Cazadora (Wolves of No World #2) by Romina Garber #bookreview #YA #fantasy #TuesdayBookBlog

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?

The first book in this series, Lobizona, completely enchanted me with its Argentenian folklore and creative world-building. I was thrilled to receive an ARC of Cazadora.

In this world, males are lobizones (werewolves), females are brujas (witches), and that’s the way it’s always been. Until Manu. She’s a hybrid – her father is a lobizone and her mother a human. Mating with humans is outlawed, so Manu was hidden in the human world her whole life until discovering what she truly is. She’s the only one of her kind – a female werewolf, a lobizona. Her whole existence is outlawed and feared because the Septimus believe if one of their kind reproduces with a human, the child will carry a curse that will wipe out all life on the planet. Manu and her friends are on the run from the Cazadores (hunters) while searching for allies.

This book is set in the Septimus world, and what a vibrant, magical place it is with mushrooms used as a kind of internet, parasite bracelets that form a symbiotic attachment with its host, and tantalizing food that had me drooling. Manu is still learning about this world that’s new to her while also grappling with questions of identity and fearing that what people say about her is true. She’s trying to find her place and her pack, but faces strong racial, gender, and political prejudices. The author shines a bright light on so many important issues prevalent in our society today, and that’s one of the things I like most about this series.

With beautiful friendships and relationships, strong characterization, and thought-provoking questions along with plenty of action (werewolf soccer is totally cool), this is a series I can’t wait to continue. The cliffhanger ending hints at what’s to come, and I’m all in.

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

A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee #bookreview #YA #thriller #LGBT #TuesdayBookBlog

For fans of Wilder Girls and Ninth House comes a dark, twisty, atmospheric thriller about a boarding school haunted by its history of witchcraft and two girls dangerously close to digging up the past.

Felicity Morrow is back at Dalloway School.

Perched in the Catskill mountains, the centuries-old, ivy-covered campus was home until the tragic death of her girlfriend. Now, after a year away, she’s returned to graduate. She even has her old room in Godwin House, the exclusive dormitory rumored to be haunted by the spirits of five Dalloway students—girls some say were witches. The Dalloway Five all died mysteriously, one after another, right on Godwin grounds.

Witchcraft is woven into Dalloway’s history. The school doesn’t talk about it, but the students do. In secret rooms and shadowy corners, girls convene. And before her girlfriend died, Felicity was drawn to the dark. She’s determined to leave that behind her now; all Felicity wants is to focus on her senior thesis and graduate. But it’s hard when Dalloway’s occult history is everywhere. And when the new girl won’t let her forget.

It’s Ellis Haley’s first year at Dalloway, and she’s already amassed a loyal following. A prodigy novelist at seventeen, Ellis is a so-called “method writer.” She’s eccentric and brilliant, and Felicity can’t shake the pull she feels to her. So when Ellis asks Felicity for help researching the Dalloway Five for her second book, Felicity can’t say no. Given her history with the arcane, Felicity is the perfect resource.

And when history begins to repeat itself, Felicity will have to face the darkness in Dalloway–and in herself.

I’m a fan of this author’s Feverwake series and had the pleasure of meeting her at a local book event a couple years ago. When I saw she had a new release coming up, I jumped to request it on NetGalley.

Dark, twisty atmospheric thriller is a perfect description for this novel, and a centuries old campus is the ultimate setting. The story begins with the MC, Felicity, returning to campus to repeat her senior year after dropping out the previous year due to the tragic death of her girlfriend. The house Felicity and four other students reside in is rumored to be haunted by the Dalloway Five – women who were supposedly witches. All died hundreds of years ago on the grounds under mysterious circumstances. The story of these women enthralled Felicity enough that she researched them extensively for her thesis prior to leaving the previous year. She immersed herself in their history and experimented with witchcraft – maybe a little too much – and began seeing a therapist after leaving school. Upon returning, she’s determined to steer clear of anything involving witchcraft and concentrate on her studies. Things change when new student Ellis arrives. Felicity is immediately drawn to her, and Ellis has a way of pulling – or pushing – Felicity into questionable situations using logic that sounds reasonable.

It’s clear early on that Felicity may be an unreliable narrator, and I love that angle in a novel. She’s convinced the ghost of her ex-girlfriend is haunting her, and eerie things happen that may send chills up your spine. After she and her ex used a ouija board to contact one of the dead witches the previous year, Felicity also wonders if she’s cursed. Is she being haunted or is someone trying to manipulate her?

The students at this boarding school are on a different level from your average high school students, and their conversations are intellectual and thought-provoking as they lounge around and drink Old Fashioneds. Honestly, the complexity of their school assignments gave me a headache. The characters read much older than they are. Ellis, at only seventeen-years-old, has just won a Pulitzer Prize for her first novel (some suspension of disbelief is required). She’s working on her second novel and the research she invites Felicity to help her with is morbid and unsettling. Did I mention this book is dark?

The ending is comparable to a strategic chess match, but I’m surprised one character, usually several steps ahead of everyone else, didn’t see it coming. If you’re a fan of dark tales, morally gray characters, and potentially unreliable narrators, find a cozy reading space where you won’t be disturbed and allow yourself to sink into this novel.

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

The Dead and the Dark by Courtney Gould #bookreview #YA #thriller #LGBTQ

Courtney Gould’s thrilling debut The Dead and the Dark is about the things that lurk in dark corners, the parts of you that can’t remain hidden, and about finding home in places―and people―you didn’t expect.

The Dark has been waiting for far too long, and it won’t stay hidden any longer.

Something is wrong in Snakebite, Oregon. Teenagers are disappearing, some turning up dead, the weather isn’t normal, and all fingers seem to point to TV’s most popular ghost hunters who have just returned to town. Logan Ortiz-Woodley, daughter of TV’s ParaSpectors, has never been to Snakebite before, but the moment she and her dads arrive, she starts to get the feeling that there’s more secrets buried here than they originally let on.

Ashley Barton’s boyfriend was the first teen to go missing, and she’s felt his presence ever since. But now that the Ortiz-Woodleys are in town, his ghost is following her and the only person Ashley can trust is the mysterious Logan. When Ashley and Logan team up to figure out who—or what—is haunting Snakebite, their investigation reveals truths about the town, their families, and themselves that neither of them are ready for. As the danger intensifies, they realize that their growing feelings for each other could be a light in the darkness. 

All I needed to read was strange happenings and ghost hunters to jump at requesting this book. Dark, intense, intriguing, mysterious – does the description give you an idea of what this story is like? I honestly could have read it in one sitting but had to split it into two days.

Snakebite, Oregon isn’t very welcoming to newcomers or even to some of the previous residents who visit. It’s a small town, but cliques are prevalent in both the teenage and adult crowds and, like most small towns, secrets are nearly bursting out of the closets they’re barricaded in. Logan’s dad, Brandon, has been in Snakebite scouting the location for his TV show ParaSpectors. When Logan and her other dad, Alejo arrive, they learn a teen boy disappeared around the same time Brandon rolled into town six months ago. The locals don’t consider this a coincidence and make it known to Logan and her family at every turn. Logan is the curious type and isn’t content to sit around the hotel room watching TV all day and before long, she’s caught up in a tangled web of secrets involving her family. Although adversaries at first, Logan and Ashley, a local resident, make a pact to discover the truth together after it becomes evident Ashley’s mother is involved.

Something I really liked about this novel is the relationship between Logan and her dads. In most YA books parents don’t play large roles, but that’s not the case here. She enjoys an easy camaraderie with one of them, but has a strained relationship with the other (which is explained, but no spoilers here). Besides the paranormal occurrences, a parent’s overwhelming love for their child, finding your place in the world, and learning acceptance are strong themes in this story. Readers will also be shipping the budding romance between Ashley and Logan.

I guessed a couple of major plot points early on, that didn’t prevent me from devouring this book. Murders, ghosts, mediums, and some cool ghost hunter gadgets held me spellbound. The story skillfully builds to a nail-biting climax, but I did feel like the ending wraps up a little quickly. This is a strong debut novel, and I’ll be looking out for future releases by this author.

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

Never Change by Shari Sakurai #bookreview #shortstory #vampires #LGBTQ #TuesdayBookBlog

Thane’s arms curved around his back and he felt the younger vampire trembling as he rested his head on Taku’s shoulder. So easily broken, Taku often forgot what it had been like in the beginning. For him things had been different, he reminded himself. He had already known what it felt like to take a life.

With Nagasaki in the grip of a bitter winter, two vampires struggle to hunt in the challenging conditions. When an opportunity to feed from a dying man presents itself, Taku insists that they take advantage of it. Yet his newly turned lover is left feeling devastated by their actions. Seeing Thane so distraught is more than Taku can bear and so he makes a decision to shield Thane as much as he can from the darker side to their existence. However his desire to protect Thane might one day cost him everything.

Never Change is a short story set in the Demon’s Blood universe.

I “met” this author through hosting Bad Moon Rising a few years ago. Although I haven’t read this series, no prior knowledge is required to read this short story.

I’m always a vampire fan – have been since watching the original Fright Night. Even when they were out of fashion for a while in the book world, I had faith they’d come back. I’ve never been one to bow to fashion anyway. It’s a bitter, cold winter in Nagasaki – not that the temperature affects Taku and Thane. But plenty of snow makes it difficult to hunt and limits their food sources. Not very many warm bodies are out and about. Being a fairly new vampire, Thane still struggles with their darker side. With years (centuries?) of experience, Taku is more practical about what they should do when coming across a dying man.

Don’t think the whole story deals with heavy themes. There’s a fun, light-hearted snowball fight between the two, and even a snowman. It’s a sweet novella, and I can tell I’d enjoy this series based on meeting these wonderful characters.

This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron #bookreview #YA #urbanfantasy #mythology #LGBT

Darkness blooms in bestselling author Kalynn Bayron’s new contemporary fantasy about a girl with a unique and deadly power.

Briseis has a gift: she can grow plants from tiny seeds to rich blooms with a single touch.

When Briseis’s aunt dies and wills her a dilapidated estate in rural New York, Bri and her parents decide to leave Brooklyn behind for the summer. Hopefully there, surrounded by plants and flowers, Bri will finally learn to control her gift. But their new home is sinister in ways they could never have imagined–it comes with a specific set of instructions, an old-school apothecary, and a walled garden filled with the deadliest botanicals in the world that can only be entered by those who share Bri’s unique family lineage.

When strangers begin to arrive on their doorstep, asking for tinctures and elixirs, Bri learns she has a surprising talent for creating them. One of the visitors is Marie, a mysterious young woman who Bri befriends, only to find that Marie is keeping dark secrets about the history of the estate and its surrounding community. There is more to Bri’s sudden inheritance than she could have imagined, and she is determined to uncover it . . . until a nefarious group comes after her in search of a rare and dangerous immortality elixir. Up against a centuries-old curse and the deadliest plant on earth, Bri must harness her gift to protect herself and her family.

From the bestselling author of Cinderella Is Dead comes another inspiring and deeply compelling story about a young woman with the power to conquer the dark forces descending around her.

There are so many stunning covers out there these days, and this is one of them. Between that and the Poison Ivy (an antiheroine from the Batman universe for all you non-nerds out there) vibes I was getting from the description, this book called to me.

All of the Greek mythology references in this story were unexpected, but being a mythology fan, it was a very welcome surprise. The MC’s name comes from a character in The Iliad. Since I read it decades ago, I didn’t make the connection until I Googled how to pronounce her name. I also loved learning about all the botanicals. It’s clear the author performed extensive research, and some of them are unique and fascinating, but also kind of scary.

One of my favorite things about this novel is Briseis’s family. Her two moms are perfect examples of loving, supportive parents – and they’re also a great comedy team. I laughed so many times over their conversations and comments and unlike many YA novels, these parents play a bigger role in the story. Friends have never been plentiful in Briseis’s life, and she’s hoping to make a fresh start after inheriting the estate and moving to a new town. From almost the moment they arrive, strangers begin showing up and asking for tinctures and elixirs and soon Briseis feels as if she’s found her niche in running an apothecary where she can help people. But she didn’t just inherit the house – it comes along with dark secrets, curses, and shocking surprises. I plowed through this book in two days – that should tell you how difficult it was to put down.

The ending comes with a huge cliffhanger, and you can bet I’ll be anxiously waiting for the next book in the series. If you’re a fan of urban fantasy with a splash of mystery and a dose of Greek mythology, you can’t go wrong with This Poison Heart.

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

The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune #bookreview #fantasy #LGBT #TuesdayBookBlog

A magical island. A dangerous task. A burning secret.

Linus Baker leads a quiet, solitary life. At forty, he lives in a tiny house with a devious cat and his old records. As a Case Worker at the Department in Charge Of Magical Youth, he spends his days overseeing the well-being of children in government-sanctioned orphanages.

When Linus is unexpectedly summoned by Extremely Upper Management he’s given a curious and highly classified assignment: travel to Marsyas Island Orphanage, where six dangerous children reside: a gnome, a sprite, a wyvern, an unidentifiable green blob, a were-Pomeranian, and the Antichrist. Linus must set aside his fears and determine whether or not they’re likely to bring about the end of days.

But the children aren’t the only secret the island keeps. Their caretaker is the charming and enigmatic Arthur Parnassus, who will do anything to keep his wards safe. As Arthur and Linus grow closer, long-held secrets are exposed, and Linus must make a choice: destroy a home or watch the world burn.

An enchanting story, masterfully told, The House in the Cerulean Sea is about the profound experience of discovering an unlikely family in an unexpected place—and realizing that family is yours.

I’d seen so much hype about this book and really hoped I wouldn’t be let down when I read it. I wasn’t. It’s utter perfection. I’d give it one hundred stars if I could and doubt I can do it justice in this review.

Linus Baker leads a fairly uneventful, solitary life, residing with a cat with an attitude who basically adopted him and listening to the rants of his nosy neighbor. As a Case Worker at the Department in Charge of Magical Youth (DICOMA), he’s grossly underappreciated, but kept busy making sure the children in orphanages are being properly cared for. It’s a job he takes very seriously, and he places the welfare of the children above all else. When he’s given a highly classified assignment, he’s ill-prepared for what awaits him on Marsyas Island. Little does he know it will be a profound, life-changing experience.

I fell in love with Linus, Arthur, and all of the children – they grabbed my heart and didn’t let go. Many of Linus’s interactions with Lucy (short for Lucifer, the Antichist) had me laughing out loud and were some of my favorite scenes. This is a beautifully told story about acceptance, found families, and opening yourself up to possibilities. I’ve already recommended it to several people and honestly feel like it should be required reading. Upon reaching the end, I wanted to start all over again and spend more time with these characters in their world. It’s heartwarming, endearing, delightful – I guarantee you’ll experience all the feels with this novel. It will always be one of my favorites.

Surrender Your Sons by Adam Sass #bookreview #YA #LGBT #TuesdayBookBlog

Connor Major’s summer break is turning into a nightmare.

His SAT scores bombed, the old man he delivers meals to died, and when he came out to his religious zealot mother, she had him kidnapped and shipped off to a secluded island. His final destination: Nightlight Ministries, a conversion therapy camp that will be his new home until he “changes.”

But Connor’s troubles are only beginning. At Nightlight, everyone has something to hide from the campers to the “converted” staff and cagey camp director, and it quickly becomes clear that no one is safe. Connor plans to escape and bring the other kidnapped teens with him. But first, he’s exposing the camp’s horrible truths for what they are— and taking this place down.

With all the buzz I’d seen about this book on Twitter, I was beyond excited to receive an ARC.

This book isn’t for everyone.  It deals with some dark, heavy topics, and parts of it are absolutely gut-wrenching.  The slurs and vitriol spat out by some of these characters is horrific and repulsive – and yet some people in the world still feel this way.  It’s unfathomable to me.

My heart broke for Connor and his friends and the unimaginable circumstances they were forced into.  Despite their grim situations, this group of queer kids stick together and support each other.  The heartfelt bonds, friendships, and romantic relationships they form are one of the best parts of the novel, and I wanted to just hug every one of them.

With tension-filled moments and layers upon layers of secrets, this novel is difficult to put down.  My only critique would be the time frame.  Everything happens on the island in roughly twenty-four hours, and I found that a little tough to swallow.  Trust me – a lot happens.

Although some parts are tough to read, Surrender Your Sons is full of heart and hope and one I highly recommend.

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

LV48 (Cassie Tam Files #3) by Matt Doyle #bookreview #scifi #LGBT

New Hopeland City may be the birthplace of Tech Shifter gear, but it isn’t the only place that likes to blend technology with folklore. Now, a new nightmare is stalking the streets…

When PI Cassie Tam is attacked on the way home one night, she expects the police to get involved. What she doesn’t expect is to be forced into acting as bait to lure out a lunatic in a tech-suit that’s literally out for blood. But past actions have consequences, and doing so may be the only way she can get a clean slate from the city’s law makers.

If only that didn’t mean having to face down a wannabe vampire.

This is my third Cassie Tam book, and the author’s imagination continues to amaze me.

Although each novel introduces new futuristic technology, the descriptions are detailed and so well done that it’s easy to visualize.  The drawings near the end of the book help explain the tech even more.  This time around Cassie faces a “light vampire” – which explains the title.  I love me some vamps, but these aren’t the traditional vampires seen in most novels and and movies – no spoilers here.  Cassie is wrangled into working with the police department on the case and, although not crazy about the idea, she makes the best of it and and dives in head first – which is a trait I admire.  That and her snark – I always appreciate witty snark.

Bert, her gargoyle familiar, has to be one of my favorite characters.  He’s protective and kind of moody, but you gotta love him.  Cassie and Lori also have some nice scenes together in their new-ish relationship, but I wouldn’t have minded more.  Some new characters are also introduced, and I hope to see more of them in future books.

While there are action-filled scenes, the pacing waned a bit for me in the middle.  I guessed who the villain was early on, but it took longer for it to click with Cassie and friends than expected.  Still, I’m a fan of this thrilling sci-fi series, and it didn’t interfere with my enjoyment of the novel.

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

 

Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston #bookreview #LGBT #romance

First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz is the closest thing to a prince this side of the Atlantic. With his intrepid sister and the Veep’s genius granddaughter, they’re the White House Trio, a beautiful millennial marketing strategy for his mother, President Ellen Claremont. International socialite duties do have downsides—namely, when photos of a confrontation with his longtime nemesis Prince Henry at a royal wedding leak to the tabloids and threaten American/British relations.

The plan for damage control: staging a fake friendship between the First Son and the Prince. Alex is busy enough handling his mother’s bloodthirsty opponents and his own political ambitions without an uptight royal slowing him down. But beneath Henry’s Prince Charming veneer, there’s a soft-hearted eccentric with a dry sense of humor and more than one ghost haunting him.

As President Claremont kicks off her reelection bid, Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret relationship with Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations. And Henry throws everything into question for Alex, an impulsive, charming guy who thought he knew everything: What is worth the sacrifice? How do you do all the good you can do? And, most importantly, how will history remember you?

If you’re a regular at my blog, you may be thinking you’re in the wrong place because I don’t read romances.  And you’re right – I usually don’t.  But with so many friends recommending this book, its outstanding reviews and amusing premise, I succumbed to peer pressure.  As a bonus, it fulfilled a book club requirement!

There’s nothing I can say about this novel that hasn’t already been said.  It’s an immensely enjoyable rom-com, and I totally want to join this family.  I listened to the audiobook and the narrator (Ramon de Ocampo) does a fabulous job.  Every character is so well done and adds to the depth of the story.  You’ll cheer for Alex and Henry and laugh at their nerdy Star Wars references and witty banter.  Ellen Claremont, Alex’s mom and the President, now holds the title of my favorite fictional mom.  Yes, she’s POTUS, but when everything hits the fan, she’s a mother first, and I loved that about her.  The strong themes of family, sibling relationships, and friendship are felt on every page.

No, I don’t often read romances, but Red, White, and Royal Blue was worth every minute and earns an easy five stars from me.

 

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.