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.

The Ballad of Mrs. Molony (The Hat #3) by C.S. Boyack #bookreview #vampires #paranormal #TuesdayBookBlog

Lizzie and the hat are back, and this time they’re chasing vampires across a subculture of America. A pair of rodeo cowboys are holding a woman captive to use like a milk cow since they joined the undead.

The person who put them onto the trail is also a vampire, but he has to be the worst vampire in history. Is he really that pitiful, or is he setting a trap for our heroes? Does the woman even exist? Can Lizzie and the hat find her before she also takes up blood sucking?

Follow Lizzie and the hat as they use their cover band to stalk vamps across the country music scene. 

I’m a real fan of this series and, also being a vamp fan, was super excited to go on this hunting/staking adventure with Lizzie and the hat.

Working several part time jobs and playing in a band keep Lizzie busy enough, but she and the hat also have a duty to fight crime. Luckily, they can still make some money playing gigs at the same time. When Kevin asks Lizzie and the hat to help rescue his sister from a group of vampires, Lizzie wants to volunteer, but the hat is suspicious. Kevin is also a vampire, but not the dark, mysterious, sexy type – trust me on this. He doesn’t feed on humans, and he certainly doesn’t sparkle, but the hat wants to stake him anyway, nice guy or not. Having no choice but to give in, the hat loses this battle.

The banter between Lizzie and the hat is always a favorite for me in this series. Sometimes it’s like listening to an old married couple. Since discovering the internet (especially Amazon), the hat has discovered the joys of online shopping. Lizzie has to occasionally veto purchasing requests (I didn’t think the fog machine was an entirely bad idea) due to budget constraints. At least it keeps him busy (he doesn’t sleep) and out of Lizzie’s hair for a while.

I’m not a country music fan, so I was amused by the band’s attempts to slide some other non-country artists into the playlist by introducing them as cowboys. I also snorted out loud several times at the hat’s attempts to remember (more like poke fun at) Kevin’s sister’s name, Ida Rose.

At less than two hundred pages, this is a quick read. With humor, vampires (one that’s very memorable), banter, and music, this is another adventurous romp with the ever patient Lizzie and shopaholic hat. The fourth book in the series dropped recently, and I can’t wait to get started.

Through The Nethergate by Roberta Eaton Cheadle #bookreview #YA #supernatural

Can one girl banish evil?

Margaret, a girl born with second sight, has the unique ability to bring ghosts trapped between Heaven and Hell back to life. When her parents die suddenly, she goes to live with her beloved grandfather but the cellar of her grandfather’s ancient inn is haunted by an evil spirit of its own.

In the town of Bungay, a black dog wanders the streets, enslaving the ghosts of those who have died unnatural deaths. When Margaret arrives, these phantoms congregate at the inn, hoping she can free them from the clutches of Hugh Bigod, the 12th century ghost who has drawn them away from Heaven’s White Light in his canine guise.

With the help of her grandfather and the spirits she has befriended, Margaret sets out to defeat Hugh Bigod, only to discover he wants to use her for his own ends – to take over Hell itself.

A clever melding of fiction and historical facts. 

I’m always up for a good ghost story, and I have to commend the author (or cover designer) for such an intriguing, foreboding cover. It does a wonderful job of setting the tone of the story.

My heart immediately went out to Margaret. She’s lost both parents in a tragic accident and has been taken away from her familiar environment to live with her grandfather in a haunted inn. Having second sight, she encounters several ghosts, and I enjoyed learning their backstories and how some of them came to linger at the inn. With several historical characters woven into the story (many of them spirits – good and evil), it’s clear the author did extensive research. I’ve read several YA horror/supernatural novels, but a character with the ability to bring ghosts trapped between heaven and hell back to life is new to me and adds a unique spin.

After Margaret is attacked and taken, and Lucifer shows up with plans to use Margaret’s gift for his own benefit, the story becomes a battle between good and evil. A lot is going on, and much responsibility falls on Margaret’s young shoulders. She’s thrust into some extreme situations, and some scenes may cause goosebumps (love it when that happens).

Although categorized as young adult, with the historical aspects and social commentary on several important issues, this novel would also be a crossover to adults. With a mix of supernatural, horror, paranormal, and history, Through the Nethergate will appeal to a wide variety of readers.

Harbinger (Wake-Robin Ridge #3) by Marcia Meara #bookreview #supernatural #suspense #TuesdayBookBlog

Continuing in the tradition of Wake-Robin Ridge and A Boy Named Rabbit, Marcia Meara’s North Carolina mountain series takes a shivery turn with the Appalachian Legend of Ol’ Shuck, the Harbinger of Death.

“. . . he felt the wet slide of the dog’s burning hot tongue on his face, and the scrape of its razor sharp teeth against the top of his head. A white-hot agony of crushing pain followed, as the jaws began to close.”

The wine-red trillium that carpets the forests of the North Carolina Mountains is considered a welcome harbinger of spring—but not all such omens are happy ones. An Appalachian legend claims the Black Dog, or Ol’ Shuck, as he’s often called, is a harbinger of death. If you see him, you or someone you know is going to die.

But what happens when Ol’ Shuck starts coming for you in your dreams? Nightmares of epic proportions haunt the deacon of the Light of Grace Baptist Church, and bring terror into the lives of everyone around him. Even MacKenzie Cole and his adopted son, Rabbit, find themselves pulled into danger.

When Sheriff Raleigh Wardell asks Mac and Rabbit to help him solve a twenty-year-old cold case, Rabbit’s visions of a little girl lost set them on a path that soon collides with that of a desperate man being slowly driven mad by guilt.

As Rabbit’s gift of the Sight grows ever more powerful, his commitment to those who seek justice grows as well, even when their pleas come from beyond the grave.

I’ve said it before, but I’d love to join this family. Although fictional, I guarantee they feel very real when you’re immersed in these books.

Rabbit captured my heart in the second book, and I adore him even more now. His interactions with his little sister are so sweet, and he’s a perfect big brother. One of my favorite parts of the story is when Rabbit is struck nearly speechless when meeting the sister of his best friend – and then tells his mother what he saw in his future. These lighthearted times are a balance to the bleaker parts of the story as Rabbit takes a lot on his young shoulders while using his gift to find the body of a girl murdered several years before. Although not even a teenager, he’s an old soul wise beyond his years and is very insightful when it comes to people and their actions. His adoptive parents, Mac and Sarah, are protective of him, but also understand how his gift can help people and are there with him every step of the way.

It’s no secret who the villain is. Cadey Hagan believes he’s remade himself (he’s still deplorable), and no one will ever discover what he did all those years ago. The author did an amazing job crafting his gradual mental deterioration, and by the end the reader may wonder if Ol’ Shuck is actually mythical.

I can’t recommend this supernatural suspense series enough. I’m excited to read the next book so I can spend more time with these lovely characters (my fictional family).

The Cost of Knowing by Brittney Morris #bookreview #contemporary #supernatural

Dear Martin meets They Both Die at the End in this gripping, evocative novel about a Black teen who has the power to see into the future, whose life turns upside down when he foresees his younger brother’s imminent death, from the acclaimed author of SLAY.

Sixteen-year-old Alex Rufus is trying his best. He tries to be the best employee he can be at the local ice cream shop; the best boyfriend he can be to his amazing girlfriend, Talia; the best protector he can be over his little brother, Isaiah. But as much as Alex tries, he often comes up short.

It’s hard to for him to be present when every time he touches an object or person, Alex sees into its future. When he touches a scoop, he has a vision of him using it to scoop ice cream. When he touches his car, he sees it years from now, totaled and underwater. When he touches Talia, he sees them at the precipice of breaking up, and that terrifies him. Alex feels these visions are a curse, distracting him, making him anxious and unable to live an ordinary life.

And when Alex touches a photo that gives him a vision of his brother’s imminent death, everything changes.

With Alex now in a race against time, death, and circumstances, he and Isaiah must grapple with their past, their future, and what it means to be a young Black man in America in the present. 

This is the second book I’ve read by this author, and she can count me as a confirmed fan.

Alex and his younger brother, Isaiah, were orphaned four year ago after the family was involved in a car accident. Since then, they’ve been raised by their aunt. Sixteen-year-old Alex is trying to be all things for everyone he knows – his employer, his girlfriend, his brother, and even his deceased parents. He also suffers from panic attacks. Since the car accident, every time he touches someone or something, he sees the future of that person or object. After seeing Isaiah’s death, he’s determined to repair their relationship and close the distance between them that developed after their parents’ passing.

Much of this book is spent in Alex’s head with his swirling thoughts, fears, and visions. The author does an incredible job at making the reader feel the grief, anxieties, and pressures Alex experiences nearly every minute of every day. It’s far too much for someone his age to have to carry. And then there are the racial issues. The brothers live in a predominantly white, upper class, gated community. Neighbors who claim not to be racists very clearly are, but fail to see it.

This book is heartbreaking in so many ways and will absolutely wreck you. But it’s also a powerful story that includes joyous bonding moments between Alex and Isaiah. The vivid supporting characters seem to rise from the pages. Talia, Alex’s girlfriend, is a delight, and Aunt Mackie is a strong, successful woman who loves her nephews unconditionally. Although I dreaded what was coming, you couldn’t have pried this book from my hands over the last thirty percent. It’s bittersweet, but also hopeful and so very timely and important. I can’t wait to see what this author does next.

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

#BlogTour Tigers, Not Daughters by Samantha Mabry @algonquinyr #YA #supernatural #TigersNotDaughters

I originally reviewed this YA supernatural novel in March 2020, but the paperback was recently released. If you’d like to read my review, click HERE. At less than 300 pages, it’s a quick read I finished on a two hour flight.

The Torres sisters dream of escape. Escape from their needy and despotic widowed father, and from their San Antonio neighborhood, full of old San Antonio families and all the traditions and expectations that go along with them. In the summer after her senior year of high school, Ana, the oldest sister, falls to her death from her bedroom window. A year later, her three younger sisters, Jessica, Iridian, and Rosa, are still consumed by grief and haunted by their sister’s memory. Their dream of leaving Southtown now seems out of reach. But then strange things start happening around the house: mysterious laughter, mysterious shadows, mysterious writing on the walls. The sisters begin to wonder if Ana really is haunting them, trying to send them a message—and what exactly she’s trying to say.
 
In a stunning follow-up to her National Book Award–longlisted novel All the Wind in the World, Samantha Mabry weaves an aching, magical novel that is one part family drama, one part ghost story, and one part love story.

samantha was born four days before the death of john lennon. she grew up in dallas, playing bass guitar along to vinyl records in her bedroom after school, writing fan letters to rock stars, doodling song lyrics into notebooks, and reading big, big books.

in college at southern methodist university, she majored in english literature, minored in spanish, and studied latin and classics. after that, she went on to receive a master’s degree in english from boston college.

these days, she teaches at a community college and spends as much time as possible in the west texas desert.

Bridge of Souls (Cassidy Blake #3) by Victoria Schwab #bookreview #MG #supernatural #TuesdayBookBlog

Where there are ghosts, Cassidy Blake follows … unless it’s the other way around?

Cass thinks she might have this ghost-hunting thing down. After all, she and her ghost best friend, Jacob, have survived two haunted cities while travelling for her parents’ TV show.

But nothing can prepare Cass for New Orleans, which wears all of its hauntings on its sleeve. In a city of ghost tours and tombs, raucous music and all kinds of magic, Cass could get lost in all the colourful, grisly local legends. And the city’s biggest surprise is a foe Cass never expected to face: a servant of Death itself.

Cass takes on her most dangerous challenge yet… 

I don’t usually read middle grade books, but when one of my favorite authors writes a MG series, you can be sure I’ll make an exception.

I listened to the first two books in this series, and it took only moments for Cassidy and her ghost best friend Jacob to charm me. Her parents are The Inspecters, a ghost-hunting team venturing to various haunted locations, but Cass’s mother is a believer and her father a skeptic. Being enchanted with the city of New Orleans, I was thrilled one of the most haunted cities in America is the setting for this novel. While touring the city with her parents and guide and experiencing music at Jackson Square, beignets at Cafe Du Monde, tarot card readings, and old cemeteries, it becomes apparent something has found Cass and is determined to take her beyond the veil permanently. Enter Lara, a new friend Cass and Jacob met in Paris in the previous book. She’s a Ravenclaw, an old soul, and a no nonsense type of girl who occasionally butts heads with Jacob. Soon the three of them are facing their greatest challenge, and the stakes have never been higher.

Schwab did a wonderful job at capturing the essence of NOLA and bringing it to life in the novel. I felt as if I revisited the city (sure wish I could have eaten a beignet while reading). If your MG (or young at heart) readers are interested in supernatural stories involving charismatic characters, a little bit of history, and a lazy black cat, this is a series I highly recommend.

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

Eternal Road: The Final Stop by John W. Howell #bookreview #supernatural #historical #TuesdayBookBlog

James Wainwright picks up a hitchhiker and discovers two things 1. The woman he picks up is his childhood sweetheart, only Seventeen years older. 2. He is no longer of this world.

James began a road trip alone in his 1956 Oldsmobile. He stops for a hitchhiker only to discover she is his childhood sweetheart, Sam, who disappeared seventeen years before. James learns from Sam falling asleep miles back caused him to perish in a one-car accident. He also comes to understand that Sam was taken and murdered all those years ago, and now she has come back to help him find his eternal home.

The pair visit a number of times and places and are witness to a number of historical events. The rules dictate that they do no harm to the time continuum. Trying to be careful, they inadvertently come to the attention of Lucifer who would love to have their souls as his subjects. They also find a threat to human survival and desperately need to put in place the fix necessary to save mankind.

The question becomes, will James find his eternal home in grace or lose the battle with Satan for his immortal soul and the future of human life with it? If you like time-travel, adventure, mystery, justice, and the supernatural, this story is for you.

Never have I come across such a blend of genres in a book – supernatural, paranormal, theological, mystery, sci-fi, historical. I would have told you it couldn’t be done. But this author pulls it off with style.

The overall premise is a bit sad with MCs James and Sam both being deceased and leaving this world behind. Sam’s life came to a tragic end at the age of seven, but she’s come back years later to escort childhood friend James to his final resting place. That’s where their adventure begins. Time-traveling in a snazzy 1956 Oldsmobile, they visit some historical sites and meet a few well-known characters along the way. But they don’t just venture into the past, their travels take them several centuries into the future as well. Lucifer himself even shows up in the Sin City of Las Vegas – where else would he be?

I enjoyed the “rules” of the plane between Earth and the afterlife, and they caused some humorous and awkward moments between Sam and James. Both characters are delightful, and I was particularly happy to see something resolved in Sam’s life. This story evokes many emotions and, as a mom, I nearly needed a tissue a couple times. The ending is beautiful and wraps things up nicely – but I can also see the potential for another book in the series, which I would immediately grab. A unique and fascinating take on the afterlife.

Don’t Tell A Soul by Kirsten Miller #bookreview #YA #mystery

Stay up all night with this modern day Rebecca! Perfect for fans of Truly Devious—a haunting story about a new girl in an old town filled with dark secrets . . . that might just kill her.

People say the house is cursed.
It preys on the weakest, and young women are its favorite victims.
In Louth, they’re called the Dead Girls.

All Bram wanted was to disappear—from her old life, her family’s past, and from the scandal that continues to haunt her. The only place left to go is Louth, the tiny town on the Hudson River where her uncle, James, has been renovating an old mansion.

But James is haunted by his own ghosts. Months earlier, his beloved wife died in a fire that people say was set by her daughter. The tragedy left James a shell of the man Bram knew—and destroyed half the house he’d so lovingly restored.

The manor is creepy, and so are the locals. The people of Louth don’t want outsiders like Bram in their town, and with each passing day she’s discovering that the rumors they spread are just as disturbing as the secrets they hide. Most frightening of all are the legends they tell about the Dead Girls. Girls whose lives were cut short in the very house Bram now calls home.

The terrifying reality is that the Dead Girls may have never left the manor. And if Bram looks too hard into the town’s haunted past, she might not either.

I’d recently watched the remake of Rebecca on Netflix when I read this book description. Ghosts, an old manor, a string of dead girls – what about this description doesn’t grab you?

I loved the setting of this story – a small town full of layers upon layers of secrets, an old mansion with disturbing rumors surrounding it, locals who don’t trust the newcomers and vice versa. It takes place during winter in the northeast, so the snowstorms and occasional loss of power just add to the atmosphere. The story unfolds slowly, and I had several questions concerning Bram – Why was she sent away? Why was she immediately on guard around males? Why was she so obsessed with Lark? All were eventually answered, and I feel the gradual reveal adds to the mystery. Between the manor and the town, Bram meets several people, all who seem to be telling her who she should trust. Suffice it to say, it’s all conflicting advice.

With so many deaths connected to the manor, I formed several theories and actually figured out one of the biggest twists early on. It seemed pretty obvious to me, so the final reveal didn’t come as a big surprise. Being a fan of the supernatural, I was excited for the paranormal aspects of the story, but things didn’t develop exactly as I’d hoped. It may not have been the story I’d expected, but I appreciated the underlying positive themes of overcoming adversity and reclaiming control.

This is an atmospheric story, and Bram is a plucky, determined MC who’s dealing with more than anyone her age should have to. A couple other reviewers mentioned the cover, and I agree it doesn’t seem to fit the book. Although there are a couple of plot holes (I read an ARC so this may change), the mysteries (there are several) may keep you guessing.

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

Ink by Jonathan Maberry #bookreview #horror #paranormal

From New York Times bestselling author Jonathan Maberry comes a standalone supernatural thriller Ink, about a memory thief who feeds on the most precious of dreams.

Tattoo-artist Patty Cakes has her dead daughter’s face tattooed on the back of her hand. Day by day it begins to fade, taking with it all of Patty’s memories of her daughter. All she’s left with is the certain knowledge she has forgotten her lost child. The awareness of that loss is tearing her apart.

Monk Addison is a private investigator whose skin is covered with the tattooed faces of murder victims. He is a predator who hunts for killers, and the ghosts of all of those dead people haunt his life. Some of those faces have begun to fade, too, destroying the very souls of the dead.

All through the town of Pine Deep people are having their most precious memories stolen. The monster seems to target the lonely, the disenfranchised, the people who need memories to anchor them to this world.

Something is out there. Something cruel and evil is feeding on the memories, erasing them from the hearts and minds of people like Patty and Monk and others.

Ink is the story of a few lonely, damaged people hunting for a memory thief. When all you have are memories, there is no greater horror than forgetting.

Take a moment to appreciate this exquisite cover – the designer did a magnificent job.  It’s been a while since I’ve read a Jonathan Maberry book, and after Ink, I’m kicking myself and wondering why.

From what I’ve seen in other reviews, the town of Pine Deep is featured in other Maberry novels, as are Monk and Patty.  I haven’t read those, but never felt as if I was missing anything.  Newcomers won’t be confused.

Antagonist Owen Minor is compared to a “psychic vampire” – he feeds on the tattoos and memories of others.  With such a large cast of eclectic characters, he’s got a veritable buffet to choose from in “The Spookiest Town in America”.  Two of his victims are Monk and Patty, who are easily my favorites.  Their stories are tragic and profoundly moving, and the loss of their memories and tattoos is deeply personal and gut-wrenching.  I ached for both of them.  Minor is abdominable, revolting, and intensely disturbed, and I felt slimy after every scene he was in.  I’ll never look at flies in the same way again and will be quicker to swat them in the future.

And that action-packed ending!  Holy crap, I don’t think I blinked once while reading it.  While it was mostly satisfying, I did feel as if some of the characters’ stories fell to the wayside and were left unresolved.  As a warning to readers who are faint of heart, Ink contains some graphic, gory scenes so be prepared.

This novel is bizarre, freaky, horrific, and often times gut-wrenching, but it makes me want to read the Pine Deep series.  I’d also love to see Patty and Monk in future books, so I’m hoping the author has a plan.  Highly recommend for horror fans!

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