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.

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.

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.

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.

After Dark with Roxie Clark by Brooke Lauren Davis #bookreview #mystery #ghosts

From the author of The Hollow Inside comes a twisty, thought-provoking YA thriller about grief, family, and what happens when true crime hits a little too close to home.

Roxie Clark has seen more dead bodies than your average seventeen-year-old. As a member of the supposedly-cursed Clark family, most of her ancestors have met tragic ends, including her own mother. Instead of fearing the curse, however, Roxie has combined her flair for performance and her gruesome family history into a successful ghost tour. But her tour never covers the most recent body she’s seen-her sister Skylar’s boyfriend, Colin Riley, found murdered in a cornfield.

A year after the murder, Roxie’s desperate to help Skylar find closure and start to heal. Instead, Skylar becomes fixated on finding the killer. As the sisters dig into what really happened, they discover that more than one person has been lying about that night. And the closer they get to the truth, the more Roxie starts to wonder if some scary stories might be better left untold. Brooke Lauren Davis offers another thought-provoking and eerily satisfying tale, perfect for fans of Kara Thomas and Cruel Summer.

A teen who turns her gruesome family history into a ghost tour? As someone who’s been on several, I couldn’t get my hands on this book fast enough.

With her love of all things spooky and creepy (the girl has a real talent for decorations), Roxie immediately captured my heart. The women in the Clark family seem to be cursed (it goes back for generations) and have met untimely and sometimes brutal demises. As a history lover, Roxie does her research and turns these stories into a popular ghost tour. Maybe she occasionally embellishes a tad, but it only adds to the intrigue. She has a tough outer shell, but I loved how her vulnerabilities are gradually revealed, which only makes it easier to relate to her character.

Roxie’s best friend Travis is also a bit of an outcast – his personality isn’t exactly the warm and fuzzy kind. His brother Riley was the boyfriend of Roxie’s sister, Skylar, and Riley was found brutally murdered a year ago. Roxie has tried being supportive, but she and Skylar are polar opposites and see the world in completely different ways. As a result, their relationship is all kinds of messy and can alternate between loving and combative in the blink of an eye. Skylar is withdrawn and still grieving, but an unexpected discovery inspires her to launch her own investigation into Riley’s death. And it soon reveals wave after wave of secrets and surprises. Even though most of the clues were right in front of me, the mystery kept me guessing. I even yelled at the book at one point because I didn’t want to believe a revelation, and I plowed through it in less than two days.

Charmingly campy at times, occasionally amusing, and heavily atmospheric, this was a perfect Halloween read. I’d take Roxie’s ghost tour anytime.

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

Jackal by Erin E. Adams and The Sacrifice by Rin Chupeco #bookreview #suspense #horror #TuesdayBookBlog

I’m still catching up on posting book reviews after Bad Moon Rising, so today I have a double feature that should please the horror fans out there (looking at you, Priscilla).

A young Black girl goes missing in the woods outside her white Rust Belt town. But she’s not the first—and she may not be the last. . . .

It’s watching.

Liz Rocher is coming home . . . reluctantly. As a Black woman, Liz doesn’t exactly have fond memories of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, a predominantly white town. But her best friend is getting married, so she braces herself for a weekend of awkward and passive-aggressive reunions. Liz has grown, though; she can handle whatever awaits her. But on the day of the wedding, somewhere between dancing and dessert, the bride’s daughter, Caroline, goes missing—and the only thing left behind is a piece of white fabric covered in blood.

It’s taking.

As a frantic search begins, with the police combing the trees for Caroline, Liz is the only one who notices a pattern: a summer night. A missing girl. A party in the woods. She’s seen this before. Keisha Woodson, the only other Black girl in school, walked into the woods with a mysterious man and was later found with her chest cavity ripped open and her heart missing. Liz shudders at the thought that it could have been her, and now, with Caroline missing, it can’t be a coincidence. As Liz starts to dig through the town’s history, she uncovers a horrifying secret about the place she once called home. Children have been going missing in these woods for years. All of them Black. All of them girls.

It’s your turn.

With the evil in the forest creeping closer, Liz knows what she must do: find Caroline, or be entirely consumed by the darkness.

Liz bid good riddance to her small hometown several years ago, moved to NYC, and never looked back. Now several years later, she and her fiance have recently split up, and she’s returning home to be a bridesmaid in best friend Mel’s wedding. Let’s just say Liz isn’t looking forward to the visit and plans to stay only a couple days. The relationship with her mother is strained at times, especially when she mentions Liz’s weight gain and presses her to talk about the breakup – she blames Liz. The nightmare begins at the wedding reception when Mel’s daughter/Liz’s goddaughter goes missing while Liz was supposed to be watching her.

It gets off to a slow start, but initially the story presents as a mystery – who took Caroline? Soon it’s revealed that for years young Black girls have gone missing at the same time every year. But every death has been declared an accident, runaway, troubled youth, etc. It was maddening that no one noticed the pattern even when the missing girls’ families complained and pleaded with law enforcement to do more. Small town racism is alive and well in Johnstown. And then it’s not just a missing persons story – something evil is behind the abductions.

Early on I honestly thought I’d pegged the culprit and decided I’d be pretty disappointed if it was that easy. I was wrong, but my suspicions continued until almost the end. The first part of the novel captivated me and made putting down the book nearly impossible, but the last twenty percent confused me at certain points. I wasn’t sure what was real, but I won’t go into it for spoilery reasons.

Judging by other reviews, readers either give Jackal enthusiastic thumbs up or a meh. The ending didn’t work as well for me, but the mystery itself is compelling. Be warned – you may never go into the woods again after reading this novel.

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

An island oasis turns deadly when a terrifying legend threatens to kill off visitors one by one in this haunting novel from the highly acclaimed author of The Girl from the Well and the Bone Witch trilogy.

Pristine beaches, lush greenery, and perfect weather, the island of Kisapmata would be the vacation destination…if not for the curse. The Philippine locals speak of it in hushed voices and refuse to step foot on the island. They know the lives it has claimed. They won’t be next.

A Hollywood film crew won’t be dissuaded. Legend claims a Dreamer god sleeps, waiting to grant unimaginable powers in exchange for eight sacrifices. The producers are determined to document the evidence. And they convince Alon, a local teen, to be their guide.

Within minutes of their arrival, a giant sinkhole appears, revealing a giant balete tree with a mummified corpse entwined in its gnarled branches. And the crew start seeing strange visions. Alon knows they are falling victim to the island’s curse. If Alon can’t convince them to leave, there is no telling who will survive. Or how much the Dreamer god will destroy…

I’ve read other hair-raising horror novels by Chupeco, so I knew I was in for another chilling read with The Sacrifice.

Don’t let this beautiful island setting fool you. It’s an alluring disguise for the dangers that await these characters. The island reminded me a bit of the TV series Lost with its mysterious happenings, disembodied voices, and unsettling visions, all of which delighted me. Five lives have been claimed here, and folklore says three more deaths will follow. When a Hollywood film crew arrives, most of them hold no respect for local legends and beliefs, and the Phillipine locals refuse to talk to them. Only Alon agrees to work with them, mostly for their own protection.

Bizarre happenings occur almost immediately, and although it slows in some spots, pacing is pretty even. Once the bodies start dropping, you may wonder why the crew didn’t leave the island. It’s not that simple – the island keeps a firm grip on them. The setting isn’t the only culprit. Ambitious Hollywood execs who believe they hold the power soon find they’ve grossly miscalculated. I always love when Karma plays a part.

If you’re in the mood for macabre imagery, a cursed island, and tension-filled scenes, The Sacrifice nicely checks all those boxes.

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

The Empress of Time (The Keeper of Night #2) by Kylie Lee Baker #bookreview #YA #fantasy

Half British Reaper, half Japanese Shinigami Ren Scarborough is no longer the girl who was chased out of England—she is the Goddess of Death ruling Japan’s underworld. But her problems have never been greater. Her Shinigami see her as a foreigner on the throne. Her brother, Neven, is gone, lost in the deep darkness. And her fiancé, Hiro, has been killed by her own hand.

Then Ren receives the most troubling news yet—Reapers have been spotted in Japan, and it’s only a matter of time before Ivy, now Britain’s Death Goddess, comes to claim her revenge.

Ren’s last hope is to appeal to the god of storms and seas, who can turn the tides to send Ivy’s ship away from Japan’s shores. But he’ll help Ren only if she finds a sword lost thousands of years ago—an impossible demand.

Together with the moon god Tsukuyomi, who shares an uncanny resemblance to his brother Hiro, Ren ventures across the country in a race against time. As her journey thrusts her into the middle of scheming gods and dangerous Yokai demons, Ren will have to learn who she can truly trust—and the fate of Japan hangs in the balance.

With it’s dark storyline and morally gray main character, I became an instant fan of the first book in this duology. The shocking ending left me anxious to see what the future held for these characters.

This sequel begins ten years after the first book, and I admit the time gap surprised me. Ren is now the Goddess of Death, a position you’d think comes with a healthy dose of authority and fear – not so in this case. Ren’s history includes being abandoned by her father, rejected by her British peers, and bullied by her fellow reapers, and now even her own Shinigami don’t respect her. She finally has the power of a goddess and still has to constantly prove herself. When she learns that an old nemesis/bully, who is now in a position of power, is coming to claim her revenge, Ren knows allies are needed if she hopes to survive. Her journey to find them turns into a quest, and I easily fell into this immersive story filled with Japanese mythology.

With the Goddess of Death as a main character your expectations of this novel should surely include death. And there’s quite a bit of it that’s bloody, brutal, and gory – but it’s not done for shock value. It goes along with this harsh world and all the challenges Ren faces. She encounters other powerful gods and goddesses in her quest, and also deals with an unexpected traitor that surprised me. Moon God Tsukuyomi is a welcome addition to the story and quickly became one of my favorite characters. The Empress of Time is a solid conclusion to this dark, gritty duology, and I enjoyed every page.

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

Storm Chaser by Lindsey Duga #bookreview #YA #urbanfantasy

Chasing dangerous storms is in Marley Pascal’s blood. For her, it’s an obsession—a need to confront the powerful, destructive forces that killed her parents.

But the storm she and her brother track down seems to violate the very laws of nature, with lightning that strikes as if from another world. In its crater, Marley finds a small purple crystal with a terrifying energy that hits her like a bolt to the chest when she picks it up.

Suddenly, it’s like the electricity pulses through her blood, a charge she can’t control. Which is exactly when he comes looking for her—the ridiculously hot boy whose eyes spark and crackle with the same force that now resides in her body. And he smells like summer rain…

But what’s inside Marley isn’t meant for her—or for any human. It belongs to him. To his kind.

As long as this force stays in her body, she’s a living target. A weapon meant to protect…or destroy.

Because now she is the storm.

I’ve always been fascinated by storm chasers and their reasons, some very personal, for choosing that line of work. It’s off the charts dangerous, and I’m surprised I haven’t come across another book before this one featuring that profession.

The author’s note at the end of the story explains how the weather in her area of the country (south Louisiana) influenced this story. Take the power of storms, throw in some aliens, storm chasers, superpowers, and a headstrong female protagonist, and you’ve got a gripping plot.

Marley aspires to become a meteorologist like her brother, Patrick. She’s ecstatic when she’s allowed to spend a day with him and his team tracking a storm. After a powerful lightning strike leaves a large crater, Marley picks up a purple crystal left behind – in hindsight, probably not her smartest decision. Bolts of energy course through her body – energy that belongs to someone else.

Brae, along with his clan and several others, are from another planet. Most of them try to live quietly among the humans after their planet is destroyed, but Cassen wants to rid the world of humans and make Earth their own. Brae is determined that won’t happen, and he’s the only obstacle between Cassen and his goal. His problem? The Superman-like power once housed in a oculus within Brae, the power he uses to fight off Cassen, now resides within Marley.

I loved the sibling relationship between Patrick and Marley. They only have each other after their parents were killed by a tornado several years earlier. Patrick is now her guardian and incredibly protective of her. As the leader of his clan, Brae’s utmost priority is keeping them safe. But when he develops feelings for Marley, those priorities become muddled. The gradual reveal of the details of his home planet, Enos, demonstrates even more of the precarious position Brae is in.

Told with dual POVs between Marley and Brae, Storm Chaser moves at a brisk pace and features thrilling action scenes. I have to mention I got a kick out of all the pop culture references – especially when Marley mentions that she and her brother text in Elvish. With that cliffhanger, I’m anxious for the next book!

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