Decidedly Bookish

“The Cellar” by Natasha Preston

Ok, I can’t even mince words, and lately I have read nothing but YA debuts that have blown my mind – this “novel” is probably the worst thing I have read in a while. I am at the halfway mark and I was trying so hard to push through and not dnf it, since I don’t like making reviews on books I didn’t finish, but I just can’t force myself to soldier through this one.

The writing is horrible! There is no imagery, the vocabulary choices are flat, the author spends far too much time telling me and not showing me. The characters are completely one dimensional and BORING. Yes, there I said it, I am bored by these captured girls, I am bored by Summer/Lily and our lead psychopath Clover (yea try not to laugh at how pathetic that name choice is) isn’t even good at being psychotic. In short I have no buy in, there is no hook. There is no payoff, because I don’t honestly care about any of these players, and I am a psychotherapist in real life so this is saying something.

With this particular storyline I also got really tired of the pacing and switching between narrators and time periods. Some authors do this seamlessly and it only adds to the reading experience. Here, it felt like the author herself was losing interest in story building so decided to go off on some tangent.

I understand that this was one of those books that stemmed from a wattpad – but it totally is making me feel like “don’t quit your day job”.

“Stalking Jack the Ripper” by Kerri Maniscalco

Sorry for the slight delay with the posting of this review. I wrote out two different drafts and after much consideration I have decided to go with the **spoiler free** review, so that readers who decide to pick this novel up are given the same game of cat and mouse I was as I made my way through the chapters.

“Stalking Jack the Ripper” by Kerri Maniscalco was a definite stand out for me when I was scoping my local bookstore looking for my next reads. The cover art is gorgeous and lush, and the mere mention of Jack the Ripper instantly hooked me. I was intrigued by the prospect of reading an updated take on a subject that has been historically stretched thin through the fiction and nonfiction genres, and after reading the jacket blurb and discovering that this would be from the perspective of a strong female protagonist, one who was both brainy, beautiful, and defiant… I was more than eager to take that journey. As her debut was also given the honor of being the first chosen for James Patterson’s new Imprint JIMMY Patterson Books, I had more than a good feeling this would be a worthwhile read.

The novel is told by narrator Audrey Rose Wadsworth, a young woman with highborn status, and proclivities unbecoming to a lady of her time; such as forensic science and dissection. Audrey is a fun juxtaposition as she both enjoys the fabrics and fashions of her day, but is equally invested in solving the Ripper murders and bringing justice to the victims. I found that this rounded out her character and made her much more believable and multidimensional. I am also a huge fan in general of strong, intelligent female leads, and felt that Audrey fit the bill. Even in moments where she may have been short sighted or acting in a way that was inherently dangerous, it always stemmed from a wish to prove to her deceased mother that she could be both beautiful and strong.

I enjoyed getting to know Audrey Rose and learning about her wish to pursue forensics. I was also happily surprised that amongst the cast of other characters only two (her father and her aunt) were opposed to her gaining this education. I also loved that by keeping a very small pool of characters it upped the suspense of the “whodunit” nature of the storyline, and at different parts of the novel had me trying my hand to piece together who I felt the Ripper was and why. I am happy to report that while in the end I was able to conjure up the correct perpetrator; the motives behind their actions and the overall ending were still incredibly stunning and not what I had imagined. I am even more glad to report that the Ripper was not my first or only pick while reading!

I also wanted to highlight the character of Thomas Cresswell in my review, as I have seen a lot of negative parallels drawn between him and Sherlock Holmes. Well folks, why is this a negative? Thomas encapsulates the idea of brain over all else. He can be socially off mark, he is brash and blunt, and he likes the satisfaction of showing off his tremendous intelligence. However, he treats Audrey as close to an equal as can be imagined, he never denies her contributions or her intelligence, and he pushes her to continue when at so many places along the narrative he could have fallen back on societal crutches and reminded her of a woman’s place. I even appreciated his tendency to call her “Wadsworth” much like he would a male colleague, even further leveling the playing field and allowing her to take up space in what may have been deemed socially only a “man’s place”. I personally loved his character and found him both a conundrum at times and a good lighthearted break at others. As someone who loves Sherlock Holmes and his cannon, I think that instead of shunning Thomas Cresswell for being too close to what I assume was his inspiration, admire him for the way he contributed to this novel.

Overall, I would highly recommend “Stalking Jack the Ripper” by Kerri Maniscalco, and I look forward to reading her sophomore release. While this novel is classified in the YA genre, I find it still appealed to me as someone outside of the typical age range audience. Given how Autumn will officially be upon us next week, if you are looking for your next read, consider this gem!

P.S. Kerri, I think your Grandma would have absolutely loved it from beginning to very end!



For this week, I have a review coming for “Stalking Jack the Ripper” by Kerri Maniscalco. This was definitely a fun read, and I hope to have it up by Friday. I am also happy to announce that Kerri has two other books in the works that follow a similar genre style to her debut.

I also just wanted to take a moment and thank all the new readers and followers of this blog. I am excited to be adding content and to growing this space.




“The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly” – Stephanie Oaks

“Everybody’s lost something,” he says. “Most of us never get the chance to have it returned.” This small line said by FBI agent Dr. Wilson, is perhaps one of the most poignant. As the reader works their way through the Sacred Lies, you can’t help but to recognize how each character you encounter, has in their own right, lost something, whether tangible or less definable and is seeking a way to feel whole again.

The threads of loss, grief, redemption and growth weave themselves throughout Stephanie Oaks’s novel,  “The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly”. Though I was reluctant to pick this one up, I am very glad that I did. The cover art is beautiful, the back blurb and premise of the story intriguing and different. While at certain points, I would find myself putting the book down and shaking my head in disbelief over what I was reading, the end pay off was worthwhile and overall I enjoyed it. It was recommend to me by a librarian friend who posed the question, “Would you be interested in a book about a teen girl accused of murder, who subsequently has no hands?” Yes, I knew then, that this was bound to make my reading list.

The novel follows main character and reluctant narrator, Minnow Bly, a seventeen year old former cult member who is facing murder and assault charges while in Juvenile Detention. Shortly after she is assigned a cell, she is approached by an FBI agent who strikes a deal with her. If Minnow provides information about the cult she came from, its subsequent destruction and the death of its prophet, he will write a letter on her behalf to assist her with her release on her eighteenth birthday.

We are then drawn into Minnow’s life, beginning with her upheaval from the ordinary by her parents, as they followed their new prophet Kevin into the woods, to form a more perfect society. To the rules and regulations of the Kevinian Cult, which were mercurial and demanding. The appearance of abject racism that pervaded their group, and the blind willingness to believe in someone who by all accounts was largely unbelievable.

Readers are able to see first hand as Minnow grows, how she is not as adaptable to the Kevinian lifestyle, and, how she wishes to push boundaries, grow and question the universe around her. We also witness in detail, how she pays the price for those wishes.

Minnow’s story-line itself flits a bit back and forth as she finds herself caught up in memories of the people and places of her past, and at times it can feel a bit all over the place. There isn’t any consistent chronology for her memories and the onus is placed largely on the reader to try and piece together what events happened when.

Though many other characters are introduced throughout the novel, two stand out significantly to me. Angel, Minnow’s juvenile cellmate, who despite her initial description lives up to her namesake, and Jude, whose family history and own off the grid lifestyle lends itself to an interesting contrast with regulated cult living; as well as offering the ability for readers to see how the complexities of religion and race can still come into play out in the wild.

As I wish to leave this review as spoiler free as I can, I will instead say this. At first read, this book is page turning and deceptively simplistic, but it does have a story and a main character who will linger with you if you allow her to.

When you pause to give a slightly deeper reflection to the text, as well as the context and circumstances surrounding its narrator, I think you may be surprised to see all that comes from this YA debut.

If you are looking for your next read, I would definitely recommend “The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly” by Stephanie Oaks and I look forward to hearing your comments and interpretations!



Autumn Revitalization

F. Scott Fitzgerald said it best, “Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.” So too it seems does this blog. I can’t believe it has been a year since I took the time to carve out this small space, but I am finally ready to furnish it.

So then, what does “Decidedly Bookish” mean and why should it earn your readership?

When puzzling over a name for this blog and subsequent social media branding, I wanted something simple, memorable and most importantly representative of who I am and what I have to offer. Though I am a multifaceted person with various interests, the truth remains, that I am a reader at heart and a bibliophile through and through (smell of books anyone?). It also became readily apparent that even when I attempted to discuss other points of interest it always came back to something I had read or wanted to read in the end. Therefore, Decidedly Bookish came into being.

Decidedly Bookish is for those who easily get lost in the bindings of a good novel or two. Who gladly trade sleeping hours for reading hours, and who are on the constant hunt for their next big read. It is also a place for reviews, opinions and news about bookish things, such as: authors, debuts, series and stand-alones. It is for learning about book-related products, gaining ideas for reading lists and for hopefully building a community of readers who enjoy engaging and interacting with each other.

So please check back often as the blog begins to grow. Bring a mug of something warm and feel free to explore.

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