Lumara by Melissa Landers #bookreview #YA #magic #fantasy

The answers lie within.

Boarding school student Talia Morris has no idea her boyfriend, Nathaniel, is a Mystic, let alone second in line to the throne of a secretive, aspirational magical community―one no mortal has ever been allowed to step inside. Until now. Nathanial’s cousin is about to be married in the biggest wedding the magical world has ever seen, and Nathaniel is allowed to bring a date. Talia is the lucky recipient of the golden ticket every Mystic wannabe in the world would kill for―only she doesn’t want it. Talia thinks Mystic worship unnecessarily aggrandizes people for being born a certain way. When she finds out Nathaniel is “one of them,” she almost jumps ship. But Nathaniel loves her, and she loves him. So when he begs her to give his family and their community a shot, she reluctantly agrees.

Enter the most fantastical world any mortal has ever seen, and a magical wedding straight out of a dream. After a few days of bonding with Nathaniel’s family on the island, of seeing how beautiful their magic is and how peaceful their community, Talia’s about to be won over―until the entire wedding party suddenly falls into an unexplainable coma and the community goes on lockdown. Talia, the outsider, is pegged as the culprit and has to do everything in her meager non-power to prove her innocence. As she embarks on a journey to find the truth, Talia soon discovers reality is not all it seems, and her past may put her in more danger than she ever imagined.

In this captivating YA fantasy, Talia must solve a multigenerational mystery and break a curse, all the while being torn between making her family proud and regaining the trust of the boy she loves.

Being duped out of her savings by a Mystic, Talia isn’t a fan and devotes her social media to exposing them as thieves and shams. Imagine her surprise when her perfect boyfriend, Nathaniel, reveals himself as one. He promises his family and community are different and persuades her to give them a chance. She agrees to accompany him to a family wedding on their private island of Lumara.

Lumara is a lush, magical (literally) island filled with vibrant colors, and a place I sure wouldn’t mind visiting. Talia and Nathaniel don’t get to relax for long – during the ceremony the entire wedding party falls into an unexplainable magic coma. And Talia is blamed as the culprit. The plot moves along at a brisk pace after that, and at less than three hundred pages Lumara is a quick read. Layers upon layers of secrets, lies, and curses soon come to light, and it’s not too difficult early in the novel to see where the story might be headed.

I appreciated Lumara is a standalone novel and the ending isn’t wrapped up in a tidy bow. Some unexpected tough decisions are thrust upon Talia, but she makes good choices that are in her best interests. If you’re looking for a quick read that transports you to a magical island for a few hours, check out Lumara.

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

Christmas and #AmWriting (finally!)

This past week was a busy one. Finishing up Christmas shopping, wrapping presents, dropping off presents and cookies, working, and a drop-in. Since we’ll be traveling off and on over the next couple weeks, I’ve been trying to plan ahead for meals when we’re here to cut down on grocery store visits. It’s another fried turkey for our Christmas dinner!

Son #1 came home and is now with us for a couple weeks. He (a Panthers fan) and hubby (a Steelers fan) went to the game in Charlotte yesterday. So it was a good day for hubby. Our son’s cat, Sora, is also here. If you remember, she and Bond aren’t in each other’s friend zones. They’ve gotten to the point where they at least try to ignore each other and coexist. It even works every now and then. But then someone gives a look, a paw is raised… you get the idea.

I FINALLY started book #5. It’s been rolling around in my head for over two years, I’ve talked to the characters, made notes upon notes. But I could never actually sit down and write. I have no idea why – fear, imposter syndrome, etc. This past weekend with hubby and Son #1 out of town, I sat down and forced myself to begin. And now the ideas are flowing. I was stumped on how to connect a couple of things until Son #2 came over yesterday to wrap gifts. He discussed his world-building for Dungeons and Dragons (he’s the Dungeon Master of his group), and I talked about my roadblock. He gave me an excellent idea that I can adapt for the book #5.

I’ll be sporadic with blog visits and comments this week due to traveling. Hope you all finish your holiday shopping and find some peace among the chaos!

Enola Holmes and the Elegant Escapade by Nancy Springer #bookreview #YA #mystery #thriller

Enola Holmes, the much younger sister of Sherlock, is now living independently in London and working as a scientific perditorian (a finder of persons and things). But that is not the normal lot of young women in Victorian England. They are under the near absolute control of their nearest male relative until adulthood. Such is the case of Enola’s friend, Lady Cecily Alastair. Twice before Enola has rescued Lady Cecily from unpleasant designs of her caddish father, Sir Eustace Alastair, Baronet. And when Enola is brusquely turned away at the door of the Alastair home it soons becomes apparent that Lady Cecily once again needs her help.

Affecting a bold escape, Enola takes Lady Cecily to her secret office only to be quickly found by the person hired by Lady Cecily’s mother to find the missing girl—Sherlock Holmes himself. But the girl has already disappeared again, now loose on her own in the unforgiving city of London.

Even worse, Lady Cecily has a secret that few know. She has dual personalities—one, which is left-handed, is independent and competent; the other, which is right-handed is meek and mild. Now Enola must find Lady Cecily again—before one of her personalities gets her into more trouble than she can handle and before Sherlock can find her and return her to her father. Once again, for Enola, the game is afoot. 

I have to admit, I’d never heard of Enola Holmes until I saw the Netflix movie. I really enjoyed it, so when this book popped up on NetGalley, I immediately requested it.

Can you imagine how intimidating it must be to have Sherlock Holmes as a brother? Enola is certainly up to the challenge and holds her own quite well. Don’t expect her to conform to society’s expectations of women in Victorian England. She’s a firm believer in women’s rights, lives independently of her brothers, and isn’t afraid to speak her mind. I loved her character.

Her friend, Lady Cecily, has a tyrant of a father who’s locked Cecily in her room and treated her as subhuman. Shockingly, part of this is because she’s left-handed, which is not looked upon kindly for a young woman in society. After Enola helps Cecily escape, she learns her friend has a dual personality, which figures prominently into the plot. And then Cecily disappears. Enola calls on Sherlock for help, and their banter and scenes together are among my favorites. Although he may not be quite fond of her methods, Sherlock respects Enola’s intellect, which matches his own, and listens to her.

This is the eighth book in the series, but each can be read as standalones. The author gives a bit of backstory, so I was never confused while reading this novel. Although the series may be geared to the younger YA crowd, adults will also enjoy it – I certainly did, and I’d love to catch up on the others.

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

The Ghost Frequency and #AmWatching

Last week I was watching an episode of Evil on Paramount+ and learned about the significance of 18.9 Hz frequency, also known as the ghost frequency. What???? you may be asking. Humans can generally hear in the range of 20 Hz to 20 kHz. If a sound falls outside that range, the infrasound range, it’s possible to still perceive it in other ways, sometimes in your chest, teeth, or skull. It can provoke feelings of fear or paranoia. In places rumored to be haunted where people report sensing something or someone in the room, it’s theorized these acoustic waves could be responsible. Some horror movies (Paranormal Activity is one) have even used infrasound to create those feelings in audience members. I found this fascinating, and you can bet it will be worked into the plot of future WIPs.

Hubby is out of town on business this week, so you know what that means – I refer to my list of movies and TV shows waiting in the wings. These are things he’s not interested in, and with him being so hard to please when it comes to his viewing, I’ve got a pretty extensive queue. On deck for this week is Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, The Bad Guys (animated movie on Peacock – the trailer looks hilarious), the new Father of the Bride with Andy Garcia (watching with a couple of friends), and finishing the last season of Castlevania on Netflix. I’m also excited about the new season of What We Do in the Shadows returning on Tuesday. I just love those crazy vampires.

Have a great week!

Father’s Day and #AmWatching

A belated Happy Father’s Day to all you fathers out there! We’re not much for restaurant crowds and prefer to have a quiet day at home and grill out. Hubby did some yard work and then he and Son #2 smoked cigars on the patio later in the evening. Although I was afraid we’d be watching some Hallmark movie (he’s a big fan and threatened to choose You’re Bacon Me Crazy), Hubby chose John Wick #2. I think it was actually more of Son #2’s choice, but I was fully on board with it. We also finally opened the good bottle of wine Hubby bought for our anniversary a year and a half ago. We’d been waiting for my taste and smell to come back so I could actually appreciate it, and over the past month both senses made big leaps and are mostly back to normal – finally!

Has anyone watched First Kill on Netflix? It’s based on a short story written by one of my favorite authors, Victoria Schwab, and I’ve always been a vamp fan. I’ve only got one episode left, and things are seriously heating up – loads of tension and conflict. Somehow I never got to the theater to see Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, but I was excited to see that it will be streaming on Disney+ June 22 – so you know what I’ll be watching soon.

Have a great week!

Announcing “Dead of Winter: Journey 14, The Veil — the conclusion

This series has received stellar reviews, and I can’t wait to get started. Congratulations to Teagan on the release of the final Dead of Winter book!

Teagan's Books

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Wednesday, June 15, 2022 
The Journeys of “Dead of Winter” have reached the conclusion.

All the Journeys 


From the very beginning, a prophecy from a creepy voice threaded throughout this story.  “Winter is coming!” it warned.  As the Journeys progressed, we became aware of additional related prophesies like one of the “lost white brother” and “the frozen sands.”  Both of those are touched on in this concluding novella.

White wolf mountains Andrea Bohl PixabayAndrea Bohl, Pixabay

Other threads from the previous thirteen Journeys also come together in this volume, which concludes Dead of Winter.

I see this conclusion as a two-part ending.  Without giving spoilers, the first brings the action to a head and resolves that aspect.

The second is much more than an epilogue.  It resolves the issue of the destroyed Veil which separated the Realm of the Living from the Realm of the…

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Lock the Doors by Vincent Ralph #bookreview #YA #suspense #mystery #TuesdayBookBlog

Tom’s family have moved into their dream home. But pretty soon he starts to notice that something is very wrong – there are strange messages written on the wall and locks on the bedroom doors. On the OUTSIDE.

The previous owners have moved just across the road and they seem like the perfect family. Their daughter Amy is beautiful and enigmatic but Tom is sure she’s got something to hide. And he isn’t going to stop until he finds the truth behind those locked doors. . .

Will their dream home become a nightmare?

After a string of worthless boyfriends, Tom’s mom is remarried to a good man, who also has a teenage daughter and six-year-old son. With hopes of a fresh start that will unite this blended family, they move into a new home. After Tom finds disturbing messages and drawings in his room along with evidence of previous locks on the outside of the bedroom doors, he’s convinced the former occupants were mistreated and crying out for help. And he knows exactly who lived there before his family – because they now reside right across the street. Tom and his mother are no strangers to abuse. Before they escaped, former boyfriends of his mother subjected them to domestic abuse. Tom knows the signs and exactly how a person hides them. When he meets Amy, he recognizes some of those signs and is determined to save her.

Amy’s family is bizarre to say the least, but on the surface everything seems somewhat normal. I loved that Tom is persistent and refuses to accept what he’s told and recruits his friend Zak (a scene stealer) to help dig up the truth. He doesn’t want anyone to experience the same horrors he did and will do whatever it takes to prevent that from happening. Tom has always felt like he never quite fit in, and it was only him and his mom for many years, so it was nice to see him forge a bond with stepsister Nia over the course of the story.

A gripping read filled with shocking discoveries, this is easily a crossover for adults. It also deals with topics of OCD, PTSD, grief, and mental illness, all sensitively handled. Lock the Doors is a fast-paced story that doesn’t come with your typical villains.

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

Happy New Year!

I came across one of those word scrambles on a friend’s Facebook page that said the first four words you see will be your mantra for 2022. Mine were power, love, alignment, and purpose – I wish the same for all of you. Happy New Year!

Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao #bookreview #YA #fantasy #scifi

The boys of Huaxia dream of pairing up with girls to pilot Chrysalises, giant transforming robots that can battle the mecha aliens that lurk beyond the Great Wall. It doesn’t matter that the girls often die from the mental strain.

When 18-year-old Zetian offers herself up as a concubine-pilot, it’s to assassinate the ace male pilot responsible for her sister’s death. But she gets her vengeance in a way nobody expected—she kills him through the psychic link between pilots and emerges from the cockpit unscathed. She is labeled an Iron Widow, a much-feared and much-silenced kind of female pilot who can sacrifice boys to power up Chrysalises instead.​

To tame her unnerving yet invaluable mental strength, she is paired up with Li Shimin, the strongest and most controversial male pilot in Huaxia​. But now that Zetian has had a taste of power, she will not cower so easily. She will miss no opportunity to leverage their combined might and infamy to survive attempt after attempt on her life, until she can figure out exactly why the pilot system works in its misogynist way—and stop more girls from being sacrificed.

When I saw Pacific Rim mentioned as a comp title for this novel, I jumped on requesting this from NetGalley. The main character sounded like she was ready to stir up some trouble, and I wanted to be around to see what would happen.

I can’t skip commenting on this beautiful cover. Besides being so striking, it does an admirable job of portraying Zetian’s strength and determination. I may be understating it when I say the girl is a force of nature and has maniacal tendencies.

Zetian has been raised her whole life to believe she’s basically a second class citizen and must make sacrifices for men. Although very few survive, she and her older sister volunteer as concubine-pilots so her family can use the death compensation to find Zetian’s brother a suitable wife. A loving family is as far from an apt description as you could get for these people. Zetian rejects these beliefs and has plans of her own to assassinate the pilot responsible for her sister’s death.

When Zetian survives the psychic link with one of the best pilots (after assassinating him), she’s soon paired with Li-Shimin, a death row inmate plucked out of incarceration and forced to be a pilot. He’s a talented pilot, but is feared by the others – the guy doesn’t exactly possess a welcoming personality – but Zetian learns he has many layers to be discovered. After Gao Yizhi, the boy who loves her, comes into the picture again I was sure a dreaded love triangle loomed on the horizon. I was wrong – it’s a polyamorous relationship. It’s the first time I’ve encountered this in a YA book, but it seems a natural development for these three characters and isn’t the primary focus of the story. As partnered pilots, Zetian and Li-Shimin battle the mecha aliens but soon learn they have enemies in their own camp. The cliffhanger at the end was a doozy!

With huge piloted robots that can transform into mythical creatues (seriously, how cool is that?), mind-blowing action scenes, and immersive world-building, I was glued to the pages. The novel also deals with themes of oppression and feminism and gets very dark and brutal at times, but it’s one I highly recommend. This may be one of my favorite reads of the year, and I’ll be at the front of the line waiting impatiently when the sequel releases.

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