Lunar Boogie (The Hat #4) by C.S. Boyack #bookreview #urbanfantasy #paranormal

Lizzie and the hat are back in action, only this time they’re up against the most tragic monster of all, a werewolf.

This adventure is more like hunting an animal, and the werewolf is unlikely to come to any of their musical performances. This puts Lizzie out in the dark corners and wooded areas of the city. It may be more beneficial to get the monster to hunt Lizzie than to stalk him on his own turf. All she has to do is be quicker on the trigger than the wolf is on his feet.

At the same time, the police think they’re after a serial killer. Lizzie tries to keep them alive while also keeping them out of her way. As the body count rises, so do the pressures. It doesn’t help that people are blaming Lizzie and the hat for the killings. This involves an urban myth about them that the locals call Hellpox.

Pull on your boogie shoes and join the hunt. Designed as an afternoon read, this one is tons of supernatural fun. 

I’ve been a fan of this paranormal series from the first book, so I was excited to spend some more time with Lizzie and my favorite hat.

The plot is centered around the Sausage Maker, who racks up a few bodies by the end of book. In addition to Lizzie and the hat’s search for the culprit, police lieutenant Joe Yoder is also in pursuit. My heart went out to Joe, who’s still grieving his wife’s death but continues to talk to her.

One of my favorite things about this series is the clever banter between Lizzie and the hat, and it’s always good for several laughs. Another moment that caused me to let out a very undignified snort was vampire Kevin and his sign regarding the Sausage Maker. Trust me – you’ll just have to read it. I was happy to see him make another appearance in this series and hope to see more of him in the future.

Many reviewers have mentioned this book ventures into a darker territory than the others, and that’s fine with me. I’m a fan of dark stories, and I’m anxious to see where the author takes us next. All of these quick reads can be read as standalones, but I’d recommend reading them in order. If you’re a fan of quirky paranormal stories with a dose of humor, you can’t go wrong with this series.

The Witch Hunt (The Witch Haven #2) by Sasha Peyton Smith #bookreview #YA #fantasy

The lush and pulse-pounding sequel to the New York Times bestselling The Witch Haven follows Frances and her fellow witches to the streets of Paris where family secrets, lost loves, and dangerous magic await.

Months after the devastating battle between the Sons of St. Druon and the witches of Haxahaven, Frances has built a quiet, safe life for herself, teaching young witches and tending the garden within the walls of Haxahaven Academy. But one thing nags; her magic has begun to act strangely. When an opportunity to visit Paris arises, Frances jumps at the chance to go, longing for adventure and seeking answers about her own power.

Once she and her classmates Maxine and Lena reach the vibrant streets of France, Frances learns that the spell she used to speak to her dead brother has had terrible consequences—the veil between the living and the dead has been torn by her recklessness, and a group of magicians are using the rift for their own gain at a horrifying cost.

To right this wrong, and save lives and her own magical powers, Frances must hunt down answers in the parlors of Parisian secret societies, the halls of the Louvre, and the tunnels of the catacombs. Her only choice is to team up with the person she swore she’d never trust again, risking further betrayal and her own life in the process. 

It’s not often that I like a sequel better than the first book, but it happened with The Witch Hunt.

I wasn’t crazy about main character Frances in The Witch Haven. She seemed to have no problem asking others to take risks without considering the consequences for them. In this followup, months have passed, Frances has matured, and now she’s worried more about her friends than herself. When her magic begins acting strangely, Frances is naturally very concerned – especially since she teaches at a school for witches. When an opportunity to visit Paris presents itself, she jumps at the chance. Besides finding a solution to the problems with her powers, she has a more personal reason for the journey.

The strong friendship between Frances, Lena, and Maxine was one of my favorite things about the first novel, and it continues to top the list with this sequel. Maxine stole my heart with her snarky comments. Oliver, Frances’s boyfriend, has been attending school in Paris, so she’s also excited to be reunited with him. And he’s such a sweetie – totally supportive of Frances in every way.

It’s no secret that Finn is reintroduced. He betrayed Frances in a horrible way, but still believes they’ll be together and he can persuade her to forgive him. Honestly, he had some pretty good moments, and it wouldn’t be the first time a “villain” redeems himself. Turns out the spell Finn and Frances cast to talk to her dead brother in the prior book had some serious repercussions. The veil between the living and the dead is open, strange things are afoot, and power-hungry people are taking advantage of it. Someone has to close the veil, and it’s not going to be easy – or accomplished without a few dead bodies along the way.

I really enjoyed the 1913 Paris setting – I love this time period, and the high stakes kept me flipping the pages. Although some reviewers aren’t happy with the ending, it felt right to me. But I admit to thinking about it a couple days before I decided.

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

#BadMoonRising A Peril in Ectoplasm by Teagan Riordain Geneviene #horror #paranormal

I’ve got a treat to help you get through hump day!  I’m betting today’s author isn’t a stranger to most of you.  Her books are always guaranteed to be wildly creative, a little quirky, and filled with unexpected twists.  She’s here today with her novella that released last Friday!  Welcome Teagan Riordain Geneviene!  

Thanks for letting me participate in another fantastic Bad Moon Rising, Teri. Hello, everyone. I’m Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene. Teri, I noticed you had some new questions this year. As always, they’re fabulous.

Fun Questions

Tracy Jentzsch, Unsplash
Tracy Jentzsch, Unsplash

Have you ever said Bloody Mary three times in front of a mirror?

Teri, this question made me snort, because I should be laughing — but no way am I tempting fate with this, or any mirror related legend. Nope! One of the first stories I wrote (when I was about 12) was a Twilight Zone-ish tale about a woman who was trapped in a mirror. To me, there’s always been something otherworldly about mirrors. Here’s some Teagan-Trivia. I’ve always decorated with several mirrors. I like that they add light and make rooms look bigger. However, what most people don’t notice is that hardly any of them are at eye-level for me. They’re there, but I don’t have to look at my reflection.

Which Stephen King novel unsettled you the most?

My mind works in unexpected ways. There are things that scare other people, which don’t phase me in the least. Yet some things that seem ordinary to other people can freak me out. Stephen King is a master at terrifying readers, including me. I think most people would think “Thinner” is about the least frightening story King has written. Even so, there is something about Thinner that stuck with me from the day I sat on the couch as a teenager reading about the gypsy touching and murmuring to the rude, obese man. It was so simple and mundane that it seemed all too possible.

Would you buy a doll that you knew was haunted?

Are you kidding me? What could be more mysterious or creepy than mirrors? Old dolls — triple that for haunted dolls, that’s what. If you want me to have a heart attack, just put a haunted doll in front of an old mirror. No.

Writing Questions

The Teagan Zone collage by Teagan Geneviene
Image by Teagan

Have you ever tried to write a novel in a genre you rarely or never read?

It’s probably a big draw-back, but I’m a multi-genre author. However, I never dabble in the romance genre. As a teen I read quite a few, especially Victoria Holt and Harlequins, but I moved on to other types of books. When I first started publishing novels, it seemed like everybody tried to get me to write romance. I did try, and several times… but I never got further than a page.

If you could be mentored by a famous author, who would it be?

Maybe Rod Serling… There really are so many, but I don’t know much about their personalities. I can’t think of what famous author would be a personality-fit as a mentor, and that kind of compatibility is critical for a mentoring relationship. However, I’m answering this question to mention the “Film Courage” series of videos I watch on YouTube. Think of that series as my virtual mentors. No, I don’t write screenplays, but it’s transferrable information. There are several of the interviewed authors with whom I’d love to have long conversations and learn more from on a personal level.

What are you working on now?

I’m gradually working on edits and a better ending for The Guitar Mancer. It’s an urban fantasy set in 1970. I started it several years ago, but I was stumped for the right ending.

A Peril in Ectoplasm

Cover A Peril in Ectoplasm by Teagan Riordain Geneviene

A Peril in Ectoplasm, is a 1920s genre mash-up, part mystery, part suspense, with a dash of light horror. Famous medium, Daphne Moultrie receives a warning from the other side — there is a young woman she must find. If she doesn’t keep the girl with her, then she will die. Aside from the spirit’s warning, all Daphne knows about this girl is what her crystal ball showed her, a four-leaf clover, and each leaf had a human eye.

Meanwhile, Daphne’s fiancé seems to have designs of his own. He also pressures her to continue séances for a strange and very demanding woman. With each of those séances, Daphne becomes weaker and closer to death.

A Peril in Ectoplasm takes place in Coral Gables, Florida of 1926. This novella captures the Roaring Twenties in settings, descriptions, and language. The ensemble cast has a number of characters, including one you will love to hate.

Purchase Links

Kindle:  relinks.me/B0BJ9N1GBX

Paperback:  relinks.me/B0BJBXGJ7L

About the Author

2022 Author Pic art deco Tegan

Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene often writes whimsical and humorous stories. However, she also writes high fantasy, urban fantasy, steampunk, and mysteries with historic settings. Yes, that’s a variety of genres. In addition to fiction, she has created the “Author Tool Chest” series of non-fiction works as resources for writers and anyone who loves language.

Teagan’s work is colored by the experiences of her early life in the southern states and later in the desert southwest, as well as a decade in Washington, DC. She had a successful career as an editor and writer in the information technology field, working for Federal executives. Now Teagan lives in a high desert town in the Southwest of the USA, and she is devoted fulltime to her own writing. She also makes book covers and promotional images. In free time she enjoys conversations with friends, singing karaoke, and playing her piano.

Social Media Links

You can also visit me at these sites:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Teagan-Riordain-Geneviene/e/B00HHDXHVM
Twitter: https://twitter.com/teagangeneviene
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TeagansBooks
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/teagangeneviene/
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCoM-z7_iH5t2_7aNpy3vG-Q
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/teagangeneviene/

♦ ♦ ♦

Teri, thanks so much for hosting me. I’m happy to answer questions from your readers as well. Happy Halloween, everyone!

 

Copyright 2022

#BlogTour The Witches of Moonshyne Manor by Bianca Marais #bookreview #urbanfantasy

A coven of modern-day witches. A magical heist-gone-wrong. A looming threat.

Five octogenarian witches gather as an angry mob threatens to demolish Moonshyne Manor. All eyes turn to the witch in charge, Queenie, who confesses they’ve fallen far behind on their mortgage payments. Still, there’s hope, since the imminent return of Ruby—one of the sisterhood who’s been gone for thirty-three years—will surely be their salvation.

But the mob is only the start of their troubles. One man is hellbent on avenging his family for the theft of a legacy he claims was rightfully his. In an act of desperation, Queenie makes a bargain with an evil far more powerful than anything they’ve ever faced. Then things take a turn for the worse when Ruby’s homecoming reveals a seemingly insurmountable obstacle instead of the solution to all their problems.

The witches are determined to save their home and themselves, but their aging powers are no match for increasingly malicious threats. Thankfully, they get a bit of help from Persephone, a feisty TikToker eager to smash the patriarchy. As the deadline to save the manor approaches, fractures among the sisterhood are revealed, and long-held secrets are exposed, culminating in a fiery confrontation with their enemies.

Funny, tender and uplifting, the novel explores the formidable power that can be discovered in aging, found family and unlikely friendships. Marais’ clever prose offers as much laughter as insight, delving deeply into feminism, identity and power dynamics while stirring up intrigue and drama through secrets, lies and sex. Heartbreaking and heart-mending, it will make you grateful for the amazing women in your life.

This book hooked me with “five octogenarian witches” and “magical heist-gone-wrong”. It was just too tempting, and I was in the mood for a change of pace in my reading. It certainly didn’t disappoint.

I’ve seen several comparisons to The Golden Girls and Practical Magic, and they’re pretty accurate. These five witches may not be blood-related, but they’re most definitely a family and have been together since they were children. With five different personalities, a couple of them very strong ones, the women occasionally clash and go head to head, but love each other unconditionally. Their quips and banter (especially Jezebel’s comments and antics) kept me laughing throughout the book. With multiple POVs, I was never confused, and the recipes for potions at the end of some chapters are nice additions and cleverly written.

When the women are on the verge of losing their home, a magical heist and a dangerous deal seem to be their only solutions to staying off the streets, but it may be more than they bargained for. I was enthralled by the descriptions of their quirky house that included so many rooms – a lab, greenhouse, and very unusual fireproof gameroom among them. Persephone, teen daughter of the mayor and an ambitious young feminist, is a wonderful addition to the story and teaches the witches about the wonders of the internet and social media. She’s accompanied by her Italian Greyhound, Ruth Bader Ginsberg. I loved the way the witches bring her into their circle and become kind of surrogate grandmothers.

This is a light-hearted read I thoroughly enjoyed that also contains a bit of a mystery. I adored each of these women, and this quote from the novel describes them perfectly – “Aging Gracefuly is a bore. Aging disgracefully is something to be proud of.”

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:

Bianca Marais cohosts the popular podcast The Sh*t No One Tells You About Writing, aimed at emerging writers. She was named the winner of the Excellence in Teaching Award for Creative Writing at the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies in 2021. She is the author of two novels, Hum If You Don’t Know the Words and If You Want to Make God Laugh, as well as the Audible Original The Prynne Viper. She lives in Toronto with her husband and fur babies.

Social Links:

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

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/biancamaraisauthor 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/biancam_author/ 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/biancamarais_author/ 

Buy Links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Witches-Moonshyne-Manor-witchy-rom-com/dp/0778386996/ 

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-witches-of-moonshyne-manor-bianca-marais/1141674843?ean=9780778386995 

Bookshop: https://bookshop.org/books/the-witches-of-moonshyne-manor/9780778386995 

IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780778386995 

Books-A-Million: https://www.booksamillion.com/p/9780778386995 

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/the-witches-of-moonshyne-manor 

AppleBooks: https://books.apple.com/us/book/the-witches-of-moonshyne-manor/id1609763913 

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Bianca_Marais_The_Witches_of_Moonshyne_Manor?id=WKteEAAAQBAJ 

Libro.FM: https://libro.fm/audiobooks/9781488215506-the-witches-of-moonshyne-manor 

Indigo: https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/the-witches-of-moonshyne-manor/9780778333920-item.html 

Target: https://www.target.com/p/the-witches-of-moonshyne-manor-by-bianca-marais-paperback/-/A-85998293 

Blood Like Fate (Blood Like Magic #2) by Liselle Sambury #bookreview #urbanfantasy #scifi #TuesdayBookBlog

Voya fights to save her witch community from a terrible future.

Voya Thomas may have passed her Calling to become a full-fledged witch, but the cost was higher than she’d ever imagined.

Her grandmother is gone.
Her cousin hates her.
And her family doesn’t believe that she has what it takes to lead them.


What’s more, Voya can’t let go of her feelings for Luc, sponsor son of the genius billionaire Justin Tremblay—the man that Luc believes Voya killed. Consequently, Luc wants nothing to do with her. Even her own ancestors seem to have lost faith in her. Every day Voya begs for their guidance, but her calls go unanswered.

As Voya struggles to convince everyone—herself included—that she can be a good Matriarch, she has a vision of a terrifying, deadly future. A vision that would spell the end of the Toronto witches. With a newfound sense of purpose, Voya must do whatever it takes to bring her shattered community together and stop what’s coming for them before it’s too late.

Even if it means taking down the boy she loves—who might be the mastermind behind the coming devastation. 

The first book in this duology was one of my favorite reads last year, and after that explosive ending I couldn’t wait to see where this story went next.

Voya never expected to be named Matriarch of her family – and neither did her family. At sixteen she’s very young, and the job comes with heavy responsibilities. Everyone wonders if she’s got what it takes to lead her family, and it’s crickets all around when she tries to communicate with the ancestors for help. Voya was forced to make some impossible choices at the end of the first book, and she’s still dealing with the aftermath when this story begins around six months later. Her grandmother is gone, her cousin/best friend hates her, and the boy she loves doesn’t want anything to do with her.

Voya’s family is large, loud, and intrusive, but they’ll defend their own to the death. With this many characters you’d think it would be hard to distinguish between them, but that’s not the case at all. Each is well-crafted and essential to the story. Besides dealing with her own family, Voya has to convince the matriarchs of the other witch families that she’s capable of holding her own. After a terrifying vision of a deadly future for her family as well as the others, she’s determined to find a way to convince the other matriarchs to work together instead of standing apart. And with no shortage of mistrust and old grudges it’s an uphill battle.

Genetics play a big role in the story and the future of the witches. Voya wants to believe she can trust Luc, ex-boyfriend and now CEO of the genetics company responsible for her family’s downfall in her vision. But can she?

Faced with the possible end of the Toronto witches, lack of confidence in her abilities as Matriarch, disappointment from her family, and the pressure of bringing the witches together, the stakes are incredibly high for Voya. She’s a flawed character and makes plenty of mistakes, but isn’t afraid to own them and try to do better. Her character arc is remarkable (and I still drooled over the food she makes).

At over four hundred fifty pages, this is a long novel. Maybe it could have been trimmed, but it’s still a thrilling, intense duology I’d recommend to paranormal, sci-fi, and urban fantasy fans.

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

Heat Wave (The Extraordinaries #3) by TJ Klune #bookreview #urbanfantasy #superheroes #LGBTQ #TuesdayBookBlog

Nick, Seth, Gibby, and Jazz are back in action bringing justice, protection, and disaster energy to the people of Nova City.

An unexpected hero returns to Nova City and crash lands into Nick’s home, upturning his life, his family, and his understanding of what it means to be a hero in the explosive finale of the thrilling and hilarious Extraordinaries trilogy by New York Times bestselling author TJ Klune.

After listening to the first two books in this series (the narrator is perfect for these characters), I jumped with joy when I received an ARC of the final book in the trilogy. The cliffhanger book two ended on? It was a whopper.

It’s always hard to review sequels without giving away spoilers, especially the final book in a series, so this may be brief. If I could join a fictional family/found family this one would absolutely make the short list. Nick, Seth, Gibby, and Jazz have each other’s backs no matter what, and their bond is incredibly strong. Yes, their parents may be kind of embarrassing at times (Dad Squad!) and a little intrusive (dental dams), but they’d do anything for their kids and offer unconditional love and support. It’s unusual to come across a YA book where the parents play fairly large roles, but this group are integral to the plot and bring so much to the story. Aaron and Nick have one of the best father/son relationships I’ve come across in this genre. Everyone deserves parents and friends like these.

I have to give a big shoutout to supercool character Burrito Jerry! He might not be a superhero, but he does some pretty heroic things to help these characters.

Like the previous books in this series, Heat Wave is filled with wicked action scenes, a little romance, plenty of humor, and tense, nail-biting moments. The ending is bittersweet but absolutely perfect, and I’m so glad the author gave a glimpse into the future of these characters. Superheroes and villains, found family, awkward teenage moments, first love, ride or die friendships, fanfics, and laugh out loud dialogue – this series is filled with all of this and more. It’s my fifth Klune book, and he’s easily made my list of favorite authors.

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

This Wicked Fate (This Poison Heart #2) by Kalynn Bayron #bookreview #YA #urbanfantasy

How much would you risk to save the ones you love? Would you tempt even the most dangerous fate?

Briseis has one chance to save her mother, but she’ll need to do the impossible: find the last fragment of the deadly Absyrtus Heart. If she is to locate the missing piece, she must turn to the blood relatives she’s never known, learn about their secret powers, and take her place in their ancient lineage. Briseis is not the only one who wants the Heart, and her enemies will stop at nothing to fulfill their own ruthless plans. The fates tell of a truly dangerous journey, one that could end in more heartache, more death. Bolstered by the sisterhood of ancient magic, can Briseis harness her power to save the people she loves most?

The cliffhanger at the end of This Poison Heart absolutely gutted me, so this sequel was high on my list of anticipated books this year. And Briseis’s moms stole nearly every scene in that book, so I couldn’t wait to see what happened with them.

Briseis and her friends are given one cycle of the moon – twenty-eight days – to save her mother, and the clock starts from page one. That length of time may sound like a lot, but they’re charged with finding the last piece of the Absyrtus Heart – something no one has been able to locate in centuries. Joining in the search is Briseis’s biological aunt, Circe, and seeing their relationship develop, as well as Circe’s relationship with Briseis’s adoptive moms, is one of my favorite parts of the novel. Whether romantic, platonic, or familial, all the relationships in this duology are heartwarming and written so well. As an added challenge, adversaries are racing against Briseis and friends to locate the heart fragment.

As with the first book, it’s clear the author did extensive research in botany, and she explains the benefits of plants and their medicinal uses. And also how certain types are poisonous and fatal. She incorporates vivid descriptions of them to set beautiful backgrounds for these characters. Plants are drawn to Briseis, and she still controls them, but newfound abilities also help in her quest. As a fan of Greek mythology, I’ve really enjoyed how it’s been woven into this duology. Parts of it were kind of a refresher course from middle school.

I get that arrangements had to be made, but with a limited amount of time to save Briseis’s mom, I expected the pacing to be a little faster. It could just be me – patience isn’t one of my strengths. Once things started moving though, it was a brisk pace until the end.

I thoroughly enjoyed this duology and highly recommend it to fans of urban fantasy blended with mythology and magic. I’ll be looking 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.

A Cruel and Fated Light (The Hollow Star Saga #2) by Ashley Shuttleworth #bookreview #YA #urbanfantasy #LGBTQ #TuesdayBookBlog

Half-fae Arlo becomes entangled in the courtly intrigue at the Seelie Summer palace as danger for ironborns mounts in this gripping sequel to A Dark and Hollow Star that’s The Cruel Prince meets City of Bones.

After thwarting the man behind the gruesome ironborn murders—and breaking several fae laws to do so—all Arlo wants is a quiet summer. As the deity of luck’s Hollow Star, capable of bringing about endless possibilities, this shouldn’t be too much to ask, right?

But someone is still trying to summon the mythical Seven Deadly Sins. All signs point to immortal meddling, and if this is the gods’ attempt at returning to the Mortal Realm, it’s Arlo they’re going to use to do it.

When Queen Riadne offers to host Arlo at the Seelie Summer palace, she jumps at the chance. She’ll get to see more of Vehan and Aurelian and perhaps even work out her complicated feelings for the gorgeous ex-Fury, Nausicaä. But no one trusts the infamous Queen of Light, even as Arlo wonders if she’s just been greatly misunderstood.

With the Summer Solstice quickly approaching, everyone expects Riadne to finally challenge the High King for his crown. And as Arlo struggles to get control of her powers and take charge of her destiny, she’ll soon be faced with a choice that won’t only change the fate of the Mortal Realm forever but could condemn it to a cruelty the likes of which the Courts have never known.

The first book in this series was one of my favorite reads last year – it’s not often you come across an urban fantasy set in Canada – and I couldn’t wait to catch up with these characters again.

Where do I even begin? So much going on. So many secrets revealed. When Queen Riadne tosses out an invite to host Arlo at the Seelie Summer palace, you just know it’s not out of the goodness of her black heart. Riadne never does anything without it benefiting her, and being iron born and all but ignored by her extended family, Arlo is thrilled at the opportunity to finally be accepted for who she is. High Prince Celadon, her cousin and best friend, insists on accompanying her both for protection and to find out what scheming Riadne is up to. Let the games begin.

These characters stole my heart in the first book, but Nausicaa (such lovable snark) and Celadon (smarter than most in the room) continue to be my favorites. Such a diverse cast is cause for celebration with this series, as is the intricately mapped plot. This book weighs in at a hefty 640 pages, but with political machinations, alchemy, immortals, questionable motivations, a challenge for the crown, dark secrets, and sweet romances, the pages flew by for me.

The ending gutted me and leaves fates hanging in the balance, along with a body count – no spoilers here. It looks like there are two more books coming in this series, and I’ve already added both on my Goodreads list. Highly recommend for urban fantasy fans!

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

Ballad and Dagger ( Outlaw Saints #1) by Daniel José Older #bookreview #YA #urbanfantasy

Rick Riordan presents Daniel José Older’s music-and-magic-filled YA urban fantasy about two teens who discover each other and their powers during a political battle within a diaspora community.

Almost sixteen years ago, Mateo Matisse’s island homeland disappeared into the sea. Weary and hopeless, the survivors of San Madrigal’s sinking escaped to New York.

While the rest of his tight-knit Brooklyn diaspora community dreams of someday finding a way back home, Mateo–now a high school junior and piano prodigy living with his two aunts (one who’s alive, the other not so much)–is focused on one thing: getting the attention of locally-grown musical legend Gerval. Mateo finally gets his chance on the night of the Grand Fete, an annual party celebrating the blended culture of pirates, Cuban Santeros, and Sephardic Jews that created San Madrigal all those centuries ago.

But the evil that sank their island has finally caught up with them, and on the night of the celebration, Mateo’s life is forever changed when he witnesses a brutal murder by a person he thought he knew.

Suddenly Mateo is thrust into an ancient battle that spans years and oceans. Deadly secrets are unraveled and Mateo awakens a power within himself–a power that not only links him to the killer but could also hold the key to unlocking the dark mystery behind his lost homeland. 

I don’t usually post reviews on Wednesdays, but I prefer to post them close to the book release date. May has several new releases of books I’ve gotten from NetGalley, so this will be the norm for the month.

I was first introduced to this author watching a YA book festival zoom panel. After hearing him speak, I immediately wanted to read his books and was thrilled to receive an ARC of his newest release.

Mateo is a piano prodigy and knows exactly what he wants to do with his life – play music. But then he discovers (in a very public way) his destiny is wildly different, and it’s something he can’t escape. Maybe he doesn’t want to when he learns it’s something that could help his people find their original home of San Madrigal. His life is further changed after he witnesses a brutal killing the night of Grand Fete – and he knows the murderer.

In the first pages of the story when Mateo walks the streets of Little Madrigal in Brooklyn, NY, I could easily picture his vibrant community – the sights, sounds, smells, and people. It’s a place I’d love to visit and meet their wonderful blend of citizens – pirates, Cuban Santeros, and Sephardic Jews (and enjoy all that food). But the community isn’t living in harmony at the moment. Power struggles and politics ensue, and battle lines are drawn.

The supporting cast is everything. From Mateo’s aunts (one alive and the other a spirit), to his teasing best friend Tam, and the loyal twins, they add so much to the story. With urban fantasies, world-building can make or break a story, and this is done to perfection. The history, culture, politics, and magic are all well-explained and easy to follow. Pacing is a little uneven in the beginning, but soon moves at a breakneck speed to the end.

Ballad and Dagger has a little bit of everything – ancient secrets, battles, characters easy to root for, romance, rich culture. It’s a bit of a coming of age story that I enjoyed from the first page and look forward to reading more books 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 Monarchs (Ravens #2) by Kass Morgan and Danielle Paige #bookreview #YA #urbanfantasy #witches

In this thrilling conclusion to New York Times best-selling authors Kass Morgan and Danielle Paige’s The Ravens, the sorority witches are tested when a rival threatens to usurp their place on campus and the forces of hell come knocking on their door.

The sorority girls at Kappa Rho Nu—the Ravens—are determined to restore balance to the world. After destroying an ancient talisman and barely saving their sorority in the process, they’ll go to any lengths to keep their secret as Westerly’s most powerful coven of witches.

Scarlett Winter, a legacy Raven, has finally gotten what she’s always wanted: the Kappa Rho Nu presidency. After the disaster that killed the sorority’s last president, Scarlett is determined that no sister will fall under the sway of wicked magic ever again. But the powers of the presidency have their own pitfalls—and Scarlett has big shoes to fill.

Vivi Devereaux, a freshman, finally knows what it feels like to belong. For the first time ever, she’s got it all: her Kappa Rho Nu sisters and a sweet (and hot) boyfriend. When Scarlett assigns Vivi the coveted role of social chair, Vivi is determined to live up to her Big’s expectations—even if that means dabbling in a new form of magic.

Unbeknownst to the Ravens, new rivals and ancient evils lurk on Westerly’s campus. With Kappa Rho Nu’s future on their shoulders and their pasts still haunting them, will Scarlett and Vivi be able to save their sisterhood once again? 

The sisterhood of the first book was what convinced me to read the sequel to The Ravens, and I was interested to see where the story would go from there.

After the tragic loss of a few of their sisters last semester and everything they went through, the Kappas are still grieving and recovering, but also trying to make a fresh start with new president Scarlett. The semester starts off smoothly at first, but they’re soon faced with threats from another sorority on campus, and something is wrong with the Kappas’ magic. When Vivi discovers a new type of magic, all goes well initially, but she soon learns that young, inexperienced witches shouldn’t tamper with magic they don’t understand.

I have to say I prefer the first book to this one. From the beginning, this has a whole mean girls vibe on nearly every page that overshadows the underlying mystery. The girl hate theme grew a little tiresome. I did enjoy the Kappa alumni, the Monarchs, having a little more page time in this sequel, although I thought it would have been more given the book title. They’re not main characters or even prominent supporting characters by any means, but their influence is felt and it has an effect on the characters.

The ending felt a little rushed to me, but I think most readers will be satisfied with the conclusion, as well as Vivi’s and Scarlettt’s romantic relationships.

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