describe the personality of a city like New Orleans. It’s schizophrenic in the best possible way.  Every street has its own style, its own flair, its own history, and its own look. This is why you can walk a mere block or two and have it seem like you’ve stepped into another world.  The Vieux Carre is as different from the Garden District as the sun is from the moon.

Though there are other places I have visited that I enjoyed, none of them have captured my soul quite like NOLA has.  Because I thrive on stories – I read them, I write them, I tell them.  And NOLA has endless stories.  Some are horrid and bloody (Madame Delphine LaLaurie, I’m lookin’ at you right now), some are outlandish and nigh unbelievable (the ghost of a pirate guarding Jean Laffite’s treasure haunts Laffite’s Blacksmith Shop, a local bar), and some are downright sad (a boarding school burned, killing several children who couldn’t escape). But ALL of them, no matter the subject, are interesting.

I stumbled across Alys Arden’s book The Casquette Girls purely by accident – one of those “if you liked this, then try that” types of things. I read the blurb, and saw that it was set in New Orleans (relatively) present-day, and that it somehow involved vampires.  This presented a conundrum. With the exception of one or two specific titles, I am not a fan of vampire books. At all. However, I am a fan of New Orleans. So the fact that this book was set in the Big Easy drew it out of the “nope” category into the “I’ll give it a try” category. I’m so glad I did, because, Reader, I am in total love with this book. Arden takes several prominent (and some obscure) urban legends from New Orleans history and, along with some contemporary events, weaves them into a beautiful tale of mystery, magic, and adventure.

First of all, the setting is perfectly presented. It conveys the colorful personality of New Orleans – in all its aspects – very well. It embraces the diversity, the culture, the humanity of the city and its residents unapologetically – even proudly. Additionally, it is set in the days following “the Storm”, which is obviously Hurricane Katrina, but is never specifically named as such. So readers get to experience the devastation, the loss, the frustration of the situation right along with the characters.

And let’s talk about those characters for a minute… The story revolves around Adele – born and raised New Orleansian, half-American/half-French, and telekinetic; Desiree – New Orleans native, mayor’s daughter, and hereditary voodoo witch; and Isaac – high school dropout, relief worker, and animagus. I liked how each of the characters is in a different stage of their supernatural journey: Adele learns of her abilities at the beginning of the book, Isaac knows what he is but is still coming to terms with it, and Desiree has known of her gifts from birth and has been practicing magic her whole life. The characters are dynamic, individual, and interesting all, in their own rights.

The plot of this book kept me rapt, and I literally lost sleep over it (because I stayed up late reading). It expertly intertwines a past storyline with a present storyline and make me care equally about both. The past bleeds forward into the present, and decisions made by characters in the past affect the fate of characters in the future. I liked the limited POV, and that I learned things as the characters learned them; I felt a sense of profound pleasure when I started putting the pieces of the puzzle together.

I must confess, though, that I did NOT see the plot twist coming, so that was a nice surprise.

I also liked that though this book had vampires, it wasn’t wholly about vampires. Yes, they played a role and essentially acted as a catalyst for the events, but they weren’t the main focus of the story. Which was totally fine by me.

On a sidenote: I read this book before my husband and I went on our latest trip to NOLA, and it was a blast to be able to try to find all the different places highlighted in the book on the actual streets of the French Quarter.  Alys Arden grew up in NOLA, and as an expert on the area, adds in places that only locals (or someone who is a frequent visitor) know about.  I took pictures of some of them.

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Bottom of the Cup Tea Room
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St. Germain House
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Old Ursuline Convent

Overall, I found this book to be fun and thoughtful and clever, and I am looking forward to reading the sequel, The Romeo Catchers.

Top 5 “Please, No More!” Books

Yes, I know it’s Top 10 Tuesday, but time and  life restrict me from spending as much time blogging as I’d like.  So, it is what it is.  And I bring you Top 5 Tuesday.  At least for this week.

Any reader worth her salt is aware that publishing works on a pendulum.  A particular “type” of book breaks all known conventions and the author sells a half-dozen million copies and buys a house in the Hamptons AND a house on Mackinac Island.  And then EVERY WRITER EVERYWHERE has to write the same book, only their lead character is named Mary Sue, rather than Katniss.  And publishers herald these new books as “Harry Potter meets The Hunger Games meets The Berenstain Bears” to try to get readers to part with their cash. We’ve all seen it; we’ve all been suckered bought into it.

Well, I say NO MORE!

Here are 5 types of books I refuse to read any more of.

  1. THE DYSTOPIAN

blog katniss

The dystopian has literally been done to death.  Though I will acknowledge that The Hunger Games did all the heavy lifting to pave the way for this (sub)genre to flourish, I have never been even a casual fan of dystopian novels.  Why, you ask? That’s an excellent question.  Let me tell you.  For one thing, they’re all exactly the same similar. I mean, ok.  We get it – government sucks, the ruling class are all jerks, it’s hard to choose between two cute boys, and murdery girls are super-cool.  How many ways can you think of to write that?  Apparently, loads of ways.  Unfortunately.

2.  THE VAMPIRE

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So, there are some really, really good vampire books out there.  One of my personal favorites is Stephen King’s ‘Salem’s Lot.  It’s subtle and terrifying in its simplicity.  The problem with there being a (very, very) few good ones means they are outnumbered 347893728187:1 by the terrible ones.  I’m not sure how all the authors missed the memo, but vampire ≠ gorgeous, angsty, teenage drama kings.  Also, just fyi, vampires don’t fall in love with spectacularly stupid girls, they suck their blood and leave them for dead.  Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

3. MEAN GIRLS

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Yes, we know – high school is terrible, teenage boys are tiny demons, and teenage girls are literally hell spawn.  Writers, take note: stop recycling this narrative.  Rather than vilifying high school girls and perpetuating “clique culture”, start focusing on healthy relationships.  Give YA readers examples of EDIFYING female relationships.  (Shout out to Leigh Bardugo @LBardugo for masterfully demonstrating this in her new Wonder Woman: Warbringer.)  Show girls that they don’t need to be intimidated by one another, and that other girls aren’t their competition; rather, they’re their support team.  No, not everyone is going to be nice; not everyone is going to get along.  But this different mindset would go a long way toward changing the trajectory of high school relationships.

4. LOVE TRIANGLES

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So. Many. Love triangles.  If I pick up another YA book with a love triangle, my eyes are going to bleed.  Seriously, it’s hard enough to find one “perfect” dude, but the odds of finding two within the same vicinity of each other?  No shot.  And have you ever noticed, it’s always a girl choosing between two guys, and never the other way around?  I mean, is there ever a legit question about who she’s going to end up with, anyway?  Of course Bella was going to choose Edward; Simon didn’t have a prayer with Clary once Jace stepped into the picture; and anyone who thought Mare was going to pick Maven when she could have Cal is out of their mind. Though I don’t object to the idea of a ❤ triangle, I have yet to find one that’s well done and actually leaves me wondering who our heroine will choose.

5. SPECIAL SNOWFLAKE

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You know the one.  (Cue movie trailer voice guy.) “In a special land where everyone is special and has special powers of speciality, SHE is born ordinary. With brown hair and brown eyes and nothing particularly attractive about her, she has no specialness.  UnTIL, ONE DAY, she discovers she is a Super Special Secret Princess and her destiny is to, in the most special way possible, SAVE THE WORLD!” Ugh.  Give me a break.  So over it.

Ha.  Top 10 5 Tuesday turned into a bit of a personal rant.  It happens.  But, as you loyal and brilliant readers know, this is just a drop in the bucket that dips into the magical wishing well full of books I ❤ and adore.

What types of books are you completely over?

Princess of All Awesomeness

“Hey, Britney,” you say, “you know it’s August, right?  And you haven’t done a Monday review in three weeks?”

Yes.  I know it’s August, and Review Monday has been suspiciously absent.  I also know that this (see: blogs are ridiculously late) is what happens when things don’t go as planned, and you’re forced to scramble to make sure everything gets done.  It’s super annoying when life and responsibilities get in the way of reading and writing.  It’s a good thing I had a head start on my sister for the Great Reading Contest of 2017, because if I hadn’t, I think she would have caught me up this past month.

That said, I have gotten some reading in (though not as much as I’d like), and one of the books I read was part of the #ARCAugust challenge.  I had been anticipating reading Wonder Woman: Warbringer for months.  There were two reasons for this: 1) I ❤ Wonder Woman, and 2) one of my favorite authors, Leigh Bardugo, wrote the book.  I was interested to read a book wholly devoted to Wonder Woman, and I wanted to see how Bardugo represented her.  When you’re anticipating a book that much, and have such high expectations for it, there’s always the danger that it doesn’t stack up.

Wonder Woman: Warbringer definitely stacked up.  Here is the cover, and a partial blurb as found on Goodreads:

warbringer

 

 

She will become one of the world’s greatest heroes: WONDER WOMAN. But first she is Diana, Princess of the Amazons. And her fight is just beginning. . . . 

Diana longs to prove herself to her legendary warrior sisters. But when the opportunity finally comes, she throws away her chance at glory and breaks Amazon law—risking exile—to save a mere mortal. Even worse, Alia Keralis is no ordinary girl and with this single brave act, Diana may have doomed the world. 

 

 

With a book like this, it’s hard to know what to focus on for a review.  I mean, I could fangirl all day long about Leigh Bardugo, but that doesn’t tell anyone about the book.  I could fangirl all day long about Wonder Woman, but that still doesn’t tell anyone about the book.  So I’ll try to focus on the things people care about: plot, setting, and characters.

PLOT: What originally seemed to be a pretty straightforward plot became surprisingly twisty in a way I definitely wasn’t expecting.  (I should have known Bardugo wouldn’t ever write anything straightforward.)  Though a “super hero book”, the danger doesn’t seem outlandish, and has possible real-world repercussions.  I liked that there was a lot of history woven into the story, of both mythical and realistic nature, and that the history affected the present.  Overall, the story itself was a great one – enjoyable, and complex enough to be interesting from the first page until the last.

SETTING: This was done SO well!  I liked the glimpses I got to see of Themyscira (yes, I had to Google the spelling.  Don’t look at me like that – unless you just watched the film, I’m pretty sure you had to Google the pronunciation), and of the Amazon civilization.  Also, magical, disappearing horses.  The island is done well enough that you truly feel the impact when Diana enters the “regular” world, and how difficult it is for her to process the vast difference between her home and the rest of the world.  And speaking of the rest of the world…  I loved that Bardugo put Diana on the subway in NYC.  What better way to introduce her to New Yorkers?

CHARACTERS: Bardugo did great work with this cast.  For one thing, it is diverse without being “token”.  The diversity of the characters deepens that sense of historicity I mentioned earlier, and lends the story a deep richness.  There are several characters in this story – Diana Prince (for she isn’t Wonder Woman yet) is just one of them.  So, though this book has Diana in it, it’s not just about her.  Each character – Alia, Nim, Jason, Theo – is important to the story, and each is well-developed and interesting.  And one of the most important things Bardugo does with these characters is establish strong (and I mean epic STRONG) relationships – between siblings, between friends, and between females – all something I wish we saw more of.  Basically, all the ❤ for these characters, their sass, their support for one another, and their bravery.

Snaps to Leigh Bardugo for taking a strong female character and making her more powerful, smarter, and more relevant than just being the “hot one with the rope”.  This Diana Prince is the Wonder Woman I want my daughter to grow up reading about.

Now, bring on Marie Lu’s Batman: Nightwalker!

*A huge thanks to Random House for providing me with an ARC of this book, in exchange for an honest review.

Top 10 Tuesday tomorrow, friends!

Peace out!

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First the Ripper, Now Dracula

Call me crazy, but I love books based on old, murdery mysteries.  I don’t like to read about bloodbaths, but give me a good, old-fashioned mystery based on history, and I’m all in. A lot of this has to do with my interest in history; more than I’d like to admit, this has to do with my dark sense of curiosity.

Kerri Maniscalco is an author after my own heart.  She has chosen to tackle some of the most iconic historic mysteries possible, and has given them new life (haha) and a new spin.  I am a firm fan.

I read Stalking Jack the Ripper (the first book in this series) shortly after it was released, and was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the story-telling from debut author Kerri Maniscalco. Having done very little research on either the book or the author before reading, I was excited when I got to the end of the book, and it was clear there was going to be a sequel. History buff that I am, I was as ecstatic as only a nerd can be to discover the next installment of the Wadsworth/Cresswell adventures would take them to Romania and settle them within the Dracula mythology. I had high expectations for Hunting Prince Dracula. I was not disappointed.

If anything, from the first book to this, Maniscalco’s writing has gotten better (as is natural), and her story-telling voice has grown stronger. Where there were a few times in Ripper I felt the leaps in logic were a little long-strided, I didn’t feel that way at all with Dracula. The plot is very thoroughly laid out and described, and doesn’t miss any steps. Though the mystery reveal is well-hidden until the end of the book, the reader isn’t kept in the dark at all when it comes to necessary clues and information. As far as the story itself, I found it to be very satisfying.  (And darned if she didn’t get me again with the twist!)

One of the things I really like about these books is the relationship between Audrey Rose Wadsworth (though I still cringe at that name – I mean it’s really, really terrible) and Thomas Cresswell. There is a mutual admiration and respect between the two of them that isn’t based on attraction, and that’s a rare find in YA fiction these days. Yes, it’s evident that the two of them have feelings for one another, but that is not the basis for their relationship. Cresswell appreciates Wadsworth for who she is; he isn’t intimidated by her intellect, he allows her to take risks, and doesn’t feel threatened by her independence. And Wadsworth understands Cresswell’s want to protect her and doesn’t deride him for it (though she does throw in a perfectly understandable eye-roll every now and then).

Something else unique about these books is the profession Wadsworth and Cresswell are working their way into. Maniscalco has chosen something out of the ordinary – forensics – for her characters to study, which is something that sets them apart from others of their social cohort. It’s not strictly “ladylike” for a high-born girl like Audrey Rose to be elbows-deep in someone’s gizzard, but does that stop her?  Definitely not.  And good thing, because their knowledge of all things dead also gives Wadsworth and Cresswell a slight advantage when it comes to investigating the crimes that take place in the book. Their unconventional training gives them an unconventional perspective on things, and their partnership gives them strength.

I really liked how this book isn’t an over-the-top “vampire book”. Rather, it acknowledges the history of the setting, and allows that history to color the mystery, but doesn’t for a second try to convince readers that Dracula is behind the murders. I believe that would have brought into question the credibility of the characters. The characters solve a real mystery, instead of chasing ghosts and goblins. And, also, readers (mostly) aren’t stupid, so better not to waste time trying to convince them of the existence of vampires.

Overall, this is a fun book, compulsively readable and clever. I am definitely looking forward to the next installment of the Adventures of Wadsworth and Cresswell – in America! (And I’m having a dickens of a time trying to figure out who the big bad will be this time.  It would be too much of a time gap for them to be after H H Holmes, and too late for Billy the Kid…)

Little, Brown and Company/Jimmy Patterson Books provided me with an advanced reader’s copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Tomorrow, on Top 10 Tuesday, tune in for a list of the Top 10 Fictional Librarians!  Because, well, who’s cooler than librarians?