A Tribute to Cat Winters

Well, this is a bit of a diversion for me, but I just finished ‘Odd & True’ and felt the need to sing my praises for the author: Cat Winters.

I have never found a Cat Winters book that wasn’t binge-worthy. Granted, I’ve only read 3 of her novels so far, but that’s still really impressive. So I thought I would give you my thoughts on the books I’ve read and introduce everyone to this fabulous author!

In The Shadow of Blackbirds

13112915Description from Goodreads: In 1918, the world seems on the verge of apocalypse. Americans roam the streets in gauze masks to ward off the deadly Spanish influenza, and the government ships young men to the front lines of a brutal war, creating an atmosphere of fear and confusion. Sixteen-year-old Mary Shelley Black watches as desperate mourners flock to séances and spirit photographers for comfort, but she herself has never believed in ghosts. During her bleakest moment, however, she’s forced to rethink her entire way of looking at life and death, for her first love—a boy who died in battle—returns in spirit form. But what does he want from her?

My Review: This was my first Cat Winters novel and, boy, did it catch me by surprise! The description sounded interesting, but I didn’t realize I’d become enthralled enough to read it in one sitting! The author combines true history (the horror of WWI and the Spanish Influenza outbreak) and a supernatural romance…and manages to come out with a wonderful and completely believable tale.

The Cure for Dreaming

curefordreamingDescription from Goodreads: Olivia Mead is a headstrong, independent girl—a suffragist—in an age that prefers its girls to be docile. It’s 1900 in Oregon, and Olivia’s father, concerned that she’s headed for trouble, convinces a stage mesmerist to try to hypnotize the rebellion out of her. But the hypnotist, an intriguing young man named Henri Reverie, gives her a terrible gift instead: she’s able to see people’s true natures, manifesting as visions of darkness and goodness, while also unable to speak her true thoughts out loud. These supernatural challenges only make Olivia more determined to speak her mind, and so she’s drawn into a dangerous relationship with the hypnotist and his mysterious motives, all while secretly fighting for the rights of women. 

My Review: Coming off the Blackbirds book, I had a feeling this one would be better than it sounded, and I was right! It was another single-sitting, page-turner! Once again, the author manages to join together real history and the supernatural into a story that feels completely true to life. She really seems to understand (and explain well) what living in the early 1900s must have been like for a strong-minded young woman.

Odd & True

oddandtrueDescription from Goodreads: Trudchen grew up hearing Odette’s stories of their monster-slaying mother and a magician’s curse. But now that Tru’s older, she’s starting to wonder if her older sister’s tales were just comforting lies, especially because there’s nothing fantastic about her own life—permanently disabled and in constant pain from childhood polio.

In 1909, after a two-year absence, Od reappears with a suitcase supposedly full of weapons and a promise to rescue Tru from the monsters on their way to attack her. But it’s Od who seems haunted by something. And when the sisters’ search for their mother leads them to a face-off with the Leeds Devil, a nightmarish beast that’s wreaking havoc in the Mid-Atlantic states, Tru discovers the peculiar possibility that she and her sister—despite their dark pasts and ordinary appearances—might, indeed, have magic after all.

My Review: Sigh, another great one. I love how the author always manages to spin a tale that seems creepy and supernatural, but often has real issues and struggles at the heart of it. This one is more of a coming-of-age tale; that time in everyone’s life when the magic dies and reality sets in…but only if you let it.

Her other books (which my library doesn’t have, darnit) include:

The Uninvited

theuninvitedDescription from Goodreads: Twenty-five year old Ivy Rowan rises from her bed after being struck by the flu, only to discover the world has been torn apart in just a few short days. But Ivy’s life-long gift—or curse—remains. For she sees the uninvited ones—ghosts of loved ones who appear to her, unasked, unwelcomed, for they always herald impending death. On that October evening in 1918 she sees the spirit of her grandmother, rocking in her mother’s chair. An hour later, she learns her younger brother and father have killed a young German out of retaliation for the death of Ivy’s older brother Billy in the Great War.

Horrified, she leaves home, to discover the flu has caused utter panic and the rules governing society have broken down. Ivy is drawn into this new world of jazz, passion, and freedom, where people live for the day, because they could be stricken by nightfall. But as her ‘uninvited guests’ begin to appear to her more often, she knows her life will be torn apart once more, but Ivy has no inkling of the other-worldly revelations about to unfold.

The Steep & Thorny Way

thesteepandthornywayDescription from Amazon: A thrilling reimagining of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, The Steep and Thorny Way tells the story of a murder most foul and the mighty power of love and acceptance in a state gone terribly rotten.

1920s Oregon is not a welcoming place for Hanalee Denney, the daughter of a white woman and an African American man. She has almost no rights by law, and the Ku Klux Klan breeds fear and hatred in even Hanalee’s oldest friendships. Plus, her father, Hank, died a year ago, hit by a drunk-driving teenager. Now the killer is out of jail and back in town, and he’s claiming that Hanalee’s father’s death wasn’t an accident at all. Instead, he says that Hank was poisoned by the doctor who looked after him—who just so happens to be Hanalee’s new stepfather.

In order to get the answers she needs, Hanalee will have to ask a “haint” wandering the roads at night—her father himself.

Yesternight

yesternightDescription from Goodreads: In 1925, Alice Lind steps off a train in the rain-soaked coastal hamlet of Gordon Bay, Oregon. There, she expects to do nothing more difficult than administer IQ tests to a group of rural schoolchildren. A trained psychologist, Alice believes mysteries of the mind can be unlocked scientifically, but now her views are about to be challenged by one curious child.

Seven-year-old Janie O’Daire is a mathematical genius, which is surprising. But what is disturbing are the stories she tells: that her name was once Violet, she grew up in Kansas decades earlier, and she drowned at age nineteen. Alice delves into these stories, at first believing they’re no more than the product of the girl’s vast imagination. But, slowly, Alice comes to the realization that Janie might indeed be telling a strange truth.

Alice knows the investigation may endanger her already shaky professional reputation, and as a woman in a field dominated by men she has no room for mistakes. But she is unprepared for the ways it will illuminate terrifying mysteries within her own past, and in the process, irrevocably change her life.

Slasher Girls & Monster Boys (An Anthology with Several Other Authors)

slashergirlsDescription from Goodreads: A host of the smartest young adult authors come together in this collection of scary stories and psychological thrillers curated by Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea’s April Genevieve Tucholke.

Each story draws from a classic tale or two—sometimes of the horror genre, sometimes not—to inspire something new and fresh and terrifying. There are no superficial scares here; these are stories that will make you think even as they keep you on the edge of your seat. From bloody horror to supernatural creatures to unsettling, all-too-possible realism, this collection has something for any reader looking for a thrill.


Have you given Cat Winters a try? Read any of the books I haven’t gotten to yet? What did you think?

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Book Review – A Study in Charlotte

Book: A Study in Charlotte – Author: Brittany Cavallaro

Genre: Fiction, Mystery, YA

Description from Goodreads:

The last thing Jamie Watson wants is a rugby scholarship to Sherringford, a Connecticut prep school just an hour away from his estranged father. But that’s not the only complication: Sherringford is also home to Charlotte Holmes, the famous detective’s great-great-great-granddaughter, who has inherited not only Sherlock’s genius but also his volatile temperament. From everything Jamie has heard about Charlotte, it seems safer to admire her from afar.

From the moment they meet, there’s a tense energy between them, and they seem more destined to be rivals than anything else. But when a Sherringford student dies under suspicious circumstances, ripped straight from the most terrifying of the Sherlock Holmes stories, Jamie can no longer afford to keep his distance. Jamie and Charlotte are being framed for murder, and only Charlotte can clear their names. But danger is mounting and nowhere is safe—and the only people they can trust are each other.

My Review:

Let me start off with a confession: I totally thought both Charlotte AND Jamie were going to be girls when I started this book. I don’t know why; it specifically states in the description “keep HIS distance”. I must have read it wrong. ::shrugs:: Anyway, that notion was disabused in the very first page, so I quickly realized I was incorrect. And that I was disappointed. (Me = ::giant sigh:: “This is going to turn into a romance book, isn’t it?”)

Not that this book wasn’t awesome. It really was. Once I got over my confusion about genders (and my confusion on how Jamie got a rugby scholarship to a USA school), I found myself enthralled in this homage to the Sherlock Holmes novels. The characters were both familiar and new. Charlotte has a lot of the same issues as Sherlock, though for completely different reasons, and Jaime is (temperamentally at least) extremely similar to Doctor Watson. But they were also completely original characters with their own spirits and issues.

It did seem a bit strange to me that Jaime felt like it was destiny that he become Charlotte’s Watson, even given his family history. His dad was completely obsessed with the Holmes’ too, almost to the point of willingly endangering his child in order to push the two together. It made it feel a TAD creepy at times. But, hey, it’s a Sherlock book, so we’ll overlook that for now. 😉

The mystery was really interesting. I was kept guessing until the very end of the book, which was a nice change from some of the other mystery books I’ve been reading recently. I loved the nod to the Sherlock mysteries; it was a great way to tie the timelines together a bit and pull in the Sherlock lovers. They even included the Moriarty family! But everything was brought into the story in a way that made sense. Nothing felt pushed in just to have a callback to the original stories.

And, yes, it is looking like the series WILL be romancy. But I do think it works for these two characters. Fingers crossed it doesn’t turn into either a “I want to be with you, but circumstances are keeping us apart (over and over an over again)” or a gushy “I love you so much, you are the only thing in the world that matters” kind of romance. Let’s keep up the mysteries! That’s kind of the point of a Sherlock book, right? 😉

I don’t want to spoil things too much, so I won’t say much more. But this was a great leading book for the series, finishing off the current mystery but leaving the reader with just enough hints towards other mysteries that might take place in the future. I’ll likely pick up the second book, “The Last of August”, once my library snags a copy.

Similar Book(s):

The Clockwork Scarab (Colleen Gleason)

Book Review – The Bone Witch

Book: The Bone Witch – Author: Rin Chupeco

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Supernatural, YA

Description from Goodreads:

Tea is different from the other witches in her family. Her gift for necromancy makes her a bone witch, who are feared and ostracized in the kingdom. For theirs is a powerful, elemental magic that can reach beyond the boundaries of the living—and of the human.

Great power comes at a price, forcing Tea to leave her homeland to train under the guidance of an older, wiser bone witch. There, Tea puts all of her energy into becoming an asha, learning to control her elemental magic and those beasts who will submit by no other force. And Tea must be strong—stronger than she even believes possible. Because war is brewing in the eight kingdoms, war that will threaten the sovereignty of her homeland…and threaten the very survival of those she loves.

My Review:

I like Rin Chupeco. The Girl From The Well was one of only a handful of ‘instant love’ books I’ve read all year. That said…this book will not go down in my list of favorites.

I did like the characters in general. I LOVE Tea’s “Sister Ashas”: Mykaela, Polaire, and Althy.  They seem lively and like they can kick some butt. (Can we get a book just about them?) But the others…I dunno. Most of them, including Tea, seemed a little flat. Occasionally Tea would get angry, but other than that everyone just seemed to kind of be there. (Though I did also like Rahim, can we get a book about him too please?)

I also liked the premise: a world where magic is accepted and magic users have a special niche; some for healing, some for fighting, even some for fashion. 😉 The daeva were interesting too; monsters that rise from their graves every few years and have to be reconquered. Sounds like a great setup for a fantasy, right?

I think the main problem I had with this story was the pacing. Each chapter was split between Tea as a young apprentice and Tea now as an outcast Asha. This might have seemed like a great way to keep the reader interested in the final outcome of the novel, but having to go from super-magical, war-starting Tea, back to “now I have to learn to dance and sing” Tea was really annoying. To be fair, apparently this is the first book in a series (which I did NOT know going in), so the author was probably just world-building. Maybe the next book will have more action?

Overall I’d say, if you are looking for a cool fantasy series, go ahead and try this one. The author writes really well and there are some exciting scenes. Who knows, the rest of the series might be completely awesome.

*One quick pet peeve! Look, I know authors like to give their characters quirky names and that’s totally fine. But if you have a weird pronunciation for your character’s name…SAY SO AT THE BEGINNING OF THE BOOK! Don’t wait 300 pages to tell me that Tea is pronounced “Tey-uh”, especially when all her sisters are named after flowers and Tea is an actual plant with an actual existing pronunciation. It was Hermione all over again (though that one was my fault, not really the author’s).

Similar Book(s):

I’m not sure what to put here, so I’ll just go for fantasy with a supernatural twist. 😉

Strange the Dreamer – Laini Taylor

Revenge of the Witch – Joseph Delany

 

Book Review – The Secret of Spellshadow Manor

Book: The Secret of Spellshadow Manor – Author: Bella Forrest

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, YA

Description from Goodreads:

What would you do if you spotted a man following a young woman, but no-one else could see him?

Like most sane people, student Alex Webber thought he was hallucinating – perhaps he’d consumed something bad at the party he’d been attending that night, or he was severely overtired. But when he sees the mysterious man following Natalie again the very next day, he can no longer disbelieve his eyes.

Although Natalie denies the man’s existence, Alex sees her walking with him down a road in his neighborhood he’s never seen before – and can’t help but follow. After a bizarre, but strangely short journey, he finds himself standing before a towering iron gate wreathed in gray ivy, behind which looms a decrepit old mansion named Spellshadow Manor.

Spellshadow, with its beautiful yet sinisterly decorated hallways, ever-changing outdoor scenery and very unusual residents… Alex will quickly learn it is a place that is as wondrous as it is deadly.

Especially for a normal person like him.

What if you found yourself recruited to an institute of magic, only to discover you really couldn’t do magic?
What if your enrollment there was all one big, terrible mistake?

If you were at Spellshadow, you’d keep it a secret. A deep, dark, deadly secret…

Because Spellshadow’s elusive Head is hiding a secret of his own, one that Alex soon realizes he and Natalie must uncover at all costs if either of them wishes to leave the Manor alive… and before it’s too late.

My Review:

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this one. It’s been plastered all over my Facebook & Goodreads and keeps being touted as “the next Harry Potter”, which usually just has me rolling my eyes and passing on by, but something drew me in this time (honestly, it might have just been the really cool cover, lol).

Whatever the reason, I’m glad I picked this one up from the library. It was a quick, easy, and FUN read. I ended up binging it in less than 3 hours, even with it being almost 400 pages; though, to be fair, the font was HUGE in my copy and there are chapter breaks everywhere, so it’s probably really only a little over 300 pages worth of content.

The main characters all seem very personable. I liked Alex a lot. He seems pretty affable (no angsty HP here, folks) but is still fairly stubborn and extremely protective of his friends. Natalie is also very likable and, thank goodness, not a wilting flower when it comes to danger.

I have to say once again, I am not a huge fan of romances, so I was pleasantly surprised that this novel didn’t really have any. Even though the main characters are older teenagers and a boy & girl, there wasn’t even a hint of a romance between them (at least not in this volume). I liked that. It was nice to run into an author who understands that boys and girls CAN just be friends. We’ll see how that plays out in the rest of the series.

The mystery in this series is really interesting. The kids jump to quite a few (possibly erroneous) conclusions, but did the best they could with the information they were able to acquire; and they DID spend quite some time researching what to do instead of just hurling themselves into danger, which is usually what happens in these types of books…well, there was a BIT of hurling, but not thoughtless hurling. 😉 I’m curious to see where this story is heading and who exactly is going to end up being the Big Bad. Something larger is definitely afoot and the danger is NOT resolved in a neat little package at the end of Book 1.

But there won’t be too long of a wait until I can find out what happens! Apparently the author has already written the entire story and has published all six volumes this year. Seriously, this book was published in March and the 6th (and final) book is already out! Whoohoo! Time to hit the library again! 😀

Similar Book(s):

‘Harry Potter’ series – J.K. Rowling – (Book #1: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone)

‘The Tapestry’ series – Henry H. Neff – (Book #1: The Hound of Rowan)

 

Mini-Reviews – SuperWhoLock 2 & 3

Hi all! Well, I’ve finally caught up on the Jackaby series and wanted to give you a couple of mini-reviews about how the series is going so far.

Series: Jackaby — Author: William Ritter

Genre: Young Adult, Supernatural, Mystery

Beastly Bones (#2)

Description from GoodreadsIn 1892, New Fiddleham, New England, things are never 24001095quite 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.

My Review: Ok, so how to do this without spoilers? Hmm…

Well, there’s a fun mixture of creatures in this one. I especially liked the homage to ancient creatures; I admit to squee-ing a bit when I realized what the ‘big bad’ was going to be. 😉 I liked the new characters too. The paleontologists and reporter were a nice nod to real-life people from around that time period (see the Bone Wars & Nellie Bly) and the Huntsman was affable and played off Jackaby and Abigail well. We also got to see the return of our favorite rozzer, Charlie Cane (aka Charlie Barker).

I will admit that the story will probably be a bit draggy for those who aren’t into paleontology. There was quite a lot discussion about digging and bones and such. With my love of geology, archaeology, and paleontology, I quite enjoyed it, but I can see where it might put some people off. But it was still a fun story and a nice lead into the next book.

Ghostly Echoes (#3)

Description from GoodreadsJenny Cavanaugh, the ghostly lady of 926 Augur Lane, has 28110857enlisted 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.

My Review: The action is really ramping up in this novel. We finally get some answers to what happened to Jenny and a little bit of closure on that case…though it ends up leading into an even bigger over-arching mystery. This new mystery is really interesting and brings in all sorts of new characters and creatures! We even get a little peak at the Annwyn, along with a wonderful mixture of afterlife mythology.

There was a lot of character building in this novel. We’re given a lot more backstory not only for Jenny, but also for Jackaby, both of which look like they will be integral to the overall storyline. (Spoiler?) I’m happy Jenny gets some closure, but that she will still be in the books; I love her character.

I don’t want to give too much away, so I won’t go into too much detail, but the ultimate foes sound wonderfully evil and it looks like the final showdown will be utilize an impressive mixture of science and magic. I can’t wait for the next installment!

Book Review – Jackaby (aka SuperWhoLock)

Book: Jackaby – Author: William Ritter

Genre: Mystery, Supernatural, Young Adult

Description from Goodreads:

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.

My Review:

I really enjoyed this one. The description on Goodreads actually goes on to call it “Doctor Who meets Sherlock” and I can see their point. Jackaby reminds me so much of the 11th Doctor, that I actually kept picturing him as Matt Smith while I was reading. I mean…

“The most recent gentleman has proven to be far more resilient and a great deal more helpful. He remains with me in a . . . different capacity.”

“What capacity?”

Jackaby’s step faltered, and he turned his head away slightly. His mumbled reply was nearly lost to the wind. “He is temporarily waterfowl.”

Yeah, totally the 11th Doctor. 😉

Vincent-and-the-Doctor-gif.gif

But the main character in this book isn’t the adorably quirky Jackaby, it is his new assistant, Abigail. Like the illustrious Dr. Watson, Abigail finds herself caught up in the whirlwind that is Jackaby, but isn’t so taken aback that she can’t hold her own. She’s feisty and capable and won’t back down in a fight, but she’s also smart and uses her position in society (a young lady in the late 1800s) to her advantage.

Speaking of characters, can a house be a character? Jackaby’s house reminded me of a mixture of Sherlock’s flat and Newt Scamander’s briefcase, with a few ghosts thrown in for good measure. I would LOVE a whole book of short stories based on the artifacts in that house!

The mystery itself was really interesting too. It was obvious from the get-go that we weren’t dealing with a normal murderer, but it took a long time to piece together what type of creature was lurking. See, Jackaby & Abagail don’t just investigate regular crimes. Like Sherlock, Jackaby is only called in when the crime is so strange the police can’t figure out what’s going on, but in Jackaby’s case, this usually leads down a more mystical path (though he would insist that everything can be explained by science). There were a lot of twists and turns, good monsters and bad monsters, and we were learning about which to trust and which to run from right alongside Abigail.

Now, there WAS a bit of romance, but it wasn’t really in your face and (spoilers?) it wasn’t between Abigail & Jackaby, which was a relief. I know I’m in the minority, especially among female young adult readers, but I always think that sort of thing detracts from the story rather than adds to it.

Actually, doing this review reminded me why I liked this book; so much so that I paused while writing it to pop down the street to the library and pick up the next two in the series. 😉 Let’s see if they are as good, shall we?

Similar Books:

Death Cloud (Andrew Lane) Series: Young Sherlock Holmes

The Screaming Staircase (Jonathon Stroud) Series: Lockwood & Co

Book Review – Caraval

Book: Caraval – Author: Stephanie Garber

Genre: Young Adult, Adventure, Fantasy

Description from Goodreads:

Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval—the faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show—are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.

My Review:

I’ve seen my share of bad reviews for this book, but I actually really enjoyed it. The idea behind the game of Caraval is intriguing. It’s basically a giant cosplay-treasure hunt, where you can trade secrets and wishes for magical items and dreams. And at the end, if you solve the mystery, you may just win the prize of a lifetime. But don’t get TOO caught up or Caraval could become your downfall.

I’ll be completely upfront: the main character, Scarlett, is about as angst-ridden as you can get. Her father is a monster, her arraigned marriage is a mystery, her sister is missing, and then she starts falling for a guy who could be anyone. But somehow, she never comes off as annoying. I actually really liked Scarlett. I felt pretty bad for her situation and spent most of the book going “Come on, I know you can do this! You got this one, Scar!” I also really liked her sister, though she’s not in the forefront of the novel for very long.

The action in this one never stopped coming. I actually read the book in about 5 hours, which isn’t too bad for an over 400 page book, and most of that can be attributed to the fact that I spent about 85% of the book on the edge of my seat. The author really knows how to keep you guessing: Is creepy Dante really Master Legend? Or is Legend actually the mysterious Julian, the sailor who arrived just in time to carry the girls off to Caraval? Will Scarlett escape her father and will she ever find her lost sister? What is real and what is just the game?

This one was a knuckle-biter from start to finish. I highly recommend it to people who like adventurous books with a dash of romance thrown in (yes, I even liked the romance in this one 😉 ). I’ll definitely be checking out the sequel!

Similar Book(s):

The Night Circus – Erin Morganstern