Categories
Fantasy Middle Grade Paranormal Young Adult

ARC Review: The Door to Inferna by Rishab Borah

Thank you so much to the publisher for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Door to Inferna
  • Series: Elkloria #1
  • Author: Rishab Borah
  • Publisher & Release: Three Rooms Press, October 2020
  • Length: 236 pg
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 sure for the middle graders!

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

Fourteen-year-old Khioneus Nevula is beginning to realize something strange is going on. Adopted from unknown parentage, he has always been marked as different by his purple eyes.

Now a winter break that should have been nothing but goofing around with his best friends is haunted by some other presence—ghostly apparitions appear to him in the dark of night, the surface of his mirror ripples like a pool of water, and he dreams of a girl with a long blue braid who invents fantastical devices.

Drawn into a mystical land, he meets his twin sister, a proficient mage, a slightly mad scientist, and a princess. In this land where he is a prince, he finds himself and his friends caught in a war between the inhabitants of Elkloria and an ancient and powerful evil.

I am extremely impressed that a tween/teenager wrote this book.  He started when he was 11 and is now 16 so thats a huge accomplishment. That said – I can tell it was written by a youth, and, I think he did an absolutely phenomenal job. The story is nothing new, a teen gets whisked away to an alternate universe and finds out that he is more or less a “chosen one”.

That said, I like how he took an interplanetary and inter-dimensional route with the story line. I think the universes and dimensions and layers folded on top of each other (hints of a Wrinkle In Time almost) are super interesting. The transporters make things a bit convenient but hey – it’s for middle grade.

I think Borah does a pretty good job with world building too, the gadgets and architecture and spells and those talking doors are all pretty cool. I liked that we hear about the food, natives, some lore, and some of the religion / myths of the world too, it gives it depth.

The characters are pretty standard.  There are strong friendships, trust shown, also mistrust, overcoming that – and one awkward moment where one character had to put down a romantic awkwardness. I liked the found family element and how close the group of friends are though. Honestly the last page was the only part that threw me off, since at no other point was Khi worried about being or sounding truthful and that last paragraph just came out of nowhere.

Anyway – I 100% recommend for middle grade readers. Totally age appropriate, good descriptive language, easy to picture scenery, and a moderately diverse group of friends make this a great fantasy read for the age group. I think if he keeps writing, and I hope he does, that he’ll put out some great fantasy some day!

Categories
Horror Paranormal Thrillers

Book Review: Cracked Coffins by Beronika Keres

Thank you so much to the author for the review copy of Cracked Coffins in exchange for an honest review!  I was originally supposed to be on a book tour that was cancelled so I really appreciate her sending the book anyway.

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Cracked Coffins
  • Series: Book #1
  • Author: Beronika Keres
  • Publisher & Release: Immortal Woods Books, 10/24/20
  • Length: 470 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ for 18+

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

**Cracked Coffins contains profanity, mature themes, sexual violence, and general violence. It is recommended for a mature 17+ audience.**

THE PAST HAS RISEN

After Marianna Cortez overdoses on the eve of her seventeenth birthday, the strange circumstances surrounding her survival make her doubt that the normal life she desperately wants will ever be within reach. Yet, when Denendrius Sovetta steps out from the shadows of her past, he brings with him the hope that things could be different.

But Denendrius is a twisted vampire from Ancient Rome with a chaotic past of his own. Marianna can’t ignore the cracks in his sweet façade for long. As she discovers her connection to him, she learns more about his dark past and its influence on hers.

With his claims that they’re meant to be together and his brutal means to keep her from leaving him, Marianna seeks to find the truth and escape Denendrius’s grasp before her history has a chance to kill her future.

So yeah – this is a DARK dark dark thriller / paranormal / not-romance that happens to have vampires. Stalking, abuse, drugs, gangs, all of the above and more – and I read it in just about two sittings! I couldn’t put it down if you paid me to, because the action and suspense is just nonstop.

The twisted mind of the Vampire, Denendrius, was unbelievably sadistic at times.  What is he going to do next? How much can I possibly hate one character? The whole plot kept twisting like his mind! I kind of at least had a begrudging respect for Marianna, what a terrible life she was raised in and what do you do when you’re trapped by a monster like she is??  I had to keep flipping pages to see if she would even live or not. I never felt like there was a good stopping point because I had to know what happened next!

I would have liked to see more from Carol, but maybe in book two?  The whole ending confused me a bit, a whole new sect of characters were thrown into the mix without a whole lot of backstory, and I am very confused as to why the women weren’t using that knife to saw off a certain vampire’s head while he was down 😳

This is definitely not a YA book but the main character is 16-17. Would recommend for anyone looking for a paranormal domestic  thriller that is absolutely impossible to put down.

Thank you again to the author for the review copy, all opinions are my own!

Categories
Crime Fantasy Paranormal Science Fiction

Book Review: Night Terrors by Tim Waggoner

Thank you so much to Angry Robot Books for the finished copy of Night Terrors in exchange for an honest review!  This is a perfect Halloween time book.

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Night Terrors
  • Series: Shadow Watch, #1
  • Author: Tim Waggoner
  • Publisher & Release: Angry Robot Books – 2014, reissued October, 2020
  • Length: 352 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ yes for Urban Fantasy fans!

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

When you dream, you visit the Maelstrom. Dream long enough and hard enough, and your dreams can break through into the living world.

So can your nightmares.

And who’s there to catch the dreams and nightmares as they fall into reality?

Meet the Shadow Watch. Pray you never need them…

I am usually not an urban fantasy reader at all, but Night Terrors was an absolutely perfect #Spooktober read.  Certain humans are able to dream their nightmares into creation, and then become ideators.  No longer needing sleep, the humans and their dreams – called incubus/incubi) – tend to stay together in the real world.  With violent tastes at night time and a desire to live freely on Earth, an agency called the Shadow Watch has developed to keep the order in both Earth and Nod, the alternate realm.

This book kept me flying through the pages.  There isn’t much info dumping so you get to learn the world while experiencing the action.  Audra is a Shadow Watch agent and her partner is her incubus, a delightfully homicidal clown named Mr Jinx.  During the day these creations take on normal aspects, and Jinx turns into an art loving papa bear.  At night though he wreaks havoc on rogue Incubi with Audra and an arsenal of funny weapons.

Or they try anyway. They completely botch a case and end up going rogue to foil a plot against the two realms.  Jinx and Audra are both funny and interesting characters, so are the other host of humans and Incubi in the book.  A giant dog and pirate man, some terror being called The Darkness, and a living hearse are some of the other awesome characters.  The banter is about as amazing as you’d expect from this group.

Add in some psycho villains, sci fi level weapons, and a Circus Psychosis complete with a group of insane clowns, and you have Night Terrors.  It’s probably the most fun I’ve had reading a detective type novel since Men In Black, and oddly enough I was getting some Daughter of Smoke and Bone vibes, in the creation and alternate world aspects as well as ridiculous looking chimaera/Incubi.

I wish the end was a little less easily resolved, but I am 100% on board for book 2 to find out more.

Thank you again so much to Angry Robot Books for the review copy! As always, all opinions are my own 🖤

Categories
Contemporary Fiction Paranormal Young Adult

Book Review: Watch Over Me by Nina LaCour

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Watch Over Me
  • Author: Nina LaCour
  • Publisher & Release: Dutton Books for Young Readers, Sept 15th 2020
  • Length: 272 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 for fans of contemporary!

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

Mila is used to being alone. Maybe that’s why she said yes to the opportunity: living in this remote place, among the flowers and the fog and the crash of waves far below.

But she hadn’t known about the ghosts.

Newly graduated from high school, Mila has aged out of the foster care system. So when she’s offered a job and a place to stay at a farm on an isolated part of the Northern California Coast, she immediately accepts. Maybe she will finally find a new home, a real home. The farm is a refuge, but also haunted by the past traumas its young residents have come to escape. And Mila’s own terrible memories are starting to rise to the surface.

My Thoughts:

Thank you so much to the publisher via Bookish First for the finished copy in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own!

Watch Over Me is a deeeeeply atmospheric young adult contemporary read, with a paranormal/magical realism twist involving ghosts and residual hauntings related to trauma.

Mila becomes too old to remain in foster care, and goes to teach on a farm in northern California where the owners have fostered 40+ children. The interns cook, clean, teach, tend to the farm and children, and everyone lives in a structured environment and seem like one big amazing family.

Then there are the ghosts. Ghosts of children playing in the yard. A dancing ghost that plays the piano. A ghost that re-enacts Mila’s past traumas?

The less I think about the ghost element, the more I enjoy the book. It doesn’t make a ton of sense to me to bring residual hauntings to actual life, but I understand it in a symbolic sense. The theme of residual hauntings due to trauma is deep and difficult and handled so well by LaCour, and these resilient kids who have been through so much. There is a literal but symbolic gesture of embracing the lost and detached part of oneself that still deserves love and belonging and healing.

I loved the little kids, especially Lee, the farm family, and the whole found family theme in general. The farm atmosphere was so real that I always felt like I was walking in the chilly air next to the characters, or joining them at dinner or in the family room.

It’s a shorter and quick book that kept me rapt the entire time, and if I had more time it could have easily been read in a day.  A similar book that I read this year, and the review is here somewhere, was Echoes Between Us by Katie McCarty.

Content for gas lighting, housefires, parental abandonment, child abuse, sex overheard and then imagined in no explicit detail, two naked girls in a bath tub with nothing sexual occurring, one usage of the word f**k, near drowning, personal injury, ghosts, and pain related to ghostly encounters

Categories
Crime Horror Paranormal

ARC Review: Comanche by Brett Riley

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Comanche
  • Author: Brett Riley
  • Publisher & Release: Imbrifex Books, Sept 1st 2020
  • Length: 336 pages
  • Rating & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟⚡ probably

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

Like a cylinder in a six-shooter, what goes around, comes around.

In 1887 near the tiny Texas town of Comanche, a posse finally ends the murderous career of The Piney Woods Kid in a hail of bullets. Still in the grip of blood-lust, the vigilantes hack the Kid’s corpse to bits in the dead house behind the train depot. The people of Comanche rejoice. Justice has been done. A long bloody chapter in the town’s history is over.

The year is now 2016. Comanche police are stymied by a double murder at the train depot. Witnesses swear the killer was dressed like an old-time gunslinger. Rumors fly that it’s the ghost of The Piney Woods Kid, back to wreak revenge on the descendants of the vigilantes who killed him.

Help arrives in the form of a team of investigators from New Orleans. Shunned by the local community and haunted by their own pasts, they’re nonetheless determined to unravel the mystery. They follow the evidence and soon find themselves in the crosshairs of the killer.

Thank you to Imbrifex Books for the advanced copy in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own.

Raymond and LeBlanc are two Private Investigators from New Orleans, and they are called to Comanche, TX, to help investigate some brutal murders that have the local authorities stumped.

The settings were extremely well done, whether 1800’s Comanche or present day was being described. The local flavor was there plus the small town politics and family drama. I loved how much Ray and Leblanc love food too, all the talk about NOLA specialties had me hungry. The weather and layout and setting in general played a big role in the book, and it was well done so that I felt like I was there.

The murderer…well… It’s either a person, a ghost, or a person emulating a ghost, and he is a pretty scary entity. I stay away from most ghost and horror stories out of fear but this one was manageable. The legends surrounding Comanche and The Piney Woods Kid and then ghosts in general were pretty well done, and I think they took a predictable but interesting route to track down and stop the killer.

I liked the characters too, I would definitely read more from Ray and Leblanc and McDonald, the psychic.

A few notes: the action was definitely good and heart pounding at times but got a little bit repetitive. The book also does not use quotes, which provided for a smooth reading experience but was an adjustment to get used to. As far as how repetitive the book was in general, I felt like maybe it was a novella or shorter work that got brought to novel length.

Lastly, time for the OneReadingNurse medical rant©: I get that Raymond is an alcoholic and this was done tastefully. It felt real, the struggle is definitely real. What I didn’t love was how after Ray’s hand got pulverized – yes, pulverized – they were making a huge deal out of him taking a prescribed percocet. I get that people can get addicted to anything but 5/325 (mg oxycodone to tylenol) is a standard percocet and for the love of everything I get concerned when patients are afraid to take narcotics for legitimate acute problems. I don’t love seeing that feeling perpetuated in shows because pain and lack of activity post procedure is a much bigger issue than the taking of a medication as prescribed.

Anyway – yes I would recommend it but be aware of the format in case the style will throw you off


P.S: I really am trying to stay active on booksta and here but my brain and body and life in general suck right now.  I’m trying but will only be writing for author ARC requests and book tours for a bit.  All my plans for self published fantasy month… Ah… Like I said, I’m trying

Categories
Dystopian Horror Literary Fiction Paranormal Science Fiction

Book Review: The Phlebotomist by Chris Panatier

Thank you so much to Angry Robot Books for the finished copy of The Phlebotomist in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own.

Quick facts:

  • Title: The Phlebotomist
  • Series: standalone
  • Author: Chris Panatier
  • Publisher & Release: Angry Robot – September 8th 2020
  • Length: 345 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes!

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

War brought the Harvest. Willa Mae Wallace is a reaper.

To support herself and her grandson Isaiah, Willa works for the blood contractor Patriot. Instituted to support the war effort, the mandatory draw (The Harvest) has led to a society segregated by blood type. Hoping to put an end to it all, Willa draws on her decades-old phlebotomy training to resurrect an obsolete collection technique, but instead uncovers an awful truth.

Patriot will do anything to protect its secret. On the run and with nowhere else to turn, Willa seeks an alliance with Lock, a notorious blood-hacker who cheats the Harvest to support the children orphaned by it. But they soon find themselves in the grasp of a new type of evil.

My dark sci-fi dystopian blood drawing nurse heart was all about this book. My patients not-so-lovingly call us night shift nurses “vampires” because we are always after blood at night, and I was immediately drawn to the synopsis where a mandatory blood harvest has created a segregated society based off of blood types.

Willa Mae is in her 60s and a fantastic older main character. Lock, the blood hacker, can’t be much younger, and for some reason reading about older women playing the heroes struck a chord with me. They are snarky and wholesome and so caring for their young charges. Both rely on their knowledge and use of older technologies in a highly automated big-brother type world to undermine Patriot and practice some old-school phlebotomy to (at least try) to save society.

I can’t talk about Patriot too much without spoilers but the company runs blood collection stations all over the country to fuel the need for blood transfusions after nuclear bombs struck in certain “gray areas.” The lies, murders, and political structure of Patriot.. let me just say that I couldn’t put this book down once I started.

100% not what I expected.

The side cast of characters was great too, there was so much hope in one area called “bad blood” where everyone that was undesirable for transfusions was sent. They grew gardens and repurposed factory stores. The book definitely was not always happy, there were some significant and bloody deaths which I 100% endorse in any good resistance based dystopian.

Lastly there is a bit of transfusion based science provided just for informational sakes and I thought that was great. We have to do so much checking and double checking of blood before transfusing and I think Panatier did a phenomenal job putting this all into layman’s terms for readers.

If you are even slightly into dystopias, sci fi, resistance based novels, even fantasy/paranormal readers could cross over and enjoy this, I totally recommend it.

Happy Book Birthday!!!!

Categories
Fantasy Fiction General Fiction Paranormal

Book Review: Out of the Nowhere by K.B. Elijah

Thank you so much to the author for sending me a gorgeous finished copy of her anthology of short stories/novellas!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Out of the Nowhere
  • Series: Moments in Time Anthology, #2
  • Author: K.B. Elijah
  • Publisher & Release: Self – May, 2020
  • Length: 335 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Yes for anyone 14+

An excerpt from the synopsis:

Out of the Nowhere: An android, a vampire, a time-traveller and Death himself walk into a bar. It may sound like a joke, yet this meeting is anything but…

Each of these novellas tells a great story with a beginning, a punch, a twist, and an ending, and most had a good laugh in there somewhere too. It is notable that anthology #1 does not need to be read prior to this one!

Death is featured as a normal guy running an office building. He is addicted to sweets and his wife is a vet. I just loved his two stories so much, especially the recap at the end where the book draws it’s title from – Out of the Nowhere.

Some other fun stories include a pirate fighting off the curse of an indignant ghost, which had me laughing quite a bit at the end. These shorter stories really connected over a short period of time which doesn’t always occur.  Another features a man trying to go back in time to save his brother, who learns a few things about fate and public nudity.

How about a god hog-tied to a horse, accidently sacrificed to another god? I can not believe how many hilarious, serious, unique things she came up with in such a short number of pages.

I ordered anthology #1 immediately upon finishing and can’t wait to read more from the author!!

Do you like anthologies?  Have you read any good short stories or novellas recently?

Categories
Historical Fiction Paranormal Suspense Thrillers

ARC Review: The Hollow Ones by Guillermo Del Toro & Chuck Hogan

QuickFacts:

  • Title: The Hollow Ones
  • Series: The Blackwood Tapes #1
  • Author: GDT & Chuck Hogan
  • Publisher & Release: Grand Central Publishing 8/4/2020
  • Length: 305pg
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⚡yes!

A huge thank you to Grand Central Publishing for the giveaway win! I received an early copy of The Hollow Ones by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan, and while I slightly missed the publication date I read it as soon as I could!

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

A horrific crime that defies explanation, a rookie FBI agent in uncharted territory, and an extraordinary hero for the ages: an investigation spirals out of control in this heart-pounding thriller.

Odessa Hardwicke’s life is derailed when she’s forced to turn her gun on her partner, Walt Leppo, a decorated FBI agent who turns suddenly, inexplicably violent while apprehending a rampaging murderer. The shooting, justified by self-defense, shakes the young FBI agent to her core. Devastated, Odessa is placed on desk leave pending a full investigation. What most troubles Odessa isn’t the tragedy itself — it’s the shadowy presence she thought she saw fleeing the deceased agent’s body after his death.

Questioning her future with the FBI and her sanity, Hardwicke accepts a low-level assignment to clear out the belongings of a retired agent in the New York office. What she finds there will put her on the trail of a mysterious figure named Hugo Blackwood, a man of enormous means who claims to have been alive for centuries, and who is either an unhinged lunatic, or humanity’s best and only defense against unspeakable evil.

This book is everything I could ever want in a crime / thriller /paranormal / FBI / supernatural bundle of amazing ness. Maybe I have just been away from thrillers for too long but I read this in three sittings and have no regrets. From a modern day FBI agent who has to shoot her suddenly violent partner, to insane rampage killings across NY and NJ, to the 1960s bayou where one of the first black FBI agents is sent to help sooth tensions involving a racially charged series of crimes, all the way back to the release of The Hollow Ones… Then there is one mystical man who is summoned via a forgotten mailbox near Wall St.

I can’t speak for the editing in the final version but I can definitely speak for the action.  Told mostly in the present day, with a few flashbacks, from start to finish the action never stopped in this book.  I think there is a detachment from the characters which I really liked, that allows us to focus on the plot and evil at hand without really getting too involved in their personal lives.  We get enough background to empathize with them though, and I really did like ALL of the characters which is rare for me.  Odessa is in an impossible spot after having to shoot her partner.  Blackwood is a British tea drinker with an appreciation for old books, disdain for microwaves, and a sad task in life – or is it a curse? and Solomon… Oh Solomon I had so much respect for the way he handled the KKK and the situation involving the church.  There are a few racially sensitive themes in the book and I thought they were handled well by the authors. Solomon is just such a great character and commanded respect while dealing with both sides of the problem with grace. I also am now very interested in the early black FBI agents if anyone can recommend any reading, fiction or non?

There are some intense spots that made me cringe, because the Hollow Ones thrive on violence there are some pretty brutal killing sprees.  It throws a baby out a fifth story window and watches it splat, for example.  Other than that there is no language or sexual content involved, just violence and possession and talk of ritualistic religious practices.

There is something for everyone in this.  I definitely 100% recommend for fans of FBI thrillers, occult detectives, the supernatural, demon and spirit hunters, rogue agents, and some chilling themes typical of GDT.   Thanks you again to Grand Central Publishing for the giveaway win!

Have you read it? Want to discuss it? Drop a comment below!

Categories
audiobooks Fantasy Middle Grade Paranormal

Audiobook Review: Star Stable – Jorvik Calling by Helena Dahlgren

  • Title: Jorvik Calling
  • Series: Soul Riders #1
  • Author: Helena Dahlgren (Star Stable Entertainment AB)
  • Narrator: Jennifer Jill Araya
  • Length: 5 hours 38 min (192 pages)
  • Publisher & Release: May 2020
  • Rate & Recommend: YES for the middle grade age group

Thank you so much to Andrews McMeel Audio via NetGalley for the free audiobook in exchange for an honest review!  I love audiobooks and have listened to a ton of them but have yet to actually review one, so bear with me! Feedback is appreciated!

First off here is the description of the story from GoodReads:

Step into the universe of the massively popular online MMORPG game Star Stable, and follow four friends who discover their magic powers and learn that every girl can be a hero in this fantasy trilogy.

Soul Riders tells the heroic tale of four young girls who have been chosen by destiny to save the world from the ancient demon: Garnok and his band of dangerous Dark Riders. Lisa is a teenage girl who is still coming to terms with the tragic loss of her mother in a riding accident and has sworn never to go near a horse again until she met Starshine, a mysterious blue-maned steed who comes to her in dreams. New on the island of Jorvik, Lisa befriends Alex, Linda, and Anne. Under the guidance of mystical druids, they discover they each have a special bond to their horses that gives them magical powers. While trying to balance school, family, and friendships they have to figure out what it means to be a Soul Rider. They are attacked by the Dark Riders and the mysterious Mr. Sands, discovering that their horses are in danger. Instead of relying on their combined strength, they decide to split up on their quest to find answers and learn to fight back against their enemies. However, will it be too late before they realize their mistake?

Jorvik Calling is the first installment in the epic, fantasy trilogy, Soul Riders, about magic, friendship, and horses bound to thrill all young equestrian fans

I have not played nor even heard of Star Stable before, and I don’t think that affected my enjoyment of this book at all.   As a lifelong rider I definitely connected a bit with the young girls, especially Alex, who likes to ride super fast on trails and seems fearless.  The other characters and their horses each have interesting stories that I think will be thrilling to girls in the target age range for the books.  Speaking of, do you even see this cover?? It radiates magic!

Jennifer Jill Araya seems like the perfect narrator for the book as well.  She clearly differentiates between the girls’ voices, and does a decent job with the male voices as well.  She portrays excitement and fear and sadness through her voice and I enjoyed listening to her.  The music seemed super cringey for someone my age but was honestly really well done, with full songs composed and included within the story and as bonus content at the end.  It definitely will add to young listener’s experience.

I also feel like the book is entirely appropriate for young girls.  There is no profanity, no romance, and the scary parts are suspenseful but not overly terrifying.  I would have NO problem handing this to any child capable of the reading and listening level.  The emphasis on friendships,  building trust, and self confidence are great themes for young readers.  There is the theme of grief related to parental loss but nothing else too strong.  My only qualm is that Lisa probably should have been more worried when her father didn’t return her text messages in a reasonable time frame.  He just literally stays gone forever and I found that a little odd.

I was also surprised to find that this ended on a bit of a cliffhanger, I was expecting each book to wrap itself up like, for example, Saddle Club but with a fantasy twist.  Man do I love reading about horses though, especially magic ones.  Even as an adult.  This is a really good building block for girls trying to get into fantasy as well, such as the Green Rider books for young adults.

Again I would fully recommend this to any age level of listener or reader.  I thank the publisher and NetGalley again for allowing me to review the audiobook! All opinions are my own.

Have you read or listened to this book? Want to discuss what makes a good audiobook review? Drop a comment below!

 

Categories
Fantasy Paranormal Suspense

ARC Review: The Hollow Gods by A.J. Vrana

  • Title: The Hollow Gods
  • Series: The Chaos Cycle Duology, #1
  • Author: A.J. Vrana
  • Publisher & Release: The Parliament House, 7/28/2020
  • Length: 384 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⚡ most likely

Thank you so much to BooksGoSocial via NetGalley for the eARC of The Hollow Gods in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own!

Here is the description from GoodReads:

A perfect story for contemporary fantasy readers who love their narratives razor-sharp and their secrets dark and deadly.

Black Hollow is a town with a dark secret.

For centuries, residents have foretold the return of the Dreamwalker—an ominous figure from local folklore said to lure young women into the woods and possess them. Yet the boundary between fact and fable is blurred by a troubling statistic: occasionally, women do go missing. And after they return, they almost always end up dead.

When Kai wakes up next to the lifeless body of a recently missing girl, his memory blank, he struggles to clear his already threadbare conscience.

Miya, a floundering university student, experiences signs that she may be the Dreamwalker’s next victim. Can she trust Kai as their paths collide, or does he herald her demise?

And after losing a young patient, crestfallen oncologist, Mason, embarks on a quest to debunk the town’s superstitions, only to find his sanity tested.

A maelstrom of ancient grudges, forgotten traumas, and deadly secrets loom in the foggy forests of Black Hollow. Can three unlikely heroes put aside their fears and unite to confront a centuries-old evil? Will they uncover the truth behind the fable, or will the cycle repeat?

The Hollow Gods is a solid debut from author A.J. Vrana.  I feel like the mood of this book is the most important aspect.  It is a dark, atmospheric read, and fits right in to the block of literature that tackles ancient legends in small towns, superstition, possession, and dreamscapes.

The book tackles three unique points of view.   Kai is definitely my favorite, the man who is a wolf, because his moods and foul mouth are just so memorable.  He has a lot of reasons to be angry, not even to mention an ancient spirit that likes to run him in front of buses and the like.  I did not like Mason at all, honestly if you can’t handle death don’t be a doctor, especially an oncologist.  All I heard was WHINE whine WHINE and I wanted to smack him.  It must be different in Canada because in the United States, a resident doctor wouldn’t be left in sole custody of a patient like that.  It might have also been an artistic stretch but I spent the entire book wanting to smack him.

The legend of the Dreamwalker was brought out in small bits and pieces throughout the story.  I think the townspeople are definitely crazy but what can you do when an evil entity is influencing mass hysteria?  Miya is the third character and she grew on me, especially once she truly became a main character and began interacting with Kai.  I hope that the second novel talks more about how Kai and Ama (the other wolf) even exist, they definitely aren’t werewolves … they are just what they are.  The raven was an interesting character too, there is a lot of ground that could be potentially covered in the next book.

Vrana’s writing is perfect though, she spent the entire novel capturing the dark atmosphere required for a book like this.  It was never creepy, and I was never scared, but still managed to capture that ancient wisdom and brash moody feel.   I think it is super interesting too that the author studied supernatural literature related to violence for her doctorate –  the interest and accuracy and thoughtfulness for which this is captured throughout the pages is quite evident.

Additionally, all of the characters have to deal with their own tough issues of personal inadequacy, grief, and discovering their places in the world.  If they like it or not, they are tied together and I did enjoy watching them all work through their issues.

So why am I only giving it 3.5 stars? I can’t explain it but I tuned out a few too many times.  There was a lot of dreamscape action before I figured out what was going on that made me lose interest, and I felt like she took a long slow approach to get there.  I am 100% definitely going to read the next book though and have no problem recommending this to fans of legends, supernatural, witch hunts, and animals in folklore.  It releases July 28th so add it to your TBR now if it sounds up your alley!

Have you read it? Want to discuss it? Drop a comment below!