Payback (Vale Hale #3) by Kristen Simmons #bookreview #YA #thriller

The unpredictable truth will be revealed in Payback, the stunning conclusion to Kristen Simmons’ Edgar-nominated thriller series that started with The Deceivers…

Brynn Hilder has conned a lot of people. From the spoiled rich kids of Sikawa City to her mom’s loser ex-boyfriend, from a motorcycle gang to a senator’s son. If there was money to be gained, or a secret to uncover, she figured out how to get it done. And thanks to Vale Hall and its director, Dr. David Odin, she’s found a family of hustlers just like her.

Together, Brynn and her friends have overcome doubt, deceit, and betrayal to unearth the truth–a truth even a group of professional scammers couldn’t have predicted.

And now they must tackle the biggest con artist of them all: the man who brought them all together. 

With it’s clever, fully-fleshed characters and many unexpected twists, I’ve been a fan of this series from the first book. I’m sad to leave Vale Hall, but very pleased with how this adventure ends.

Even though it’s difficult to know who to trust at times since most of them are trained cons, I adore these characters. Brynn makes the statement that she’s finally found her family, and that’s exactly how it feels with these friends who offer unconditional support through some harrowing and life-threatening situations. I’ll miss all of them. I’m grateful to the author for the epilogue that allows the reader a glimpse into what the future holds for these characters.

Taking on Dr. O, the man who brought them all together, is their ultimate challenge, and the author strips away every last hope from them. I had no idea how they’d pull this off. And the secrets that are revealed! Some are pretty shocking and offer an exciting turn of events. When all is said and done, it’s an intricately layered plan that pulls elements in from several areas and plays out like a scene from Ocean’s Eleven. I loved every minute of it.

With a complex plot, a deep well of secrets, and fully developed, magnetic characters, this is a series I’d highly recommend to thriller/suspense fans. I’d be all in if the author decided to do a spinoff featuring some of these characters (Henry and Grayson especially!).

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?

My book club assignment this month is to read a 2020 release. One of my goals this year is to reduce my backlist, and this is the final book in an outstanding YA sci-fi series that released a year ago. I can’t believe I’m just now getting to it!

Cat is desperate to find a way to stop Cartaxus and the plague in this gripping finale to a series New York Times bestselling author Amie Kaufman says “redefines ‘unputdownable!’”

Cat’s hacking skills weren’t enough to keep her from losing everything—her identity, her past, and now her freedom. She’s trapped and alone, but she’s survived this long, and she’s not giving up without a fight.

Though the outbreak has been contained, a new threat has emerged—one that’s taken the world to the brink of a devastating war. With genetic technology that promises not just a cure for the plague, but a way to prevent death itself, both sides will stop at nothing to seize control of humanity’s future.

Facing her smartest, most devastating enemy yet, Cat must race against the clock to protect her friends and save the lives of millions on the planet’s surface. No matter the outcome, humanity will never be the same.

And this time, Cat can’t afford to let anything, or anyone, stand in her way.

I finished These Feathered Flames a few days ago. I was undecided about my rating, but the final thirty percent moved at warp speed and boosted it. The relationship between the sisters is a strong point.

A queer retelling of “The Firebird,” a Russian folktale

When twin heirs are born in Tourin, their fates are decided at a young age. While Izaveta remained at court to learn the skills she’d need as the future queen, Asya was taken away to train with her aunt, the mysterious Firebird, who ensured magic remained balanced in the realm.

But before Asya’s training is completed, the ancient power blooms inside her, which can mean only one thing: the queen is dead, and a new ruler must be crowned.

As the princesses come to understand everything their roles entail, they’ll discover who they can trust, who they can love—and who killed their mother.

The reviews for my next read are fabulous, and I like the idea of an unlikely alliance between these four diverse characters. Gorgeous cover!

The Cruel Prince meets City of Bones in this thrilling urban fantasy set in the magical underworld of Toronto that follows a queer cast of characters racing to stop a serial killer whose crimes could expose the hidden world of faeries to humans.

Choose your player.

The “ironborn” half-fae outcast of her royal fae family.
A tempestuous Fury, exiled to earth from the Immortal Realm and hellbent on revenge.
A dutiful fae prince, determined to earn his place on the throne.
The prince’s brooding guardian, burdened with a terrible secret.

For centuries, the Eight Courts of Folk have lived among us, concealed by magic and bound by law to do no harm to humans. This arrangement has long kept peace in the Courts—until a series of gruesome and ritualistic murders rocks the city of Toronto and threatens to expose faeries to the human world.

Four queer teens, each who hold a key piece of the truth behind these murders, must form a tenuous alliance in their effort to track down the mysterious killer behind these crimes. If they fail, they risk the destruction of the faerie and human worlds alike. If that’s not bad enough, there’s a war brewing between the Mortal and Immortal Realms, and one of these teens is destined to tip the scales. The only question is: which way?

Wish them luck. They’re going to need it.

Shadow City (The City of Diamond and Steel #2) by Francesca Flores #bookreview #YA #fantasy #TuesdayBookBlog

The stunning action-packed conclusion to The City of Diamond and Steel duology.

Aina Solís has fought her way to the top of criminal ranks in the city of Kosín by wresting control of an assassin empire owned by her old boss, Kohl. She never has to fear losing her home and returning to life on the streets again—except Kohl, the man who tried to ruin her life, will do anything to get his empire back. Aina sets out to kill him before he can kill her.

But Alsane Bautix, the old army general who was banned from his seat in the government after Aina revealed his corruption, is working to take back power by destroying anyone who stands in his way. With a new civil war on the horizon and all their lives at risk, the only way for Aina to protect her home is to join up with the only other criminal more notorious than her: Kohl himself.

As Bautix’s attacks increase, Aina and Kohl work together to stop his incoming weapons shipments and his plans to take back the Tower of Steel. To defeat them both, Aina will resort to betrayal, poison, and a deadly type of magic that hasn’t been used in years.

Through narrow alleys, across train rooftops, and deep in the city’s tunnels, Aina and Kohl will test each other’s strengths and limits, each of them knowing that once Bautix is dead, they’ll still have to face each other. If she manages to kill him, she’ll finally have the freedom she wants—but it might forever mark her as his shadow in a city where only the strongest survive.

I read the first book in this series nearly a year ago – an outstanding, action-packed debut novel – and couldn’t wait to see where the author took the story next, so when I was invited to read and review the conclusion to this duology, I jumped at the chance.

It’s always difficult to review a sequel without spoilers, so this may be brief. The end of the first book was filled with upheaval – political, religious, socioeconomic – and the struggles continue in Shadow City.

The complex relationship between Aina and Kohl was an endless source of fascination for me throughout this series. It’s a bizarre combination of mentor/mentee, love/hate, savior/worshipper, strength/weakness, and allies/enemies. They can’t seem to live with or without each other, yet there’s not an ounce of trust between them. Talk about your unhealthy relationships. Whatever their battles against each other are, they now face a common enemy who’s started a war to take over their city. As with the first book, this is a bloody tale – saying the body count is high is an understatement. Lots of action, lots of killing.

Aina is a gutsy, clever, and determined MC who trusts very few people, but she finds her crew in this story. They’re lovable, supportive, and ferocious when they need to be and add a lot to the story. The found family vibe is strong, and it’s easy to see how she’s grown and developed from the first book.

With power struggles, a touch of magic, fierce conflicts, and sky-high stakes, this is an action-packed, addictive fantasy series. I felt the ending was satisfying and perfect for these characters and had a hint of coming full circle. Whatever this author writes next, I’ll be reading it.

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

#AmWriting and Blog Visits

Finally got a couple of chapters to my beta reader last week and she promptly returned some feedback. I just glanced over it, but plan to dive into it today. Her suggestions and comments have always been helpful, and she’s one of the reasons a certain character will have a more prominent part in the Subject A36 sequel.

Last week, Marcia Meara graciously hosted me on her blog for Guest Day Tuesday. I interviewed myself using a few writing questions I asked of Bad Moon Rising authors. It was fun! Click HERE to go to Marcia’s blog. While you’re there, check out her books. If you haven’t met a certain boy named Rabbit in her Wake Robin Ridge series, you’re missing out on one of my favorite characters I’ve ever read. He’ll steal your heart.

The cover of Subject A36 also made an appearance at Teagan Riordain Geneviene’s blog on her Thursday Doors Within Doors post HERE. I adore how she “Teaganized” my cover along with Robbie Cheadle’s Through the Nevergate and Mark Bierman’s Vanished. The first novella of her new serial/series, Dead of Winter, released earlier this month. It’s in my TBR, and the reviews have been amazing!

Have a safe and healthy week!

The Project by Courtney Summers #bookreview #YA #suspense #thriller

Lo Denham is used to being on her own. After her parents died, Lo’s sister, Bea, joined The Unity Project, leaving Lo in the care of their great aunt. Thanks to its extensive charitable work and community outreach, The Unity Project has won the hearts and minds of most in the Upstate New York region, but Lo knows there’s more to the group than meets the eye. She’s spent the last six years of her life trying—and failing—to prove it.

When a man shows up at the magazine Lo works for claiming The Unity Project killed his son, Lo sees the perfect opportunity to expose the group and reunite with Bea once and for all. When her investigation puts her in the direct path of its leader, Lev Warren and as Lo delves deeper into The Project, the lives of its members it upends everything she thought she knew about her sister, herself, cults, and the world around her—to the point she can no longer tell what’s real or true. Lo never thought she could afford to believe in Lev Warren . . . but now she doesn’t know if she can afford not to.

The last book I read about cults featured the Manson Family, so it’s been a while. The way Charles Manson convinced people to follow him was disturbing and horrific, but also eerily intriguing. The cult in this book isn’t that extreme (thankfully), but there are still some similarities.

I like the way this story is contructed. Alternating between Bea’s and Lo’s perspective along with chapters from the past and present, the pieces of the puzzle gradually form a complete picture by the end – and it may not be what you expect. The Project has a different effect on both sisters, and their bond is demonstrated early and plays an important part of the plot.

The Unity Project initially sounds like a legitimate organization that does charitable work and community outreach. No one has been able to prove otherwise so far, and most of their members are unaware of the truth. It’s easy to see how they’ve won over so many folks. Lev Warren, their leader, is charismatic, empathetic, and knows exactly what to say to get into a person’s head. He preys upon those who are lost, vulnerable, and searching for something to cling to, a purpose. It’s hard to disagree with a lot of what he says – and that’s kind of unnerving. It’s nearly terrifying how quickly he is able to influence others.

As Lo investigates The Project and pushes for a reunion with her sister, she finds herself unsure of what or who to believe. Although determined to discover the truth behind the organization, she wasn’t exactly on sure footing before meeting Lev Warren, and he seems to understand her like no one else she’s ever met. And he takes advantage of this.

After a bit of a slow start, this book grabbed me, and putting it down wasn’t an option. I had to see what happened next. Parts of it are very emotional and ripped my heart out, so be prepared. It’s a compelling, addictive read you’ll still be thinking about days after finishing.

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

Curse of the Divine (Ink in the Blood #2) by Kim Smejkal #bookreview #fantasy #YA #TuesdayBookBlog

Return to the world of inklings, tattoo magic, and evil deities as Celia uncovers the secrets of the ink in order to stop Diavala once and for all. This eagerly anticipated sequel to Ink in the Blood is perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo and Wicked Saints.

Celia Sand faced Diavala and won, using ink magic to destroy the corrupt religion of Profeta that tormented her for a decade. But winning came with a cost. Now Celia is plagued with guilt over her role in the death of her best friend. When she discovers that Diavala is still very much alive and threatening Griffin, the now-infamous plague doctor, Celia is desperate not to lose another person she loves to the deity’s wrath.

The key to destroying Diavala may lie with Halycon Ronnea, the only other person to have faced Diavala and survived. But Halcyon is dangerous and has secrets of his own, ones that involve the ink that Celia has come to hate. Forced to choose between the ink and Diavala, Celia will do whatever it takes to save Griffin—even if it means making a deal with the devil himself. 

I nearly DNFed the first book in this series, but hung in there, and it quickly became one of my favorite reads of the year. The followup in this duology is everything I’d hoped.

This sequel begins a few weeks after Ink in the Blood ends. Celia is determined to save Griffin (the plague doctor) from Divala’s wrath, but of course that’s much easier said than done. She’s still reeling with massive guilt and grief over the death of her best friend and begins to wonder if saving Griffin is even a possibility. Their bond has grown stronger and both are willing to sacrifice their life for the other – but neither expects to survive what’s coming.

Lies and coverups run rampant in this story, and it’s difficult to know who to trust and what their underlying motivations are. After Celia learns some shocking facts about the ink’s capabilities beyond tattoos, it’s hard for her to even know what’s real. The intricate world-building from the first book is expanded upon and delivers some surprises – things may not be what they seem.

My favorite character continues to be the completely charming plague doctor (Griffin). His Riddlish (meaning hidden in vague nonsense statements) may still leave you scratching your head, but there’s always an underlying message.

Startling twists, clever plans, and devious characters – all are present in this sequel I’m still thinking about days after finishing. The themes of religion and magic create a compelling, atmospheric story in this dark fantasy, and it’s one I’d highly recommend to fans of the genre.

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

#AmWriting, Celebrations, and #AmWatching

I got some work done on the sequel to Subject A36 last week. It’s really the first time I’ve sat down with it since before Christmas, and the characters were talking. I think they’ve been tired of waiting for me. I asked my beta if I could send her some chapters this week, and she’s excited to read them. I’ll be grateful for the feedback. Seems like I’ve been working on this sequel for so long, but still don’t have a complete first draft, although these first four or five chapters feel finished. Each of my books has been written with a different process, so why should this one be any different?

We celebrated hubby’s birthday Friday and our anniversary Saturday with close friends. Our youngest son came over and cooked (barely) a tuna appetizer for him (both of them are foodies) on Friday, but no way will you get me to eat medium rare tuna. Not happening. Instead of a birthday cake, I went to a local bakery and got an assortment of cupcakes and cookies, then took the leftovers to my son and his roommates yesterday. Needed to get those sweets out of the house!

After a friend recommended it several times, I started watching Hannibal on Netflix last week. It’s fascinating. I assumed it was about him being hunted and tracked down, but that’s not the premise. This series is set when Lecter is still practicing medicine and works with FBI profiler/instructor Will Graham. The scenes with the two of them are absolutely riveting. I’d read a quote somewhere that the series was visually stunning, and it truly is. Plus, the food Hannibal prepares for his unsuspecting guests is totally Instagrammable – you just have to overlook what the “meat” actually is, lol.

Have a great week!

New Series Launch — Dead of Winter: Journey 1, Forlorn Peak

I’m a long time fan of Teagan Riordain Geneviene’s books and blog. She’s known for her whimsical imagination and creativity when fashioning a story around random items named by readers and her UF Atonement, Tennessee series (Lilith!). She has a new release of monthly serial novelettes featuring a blend of fantasy and magic that I can’t wait to dive into!

Teagan's Books

Saturday, January 2, 2021 

(All new video trailer for Journey-1)

Happy New Year, one and all! 

For weeks I’ve been giving hints and making little shout-outs for a new serial/series, but uncertain of when I would be ready.  The day is finally here.  Presenting Dead of Winter: Journey 1, Forlorn Peak!

Dead of Winter: Journey 1, Forlorn PeakDead of Winter: Journey 1, Forlorn Peak

Dead of Winter will be a serial/series available through Amazon. (Maybe other sites as well, for the anti-Amazon among us.  If those sites cooperate, that is.  I have little patience for their shenanigans). 

I call the installments Journeys, because the characters travel across the complex world I built, experiencing new cultures and meeting new people. These journeys will publish approximately monthly.  Length will range from 30 to 60 pages, or so.

Here’s the Blurb

Dead of Winter takes place in a fantasy world that resembles some countries in the past of…

View original post 618 more words

Liars and Thieves by D. Wallace Peach #bookreview #fantasy

Behind the Veil, the hordes gather, eager to savage the world. But Kalann il Drakk, First of Chaos, is untroubled by the shimmering wall that holds his beasts at bay. For if he cannot cleanse the land of life, the races will do it for him. All he needs is a spark to light the fire.

Three unlikely allies stand in his way.

A misfit elf plagued by failure—
When Elanalue Windthorn abandons her soldiers to hunt a goblin, she strays into forbidden territory.


A changeling who betrays his home—
Talin Raska is a talented liar, thief, and spy. He makes a fatal mistake—he falls for his mark.


A halfbreed goblin with deadly secrets—
Naj’ar is a loner with a talent he doesn’t understand and cannot control, one that threatens all he holds dear.


When the spark of Chaos ignites, miners go missing. But they won’t be the last to vanish. As the cycles of blame whirl through the Borderland, old animosities flare, accusations break bonds, and war looms.

Three outcasts, thrust into an alliance by fate, by oaths, and the churning gears of calamity, must learn the truth. For they hold the future of their world in their hands. 

Having read other books by this author, I know to expect masterful world-building, vivid imagery, and complex characters. This novel is no exception.

In this land of elves, changelings, and goblins, the already uneasy peace is threatened after a series of earthquakes. Friends go missing and each group places blame on the others. Everyone has their own agenda and political squabbling runs rampant.

Character development is strong, and Alue, Talin, and Naj each possess strengths, weaknesses, talents and flaws – all which make them realistic, fallible, and easy to identify with. With vast differences between the species in regards to wealth, privilege, and way of life, it’s easy to see the parallels in today’s society.

To discover the truth behind all these occurrences and ensure the safety of all of their races, Alue, Talin, and Naj must set aside their mutual hostilities and mistrust to form an unlikely alliance. Is there tension? Loads of it. But also moments of humor and enlightenment among the characters (I think some of Talin’s scenes were my favorite).

This is the first book in a trilogy, but unlike most series, the other two books are available now. If you’re a fan of this genre, this book is sure to thrill your dark fantasy loving heart and is one I’d highly recommend.

WWW Wednesdays: 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 just started reading this book yesterday so I don’t have a good feel for it yet. I’ve read one or two books by this author before, so I have high expectations. It sounds like a humorous take on super heroes.

An extraordinary and emotional adventure about unlikely friends and the power of choosing who you want to be.

Jamie woke up in an empty apartment with no memory and only a few clues to his identity, but with the ability to read and erase other people’s memories—a power he uses to hold up banks to buy coffee, cat food and books.

Zoe is also searching for her past, and using her abilities of speed and strength…to deliver fast food. And she’ll occasionally put on a cool suit and beat up bad guys, if she feels like it.

When the archrivals meet in a memory-loss support group, they realize the only way to reveal their hidden pasts might be through each other. As they uncover an ongoing threat, suddenly much more is at stake than their fragile friendship. With countless people at risk, Zoe and Jamie will have to recognize that sometimes being a hero starts with trusting someone else—and yourself. 

I’m always listening to a book. Currently Alexa is reading Eternal Road: The Final Stop to me. I just started this a couple days ago, and I’m loving the blend of genres. It’s unlike anything I’ve read before.

James Wainwright picks up a hitchhiker and discovers two things 1. The woman he picks up is his childhood sweetheart, only Seventeen years older. 2. He is no longer of this world.

James began a road trip alone in his 1956 Oldsmobile. He stops for a hitchhiker only to discover she is his childhood sweetheart, Sam, who disappeared seventeen years before. James learns from Sam falling asleep miles back caused him to perish in a one-car accident. He also comes to understand that Sam was taken and murdered all those years ago, and now she has come back to help him find his eternal home.

The pair visit a number of times and places and are witness to a number of historical events. The rules dictate that they do no harm to the time continuum. Trying to be careful, they inadvertently come to the attention of Lucifer who would love to have their souls as his subjects. They also find a threat to human survival and desperately need to put in place the fix necessary to save mankind.

The question becomes, will James find his eternal home in grace or lose the battle with Satan for his immortal soul and the future of human life with it? If you like time-travel, adventure, mystery, justice, and the supernatural, this story is for you.

I finished this book on Monday evening. Super high stakes in a frozen wasteland with a touch of magic. Trust me when I say you’ll need a warm blanket and a hot beverage when reading this.

The Revenant meets True Grit with a magical twist in this thrilling and atmospheric debut fantasy about two teens who must brave a frozen wasteland and the foes within it to save their loved ones and uncover a deadly secret.

Everyone in Shadow Springs knows that no one survives crossing the Flats. But the threat of a frozen death has never deterred the steady stream of treasure hunters searching for a legendary prize hidden somewhere in the vast expanse of ice. Jorie thinks they’re all fools, which makes scavenging their possessions easier. It’s how she and her sister, Brenna, survive.

Then Jorie scavenges off the wrong body. When the dead man’s enemy believes Jorie took something valuable from the body, he kidnaps Brenna as collateral. He tells Jorie that if she wants her sister back, she’ll have to trade her for the item he thinks she stole. But how can Jorie make a trade when she doesn’t even know what she’s looking for?

Her only source of information is Cody, the dead man’s nephew and a scholar from the South who’s never been hardened by the harsh conditions of the North. Though Jorie’s reluctant to bring a city boy out onto the Flats with her, she’ll do whatever it takes to save her sister. But anything can happen out on the ice, and soon Jorie and Cody find they need one another more than they ever imagined—and they’ll have to trust each other to survive threats beyond their darkest nightmares.

I’m a big fan of both comp titles, so I may not have even read the book description when I requested this book from NetGalley. The reviews have been outstanding, so I’m excited.

Three Dark Crowns meets Wicked Saints in this queer #ownvoices retelling of “The Firebird,” a Russian folktale, by debut author Alexandra Overy.

When twin heirs are born in Tourin, their fates are decided at a young age. While Izaveta remained at court to learn the skills she’d need as the future queen, Asya was taken away to train with her aunt, the mysterious Firebird, who ensured magic remained balanced in the realm.

But before Asya’s training is completed, the ancient power blooms inside her, which can mean only one thing: the queen is dead, and a new ruler must be crowned.

As the princesses come to understand everything their roles entail, they’ll discover who they can trust, who they can love—and who killed their mother.