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Mini-Review: The Dire King (Jackaby #4) – William Ritter

Mini-Review: The Dire King (Jackaby #4) – William RitterTitle: The Dire King (Jackaby #4) by William Ritter
Publishing Info: August 22, 2017 by Algonquin
Source: Edelweiss
Genres: Young Adult, Paranormal, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Mystery/Thriller
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: August 29, 2017
Related Posts: , Jackaby (Jackaby #1), Beastly Bones (Jackaby #2), Ghostly Echoes (Jackaby #3)

The fate of the world is in the hands of detective of the supernatural R. F. Jackaby and his intrepid assistant, Abigail Rook. An evil king is turning ancient tensions into modern strife, using a blend of magic and technology to push Earth and the Otherworld into a mortal competition. Jackaby and Abigail are caught in the middle as they continue to solve the daily mysteries of New Fiddleham, New England — like who’s created the rend between the worlds, how to close it, and why zombies are appearing around. At the same time, the romance between Abigail and the shape-shifting police detective Charlie Cane deepens, and Jackaby’s resistance to his feelings for 926 Augur Lane’s ghostly lady, Jenny, begins to give way. Before the four can think about their own futures, they will have to defeat an evil that wants to destroy the future altogether.

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For some reason, this was the least engaging book of the series for me and I felt a little bogged down and that things were going slowly in the middle. It’s entirely possible that it was because I essentially binge-read the first three books, but that was also only earlier this year and it’s not like there had been THAT much time in between reads. I had a hard time picking the book back up because I felt like it wasn’t really progressing for a while, but I also know that’s my lack of reading time that really hurt my reading pace as well.

I also know that I have a tendency to get overwhelmed when so many supernatural creatures are introduced at once because it always feels like overkill to have them all present at the same time, and that was a big part of THE DIRE KING. Things come to a grand conclusion so everyone an everything are involved and it sort of loses that magic for me when so many creatures are present.

I did absolutely love the ending! There was the perfect amount of bittersweet that every series finale should have. Things were wrapped up nicely, concepts exchanged hands, not everyone was perfectly okay, and it presented a new life for the characters after the events of this series wrapped up. I thought that was handled beautifully!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Paranormal but historical. This whole series was a lot of fun! I loved the historical meets paranormal and it was great fun to read.
Left Me Wanting More: Grounding. I just felt like everything was rushing to a conclusion and it was all a bit much sometimes. It didn’t really feel like a natural flow and it seemed like ALL of the supernatural concepts were thrown in at once.

Addiction Rating
Read it

The actual ending itself is super solid — one of the best wrap-ups, I think — but I just wish I had felt the same about the rest of the book. Still worth the read if you’re already three books in!

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BOOKS LIKE THE DIRE KING

          

Series Review: Jackaby (#1-3) by William Ritter

Well, I had the best intentions of binge-reading this series but alas. I found out that it was actually a four-book series and not a trilogy, so today’s series review will have to be for the first three books and then when the fourth one comes out, that’ll be on its own.

SERIES REVIEW: JACKABY, BEASTLY BONES, GHOSTLY ECHOES

Reviews for each book/the series are a whole are generally spoiler-free for any major occurrences or twists but may contain info about plot points so I can properly discuss the plot. 

Series Review: Jackaby (#1-3) by William RitterTitle: Jackaby (Jackaby #1) by William Ritter
Publishing Info: September 16, 2014 by Algonquin
Source: Borrowed from Hoopla
Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Mystery/Thriller, Paranormal
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: January 1, 2017
Related Posts: The Dire King (Jackaby #4)

Newly arrived in New Fiddleham, New England, 1892, and in need of a job, Abigail Rook meets R. F. Jackaby, an investigator of the unexplained with a keen eye for the extraordinary--including the ability to see supernatural beings. Abigail has a gift for noticing ordinary but important details, which makes her perfect for the position of Jackaby’s assistant. On her first day, Abigail finds herself in the midst of a thrilling case: A serial killer is on the loose. The police are convinced it’s an ordinary villain, but Jackaby is certain it’s a nonhuman creature, whose existence the police--with the exception of a handsome young detective named Charlie Cane--deny.
Doctor Who meets Sherlock in William Ritter’s debut novel, which features a detective of the paranormal as seen through the eyes of his adventurous and intelligent assistant in a tale brimming with cheeky humor and a dose of the macabre.

I wasn’t totally sure what JACKABY was all about but I was excited to start it! I actually hadn’t known that it involved paranormal elements so that was an interesting surprise when I started reading! (Yes, yes, I know that’s what the whole series is about and it’s plain as day in the book descriptions but you know me and going in totally blind.) I actually thought JACKABY was straight historical fiction, like a YA Sherlock Holmes. I was also interested to find out that Jackaby himself wasn’t a young adult, and I thought that was great to have an adult character as a main part of the book since so many YA books skip around older figures and stick with the teens. It brought an interesting dynamic and mix and also allowed Abigail to get involved in so many things that she may not normally have had access to. That’s always my thing with YA mysteries — a big question that always has to be addressed is why a teen wouldn’t go to an adult with a murder-mystery case and in JACKABY, Abigail is working for paranormal detective R.F. Jackaby.

I also figured that there would be a romance between Jackaby (this was before I knew how much older he was) and Abigail and I’m really glad that there wasn’t! It was nice to see the romance built with Abigail and more of a secondary character and that it was a side plot and not a main focus of the book. The quirky mysteries still took the spotlight and there wasn’t any mixing of work and romance. I actually didn’t really care for the romance, though. I thought it wasn’t very developed in the first book, which it didn’t have to be developed right away, but for some reason it felt fast and forced for me.

JACKABY wasn’t a perfect book but it was really enjoyable! Things kind of piled on with the paranormal but it was fun and not overwhelming as some books tend to feel when dealing with so many different para-creatures.

Series Review: Jackaby (#1-3) by William RitterTitle: Beastly Bones (Jackaby #2) by William Ritter
Publishing Info: September 22, 2015 by Algonquin
Source: Borrowed from Hoopla
Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Paranormal, Mystery/Thriller
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: January 21, 2017
Related Posts: The Dire King (Jackaby #4)

In 1892, New Fiddleham, New England, things are never quite what they seem, especially when Abigail Rook and her eccentric employer, R. F. Jackaby, are called upon to investigate the supernatural. First, members of a particularly vicious species of shape-shifters disguise themselves as a litter of kittens. A day later, their owner is found murdered, with a single mysterious puncture wound to her neck. Then, in nearby Gad's Valley, dinosaur bones from a recent dig go missing, and an unidentifiable beast attacks animals and people, leaving their mangled bodies behind. Policeman Charlie Cane, exiled from New Fiddleham to the valley, calls on Abigail for help, and soon Abigail and Jackaby are on the hunt for a thief, a monster, and a murderer.

I started BEASTLY BONES right after I finished JACKABY because the first book was just so enjoyable and a breeze to read! I thought BEASTLY BONES stepped it up even more and that William Ritter’s writing really improved, not that I thought JACKABY was lacking, but it felt more mature and more put-together.

I loved the fantastical element in this book and I won’t give it away because it was a super fun reveal for me but it was a creature that I was so excited to see, and even that had a turn of its own. The characters handle the situation adeptly, as always, and the mystery was a hoot!

One thing I actually didn’t like was the appearance of some secondary characters that were immediately eliminated in this book. They had such a heavy focus in BEASTLY BONES and it kind of felt like a waste to get to know them for such a short time only to never see them again. There was also a bit of repetition of terms and words in this book that I started to notice a lot (I didn’t need to read “indomitable” 20 times) so that was a little frustrating but I thought the mystery was even more exciting than the first book and it took a different turn as well!

Series Review: Jackaby (#1-3) by William RitterTitle: Ghostly Echoes (Jackaby #3) by William Ritter
Publishing Info: August 23, 2016 by Algonquin
Source: Borrowed from Hoopla
Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Mystery/Thriller, Paranormal
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: January 25, 2017
Related Posts: The Dire King (Jackaby #4)

Jenny Cavanaugh, the ghostly lady of 926 Augur Lane, has enlisted the investigative services of her fellow residents to solve a decade-old murder—her own. Abigail Rook and her eccentric employer, Detective R. F. Jackaby, dive into the cold case, starting with a search for Jenny’s fiancé, who went missing the night she died. But when a new, gruesome murder closely mirrors the events of ten years prior, Abigail and Jackaby realize that Jenny’s case isn’t so cold after all, and her killer may be far more dangerous than they suspected.
Fantasy and folklore mix with mad science as Abigail’s race to unravel the mystery leads her across the cold cobblestones of nineteenth-century New England, down to the mythical underworld, and deep into her colleagues’ grim histories to battle the most deadly foe she has ever faced.

GHOSTLY ECHOES was a bit different all together with one of the main characters being involved in the mystery instead of someone from the outside. I really loved how much more personal the mystery became — to Jackaby and Abigail as well as the reader — and where the whole series went! Things really escalated in this book and I really appreciated how so many things came full circle here.

The friendships in this book were stepped up even more and I love how much tighter this group got! The different elements in this mystery were also top notch and I think this was my favorite book of the series!

SERIES THOUGHTS

 

This series is fun, easy to read, and seems to be getting better with each book! I still am missing that big “wow” factor that would shoot it up to five stars but these are all so solid and really entertaining.

I think William Ritter does a great job bringing all of the plot together, especially in GHOSTLY ECHOES, and it was also nice to have an overall plot but mysteries that were solved at the end of each book so I didn’t have to jump back into a world where I forgot everything that had happened, as with so many series. (Although I did binge read these so that wasn’t a huge issue anyway.)

I do feel like I could do without Abigail’s romance. I personally have never connected to it and it still feels forced to me. I actually feel like Abigail would be a stronger character without it, or she needs a more spirited companion. She’s so spunky and I would love to see her banter with someone instead of becoming softer and more gentle, although I guess she does have a different sort of banter with Jackaby. Still, I love that romantic banter and teasing.

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Addiction Rating
Read them!

This is a really solid series and each book seems to get better! The paranormal and fantasy aspects are so much fun and the two main characters (Jackaby and Abigail) are really solid.

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BOOKS LIKE JACKABY

(Click the cover to see my review!)

     

Leave Me – Gayle Forman

Leave Me – Gayle FormanTitle: Leave Me by Gayle Forman
Publishing Info: September 6, 2016 by Algonquin
Source: Edelweiss, BEA 2016
Genres: Adult, Contemporary
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: August 29, 2016
Related Posts: If I Stay (If I Stay #1), Where She Went (If I Stay #2), Just One Day (Just One Day #1), Sisters in Sanity, If I Stay (If I Stay #1), Where She Went (If I Stay #2), Just One Day (Just One Day #1), Just One Night (Just One Day #2.5), I Was Here

For every woman who has ever fantasized about driving past her exit on the highway instead of going home to make dinner, for every woman who has ever dreamed of boarding a train to a place where no one needs constant attention--meet Maribeth Klein. A harried working mother who's so busy taking care of her husband and twins, she doesn't even realize she's had a heart attack.
Afterward, surprised to discover that her recuperation seems to be an imposition on those who rely on her, Maribeth does the unthinkable: She packs a bag and leaves. But, as is so often the case, once we get to where we're going, we see our lives from a different perspective. Far from the demands of family and career and with the help of liberating new friendships, Maribeth is finally able to own up to secrets she has been keeping from those she loves and from herself.
With big-hearted characters who stumble and trip, grow and forgive, Leave Me is about facing our fears. Gayle Forman, a dazzling observer of human nature, has written an irresistible novel that confronts the ambivalence of modern motherhood head-on.

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I’m a HUGE Gayle Forman fan so any book of hers, no matter the age range or genre, will be on my radar. When I heard that LEAVE ME was adult contemporary, I had to admit that I wasn’t super excited about it since I haven’t been reading as much “serious” contemporary lately and I don’t really read it on the adult level — I’m more of a YA gal. Either way, it was Gayle Forman and I knew no matter what, I was in good hands so I was excited to receive a copy of LEAVE ME at BEA this year! Upon finishing, I don’t really know how to feel about this book. If we’re being perfectly honest, if it wasn’t Gayle Forman’s book, I wouldn’t have read it. The entire premise of the book is that overworked, overtired Maribeth Klein whisks herself away for time to recover both mentally and physically after a heart-attack in her early 40s. She leaves her husband and two four-year-old twins with only a note, no way to contact her, and actively avoids ways that she can be traced so she can just take some time for herself. This really isn’t a topic I’m drawn to but Gayle Forman is the master so I was along for the ride!

This book (and entire concept) is so confusing to me as I try to sort out my feelings towards it. I know how I personally feel about Maribeth’s actions but there are just so many ways to look at it. The beginning of the book before Maribeth leaves was actually kind of hard for me to read with so many situations hitting a little too close to home. Having been in a similar situation with a medical emergency turning your life completely upside down, I just had a very hard time with the decisions that Maribeth made. I was not the person who was directly medically affected but I was a big part of that whole situation and yes, it’s always hard but my thoughts were constantly directed towards, “How can I help?” and “How can I understand?” On the flip side, no matter how close you are to a person, you’re not that person going through the medical issues and there are things and feelings you won’t understand. You have fear of your own but may not understand the level of anxiety that person is feeling, in which case, I did identify with Maribeth. Her heart attack was such a complete disruption of her life in so many ways and her only way that she was finally able to handle everything was to leave all responsibilities behind, including her family. Leaving I had a hard time with. Leaving and cheating are two situations that I really struggle to forgive or forget and even if things did end up working out in the end of this book (I won’t give anything away), I knew I wouldn’t be able to forgive Maribeth for up and leaving.

But then there’s the question of what strength is in this situation. Is strength staying and pushing through, working through all of the things with your family? Or is it leaving, taking some time off and gathering yourself up first? Honestly, I think either one could be the right answer but I had such a hard time with the fact that she literally abandoned her family. I know that she was not in the right mental state to really assess things, and that falls on her husband too since he didn’t really try to help around the house or with anything after Maribeth’s surgery, but it was hard for me to support Maribeth when her solution was to run. I guess we wouldn’t have much of a story if she spoke with her husband and took some sort of retreat instead of simply running… But that would have been a workable situation for me where I wouldn’t have hard feeling towards Maribeth. We’ve gone through some very hard things and our family is still in tact… but I’m also not a parent and don’t have that added responsibility and role in my family so I can’t speak on how that might affect a situation either. Life is messy and each situation is unique and complicated. I’m not in Maribeth’s family so maybe I would have handled things differently if I was in her shoes but from a reader’s perspective, it was really hard for me to fully understand.

My feelings for Maribeth aside, I thought this was a very good story and as always, Gayle Forman does an amazing job of bringing so many things to light. Maribeth’s situation was definitely more complicated than just the heart attack too and these things really added to why she ended up running in the first place. I won’t say hard things justify abandonment but it does help you understand where she’s coming from a little bit more. Gayle Forman also just has a way of making these characters come to life. I felt like I really got to know Maribeth, all of her new friends, and I could easily picture Maribeth’s life with her husband and children in so many ways.

I started and finished the book in one day. It was really easy to read and like so many of Gayle’s books, just so easy to get lost in. She does an amazing job of making you really feel a setting, getting you invested in a character’s story, and bringing raw, real emotions to the table. Her stories are about the more challenging sides of life and I’m actually glad she wrote this book because I wouldn’t have read this story by another author. It’s outside of my normal comfort zone — both being adult contemporary and also the “leaving factor” — and it was refreshing to think about things in a different way as I read. It’s also a bit scary, to be honest. I’ve only been married for two years and we’ve already been through a lot. I have amazing confidence in my marriage and I’m not really worried for us in the future but it does make me wonder what our life will be like in five or ten years which isn’t something I normally do. Life has taught me that there are too many thing you can’t plan for so I don’t map everything out but all I can do is hope that we grow together and build a solid foundation for our home and books like LEAVE ME really leave readers to reflect on their relationships/marriages/friendships. Even if you have an amazing relationship, there’s always a little bit more you can take into account and it’s interesting to have that reminder of what even the closest person to you might be going through without you even realizing.

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“The View from Goodreads” is a featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!

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Maribeth // Character obsessions: Work, responsibilities, letting it all go.
Maribeth’s character really hits me hard because I feel like so many of us feel like this so often. I think we as a society have such a focus on work and career that it consumes so much of our lives. So many people’s places of employment expect them to take their work home with them or be available at the drop of a hat, in and out of the office, and people aren’t getting relaxation time anymore. Add to that a family life which can be so fulfilling but still adds responsibilities, chores, and duties to one’s life and it can easily be overwhelming. Maribeth was easily identifiable for me in that sense. I work from 7:30am – 5pm and it takes me an hour to get to/home from work so work consumes twelve hours of my day. Then I come home and make dinner, do laundry, make candles for my second job (essentially) and by the time I’m done with everything, it’s time for bed. I’m not complaining about it at all and my husband does help out but it’s so exhausting and I can’t imagine doing that with kids. I absolutely see where Maribeth is coming from and has a life-changing experience with her heart attack… But even with all of that I still can’t get over leaving. Maybe leaving her husband would be more forgivable (okay, really not for me) but she left her children and I really can’t get over that either. I understand that she needs to take care of herself first but to just LEAVE like that, that’s so, so damaging to everyone. She could have handled it totally differently, communicated with her husband, gone to therapy, went on a retreat even, and I would have been fine with it. I personally couldn’t forgive the leaving. I know she healed, I know she helped herself, but you can’t just run away form responsibilities. You discuss, you face them, you figure out a solution, even if it’s hard. Plenty of people go through such things without leaving their families. I guess I’ll never quite understand it but it’s a strong feeling of mine. As much as I grew to like her as a person, I couldn’t let it go.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Adult contemporary/realistic fiction. I really don’t read many adult realistic fiction novels because it’s just not my bag but I’m glad I read this one. I read it simply because it’s Gayle Forman and I really enjoy how she crafts a novel.
Left Me Wanting More: Understanding. The lack of communication between these characters killed me. It wouldn’t have been easy but if Maribeth and her husband had just talked, they could have figured things out without her having to run away. I know it’s not an easy thing to do and especially having that feeling like Maribeth, I know it’s hard to ask for help, but it was something I couldn’t shake.

Addiction Rating
Read it

It was a very good read and as always, a well-crafted story from Gayle Forman. I love her big-picture novels and books that take you through the messier parts of life. It wasn’t my favorite topic but I enjoyed the novel from start to finish.

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BOOKS LIKE LEAVE ME

(Click the cover to see my review!)

    KILLER INSTINCT