Summer’s Edge by Dana Mele #bookreview #YA #supernatural #thriller

I Know What You Did Last Summer meets The Haunting of Hill House  in this atmospheric, eerie teen thriller following an estranged group of friends being haunted by their friend who died last summer.

Emily Joiner was once part of an inseparable group—she was a sister, a best friend, a lover, and a rival. Summers without Emily were unthinkable. Until the fire burned the lake house to ashes with her inside.

A year later, it’s in Emily’s honor that Chelsea and her four friends decide to return. The house awaits them, meticulously rebuilt. Only, Chelsea is haunted by ghostly visions. Loner Ryan stirs up old hurts and forces golden boy Chase to play peacemaker. Which has perfect hostess Kennedy on edge as eerie events culminate in a stunning accusation: Emily’s death wasn’t an accident. And all the clues needed to find the person responsible are right here.

As old betrayals rise to the surface, Chelsea and her friends have one night to unravel a mystery spanning three summers before a killer among them exacts their revenge.

Honestly, it was the mention of The Haunting of Hill House that caught my eye, and this sounded like a perfect creepy summer read that just might cause goosebumps.

Long-time friends with a tradition of spending a summer weekend at a lake house, an abundance of secrets, several betrayals, and eerie happenings inside the house. I read this in two days over Memorial Day weekend and couldn’t put it down.

The story begins with the friends meeting at the lake house one year after Emily’s death. It hasn’t been an easy year for any of them, and they’re all in various stages of grief. Some are still looking for a person to blame. I had a love/hate relationship with these characters – sometimes I felt sympathy for them and all they were experiencing, and other times I was so annoyed with their narcissistic tendencies and manipulations I wanted to reach into the pages and knock some sense into them.

With a few different POVs, I began to notice inconsistencies in the story that frustrated me. Was this a mistake (I had an ARC)? Was the character an unreliable narrator? Exactly what were we dealing with? Close to the end things clicked, and I figured out what was going on. The twist, although not original, is clever and something I didn’t suspect in early chapters.

A perfect summer setting, tarot cards, heated accusations, ghosts, complicated relationships, and revenge add up to a compelling beach/lake read. Grab a chair, some sunscreen, and a drink and settle in with this YA supernatural thriller.

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

I’m traveling today, so I may be slow to get to comments. Bear with me.

Together We Burn by Isabel Ibañez #bookreview #YA #fantasy #mystery #TuesdayBookBlog

Eighteen-year-old Zarela Zalvidar is a talented flamenco dancer and daughter of the most famous Dragonador in Hispalia. People come for miles to see her father fight in their arena, which will one day be hers.

But disaster strikes during their five hundredth anniversary show, and in the carnage, Zarela’s father is horribly injured. Facing punishment from the Dragon Guild, Zarela must keep the arena—her ancestral home and inheritance —safe from their greedy hands. She has no choice but to take her father’s place as the next Dragonador. When the infuriatingly handsome dragon hunter, Arturo Díaz de Montserrat, withholds his help, she refuses to take no for an answer.

But even if he agrees, there’s someone out to ruin the Zalvidar family, and Zarela will have to do whatever it takes in order to prevent the Dragon Guild from taking away her birthright.

An ancient city plagued by dragons. A flamenco dancer determined to save her ancestral home. A dragon hunter refusing to teach her his ways. They don’t want each other, but they need each other, and without him her world will burn.

A fantasy inspired by medieval Spain with Dragonadors and dragons? I was ready to armchair travel and be swept away.

The setting is one of my favorite aspects of the story. The vivid descriptions of the sights, clothing, traditions, dances, and food (seriously, I was hungry every time food was mentioned) made it easy to immerse myself in this world. Magic (simple to complicated spells) is a part of the culture, but doesn’t play a huge part in the plot. Spanish language is interspersed with English and gives the dialogue more of an authentic feel.

I have mixed feelings about Zarela. After her father is injured during a dragon attack, Zarela immediately jumps into action and is determined to save her home and preserve the family name and honor. I admired that. But some of the ways she goes about this didn’t sit well with me. Arturo is brooding, snarly (did I just make up a word?), and stubborn, but with his love of dragons he grows on you and is easily my favorite character. He and feisty, determined Zarela clash from the moment they meet, but it’s no secret this is an enemies to lovers romance, and there are some pretty steamy moments between them that will make romance fans cheer.

It was easy to guess who’s working against the Zalvidar family, but it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of this adventurous, fiery (literally) tale. I know it’s a standalone, but if the author chooses to revisit this world, I’d go back in a heartbeat.

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

All Signs Point To Yes, A YA #Anthology #romance #bookreview

A literal star-studded anthology that delivers a love story for every star sign straight from the hearts of thirteen multicultural YA authors.

A haunted Aquarius finds love behind the veil. An ambitious Aries will do anything to stay in the spotlight. A foodie Taurus discovers the best eats in town (with a side of romance). A witchy Cancer stumbles into a curious meet-cute.

Whether it’s romantic, platonic, familial, or something else you can’t quite define, love is the thing that connects us. All Signs Point to Yes will take you on a journey from your own backyard to the world beyond the living as it settles us among the stars for thirteen stories of love and life.

These stories will touch your heart, speak to your soul, and have you reaching for your horoscope forevermore.

Contributors:

g. haron davis (Aries)
Adrianne White (Aquarius)
Cam Montgomery (Ophiuchus)
Tehlor Kay Mejia (Gemini)
Mark Oshiro (Libra)
Eric Smith (Scorpio)
Emery Lee (Pisces)
Byron Graves (Virgo)
Karuna Riazi (Cancer)
Roselle Lim (Taurus)
Alexandra Villasante (Capricorn)
Lily Anderson (Sagittarius)
Kiana Nguyen (Leo)

In middle school, my best friend and I discovered astrology and immediately became obsessed. We spent hours studying how our signs related to others – especially those of guys we had crushes on. When I saw this anthology featured zodiac signs, it made me want to revisit the past.

With such a variety of stories – magical realism, contemporary, supernatural, etc., – there are offerings for every reader. The beginning of each chapter gives a description of a zodiac sign (even the thirteenth sign, Ophiuchus is included), and it was fun to see how accurately they described me, my family, and friends (hubby said it nailed mine). I was overjoyed with the diversity of characters, cultures, and types of love (meet cutes, romantic, aromantic, and familial) featured and can’t say I’ve come across another anthology quite like this.

I’d like to give a shoutout to my favorites:

Taurus – The Taste of a Kiss by Roselle Lim – Loved the MC’s voice, and the food descriptions made me want to hunt down a food truck that sells Korean fried chicken. A sweet friends to lovers story.

Scorpio – The South Street Challenge by Eric Smith – I’m a fan of this author’s books, so I had high expectations for this story. I wasn’t disappointed. A bittersweet last night spent with friends before moving across country for college that comes with a welcome surprise.

Pisces – The Cure For Heartbreak by Emery Lee – A guy looking for a cure to heartbreak in a magic store discovers maybe it’s the person behind the counter and not a spell that’s the solution.

Virgo – Sometimes in September by Byron Graves – With a little bit of insta-love, these two characters in a rehab facility immediately connect. The ending is perfect and hopeful.

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

From Below by Darcy Coates #bookreview #horror #thriller

No light. No air. No escape.
Hundreds of feet beneath the ocean’s surface, a graveyard waits…


Years ago, the SS Arcadia vanished without a trace during a routine voyage. Though a strange, garbled emergency message was broadcast, neither the ship nor any of its crew could be found. Sixty years later, its wreck has finally been discovered more than three hundred miles from its intended course…a silent graveyard deep beneath the ocean’s surface, eagerly waiting for the first sign of life.

Cove and her dive team have been granted permission to explore the Arcadia’s rusting hull. Their purpose is straightforward: examine the wreck, film everything, and, if possible, uncover how and why the supposedly unsinkable ship vanished.

But the Arcadia has not yet had its fill of death, and something dark and hungry watches from below. With limited oxygen and the ship slowly closing in around them, Cove and her team will have to fight their way free of the unspeakable horror now desperate to claim them.

Because once they’re trapped beneath the ocean’s waves, there’s no going back. 

Looking for the perfect summer horror beach read? Here it is. If scuba diving is on your agenda, this novel might make you rethink your plans.

After the Arcadia is located three hundred plus feet underwater sixty years after vanishing without a trace, Cove and her dive team are anxious to begin exploring and filming it for a documentary. Things go wrong from the start with equipment malfunctions both above and below the water. And those are the least scary occurrences in this novel. I’m claustrophobic, so the thought of being beneath all that water with a mask covering my face, diving inside a shipwreck, and knowing I have a limited amount of oxygen terrifies me. And yet I’ll pick up books like this every time and find myself holding my breath while reading them.

The novel alternates between the timelines of sixty years prior with the events leading up to the sinking of the Arcadia and present day with the dive team. POV also shifts between the characters on the team, whose dive experience varies from expert to the guy who sucks up most of his oxygen but doesn’t want to admit it to anyone. Soon after entering the ship wreckage they make some freakish discoveries – unusual messages written on the walls, movements seen in empty rooms, walls boarded up. Even more eerie discoveries are made after they surface and review film footage.

Even though I felt the need to gasp for breath in some parts, I read this book over a couple of days. The author provides incredible details about the hazards of diving, including decompression sickness, nitrogen narcosis, the bends, etc. So not only did the divers have to deal with this, they also faced whatever was in the Arcadia. The descriptions of a ship that long at the bottom of the ocean reminded me of pictures I’ve seen of the Titanic, so you can imagine how atmospheric they are. With equipment malfunctioning – comms out, headlights and flashlights aren’t working – the terror the characters experience (and maybe the reader just thinking about it) in total darkness is almost palpable.

The character development weighs in a little light, but it certainly didn’t detract from my reading experience – I enjoyed the heck out of this book. The horror isn’t gory, so this novel would also appeal to thriller fans, and I highly recommend it to readers of both genres.

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

A Cruel and Fated Light (The Hollow Star Saga #2) by Ashley Shuttleworth #bookreview #YA #urbanfantasy #LGBTQ #TuesdayBookBlog

Half-fae Arlo becomes entangled in the courtly intrigue at the Seelie Summer palace as danger for ironborns mounts in this gripping sequel to A Dark and Hollow Star that’s The Cruel Prince meets City of Bones.

After thwarting the man behind the gruesome ironborn murders—and breaking several fae laws to do so—all Arlo wants is a quiet summer. As the deity of luck’s Hollow Star, capable of bringing about endless possibilities, this shouldn’t be too much to ask, right?

But someone is still trying to summon the mythical Seven Deadly Sins. All signs point to immortal meddling, and if this is the gods’ attempt at returning to the Mortal Realm, it’s Arlo they’re going to use to do it.

When Queen Riadne offers to host Arlo at the Seelie Summer palace, she jumps at the chance. She’ll get to see more of Vehan and Aurelian and perhaps even work out her complicated feelings for the gorgeous ex-Fury, Nausicaä. But no one trusts the infamous Queen of Light, even as Arlo wonders if she’s just been greatly misunderstood.

With the Summer Solstice quickly approaching, everyone expects Riadne to finally challenge the High King for his crown. And as Arlo struggles to get control of her powers and take charge of her destiny, she’ll soon be faced with a choice that won’t only change the fate of the Mortal Realm forever but could condemn it to a cruelty the likes of which the Courts have never known.

The first book in this series was one of my favorite reads last year – it’s not often you come across an urban fantasy set in Canada – and I couldn’t wait to catch up with these characters again.

Where do I even begin? So much going on. So many secrets revealed. When Queen Riadne tosses out an invite to host Arlo at the Seelie Summer palace, you just know it’s not out of the goodness of her black heart. Riadne never does anything without it benefiting her, and being iron born and all but ignored by her extended family, Arlo is thrilled at the opportunity to finally be accepted for who she is. High Prince Celadon, her cousin and best friend, insists on accompanying her both for protection and to find out what scheming Riadne is up to. Let the games begin.

These characters stole my heart in the first book, but Nausicaa (such lovable snark) and Celadon (smarter than most in the room) continue to be my favorites. Such a diverse cast is cause for celebration with this series, as is the intricately mapped plot. This book weighs in at a hefty 640 pages, but with political machinations, alchemy, immortals, questionable motivations, a challenge for the crown, dark secrets, and sweet romances, the pages flew by for me.

The ending gutted me and leaves fates hanging in the balance, along with a body count – no spoilers here. It looks like there are two more books coming in this series, and I’ve already added both on my Goodreads list. Highly recommend for urban fantasy fans!

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

A Mirror Mended (Fractured Fables #2) by Alix E. Harrow #bookreview #fairytales #fantasy

A Mirror Mended is the next installment in USA Today bestselling author Alix E. Harrow’s Fractured Fables series.

Zinnia Gray, professional fairy-tale fixer and lapsed Sleeping Beauty, is over rescuing snoring princesses. Once you’ve rescued a dozen damsels and burned fifty spindles, once you’ve gotten drunk with twenty good fairies and made out with one too many members of the royal family, you start to wish some of these girls would just get a grip and try solving their own narrative issues.

Just when Zinnia’s beginning to think she can’t handle one more princess, she glances into a mirror and sees another face looking back at her: the shockingly gorgeous face of evil, asking for her help. Because there’s more than one person trapped in a story they didn’t choose. Snow White’s Evil Queen has found out how her story ends, and she’s desperate for a better ending. She wants Zinnia to help her before it’s too late for everyone. Will Zinnia accept the Queen’s poisonous request and save them both from the hot-iron shoes that wait for them, or will she try another path?

Friends in my book club raved about the first book in this series, so I immediately requested the second when I saw it on NetGalley. I mistakenly thought each book was a standalone focusing on a different fairy tale. Teaches me to read the fine print first.

I’ve got such a weakness for snarky characters, which is why I immediately connected with Zinnia. As a long time professional fairy tale fixer and lapsed Sleeping Beauty, she’s more than ready for damsels and princesses to start taking control of their own narratives. When she sees Snow White’s Evil Queen staring back at her in a mirror, Zinnia is pulled into an alternate world fairy tale (think Spiderverse). Sparks fly between them, and not in a good way at first, but it not surprisingly turns into an enemies to lovers kind of relationship. It’s also a nice reminder of how people shouldn’t let labels (or the parts they play in fairy tales) define them. You can be the hero of your own story.

Although backstory from the first book is sprinkled throughout this followup, I never felt like I completely understood what happened or much about Zin’s disease. I’d recommend reading A Spindle Splintered first. At novella length, these books can easily be read in a couple hours or so.

If you enjoy snarky, self-deprecating main characters, twists on traditional fairy tales, and clever writing, this is a fun way to spend a few hours.

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

Black Tide by KC Jones #bookreview #horror #scifi

KC Jones’ Black Tide, a character-driven science fiction/horror novel that explores what happens after a cataclysmic event leaves the world crawling with nightmares, will be published by Nightfire in May 2022!

A story with a cinematic feel, Black Tide is Cujo meets A Quiet Place.

It was just another day at the beach. And then the world ended.

Mike and Beth didn’t know each other existed before the night of the meteor shower. A melancholy film producer and a house sitter barely scraping by, chance made them neighbors, a bottle of champagne brought them together, and a shared need for human connection sparked something more.

After a drunken and desperate one-night-stand, the two strangers awake to discover a surprise astronomical event has left widespread destruction in its wake. But the cosmic lightshow was only a part of something much bigger, and far more terrifying. When a set of lost car keys leaves them stranded on an empty stretch of Oregon coast, when their emergency calls go unanswered and inhuman screams echo from the dunes, when the rising tide reaches for the car and unspeakable horrors close in around them, these two self-destructive souls must find in each other the strength to overcome past pain and the fight to survive a nightmare of apocalyptic scale. 

The comp titles – Cujo and A Quiet Place – immediately piqued my interest, and a beach setting sealed the deal.

Like Cujo, much of this story is spent with the two main characters trapped in a car. As in A Quiet Place, silence is the best way to avoid these invading creatures. A little over two hundred fifty pages, this is a well-paced, quick read, and the action starts almost immediately. At first glance, Beth and Mike aren’t people you’d bet on to survive an alien invasion. Beth is irresponsible and basically a trainwreck, and Mike is teetering on a life and death decision in his personal life. But you play the hand you’re dealt.

After both characters have bizarre experiences during the night (dreams? hallucinations?), their day gets even worse when they go to the beach and discover they weren’t dreaming or imagining things. Their world has been invaded, and the beach is being attacked. The descriptions of the alien creatures are creepy and very visual. Some of the scenes are fairly graphic, so if you’re a reader who prefers to avoid gore you might want to skip some paragraphs. The characters run into one obstacle after another in their attempts to survive, and there are plenty of tense scenes to sink your teeth into. Most are within the confines of a small car, and with two adults, a dog, and sweltering temps during the day it can feel pretty claustrophobic.

I like the way the author chose to end the story, leaving a feeling of hope for the characters because the odds sure aren’t in their favor. Black Tide is an intriguing blend of sci-fi and horror providing terror-filled visual scenes for fans of the genres.

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

Megacity (Operation Galton #3) by Terry Tyler #bookreview #dystopian #thriller #TuesdayBookBlog

The UK’s new megacities: contented citizens relieved of the financial burden of home ownership, living in eco-friendly communities. Total surveillance has all but wiped out crime, and biometric sensor implants detect illness before symptoms are apparent.

That’s the hype. Scratch the surface, and darker stories emerge.

Tara is offered the chance to become a princess amongst media influencers—as long as she keeps quiet and does as she’s told.

Aileen uproots to the megacity with some reluctance, but none of her misgivings prepare her for the situation she will face: a mother’s worst nightmare.

Radar has survived gang rule in group homes for the homeless, prison and bereavement, and jumps at the chance to live a ‘normal’ life. But at what cost?

For all three, the price of living in a megacity may prove too high.

Megacity is the third and final book in the dystopian Operation Galton trilogy, and is Terry Tyler’s twenty-third publication.

This series has held me captivated, but it’s also unsettling. It’s not such a stretch of the imagination to believe this could happen in our world. Think too hard about it, and I guarantee you’ll lose sleep.

With each novel in the series and jumps in time, I’ve enjoyed meeting new characters while also learning bits and pieces about what happened to those I’ve cared about in the other books. A big thanks to the author for that, and also for the included recaps of the previous two novels. The three primary POVs are from Tara, Aileen, and Radar – all with drastically different stories and circumstances, but my heart went out to each of them. They’ve lost control over their own lives and are strugging to survive. I wanted only good things for these characters, but having read several other books by this author, I didn’t get my hopes up. No spoilers.

These villains are the absolute worst – narcissistic, power hungry, and willing to do anything to achieve their goals. I felt frustration, anger, and sorrow for Tara, Aileen, and Radar and wanted the baddies to suffer for all their misdeeds – trust me when I say there are plenty. Be prepared for some graphically violent scenes that may shock you.

The idea of a future that resembles this world is terrifying, but it sure makes for an addictive dystopian/thriller series with characters I cheered for at every turn. Reaching the end was bittersweet.

Primal Animals by Julia Lynn Rubin #bookreview #YA #LGBTQ #horror

Protect the girls

Arlee Gold is anxious about spending the summer at the college prep Camp Rockaway—the same camp her mother attended years ago, which her mother insists will help give Arlee a “fresh start” and will “change her life.” Little does Arlee know that, once she steps foot on the manicured grounds, this will prove to be true in horrifying ways.

Even though the girls in her cabin are awesome—and she’s developing a major crush on the girl who sleeps in the bunk above her—the other campers seem to be wary of Arlee, unwilling to talk to her or be near her, which only ramps up her paranoia. When she’s tapped to join a strange secret society, Arlee thinks this will be her shot at fitting in…until her new “sisters” ask her to do the unthinkable, putting her life, and the life of her new crush, in perilous danger.

A horror story set at a summer camp? Tell me that doesn’t make you think of classic 80s movies in the same genre. I’m always up for a twisty scary tale.

Arlee is spending the summer at a college prep camp in hopes it will help her achieve her academic goals, a place her mother also attended several years prior. Unsure of herself, slightly paranoid, and dealing with troubling issues, Arlee is thrilled to find herself making new friends and fitting in. Until she discovers college prep classes are just a small part of what really goes on at Camp Rockaway.

From the minute Arlee arrives at camp it’s an ominous vibe, and you know the world inside the camp sits off kilter. She receives sinister warnings and overhears hurtful comments about herself and her mother, but tries to ignore them. After she joins a secret society as a legacy in the hopes of having lifelong “sisters”, what unfolds is dark, dangerous, and …..just plain bizarre. Several scenes are disturbing, so this novel isn’t for the faint of heart. I was repulsed and shocked at times – but also couldn’t look away.

The story moves as a brisk pace, but I’d hoped for more closure at the end. If you enjoy horror/thriller books that venture into the land of weirdness, I’d recommend checking out Primal Animals.

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

Two Truths and a Lie by April Henry #bookreview #YA #mystery #thriller

A group of teens are trapped in an old motel with a murderer in this chilling YA mystery by New York Times bestselling author April Henry.

Nell has always wanted to be an actor, but doubts her ability. As a member of her school’s theater program, she prefers working backstage. On the way to a contest, an unexpected blizzard strands her acting troupe in a creepy motel. Soon they meet a group of strangers from another high school—including the mysterious and handsome Knox, who insists they play the game Two Truths and a Lie. When it’s Nell’s turn, she draws a slip of paper inked in unfamiliar handwriting:

I like to watch people die.
I’ve lost count of how many people I’ve killed.

Suddenly a night of harmless fun turns into a matter of life and death. As guests go missing, it becomes clear that a murderer is hiding in their midst ready to strike again. In a room full of liars and performers, the truth is never quite what it seems. Nell is going to have to act like her life depends on it—because it does.

An unexpected blizzard and teens trapped in a secluded, old motel with a murderer – this book sounded like the perfect setting for a locked room mystery.

With no electricity or cell service and cell phones in various stages of dying, these teens decide to play the game of Two Truths and a Lie. After Nell draws a slip of paper indicating a killer is in their midst, the mystery begins. Who’s lying? Who’s telling the truth? What makes it even more difficult is that nearly all of these teens are trained performers in their theater groups at school and were on the way to a competition before being sidelined by the blizzard. Soon it’s revealed that twenty years ago, two hotel guests were murdered and the killer was never found. Cue one of the characters suggesting it’s time to break out the Ouija board – never a good idea – and ominous messages from spirits leave everyone in various stages of fear and suspicion. Then the body count begins.

It’s not difficult to figure out who the murderer is, and I honestly thought one of the characters would pick up on it. Besides the teens and their teachers, a few other mysterious guests are staying at the hotel and add to the list of suspects. There are a few plot holes I’d hoped would be explained, especially with something involving the Ouija board. I’d expected the story to lean more in the supernatural direction after that, but it was rarely mentioned again.

Although I knew who the killer was early on, I still wanted to see how the story played out. This locked room mystery has the perfect wintry setting, and it’s a fun, quick read I finished in a couple of sittings.

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