Book Event, Thanksgiving, and #AmWatching

I mentioned last week I was attending my first book event in nearly two years over the past weekend. Readers were sparse, but it was nice to talk to the few who attended. I also made contact with local authors who’ve formed a writer’s group, so that’s a plus. They share information on book events they come across, and that’s always helpful. My table was beside D.G. Driver, a writer friend from Nashville who blurbed Sarah. I hadn’t seen her in quite a while, so it was nice to catch up.

Thanksgiving will be a wonderful time with family and friends. Both sons will be here, and the youngest who lives in Austin will be with us a week – yay! Friends (they’re more like family) will be joining us for dinner that day, and since we’re big on games (some of us are super competitive), I’m sure we’ll spend a few hours playing. Hubby always fries the turkey (if you’ve never tried it that way, you’re truly depriving yourself), and the smell is guaranteed to inspire spontaneous drooling.

I finished season two of Locke and Key. I’m not sure how I felt about the ending, but there’d better be another season. A couple weeks ago, I finally watched the series finale of Shameless. The Gallaghers have to be one of my favorite dysfunctional families, and it was an appropriate sendoff for these characters – especially Frank.

Have a great week!

Aristotle and Dante Dive Into the Waters of the World by Benjamin Alire Saenz #bookreview #contemporary #LGBTQ #YA

In Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, two boys in a border town fell in love. Now, they must discover what it means to stay in love and build a relationship in a world that seems to challenge their very existence.

Ari has spent all of high school burying who he really is, staying silent and invisible. He expected his senior year to be the same. But something in him cracked open when he fell in love with Dante, and he can’t go back. Suddenly he finds himself reaching out to new friends, standing up to bullies of all kinds, and making his voice heard. And, always, there is Dante, dreamy, witty Dante, who can get on Ari’s nerves and fill him with desire all at once.

The boys are determined to forge a path for themselves in a world that doesn’t understand them. But when Ari is faced with a shocking loss, he’ll have to fight like never before to create a life that is truthfully, joyfully his own.

With the highest recommendations from book club friends, I listened to the first book in this series over the summer, and then was ecstatic when I received an ARC of this highly anticipated sequel.

These boys grabbed my heart in the first book and didn’t let go – Ari, who would rather spend time with his dog than anyone else while pondering the meaning of life, and Dante, a born romantic who wears his heart on his sleeve. They squeezed my heart even tighter this time around and even shattered it at times. This novel is set in the eighties when the AIDS epidemic made headlines every day – when two teenage boys tragically had to hide their sexuality because it wasn’t safe for them to admit they were gay.

“My love for him is silent. There are a thousand things living in that silence.”

Fortunately, these two have a strong support system in their parents and a few select friends. That doesn’t mean they don’t have doubts about who they are. When Ari asks his mother if he’s a sin, it nearly brought tears to my eyes. Plenty of these heartfelt conversations may require tissues, so be prepared.

Ari finally steps out of his comfort zone and allows people who’ve had their hands extended in friendship for years in. He also discovers maybe he and one of his enemies have more in common that he believed. You can never be sure what people are dealing with in their lives.

“When you are standing all alone, the people who notice – those are the people who stand by your side. Those are the people who love you.”

Something I found amusing was how Ari comes to the realization his parents are actual people. After mending the relationship with his father, the two of them spend time together that will profoundly affect Ari for the rest of his life. He also sees the influence his mother has had on her students and the sacrifices she’s made along the way. How his parents met and fell in love.

This is a coming of age story that deals with love, loss, grief, homophobia, and racism, but also offers hope for a better future. As you can see from the above quotes, the writing is beautiful and inspirational, and the characters undergo tremendous growth. It’s a series I’ll continue to recommend.

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

When Night Breaks (Kingdom of Cards #2) by Janella Angeles #bookreview #fantasy #magicians #YA

The competition has come to a disastrous end, and Daron Demarco’s fall from grace is now front page news. But little matters to him beyond Kallia, the contestant he fell for who is now lost to this world and in the hands of a dangerous magician. Daron is willing to do whatever it takes to find her. Even if it means embarking on a dark and treacherous journey, risking more than just his life, with no promise of return.

After awaking in darkness, Kallia has never felt more lost. Especially with Jack by her side, the magician with who has the answers but cannot be trusted. Together, they must navigate a dazzling world where mirrors show memories and illusions shadow every corner, one ruled by a powerful game master who could all too easily destroy the world she left behind — and the boy she can’t seem to forget. With time running out, Kallia must embrace her role in a darker destiny, or lose everyone she loves, forever.

Stunning, gorgeous, enchanting – all descriptions of this cover. The first in the series is no different, and both set the tone for the story of magic and magicians inside.

This book immediately picks up where the first left off. Jack and Kallia find themselves in a darker, somewhat familiar world filled with danger, memories, and illusions. What’s real? What/who can they trust? Demarco and friends, left behind and struggling to understand what happened, desperately search for a way to reach Kallia.

While the first book contained tension-filled scenes between Kallia and Demarcos, elaborate competitions between the magicians, and mysterious secrets surrounding the town, this sequel has a different feel. Not bad, just – different. Kallia and Demarcos are separated for the majority of the story, the competitions are reduced to a couple brief duels, and most of the secrets are revealed early. I especially missed one of my favorite supporting characters and scene stealer, Aaros. He’s nearly MIA this time around.

The elusive Jack was a big draw for me in Where Dreams Descend, and I was anxious to see what would be revealed about him, if anything. I’ll just say his origin and power are explained, and he remains a mesmerizing character. His character arc may be my favorite part of this sequel. If you didn’t care for him before, you may change your mind.

While I enjoyed the addition of some new characters, a couple of unexpected plot twists, and the way the story wraps up, pacing was slow for me. For a nearly five hundred page novel, it contains several long stretches where not much happens. I read an ARC, so it’s something that may be tightened up in the final copy.

If fantasies set in a lavish, magical world filled with atmosphere and secrets pique your interest, this is a duology you should check out.

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

Lakesedge (World at Lake’s Edge #1) by Lyndall Clipstone #bookreview #YA #fantasy #LGBT #TuesdayBookBlog

A lush gothic fantasy about monsters and magic, set on the banks of a cursed lake. Perfect for fans of Naomi Novik and Brigid Kemmerer.

There are monsters in the world.

When Violeta Graceling arrives at haunted Lakesedge estate, she expects to find a monster. She knows the terrifying rumors about Rowan Sylvanan, who drowned his entire family when he was a boy. But neither the estate nor the monster are what they seem.

There are monsters in the woods.

As Leta falls for Rowan, she discovers he is bound to the Lord Under, the sinister death god lurking in the black waters of the lake. A creature to whom Leta is inexplicably drawn…

There’s a monster in the shadows, and now it knows my name.

Now, to save Rowan—and herself—Leta must confront the darkness in her past, including unraveling the mystery of her connection to the Lord Under. 

I enjoyed the gothic atmosphere of the visually stunning movie Crimson Peak. It’s used as a comp title for this novel, and the cover really sets the tone for the story.

If you’re looking for an atmospheric read for this time of year, this is it. With a bleak manor, sinister woods, cursed black lake, and young, mysterious lord said to have drowned his family, it’s easy to immerse yourself in this world. You’ll want to learn its hidden secrets.

After losing their parents at a young age, Leta and her brother, Arien are taken in by a woman who was initially kind to them, but became cruel and abusive when Arien began showing signs of dark magic. Rowan Sylvanan, lord of Lakesedge estate, sees something in him and takes them in, but Leta isn’t sure if their situation is improved. Soon after settling in, it becomes clear Rowan isn’t the monster he’s rumored to be, but instead is cursed by a deal he made with the Lord Under as a child. The estate and lands surrounding it are slowly dying from a magical corruption, and Rowan needs Leta’s and Arien’s help in defeating it.

Leta is extremely overprotective of Arien and, although annoying at first, the reason becomes clear. I thought he was around eight-years-old, but was surprised he’s actually thirteen. For me, he reads much younger, although he seems more like a teen as the story progresses. With this gothic tale comes a budding romance between Rowan and Leta, but it doesn’t take center stage. The driving force of the story is about adapting and combining the characters’ magic to conquer the corruption. Leta also has a history with the Lord Under, and they share an unusual connection. It’s something I want to know more about.

I went into this book thinking it was a standalone (there was no mention of a series on NetGalley), but toward the end it quickly became clear things weren’t wrapping up. The sequel releases next fall, so now I’ll have an impatient wait to see what happens after that whopping cliffhanger. If you enjoy dark fantasy with a hint of horror and undercurrents of romance, this is an atmospheric novel I’d recommend.

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

#AmWriting, Author Event, and #AmWatching

With Bad Moon Rising taking up the month of October, it’s been a while since I’ve posted a Monday share, so let’s get started.

I’m waiting to get the second round of edits from my publisher for the sequel to Subject A36. One more to go after that. I’m also waiting for the cover design, something I’m super excited about. I gave the designer an idea, but he always puts a spin on it that’s better than anything I could come up with. I’ve seen some truly eye-catching covers in our author group on FB.

I have my first author event in nearly two years scheduled for this Saturday at our local library! The event is for local authors, many I’ve never met, and one who blurbed my first book, Sarah. Even though she lives only an hour away, I haven’t seen her in several years. I’ve really missed meeting and talking with readers. Honestly, I’d talk to a brick wall about books if I thought it was listening. Then again, it doesn’t matter to me if it listens. I just like to talk about books. A crafty friend of mine made some new additions for my author table that I’m excited to display. They’ve just been sitting in a dark box anxious to make their debut. I’ll try to get a pic to post next Monday.

I’ve been watching a little bit of everything. I finished the third season of You – and what a truly twisted, bizarre season it was. As with the other two seasons, I binged it and couldn’t look away. I’d been waiting for Seinfield to drop on Netflix. I was a fan when it originally aired, but I’ve only caught a few episodes in reruns over the years. I’m in the middle of the second season of Locke and Key on Netflix and enjoying it just as much as the first season. I’m not sure how closely it follows the graphic novels, but I’m loving the creativity of these keys. Somehow I missed a 2015 remake of the movie Poltergeist, and watched it over Halloween. It wasn’t bad, but it certainly doesn’t top Craig T. Nelson. That’s a nearly impossible feat.

Have a great week!

Summer Sons by Lee Mandelo #bookreview #horror #LGBTQ

Andrew and Eddie did everything together, best friends bonded more deeply than brothers, until Eddie left Andrew behind to start his graduate program at Vanderbilt. Six months later, only days before Andrew was to join him in Nashville, Eddie dies of an apparent suicide. He leaves Andrew a horrible inheritance: a roommate he doesn’t know, friends he never asked for, and a gruesome phantom with bleeding wrists that mutters of revenge.

As Andrew searches for the truth of Eddie’s death, he uncovers the lies and secrets left behind by the person he trusted most, discovering a family history soaked in blood and death. Whirling between the backstabbing academic world where Eddie spent his days and the circle of hot boys, fast cars, and hard drugs that ruled Eddie’s nights, the walls Andrew has built against the world begin to crumble, letting in the phantom that hungers for him.

I think I first became aware of this book in a weekly horror newsletter from Book Riot and immediately requested it from NetGalley. What a heavy, ominous ride it was – a fabulous debut novel.

Andrew shares a deep connection with his best friend Eddie and refuses to believe he committed suicide. He travels to Nashville for several reasons – to deal with Eddie’s estate and substantial inheritance left to him, prove Eddie was murdered, and attend grad school. Someone knows the truth behind the supposed suicide, and Andrew immerses himself into Eddie’s life to find answers. Soon, he’s drawn into late nights of fast cars, drugs, parties, and alcohol and learns Eddie hid plenty of secrets during their six months apart. Andrew is lost, drowning in his grief, and reaches for a lifeline wherever he can find one.

At its core, this story is about Andrew’s overwhelming grief and devastating loss of his best friend. It quickly becomes evident that their feelings for each other went beyond friendship, but Andrew hasn’t allowed himself to dig deeper and examine the true nature of their relationship. Several summers ago, they became trapped in a cave and went missing for a couple days. They weren’t alone in the darkness – something else was with them. It was a pivotal moment that significantly impacted their lives, but you won’t realize exactly how until late in the story.

Filled with eerie moments, regrets, questions of what if, and a family curse, Summer Sons is a dark, slow burn, Southern gothic horror story. Hauntings aren’t limited to places. This is an author I’m keeping an eye on.

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

#BlogTour You Can Go Your Own Way by Eric Smith #YA #contemporary

YOU CAN GO YOUR OWN WAY by Eric Smith

On sale: November 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1335405685

Inkyard Press

Teen & Young Adult; Romance

$18.99 / $23.99 CAN

336 Pages

ABOUT THE BOOK:

A sweetly charming love story that leaves the reader with a lasting sense of hope.” —Nicola Yoon, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Everything, Everything and The Sun Is Also a Star

“The perfect novel to snuggle up with.” —Emily Henry, New York Times bestselling author of Beach Read

No one ever said love would be easy…but did they mention it would be freezing?


Adam Stillwater is in over his head. At least, that’s what his best friend would say. And his mom. And the guy who runs the hardware store down the street. But this pinball arcade is the only piece of his dad that Adam has left, and he’s determined to protect it from Philadelphia’s newest tech mogul, who wants to turn it into another one of his cold, lifeless gaming cafés.

Whitney Mitchell doesn’t know how she got here. Her parents split up. Her boyfriend dumped her. Her friends seem to have changed overnight. And now she’s spending her senior year running social media for her dad’s chain of super successful gaming cafés—which mostly consists of trading insults with that decrepit old pinball arcade across town.

But when a huge snowstorm hits, Adam and Whitney suddenly find themselves trapped inside the arcade. Cut off from their families, their worlds, and their responsibilities, the tension between them seems to melt away, leaving something else in its place. But what happens when the storm stops?

Buy Links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/You-Can-Your-Own-Way/dp/1335405682 

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/you-can-go-your-own-way-eric-smith/1138256191 

Books a Million: https://www.booksamillion.com/p/9781335405685?AID=10747236&PID=7651142&cjevent=c39c9d3b5dee11eb83ba01ab0a240614 

IndieBound:  https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781335405685 

BookShop.org: https://bookshop.org/books/you-can-go-your-own-way/9781335405685 

AppleBooks: https://books.apple.com/us/book/you-can-go-your-own-way/id1540270939 

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Eric_Smith_You_Can_Go_Your_Own_Way?id=9soIEAAAQBAJ 

MY REVIEW

Contemporary fiction isn’t my first choice when it comes to genres, but if it’s written by this author, I don’t even need to read the description. I’ll grab it immediately.

Adam and Whitney are dealing with some heavy issues. Adam is still grieving the loss of his father, who passed away just before Adam started high school. He keeps him close by wearing his vintage concert t-shirts and REM jacket and working on a pinball machine designed by his father. He and his mother are struggling to keep their pinball arcade afloat, and Adam is determined to hang onto the business his dad started. Whitney is still adjusting to her parents’ divorce and spends hours every day handling social media for her father’s company. Although her heart lies with the plants at her mom’s shop, she believes working for her dad is the only way to spend time with him. Despite her efforts, he’s laser-focused on his business and unaware of what’s going on in her life. Adam and Whitney were childhood best friends, but grew apart the summer before high school when Adam lost his father and Whitney found new friends. Their dynamic now is combative at best, but their mothers push for them to patch up their relationship.

Smith’s characters generally fall into the nerd category, something that’s made me a confirmed fan. He mentions several bands I’ve seen in concert, and although many of them wouldn’t be recognized by teens this age, Adam’s dad introduced him to their music – as any cool parent would. In their small slice of Philadephia, I adored the strong community among the small businesses surrounding the pinball arcade and how they supported each other. Their comedic social media comments gave me plenty of laughs. I was delighted when two characters from Don’t Read the Comments (Smith’s previous book) made an appearance.

Because at the end of the day, it isn’t about the place. It’s about who you shared it with.

The above quote is something that stuck with me, and it’s perfectly suited for this story about dealing with loss, learning to heal, and rekindling relationships. If you’re a fan of well-developed characters, offbeat plots, heartfelt moments, and YA books without the typical high school drama, I can’t recommend this author enough.

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

ERIC SMITH is an author and literary agent from Elizabeth, New Jersey. When he isn’t working on other people’s books, sometimes he tries to write his own. He enjoys pop punk, video games, and crying during every movie. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife and best friend, Nena, and their son, Langston. WWW.ERICSMITHROCKS.COM

Social Links:

Author website: https://www.ericsmithrocks.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ericsmithrocks

Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/ericsmithrocks 

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/55920774-you-can-go-your-own-way 

Within These Wicked Walls by Lauren Blackwood #bookreview #YA #horror #fantasy #TuesdayBookBlog

What the heart desires, the house destroys…

Kiersten White meets Tomi Adeyemi in this Ethiopian-inspired debut fantasy retelling of Jane Eyre.

Andromeda is a debtera—an exorcist hired to cleanse households of the Evil Eye. When a handsome young heir named Magnus Rochester reaches out to hire her, Andromeda quickly realizes this is a job like no other, with horrifying manifestations at every turn, and that Magnus is hiding far more than she has been trained for. Death is the most likely outcome if she stays, but leaving Magnus to live out his curse alone isn’t an option. Evil may roam the castle’s halls, but so does a burning desire. 

It’s been quite a while since I read Jane Eyre, and I honestly don’t remember much about it. It was the mention of Andromeda being an exorcist that hooked my horror-loving heart and made me request this book.

I’m thrilled this story is set in Ethiopia and incorporates some of the traditional food and dress. It’s nice to find a YA book not set in the US or UK. Gothic overtones are apparent the minute Andi crosses the theshold of Magnus’s home, and she’s informed of the house rules almost immediately. The most important is to be in your locked bedroom by 10pm (that’s when the Waking begins) if you want to live to see the next day. Over the past three years, nearly a dozen debteras have tried and failed to cleanse the household, and it seems like Andi is the last hope. Homeless before this position, she’s determined to succeed and also gain Magnus’s patronage when the job is completed.

Andi is a no nonsense kind of gal who’s learned to survive the hardships of life. Sold by her parents at the age of five, she was taken in by a well-known debtera who probably had no business raising a child. But he taught her some valuable lessons. I didn’t know what to think of Magnus at first. He comes across as gruff, spoiled, and a tad clueless, but once the secrets of the house are revealed, his moods make sense. He’s also a scene stealer with some lines that are laugh out loud funny. It’s not hard to predict a romance between these two is on the horizon, but Andi’s mood swings from one sentence to the next during their conversations nearly gave me whiplash. Since I’m not much of a romance reader, that could just be me.

The magic system isn’t something I’ve come across before. Debtera create amulets from silver and other materials, each being unique to the manifestation. Amulets can both protect the exorcist and also drive away the Evil Eye and everything connected to it. The ghost in the library who throws books at intruders is my favorite – she probably just wanted to read undisturbed. I get it.

With no major twists or surprises, the ending is predictable, but that didn’t hinder me from enjoying this story. It’s an impressive debut novel, and I’ll absolutely keep tabs on this author and look for her future releases.

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

Thank You From #BadMoonRising!

Bad Moon Rising once again topped its numbers from last year, and it’s all because of you. To everyone who visited, commented, or shared on social media and the thirty-one authors who participated, I’m sending you virtual hugs of thanks. I enjoy hosting BMR every year, and as long as you guys keep showing up, it will continue.

I also wanted to thank everyone who helped spread the word on October 12th when Sarah was free. My publisher said there were close to five hundred downloads that day, and it wouldn’t have happened without your assistance. What a wonderful supportive blogging community we have!

#BadMoonRising Father of Lies by Steve Stred #horror #occult

Happy Halloween from Bad Moon Rising! Are you ready for all the little ghosties and ghoulies who may knock at your door tonight? I’ve got my candy ready. We’ve reached the end of BMR, but it’s been a month full of fun conversations, new books, and maybe some new friends. But it’s not over quite yet. Today’s author writes horror – but when he watches a horror movie he makes sure his feet are on the couch and nearly covers his head with a blanket. Welcome Steve Stred!

Which urban legend scares you most?

I don’t know if any scare me now, but growing up I was always worried about swallowing chewing gum or stepping on a crack on a sidewalk. It’s funny how those little things kind of work into your brain and stay there.

Have you ever had a tarot card reading?

No, I actually haven’t, but would be up for having it done. I have had an incredibly strange experience with an Ouija board when I was younger, so I try to avoid them at all costs, but over the last few years they keep lurking closer and closer. It’s the oddest thing.

If you watch horror movies, are you the person who yells at the characters, covers your eyes, or falls asleep?

It’s very rare that I get a chance to watch any horror movies right now, just with having a 5 year old and our schedules, but when I do, I typically have a list of a few that look just insanely good – so those ones are always bound to scare the crap out of me and I watch them with my feet on the couch and the covers up to my nose.

Do you ever see figures in your peripheral vision?

I had facial reconstruction surgery on my right side when I was 21 or so. For a year I had no peripheral vision on that side, it was the weirdest thing. Would often make me feel ill. But when it started coming back, I always used to think someone was walking towards me and when I’d look – nobody. Never creeped me out but sure did make me antsy.

How do you celebrate when you finish writing a book?

As lame as it sounds – I start the next one. I don’t really have too much ‘down time.’ It may be that I’ll take time away from writing to go over edits and re-writes if a book is back from my editor or anything like that, but for the most part I try and stay full-steam ahead on whatever it is I’m working on and whatever it is that is after.

Which book have you read more than once?

I don’t typically re-read adult books (I re-read kids books a million times to my son right now!) but one book I’ve actually re-read a number of times over the years has been The Neverending Story by Michael Ende. Many people have watched the movie or even the sequels, but I personally love the book. The second half is just as magical as the first and my son is named after the Auryn medallion given to Atreyu to protect him on his journey and plays a prominent role in the second half.

If you could spend the day with another popular author, who would you choose?

Absolutely Andrew Pyper. If you’ve followed me on any of my social media pages you’ll know how much I love Andrew’s work and was even given permission to create an Official Archive of his work, which you can find at theandrewpyperarchives.ca

This book contains scenes of extreme violence and sexual content. Do not purchase this book if you are easily offended or require trigger warnings!

Beginning in October, 2019, Steve Stred released three of the darkest, most depraved novellas – Ritual, COMMUNION, and Sacrament.

These three novellas completed the ‘Father of Lies’ trilogy, telling the story of a disturbed man trying to open the cosmic gates and enter the Black Heavens to live forever. Inspired by Steve Stred’s research acquired while joining a real cult, the stories from the trilogy have already become favorites within the horror world.

Now, here for the first time, is the complete and definitive ‘The Complete Father of Lies Series.’

Featuring;

–          All three novellas

–          An exclusive foreword by Sonora Taylor

–          An exclusive essay by cover artist Mason McDonald

–          A bonus fourth story ‘Eucharist.’

–          ‘The Battle Raged On and On’ essay from the author, answering reader questions about the trilogy

Not to be missed, this Omnibus will be available in ebook, paperback and hardcover!
Buy link: https://www.amazon.com/Father-Lies-Complete-Steve-Stred-ebook/dp/B09854197X/

Author Bio and Social Media

Steve Stred writes dark, bleak fiction.

Steve is the author of a number novels, novellas and collections.

He is proud to work with the Ladies of Horror Fiction to facilitate the Annual LOHF Writers Grant.

Steve has appeared alongside some of Horror’s heaviest hitters (Tim Lebbon, Gemma Amor, Adrian J. Walker, Ramsey Campbell) in some fantastic anthologies.

He is an active member of the HWA.

He is based in Edmonton, AB, Canada and lives with his wife and son.

Website: stevestredauthor.wordpress.com

Twitter: @stevestred

Instagram: @stevestred