Ember of Night by Molly E. Lee #bookreview #YA #paranormal

I am a weed.

Unloved by my abusive, alcoholic dad. Unwanted by my classmates. Unnoticed by everyone else.

But I’d suffer anything to give my kid sister a better life—the minute I turn eighteen, I’m getting us the hell out of here. And some hot stranger telling me I am the key to stopping a war between Heaven and Hell isn’t going to change that.

Let the world crumble and burn, for all I care.

Draven is relentless, though. And very much a liar. Every time his sexy lips are moving, I can see it—in the dip of his head, the grit of his jaw—even if my heart begs me to ignore the signs.

So what does he want?

I need to figure it out fast, because now everyone is gunning for me. And damn if I don’t want to show them what happens when you let weeds thrive in the cracks of the pavement…

We can grow powerful enough to shatter the whole foundation.

It’s been a while since I’ve read a paranormal novel, and I liked main character Harley’s voice in the description – determined, stubborn, and protective of her sister.

The way Harley has been treated throughout most of her life – physically and verbally abused by her father – would be enough to shut down almost anyone. But she has her little sister to protect and a plan to get both of them away from him when Harley turns eighteen. She works for Nathan at his restaurant, and he’s a bright spot both in this novel and in the girls’ lives, offering them food, love, and a safe place to stay when needed. The sister bond between Harley and Ray is also a strong point of the story and the driving force behind most everything Harley does. She’s a survivor.

I’ve never been a fan of insta-love, but that generally comes with the territory in YA paranormal books, and it happens here from nearly the first page. The on-again, off-again, you-should-stay-away-from-me-I’m-dangerous push and pull between Harley and Draven will no doubt delight many readers, but it was the world-building that interested me. Throughout the story it’s evident Harley is something other than human and is only beginning to come into her powers. I liked watching her learn about the fantasy world she’s suddenly a part of – she can roll with the punches both figuratively and literally because there are also several exciting fight scenes that are done well.

The ending brings a pretty shocking cliffhanger and lays groundwork for book two. Ember of Night deals with some disturbing topics, and the author gives trigger warnings at the beginning which readers should absolutely take into account before deciding to proceed. Although tropey, this is an engaging read I’d recommend to devoted paranormal fans.

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

WWW Wednesday: What Am I Reading? #amreading

WWW Wednesday is a meme from Sam at Taking On A World Of Words

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

I just started this book yesterday, and the reviews look good. All I needed to know was that it included dragons.

Dani and Eden Rivera were both born to kill dragons, but the sisters couldn’t be more different. For Dani, dragon slaying takes a back seat to normal high school life, while Eden prioritizes training above everything else. Yet they both agree on one thing: it’s kill or be killed where dragons are concerned.

Until Dani comes face-to-face with one and forges a rare and magical bond with him. As she gets to know Nox, she realizes that everything she thought she knew about dragons is wrong. With Dani lost to the dragons, Eden turns to the mysterious and alluring sorcerers to help save her sister. Now on opposite sides of the conflict, the sisters will do whatever it takes to save the other. But the two are playing with magic that is more dangerous than they know, and there is another, more powerful enemy waiting for them both in the shadows.

I just finished Cazadora over the weekend, and what a powerful followup to the first book in the series! So many timely topics – I can’t recommend this series enough.

In Cazadora, Romina Garber weaves together Argentine folklore and what it means to be illegal in a timely, intimate, and emotionally powerful narrative.

Werewolves. Witches. Romance. Resistance.

Enter a world straight out of Argentine folklore…

Following the events of Lobizona, Manu and her friends cross the mystical border into Kerana—a cursed realm in Argentina—searching for allies and a hiding place. As they chase down leads about the Coven—a mythical resistance manada that might not even exist—the Cazadores chase down leads about Manu, setting up traps to capture and arrest her.

Just as it seems the Cazadores have Manu and her friends cornered, the Coven answers their call for help. As Manu catches her breath among these non-conforming Septimus, she discovers they need a revolution as much as she does.

But is she the right one to lead them? After all, hybrids aren’t just outlawed. They’re feared and reviled. What happens when the Coven learns of Manu’s dual heritage? Will they still protect her? Or will they betray her?

And after running this far, for this long—how much farther can Manu go before her feet get tired, and she stops to take a stand?

Blood Like Magic is this author’s debut, but she had me at rich, dark urban fantasy. The MC being a witch sealed the deal.

A rich, dark urban fantasy debut following a teen witch who is given a horrifying task: sacrificing her first love to save her family’s magic. The problem is, she’s never been in love—she’ll have to find the perfect guy before she can kill him.

After years of waiting for her Calling—a trial every witch must pass in order to come into their powers—the one thing Voya Thomas didn’t expect was to fail. When Voya’s ancestor gives her an unprecedented second chance to complete her Calling, she agrees—and then is horrified when her task is to kill her first love. And this time, failure means every Thomas witch will be stripped of their magic.

Voya is determined to save her family’s magic no matter the cost. The problem is, Voya has never been in love, so for her to succeed, she’ll first have to find the perfect guy—and fast. Fortunately, a genetic matchmaking program has just hit the market. Her plan is to join the program, fall in love, and complete her task before the deadline. What she doesn’t count on is being paired with the infuriating Luc—how can she fall in love with a guy who seemingly wants nothing to do with her?

With mounting pressure from her family, Voya is caught between her morality and her duty to her bloodline. If she wants to save their heritage and Luc, she’ll have to find something her ancestor wants more than blood. And in witchcraft, blood is everything. 

Curse of the Specter Queen by Jenny Elder Moke #bookreview #YA #mystery #historicalfiction #TuesdayBookBlog

MAY THE HAZEL BRING YOU WISDOM AND THE ASPEN GUIDE AND PROTECT YOU…

Samantha Knox put away her childish fantasies of archaeological adventure the day her father didn’t return home from the Great War, retreating to the safety of the antique bookshop where she works. But when a mysterious package arrives with a damaged diary inside, Sam’s peaceful life is obliterated. Ruthless men intent on reclaiming the diary are after Sam, setting her and her best friend, along with her childhood crush, on a high-stakes adventure that lands them in the green hills outside Dublin, Ireland. Here they discover an ancient order with a dark purpose – to perform an occult ritual that will raise the Specter Queen, the Celtic goddess of vengeance and death, to bring about a war unlike any the world has ever seen. To stop them, Sam must solve a deviously complex cipher – one that will lead her on a treasure hunt to discover the ancient relic at the heart of the ritual: a bowl carved from the tree of life. Will she find the bowl and stop the curse of the Specter Queen, or will the ancient order bring about the end of the world?

Indiana Jones gets a refresh with this female-driven mystery adventure, set in the 1920s, full of ciphers, ancient relics, and heart-stopping action – the first in a brand-new series! 

As an Indiana Jones fan, I was all in after reading this description. A 1920s setting, ciphers, ancient relics, and lots of action? Sold.

Sam Knox is my kind of people – she treasures books. In the bookstore where she’s employed, she repairs and catalogues them and speaks to them as if they’re people. She has an insatiable curiosity about the world she lives in and dreams of traveling beyond the small town where she resides. And she doesn’t have to wait long. One mysterious diary, a life-threatening bookshop fire, and a frantic rush to Chicago later, she soon finds herself on a ship to Ireland.

Intelligent, determined, loyal, and selfless, Sam is a relatable main character. Seeing her step outside the comfort zone of the bookshop was thrilling, and I enjoyed learning how her mind works while solving the puzzles and following clues. She’s certainly not afraid to take risks. Bennett shares her love of archeology, and the hints of romance between them are sweet – they’re like a double dose of cinnamon rolls. Jo adds some lighter moments to the story – she’s one crafty, resourceful girl and a force to be reckoned with. She also challenges her brother Bennett at every turn.

This is an enthralling mystery with high stakes and surprising turns that takes you on an action-packed adventure overseas on an ocean liner and across the rolling hills of Ireland With shades of Indiana Jones, The Mummy, and National Treasure, this is a novel I’d recommend to readers who enjoy puzzles and piecing together clues. I’m hoping the author has plans to make this into a series.

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

Moving and #AmWatching

The youngest son’s moving plans are coming together. He’s making the 13-14 hour drive to Austin, TX by himself over two days, and hubby and I are flying down. Hubby offered to drive with him, but our son declined. Honestly, putting the two of them in the car together for that amount of time could only lead to disaster – one of them might not make it there. Our son has always criticized his dad’s driving skills, and hubby isn’t a fan of our son’s music. Being a musician, he has several instruments he’s putting in his car instead of the moving van. Three guitars, a keyboard, drums – you get the picture. With so much equipment, his roommates generously offered him the largest bedroom with an adjoining bath. He’s not an idiot – he took it.

I’ve mentioned before that I seem to be a curse to TV shows. I get interested in something, that puts a target on it, then the show gets cancelled (I’m still bitter about The Passage). Prodigal Son on Fox is the latest victim of the curse. The premise is about a gifted criminal psychologist who’s the son of serial killer. I’ve always been a fan of Michael Sheen (the father and serial killer), and Tom Payne (son and psychologist) is an alum of The Walking Dead. The show came to an abrupt end last week, but I read they’re shopping it around, so I’m hoping someone picks it up.

I’ve got a lot on my plate this week – here’s hoping for a productive week for everyone!

Goblin by Josh Malerman #bookreview #horror

From the New York Times bestselling author of Bird Box and Malorie, a novella collection in which every story reveals a sinister secret about a mysterious small town

Goblin seems like any other ordinary small town. But with the master storyteller Josh Malerman as your tour guide, you’ll discover the secrets that hide behind its closed doors. These six novellas tell the story of a place where the rain is always falling, nighttime is always near, and your darkest fears and desires await. Welcome to Goblin. . . .

A Man in Slices: A man proves his “legendary love” to his girlfriend with a sacrifice even more daring than Vincent van Gogh’s–and sends her more than his heart.

Kamp: Walter Kamp is afraid of everything, but most afraid of being scared to death. As he sets traps around his home to catch the ghosts that haunt him, he learns that nothing is more terrifying than fear itself.

Happy Birthday, Hunter!: A famed big-game hunter is determined to capture–and kill–the ultimate prey: the mythic Great Owl who lives in Goblin’s dark forests. But this mysterious creature is not the only secret the woods are keeping.

Presto: All Peter wants is to be like his hero, Roman Emperor, the greatest magician in the world. When the famous magician comes to Goblin, Peter discovers that not all magic is just an illusion.

A Mix-Up at the Zoo: The new zookeeper feels a mysterious kinship with the animals in his care . . . and finds that his work is freeing dark forces inside him.

The Hedges: When his wife dies, a man builds a hedge maze so elaborate no one ever solves it–until a little girl resolves to be the first to find the mysteries that wait at its heart. 

I’ve read several books by this author and consider myself a fan, but this is probably my least favorite.

I like the concept of six novellas with a common theme – this one being the bizarre town of Goblin. There’s a bit of overlap with some of the stories – names of businesses, the mention of another character, etc. – but each stands on its own. It’s one seriously creepy town with some sinister residents and not a place you’d want to visit. Given its origin story, it’s no wonder such heinous events have occurred throughout the town’s history. My favorite of the six stories would have to be Presto. I felt Peter’s excitement at meeting his hero magician in person, and the idea of a magician practicing “dark” magic was deliciously macabre.

The author really knows how to set an eerie tone and make you almost dread what might be waiting around the corner for his characters or under their bed. Considering these six stories are novellas, he also does an admirable job with characterization in just a few pages. It was mainly the story endings that didn’t work for me. Most of them left me frustrated after such a tantalizing plot buildup only to be let down at the finish.

Although this isn’t my favorite Malerman book, it certainly won’t prevent me from reading his next one. Reviews seem to be split, so other readers may enjoy it more.

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

Hullaba Lulu: A #DieselPunk Adventure by Teagan Riordain Geneviene #bookreview #fantasy #TuesdayBookBlog

Hullaba Lulu, a Dieselpunk Adventure is a wild and wooly 1920s fantasy story. Lulu, the heroine is inspired by the song, “Don’t Bring Lulu,” from 1925 ― so are her pals, Pearl and Rose. My Lulu loves to dance, and freely indulges in giggle water. She snores and burps and says whatever she wants. Lulu is a snarky but good-hearted flapper. The song’s inspiration stops there, but the story is just beginning.Travel with Lulu and her friends on a magical, dieselpunk train that belongs to the smolderingly handsome and enigmatic man known only as Valentino. They get into all sorts of trouble, usually due to Lulu’s clumsiness. It’s an intense ride through a number of pos-i-lutely creepy settings, including “sideways” versions of Atlantic City and the Cotton Club. At every stop and in between, Lulu ends up creating chaos. There’s no telling where they’ll end up. No, Lulu! Don’t touch that! Lulu’s the kind of smarty, breaks up every party,Hullabaloo loo, don’t bring Lulu,I’ll bring her myself!

I’ve read steampunk before and loved the era, but diesel punk is new to me. Knowing how much I’ve enjoyed this author’s other books, I didn’t expect this one to be any different.

Snarky characters steal my heart every time, so I took to Lulu right away. She’s not afraid to speak her mind and is a bit unconventional for the 1920’s – which made me like her even more. Her love of giggle water may occasionally contribute to the chaos she seems to attract/cause. Using 20’s vernacular, which can be quite amusing, it’s clear the author did extensive research of that time period. She’s even published a another book about slang from the 20’s. Visiting “sideways” versions of different places is fascinating and made me think of the TV show Lost with their forward, backward, and sideways flashes.

This short novel is full of whimsical creations (some based on real inventions) – angelbots, a time traveling train, and futuristic technology – and features an appearance by Nikola Tesla. Lulu and her friends are delightful, and this is a fun tale filled with action and humor. Guess I’m now a diesel punk fan.

Masks, Beta Readers, and #AmWatching

It’s a dreary Monday here, but things are happening in my area. Our governor announced KY will follow the new CDC guidelines saying those who are fully vaccinated no longer need to wear a mask in most public places. We went to a restaurant with friends Saturday evening to celebrate a couple of birthdays and although the tables were still spaced, servers and most customers weren’t wearing masks. I’ve had Covid and have been fully vaccinated, and it felt almost like walking around naked without my mask! Guess this means sales for lipstick/lipgloss will go up now. Hubby and I still wore masks at the grocery store yesterday, as did most other patrons, but it sure is nice to see some restrictions easing up and things getting back to normal.

I have a new beta reader! My previous one is in the process of relocating several states away and starting a new job (all with a little one at home), and the last thing she needed was added pressure. She was with me through two books and was reponsible for one of my characters having a larger role than planned in Subject A36. I hate to see her go, but I’m so excited for this new chapter in her life. I have no doubt my new beta reader will make significant contributions toward the sequel and keep me in line when it comes to my more than occasional lack of description and hiccups that come with my habit of writing out of sequence.

After seeing a rec for Big Shot on a friend’s blog (thanks, Tessa!), hubby and I tried it. I’ve mentioned before how hard it is to please him when it comes to TV shows and movies, so I’m always looking for something to try. The premise is about a temperamental college basketball coach who gets fired from his job and must take a teaching and coaching job at an elite all-girls private high school. We were afraid it might be kind of dorky, and at times it is, but we’re both enjoying it. John Stamos does a great job at portraying a single dad out of his depth with a teen daughter. If you’re looking for something light, sometimes awkward, and a little humorous, give it a try.

Have a great week!

Songwriter Night by D.G. Driver #bookreview #musical #countrymusic #RBRT

In this sweet romantic novella, Lyle and Trish are two aspiring Country music songwriters that meet at a Nashville coffee house. With Trish being new in town, Lyle invites her to his monthly gathering of songwriters to get to know her better. The evening of quirky characters and light-hearted singing is interrupted by the arrival Aiden Bronson. He’s got a hit song on the radio, and he’s back to show off, stirring up some rivalry while he’s at it. How will Lyle compete against Aiden’s charisma and talent in order to win Trish’s heart?

I’ve never come across anything quite like this, and it’s a cool concept. I read the Kindle version of this book, but there’s also an audiobook which includes not just the story, but also twelve original songs. In the Kindle book the song lyrics are written, but if you’re a country music lover, you may prefer the audiobook version.

If you want to break into the music industry, lots of folks follow their dreams to Nashville, and that’s exactly what the two MCs in this novella are hoping to do. They meet in a coffee house where Trish immediately catches the eye of Lyle. He invites her to a songwriter night he and his roommate host monthly. Being new in town and wanting to meet people, Trish immediately accepts. Much of the story takes place on that evening when we meet several other characters – some of them very animated (George and Tammy especially). When Lyle’s former roommate, who’s recently experienced some success with his music, shows up, Lyle’s hopes for the evening quickly go off the rails.

Being familiar with Nashville, I enjoyed the references to local places, highways, and sections of the city. I’m not a country music fan, but I appreciated the song lyrics and how they add to the story. Trish and Lyle, each a little awkward and unsure, have an adorable meet cute and are very likeable and relatable. This was a novella, but I’d love to see what happens to these characters in the future and hope the author considers expanding on the story.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Rosie’s Book Review Team.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

WWW Wednesday: What Am I Reading? #amreading

WWW Wednesday is a meme from Sam at Taking On A World Of Words

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

I’m currently reading Simulated, the second book of the Calculated series. With its complicated mathematics, the first book blew me away but in this followup, Jo has lost her gift. It’s a different story, but no less compelling.

From Young-Adult author Nova McBee comes the second book in the gritty, action-filled Calculated series.

Jo Rivers, safely back in Seattle, asks the same question daily—how does a math genius go from taking down international criminals and saving the world economy to living a normal teenage life? The only answer she can come up with is—she doesn’t.

With an overprotective father on her back and Kai on the other side of the world, Jo accepts an offer from Prodigy Stealth Solutions (PSS), who may have found a way to get her gift back. Using a newly developed technology, PSS tries a simulation process on Jo to restore her abilities, but during the attempt, PSS is hacked and a blacklist file containing some of PSS’s most sensitive secrets is stolen. Meanwhile, a mysterious caller who seems to know more than he should delivers a warning to Jo about Kai, who then goes missing.

Despite her father’s concerns, Jo sets off on a risky trip to Tunisia with a PSS team of teen prodigies to find an urgently needed solution for PSS and locate Kai. All the while, Jo has to trust the mysterious informant who, frighteningly, is like no one she has ever met before.

I recently finished Curse of the Specter Queen. If you enjoyed Indiana Jones or The Mummy, this book will appeal to you. Sam is such a relatable MC – intelligent, determined, not afraid to take chances – and she talks to the books she repairs as if they were people. How can you not like that? I’m hoping the author makes this a series.

MAY THE HAZEL BRING YOU WISDOM AND THE ASPEN GUIDE AND PROTECT YOU…

Samantha Knox put away her childish fantasies of archaeological adventure the day her father didn’t return home from the Great War, retreating to the safety of the antique bookshop where she works. But when a mysterious package arrives with a damaged diary inside, Sam’s peaceful life is obliterated. Ruthless men intent on reclaiming the diary are after Sam, setting her and her best friend, along with her childhood crush, on a high-stakes adventure that lands them in the green hills outside Dublin, Ireland. Here they discover an ancient order with a dark purpose – to perform an occult ritual that will raise the Specter Queen, the Celtic goddess of vengeance and death, to bring about a war unlike any the world has ever seen. To stop them, Sam must solve a deviously complex cipher – one that will lead her on a treasure hunt to discover the ancient relic at the heart of the ritual: a bowl carved from the tree of life. Will she find the bowl and stop the curse of the Specter Queen, or will the ancient order bring about the end of the world?

Indiana Jones gets a refresh with this female-driven mystery adventure, set in the 1920s, full of ciphers, ancient relics, and heart-stopping action – the first in a brand-new series!

I’m not familiar with the Rabbits podcast, but an alternate reality game? I jumped to request this from NetGalley. It appeals to every cell of my sci-fi-loving brain.

Conspiracies abound in this surreal and yet all-too-real technothriller in which a deadly underground alternate reality game might just be altering reality itself, set in the same world as the popular Rabbits podcast.

It’s an average work day. You’ve been wrapped up in a task, and you check the clock when you come up for air–4:44 pm. You go to check your email, and 44 unread messages have built up. With a shock, you realize it is April 4th–4/4. And when you get in your car to drive home, your odometer reads 44,444. Coincidence? Or have you just seen the edge of a rabbit hole?

Rabbits is a mysterious alternate reality game so vast it uses our global reality as its canvas. Since the game first started in 1959, ten iterations have appeared and nine winners have been declared. Their identities are unknown. So is their reward, which is whispered to be NSA or CIA recruitment, vast wealth, immortality, or perhaps even the key to unlocking the secrets of the universe itself. But the deeper you get, the more deadly the game becomes. Players have died in the past–and the body count is rising.

And now the eleventh round is about to begin. Enter K–a Rabbits obsessive who has been trying to find a way into the game for years. That path opens when K is approached by billionaire Alan Scarpio, the alleged winner of the sixth iteration. Scarpio says that something has gone wrong with the game and that K needs to fix it before Eleven starts or the whole world will pay the price.

Five days later, Scarpio is declared missing. Two weeks after that, K blows the deadline and Eleven begins. And suddenly, the fate of the entire universe is at stake.

Amanda in Malta: The Sleeping Lady by Darlene Foster #bookreview #MG #mystery #TuesdayBookBlog

Amanda receives a postcard from her best friend, Leah, and is surprised to learn that she is in Malta with her aunt. Reading between the lines, she senses Leah is in trouble. Desperate to help her, Amanda travels to Malta with her classmate Caleb and his parents.

Amanda is intrigued by this exotic island in the middle of the Mediterranean, full of colourful history, sun-drenched limestone fortresses, stunning beaches and fascinating birds. But…who is killing the protected birds? Who stole a priceless artifact from the museum? And why is Leah acting so strange? She couldn’t possibly be involved in these illegal activities, or could she?

Join Amanda and her friends as they visit ancient temples, an exciting falconry and the enchanting Popeye Village, as they try to get to the bottom of the mystery of the Sleeping Lady.

I thoroughly enjoyed Amanda in Alberta when I read it last year not long after visiting Canada. When I saw Amanda’s newest adventure on NetGalley, I thought “Let’s go to Malta!”

The author’s descriptions are vivid and detailed making it easy for readers to visualize the local sights Amanda visits. I drooled over some of the food, especially the pastizzi (but definitely not the rabbit pizza). As an animal lover, I adored the Cat Cafe where locals leave food out for the homeless cats in the city. The Popeye Theme Park was a fun addition. I had no idea the Robin Williams movie was filmed in Malta. With historical details sprinkled throughout the story, I always come away from these books learning something new and feel as if I’ve visited the locations myself.

Amanda is one well-traveled young girl and often finds herself in the midst of troubling occurrences. Malta is no exception. With jellyfish stings, kidnappings, chases, and a trip to the hospital, she and her friends Caleb and Leah encounter both dangerous situations and people several times over the course of the story.

I’d highly recommend this delightful series to young readers and those young at heart who enjoy captivating adventures and mysteries that take them around the world. Who couldn’t use some armchair travel?

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