Bad Witch Burning by Jessica Lewis #bookreview #YA #urbanfantasy

For fans of Us and The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina comes a witchy story full of black girl magic as one girl’s dark ability to summon the dead offers her a chance at a new life, while revealing to her an even darker future.

Katrell doesn’t mind talking to the dead; she just wishes it made more money. Clients pay her to talk to their deceased loved ones, but it isn’t enough to support her unemployed mother and Mom’s deadbeat boyfriend-of-the-week. Things get worse, when a ghost warns her to stop the summonings or she’ll “burn everything down.” Katrell is willing to call them on their bluff, though. She has no choice. What do ghosts know about eating peanut butter for dinner?

However, when her next summoning accidentally raises someone from the dead, Katrell realizes that a live body is worth a lot more than a dead apparition. And, warning or not, she has no intention of letting this lucrative new business go.

But magic doesn’t come for free, and soon dark forces are closing in on Katrell. The further she goes, the more she risks the lives of not only herself, but those she loves. Katrell faces a choice: resign herself to poverty, or confront the darkness before it’s too late. 

Seems like I’ve come across several witchy books lately, and they’re a favorite of mine when it comes to paranormal. Raising the dead can’t come without consequences, so I was anxious to see how Katrell dealt with these dark forces.

Trell is the teenager in her family, but essentially the only responsible adult. She works thirty hours per week, attends high school, buys groceries, pays the bills and rent, and gives money to her unemployed mother and her mom’s deadbeat boyfriend. He physically abuses Trell, works a part time job, and refuses to contribute to the household financially. Every interaction with her mother and boyfriend made me so angry I wanted to reach into the pages and choke them. Trell has been homeless more than once in her life, and if not for her job at a restaurant and the kindness of her best friend’s mother, she’d go hungry much of the time.

For reasons that are never explained, Trell is able to write letters summoning the ghosts of clients’ family members so they can speak to them. Suddenly her power changes, and she’s able to raise the dead and return them to her clients. For a price, of course. I would have liked an explanation for where her powers came from, how she discovered them, why they changed, etc., to better understand her magic. Maybe I missed an explanation, but I wondered why no one discovered the empty graves after the dead rose. Seems like it’s something that would have turned up on the news. Trell’s goal is to make enough money from raising the dead to support her and her mom for a year. After her hours are cut at the restaurant, the pressure is on to earn even more to keep them sheltered and fed. Soon the money is rolling in and Trell begins to lose sight of her goals. She ignores the advice of best friend Will and a concerned school guidance counselor, and her life rapidly spirals out of control.

Although she’s brave and loyal to a fault, Trell is also incredibly frustrating. She’s blind to her mother’s actions, and you’ll want to yell at her many times over her consistently bad decisions and wonder how she’ll ever fix the disasters she’s created.

Between the dead walking around, Trell’s personal struggles, and her determination to better her life, you’ll want her to somehow find a happily ever after, but it’s something that won’t come easily. This novel does a wonderful job of raising awareness of homelessness, poverty, and physical abuse, and the author discusses her own experiences before the story begins. It also stresses the importance of getting help and finding a support system. Some readers may want to heed trigger warnings. Overall, a strong debut novel.

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

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.

Blood Like Magic by Liselle Sambury #bookreview #YA #urbanfantasy #scifi #TuesdayBookBlog

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

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

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

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

The main reason I requested this book, other than that beautiful cover, is the high stakes/high pressure situation Voya is put in and the mention of witches and genetics.

I didn’t realize this was a futuristic Toronto setting (why aren’t more books set in Canada?), but that made me like it even more. I’m pretty sure I’ve never read about futuristic witches. The mixture of urban fantasy and sci-fi was also surprising, and now I’m wondering why there aren’t more novels with this blend of genres.

The first several pages are an introduction to Voya’s family – and it’s a large one. Honestly, a family tree might have helped with this dysfunctional bunch. They argue, insult, and mess with one another, but it’s clear the love runs deeply, and family is a priority. In Voya’s case, she puts everyone ahead of her own interests and desires and suffers from a severe case of low self esteem. She’s been anxious for her Calling, but fears she’ll be the first of her family in decades not to come into her powers. Flawed and full of self-doubt, you can’t help rooting for her. Voya is also a talented cook, using some of her own original recipes as well as her ancestors’ (yes, I totally drooled – but maybe not over the goat dishes), and I enjoyed learning about the Trinidadian culture.

Luc (thrilled he’s a trans character) is a tough nut to crack. He initially comes across as an arrogant genius, but with Voya’s prodding his walls gradually disintegrate. As a complex character I still think there are several layers left undiscovered, and I’m not sure how I felt about him at the end of the novel. It’s an ending I couldn’t have predicted.

Voya’s Calling is a seemingly impossible task with terrible consequences no matter which decision she makes. I had no idea how this would play out and almost dreaded seeing what she’d do. The magic system is well thought out and, although complicated, is explained well. One of my favorite things about this world is how accepting it is of all genders, identities, and sexualities, and the characters are diverse. At nearly five hundred pages, this is a long one for YA, but it’s the first of a series and contains the initial world-building.

Impossible stakes, magic, a dysfunctional, loving family, first love, and killings, Blood Like Magic contains a multi-layered plot and a MC asked to make an impossible choice. I’m axious to see where this series goes next.

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

Fire with Fire by Destiny Soria #bookreview #YA #fantasy #dragons

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

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

Julie Kagawa’s Talon series turned me into a big dragon fan. It’s not hard to see why this book made its way to my TBR.

With this being an urban fantasy, the author did an excellent job with world-building. Dragons and sorcerers have existed for hundreds of years with humans believing they’re nothing but a myth. Dani, Eden, and their family have had to straddle both worlds for years and lie to everyone about being slayers.

It’s evident early on that Dani and Eden are opposites. Dani has a natural talent when it comes to dragon slayer training, but all she wants is a normal life with friends, school, and a summer job. For her sister Eden, joining the family business is everything, but without a natural aptitude she has to work much harder to succeed. Although the older sister, she’s always felt as if she lives in Dani’s shadow. She just wants to be seen and appreciated for her talents, and that’s exactly what the sorcerers offer her. Talk about manipulation. Despite the sisters’ differences and occasional arguments, the bond between them figures prominently in the story.

The soul bond between Dani and Nox takes both of them by surprise, and it doesn’t start off as an easy or natural relationship – totally understandable when one is a human and the other a dragon. Once they grow more comfortable, their snarky comments to each other became one of my favorite parts of the book. Dani’s relationship with best friend Tomas (and his completely easy to love family) is also a bright spot. Why people think platonic relationships of the opposite sex are impossible is beyond me.

The teen conversations come across as entirely authentic, and the plot moves along at a brisk pace. It certainly didn’t feel like a 400+ page book. This novel appears to be a standalone, but the author left a door open to continue this story, and I’d love to see what happens next.

With complex family dynamics, power plays, sorcerers, magic, beautiful friendships – and most of all dragons, this is a novel that will make urban fantasy fans very happy.

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

A Dark and Hollow Star by Ashley Shuttleworth #bookreview #urbanfantasy #YA

The Cruel Prince meets City of Bones in this thrilling urban fantasy set in the magical underworld of Toronto that follows a queer cast of characters racing to stop a serial killer whose crimes could expose the hidden world of faeries to humans.

Choose your player.

The “ironborn” half-fae outcast of her royal fae family.
A tempestuous Fury, exiled to earth from the Immortal Realm and hellbent on revenge.
A dutiful fae prince, determined to earn his place on the throne.
The prince’s brooding guardian, burdened with a terrible secret.

For centuries, the Eight Courts of Folk have lived among us, concealed by magic and bound by law to do no harm to humans. This arrangement has long kept peace in the Courts—until a series of gruesome and ritualistic murders rocks the city of Toronto and threatens to expose faeries to the human world.

Four queer teens, each who hold a key piece of the truth behind these murders, must form a tenuous alliance in their effort to track down the mysterious killer behind these crimes. If they fail, they risk the destruction of the faerie and human worlds alike. If that’s not bad enough, there’s a war brewing between the Mortal and Immortal Realms, and one of these teens is destined to tip the scales. The only question is: which way?

Wish them luck. They’re going to need it.

One of the biggest reasons I requested this book from NetGalley was the diverse cast of queer characters. And I wasn’t disappointed – the representation is outstanding.

I haven’t read many books involving the fae, so I always appreciate when the author doesn’t assume readers know all the ‘rules’. I can’t say I’ve ever read a fantasy novel set in Canada (Toronto), so it was a very welcome change. With this being urban fantasy, the teen fae come across as genuine, mentioning pop culture, hanging out at coffee houses, texting each other, and generally getting into trouble with their parents. I have to commend the author for getting me to see and understand so much about these characters in just a few sentences. Other authors I’ve come across have written paragraphs of description, and I’d still feel like I didn’t know the characters even close to this level.

At the beginning of the story, most of the main characters are in different locations, and I enjoyed getting to know each of them (Arlo, Nausicaa, Vehan, and Aurelian) and their personalities through their different POVs before they joined together later in the story. All the POVs are very distinct and when I set the book down and came back to it later, I immediately knew who was speaking. The author also gives a POV of the villain – it was interesting being in his head and getting glimpses of what was going on with the murders of iron-born teens.

Snarky characters capture my heart every time, so Nausicaa was an immediate favorite for me. She’s dark and dangerous, but there’s a good heart inside – buried waaayyy down deep, but it’s there. Celadon, who gave me plenty of laughs, is also at the top of my list, and I would have loved more of him.

External conflict abounds – murders, a brewing war, secrets about Arlo and her magic – but a good bit of internal conflict with each character also contributes to a richly layered plot. It’s not really a secret who the villains are in this novel, but there’s a reveal at the end that isn’t that shocking. This person is rotten to the core, and I hope very bad and painful things happen to them in the next book. Just sayin’.

The popular comp titles are very appropriate, so fans of both The Cruel Prince and City of Bones should enjoy this series. I’d highly recommend it to fantasy fans looking for more diverse reads.

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

The Ravens (The Ravens #1) by Kass Morgan and Danielle Paige #bookreview #YA #urbanfantasy #TuesdayBookBlog

Kappa Rho Nu isn’t your average sorority. Their parties are notorious. Their fundraisers are known for being Westerly College’s most elaborate affairs. But beneath the veil of Greek life and prestige, the sisters of Kappu Rho Nu share a secret: they’re a coven of witches. For Vivi Deveraux, being one of Kappa Rho Nu’s Ravens means getting a chance to redefine herself. For Scarlett Winters, a bonafide Raven and daughter of a legacy Raven, pledge this year means living up to her mother’s impossible expectations of becoming Kappa Rho Nu’s next president. Scarlett knows she’d be the perfect candidate — that is, if she didn’t have one human-sized skeleton in her closet…. When Vivi and Scarlett are paired as big and little for initiation, they find themselves sinking into the sinister world of blood oaths and betrayals. 

Although I’ve always liked college settings in books, it’s been a while since I’ve read one.  With The Ravens involving witches and having such an awesome cover, I couldn’t pass it up.

The whole time I was reading, I kept seeing the witches in American Horror Story Coven – loved that season.  Like Coven, sisterhood is an important theme in this story.  Kappas always put their sisters first and never go against them.  They believe they’re stronger together than individually, something that’s proven true several times over by the end of the novel.  The different types of witches and their magic are explained well, and I enjoyed seeing their varieties of powers.

While I really didn’t care for Scarlett in the beginning, she changed my mind by the end.  Initially she comes off as judgemental, elitist, and kind of a mean girl, especially when it comes to Vivi, but undergoes several changes and easily has the best character arc.  She drives the story.  With Vivi’s flighty mother who packs up and moves them at the drop of a hat, she’s missed stability in her life and has never lived anywhere long enough to make friends.  Being settled at college for four years and joining the Kappas fills those voids.  I would have liked more explanation about how she’s suddenly able to use her power after a lifetime of not knowing she was a witch.

Some of the relationships didn’t feel natural to me.  Scarlett’s relationship with another character that develops near the end feels forced and out of place – it didn’t seem to fit.  And then there’s Vivi, who has a sudden case of insta-love with the first guy who’s nice to her.  The strong friendships between the girls are much more genuine.

While a couple of twists are easy to see coming, there’s still plenty of action, tension, and mystery to engage readers.  The title indicates this is a series, but with no cliffhangers, it felt like a natural ending to me.  If there’s more to come, I’ll definitely pick up the next book.

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

#BadMoonRising Johnny Lycan and the Anubis Disk by Wayne Turmel #paranormal #urbanfantasy

Today’s author is making his debut with Bad Moon Rising. His werewolf detective thriller is scheduled for release next month, but you can take advantage of the preorder links below. On his list of things to take to a haunted house? Top shelf tequila. Welcome Wayne Turmel!

Has a movie or book scared you so much you couldn’t sleep?  Which one? 

Hell yes. I read the Damnation Game by Clive Barker and there’s a section where the bad guy gets his… or so you think…. There’s an image of maggots that… I think I just threw up in my mouth a little just thinking about it. As far as movies, the one that stuck with me the longest—and gave birth to Johnny Lycan, was the old Hammer film, “The Curse of the Werewolf” with Oliver Reed. I saw it when I was a teenager and it freaked me out. Mainly because there’s a snarling unreasonable rampaging beast trapped inside every 13 year old boy. Right?

Name three items you’d take to spend the night in a haunted house.  

This was the hardest question of all. If I had to spend the night I would take a sleeping bag (you don’t think I’m getting in that bed do you? I don’t even like to get under the sheets in cheap hotels)  then about four boxes of salt to create the largest protective ring you can imagine, and finally good tequila. If it’s my last night on earth I’m not drinking the cheap stuff.

If you were in a horror movie, would you rather have a loaded gun or a car that wouldn’t break down? 

I’m playing the odds here. 90% of horror movie baddies can’t be shot. In fact, it only seems to annoy them and make them worse. With a car that wouldn’t break down I could do the intelligent thing… get the heck out of there.

Which comes first for you – plot or characters? 

Almost always it’s the characters. I come up with someone I think is cool and interesting and I really like… then I figure out as many ways as possible to mess with them and make their life miserable. Most of my work is in first person, so it’s like a method actor getting inside the character. Plot is far trickier.

What was the hardest scene to write in your featured book?

It’s kind of a cliché to say the sex scene. It would be a major spoiler alert to say between whom, but I’ve never written that kind of thing before. I relied heavily on my critique group—75% of whom are women, and a large percentage apparently are freakier than I thought—to guide me.

What are you working on now? 

I’m at work on the sequel to Johnny Lycan and the Anubis Disk. This time he has to handle a case in Las Vegas involving super-cool witches, mysterious artifacts and something even bigger and scarier than himself. He’s still learning the world is way weirder than he ever imagined it could be. And when you’re a werewolf, that’s saying something.

‘A new breed of horror which adds to the mythos of lycanthropy like never before – a must read!’ STORGY Magazine

Johnny Lupul is riding high. He’s got a PI license, a concealed carry permit, his first big payday and a monster of a secret. After rescuing a bookie’s daughter from Russian mobsters, the newly-minted PI catches the attention of a rich, mysterious client.

At first, it’s easy money. After all, magic isn’t real and those “occult” objects have to be fakes. But while chasing an Egyptian relic, an obsessed enemy from his past emerges. Johnny learns that the world is much stranger—and more dangerous—than he ever suspected.

Being a werewolf may be the most normal thing he has to face on this case.

‘Utterly original, beguiling in every sense of the word and as funny as hell – Turmel’s wit and visionary prowess is a force to be reckoned with; not since American Werewolf In London has the werewolf genre had it so good!’ Ross Jeffery – author of Juniper & Tethered

Preorder Links

From the publisher, Black Rose Writing  https://www.blackrosewriting.com/scififantasy/johnnylycan

From Amazon  https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1684335760/

Author Bio

Wayne Turmel has been a standup comic, car salesman, business owner and now writes fiction to save what’s left of his sanity. Originally from a small town in Canada, he now lives in Las Vegas.

After a career as a touring comedian, he went into the corporate training world, eventually co-founding The Remote Work Institute. He’s the author of 7 non-fiction books including “The Long-Distance Leader-Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership,”

Short fiction has appeared in multiple outlets including Storgy, Twist in Time and e-Fiction. His pride and joy are his four novels. The first were prize-winning historical fiction including The Count of the Sahara and the 2-part Lucca Le Pou stories, Acre’s Bastard, and Acre’s Orphans. His werewolf driven urban fantasy/ detective thriller, Johnny Lycan & the Anubis Disk is out in November 19 of 2020 and is available for preorder https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1684335760/.

He can be found on:

Twitter @Wturmel

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/wayne.turmel

His website: http://WayneTurmel.com

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14980039.Wayne_Turmel Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/Wayne-Turmel/e/B00J5PGNWU/

Havenfall (Havenfall #1) by Sara Holland #bookreview #YA #urbanfantasy

A safe haven between four realms. The girl sworn to protect it–at any cost.

Hidden deep in the mountains of Colorado lies the Inn at Havenfall, a sanctuary that connects ancient worlds–each with their own magic–together. For generations, the inn has protected all who seek refuge within its walls, and any who disrupt the peace can never return.

For Maddie Morrow, summers at the inn are more than a chance to experience this magic first-hand. Havenfall is an escape from reality, where her mother sits on death row accused of murdering Maddie’s brother. It’s where Maddie fell in love with handsome Fiorden soldier Brekken. And it’s where one day she hopes to inherit the role of Innkeeper from her beloved uncle.

But this summer, the impossible happens–a dead body is found, shattering everything the inn stands for. With Brekken missing, her uncle gravely injured, and a dangerous creature on the loose, Maddie suddenly finds herself responsible for the safety of everyone in Havenfall. She’ll do anything to uncover the truth, even if it means working together with an alluring new staffer Taya, who seems to know more than she’s letting on. As dark secrets are revealed about the inn itself, one thing becomes clear to Maddie–no one can be trusted, and no one is safe . . .

I liked the idea of this inn being the neutral zone connecting so many different realms.  And the cover is stunning – and that’s before I even noticed the woman’s head forming the mountain.

Initially, I was skeptical about this book.  The first several pages are descriptions of each realm, their people, and their magic – basically an info dump – and I hoped that wasn’t an indicator of how the rest of the book would play out.  After the first few chapters, I was relieved that wasn’t the case.

Maddie is easy to like and care about.  Havenfall is her safe space where she’s accepted and feels needed, but soon after she arrives for the summer, her world gets turned upside down.  For me, it seemed pretty obvious early in the story who she shouldn’t trust, so it wasn’t a complete shock when everything comes to a head near the end.  Still, I enjoyed seeing Maddie begin to figure things out and learn to trust her instincts.

The supporting characters are helpful and occasionally fun, but none of them really shine or jump off the page.  With the majority of this story taking place at the inn, I’d love to venture into the other realms in the next book and learn more about the magic.

Havenfall may not offer any earth-shattering revelations or breathtaking highs and lows, but it’s an evenly-paced book containing an intriguing mystery in a magical setting and a series I plan to continue.

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

 

Highfire by Eoin Colfer #bookreview #fantasy #dragon #TuesdayBookBlog

From the New York Times bestselling author of the Artemis Fowl series comes a hilarious and high-octane adult novel about a vodka-drinking, Flashdance-loving dragon who lives an isolated life in the bayous of Louisiana—and the raucous adventures that ensue when he crosses paths with a fifteen-year-old troublemaker on the run from a crooked sheriff.

In the days of yore, he flew the skies and scorched angry mobs—now he hides from swamp tour boats and rises only with the greatest reluctance from his Laz-Z-Boy recliner. Laying low in the bayou, this once-magnificent fire breather has been reduced to lighting Marlboros with nose sparks, swilling Absolut in a Flashdance T-shirt, and binging Netflix in a fishing shack. For centuries, he struck fear in hearts far and wide as Wyvern, Lord Highfire of the Highfire Eyrie—now he goes by Vern. However…he has survived, unlike the rest. He is the last of his kind, the last dragon. Still, no amount of vodka can drown the loneliness in his molten core. Vern’s glory days are long gone. Or are they?

A canny Cajun swamp rat, young Everett “Squib” Moreau does what he can to survive, trying not to break the heart of his saintly single mother. He’s finally decided to work for a shady smuggler—but on his first night, he witnesses his boss murdered by a crooked constable.

Regence Hooke is not just a dirty cop, he’s a despicable human being—who happens to want Squib’s momma in the worst way. When Hooke goes after his hidden witness with a grenade launcher, Squib finds himself airlifted from certain death by…a dragon?

The swamp can make strange bedfellows, and rather than be fried alive so the dragon can keep his secret, Squib strikes a deal with the scaly apex predator. He can act as his go-between (aka familiar)—fetch his vodka, keep him company, etc.—in exchange for protection from Hooke. Soon the three of them are careening headlong toward a combustible confrontation. There’s about to be a fiery reckoning, in which either dragons finally go extinct—or Vern’s glory days are back.

A triumphant return to the genre-bending fantasy that Eoin Colfer is so well known for, Highfire is an effortlessly clever and relentlessly funny tour-de-force of comedy and action. 

I’m a dragon fan.  My sons read the Artemis Fowl books when they were younger, but I’d had no personal experience with Colfer’s books before this one.  When I read the description – a vodka-drinking, Flashdance-loving dragon who lives an isolated life in the bayous of Louisiana – I didn’t care what the rest of the story was about.  How many times in your life will you come across a dragon like this?

Nothing could have prepared me for Vern.  He’s a curmudgeonly, northwards of 3,000-year-old, foul-mouthed dragon with a penchant for vodka and Flashdance t-shirts.  He also despises humans – and with good reason.  They’ve wiped out his family and friends over the centuries and forced Vern into hiding just to survive.  Maybe Vern and his family took out a few (quite possibly more) villages over the years, but a dragon surely gets lonely when he’s the last of his kind.

Squib hasn’t had the easiest life either.  Father figures have been practically nonexistent, and his default setting constantly steers him toward trouble, but he loves his mama and honestly wants to do better.  He and Vern don’t meet under the best of circumstances, but watching their developing friendship is hilarious and heartwarming.

I laughed out loud so many times while reading this book – it’s truly a delight.  It’s filled with comedy and action, but at its core are themes of acceptance, forgiveness, and family.  If you’re looking for something different or maybe you’re in a reading rut, add Highfire to your list.  You won’t regret it.

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

Reverie by Ryan La Sala #bookreview #YA #urbanfantasy #LGBT #TuesdayBookBlog

Inception meets The Magicians in the most imaginative YA debut of the year!

All Kane Montgomery knows for certain is that the police found him half-dead in the river. He can’t remember how he got there, what happened after, and why his life seems so different now. And it’s not just Kane who’s different, the world feels off, reality itself seems different.

As Kane pieces together clues, three almost-strangers claim to be his friends and the only people who can truly tell him what’s going on. But as he and the others are dragged into unimaginable worlds that materialize out of nowhere—the gym warps into a subterranean temple, a historical home nearby blooms into a Victorian romance rife with scandal and sorcery—Kane realizes that nothing in his life is an accident. And when a sinister force threatens to alter reality for good, they will have to do everything they can to stop it before it unravels everything they know.

This wildly imaginative debut explores what happens when the secret worlds that people hide within themselves come to light.

Inception is one of my absolute favorite movies, so when I saw it listed as a comp title for this book, I really didn’t need to read the rest of the blurb.

“Wildly imaginative” is a perfect description of this book.  Easily one of the most creative novels I’ve read this year (2019).  Kane is confused and unable to remember much of the trauma he recently experienced.  He feels like a stranger in his own bedroom, and many of his personal items are a mystery to him.  I was all in and needed to know more.  Kane’s quest to discover who he is takes the reader on an incredible, illusory journey through the fantasies/dreams/reveries of other people.  At times, you may not know what’s real or make-believe.  Some characters have powers that come in handy when these reveries spiral out of control.  And there’s also a sorceress-like drag queen with a killer wardrobe.  Can I just mention the creativity again?

Kane’s character is a treasure, and even in his confusion, his sense of humor shines through.  His sister, Sophia, also has some memorable quips.  While I liked the other supporting characters, I wanted more information about them and how they’d come together.  By the end of the novel, I felt as if I barely knew them.

With themes of sibling bonds and friendships, amazing representation, and vividly imaginative dream sequences, Reverie will leave you feeling like you just stepped off a bizarre carousel ride through a fantasy world.  And I enjoyed every minute of it.

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