Family, #AmWriting, and #BadMoonRising

Happy Monday! This will be a brief post because we spent the weekend with family in Charlotte. Nieces and nephews we hadn’t seen for quite a while, their kids (one we’d never met), Hubby’s parents, and others. I think the total count came in around 20 people? Lots of food, laughter, catching up, and good times.

Manic work continues on the Subject A36 sequel. I sent all the chapters I’d finished to my beta reader on Thursday, which now leaves me with two chapters to complete and possibly an epilogue. Bits and pieces are coming together in my head, and I’ve been making notes all weekend, so it’s just a matter of transferring it from my jumbled brain to the computer. Sure wish there was some kind of connection – something like in The Matrix, but maybe not with that ugly jack at the base of my neck – where I could think it and it would magically transfer. Have any of you writers ever thought about something like that? Just think of the time you could save and typos you could avoid.

It’s hard to believe, but Bad Moon Rising will be upon us very soon. I’ve been working on questions for this year, and I’ll be posting about signups later this week – probably Friday. Make sure to stop by!

How We Fall Apart by Katie Zhao #bookreview #mystery #thriller

Students at an elite prep school are forced to confront their secrets when their ex-best friend turns up dead.

Nancy Luo is shocked when her former best friend, Jamie Ruan, top ranked junior at Sinclair Prep, goes missing, and then is found dead. Nancy is even more shocked when word starts to spread that she and her friends–Krystal, Akil, and Alexander–are the prime suspects, thanks to “The Proctor,” someone anonymously incriminating them via the school’s social media app.

They all used to be Jamie’s closest friends, and she knew each of their deepest, darkest secrets. Now, somehow The Proctor knows them, too. The four must uncover the true killer before The Proctor exposes more than they can bear and costs them more than they can afford, like Nancy’s full scholarship. Soon, Nancy suspects that her friends may be keeping secrets from her, too. 

One of the comp titles for this novel is One of Us Is Lying, a book I enjoyed from beginning to end, so I went into this with some high expectations.

The competition to be the best at Sinclair Prep is cutthroat. These teens put an enormous amount of pressure on themselves and each other, while some of their parents demand the best no matter the cost. Stress levels are through the roof. Most of the student body look up to these five students, so when Jamie turns up dead and the mysterious Proctor begins making accusations and threatening to reveal dark secrets about the other four, their reputations are tarnished to say the least.

This is a short, quick read that I finished in less than twenty-four hours. It moves along at a brisk pace, and the developments come pretty fast. These characters are supposed to be best friends, especially Nancy and Jamie, but I sure wasn’t feeling the love between most of them. I even wondered how and why they became friends considering the way they treat each other. Of the five of them, Nancy and Jamie are especially unlikeable, but I’m not sure if that’s what the author intended. I can’t imagine many readers would feel sympathetic toward them for most of the book. I figured out the identity of the Proctor – kind of (no spoilers) – but the reveal requires quite a big suspension of disbelief. Looking at other reviews, several have mentioned that fans of Pretty Little Liars and Gossip Girls would be the intended audience for this book, but I haven’t seen either of those shows. Maybe that’s why It didn’t work for me as much as I’d hoped, but I’m glad I read How We Fall Apart and will look for future novels by this author.

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?

The City Beautiful has been one of my most antipicated reads this year. The author, Aden Polydoros, blurbed my second book, The Gemini Connection. Look at that gorgeous cover! I’m only about 10% in and totally engrossed in this historical fantasy.

Death lurks around every corner in this unforgettable Jewish historical fantasy about a city, a boy, and the shadows of the past that bind them both together.  
 

Chicago, 1893. For Alter Rosen, this is the land of opportunity, and he dreams of the day he’ll have enough money to bring his mother and sisters to America, freeing them from the oppression they face in his native Romania.
 
But when Alter’s best friend, Yakov, becomes the latest victim in a long line of murdered Jewish boys, his dream begins to slip away. While the rest of the city is busy celebrating the World’s Fair, Alter is now living a nightmare: possessed by Yakov’s dybbuk, he is plunged into a world of corruption and deceit, and thrown back into the arms of a dangerous boy from his past. A boy who means more to Alter than anyone knows.
 

Now, with only days to spare until the dybbuk takes over Alter’s body completely, the two boys must race to track down the killer—before the killer claims them next.

My last WWW post had three boarding school/academy type books, and I had no idea The Witch Haven made the fourth. Loved the 1911 NYC setting. It was an intriguing read, but I felt like something was missing by the end. Just can’t put my finger on it yet.

The Last Magician meets The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy in this thrilling and atmospheric historical fantasy following a young woman who discovers she has magical powers and is thrust into a battle between witches and wizards.

In 1911 New York City, seventeen-year-old Frances Hallowell spends her days as a seamstress, mourning the mysterious death of her brother months prior. Everything changes when she’s attacked and a man ends up dead at her feet—her scissors in his neck, and she can’t explain how they got there.

Before she can be condemned as a murderess, two cape-wearing nurses arrive to inform her she is deathly ill and ordered to report to Haxahaven Sanitarium. But Frances finds Haxahaven isn’t a sanitarium at all: it’s a school for witches. Within Haxahaven’s glittering walls, Frances finds the sisterhood she craves, but the headmistress warns Frances that magic is dangerous. Frances has no interest in the small, safe magic of her school, and is instead enchanted by Finn, a boy with magic himself who appears in her dreams and tells her he can teach her all she’s been craving to learn, lessons that may bring her closer to discovering what truly happened to her brother.

Frances’s newfound power attracts the attention of the leader of an ancient order who yearns for magical control of Manhattan. And who will stop at nothing to have Frances by his side. Frances must ultimately choose what matters more, justice for her murdered brother and her growing feelings for Finn, or the safety of her city and fellow witches. What price would she pay for power, and what if the truth is more terrible than she ever imagined?

Not sure I’m crazy about the cover of The Last Beautiful Girl, but with a comp title like Black Mirror and a Darcy Coates comparison, I couldn’t pass it up. And I’m also a haunted house book groupie.

BLACK MIRROR meets Darcy Coates in this exploration of the dangerous, dark side of beauty in the digital age, with a gothic, haunted-house setting.

When Izzy is dragged from Brooklyn to a tiny town for her parents’ new job, she’s not thrilled. The silver lining is the gorgeous old mansion she’s moved into: the former home of an artist’s muse who died tragically in a fire. But the house has its quirks: whole floors are closed off, paintings are covered up, and cell reception is nonexistent.

Izzy throws herself into starting an Instagram fashion account using the gowns and jewelry she finds hidden away in the house. She looks perfect in the photos–almost unnaturally perfect–and they quickly go viral. Soon she’s got a new best friend, a potential boyfriend, and is surrounded by a group of girls who want the photoshoots and fame for themselves. But there’s a darkness in the house, and a darkness growing in Izzy, too. When girls start dying, it’s clear that something–or someone–in the house is growing in power, with deadly intentions.

Small Favors by Erin A. Craig #bookreview #YA #darkfantasy #thriller #TuesdayBookBlog

Ellerie Downing lives in the quiet town of Amity Falls in the Blackspire Mountain range–five narrow peaks stretching into the sky like a grasping hand, bordered by a nearly impenetrable forest from which the early townsfolk fought off the devils in the woods. To this day, visitors are few and rare. But when a supply party goes missing, some worry that the monsters that once stalked the region have returned.

As fall turns to winter, more strange activities plague the town. They point to a tribe of devilish and mystical creatures who promise to fulfill the residents’ deepest desires, however grand and impossible, for just a small favor. But their true intentions are much more sinister, and Ellerie finds herself in a race against time before all of Amity Falls, her family, and the boy she loves go up in flames.

This is the second book I’ve read by this author, and I’ll be waiting in line for her third no matter what it is.

Don’t be deceived by the calming, flower-filled cover. Inside is a chilling, dark fantasy that will make you hesitate before entering the woods ever again. I count the movie The Village directed by M. Night Shyamalan as one of my favorites, and this book shares many similarities with it – a small, tightly knit community, strange activities in the town, deadly creatures in the forest, and a MC who’s determined she and her family will survive. There are also shades of Stephen King’s Needful Things with some of the townfolks’ deepest desires being fulfilled.

The first few chapters introduce readers to a simpler kind of life and allow them to become acquainted with the isolated town, its residents, and their daily activities. Ellerie’s idyllic life of learning beekeeping from her father, cooking with her mother, and playing with her little sister begins sliding away a piece at a time after a supply party goes missing. Visitors, a rare event, show up in town, and one is especially intriguing to her. Whitaker’s motivations were a mystery to me throughout the story, and I wasn’t sure if I should trust him. Soon the town is plagued with deformed animals, strange bouts of weather, and a lack of food before neighbors turn against each other in vengeance and hatred. I’m talking a serious spiraling of events, folks. Some of these scenes aren’t for the faint of heart.

This slow burn dark fantasy pulls you in a page at a time, and before long you’ll notice the book is super glued to your hands. It felt like 350 pages instead of nearly 500 to me. Fans of The Village, Needful Things, and dark fantasy will spend several engrossing hours reading Small Favors and shutting out the world around them. Just be careful when you go into the woods.

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

Blurb, Butterflies, and #AmWatching

I’m still working like a maniac to meet my October 1st deadline for the sequel (still untitled) to Subject A36. It occurred to me a couple weeks ago that I needed a blurb for the cover. With this being a sequel, options on who I could ask were limited. As I was putting makeup on last week (I get the best ideas doing that or when taking a shower for some reason) a name popped in my head. I asked and he agreed – which is a huge relief for me and one less thing to worry about.

A weird thing happened Friday evening. I was sitting on the patio reading when small, brown spotted butterfly landed on my hand. And stayed there. I’m a butterfly lover – I even brake for them – so I was thrilled when he stuck around. Over the next hour, he crawled from my hand to my leg, ankle, and foot. Unfortunately, Bond (my cat) discovered my new friend and nearly tagged him with a paw. A ruckus ensued (the neighbors had quite a show if they were watching), but I shooed the butterfly away while restraining Bond. I would have been horrified if Bond had killed it. There’s bound to be some bad karma attached to that. Anyhoo, I was curious and Googled what it means when brown butterflies land on you. In most cultures, it symbolizes a fresh start and also means that important news is coming. If you’re going through a rough time or have experienced a loss, it can signify the situation will get better. All good things. Again, I’m glad Bond didn’t slaughter him.

I mentioned in another fairly recent post about TV shows I watch being canceled. Add a couple more to the list – Manifest (which was supposed to have three more seasons) and Debris. Both ended on big cliffhangers naturally. The Manifest creators promised the fans they’ll have a resolution some way – maybe with a movie. Evil, a show on CBS, was renewed after season one, but moved to Paramount Plus. I guess when all the episodes from season two drop, I’ll sign up for the seven day free trial. The number of shows I watch on network television has dwindled every year and seem to be replaced with more reality shows. If it was just me I’d probably drop cable, but hubby still likes to surf the channels.

Have a great week!

The Dead and the Dark by Courtney Gould #bookreview #YA #thriller #LGBTQ

Courtney Gould’s thrilling debut The Dead and the Dark is about the things that lurk in dark corners, the parts of you that can’t remain hidden, and about finding home in places―and people―you didn’t expect.

The Dark has been waiting for far too long, and it won’t stay hidden any longer.

Something is wrong in Snakebite, Oregon. Teenagers are disappearing, some turning up dead, the weather isn’t normal, and all fingers seem to point to TV’s most popular ghost hunters who have just returned to town. Logan Ortiz-Woodley, daughter of TV’s ParaSpectors, has never been to Snakebite before, but the moment she and her dads arrive, she starts to get the feeling that there’s more secrets buried here than they originally let on.

Ashley Barton’s boyfriend was the first teen to go missing, and she’s felt his presence ever since. But now that the Ortiz-Woodleys are in town, his ghost is following her and the only person Ashley can trust is the mysterious Logan. When Ashley and Logan team up to figure out who—or what—is haunting Snakebite, their investigation reveals truths about the town, their families, and themselves that neither of them are ready for. As the danger intensifies, they realize that their growing feelings for each other could be a light in the darkness. 

All I needed to read was strange happenings and ghost hunters to jump at requesting this book. Dark, intense, intriguing, mysterious – does the description give you an idea of what this story is like? I honestly could have read it in one sitting but had to split it into two days.

Snakebite, Oregon isn’t very welcoming to newcomers or even to some of the previous residents who visit. It’s a small town, but cliques are prevalent in both the teenage and adult crowds and, like most small towns, secrets are nearly bursting out of the closets they’re barricaded in. Logan’s dad, Brandon, has been in Snakebite scouting the location for his TV show ParaSpectors. When Logan and her other dad, Alejo arrive, they learn a teen boy disappeared around the same time Brandon rolled into town six months ago. The locals don’t consider this a coincidence and make it known to Logan and her family at every turn. Logan is the curious type and isn’t content to sit around the hotel room watching TV all day and before long, she’s caught up in a tangled web of secrets involving her family. Although adversaries at first, Logan and Ashley, a local resident, make a pact to discover the truth together after it becomes evident Ashley’s mother is involved.

Something I really liked about this novel is the relationship between Logan and her dads. In most YA books parents don’t play large roles, but that’s not the case here. She enjoys an easy camaraderie with one of them, but has a strained relationship with the other (which is explained, but no spoilers here). Besides the paranormal occurrences, a parent’s overwhelming love for their child, finding your place in the world, and learning acceptance are strong themes in this story. Readers will also be shipping the budding romance between Ashley and Logan.

I guessed a couple of major plot points early on, that didn’t prevent me from devouring this book. Murders, ghosts, mediums, and some cool ghost hunter gadgets held me spellbound. The story skillfully builds to a nail-biting climax, but I did feel like the ending wraps up a little quickly. This is a strong debut novel, and I’ll be looking out for future releases by this author.

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

The Book of Accidents by Chuck Wendig #bookreview #horror #thriller #TuesdayBookBlog

A family returns to their hometown—and to the dark past that haunts them still—in this masterpiece of literary horror by the New York Times bestselling author of Wanderers

Long ago, Nathan lived in a house in the country with his abusive father—and has never told his family what happened there.

Long ago, Maddie was a little girl making dolls in her bedroom when she saw something she shouldn’t have—and is trying to remember that lost trauma by making haunting sculptures.

Long ago, something sinister, something hungry, walked in the tunnels and the mountains and the coal mines of their hometown in rural Pennsylvania.

Now, Nate and Maddie Graves are married, and they have moved back to their hometown with their son, Oliver.

And now what happened long ago is happening again . . . and it is happening to Oliver. He meets a strange boy who becomes his best friend, a boy with secrets of his own and a taste for dark magic.

This dark magic puts them at the heart of a battle of good versus evil and a fight for the soul of the family—and perhaps for all of the world. But the Graves family has a secret weapon in this battle: their love for one another.

How I’ve made it this long without ever reading a Chuck Wendig book is a mystery to me, but he can now count me among his devoted fans.

This book weighs in around 550 pages, but trust me when I say it doesn’t feel that long. You’ll be so caught up in this family and their treacherous situations the pages will fly by. These characters had me from nearly the first page. They made be a small family of three, but this is one tight unit, and the love runs deep. After Nate, Maddie, and Oliver move into Nate’s childhood home after the death of his father, the action begins almost immediately. Each of them are dealing with everyday kinds of problems – Nate settling into a new job, Oliver dealing with bullies at school and finding new friends, and Maddie experiencing creative struggles with her art. Soon each of them are dealing with situations of a more supernatural nature. You’ll feel like a part of this family and find yourself fighting alongside them on every page. I can’t go into much detail without giving away spoilers, but I went into this book expecting a certain type of story. Wendig certainly delivered a captivating horror story, but he elevated it to the next level. I was shaking my head in disbelief and nearly speechless at certain twists, yet they were absolutely perfect and fell into place like the gratifying click of the last puzzle piece.

With magnificent character development (including supporting characters) and arcs, chilling scenes that raise the hairs on the back of your neck, and a gripping storyline, The Book of Accidents gave me early Stephen King vibes. The ending was absolute perfection, and one I’m still thinking about. This is an easy five stars for me. Horror fans, don’t miss this one!

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

Subject A36 Sequel and #AmWatching

Last Monday I mentioned I’d have an announcement this week – so here it is. Seems like it’s been forever coming, but I can now say the sequel to Subject A36 will be published May 19, 2022! Assuming I meet my deadline, lol. I’ve been revising and editing like a fiend over the past few weeks, and my beta has been reading chapters as quickly as I send them to her. She’s a superhero. Still no title yet (you can’t even be surprised by that), but it’s coming. I hate that it will be a little over two years between the books, something I hate as a reader, but it couldn’t be avoided. The pandemic messed with the creative flow of many writers, me included. I’m toying with the idea of doing some outtakes or bonus scenes for readers and making it free on my website before the release. Let me know your thoughts.

I can’t believe I haven’t mentioned this before, but has anyone watched Animal Kingdom? Hubby and I became addicted and binged four seasons on Amazon Prime in a little over a month (and you know how difficult it is to keep his interest). Season Five just started on TNT last week. It’s based on an Austrailian movie by the same name released in 2010. I watched it soon after its release, but didn’t remember much about it. This family is seriously dysfunctional, mostly because of Smurf, the mother/grandmother, but it’s impossible to look away. The way she manipulates those boys is disturbing, but completely fascinating. If you like dark crime shows, we highly recommend it.

Back to edits and revisions!

Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim #bookreview #YA #fantasy #fairytale

Shiori, the only princess of Kiata, has a secret. Forbidden magic runs through her veins. Normally she conceals it well, but on the morning of her betrothal ceremony, Shiori loses control. At first, her mistake seems like a stroke of luck, forestalling the wedding she never wanted, but it also catches the attention of Raikama, her stepmother.

Raikama has dark magic of her own, and she banishes the young princess, turning her brothers into cranes, and warning Shiori that she must speak of it to no one: for with every word that escapes her lips, one of her brothers will die.

Penniless, voiceless, and alone, Shiori searches for her brothers, and, on her journey, uncovers a conspiracy to overtake the throne—a conspiracy more twisted and deceitful, more cunning and complex, than even Raikama’s betrayal. Only Shiori can set the kingdom to rights, but to do so she must place her trust in the very boy she fought so hard not to marry. And she must embrace the magic she’s been taught all her life to contain—no matter what it costs her.

There’s no way I can skip commenting on this cover – it would be a disservice to the designer. It’s a work of art and perfect for the story.

Before learning this novel is based on a fairy tale I’m unfamiliar with, I was thinking how it reads just like a fairy tale. Shiori could easily be a future Disney princess. She’s strong, curious, loyal, and determined not to let anyone else define her. Having six older brothers, she easily holds her own with them and is probably the most mischevious of the bunch. She’s also hiding her forbidden magic. After learning her stepmother possesses dark magic of her own, Shiori is banished and her brothers turned into cranes. Even worse, if she speaks to anyone, one of her brothers will die for every word she utters. I needed to know how this princess would survive and overcome the odds.

The sibling bonds are strong in this story, and I liked how protective Shiori’s brothers are of her even though she doesn’t always need it. Takkan is honorable and astute from the beginning, and I loved that he crafts stories for his little sister (who’s pretty feisty herself). Encouraging people to look beyond appearances or misunderstood actions is an important theme this book brings to the forefront.

The first quarter of this book had me riveted. I was angry with Shiori’s stepmother and the people that treated Shiori so badly when she was only trying to survive and anxious for her to find her brothers. She knew her mission and was fixated on it. Then things took a turn. The next half of the book mainly focused on the romance, and Shiori’s urgency to undo the curse wasn’t the driving force I’d expected. Toward the end of the story I didn’t see how plot lines could fall into place for some kind of resolution, but over the span of a few pages, several reveals come to light. Some are easy to predict, but others come out of left field and left me scratching my head because of the lack of hints along the way.

I’m a reader who doesn’t mind romance in a book as long as it’s not the primary focus, but this novel spotlighted it more than I’d expected from the description. That’s just a personal preference and in reading other reviews, I’m definitely in the minority on this. Fans of fairy tales, magic, and romance will be thrilled with Six Crimson Cranes, and while I enjoyed the story, it wasn’t exactly what I’d anticipated.

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 is a weird kind of week for my WWW post. I just realized while putting this together that all these books feature boarding schools or elite prep schools. Sure didn’t plan it that way, and I doubt the stars will ever align like this again. Anyhoo, I’m currently about halfway through A Lesson in Vengeance. It’s very atmospheric with all kinds of witchy goodness and possibly ghosts. I didn’t read Wilder Girls, but I’d say Ninth House is an accurate comp title.

For fans of Wilder Girls and Ninth House comes a dark, twisty, atmospheric thriller about a boarding school haunted by its history of witchcraft and two girls dangerously close to digging up the past.

Felicity Morrow is back at Dalloway School.

Perched in the Catskill mountains, the centuries-old, ivy-covered campus was home until the tragic death of her girlfriend. Now, after a year away, she’s returned to graduate. She even has her old room in Godwin House, the exclusive dormitory rumored to be haunted by the spirits of five Dalloway students—girls some say were witches. The Dalloway Five all died mysteriously, one after another, right on Godwin grounds.

Witchcraft is woven into Dalloway’s history. The school doesn’t talk about it, but the students do. In secret rooms and shadowy corners, girls convene. And before her girlfriend died, Felicity was drawn to the dark. She’s determined to leave that behind her now; all Felicity wants is to focus on her senior thesis and graduate. But it’s hard when Dalloway’s occult history is everywhere. And when the new girl won’t let her forget.

It’s Ellis Haley’s first year at Dalloway, and she’s already amassed a loyal following. A prodigy novelist at seventeen, Ellis is a so-called “method writer.” She’s eccentric and brilliant, and Felicity can’t shake the pull she feels to her. So when Ellis asks Felicity for help researching the Dalloway Five for her second book, Felicity can’t say no. Given her history with the arcane, Felicity is the perfect resource.

And when history begins to repeat itself, Felicity will have to face the darkness in Dalloway–and in herself. 

I finished How We Fall Apart over the weekend. It’s a quick read with a brisk pace, but it didn’t work for me as much as I’d hoped. The ending required a huuuuge suspension of disbelief. Other reviews have mentioned this book is for fans of Gossip Girls and Pretty Little Liars, shows I didn’t watch, so I’m thinking I’m not the intended audience.

Students at an elite prep school are forced to confront their secrets when their ex-best friend turns up dead.

Nancy Luo is shocked when her former best friend, Jamie Ruan, top ranked junior at Sinclair Prep, goes missing, and then is found dead. Nancy is even more shocked when word starts to spread that she and her friends–Krystal, Akil, and Alexander–are the prime suspects, thanks to “The Proctor,” someone anonymously incriminating them via the school’s social media app.

They all used to be Jamie’s closest friends, and she knew each of their deepest, darkest secrets. Now, somehow The Proctor knows them, too. The four must uncover the true killer before The Proctor exposes more than they can bear and costs them more than they can afford, like Nancy’s full scholarship. Soon, Nancy suspects that her friends may be keeping secrets from her, too. 

I’m excited about In the Wild Light. I’ve only read one other book, The Serpent King, by this author, but it was a beautiful story. It was my choice for one of my book clubs, a group who never reads YA. The verdict was unanimous – all gave it a big thumbs up, and one member made her son read it.

From the award-winning author of The Serpent King comes a beautiful examination of grief, found family, and young love.

Life in a small Appalachian town is not easy. Cash lost his mother to an opioid addiction and his Papaw is dying slowly from emphysema. Dodging drug dealers and watching out for his best friend, Delaney, is second nature. He’s been spending his summer mowing lawns while she works at Dairy Queen.

But when Delaney manages to secure both of them full rides to an elite prep school in Connecticut, Cash will have to grapple with his need to protect and love Delaney, and his love for the grandparents who saved him and the town he would have to leave behind.