Teen Killers In Love (Teen Killers Club #2) by Lily Sparks #bookreview #YA #thriller #TuesdayBookBlog

The Teen Killers Club is on the brink of destruction, with one faction pitted against another in a deadly game of survival. Erik and Signal are part of the group who’ve had their “kill switches” disabled, and the others are under orders to hunt them down—or meet their own demise. Now, Erik and Signal have to find a way to neutralize the others’ switches and clear Signal’s name. In the middle of a manhunt that is going viral and turning them into an internet-age Bonnie and Clyde.

Erik and Signal are both Class As—the most dangerous and manipulative criminal profile—but Erik is the ultimate Class A, with ten kills to his name and a secret in his past that will change everything.

As if being hunted down wasn’t enough, Erik is determined to get Signal admit that she loves him. But Signal is hellbent on crushing her own growing attraction.

It’s a race against time to save the Teen Killers Club from its worst nightmare—having to kill the friends they need more than ever. 

The premise of the first book in this series hooked me immediately – a camp where Class A teens, the most dangerous and manipulative criminal profiles, are trained to be assassins.

With their kill switches now disabled, Erik and Signal are on a quest for evidence that will prove Signal’s innocence. They need to move fast, because their friends from assassin camp have been dispatched to locate them. Bringing them back to camp alive may be optional. With the help of a friend, contacts on the outside, and weirdly starstruck fans, the two of them slowly make their way back to Signal’s hometown. Some pretty hefty secrets are revealed, but I’m still unsure who to believe. Luckily, there’s a third book coming that should answer my questions.

All of these teens have allegedly killed someone and been deemed unrehabilitable by a psychological test. Their lives now consist of being sent on numerous missions to assassinate designated targets until they reach their thirties (if they live that long) at which time they’ll be killed. Can’t have any loose ends out in the real world. But this group forms strong bonds and friendships with each other. Can people change? Is there good inside someone after they’ve done bad things? Are they a danger to society and themselves? Those are the questions some of these characters are asking about themselves and others.

What I could have done without was the whiplash relationship angst between Erik and Signal – mostly due to her flip-flopping indecision. She wants to be with him on one page, then changes her mind on the next. Honestly, I’m surprised Erik didn’t leave her on the side of the road somewhere. I was more invested in them finding the evidence and exposing the camp to the public.

If you enjoy government conspiracies, psychological thrillers, and lots of morally gray characters, you’ll find all that in this series.

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

The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia #bookreview #scifi #history

Carlota Moreau: a young woman, growing up in a distant and luxuriant estate, safe from the conflict and strife of the Yucatán peninsula. The only daughter of either a genius, or a madman.

Montgomery Laughton: a melancholic overseer with a tragic past and a propensity for alcohol. An outcast who assists Dr. Moreau with his scientific experiments, which are financed by the Lizaldes, owners of magnificent haciendas and plentiful coffers.

The hybrids: the fruits of the Doctor’s labor, destined to blindly obey their creator and remain in the shadows. A motley group of part human, part animal monstrosities.

All of them living in a perfectly balanced and static world, which is jolted by the abrupt arrival of Eduardo Lizalde, the charming and careless son of Doctor Moreau’s patron, who will unwittingly begin a dangerous chain reaction.

For Moreau keeps secrets, Carlota has questions, and in the sweltering heat of the jungle, passions may ignite.

THE DAUGHTER OF DOCTOR MOREAU is both a dazzling historical novel and a daring science fiction journey.

I’ve been anxious to read this author and have had Mexican Gothic waiting on my Kindle for far too long. When I received an ARC of Moreno-Garcia’s newest release, I knew the wait was over.

The gorgeous cover perfectly complements the vibrant descriptions of Moreau’s secluded home, Yaxaktun, and the surrounding jungle. Because of this seclusion Carlota grows up very sheltered, and the villa hosts few visitors over the years. It’s a ideal place for Moreau to carry out his unorthodox scientific experiments – experiments Moreau’s patron, Lizalde, has threatened to stop financing due to lack of results for so long. Since Carlota is now of age, it seems logical to Moreau that the solution to his problems is for her to charm Lizalde’s visiting son into marrying her. Moreau’s utmost priority is his work. If you think he sounds selfish – bullseye.

This is a character-driven novel, and although I’m a fan of that style, I struggled to like any of these characters. Carlota is stubborn and determined, but also pretty spoiled. Montgomery at least has some redeeming moments, but both are kind to the hybrids. The character discussions of ethics, humanity, and abuse of power are interesting and will certainly have you mulling over some of the points made.

I liked the blend of sci-fi and history and the setting of 19th century Mexico, and the story provides some unsettling moments along with a few surprises. But don’t go into this anticipating a briskly paced adventure story. It’s more of a languid journey than a sprint. While it’s not exactly what I’d anticipated, I enjoyed this atmospheric tale.

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

Just Like Home by Sarah Gailey #bookreview #suspense #paranormal

“Come home.” Vera’s mother called and Vera obeyed. In spite of their long estrangement, in spite of the memories — she’s come back to the home of a serial killer. Back to face the love she had for her father and the bodies he buried there.

Coming home is hard enough for Vera, and to make things worse, she and her mother aren’t alone. A parasitic artist has moved into the guest house out back, and is slowly stripping Vera’s childhood for spare parts. He insists that he isn’t the one leaving notes around the house in her father’s handwriting… but who else could it possibly be?

There are secrets yet undiscovered in the foundations of the notorious Crowder House. Vera must face them, and find out for herself just how deep the rot goes.

The house dripping blood on the cover first grabbed my attention, but the creepy description made me request this book. A serial killer and a possible ghost?

Vera’s mother is dying and asks her to come home. They’re estranged and for good reason – Daphne is a horrible person and doesn’t deserve to be a mother. Through two timelines, one in the present and one in the past, the reader discovers just how terrible she was to Vera when she was a child. Her father was a serial killer and without going into too much detail, let’s just say it’s had an adverse effect on Vera’s life in more ways than one. Talk about being cursed with bad parents.

From the description I assumed this would be a dark read. And it is. Some parts are brutal and disturbing, but the story is about a serial killer so that’s to be expected. What surprised me was the slow pace – almost a snail’s pace at times. I listened to the audiobook ARC, but if I’d had an ebook ARC instead I probably would have skimmed several pages.

The notes Vera finds in her father’s handwriting and whatever it is that keeps moving her bed are delightfully macabre, but the story takes a turn I never suspected. And it’s a good one. Just Like Home is a twisted tale of toxic family dynamics with a few surprises along the way. Just be prepared for the darkness.

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

Heat Wave (The Extraordinaries #3) by TJ Klune #bookreview #urbanfantasy #superheroes #LGBTQ #TuesdayBookBlog

Nick, Seth, Gibby, and Jazz are back in action bringing justice, protection, and disaster energy to the people of Nova City.

An unexpected hero returns to Nova City and crash lands into Nick’s home, upturning his life, his family, and his understanding of what it means to be a hero in the explosive finale of the thrilling and hilarious Extraordinaries trilogy by New York Times bestselling author TJ Klune.

After listening to the first two books in this series (the narrator is perfect for these characters), I jumped with joy when I received an ARC of the final book in the trilogy. The cliffhanger book two ended on? It was a whopper.

It’s always hard to review sequels without giving away spoilers, especially the final book in a series, so this may be brief. If I could join a fictional family/found family this one would absolutely make the short list. Nick, Seth, Gibby, and Jazz have each other’s backs no matter what, and their bond is incredibly strong. Yes, their parents may be kind of embarrassing at times (Dad Squad!) and a little intrusive (dental dams), but they’d do anything for their kids and offer unconditional love and support. It’s unusual to come across a YA book where the parents play fairly large roles, but this group are integral to the plot and bring so much to the story. Aaron and Nick have one of the best father/son relationships I’ve come across in this genre. Everyone deserves parents and friends like these.

I have to give a big shoutout to supercool character Burrito Jerry! He might not be a superhero, but he does some pretty heroic things to help these characters.

Like the previous books in this series, Heat Wave is filled with wicked action scenes, a little romance, plenty of humor, and tense, nail-biting moments. The ending is bittersweet but absolutely perfect, and I’m so glad the author gave a glimpse into the future of these characters. Superheroes and villains, found family, awkward teenage moments, first love, ride or die friendships, fanfics, and laugh out loud dialogue – this series is filled with all of this and more. It’s my fifth Klune book, and he’s easily made my list of favorite authors.

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

Upgrade by Blake Crouch #bookreview #scifi #thriller #genetics

“You are the next step in human evolution.”

At first, Logan Ramsay isn’t sure if anything’s different. He just feels a little . . . sharper. Better able to concentrate. Better at multitasking. Reading a bit faster, memorizing better, needing less sleep. But before long, he can’t deny it: Something’s happening to his brain. To his body. He’s starting to see the world, and those around him—even those he loves most—in whole new ways.

The truth is, Logan’s genome has been hacked. And there’s a reason he’s been targeted for this upgrade. A reason that goes back decades to the darkest part of his past, and a horrific family legacy. Worse still, what’s happening to him is just the first step in a much larger plan, one that will inflict the same changes on humanity at large—at a terrifying cost.

Because of his new abilities, Logan’s the one person in the world capable of stopping what’s been set in motion. But to have a chance at winning this war, he’ll have to become something other than himself. Maybe even something other than human.

And even as he’s fighting, he can’t help wondering: what if humanity’s only hope for a future really does lie in engineering our own evolution?

Intimate in scale yet epic in scope, Upgrade is an intricately plotted, lightning-fast tale that charts one man’s thrilling transformation, even as it asks us to ponder the limits of our humanity—and our boundless potential.

I may enjoy some of Crouch’s books more than others, but he’s never disappointed me and is easily one of my auto-buy authors. I always know I’m in for a mind-bending, thrill ride of a read.

Logan Ramsay’s genius scientist mother was responsible for the starvation of two hundred million people after an engineered virus went horribly wrong. He was also on the team, and as a way of paying penance, Logan now works for the Gene Protection Agency responsible for policing gene editing. After an explosion at a raid, Logan learns his genome has been hacked. He’s received some kind of genetic upgrade resulting in him being better at, well, everything.

I won’t reveal too much to avoid spoilers, but trust me when I say you’ll feel a lack of intelligence at certain points of this novel. Crouch dives deep into genetic detail, which I didn’t completely understand of course, but I’ve always had an interest in the topic since high school biology. Although much of the science may leave you scratching your head, you’ll get the gist of what’s happening and that’s the important thing. Upgrade may be a sci-fi novel, but it focuses on real world problems and makes points that may keep you up at night.

This would be a perfect book club selection and will spark discussion about what it means to be human, the human genome, and rationality versus emotion. The story requires the reader’s full attention, and you’ll find yourself contemplating some of the ideas within it. I was thrilled at the inclusion of an epilogue, and it presents a highly thought-provoking theory that’s still bouncing around in my head.

I can’t recommend Crouch’s books enough. They’re a must for sci-fi fans, and I can’t wait for his next riveting concept.

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

Wake the Bones by Elizabeth Kilcoyne #bookreview #YA #horror

The sleepy little farm that Laurel Early grew up on has awakened. The woods are shifting, the soil is dead under her hands, and her bone pile just stood up and walked away.

After dropping out of college, all she wanted was to resume her life as a tobacco hand and taxidermist and try not to think about the boy she can’t help but love. Instead, a devil from her past has returned to court her, as he did her late mother years earlier. Now, Laurel must unravel her mother’s terrifying legacy and tap into her own innate magic before her future and the fate of everyone she loves is doomed.

“…her bone pile just stood up and walked away.” Tell me this sentence doesn’t intrigue you. I’ve read plenty of horror novels but can’t say I’ve come across anything quite like this.

Upon finishing this book, I turned off my Kindle, sat quietly for a few moments, then asked myself, “What did I just read?” Wake the Bones is dark, weird, imaginative, and otherworldly. Did I mention weird?

Laurel drops out of college after freshman year and returns to the family tobacco farm in rural Kentucky, a town she’d sworn to get away from. But fate has other plans for her. Raised by her uncle after her mother committed suicide when she was a baby, Laurel still struggles with the loss. Soon after returning home, her world is turned upside down when the farm…. comes alive. So do the bones Laurel has collected. Turns out her mother’s life was more complicated than she ever knew, and the thing/devil? that haunted her has now turned its sights on Laurel.

The farm itself is a living, breathing character in this novel, and there’s a connection between it and Laurel I never completely understood. The same can be said about Laurel’s magic. Not a lot of explanation is given, but it’s there and seems to be powerful. I wasn’t really a fan of hers, but her strong friendship with Isaac is one of my favorite aspects of the story. With an abusive father, he needs all the support he can get, and Laurel, her uncle, and friends Garrett and Ricky offer that. Isaac’s relationship with Garrett also won my heart.

Pacing is a little uneven, but the climactic ending moves briskly and comes with a bizarrre surprise in the epilogue that fits perfectly with the story. I may not have connected with this novel on some levels, but the atmosphere and descriptions of the farm are done to an eerie perfection. I’ll be looking for future releases by this author.

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

What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher #bookreview #horror #LGBTQ #TuesdayBookBlog

From the award-winning author of The Twisted Ones comes a gripping and atmospheric retelling of Edgar Allan Poe’s classic “The Fall of the House of Usher.”

When Alex Easton, a retired soldier, receives word that their childhood friend Madeline Usher is dying, they race to the ancestral home of the Ushers in the remote countryside of Ruritania.

What they find there is a nightmare of fungal growths and possessed wildlife, surrounding a dark, pulsing lake. Madeline sleepwalks and speaks in strange voices at night, and her brother Roderick is consumed with a mysterious malady of the nerves.

Aided by a redoubtable British mycologist and a baffled American doctor, Alex must unravel the secret of the House of Usher before it consumes them all. 

It shouldn’t come as a surprise when I say this bizarre, somewhat disturbing cover first caught my attention. When I saw it was written by T. Kingfisher, an author I’ve been anxious to read, I immediately requested it from NetGalley. It’s been years since I’ve read The Fall of the House of Usher, and I’m not embarrassed to say I read a quick summary of it on the Spark Notes website before starting this novel.

“The dead don’t walk. Except sometimes, when they do.”

The above statement should give you an idea of what to expect from this book. Alex Easton, a nonbinary retired soldier, narrates the story. A childhood friend of both Roderick and his sister Madeline, they rush to the siblings’ home in Ruritania upon learning Madeline is dying. What they find is a horrific scene – an overwhelming amount of fungal growth on the grounds and lake, weird, unnerving hares, and a decaying manor. Madeline’s American doctor is also staying with the Ushers, and several amusing jabs (about Americans) are made at his expense, but he’s a good sport. Alex also comes across mycologist Eugenia Potter on the grounds who becomes a valuable source of information and is a wonderful addition to the story. Shout out to Hob for being one of the coolest horses I’ve come across in fiction.

The author does a fabulous job at bringing the house and grounds to life and has created some pretty macabre scenes that might not be for the squeamish. Although this is a retelling, she’s also expanded a bit on the story and added her own spin, something I found fascinating. Alex is Gallacian, and their language uses many different pronouns that are explained well, but might take some getting used to.

Whether you’ve read the Poe book or not, this is a gruesome tale I’d easily recommend to horror fans. I know I’ll be looking for more books by this author.

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

The Promise of Lost Things by Helene Dunbar #bookreview #YA #supernatural #paranormal

Three characters with their own agendas converge in a town filled with mediums, where most residents make their living speaking to the dead…and there’s no such thing as resting in peace.

Russ Griffin has always wanted to be a fantastic medium. Growing up in the town of St. Hilaire, where most residents make their living by speaking to the dead, means there’s a lot of competition, and he’s always held his own. But Russ knows the town he loves is corrupt, and he’s determined to save it before the sinister ruling body, The Guild, ruins all he’s ever wanted.

Willow Rodgers is St. Hilaire royalty. An orphan, raised by The Guild, she’s powerful and mysterious. But she has secrets that might change everyone’s fate. She’s done with St. Hilaire, done with helping desperate customers who think mediums work for them. She wants to end the cycle for good and rid the town of ghosts, even if that means destroying the only home she’s ever known.

Asher Mullen lost his sister, and his parents can’t get over her death. They sought answers in St. Hilaire and were left brokenhearted. Now they want to expose St. Hilaire as a fraud. Asher is tasked with infiltrating the town, and he does that by getting to know Russ. The only problem is, he might be falling for him, which will make betraying Russ that much harder.

Russ, Willow, and Asher all have their own agendas for St. Hilaire, but one thing’s for certain, no one will be resting in peace.

This book has the same setting and many of the same characters as Prelude for Lost Souls, but is more of a companion novel and can easily be read as a standalone. Still, I’d recommend reading Prelude first.

Russ was my favorite character in Prelude for Lost Souls, so I was thrilled to see him return. He’s feeling the stress in this story – trying to covertly take down The Guild, missing best friend Dec, dealing with his boyfriend/ghost Ian, and carrying the responsibilities of youth counsel leader. Abandoned by his mother a few years ago, Russ and his father are also struggling to make ends meet. Although he may not make the best choices sometimes, Russ’s intentions are pure, and he and Ian only want to save St. Hilaire from the corrupt Guild. When alive, Ian was a powerful medium who enjoyed being the center of attention and maybe flaunted his power occasionally. The Guild is still intent on using him to their advantage, and Russ is now the only person who can summon him.

Asher’s situation broke my heart, and I wanted to reach through the pages and just hug him. After losing his sister in a tragic accident, he’s still grieving and is all but ignored by his parents. With the family moving so often because of his parents’ jobs, he has no friends and is excited at the thought of making one after he meets Russ. Asher’s parents are the hosts of a Ghost Hunters-type show and intent on proving the town of mediums are frauds. Willow is an ambitious girl who has plans for her future and St. Hilaire, and her motives are always suspect.

POVs alternate between Russ, Asher, and Willow, and Ian also has his say in one very revealing chapter. Conflicting agendas, misunderstandings, and story lines converge at an unexpected and somewhat bittersweet ending, but it’s perfect and hopeful. If you’re a supernatural/paranormal fan, I’d recommend both books.

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

The Finalists by David Bell #bookreview #thriller #suspense

On a beautiful spring day, six college students with nothing in common besides a desperate inability to pay for school gather to compete for the prestigious Hyde Fellowship.

Milo–The front-runner.
Natalia–The brain.
James–The rule follower.
Sydney–The athlete.
Duffy–The cowboy.
Emily–The social justice warrior.

The six of them must surrender their devices when they enter Hyde House, an aging Victorian structure that sits in a secluded part of campus.

Once inside, the doors lock behind them. The students are not allowed to leave until they spend eight hours with a college administrator who will do almost anything to keep the school afloat and Nicholas Hyde, the privileged and notoriously irresponsible heir to the Hyde family fortune. If the students leave before time is up, they’ll be immediately disqualified.

But when one of the six finalists drops dead, the other students fear they’re being picked off one by one. With a violent protest raging outside and no way to escape, the survivors viciously turn on each other.

The Finalists is a chilling and profound look at the lengths both students and colleges will go to survive in a resource-starved academic world.

Locked room mysteries always grab my attention, and I’ve come across a few of them recently. I’m not a stranger to David Bell novels, so I was anxious to see what he did with this scenario.

A college administrator whose job (and possibly the future of the school) depends on bringing in a large donation, six students desperate to find a way to pay for their education, and a privileged heir who funds the highly desired fellowship and shows up half drunk on the morning of the event. That’s a lot of potential for conflict – and I didn’t even mention the group of protestors greeting the participants upon arrival. Once the phones are surrendered and the doors are locked from the outside, it’s not long before the first body drops. This seems like a highly unlikely situation that requires a gigantic suspension of disbelief, and I’m sure you’re asking some of the same questions I did – Why can’t they break a window? Why wouldn’t someone have an emergency phone? Why couldn’t they bust down a door or find another exit? Undoubtedly, most readers will also wonder how the participants can cover the bodies and continue with the competition. The author provides answers to all these questions, and the house becomes a nearly impenetrable escape room.

The coveted fellowship provides tuition, books, room and board, and a job after graduation – definitely a prize worth winning. All of these students have strong motives for killing off the competition, and I changed my mind about the identity of the culprit in nearly every chapter. And I still had it wrong until close to the end. It doesn’t take long before the students turn on each other, and there’s a lot of squabbling, suspicion, and shifting loyalties among them.

Issues of privilege, the difficulties of financing education, and the struggles schools undergo to obtain donations are all mentioned in the novel, and it’s a sad reality. With fairly short chapters, this is a quick read and one that will keep mystery and suspense fans guessing.

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

This Vicious Grace (The Last Finestra #1) by Emily Thiede #bookreview #YA #fantasy #TuesdayBookBlog

Three weddings. Three funerals. Alessa’s gift from the gods is supposed to magnify a partner’s magic, not kill every suitor she touches.

Now, with only weeks left until a hungry swarm of demons devours everything on her island home, Alessa is running out of time to find a partner and stop the invasion. When a powerful priest convinces the faithful that killing Alessa is the island’s only hope, her own soldiers try to assassinate her.

Desperate to survive, Alessa hires Dante, a cynical outcast marked as a killer, to become her personal bodyguard. But as rebellion explodes outside the gates, Dante’s dark secrets may be the biggest betrayal. He holds the key to her survival and her heart, but is he the one person who can help her master her gift or destroy her once and for all?

From the description, I knew I’d enjoy this book – I just wasn’t prepared for how much.

Poor Alessa. With the Divorando (a hungry swarm of demons bent on killing the citizens and destroying the island) countdown looming and everyone depending on her, she feels like a failure. Her power is so immense that it’s killed three partners, and few volunteers are in line to take their place. Much of the population have lost confidence in her, and several attempts have been made on her life – even from her own soldiers. She takes it upon herself to hire a bodyguard, someone who’s loyal only to her. Smart girl.

I loved Alessa and Dante, and their banter is one of my favorite things in this novel. She’s unsure of herself, desperately misses her family, and can’t trust anyone around her. He comes with a shrouded past and considers himself a bad person (he’s so not), and will defend Alessa to the death. He also stole my heart with his love of books. The supporting characters are nothing to sneeze at and add so much to the story – especially Kaleb and Kamaria. They start out bound by duty, but fear for their lives at the thought of being chosen as Alessa’s Fonte. By the end they become an exceptional, supportive found family.

This is an action-packed, compelling read, but the last 10% left me absolutely breathless. I couldn’t look away if I wanted. Seriously, there better not be a long wait for the next book. Life or death stakes, plenty of humor, slow burn romance, incredible action scenes, and clever banter make this an outstanding debut. 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.