Witches of Ash and Ruin by E. Latimer #bookreview #YA #urbanfantasy

Modern witchcraft blends with ancient Celtic mythology in an epic clash of witches and gods, perfect for fans of V.E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic trilogy and A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES.

Seventeen-year-old Dayna Walsh is struggling to cope with her somatic OCD; the aftermath of being outed as bisexual in her conservative Irish town; and the return of her long-absent mother, who barely seems like a parent. But all that really matters to her is ascending and finally, finally becoming a full witch-plans that are complicated when another coven, rumored to have a sordid history with black magic, arrives in town with premonitions of death. Dayna immediately finds herself at odds with the bewitchingly frustrating Meiner King, the granddaughter of their coven leader.

And then a witch turns up murdered at a local sacred site, along with the blood symbol of the Butcher of Manchester-an infamous serial killer whose trail has long gone cold. The killer’s motives are enmeshed in a complex web of witches and gods, and Dayna and Meiner soon find themselves at the center of it all. If they don’t stop the Butcher, one of them will be next.

With razor-sharp prose and achingly real characters, E. Latimer crafts a sweeping, mesmerizing story of dark magic and brutal mythology set against a backdrop of contemporary Ireland that’s impossible to put down.

I’m a huge Victoria Schwab fan, and A Discovery of Witches is one of my favorite series (the TV version is also fabulous), so it seems like I was destined to read this book.

With Dayna having an unstable home life and an extremely traumatic experience with her father after being outed as bisexual, I loved how her coven is a found family full of love and support for her.  The older witches in her coven also serve as positive role models for the witchlings in the smaller coven.  Celtic mythology isn’t something I’m familiar with, so I enjoyed learning more about it and how the author weaves it into her story.  Ireland as a setting is always a plus.  With both bisexual and gay characters, representation is also a strong point.

Multiple POVs aren’t a problem for me as long as they serve a purpose; however, one of these disappears by the end of the book, and I was left wondering what happens to this character.  There are a lot of moving parts to this story, and several aren’t addressed at the end.  Something that puzzled me was Dayna forgetting to mention the crucial piece of information she learns regarding the murders – something that could have potentially stopped another one.  Preventing further killings is the primary reason the covens come together, so that was a hard pill to swallow.

Overall, this is an interesting read with some intriguing characters and strong themes of family, but I’d hoped for more questions to be answered by the end.

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

Only Mostly Devastated by Sophie Gonzales #bookreview #YA #LGBT #TuesdayBookBlog

SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA meets CLUELESS in this boy-meets-boy spin on Grease

Summer love…gone so fast.

Ollie and Will were meant to be a summer fling—casual, fun, and done. But when Ollie’s aunt’s health takes a turn for the worse and his family decides to stay in North Carolina to take care of her, Ollie lets himself hope this fling can grow to something more. Dreams that are crushed when he sees Will at a school party and finds that the sweet and affectionate (and comfortably queer) guy he knew from summer isn’t the same one attending Collinswood High.

Will is more than a little shocked to see Ollie the evening of that first day of school. While his summer was spent being very much himself, back at school he’s simply known as one of the varsity basketball guys. Now Will is faced with the biggest challenge of his life: follow his heart and risk his friendships, or stay firmly in the closet and lose what he loves most.

Being a fan of Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda, I couldn’t pass on requesting this novel.  I can see how it’s very loosely based on Grease in that there was a summer romance, but things are different in the fall after they meet again at school.  No matter – it was a sweet, melancholy read that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Ollie is a perfect narrator, and I loved his voice from the first page.  Equal parts awkward, adorable, funny, loyal, and just plain entertaining.  He makes an astute observation about Ronald McDonald that made me glad I wasn’t drinking anything – totally would have snorted it out.  Was he obsessed with Will?  Yeah, kind of.  Did he let that obsession rule his life?  Mostly, no.  Ollie also spends his time working on his music, hanging out with friends, and helping take care of his young cousins while their mother battles cancer.  His genuine and delightful scenes with the kids are among my favorites, and Ollie has the patience of a saint.  His parents and aunt and uncle aren’t strong presences in the story, but you definitely get the sense family is very important to them.

Heavy topics are dealt with – cancer of a family member, homophobia, fat shaming, biphobia – which I felt were handled well.  More differentiation between some of the  supporting characters would have helped – I kept getting a few of them mixed up – but it really didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book.

If you’re a Simon fan, I definitely recommend adding this book to your list.  A fun way to spend an afternoon.

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

 

 

 

Weekend, #BookClub, and Goodreads Challenge

How’s everyone doing – hanging in there?  We’re keeping busy here.  Spent the weekend pressure washing, mowing, finishing up the garage, and mopping the screened porch.  Bicycles that hadn’t been ridden in years were dragged out and ridden through the neighborhood – and that seat isn’t any more comfortable than the last time I rode it.  Still, it was a gorgeous weekend and nice to get out of the house.

My book club met last week!  On Zoom, of course.  We had about 14 members, and it was so good to see everyone and talk about books.  The first thirty minutes were spent just catching up and checking in on how everyone’s doing.  And our furry friends got to attend this meeting!  Dogs, cats, and one ceramic cat (she keeps plants, not pets) made appearances.  Bond was camera shy, which surprised me a little.  And there was wine (we usually meet at the library)!  The book topic this month was to read a retelling.  My choice was The Traitor Prince by C.J. Redwine – a retelling of an Arabian tale entitled The False Prince.  After more than two hours, fun was had by all and spirits were lifted.  And we plan to do it again next month – maybe even sooner.

Like most people, I’ve been getting a good bit of reading done.  This is probably the first time I’ve ever been ahead on my Goodreads challenge!  I haven’t made any progres on the sequel to Subject A36, but it’s coming.  I’m setting aside a couple hours tomorrow to read over what I wrote for NaNo.  It’s time my characters and I became reacquainted.

Stay safe and take care!

The Death Code (Murder Complex #2) by Lindsay Cummings #bookreview #YA #scifi

With short, fast-paced, alternating point-of-view chapters, The Death Code starts several weeks after The Murder Complex ended. Zephyr keeps the secret about Meadow close—that if she dies, The Murder Complex will be destroyed, too. Meadow, desperate to find her brother, father, and little sister, is determined to fearlessly fight to the end, even if it means sacrificing herself and her friends, new and old. The Death Code introduces a memorable cast of secondary characters and delivers a vivid and scary thrill ride read.

The final book in this duology is just as compelling as the first.  Pacing is a strong point – some of the chapters short, others longer, from two different POVs – and moves the story along briskly.  Meadow angered me several times, either because of the way she treated certain people or how selfish she could be occasionally – even by the end, I hadn’t completely forgiven her.

I was reminded of The Hunger Games with some of the challenges these characters face while in the forest.  The author really puts them through some trials and tribulations – be prepared to have your heart twisted and then stomped.

Some reviewers don’t seem to be thrilled with the ending, but I felt like it was appropriate for the characters and their situations.  Not every ending comes with a bow on top.  If you enjoy fast-paced sci-fi thrillers that will leave your head spinning, add this series to your list.

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’m currently reading Fractured Tide by Leslie Lutz.  When I saw the comp titles were two of my favorite shows, reading the rest of the description wasn’t required.  They’re perfect comparisons, and I’m hooked.

Lost meets Stranger Things in this eerie, immersive YA thriller, thrusting seventeen-year-old Sia into a reality where the waters in front of her and the jungle behind her are as dangerous as the survivors alongside her.

Sia practically grew up in the water scuba diving, and wreck dives are run of the mill. Take the tourists out. Explore the reef. Uncover the secrets locked in the sunken craft. But this time … the dive goes terribly wrong.

Attacked by a mysterious creature, Sia’s boat is sunk, her customers are killed, and she washes up on a deserted island with no sign of rescue in sight. Waiting in the water is a seemingly unstoppable monster that is still hungry. In the jungle just off the beach are dangers best left untested. When Sia reunites with a handful of survivors, she sees it as the first sign of light.

Sia is wrong.

Between the gulf of deadly seawater in front of her and suffocating depth of the jungle behind her, even the island isn’t what it seems.

Haunted by her own mistakes and an inescapable dread, Sia’s best hope for finding answers may rest in the center of the island, at the bottom of a flooded sinkhole that only she has the skills to navigate. But even if the creature lurking in the depths doesn’t swallow her and the other survivors, the secrets of their fractured reality on the island might.

I just finished Lobizona by Romina Garber.  What’s inside is just as beautiful as the cover – such creative world-building.  Lobizona is about finding your place and your people in this world and learning you’re stronger than you know.  I’ll absolutely be picking up the next book in the series.

Some people ARE illegal.

Lobizonas do NOT exist.

Both of these statements are false.

Manuela Azul has been crammed into an existence that feels too small for her. As an undocumented immigrant who’s on the run from her father’s Argentine crime-family, Manu is confined to a small apartment and a small life in Miami, Florida.

Until Manu’s protective bubble is shattered.

Her surrogate grandmother is attacked, lifelong lies are exposed, and her mother is arrested by ICE. Without a home, without answers, and finally without shackles, Manu investigates the only clue she has about her past–a mysterious “Z” emblem—which leads her to a secret world buried within our own. A world connected to her dead father and his criminal past. A world straight out of Argentine folklore, where the seventh consecutive daughter is born a bruja and the seventh consecutive son is a lobizón, a werewolf. A world where her unusual eyes allow her to belong.

As Manu uncovers her own story and traces her real heritage all the way back to a cursed city in Argentina, she learns it’s not just her U.S. residency that’s illegal. . . .it’s her entire existence.

Next, I’ll read House of Shadows by Darcy Coates.  I’ve said it many times – I’m a sucker for a good haunted house story.

Sophie’s world is shattered when disaster bankrupts her family. She’s still reeling from the news when she’s offered an unexpected solution: Mr Argenton, a wealthy stranger, asks for her hand in marriage. Marrying Mr Argenton will restore her family’s fortunes and save them from scandal, but condemns Sophie to a life in Northwood, a vast and unnaturally dark mansion situated hours from civilisation. Sophie struggles to adjust to her new position as mistress over the desolate house. Mr Argenton’s relatives are cold, and Mr Argenton himself is keeping secrets. Even worse, the house is more than it seems.

Mr Argenton’s young cousin, Elise, draws terrifying images. Doors slam. Inhuman figures slink through the forest surrounding the house. A piano plays in the middle of the night. Blood drips from the ceilings. Sophie is inevitably pulled towards the terrifying truth: Northwood’s ancient halls are haunted by the family’s long-dead ancestors. The malevolent spirits—produced by grisly deaths—resent her intrusion into their home.

Trapped in Northwood and desperate for an escape, Sophie’s fate is further complicated as she finds herself irrevocably drawn to the tall, dark-eyed man she married. She suspects her feelings are returned, but Mr Argenton is hiding the truth about the house—and his secrets are so dangerous that they might just be unforgivable.

The Electric Heir (Feverwake #2) by Victoria Lee #bookreview #fantasy #magic #TuesdayBookBlog

In the sequel to The Fever King, Noam Álvaro seeks to end tyranny before he becomes a tyrant himself.

Six months after Noam Álvaro helped overthrow the despotic government of Carolinia, the Atlantians have gained citizenship, and Lehrer is chancellor. But despite Lehrer’s image as a progressive humanitarian leader, Noam has finally remembered the truth that Lehrer forced him to forget—that Lehrer is responsible for the deadly magic infection that ravaged Carolinia.

Now that Noam remembers the full extent of Lehrer’s crimes, he’s determined to use his influence with Lehrer to bring him down for good. If Lehrer realizes Noam has evaded his control—and that Noam is plotting against him—Noam’s dead. So he must keep playing the role of Lehrer’s protégé until he can steal enough vaccine to stop the virus.

Meanwhile Dara Shirazi returns to Carolinia, his magic stripped by the same vaccine that saved his life. But Dara’s attempts to ally himself with Noam prove that their methods for defeating Lehrer are violently misaligned. Dara fears Noam has only gotten himself more deeply entangled in Lehrer’s web. Sooner or later, playing double agent might cost Noam his life.

First, I’ll warn you this book contains some difficult subjects – sexual abuse, physical abuse, alcoholism, and eating disorders among others, and I appreciate that the author lists content warnings and also provides resource information at the end of the book for anyone experiencing these tragic situations.

While the first book in this series engaged me with its political intrigue and magic system, it was just an okay read for me.  But the followup reached out and grabbed me and didn’t let go until the explosive ending.

I spent most of the book being angry with Noam and wanted to throttle him.  He’s oblivious to the danger he’s in and walks a tightrope between life and death every day.  Dara does his best to get get Noam to see reality, but he’s fighting a losing battle.  As for Dara, seeing him without magic was like a stab to my heart, and his struggle to find his place in the world and battle his addictions is tough to read.  Although I found myself holding my breath numerous times over their predicaments and dreaded reading the next paragraph, their character arcs are a thing of beauty.

Lehrer uses his power and position to hide the monstrous things he does and is a compelling villain in every way – you really want karma to have its way with him.  While his political aspirations and manipulations are still an important aspect of the book, this is more of a character-driven novel compared to the first.  A few areas of the story are barely touched on, but overall, the pacing is pretty even and I found it difficult to put down the book.

At its core, The Electric Heir is truly a story about survivors of horrific circumstances, second chances, and finding your happily ever after.

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

Garage Mysteries, #BloodDonation, #AmWatching

Hubby and I finally started on the garage this weekend and got a section cleaned out.  We discovered a huge Christmas tree storage bag, but where it came from is a complete mystery to both of us.  It’s brand new, still in the wrapper.  Maybe Santa just left it in the wrong spot his last trip here.  We also found serving platters/trays of unknown origins.  No idea where they came from.  One thing I came across was an olive oil dipping set given to me years ago by a dear friend who passed away recently.  That’s something I’ll treasure.

A friend and I donated blood last week.  We honestly didn’t know what to expect as far as turnout.  Would people take a chance and leave their homes?  Was social distancing even possible in that situation?  I was thrilled to discover people in our community showed up.  The Red Cross turned us away from the first place because they were so busy, but the second location was able to fit us in.  With only a few employees working, folks had to wait a little longer, but no one minded.  Everyone was in good spirits and seemed happy they could do something to help.  Traffic was steady while we were there, and chairs were placed far enough apart that social distancing wasn’t a problem.  Cookies and a juice box were waiting for me when it was over!

Ozark season 3 dropped on Netflix last week, so that’s on my viewing schedule for this week.  I had my doubts about the first few episodes of last season, but then the story took turns I didn’t expect, so I’m really excited to see what happens.

Take care and stay healthy!