Far From You by Tess Sharpe #bookreview #YA #mystery #LGBT

Sophie Winters nearly died. Twice.

The first time, she’s fourteen, and escapes a near-fatal car accident with scars, a bum leg, and an addiction to Oxy that’ll take years to kick.

The second time, she’s seventeen, and it’s no accident. Sophie and her best friend Mina are confronted by a masked man in the woods. Sophie survives, but Mina is not so lucky. When the cops deem Mina’s murder a drug deal gone wrong, casting partial blame on Sophie, no one will believe the truth: Sophie has been clean for months, and it was Mina who led her into the woods that night for a meeting shrouded in mystery.

After a forced stint in rehab, Sophie returns home to a chilly new reality. Mina’s brother won’t speak to her, her parents fear she’ll relapse, old friends have become enemies, and Sophie has to learn how to live without her other half. To make matters worse, no one is looking in the right places and Sophie must search for Mina’s murderer on her own. But with every step, Sophie comes closer to revealing all: about herself, about Mina and about the secret they shared. 

I read this for my book club.  For that month’s selection, we had to read books recommended by other members – which is scary for me.  I’m always afraid I’ll wind up with a romance.  This one contains some romance, but it’s not the primary focus.  And I’m okay with that.

My heart went out to Sophie.  No one believes she’s still clean, and her parents force her back into rehab.  All the while, she’s grieving deeply for her nearly lifelong best friend and counting the days until she’s released so she can find the killer.  Her frustration is palpable, and she has few friends to lean on for help.

Most chapters rotate between the present and earlier in Sophie’s life, but it wasn’t difficult to keep up – and I listened to the audiobook (which is narrated by the author, who does a wonderful job).  The shifts allow the gradual reveal of backstory and secrets that bring to light multiple suspects.  I guessed who the culprit was, but there’s another component to the story that came as a suprise.

This isn’t my usual genre, but it’s a gripping read and emotional at times.  If you’re looking for a YA mystery, this is one I recommend.

The Traitor Prince by C.J. Redwine #bookreview #fairytale #retelling #TuesdayBookBlog

Javan Najafai, crown prince of Akram, has spent the last ten years at an elite boarding school, far away from his kingdom. But his eagerly awaited return home is cut short when a mysterious imposter takes his place—and no one believes Javan is the true prince.

After barely escaping the imposter’s assassins, Javan is thrown into Maqbara, the kingdom’s most dangerous prison. The only way to gain an audience with the king — and reveal Javan’s identity — is to fight in Maqbara’s yearly tournament. But winning is much harder than acing competitions at school, and soon Javan finds himself beset not just by the terrifying creatures in the arena, but also a band of prisoners allied against him, and even the warden herself.

The only person who can help him is Sajda, who has been enslaved by Maqbara’s warden since she was a child, and whose guarded demeanor and powerful right hook keep the prisoners in check. Working with Sajda might be the only way Javan can escape alive — but she has dangerous secrets.

Together, Javan and Sajda have to outwit the vicious warden, outfight the deadly creatures, and outlast the murderous prisoners intent on killing Javan. If they fail, they’ll be trapped in Maqbara for good—and the secret Sajda’s been hiding will bury them both.

The category for my book club this month was to read a re-telling.  I’ve had this book in my TBR pile for two years, so this was a perfect opportunity to bump it to the top.

This is the third book I’ve read in the Ravenspire series.  Each has taken me on exciting adventures, introduced me to both loveable and loathsome characters, and occasionally ripped my heart out.  Redwine is known for killing off some of her more popular characters.  The Traitor Prince is based on an Arabian tale entitled The False Prince.  I’m not familiar with that story, but this one grabbed me from the first page.  I was so angry at the injustice of Javan’s and Sajda’s situations – his at being thrown into prison while someone else takes his place on the throne, and hers at being enslaved from a young age and discriminated against for a reason I won’t reveal (no spoilers).  By the end of the book, I was so anxious for them to have their revenge and set things right.  And speaking of the ending – it was perfect.

Although part of the same series, each of these books can be read as a standalone.  I also have to comment on the stunning maps included in each novel – beautiful!  The Traitor Prince is a story about fighting against inequity even when things look grim, endearing friendships, undying loyalty, and selfless sacrifice.

Fiona Finch and the Pink Valentine by Teagan Riordain Geneviene #bookreview #steampunk

Put your feet up and enjoy a whimsical break with this quick, lighthearted story. There’s some romance, and a lot of silliness. It’s a steampunk/Victorian setting. You might call it a long-short story or a novelette.

This is a tale of an old lost valentine and the shenanigans that ensue when it turns up. Fiona Finch and her brother Steele – along with a helping “wing” from Quellie the duck, work to bring two long ago sweethearts back together. Even though it is a Valentine’s Day story, it does not include sex or passionate romance. It does, however, include a lot of imaginative fun.

I’ve read several books by this author and her creativity never ceases to amaze and delight me.  This tale of a lost valentine from years ago and amusing matchmaking efforts at a masquerade ball is guaranteed to leave you with a smile.  Although a quick read, character development certainly isn’t lacking, and you’ll feel as if you’ve spent time with friends by the end of this whimsical novelette.  And did I mention the pet duck?  An absolute scene-stealer.  If you’re in the mood for a light read with a sweet happily ever after, look no further.

 

 

Hunting November (Killing November #2) by Adriana Mather #bookreview #YA #thriller #TuesdayBookBlog

Surviving a few weeks at the world’s most lethal boarding school was one thing. But now comes the real test: Can November Adley find her missing father before her enemies find her? Subterfuge is the name of the game in this thrilling sequel to Killing November, from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of How to Hang a Witch.

After surviving a crash course in espionage at the mysterious Academy Absconditi, November has only one purpose: finding her missing father. Along with fellow student (and heartthrob) Ash, November follows the clues that her father left, embarking on the deadliest treasure hunt of her life. The first clue is in her hometown, where old friends beckon and unexpected enemies lurk around every corner. The second clue is in Europe, where revelations about her family’s history will plunge her into an international web of deception, lies, and intrigue. The third clue is deep in enemy territory, surrounded by the most skilled assassins and master strategists, and where everyone wants her and her father dead. Can one girl with limited training infiltrate a centuries-old organization that is powerful enough to topple empires? November only knows that she’ll do whatever it takes to save her father . . . or die trying. 

Killing November was one of my best reads last year – high stakes, untrustworthy characters, a school for assassins.  The year waiting for this sequel was a long one.

This book picks up right where the other left off.  November and Ash leave the school in search of her father, who’s left complex clues for her in different locations across the country.  Talk about tense situations – death could literally be waiting for them around every corner, and some of the people they come across would just as soon slit their throats rather than speak to them.

Pacing may leave you breathless, and the action is almost nonstop.  But not everything is serious – some lighter, humorous moments are sprinkled throughout the story along with romantic elements.  Twists and surprises abound, and the big reveal near the end left me gaping.  I absolutely didn’t see it coming.

This series is incredibly addictive with ultra-high stakes, a complex plot, and untrustworthy characters that worm their way into your heart.  I get the feeling this is a duology, but I’d sure love another book.  Highly recommended!

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

 

The Gentleman’s Guide to Getting Lucky by Mackenzi Lee #bookreview #YA #LGBT

In this funny and frothy novella that picks up where the New York Times bestselling The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue leaves off, freshly minted couple Monty and Percy fumble through their first time together.

Monty’s epic grand tour may be over, but now that he and Percy are finally a couple, he realizes there is something more nerve-wracking than being chased across Europe: getting together with the person you love.

Will the romantic allure of Santorini make his first time with Percy magical, or will all the anticipation and build-up completely spoil the mood? 

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue was one of my favorite reads (listens?) last year.  Monty, in all his narcisscistic glory, stole my heart, and Percy is just adorable.  How I’ve missed these boys.  And what a treat it was to read this novella.  The whole situation is awkward, comedic, sweet, and utterly perfect for the tone of their relationship.  I laughed so many times – such a pleasure to read.  This will hold me over  until the release of The Nobleman’s Guide to Scandal and Shipwrecks.

Fractured Tide by Leslie Lutz #bookreview #YA #thriller #scifi #TuesdayBookBlog

Lost meets Stranger Things in this eerie, immersive YA thriller, thrusting seventeen-year-old Sia into a reality where the waters in front of her and the jungle behind her are as dangerous as the survivors alongside her.

Sia practically grew up in the water scuba diving, and wreck dives are run of the mill. Take the tourists out. Explore the reef. Uncover the secrets locked in the sunken craft. But this time … the dive goes terribly wrong.

Attacked by a mysterious creature, Sia’s boat is sunk, her customers are killed, and she washes up on a deserted island with no sign of rescue in sight. Waiting in the water is a seemingly unstoppable monster that is still hungry. In the jungle just off the beach are dangers best left untested. When Sia reunites with a handful of survivors, she sees it as the first sign of light.

Sia is wrong.

Between the gulf of deadly seawater in front of her and suffocating depth of the jungle behind her, even the island isn’t what it seems.

Haunted by her own mistakes and an inescapable dread, Sia’s best hope for finding answers may rest in the center of the island, at the bottom of a flooded sinkhole that only she has the skills to navigate. But even if the creature lurking in the depths doesn’t swallow her and the other survivors, the secrets of their fractured reality on the island might.

With Lost and Stranger Things being the comp titles (and two of my fav shows) for this book, I was soooo hoping to not be disappointed – and I absolutely wasn’t.  The comps are perfect descriptions.

Creepy, bizarre, mind-bending – all are apt descriptions of the island Sia finds herself stranded on.  Honestly, I’d be afraid to close my eyes at night.  This book held my attention from page one, and I probably could have finished it in one sitting.  Pacing is brisk and tense – I couldn’t wait to see what happened next.

Characterization is another strong point, from the MC to supporting characters – flawed, layered, and relatable.  I loved that Sia was a diver, and it’s obvious the author did her research on the subject.  I tried diving several years ago, but I was too claustrophobic – so I really felt the tension when Sia was caught up in dangerous underwater situations.

Although completely riveted by this book, I dreaded the ending because I was sure to be disappointed by some weak excuse for what was happening.  But I wasn’t at all, and that made my sci-fi loving heart so happy.

Fractured Tide is a fantastic blend of thriller, sci-fi, and horror and fans of any of those genres are in for a treat.  With such an amazing debut novel, this is an author to watch.

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

 

A Boy Named Rabbit (Wake-Robin Ridge #2) by Marcia Meara #bookreview #suspense #supernatural

“Evil’s comin’, boy…comin’ fast. Look for the man with eyes like winter skies, and hair like a crow’s wing. He’s the one you gotta find.”

The remote mountain wilderness of North Carolina swallowed up the ten-year-old boy as he made his way down from the primitive camp where his grandparents had kept him hidden all his life. His dying grandmother, gifted with The Sight, set him on a quest to find the Good People, and though he is filled with fear and wary of civilization, Rabbit is determined to keep his promise to her. When he crosses paths with Sarah and MacKenzie Cole, neither their lives nor his, are ever the same again.

The extraordinary little boy called Rabbit has the power to change the world for everyone he meets, and the resourcefulness to save himself from the one person his grandparents had hoped would never find him. His dangerous and bittersweet journey will touch you in unexpected ways, and once you’ve let Rabbit into your heart, you’ll never forget him.

Is it possible to join a fictional family?  I’d love to join this one and live in the mountains of NC.

Several other readers’ reviews have mentioned how Rabbit stole their heart – I’m no exception.  He’s such a wonderful character – wise beyond his years despite his limited education, empathetic, loving, appreciative, and an excellent judge of character.  He’s an old soul in the body of a 10-year-old boy, and I just wanted to hug him and protect him from the world.

I was so excited to be back with Mac and Sarah, who I got to know in the first book, as well as Rosheen and Handsome.  They’re two of my favorite furry characters, and I adored how quickly Rosheen took to Rabbit and felt so protective of him.

Parts of Rabbit’s story are tragic, but overall, this is a heart-warming, feel-good read with some pretty suspenseful moments and magnificent character development.  I can’t wait to continue the series.

Blackthorn by Terry Tyler #bookreview #postapocalyptic #dystopian #TuesdayBookBlog

The UK, year 2139

One hundred and fifteen years ago, a mysterious virus wiped out ninety-five per cent of humanity.

Blackthorn, the largest settlement in England, rose from the ashes of the devastated old world. It is a troubled city, where the workers live in crude shacks, and make do with the worst of everything.

It is a city of violent divisions, crime, and an over-populated jail block―until a charismatic traveller has a miraculous vision and promises to bring hope back to the people’s lives.

Blackthorn falls under Ryder Swift’s spell, and the most devoted of all is the governor’s loyal servant, Lieutenant August Hemsley.

Twenty-one-year-old Evie has lived her whole life in the shacks. She and disillusioned guard Byron Lewis are two of a minority who have doubts about Ryder’s message. Can they stand against the beliefs of an entire city?

This book is set within the world of the Project Renova series, but can be read as a standalone.  Backstory regarding what happened in the world during that series is explained so the reader can easily follow along.

Since I’ve read the Project Renova series, I adored the mention of some of those characters – but I also enjoyed meeting these new ones.  Evie is a delight – feisty, independent, and smart.  She doesn’t automatically drink the Koolaid like most of the folks in Blackthorn – she’s skeptical, asks questions, and has a good head on her shoulders.  Female readers will be enraged at the way some women are treated in Blackthorn.  It’s scary to think society could regress to that point after a postapocalyptic event.

This author has a talent for character development, and the story is primarily character-driven.  I enjoyed the changing POVs between Evie, Byron, and Hemsley, whose character arc is especially riveting.  Ryder is charismatic and personable, and perfect to carry out the role he’s been given – but you just never quite trust him.

Blacktorn is a compelling and thought-provoking read I found difficult to put down.  As I mentioned, this is a standalone book, but after finishing it, don’t be suprised if you find yourself purchasing the Project Renova series.

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

Jackaby (Jackaby #1) by William Ritter #YA #historicalmystery

“Miss Rook, I am not an occultist,” Jackaby said. “I have a gift that allows me to see truth where others see the illusion–and there are many illusions. All the world’s a stage, as they say, and I seem to have the only seat in the house with a view behind the curtain.”

Newly arrived in New Fiddleham, New England, 1892, and in need of a job, Abigail Rook meets R. F. Jackaby, an investigator of the unexplained with a keen eye for the extraordinary–including the ability to see supernatural beings. Abigail has a gift for noticing ordinary but important details, which makes her perfect for the position of Jackaby’s assistant. On her first day, Abigail finds herself in the midst of a thrilling case: A serial killer is on the loose. The police are convinced it’s an ordinary villain, but Jackaby is certain it’s a nonhuman creature, whose existence the police–with the exception of a handsome young detective named Charlie Cane–deny.

Doctor Who meets Sherlock in William Ritter’s debut novel, which features a detective of the paranormal as seen through the eyes of his adventurous and intelligent assistant in a tale brimming with cheeky humor and a dose of the macabre.

I’ve had this in my TBR for a while and listened to the audiobook during a road trip last fall.

While the narrator’s voice for Abigail is perfect, it didn’t work for me with Jackaby’s voice, but that’s a personal issue.  I appreciated Jackaby’s straightforward manner and the way he approaches the case.  His interactions with some characters are prickly at best, but also amusing.  Abigail is an adventurous soul and determined to live her own life and not abide by the expectations of others.

This was an entertaining enough read while driving, but I identified the killer very early in the book.   I hoped for red herrings to steer me in the wrong direction or an unexpected twist – but neither happened.

With several books in the series, it’s popular with readers, so I’m probably in the minority on my opinions.  I’d recommend it if you’re looking for a quick, supernatural suspense read.

 

House of Shadows by Darcy Coates #bookreview #horror #TuesdayBookBlog

Sophie’s world is shattered when disaster bankrupts her family. She’s still reeling from the news when she’s offered an unexpected solution: Mr Argenton, a wealthy stranger, asks for her hand in marriage.

Marrying Mr Argenton will restore her family’s fortunes and save them from scandal, but condemns Sophie to a life in Northwood, a vast and unnaturally dark mansion situated hours from civilisation.

Sophie struggles to adjust to her new position as mistress over the desolate house. Mr Argenton’s relatives are cold, and Mr Argenton himself is keeping secrets. Even worse, the house is more than it seems.

Mr Argenton’s young cousin, Elise, draws terrifying images. Doors slam. Inhuman figures slink through the forest surrounding the house. A piano plays in the middle of the night. Blood drips from the ceilings.

Sophie is inevitably pulled towards the terrifying truth: Northwood’s ancient halls are haunted by the family’s long-dead ancestors. The malevolent spirits–produced by grisly deaths–resent her intrusion into their home.

Trapped in Northwood and desperate for an escape, Sophie’s fate is further complicated as she finds herself irrevocably drawn to the tall, dark-eyed man she married. She suspects her feelings are returned, but Mr Argenton is hiding the truth about the house–and his secrets are so dangerous that they might just be unforgivable. 

This is my second Darcy Coates book and I’ve come to learn there are two things I can count on – my enjoyment of her writing style and eerie covers perfect for what’s inside.

Reading The Amityville Horror many years ago made me a fan of haunted house novels.  I seem to gravitate toward them.  House of Shadows has a distinct gothic feel, an aspect which adds to the creep factor in my opinion.  When candles are your only souce of lighting, you never know what that light will fall on when you round a corner.  Or what it might miss in the shadows.

After marrying someone she barely knows and moving far away from her family, Sophie is immediately thrust into an unwelcoming sitation with Joseph’s relatives.  It’s also clear the staff are terrified of something and barely speak.  Sophie initially gives off the damsel-in-distress vibe, but when her back is against the wall, she comes through when it counts.

This is a quick read, but I wouldn’t have minded it being longer.  Once the climax is reached, pacing moves at break-neck speed, but the ending nicely sets up the second book.

If you’re looking for aggressive horror, this may not be the book for you, but if you enjoy some creepy-crawly moments that send chills down your spine with a touch of romance, you’ll settle in quite well with House of Shadows.

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