End of Day (Hode’s Hill #2) by Mae Clair #bookreview #supernatural #suspense

The past is never truly buried…  

Generations of Jillian Cley’s family have been tasked with a strange duty—tending the burial plot of Gabriel Vane, whose body was the first to be interred in the Hode’s Hill cemetery. Jillian faithfully continues the long-standing tradition—until one October night, Vane’s body is stolen from its resting place. Is it a Halloween prank? Or something more sinister?  

As the descendants of those buried in the church yard begin to experience bizarre “accidents,” Jillian tries to uncover the cause. Deeply empathic, she does not make friends easily, or lightly. But to fend off the terror taking over her town, she must join forces with artist Dante DeLuca, whose sensitivity to the spirit world has been both a blessing and a curse. The two soon realize Jillian’s murky family history is entwined with a tragic legacy tracing back to the founding of Hode’s Hill. To set matters right, an ancient wrong must be avenged…or Jillian, Dante, and everyone in town will forever be at the mercy of a vengeful spirit.

This review was meant to be posted months ago, so I have no idea why it was still in my review draft folder.  Maybe it’s fortuitous, because the first book in this series, Cusp of Night, is free, and this book and the last, Eventide, are $0.99 through February 25th.  Take advantage of this deal now – you won’t regret it!

I loved the first book in this series and was so excited to read End of Day, I made it my choice for book club.

This is the perfect book to curl up with on a cold, dreary night.  Some scenes will send chills up your spine and have you glancing over your shoulder to make sure no one’s there.  With book club members, it spawned spirited conversations ranging from genetics (an odd choice, I know) to our beliefs in ghosts and mediums.  For this horror fan, it was a highly enjoyable meeting.

As with the first book in the series, I especially enjoyed the alternating timelines and how Gabriel’s fate was gradually explained.  I remembered Dante from the previous book and looked forward to learning more about him.  He’s now one of my favorite characters in the series, and his scenes with Elliott in the role of a substitute father figure warmed my heart.  Jillian’s tragic circumstances immediately pulled me in, and I count her therapy dog, Blizzard, as one of the best bookish furry friends I’ve read.

End of Day is a compelling blend of paranormal, thriller, and mystery, and although part of a series, can easily be read as a standalone.  I  highly recommend this well-written, atmospheric read.

Scammed (Vale Hall #2) by Kristen Simmons #bookreview #YA #thriller #TuesdayBookBlog

Brynn Hilder is living a life she never dreamed possible: She lives in a mansion, getting a top-rate education at Vale Hall. She has friends and an almost-boyfriend. Anything she wants, she can have.

The only catch? To stay in this life, she has to help the director of Vale Hall take down the bad guys of Sikawa City by collecting secrets and running cons.

Getting everything she wants and fighting evil doesn’t seem like such a bad deal. The thing is, she’s not so convinced anymore that Dr. Odin is really going after bad people after all. And the friends and almost-boyfriend that have made her life so different are all liars and con artists—so can she trust that any of it is real?

The stakes are higher. The cons are riskier. And nothing is what you think it is.

The first book in this series, The Deceivers, was a five star read for me last year, and I couldn’t wait to get to the sequel.  And it’s another five stars.

What happens when you throw a bunch of con artists together?  Trained liars, people who insert themselves into the lives of others and fool them completely?  You can’t trust anyone – and that’s the whole premise of this second book in the Vale Hall series.  Brynn doubts her boyfriend, her friends and acquaintances, and even herself.  She’s always prided herself on being a good judge of character – but is she really?  With several plot twists and blind sides, you won’t know who or what to believe.

With the situations these characters find themselves in, parts of this story gutted me, and I wanted to jump into the book and help them.  As in The Deceivers, all of them are so well-developed, and the focus isn’t entirely on Brynn – each supporting character has their own story to tell.

This book is absolutely riveting, and I read more than half of it in one sitting.  The description nails it – higher stakes, riskier cons, and nothing is at it seems.  The third book will be at the top of my list for must reads next year.

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

Highfire by Eoin Colfer #bookreview #fantasy #dragon #TuesdayBookBlog

From the New York Times bestselling author of the Artemis Fowl series comes a hilarious and high-octane adult novel about a vodka-drinking, Flashdance-loving dragon who lives an isolated life in the bayous of Louisiana—and the raucous adventures that ensue when he crosses paths with a fifteen-year-old troublemaker on the run from a crooked sheriff.

In the days of yore, he flew the skies and scorched angry mobs—now he hides from swamp tour boats and rises only with the greatest reluctance from his Laz-Z-Boy recliner. Laying low in the bayou, this once-magnificent fire breather has been reduced to lighting Marlboros with nose sparks, swilling Absolut in a Flashdance T-shirt, and binging Netflix in a fishing shack. For centuries, he struck fear in hearts far and wide as Wyvern, Lord Highfire of the Highfire Eyrie—now he goes by Vern. However…he has survived, unlike the rest. He is the last of his kind, the last dragon. Still, no amount of vodka can drown the loneliness in his molten core. Vern’s glory days are long gone. Or are they?

A canny Cajun swamp rat, young Everett “Squib” Moreau does what he can to survive, trying not to break the heart of his saintly single mother. He’s finally decided to work for a shady smuggler—but on his first night, he witnesses his boss murdered by a crooked constable.

Regence Hooke is not just a dirty cop, he’s a despicable human being—who happens to want Squib’s momma in the worst way. When Hooke goes after his hidden witness with a grenade launcher, Squib finds himself airlifted from certain death by…a dragon?

The swamp can make strange bedfellows, and rather than be fried alive so the dragon can keep his secret, Squib strikes a deal with the scaly apex predator. He can act as his go-between (aka familiar)—fetch his vodka, keep him company, etc.—in exchange for protection from Hooke. Soon the three of them are careening headlong toward a combustible confrontation. There’s about to be a fiery reckoning, in which either dragons finally go extinct—or Vern’s glory days are back.

A triumphant return to the genre-bending fantasy that Eoin Colfer is so well known for, Highfire is an effortlessly clever and relentlessly funny tour-de-force of comedy and action. 

I’m a dragon fan.  My sons read the Artemis Fowl books when they were younger, but I’d had no personal experience with Colfer’s books before this one.  When I read the description – a vodka-drinking, Flashdance-loving dragon who lives an isolated life in the bayous of Louisiana – I didn’t care what the rest of the story was about.  How many times in your life will you come across a dragon like this?

Nothing could have prepared me for Vern.  He’s a curmudgeonly, northwards of 3,000-year-old, foul-mouthed dragon with a penchant for vodka and Flashdance t-shirts.  He also despises humans – and with good reason.  They’ve wiped out his family and friends over the centuries and forced Vern into hiding just to survive.  Maybe Vern and his family took out a few (quite possibly more) villages over the years, but a dragon surely gets lonely when he’s the last of his kind.

Squib hasn’t had the easiest life either.  Father figures have been practically nonexistent, and his default setting constantly steers him toward trouble, but he loves his mama and honestly wants to do better.  He and Vern don’t meet under the best of circumstances, but watching their developing friendship is hilarious and heartwarming.

I laughed out loud so many times while reading this book – it’s truly a delight.  It’s filled with comedy and action, but at its core are themes of acceptance, forgiveness, and family.  If you’re looking for something different or maybe you’re in a reading rut, add Highfire to your list.  You won’t regret it.

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

The Pretenders (The Similars #2) by Rebecca Hanover #bookreview #YA #scifi

In this conclusion to The Similars duology, Emma must figure out who she really is, decide between two boys with the same face, and stop a dangerous plan based on revenge.

Emma is still reeling from the events of her junior year at Darkwood. Not only is her best friend, Oliver, shockingly alive, but the boy she loves—his Similar, Levi—is still on the island where he grew up, stranded with his deranged creator.

More importantly, she is grappling with who she really is. Emma can’t accept the hard truths she learned last year and refuses to share her secrets with anyone, isolating herself from her friends and Ollie.

But when more of the Similars’ creator’s plot is revealed, Emma and her friends will have to try to stop him from putting a plan into motion that could destroy everyone she loves. 

With it’s dark secrets, shocking truths, and political angles, the first book in this series hooked me, and I couldn’t wait to get to the sequel.  It also hinted at a very bizarre love triangle.

The things I enjoyed in the first book – cloning, clone rights, and ethics – aren’t as prominent in this sequel.  Instead, it focuses more on high school cliches and teen drama.  Yes, this is a young adult novel, and those actions are to be expected in some of them; however, compared to the first book in this series, The Pretenders takes an entirely different path.  Almost like The Similars, but in an alternate universe – Bizarro world, maybe?

Characterization is done well and I enjoyed the scientific aspects of the story.  The message of not hating others for their differences is an important theme throughout.  But the ending made me think of Scooby-Doo when masks are removed from the villains.  Some big reveals occur, but the scene is chaotic, rushed, and felt out of place in comparison to the first book.

Overall, I’m glad I finished this series, but it didn’t work for me as well as the first book.

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

 

 

Diamond City (Diamond City #1) by Francesa Flores #bookreview #YA #fantasy #TuesdayBookBlog

Good things don’t happen to girls who come from nothing…unless they risk everything.

Fierce and ambitious, Aina Solís as sharp as her blade and as mysterious as the blood magic she protects. After the murder of her parents, Aina takes a job as an assassin to survive and finds a new family in those like her: the unwanted and forgotten.

Her boss is brutal and cold, with a questionable sense of morality, but he provides a place for people with nowhere else to go. And makes sure they stay there.

DIAMOND CITY: built by magic, ruled by tyrants, and in desperate need of saving. It is a world full of dark forces and hidden agendas, old rivalries and lethal new enemies.

To claim a future for herself in a world that doesn’t want her to survive, Aina will have to win a game of murder and conspiracy—and risk losing everything.

Full of action, romance and dark magic, book one of Francesca Flores’ breathtaking fantasy duology will leave readers eager for more! 

I liked the sound of the world-building in this novel – it gave me some Ace of Shades vibes (a book I adored!), so I immediately requested it from NetGalley.

If you love action-packed books that move at a brisk pace, Diamond City checks those boxes.  From nearly the first page, the story takes off and rarely slows down – which makes sense given the MC is an assassin.  And she’s very good at her job.  Other reviewers have mentioned difficulty in connecting with Aina because of her profession.  Admittedly, she’s racked up quite the body count, but she was also orphaned at a young age and lived on the streets.  She could choose to either give up and die or kill others to survive.  Someone from her walk of life doesn’t have a long list of options.

The world-building is dark and gritty with gangs, rampant religious persecution, and a wide divide between the rich and the poor.  Magic is connected to religion and is outlawed, but there are still those who practice it and risk their lives.

Initially, I became annoyed with Aina and the way she’s attracted to nearly everyone she meets, but the reason becomes obvious to Aina and the reader by the end of the book, and I was glad romance isn’t a prominent element of the story.  There are some fascinating, complex dynamics going on between some characters, and I’m anxious to see where this goes in the next book.

Diamond City is a dark, bloody tale and requires suspension of disbelief in a couple of places, but it’s a solid debut novel and a series I plan to continue.

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

Don’t Read the Comments by Eric Smith #bookreview #YA #contemporary #TuesdayBookBlog

Divya Sharma is a queen. Or she is when she’s playing Reclaim the Sun, the year’s hottest online game. Divya—better known as popular streaming gamer D1V—regularly leads her #AngstArmada on quests through the game’s vast and gorgeous virtual universe. But for Divya, this is more than just a game. Out in the real world, she’s trading her rising-star status for sponsorships to help her struggling single mom pay the rent.

Gaming is basically Aaron Jericho’s entire life. Much to his mother’s frustration, Aaron has zero interest in becoming a doctor like her, and spends his free time writing games for a local developer. At least he can escape into Reclaim the Sun—and with a trillion worlds to explore, disappearing should be easy. But to his surprise, he somehow ends up on the same remote planet as celebrity gamer D1V.

At home, Divya and Aaron grapple with their problems alone, but in the game, they have each other to face infinite new worlds…and the growing legion of trolls populating them. Soon the virtual harassment seeps into reality when a group called the Vox Populi begin launching real-world doxxing campaigns, threatening Aaron’s dreams and Divya’s actual life. The online trolls think they can drive her out of the game, but everything and everyone Divya cares about is on the line…

And she isn’t going down without a fight.

I may not be a gamer (unless you count playing the Harry Potter Lego game on my old Xbox 360), but it’s not a prerequisite for understanding and enjoying this book.

So many important issues are addressed in this story – online safety, internet trolls and bullying, and doxxing, to name a few.  Divya is a victim of online harrassment, which is a criminal offense.  What happens to her is frightening – but what’s worse is things like this happen every day.  The haters are out there, folks.

The author does an outstanding job of writing from a female perspective.  Divya’s reaction to these events is inspiring.  She’s fierce, determined, and refuses to let the trolls deprive her of her virtual safe space filled with a community of people doing what they enjoy.  Aaron is also dealing with some problems of his own, but is a sweetheart and a perfect example of a supportive friend.  I loved being in the game, and the vivid imagery made me feel like I was experiencing it along with the characters.

My desire to see the trolls get what they deserve kept me reading long after I should have turned out the light.  With the tension-filled buildup, I was ready to see them crash and burn.  But then everything seemed to be over rather suddenly, and I still felt as if things were unresolved.  Maybe it’s just a revenge thing on my part.

Although this book deals with some heavy issues, it’s also full of clever banter, pop culture references (bonus points for mentioning John Cusack and Say Anything), strong friendships, and a little romance.  I plowed through it in two days.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.  This is release day for Don’t Read the Comments and I’m excited to be part of the blog tour!

Author Bio:

Eric Smith is an author, prolific book blogger, and literary agent from New Jersey, currently living in Philadelphia. Smith cohosts Book Riot’s newest podcast, HEY YA, with non-fiction YA author Kelly Jensen. He can regularly be found writing for Book Riot’s blog, as well as Barnes & Noble’s Teen Reads blog, Paste Magazine, and Publishing Crawl. Smith also has a growing Twitter platform of over 40,000 followers (@ericsmithrocks).

 

Buy Links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Dont-Read-Comments-Eric-Smith/dp/1335016023
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/dont-read-the-comments-eric-smith/1131303425#/
Books-A-Million: https://www.booksamillion.com/p/Dont-Read-Comments/Eric-Smith/9781335016027?d=7715580291810
Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/don-t-read-the-comments
Indie Bound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781335016027
Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Eric_Smith_Don_t_Read_the_Comments?id=Go6PDwAAQBAJ

 

Social Links: 

Author website: https://www.ericsmithrocks.com/
Twitter: @ericsmithrocks 
Instagram: @ericsmithrocks
Facebook: @ericsmithwrites

Reaper: A Horror Novella by Jonathan Pongratz #bookreview #horror

Gregory and his little sister Imogen love spending Halloween with their parents. But this year is different. If he proves he can take care of Imogen all by himself, he’ll finally have the allowance he’s dreamed of.

That was before the basement door opened on its own. Before the strange door appeared in the basement and Imogen was taken from him by the monster.

Now everyone in town is blaming him for her disappearance, but no one is listening to his story. Where did the door come from? What was that creature? And most of all, can he find his sister before it’s too late, or will he bury his memories of her along with his parents?

I love a good horror story.  And that’s exacty what I found in Pongratz’s novella.

Everyone knows basements are bad news in horror books and movies.  You just want to yell at the characters to steer clear.  But if they didn’t go into the basement/attic/check on the noise outside, you’d miss out on all the scary escapades, and where’s the fun in that?  Reaper most definitely offers those scary escapades coupled with vivid imagery that may send chills down your spine.

The sibling relationship between Gregory and Imogen is done well and very believable – sweet and loving at times, and then exasperating when she teases her brother.  After the trauma of losing his sister, I liked how Greg didn’t accept the situation and give up on her, instead, beginning his own investigation and facing his fears.

The ending leaves the possibility open for another book, and I hope the author continues this story.  I’d love to know what happens next.  If you’re looking for a quick, eerie read, Reaper is a perfect book to curl up with.  And if you’re feeling brave, read it at night when you’re home alone.