Lunar Boogie (The Hat #4) by C.S. Boyack #bookreview #urbanfantasy #paranormal

Lizzie and the hat are back in action, only this time they’re up against the most tragic monster of all, a werewolf.

This adventure is more like hunting an animal, and the werewolf is unlikely to come to any of their musical performances. This puts Lizzie out in the dark corners and wooded areas of the city. It may be more beneficial to get the monster to hunt Lizzie than to stalk him on his own turf. All she has to do is be quicker on the trigger than the wolf is on his feet.

At the same time, the police think they’re after a serial killer. Lizzie tries to keep them alive while also keeping them out of her way. As the body count rises, so do the pressures. It doesn’t help that people are blaming Lizzie and the hat for the killings. This involves an urban myth about them that the locals call Hellpox.

Pull on your boogie shoes and join the hunt. Designed as an afternoon read, this one is tons of supernatural fun. 

I’ve been a fan of this paranormal series from the first book, so I was excited to spend some more time with Lizzie and my favorite hat.

The plot is centered around the Sausage Maker, who racks up a few bodies by the end of book. In addition to Lizzie and the hat’s search for the culprit, police lieutenant Joe Yoder is also in pursuit. My heart went out to Joe, who’s still grieving his wife’s death but continues to talk to her.

One of my favorite things about this series is the clever banter between Lizzie and the hat, and it’s always good for several laughs. Another moment that caused me to let out a very undignified snort was vampire Kevin and his sign regarding the Sausage Maker. Trust me – you’ll just have to read it. I was happy to see him make another appearance in this series and hope to see more of him in the future.

Many reviewers have mentioned this book ventures into a darker territory than the others, and that’s fine with me. I’m a fan of dark stories, and I’m anxious to see where the author takes us next. All of these quick reads can be read as standalones, but I’d recommend reading them in order. If you’re a fan of quirky paranormal stories with a dose of humor, you can’t go wrong with this series.

Nubia: The Awakening by Omar Epps and Clarence A. Haynes #bookreview #YA #fantasy #dystopian

From beloved actor and producer Omar Epps and writer Clarence A. Haynes comes the biggest epic fantasy of the year. A powerful saga of three teens, the children of refugees from a fallen African utopia, who must navigate their newfound powers in a climate-ravaged New York City. Perfect for fans of Black Panther and Children of Blood and Bone.

For Zuberi, Uzochi, and Lencho, Nubia is a mystery. Before they were born, a massive storm destroyed their ancestral homeland, forcing their families to flee across the ocean to New York City. Nubia, a utopic island nation off the coast of West Africa, was no more, and their parents’ sorrow was too deep for them to share much of their history beyond the folklore.

But New York, ravaged by climate change and class division, is far from a safe haven for refugees, and Nubians live as outcasts, struggling to survive in the constantly flooding lower half of Manhattan, while the rich thrive in the tech-driven sky city known as the Up High.

To many, being Nubian means you’re fated for a life plagued by difficulties and disrespect. But Zuberi, Uzochi, and Lencho are beginning to feel there might be more. Something within them is changing, giving each of them extraordinary powers. Extraordinary and terrifying powers that seem to be tied to the secrets their parents have kept from them.

And there are people Up High watching, eager to do anything they can to become even more powerful than they already are. Now Zuberi, Uzochi, and Lencho will be faced with the choice–do they use their inheritance to lift their people, or to leave them behind. The fate of their city, and their people, hangs in the balance. 

I never missed an episode of House when it was on, and when I saw that Omar Epps (Dr. Eric Foreman) had co-written a book, there was no doubt I’d read it. And just look at that stunning cover!

This novel is set in NYC decades in the future, but I liked that a history of the city is given before the story begins. Drastic climate change has necessitated the building of sea walls around the city and the creation of a sky city. Naturally, only the privileged have “ascended” to the sky city while Nubians and others live below. Racism, class division, and political corruption run rampant and affects each of the main characters in some way. My blood boiled at how the Nubians were treated by other citizens, students, teachers, etc.

Zuberi, Uzochi, and Lencho are very well-drawn, but also flawed – which makes them easily relatable. Each have their own goals and dreams, but when their powers emerge and expectations of them are explained by the elders, the teens feel as if they’ve lost control of their own lives. Watching them weigh the options of putting their people first versus their own wants and needs is a little bit of a coming of age experience.

Comp titles of Children of Blood and Bone and Black Panther are spot on (I’m a fan of both), and I’d also toss in the TV show Heroes from several years ago. Pacing is pretty steady, tensions and stakes are high, and although the purpose of the powers still remains a mystery, I expect more will be revealed in the sequel. Which I will most definitely be reading.

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?

Because of Bad Moon Rising and being behind on posting book reviews, this is my first WWW post since the end of August – wow! This week I’ve got all fantasies to share with you.

I’m down to the last 10% of Curse of Shadows. I absolutely love the unique world-building in this series and was anxious to get to this second book. For some reason I thought it was a duology, but another book is coming. Woohoo!

For fans of epic fantasy with adventure and romance, Curse of Shadows reveals a world of unique magic, breathtaking action, and unforgettable love.

Amassia teeters on the brink of the next Great Dying.

The second sun has returned as our Bone Throwers foresaw–casting the nine realms into war.

My name is Ash, and I fell in the battle for Baiseen. But I’m awake now, slowly putting the pieces back together.

My Heir has lost his throne.

My sailor is gone.

And there is an emptiness inside me I can’t explain.

Amid the chaos, someone must collect the original twelve whistle bones from all corners of the world. Marcus is named to lead the cause, but with his volatile phantom, he’ll need diplomacy as much as his sword. And we are not the only ones to seek the bones.

Yet succeed we must.

Because if we don’t, it will be death to all…

I recently finished Gleanings, a short story collection based in the world of the Arc of a Scythe series (if you haven’t read it, correct that now). Since this series came to an end in 2019, it was like an early Christmas present to once again visit this world. I also got to meet the author at YallFest earlier this month – such a pleasure.

The New York Times bestselling Arc of the Scythe series continues with thrilling stories that span the timeline. Storylines continue. Origin stories are revealed. And new Scythes emerge!

There are still countless tales of the Scythedom to tell. Centuries passed between the Thunderhead cradling humanity and Scythe Goddard trying to turn it upside down. For years humans lived in a world without hunger, disease, or death with Scythes as the living instruments of population control.

Neal Shusterman—along with collaborators David Yoon, Jarrod Shusterman, Sofía Lapuente, Michael H. Payne, Michelle Knowlden, and Joelle Shusterman—returns to the world throughout the timeline of the Arc of a Scythe series. Discover secrets and histories of characters you’ve followed for three volumes and meet new heroes, new foes, and some figures in between.

Another fantasy is up next, and the reviews look good. This is a new-to-me author.

Outsiders are always given a choice: the Forest or the lake. Either way, they’re never heard from again.

Leelo has spent her entire life on Endla, coexisting with the bloodthirsty Forest and respecting the poisonous lake that protects her island from outsiders who seek to destroy it. But as much as Leelo cares for her community, she struggles to accept that her younger brother will be exiled by his next birthday, unless he gains the magic of enchanted song so vital to Endla.

When Leelo sees a young outsider on the verge of drowning in the lake, she knows exactly what she’s supposed to do. But in a moment that will change everything, Leelo betrays her family, her best friend, and Endla by making an unthinkable choice.

Discovery could lead to devastating consequences for both Leelo and the outsider, Jaren, but as they grow closer, Leelo realizes that not all danger comes from beyond the lake—and they can only survive if Leelo is willing to question the very fabric of her society, her people, and herself.

Cruel Illusions by Margie Fuston #bookreview #YA #darkfantasy #magic #TuesdayBookBlog

Caraval meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer in this deliciously dark young adult fantasy about a girl who makes a deal with a magical secret society to enter a potentially deadly competition for the chance to avenge her mother’s death.

Ever since a vampire murdered her mother, Ava has been determined to get revenge. This all-encompassing drive has given her the fuel she needed to survive foster home after foster home.

But it’s been ten years since anyone’s seen a vampire, and Ava has lost hope that she’ll ever find one…until she stumbles across a hidden magic show where she witnesses impossible illusions. The magicians may not be the bloodsuckers she’s hunting, but Ava is convinced something supernatural is at play, so she sneaks backstage and catches them in acts they can’t explain.

But they’ve been waiting for her.

The magicians reveal they’re part of an ancient secret society with true magic, and Ava has the same power in her blood that they do. If she joins them, they promise to teach her the skills she needs to hunt vampires and avenge her mother. But there’s a catch: if she wants to keep the power they offer, she needs to prove she’s worthy of it. And to do so, she must put on the performance of her life in a sinister and dangerous competition where illusion and reality blur, and the stakes are deadly.

Vampires and magicians. Why did it take this long for someone to write a book featuring both of them?

My heart immediately went out to Ava. She and her brother are orphaned after losing their father to a mugging and their mother to a vampire attack. They’ve been shuffled around in the foster system since then, but seem to have finally found a stable home where her brother is very happy. But that doesn’t convince Ava to let down her guard or allow herself to feel anything for her foster family. She’s learned not to care for anyone other than herself and her brother.

Both of her parents were magicians when they were alive, and Ava feels like it’s in her blood – she has a talent for minor illusions. After watching a magic show that seems to be more than just an illusion, she learns the troupe is part of a secret society possessing true magic – the magic that also courses through her veins. When they invite her to join them as an apprentice, Ava believes she might have found a family where she belongs. In addition, they’ll also teach her the skills she needs to kill vampires so she can avenge her mother’s death. But she’s also required to compete in a highly dangerous competition.

This magic system isn’t something I’ve come across. Magicians consider all vampires to be evil, and some of them are vamp hunters. Killing them increases a magician’s power. But are all vampires bad? Beliefs Ava’s held since her mother’s death are challenged. She also has to up her game because the apprentice competition doesn’t require pulling rabbits out of hats or endless scarves out of sleeves. It’s dark, brutal, and bloody, and the imagery is fantastic. I could easily picture the scenes playing out.

I’m generally not a fan of love triangles, but this is one I didn’t mind so much. Ava’s flip-flopping annoyed me a little, but it didn’t last long – she had a lot more on her mind. Her relationship with her brother is done well, and one of my favorite things about the novel along with the ending.

This dark fantasy is filled with betrayal, secrets, and blood, but it also features strong themes of found family and allowing yourself to accept love. It’s a hefty standalone novel at a little over five hundred pages, but you have to allow for the world-building. I sure wouldn’t mind seeing what happens to these characters in the future.

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

Subject A36 Sale and #AmWatching

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m still feeling stuffed from Thanksgiving. We had a pretty peaceful day here. I only made one last dash to a convenience store for instant coffee that morning (for a dessert). Both sons were here, so we were very thankful for that. I also did some Black Friday shopping – all online, of course. Got some pretty good deals, too.

Subject A36 is on sale for $2.99/£1.99 in the US and UK through November 30th! If you haven’t read The Colony Duology, now is a good time to get started. The second book, The Insurgent, was released in May of this year, so there’s no waiting to see what happens. Click HERE for Amazon US and HERE for Amazon UK.

Even though it drops on Netflix December 23rd, we saw Glass Onion (the sequel to Knives Out) in theaters over the weekend (it’s a one week limited theatrical release). I’ll never tire of hearing Daniel Craig with a Southern accent – once again, he does a fantastic job as Detective Benoit Blanc. The mystery will keep you guessing, and there are plenty of laughs along the way. Ethan Hawke, Serena Williams, and Hugh Grant have fun cameos, and Jeremy Renner’s face turns up on a hot sauce bottle. We all gave it a thumbs up!

#BlackFridaySale Subject A36 (The Colony #1) $/£0.99 #YA #scifi #dystopian

If you’re shopping for Black Friday deals, take this opportunity to snatch up Subject A36 for only $0.99 US or £0.99 UK!

Amazon US

Amazon UK

As an added bonus, you can go to my publisher’s website HERE and use promo code TURKEY35 to get 35% off any currently released Black Rose Writing title. Happy Shopping!

If genetic engineering could guarantee you and your family perfect health and unparalleled beauty, would you pay top dollar for it? Would you kill for it?

Residents of the Colony would. And do.

Only the Insurgents can stop them.

Seventeen-year-old Asher Solomon is a premier operative with the Insurgents. He and his team have rescued countless hostages, saving them from painful deaths in Colony labs as desirable genetic traits are stripped from their bodies.

He’s also suffered more losses than anyone should have to.

Then Asher gets intel that might give his people the upper hand. The Colony is searching for Subject A36. If the Insurgents determine the subject’s identity first, they might be able to turn the tide of the war.

Asher and his team embark on their riskiest mission ever, and the stakes have never been higher. But even if he survives the physical dangers, the devastating secrets he uncovers might destroy him.

The Luminaries (The Luminaries #1) by Susan Dennard #bookreview #YA #darkfantasy

Hemlock Falls isn’t like other towns. You won’t find it on a map, your phone won’t work here, and the forest outside town might just kill you.

Winnie Wednesday wants nothing more than to join the Luminaries, the ancient order that protects Winnie’s town—and the rest of humanity—from the monsters and nightmares that rise in the forest of Hemlock Falls every night.

Ever since her father was exposed as a witch and a traitor, Winnie and her family have been shunned. But on her sixteenth birthday, she can take the deadly Luminary hunter trials and prove herself true and loyal—and restore her family’s good name. Or die trying.

But in order to survive, Winnie enlists the help of the one person who can help her train: Jay Friday, resident bad boy and Winnie’s ex-best friend. While Jay might be the most promising new hunter in Hemlock Falls, he also seems to know more about the nightmares of the forest than he should. Together, he and Winnie will discover a danger lurking in the forest no one in Hemlock Falls is prepared for.

Not all monsters can be slain, and not all nightmares are confined to the dark.

I tried this author’s Witchland series, but it just wasn’t for me. But this book? I couldn’t wait for its release. Everything about its description called my name.

Although set in the modern world, Hemlock Falls is kind of its own world. They’re a pretty closed society, and outsiders have to be vetted before their admittance. Why? Because the town is protected by Luminaries (hunters) from the monsters and nightmares that rise in the forest every night. You’ve got your garden variety creatures (basilisks, werewolves, kelpies) plus others the author created. It’s a highly dangerous job, and not everyone makes it to retirement. Winnie comes from a long line of hunters and has wanted to continue the tradition as long as she can remember. After it’s discovered her father is a traitor, Winnie, her mother, and brother are shunned and lose their standing in the community for ten years. Winnie thinks her dream is lost until she finds a loophole that allows her to still compete in the Luminary hunter trials. All she wants is acceptance for her family and for things to be the way they were.

Winnie is such an easy character to root for. She’s plucky, brave, and family is her top priority. She’s determined to show everyone they aren’t responsible for her father’s mistakes. Luckily, she has the support of a few friends who stuck by her over the past few years, unlike Jay, her former best friend and now one of the society’s best hunters. Jay piqued my curiosity. There’s something going on there, and he’s definitely holding onto secrets. I’m anxious to learn more about him in the next book.

Besides Jay’s secrets, something’s also afoot in the forest – something that has even the regular monsters running. Winnie saw it (she’s still not sure exactly what it is), but no one believes her, and town leaders reassure the citizens that everything’s under control. It’s not.

I loved the author’s note about the origin of this story – it began as a choose your own adventure Twitter serial. How cool is that? Dark fantasy is one of my preferred genres, and my head was buried in this book from beginning to end. I was annoyed when I had to put it down. I’m anxious to learn the secrets this forest and a certain character are hiding, so the second book can’t get here soon enough.

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

Night of the Raven, Dawn of the Dove by Rati Mehrotra #bookreview #YA #fantasy #TuesdayBookBlog

To learn what she can become, she must first discover who she is.

Katyani’s role in the kingdom of Chandela has always been clear: becoming an advisor and protector of the crown prince, Ayan, when he ascends to the throne. Bound to the Queen of Chandela through a forbidden soul bond that saved her when she was a child, Katyani has grown up in the royal family and become the best guardswoman the Garuda has ever seen. But when a series of assassination attempts threatens the royals, Katyani is shipped off to the gurukul of the famous Acharya Mahavir as an escort to Ayan and his cousin, Bhairav, to protect them as they hone the skills needed to be the next leaders of the kingdom. Nothing could annoy Katyani more than being stuck in a monastic school in the middle of a forest, except her run-ins with Daksh, the Acharya’s son, who can’t stop going on about the rules and whose gaze makes her feel like he can see into her soul.

But when Katyani and the princes are hurriedly summoned back to Chandela before their training is complete, tragedy strikes and Katyani is torn from the only life she has ever known. Alone and betrayed in a land infested by monsters, Katyani must find answers from her past to save all she loves and forge her own destiny. Bonds can be broken, but debts must be repaid.

It didn’t take me long to fall into this book and its incredible world-building. After the first few pages, I couldn’t read fast enough.

Orphaned Katyani nearly dies as a child, but is saved by the queen’s magic. Consequently, a forbidden soul bond develops between them, and Katya, now a strong guardsman, acts as the queen’s bodyguard. But she’s also a part of royal family and grows up considering the crown prince and his two cousins her siblings. As a fan of the found family trope, I loved this aspect. When a horrible tragedy strikes, everything Katya holds dear is ripped from her, and she’s betrayed in the worst way. I wanted to scream with her at the unjustness of her situation.

With forests filled with monsters and spirits, strong magic, and a medieval India setting, the world-building is immersive and complex. Seriously, the author should get a gold star for creating this world. The action scenes are well-choreographed and easy to picture as they play out. And did I mention the tension during these scenes? I gasped out loud more than once. The way Katya teases a serious-minded and stoic Daksh made me laugh – I enjoyed seeing his emotionless mask drop occasionally. They share a romantic relationship, but more importantly the two of them support each other when it’s needed most.

Shocking deaths, political schemes, and a quest for vindication make this a captivating read. I also like that it’s a standalone, but I certainly wouldn’t mind spending more time with these characters in this world. Highly recommend to fantasy fans.

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

School Visit, DNA, and Thanksgiving

Back in August, a librarian at a local high school asked if I’d visit her class, and I immediately accepted. They were working on a unit dealing with fear and what makes a nightmare, and she asked if I’d discusss my books and writing process. The visit was scheduled for the week before Halloween – a perfect time to discuss fear and nightmares. The problem? It’s been several years since I’ve done any kind of public speaking – more like a couple decades when I did HR training at a hospital – so saying I was nervous is an understatement. But I told myself it was a group of teenagers, and I’d be discussing books. Honestly, I could talk to just about anyone when it comes to books. Several days before the visit, I began working on my presentation. I emailed the teacher and asked about the number of students – thinking I might take some bookmarks to hand out – and figured the number would be somewhere around thirty. Wrong. Two hundred fifty-six. The whole sophomore class. I wish I’d had a picture of my face when I read that email – no doubt it was a look of sheer terror.

I prepped and prepped that week – then threw out 80% of my presentation and started over the day before the visit. But guess what – the dread of speaking to that many people was worse than actually doing it. Since we were talking about fear, I confessed up front how nervous I was speaking to them. Afterwards, four students who were genuinely interested in writing came up and asked me questions. I was thrilled to speak to them one on one about books and writing. It turned into a fun day, and I’m glad I set aside my fear of public speaking and did it.

A couple months ago, I mentioned Son #2 and I did the Ancestry DNA test and promised to update you. Our results came in, and some were pretty surprising. Fifty percent of mine was England and Northwestern Europe, which I’d expected, but 28% was Scottish. Didn’t see that one coming. My son’s showed both of those, but the surprise was the 26% Sweden and Denmark that came from hubby’s side. He had no idea. My MIL has claimed for years there was Italian on her side, but it sure didn’t show up in the DNA. I know over time these percentages can change, but we had fun doing this. If you’d like to try it, Ancestry regularly has the kits on sale.

We’ll have both sons and a couple friends who we consider family here for Thanksgiving on Thursday. Hubby always fries a turkey – if you’ve never tried it, I strongly recommend correcting that oversight ASAP. To all my American friends, hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving!

She’s Gone by David Bell #bookreview #YA #thriller

When a girl disappears, who do you suspect?

When 17-year-old Hunter Gifford wakes in the hospital on the night of homecoming, he’s shocked to learn he and his girlfriend, Chloe Summers, have been in a terrible car accident. Hunter has no memory of the crash, and his shock turns to horror when he is told Chloe’s blood has been found in the car―but she has disappeared.

Back at school, his fellow students taunt him, and his former best friend starts making a true-crime documentary about the case―one that points the finger directly at Hunter. And just when things can’t get any worse, Chloe’s mother stands in front of the entire town at a candlelight vigil and accuses Hunter of murder.

Under mounting pressure from the police, Hunter takes matters into his own hands by questioning anyone who might know the truth and posting videos to prove his innocence. When Hunter learns he and Chloe were seen arguing loudly outside the dance, he faces a sickening possibility. Was he angry enough to kill the person he loved?

I’ve read several of Bell’s adult novels and was anxious to read his young adult debut. I’m hoping this won’t be his last novel in this genre.

My heart immediately went out to Hunter. After learning he and his girlfriend were in a horrible car accident, she’s now missing, most of the night is a blank, and there’s no shortage of people who blame him for her disappearance. I was so frustrated when the detective repeatedly told him to confess, tell the truth, and they’d go easier on him. Besides handling the grief and devastation over Chloe’s disappearance, he’s taunted at school by fellow students, and then called out by Chloe’s mother at a candlelight vigil. Fortunately, he has the support of a few friends, his father, and his powerhouse of a sister, Livvy. She’s willing to take on anyone who says a negative word about her brother – and even punches a lacrosse player in the face in defense of Hunter. Hunter makes some questionable decisions during the story, but rational thought goes out the window in his desperation to find his girlfriend.

I felt pretty confident I knew who was behind Chloe’s disappearance, and I was partly correct. But then there’s an added twist that caught me by surprise. The plot moves along at a brisk pace, and the short chapters made it easy for me to say “just one more” – and then a couple hours had passed.

If you’re a fan of thrillers, mystery, suspense, or true crime, She’s Gone will keep you turning the pages long after you should have been sleeping.

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