WWW Wednesday: What Am I Reading? #AmReading

WWW Wednesday is a meme from Sam at Taking On A World Of Words

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

I forgot to prep this post yesterday, so I’m rushing through it this morning. This week features pirates, demons, sorcerers, and a murder mystery. Tell me that’s not a good variety.

I’m at 80% with The Wicked Bargain. I always love me some pirates, but this one has moved a little slowly for my taste. A narcissistic demon added some comic relief I’ve enjoyed, and overall it’s been a good read.

El Diablo is in the details in this Latinx pirate fantasy starring a transmasculine nonbinary teen with a mission of revenge, redemption, and revolution.

On Mar León-de la Rosa’s 16th birthday, el Diablo comes calling. Mar is a transmasculine nonbinary teen pirate hiding a magical ability to manipulate fire and ice. But their magic isn’t enough to reverse a wicked bargain made by their father and now el Diablo has come to collect his payment: the soul of Mar’s father and the entire crew of their ship.

When Mar is miraculously rescued by the sole remaining pirate crew in the Caribbean, el Diablo returns to give them a choice: give up your soul to save your father by the Harvest Moon or never see him again. The task is impossible–Mar refuses to make a bargain and there’s no way their magic is any match for el Diablo. Then, Mar finds the most unlikely allies: Bas, an infuriatingly arrogant and handsome pirate — and the captain’s son; and Dami, a genderfluid demonio whose motives are never quite clear. For the first time in their life, Mar may have the courage to use their magic. It could be their only redemption — or it could mean certain death.

Found family is my favorite trope, and Spell Bound offers extra helpings of it. Two awkward teens in like with each other, rival sorcerers, and an iron-fisted Consortium bent on controlling magic have made for an entertaining read from the first page.

Two rival apprentice sorcerers must team up to save their teachers and protect their own magic in this lively young adult romantic adventure from the New York Times bestselling author of In Deeper Waters and So This Is Ever After.

Edison Rooker isn’t sure what to expect when he enters the office of Antonia Hex, the powerful sorceress who runs a call center for magical emergencies. He doesn’t have much experience with hexes or curses. Heck, he doesn’t even have magic. But he does have a plan—to regain the access to the magical world he lost when his grandmother passed.

Antonia is…intimidating, but she gives him a job and a new name—Rook—both of which he’s happy to accept. Now all Rook has to do is keep his Spell Binder, an illegal magical detection device, hidden from the Magical Consortium. And contend with Sun, the grumpy and annoyingly cute apprentice to Antonia’s rival colleague, Fable. But dealing with competition isn’t so bad; as Sun seems to pop up more and more, and Rook minds less and less.

But when the Consortium gets wind of Rook’s Spell Binder, they come for Antonia. All alone, Rook runs to the only other magical person he knows: Sun. Except Fable has also been attacked, and now Rook and Sun have no choice but to work together to get their mentors back…or face losing their magic forever.

It’s been a while since I’ve read a murder mystery, and at only 256 pages (according to Goodreads) it looks like this one will move at a brisk pace.

In a gripping novel perfect for fans of Sadie and A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, two best friends start a true crime podcast—only to realize they may have helped a killer in the process.

In August of 1999, dazzlingly popular cheerleader Clarissa Campbell disappears from a party in the woods outside the rural town of Oreville, Washington and is never seen again. The police question her friends, teachers, and the adults who knew her—who all have something to hide. And thanks to Clarissa’s beauty, the mystery captures the attention of the nation. But with no leads and no body, the case soon grows cold. Despite the efforts of internet sleuths and true-crime aficionados, Clarissa is never found—dead or alive.

Over twenty years later, Oreville high-school juniors and best friends Blair and Cameron start a true crime podcast, determined to unravel the story of what—or who—happened to this rural urban legend. In the process they uncover a nest of dirty small-town secrets, the sordid truth of Clarissa’s relationship with her charismatic boyfriend, and a high school art teacher turned small-town figurehead who had a very good reason for wanting Clarissa dead. Such a good reason, in fact, that they might have to make him the highlight of their next episode…

But does an ugly history with a missing girl make him guilty of murder? Or are two teenage girls about to destroy the life of an innocent man—and help the true killer walk free?

Immortality: A Love Story by Dana Schwartz #bookreview #YA #historicalfantasy and Ending Eleven (Eleven Trilogy #3) by Jerri Chisholm #dystopian #TuesdayBookBlog

Hazel Sinnett is alone and half-convinced the events of the year before—the immortality, Beecham’s vial—were a figment of her imagination. She doesn’t even know whether Jack is alive or dead. All she can really do now is treat patients and maintain Hawthornden Castle as it starts to decay around her.

When saving a life leads to her arrest, Hazel seems doomed to rot in prison until a message intervenes: She has been specifically requested to be the personal physician of Princess Charlotte, the sickly daughter of King George IV. Soon Hazel is dragged into the glamor and romance of a court where everyone has something to hide, especially the enigmatic, brilliant members of a social club known as the Companions to the Death.

As Hazel’s work entangles her more and more with the British court, she realizes that her own future as a surgeon isn’t the only thing at stake. Malicious forces are at work in the monarchy, and Hazel may be the only one capable of setting things right.

The first book in this duology held me spellbound, and I finished it in one sitting. When I learned another book was coming, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.

I missed Hazel. Highly intelligent, determined, ambitious, independent – she’s on my list of favorite female protagonists. In 1817 Edinburgh, Hazel is a surgeon, something unheard of for women in that time period. But she’s never been one to bow to society’s expectations of her. This story begins immediately after the events of Anatomy, and she’s unsure of what happened to Jack and doesn’t even know if he’s alive or dead. Being practical and focused on her work, Hazel continues to treat her patients and write her book. And treating one of her patients gets her thrown into jail. Luckily for her, she’s soon summoned to treat the granddaughter of King George IV of England and is released from prison.

No spoilers here, so I’ll say this novel is just as compelling as the first. A lot is going on at court, not all of it good, and members of a social club Hazel is invited to join may not be what they seem. She also meets Dr. Simon Ferris, who’s treating the king for a mysterious illness. I liked Simon and the way he interacts with Hazel – he respects her as a colleague and her abilities as a surgeon. Her patients come first, and she goes to extreme lengths in this story to prove it.

I can’t go without mentioning both covers in this duology – they’re truly works of art. If you enjoy strong, intelligent female protagonists, historical fantasy, and mysteries, I can’t recommend this series enough.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

My name is Eve Hamilton.
Everyone in Compound Eleven thinks I was killed. But they’re dead wrong…

I spent my entire life in Compound Eleven as a fighter. Surviving in an underground city filled with violence, oppression, and tyranny. We were told the world above was scorched, an immediate death sentence. I should have died never knowing the truth. Instead, when I fought Wren—a boy from the top floor, a Preme—I fell for him. And eventually learned that my reality was an insidious lie.

Escaping Compound Eleven nearly killed me and Wren. Now we’re aboveground, where the world is anything but a toxic, burning wasteland. It’s green and lush, filled with sunshine, fresh water… and hope. All of which tastes bitter when I see what it’s cost me. Because something in Wren has changed. He’s broken—along with whatever it was between us.

Now the tides of violence in Compound Eleven are rising, threatening to spill out and shatter this peaceful place with brutality, corruption, and death.

But do I stop them… or join them?

I’ve been captivated by this series from the first book, and I’m sorry to see it end. I have to give a shoutout to the cover designer – all three covers are so vibrant and well done.

This book begins where the other left off. Eve and Wren are critically injured, but make it back to Michael’s camp. Wren’s injuries are worse, and he’s unconscious for a few days while Eve settles into healing, camp life, and chores. When Wren wakes, he’s not quite the same. Blank spots riddle his memory, and he’s withdrawn for the most part. I was frustrated with Eve for not being there for him, but also annoyed with Wren’s actions/inactions even after he improves. Other than camp life, miscommunications, and incorrect assumptions, not much happens in the first several chapters. I started to worry about pacing.

And then everything takes off at warp speed. So much happens – strategic planning, rebellions, betrayals, revelations, reunions. Some characters get what’s coming to them, other deaths are mourned. Plenty of action, violence, blood – everything that tends to go hand in hand with rebellions.

I also enjoyed meeting new characters at the camp and admired how they were slowly rebuilding society. It wasn’t perfect, but no society is. And what a satisfying ending to this exciting trilogy. It was promising, hopeful, and gave a glimpse into the future of these characters. If you’re a dystopian fan, this is a series to add to your list.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Bookfest and #AmWatching

Last Monday I mentioned I’d be at the SoKY Bookfest this past Friday and Saturday as a reader. It’s always one of my favorite weekends of the year – kind of feels like I’m surrounded by my tribe. I only bought two books – cue the gasps of disbelief. But I tried to buy more, I swear. One of the authors sold out of the book I wanted – yay for him. Another author was unable to come, and I’d read several of the others featured. So I did my best.

I watched several young adult panels filled with some of my favorite authors. Those always inspire me, and I never tire of hearing writers talk about their books, origin stories, what they’re working on, etc. Over eight hundred students from grade school through high school attended on Friday – I love to see kids with books. They also attended the panels and asked some of the standard questions – where do you get your ideas, are any of your characters based on you, what’s your favorite color – but some of the questions were impressive. Do you read negative feedback about your books and if so, how do you deal with it? What’s your method for creating characters? Maybe the teachers supplied them ahead of time, who knows. One of the author’s books was set during WWII and several kids had questions about it. They had a genuine interest in that time period and it showed.

Has anyone watched The Company You Keep on ABC? I’ll watch anything featuring Milo Ventimiglia (Jack from This Is Us), but even hubby likes it (and you know how difficult he is with shows). The cast also includes Sarah Wayne Callies (The Walking Dead) and William Fichtner (he’s good in everything). Here’s the description: A night of passion leads to love between con man Charlie and undercover CIA officer Emma, who are unknowingly on a collision course professionally. While Charlie ramps up the family business with sights set on getting out for good, Emma works to close in on the vengeful criminal who holds Charlie’s family debts in hand — forcing them to reckon with the lies they’ve told so they can save themselves and their families from disastrous consequences. The series is based on the Korean Broadcasting System series entitled “My Fellow Citizens.”

Have a great week!

Seven Faceless Saints by M.K. Lobb #bookreview #YA #darkfantasy

In the city of Ombrazia, saints and their disciples rule with terrifying and unjust power, playing favorites while the unfavored struggle to survive.

After her father’s murder at the hands of the Ombrazian military, Rossana Lacertosa is willing to do whatever it takes to dismantle the corrupt system—tapping into her powers as a disciple of Patience, joining the rebellion, and facing the boy who broke her heart. As the youngest captain in the history of Palazzo security, Damian Venturi is expected to be ruthless and strong, and to serve the saints with unquestioning devotion. But three years spent fighting in a never-ending war have left him with deeper scars than he wants to admit… and a fear of confronting the girl he left behind.

Now a murderer stalks Ombrazia’s citizens. As the body count climbs, the Palazzo is all too happy to look the other way—that is, until a disciple becomes the newest victim. With every lead turning into a dead end, Damian and Roz must team up to find the killer, even if it means digging up buried emotions. As they dive into the underbelly of Ombrazia, the pair will discover something more sinister—and far less holy. With darkness closing in and time running out, will they be able to save the city from an evil so powerful that it threatens to destroy everything in its path?

In this war-torn world, its citizens are descended from seven saints. Some are born with magic or may develop it later in life. These people become disciples and enjoy many privileges and luxuries. Those without magic, the unfavored, are at the bottom of the food chain and struggle with poverty. They’re also considered expendable and sent to war to fight for a country who gives them practically nothing.

As children and into their teens, Damian and Roz were best friends who fell in love. Both were unfavored until Roz developed magic as an early teen. Being a disciple isn’t something she wanted – she doesn’t believe in the saints or the society they built. It’s an unfair world. Damian was sent to war for three years and is still emotionally scarred from his experiences there. Fortunately, his father holds a powerful position in government and is able to secure Damian the position of captain of Palazzo security upon his return. Damian broke Roz’s heart while he was away by cutting off communication with her even after her father was brutally killed when she needed Damian most. Now she can’t stand the sight of him (but not really), and he can’t stop thinking about her. After several murders, the two of them team up to find the killer. It should be mentioned that the first couple of murder victims were unfavored – and no one cared. When a disciple is killed, finding the culprit becomes a priority.

In between the snippy quips, apologies, angst, declarations of love, and everything that comes with the romantic drama between prickly Roz and guilt-ridden Damian, I enjoyed the mystery. I had my suspicions, but the identity of the killer came as a surprise to me. There’s a mountain of conflict between Roz and Damian – she works with the rebels and he’s a cop, his father was responsible for her father’s death – and they have pretty big hurdles to overcome.

Reviews have been mixed for this novel, but with a mystery that keeps you guessing, likeable characters, complex world-building, and brisk pace, it gets a thumbs up from me. I’ll definitely be looking out for the next book in the series.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

A Voice in the Silence by D.L. Finn #bookreview #scifi #thriller #paranormal

Drea Burr has experienced more than her share of loss when a stray dog, cat, and rat enter her life. Although the animals start to mend her broken heart, there is something very unusual about them. During a snowstorm, Drea discovers a chilling set of footprints leading to her front window. Both the police and a ghostly messenger warn her about a killer stalking widows. Help comes from her late husband’s best friend, Adam Hale. As the two try to discover answers, more questions arise— about a killer, ghosts, and animals experimented on in a lab.

Can Drea and Adam survive the threats coming from so many directions and save themselves and the animals they’ve grown to love? Or will more tragedy destroy her second chance at happiness? Find out in this thrilling, cozy paranormal adventure. 

As an animal lover, any book that includes pets just makes the story better in my opinion – and this one gets serious bonus points. The skillful blend of genres – mystery, paranormal, thriller, sci-fi – also thrilled me. So many of my favorites!

Drea is going through a rough time in her life after the loss of her husband and beloved pets. Her relationship with her son has also been distant and strained lately, and she misses him. She’s alone, grieving, and considering taking drastic measures. Until a stray dog, cat, and rat show up and change her life forever. They aren’t your normal pets – they talk (something I’ve always wished my pets could do!). Even better – they can communicate with spirits.

Besides adjusting to this shocking turn of events, Drea finds herself a target of a killer stalking widows. Footsteps leading to her front window are far too close for comfort. Her newfound family of pets are escapees of a lab where they were subjects of experiments – and someone is still looking for them. Saying Drea has a lot on her plate is an understatement. I loved how strong she is and how she refuses to let herself be a victim.

Just when I thought she and the pets were safe and I could breathe again, the story took another path. Unpredictable storylines make me a happy reader. There’s also a sweet romance brewing between Drea and her late husband’s best friend, Adam, that may be her second chance at love.

There are plenty of tense moments to keep you on the edge of your seat, but at its heart this story is primarily about family. One of my favorite themes is found family, and that’s certainly prevalent in this novel. I also appreciated the glimpse into the future of these characters at the end. It left me smiling.

Always the Almost by Edward Underhill #bookreview #YA #LGBTQ #contemporary #TuesdayBookBlog

A trans pianist makes a New Year’s resolution on a frozen Wisconsin night to win regionals and win back his ex, but a new boy complicates things in Edward Underhill’s heartfelt debut YA rom-dram, Always the Almost.

Sixteen-year-old trans boy Miles Jacobson has two New Year’s resolutions: 1) win back his ex-boyfriend (and star of the football team) Shane McIntyre, and 2) finally beat his slimy arch-nemesis at the Midwest’s biggest classical piano competition. But that’s not going to be so easy. For one thing, Shane broke up with Miles two weeks after Miles came out as trans, and now Shane’s stubbornly ignoring him, even when they literally bump into each other. Plus, Miles’ new, slightly terrifying piano teacher keeps telling him that he’s playing like he “doesn’t know who he is”—whatever that means.

Then Miles meets the new boy in town, Eric Mendez, a proudly queer cartoonist from Seattle who asks his pronouns, cares about art as much as he does—and makes his stomach flutter. Not what he needs to be focusing on right now. But after Eric and Miles pretend to date so they can score an invite to a couples-only Valentine’s party, the ruse turns real with a kiss, which is also definitely not in the plan. If only Miles could figure out why Eric likes him so much. After all, it’s not like he’s cool or confident or comfortable in his own skin. He’s not even good enough at piano to get his fellow competitors to respect him, especially now, as Miles. Nothing’s ever been as easy for him as for other people—other boys. He’s only ever been almost enough.

So why, when he’s with Eric, does it feel like the only person he’s ever really not been enough for…is himself? 

This vibrant cover first caught my attention. Then I discovered the MC plays piano (I played years ago), and when I read it was blurbed by Phil Stamper (just finished his Golden Boys duology), I knew I needed to read this novel.

Miles is a trans-boy who’s recently come out, and he has two goals – win back his ex-boyfriend (a school jock who dumped him) and beat his arch nemesis (Miles has lost to him every year) at a classical piano competition. Miles is also experiencing struggles at school – teachers referring to him with the wrong pronouns/name, bathroom dilemmas, and piano competitions – trolls making horrible comments on message boards. Luckily he has some very protective friends to help him out. Every spare moment he has is spent practicing piano, usually in the school auditorium. And that’s where he meets new student Eric who’s working on his comic series.

Eric is laid-back, adorable, and he sees Miles – it’s easy to understand why Miles is attracted to him. I enjoyed seeing their friendship develop and turn into something more. Eric’s scenes with his younger sister are heartwarming and funny and allow the reader to see another side of him.

As for Miles – I wanted to wring his neck at certain points. Initially he’s pretty selfish and ignores what’s happening with his friends. Because of some of his actions, he’s forced to take a closer look at himself and how he’s treated others. It’s a wonderful character arc. I loved Miles’s piano teacher. She’s tough, talented, and nudges him (not gently) into thinking about who he is and why he plays.

This is a heart-warming, joyful novel with messy, flawed characters and an incredible debut. This author is definitely on my watchlist, and I’m anxious to see what he does next.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Book Festival, #AmWriting, and #AmWatching

Friday and Saturday of this week, you’ll find me at the Southern Kentucky Book Festival right here in Bowling Green – one of my favorite weekends of the year! This time I’ll be attending as a reader instead of an author. With plenty of panels and authors from a variety of genres, I’m super excited. Although my shelves are full and my TBR chaotic, I’m sure I’ll come home with a stack of books. And I don’t feel even a little bit guilty about that.

I’ve mentioned before that all of my books have been written differently – chronological order, out of sequence, characters showing up out of nowhere and demanding to be included, etc. Book 5 is no different. I realized last week I needed a family tree before I could go any further. A Victorian house has been in this family for generations, and many of these ancestors may be mentioned in the story. Last week I researched popular names from the 1850s to the 1980s. It’s interesting how many of the names from the 1800s are still popular today. They never seem to go out of style.

Season three of Ted Lasso started last week! Son #2 texted me Saturday and asked how dare I not inform him of the new season. Not sure how he could have missed the news – it was everywhere. I love all those characters, but Roy has been my favorite from the first episode. His interactions with his niece Phoebe are adorable (the Christmas episode was fabulous). It’s rumored this will be the last season, but I’m really hoping that’s not true. Shows of this caliber are few and far between.

Believe and have a fantastic week!

The Twisted Dead (Gravekeeper #3) by Darcy Coates #paranormal #bookreview #suspense

Keira is ready for her life to return to normal. Though, to be fair, normal is a tall ask when your ability to see ghosts has landed you the job of groundskeeper in a small town’s cemetery.

When Keira receives an invitation to dinner at Dane Crispin’s crumbling ancestral estate, she knows she can’t refuse. The last living descendant of the Crispin family is reclusive. Keira only met him once…on the night he tried to kill her.

The mansion is steeped in history that is equal parts complicated and bloody. Keira senses the presence of restless spirits the moment she steps through its door. And Dane, waiting for her inside, wants to ask for her help. 

Although I missed the first book (I read book two and this is the third) in this series, that hasn’t prevented me from keeping up with what went on. The author does a good job of including details that bring the reader up to speed.

I recently read that Coates’s books can be categorized as cozy horror/paranormal. To me, cozies are those mysteries with adorable covers (especially when cats are included) and clever titles. When I read the reasoning behind it being classified that way, it made sense. There’s a mystery, a paranormal element, humor (seriously, Zoe should moonlight as a comedian), and no gore. I think even non-horror fans could appreciate this series.

A lot of things are happening in this novel. There’s progress in the ongoing story arc of who Keira actually is. She learns more about Artec and why she’s on the run from them. Mason’s reason for leaving medical school in his last year is revealed. And Dane Crispin may not be the baddie he seems – he may just be misunderstood. Considering he tried to kill Keira the last time they met, she takes a leap of faith in accepting his dinner invitation and helping him.

The slow burn romance, I’m talking glacier pace here, between Mason and Keira continues. Apparently they need to be hit over the head (maybe by Zoe, who has no filter) to realize how the other feels, because it seems obvious to everyone else. Harry, a very…eccentric character, also gets more page time, and I adore his dry humor.

This isn’t the last book, so I’ll be keeping an eye out for the next one. If you’re a fan of eerie, atmospheric books with a mystery, you can’t go wrong with this series.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

WWW Wednesday: What Am I Reading? #amreading

WWW Wednesday is a meme from Sam at Taking On A World Of Words

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

This week is a good mix – part two of a historical fantasy duology, a thriller that didn’t really thrill me, and a horror novel set in a foreign land.

I read the first book in this duology, Anatomy: a love story, in one afternoon and couldn’t wait for this sequel. The covers are stunning works of art featuring women in dresses that resemble a heart (the first in the duology) and a brain.

Hazel Sinnett is alone and half-convinced the events of the year before—the immortality, Beecham’s vial—were a figment of her imagination. She doesn’t even know whether Jack is alive or dead. All she can really do now is treat patients and maintain Hawthornden Castle as it starts to decay around her.

When saving a life leads to her arrest, Hazel seems doomed to rot in prison until a message intervenes: She has been specifically requested to be the personal physician of Princess Charlotte, the sickly daughter of King George IV. Soon Hazel is dragged into the glamor and romance of a court where everyone has something to hide, especially the enigmatic, brilliant members of a social club known as the Companions to the Death.

As Hazel’s work entangles her more and more with the British court, she realizes that her own future as a surgeon isn’t the only thing at stake. Malicious forces are at work in the monarchy, and Hazel may be the only one capable of setting things right.

The Writing Retreat has a fantastic premise, and the first half of the book was promising. After an unusual grocery list of themes were tossed into the second half, it just didn’t work for me. Reviews are split, so it may be a suspenseful read for you.

A book deal to die for.

Five attendees are selected for a month-long writing retreat at the remote estate of Roza Vallo, the controversial high priestess of feminist horror. Alex, a struggling writer, is thrilled.

Upon arrival, they discover they must complete an entire novel from scratch, and the best one will receive a seven-figure publishing deal. Alex’s long-extinguished dream now seems within reach.

But then the women begin to die.

Trapped, terrified yet still desperately writing, it is clear there is more than a publishing deal at stake at Blackbriar Estate. Alex must confront her own demons – and finish her novel – to save herself.

I’ve mentioned in previous posts my weakness for haunted house novels – and this description has me all kinds of excited. I love that it’s set in Vietnam.

A house with a terrifying appetite haunts a broken family in this atmospheric horror, perfect for fans of Mexican Gothic.

When Jade Nguyen arrives in Vietnam for a visit with her estranged father, she has one goal: survive five weeks pretending to be a happy family in the French colonial house Ba is restoring. She’s always lied to fit in, so if she’s straight enough, Vietnamese enough, American enough, she can get out with the college money he promised.

But the house has other plans. Night after night, Jade wakes up paralyzed. The walls exude a thrumming sound, while bugs leave their legs and feelers in places they don’t belong. She finds curious traces of her ancestors in the gardens they once tended. And at night Jade can’t ignore the ghost of the beautiful bride who leaves her cryptic warnings: Don’t eat.

Neither Ba nor her sweet sister Lily believe that there is anything strange happening. With help from a delinquent girl, Jade will prove this house—the home her family has always wanted—will not rest until it destroys them. Maybe, this time, she can keep her family together. As she roots out the house’s rot, she must also face the truth of who she is and who she must become to save them all. 

Ring of Solomon by Aden Polydoros #bookreview #MG #fantasy #LGBTQ #TuesdayBookBlog

This exciting and adventurous start to a middle-grade trilogy follows a queer boy and his family as they try to halt the chaotic effects of a mysterious ring, drawing upon Jewish mythology to navigate magic, mayhem and the search for pride in one’s identity.

The little beachside town of San Pancras is not known for anything exciting, but when Zach Darlington buys a mysterious ring at the local flea market, his quiet little hometown is turned topsy-turvy by monsters straight from Jewish folklore and a nefarious secret society focused on upholding an apocalyptic prophecy.

Zach discovers that the ring grants him strange powers, and he’s intrigued; maybe he can use the ring’s strengths to halt the slew of anti-Semitic and homophobic bullying he’s experiencing at school. But soon the ring brings unexpected visitors—Ashmedai, King of Demons, in the guise of a preteen boy named Ash, and the local chapter of the Knights of the Apocalypse, a secret society intent on completing a creepy prophecy that will bring three monsters to Earth to start the events of the end of times.

Now responsible for the ring and its consequences, will Zach and his friends, with the help of Ash, be able to stop the Apocalypse and save the world?

I think I’ve read everything Aden Polydoros has written (I also have an ARC of his next release – woohoo!), and when he decided to play in the middle grade sandbox, I was excited to see what he came up with.

In the author’s note before the story begins, he mentions that he comes from an interfaith family and discovered his love of horror movies at a young age. Other than a few passing references in a popular MG series, he never came across books with Jewish main characters and struggled to see himself in stories. A few of his novels contain queer Jewish main characters, and it’s wonderful to see that representation available to YA and MG readers today.

The book begins with Zach and his younger sister buying a mysterious ring for their mother’s birthday at a flea market. Little does he know the adventure that awaits him because of that simple transaction. First, he can hear animals talk and converse with them – which is pretty cool. Then the King of Demons (who discovers a strong passion for pizza) appears in Zach’s bedroom, and soon he’s in over his head dealing with a nutty kind of cult and three monsters predicted to start the end times.

Knowing little to nothing about Jewish mythology, I enjoyed learning more about it, and it’s one of my favorite things about this book. The author does a wonderful job of portraying tweens – their interactions, the bottomless stomachs of tween boys (which gave me several laughs), and relationships with their parents and siblings. Zach is also the target of bullying by one student in particular in his class, which sadly is still a reality in our schools, and it’s handled well in the story.

Ring of Solomon is full of action with plenty of humor, and several reviewers have recommended it to fans of Percy Jackson. I was delighted to learn this will be a trilogy, and I’m excited to spend more time with these characters.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.