Viral Blues (The Hat #2) by C.S. Boyack #bookreview #superheroes #paranormal

Someone knows about the hat. The creature from another dimension that helps Lizzie fight against the creatures of darkness.

They are summoned to a cryptic meeting with a secret society, where they meet other people with enhanced skills. It turns out someone, or something, has been tampering with the world’s vaccine supply. The goal doesn’t appear to be political or financial, but biblical pestilence.

Can this group of loners come together in time to make a difference when even the proper authorities are obstacles?

Check out Viral Blues, for your dose of paranormal adventure, with a strong sample of dark humor. And in recent superhero style, don’t miss the secret last chapter after the back material.

Avengers Assemble!

Okay – maybe they’re not the real Avengers, but these characters are still a talented team fighting for the same cause, each bringing a different skill set to the table.  Although I wasn’t as familiar with a couple of characters, I’d had such fun reading about Lizzie and the Hat in the first book, knew Lisa (one of my favs) from the author’s blog, and adored Clovis (love his style) and his dog from The Playground.  With such a stellar collection of characters, I had high expectations for this novel – and Boyack didn’t disappoint.  The addition of zombies (I’m a big fan) to the story just made it even better.

With a touch of the paranormal, witty and amusing dialogue, thrilling action scenes, and a cast of lively characters, Viral Blues is a rousing adventure I highly recommend.  Once you’ve finished, you’ll be anxious to check out each character in their previous books.

A Beginning at the End by Mike Chen #bookreview #scifi #postapocalyptic #TuesdayBookBlog

How do you start over after the end of the world?

Six years after a global pandemic wiped out most of the planet’s population, the survivors are rebuilding the country, split between self-governing cities, hippie communes and wasteland gangs.

In postapocalyptic San Francisco, former pop star Moira has created a new identity to finally escape her past—until her domineering father launches a sweeping public search to track her down. Desperate for a fresh start herself, jaded event planner Krista navigates the world on behalf of those too traumatized to go outside, determined to help everyone move on—even if they don’t want to. Rob survived the catastrophe with his daughter, Sunny, but lost his wife. When strict government rules threaten to separate parent and child, Rob needs to prove himself worthy in the city’s eyes by connecting with people again.

Krista, Moira, Rob and Sunny are brought together by circumstance, and their lives begin to twine together. But when reports of another outbreak throw the fragile society into panic, the friends are forced to finally face everything that came before—and everything they still stand to lose.

Because sometimes having one person is enough to keep the world going. 

I’m always up for a post-apocalyptic book.  This one is being compared to Station Eleven, a novel I really enjoyed, and I’ve seen some rave reviews for this author’s first book.

Don’t go into this expecting something like a zombie apocalypse or a meteor crashing into Earth.  Much like Station Eleven, it’s a quiet book that focuses more on the journeys of the survivors during the aftermath of a global virus and how they come to terms with their losses.  Everything about this world is plausible – cities struggling to rebuild and restore some degree of normalcy, looting and gangs, groups living in Reclaimed Territories not under government control, and survivors dealing with grief in different ways.

The characters really make the story.  Rob is a single father trying to do right by his young daughter, Sunny, who is on a mission to see her father happy again.  Moira had the most intriguing backstory for me, and is hiding in plain sight after escaping her past.  Then there’s Krista, determined to keep people at a distance and not care about anyone other than her cat.  Each of their stories are riveting and occasionally heartbreaking, and I liked how their lives gradually become intertwined.  The climax of the story is compelling, and I couldn’t read fast enough – I had to know what happened to these characters I’d come to like so much.  Although the ending is slightly uncertain, I was happy with the way the author left things.

If you enjoy character-driven stories that inspire hope in the midst of disaster and loss, I highly recommend A Beginning at the End.  Today is release day, and I’m excited to be a part of the blog tour.

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

 

Author Bio:

Mike Chen is a lifelong writer, from crafting fan fiction as a child to somehow getting paid for words as an adult. He has contributed to major geek websites (The Mary Sue, The Portalist, Tor) and covered the NHL for mainstream media outlets. A member of SFWA and Codex Writers, Mike lives in the Bay Area, where he can be found playing video games and watching Doctor Who with his wife, daughter, and rescue animals. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram: @mikechenwriter

Social Links:

Author website: https://www.mikechenbooks.com/
Twitter: @mikechenwriter
Instagram: @mikechenwriter
Facebook: @mikechenwriter

Buy Links: 

Harlequin: https://www.harlequin.com/shop/books/9780778309345_a-beginning-at-the-end.html
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Beginning-at-End-Mike-Chen/dp/0778309347
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-beginning-at-the-end-mike-chen/1131202168
Books-a-Million: https://www.booksamillion.com/p/Beginning-End/Mike-Chen/9780778309345?id=7715580291810
IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780778309345
Apple Books: https://books.apple.com/us/book/a-beginning-at-the-end/id1459367026
Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/a-beginning-at-the-end
Google Play: https://books.google.com/books/about/A_Beginning_at_the_End.html?id=nq-RDwAAQBAJ

Blood Heir (Blood Heir Trilogy #1) by Amelie Wen Zhao #bookreview #YA #fantasy

This hot debut is the first book in an epic new series about a princess hiding a dark secret and the con man she must trust to clear her name for her father’s murder.

In the Cyrilian Empire, Affinites are reviled. Their varied gifts to control the world around them are unnatural—dangerous. And Anastacya Mikhailov, the crown princess, has a terrifying secret. Her deadly Affinity to blood is her curse and the reason she has lived her life hidden behind palace walls.

When Ana’s father, the emperor, is murdered, her world is shattered. Framed as his killer, Ana must flee the palace to save her life. And to clear her name, she must find her father’s murderer on her own. But the Cyrilia beyond the palace walls is far different from the one she thought she knew. Corruption rules the land, and a greater conspiracy is at work—one that threatens the very balance of her world. And there is only one person corrupt enough to help Ana get to its core: Ramson Quicktongue.

A cunning crime lord of the Cyrilian underworld, Ramson has sinister plans—though he might have met his match in Ana. Because in this story, the princess might be the most dangerous player of all. 

Honestly, mention a con man in a book description, and I’ll usually jump to read it.  I’m sure that speaks to something psychologically, but the books generally turn out to be fantastic reads.  And Blood Heir was absolutely was.

Every time I thought this book was falling into predictable YA territory, it surprised me and threw in a curve.  Love it when that happens.  The magic system is intricate, well done, and unlike anything I’ve come across in other YA fantasies.  I also appreciated that even though this is the first in a series, it doesn’t end with a cliffhanger, but is still open-ended.

I really felt for Ana and her situation.  Losing her family is tragic enough, but being framed for her father’s murder is devastating.  I did wonder how she managed to survive during her time away – she tends to strike first and deal with the consequences later.  But if you don’t have flawed characters, where’s the conflict?

Ramson had me from the first page.  He has the whole charismatic, streetwise, cocky, but completely untrustworthy thing going on.  Utterly charming.  Being at a crucial crossroad in his life, his character arc is riveting and easily my favorite.

This book had a rocky start, but I’m so glad it’s being published.  An outstanding debut from an author I plan on reading more of.  If you enjoy flawed characters with questionable loyalties, a complex plot, and a unique magical system, add Blood Heir to your TBR.

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

Reverie by Ryan La Sala #bookreview #YA #urbanfantasy #LGBT #TuesdayBookBlog

Inception meets The Magicians in the most imaginative YA debut of the year!

All Kane Montgomery knows for certain is that the police found him half-dead in the river. He can’t remember how he got there, what happened after, and why his life seems so different now. And it’s not just Kane who’s different, the world feels off, reality itself seems different.

As Kane pieces together clues, three almost-strangers claim to be his friends and the only people who can truly tell him what’s going on. But as he and the others are dragged into unimaginable worlds that materialize out of nowhere—the gym warps into a subterranean temple, a historical home nearby blooms into a Victorian romance rife with scandal and sorcery—Kane realizes that nothing in his life is an accident. And when a sinister force threatens to alter reality for good, they will have to do everything they can to stop it before it unravels everything they know.

This wildly imaginative debut explores what happens when the secret worlds that people hide within themselves come to light.

Inception is one of my absolute favorite movies, so when I saw it listed as a comp title for this book, I really didn’t need to read the rest of the blurb.

“Wildly imaginative” is a perfect description of this book.  Easily one of the most creative novels I’ve read this year (2019).  Kane is confused and unable to remember much of the trauma he recently experienced.  He feels like a stranger in his own bedroom, and many of his personal items are a mystery to him.  I was all in and needed to know more.  Kane’s quest to discover who he is takes the reader on an incredible, illusory journey through the fantasies/dreams/reveries of other people.  At times, you may not know what’s real or make-believe.  Some characters have powers that come in handy when these reveries spiral out of control.  And there’s also a sorceress-like drag queen with a killer wardrobe.  Can I just mention the creativity again?

Kane’s character is a treasure, and even in his confusion, his sense of humor shines through.  His sister, Sophia, also has some memorable quips.  While I liked the other supporting characters, I wanted more information about them and how they’d come together.  By the end of the novel, I felt as if I barely knew them.

With themes of sibling bonds and friendships, amazing representation, and vividly imaginative dream sequences, Reverie will leave you feeling like you just stepped off a bizarre carousel ride through a fantasy world.  And I enjoyed every minute of it.

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

If Darkness Takes Us by Brenda Marie Smith #postapocalyptic #thriller #bookreview

IN SUBURBAN AUSTIN, TEXAS, BEA CRENSHAW SECRETLY PREPARES FOR THE APOCALYPSE. But when a solar pulse destroys modern life, she’s left alone with four grandkids whose parents do not return home. She must teach these kids to survive without power, cars, phones, running water, or doctors in a world fraught with increasing danger.

If Darkness Takes Us is realistic post-apocalyptic fiction with a focus on a family in peril, led by a no-nonsense grandmother who is at once funny, controlling, and heroic in her struggle to hold her family together with civility and heart. 

I’ve read several post-apocalyptic novels.  Sure, many of them are sad and cautionary, but I’m a sucker for them.  And this one takes a fresh direction.

When’s the last time you read a novel which features an over 70-year-old grandma as the protagonist?  After a devastating EMP changes life as they know it, Bea, who has health issues, is thrust into the role of primary caretaker of her four grandchildren.  She’s a take charge, no-nonsense kind of woman who comes off as a little controlling at times, but her heart is in the right place.  I think she surprises herself with her inner strength.

It’s obvious the author did her research into the ramifications of EMPs and necessities of survival.  The characters find themselves in situations that are perilous, heartbreaking, life-altering, and even hopeful, but all are easily plausible.  You may even find yourself thinking about creating a stash of supplies – maybe not to the same extent as Bea, but it will cross your mind.

If you’re looking for a post-apocalyptic story with a determined, relatable protagonist and a new spin, If Darkness Takes Us will satisfy that craving.

 

The Guinevere Deception (Camelot Rising #1) by Kiersten White #bookreview #YA #fantasy

There was nothing in the world as magical and terrifying as a girl.

Princess Guinevere has come to Camelot to wed a stranger: the charismatic King Arthur. With magic clawing at the kingdom’s borders, the great wizard Merlin conjured a solution–send in Guinevere to be Arthur’s wife . . . and his protector from those who want to see the young king’s idyllic city fail. The catch? Guinevere’s real name–and her true identity–is a secret. She is a changeling, a girl who has given up everything to protect Camelot.

To keep Arthur safe, Guinevere must navigate a court in which the old–including Arthur’s own family–demand things continue as they have been, and the new–those drawn by the dream of Camelot–fight for a better way to live. And always, in the green hearts of forests and the black depths of lakes, magic lies in wait to reclaim the land. Arthur’s knights believe they are strong enough to face any threat, but Guinevere knows it will take more than swords to keep Camelot free.

Deadly jousts, duplicitous knights, and forbidden romances are nothing compared to the greatest threat of all: the girl with the long black hair, riding on horseback through the dark woods toward Arthur. Because when your whole existence is a lie, how can you trust even yourself?

I’ve always had a fascination with anything Camelot since seeing the movie Excaliber years ago, so when I saw this retelling of Guinevere, not to mention the beautiful cover, I jumped to request it from NetGalley.

If you’re not familiar with the Arthurian legend, don’t let it stop you from reading this book.  Prior knowledge isn’t required.  I liked the idea of Guinevere being King Arthur’s protector instead of how she’s traditionally portrayed.  The problem is, while not giving away spoilers, the book description is a bit misleading.  She’s also unsure of exactly who or what the threat is to Arthur, so Guinevere spends a good portion of the book trying to suss it out.  And not much happens during that time.

That being said, the last 15-20% of the book moves pretty quickly, while still leaving most of the action for book two.  By the end, the threat is identified, and there are a couple of twists – one of which most readers will figure out early on, and the other I guessed half of.  There’s still an unrevealed mystery involving Guinevere and Merlin, but that’s something for later books, also.  I found King Arthur’s character the most intriguing, having to shoulder the responsibility of a kingdom at such a young age and put everyone else’s needs and interests ahead of his own.

If you’re a Camelot fan, it’s all here along with Guinevere – Excaliber, King Arthur, Merlin, Lancelot, the Lady of the Lake – but personally, I’d hoped for a queen that didn’t require saving so many times.  Judging by other reviews, I’m in the minority on this one.  Still, the story held my interest.

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

 

Pax Novis (The Pax Archives #1) by Erica Cameron #YA #scifi #bookreview #TuesdayBookBlog

Cira Antares is deeply loyal to two things: Pax Novis—the cargo ship captained by her mother that transports supplies across war-torn star systems—and her personal mission to save war orphans. But hiding them as stowaways on the ship is illegal, and if any of them were found, not even her mother could protect Cira from the consequences.

She has successfully kept her secret…until supplies start to go missing. Food. Clothing. Tools. All signs point to her stowaways, but they wouldn’t do anything to risk exposing themselves—or her. Especially not Riston, the oldest of the group and someone Cira has grown close to. Someone she might even be falling in love with…

And petty thefts are only the beginning—whole ships are disappearing now.

Not caught in a firefight. Not destroyed by another planet. Vanishing. Without a trace.

And Pax Novis is next.

Ships missing in space?  Stowaways?  Yes, please.  And that cover?  A must read.

With a third gender pronoun set created by the author and incorporated into the story and several LGBTQ characters, the representation is outstanding.  Admittedly, I stumbled over the new terminology (ze, zem, zir) early in the book, but before long, I barely noticed it.

The world-building is captivating.  In the midst of war, I loved the idea of a fleet of ships delivering supplies to those in need.  Characterization is also strong with both main and supporting characters.  Riston and Cira both have enormous compassion for the war orphans and big hearts that sometimes cloud their judgement.  And those stowaway war orphans?  The chosen family they create with Riston and the small amount of security they feel on Pax Novis after enduring such horrific circumstances in their short lives is sweet and moving.  You’ll feel like they’re part of your own family by the end of the book.

Pacing is somewhat sluggish until around the 40% mark, but then it rarely slows.  My heart was racing along with the characters’ during the last 20% or so.  The next book is absolutely going on my TBR.

If you’re looking for a thrilling sci-fi mystery with wonderful representation and scenes guaranteed get your pulse racing, Pax Novis checks all those boxes.

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 and won’t be able to get to comments until tomorrow afternoon.*