Categories
Paranormal Young Adult

ARC Review: Chain of Gold by Cassandra Clare

Thank you so much to Bookish First and Margaret K. McElderry Books for the ARC of Chain of Gold by Cassandra Clare! The book was won in a bookish raffle and given for free in exchange for an honest review.

Guys I apologize because this is one of my rare “more-rambly-and-less-literary” reviews. It is good to be back in the Shadowhunter world, especially Will & Tessa’s time.  The Infernal Devices is by far my favorite of Clare’s trilogies, so I was thrilled when I heard the next generation of Herondales and Lightwoods (and Carstairs and Blackthorns) were getting a series.

The Description from Goodreads:

“Welcome to Edwardian London, a time of electric lights and long shadows, the celebration of artistic beauty and the wild pursuit of pleasure, with demons waiting in the dark. For years there has been peace in the Shadowhunter world. James and Lucie Herondale, children of the famous Will and Tessa, have grown up in an idyll with their loving friends and family, listening to stories of good defeating evil and love conquering all. But everything changes when the Blackthorn and Carstairs families come to London…and so does a remorseless and inescapable plague.

James Herondale longs for a great love, and thinks he has found it in the beautiful, mysterious Grace Blackthorn. Cordelia Carstairs is desperate to become a hero, save her family from ruin, and keep her secret love for James hidden. When disaster strikes the Shadowhunters, James, Cordelia and their friends are plunged into a wild adventure which will reveal dark and incredible powers, and the true cruel price of being a hero…and falling in love”

Let me come up front with my biggest gripe about the book:  The first 150 pages held very little action at all.  Clare used the space to introduce the entire next generation – a TON of characters – their friendships, lives, and surface connections to each other.  We got to see what Will and Tessa and Charlotte and Sophie and Gideon and Cecily and Gabriel and their entire HOST of offspring have built in the peace following the clockwork war.  I was also happy to hear that Henry’s injuries didn’t affect his babymaking abilities. It took me most of the book to have the characters straight. I drew one but it would have been cool if she had included a family tree up front.

Anyway, once the action got going I really enjoyed the book.  The typical  Clare themes of strong young women, magical weapons, self discovery, friends with secrets, and a tangled web of romances present themselves per usual. It was different to have everyone on the same  page as a shadowhunter already, as in prior books someone is always having to discover their true identity and abilities.  There is a healthy amount of this in the Herondale children though, I mean, What kind of abilities would TESSA GRAY’s children have? My favorite part was finding out. James and his shadow travels and Lucie with her affinity for ghosts were both awesome story lines.   Cordelia with her Cortana are obviously going to be great heroes and I love her as well.  There is a full cast of other characters including Sophie and Cecily’s kids, Charlotte and Henry had a few too, and crazy old Tatiana Lightwood is even a main character with her stuffed bird hats and general lunacy. I won’t share ARC quotes but believe me, the banter continues to be most excellent.

As for the bad guy – the villain – First we had Valentine, then The Magister, and now… wow.  I can’t really go too much into the villains here without spoilers but there is a manticore demon and plenty of adversarial magic for the young friends to ward off.  Learning more about warlock magic and demons was cool, it was explored more in this book than in prior series.  I really enjoyed the build up to the reveal of the villain (and the world building) in this novel, Clare took her time but it worked.  The villain is definitely worthy of the series, and that’s all I’ll say on the matter.

Speaking of the ghosts, how about Jesse and Jessamine!  How about the warlocks? I was so excited to have Magnus Bane gone before he showed up. I am ready for a new warlock.  If nothing else, Clare does like to recycle her characters a bit.  I think she honestly needs to quit this universe after this trilogy, there are just so many repeating themes and fan fiction with those short stories now!

Yes yes yes, I am talking about Chain of Gold, not Clare’s formula.  I want to divert one more time and say that YES, these books are paranormal…romance.  Girls like boys, boys like girls, boys like boys, boys like both, and someone is a crossdresser.  None of these things are too heavy but be aware that it’s there in greater quantities than in previous books if those things bother you, although if you’re still around after Malec I’m assuming they don’t. The worst than anyone does is kiss anyway, with mentioned themes of seduction and spending the night.

I guess the most important question a lot of you will ask is: Can I read this book first?  If you have never read a shadowhunters novel, (I personally HATE The Mortal Instruments) and would start with The Infernal Devices, then back track to TMI, then you’re home free with either this series or the one with the LA shadowhunters.   You literally can’t read Chain of Gold first without a shit TON of spoilers that will ruin your reading of The Infernal Devices.  Clare’s writing is getting better as she goes though, I’ll give her that.

Thank you again to Bookish first and the publisher, All opinions are my own!

Categories
Horror Paranormal

ARC Review: The Return by Rachel Harrison

Thank you so much to Berkley Publishing for the ARC of The Return in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own.

I have honestly never read a horror novel before in my life, because I am a huge scaredy cat.  I didn’t even realize it was a scary book until one creepy thing happened…and then another … and then I looked up the book on GoodReads and said OH, wow, ok.  I turned all the lights in the house on and kept reading.

Here is the description from Amazon.com:

Julie is missing, and no one believes she will ever return—except Elise. Elise knows Julie better than anyone, and feels it in her bones that her best friend is out there and that one day Julie will come back. She’s right. Two years to the day that Julie went missing, she reappears with no memory of where she’s been or what happened to her.

Along with Molly and Mae, their two close friends from college, the women decide to reunite at a remote inn. But the second Elise sees Julie, she knows something is wrong—she’s emaciated, with sallow skin and odd appetites. And as the weekend unfurls, it becomes impossible to deny that the Julie who vanished two years ago is not the same Julie who came back. But then who—or what—is she?

The plot itself is an excellent idea: What happened to Julie? Is this weekend getaway going to turn into the house of horrors? In short: yes. The remaining three friends each  mourn Julie in their own way and are shocked when she comes back.  The women plan a getaway to an eccentric hotel in the Catskills, and from there start to unravel the mystery of what happened to Julie.

“Sallow skin and odd appetites” seems like a very nice way of describing Julie, per the back cover.  She looks like a corpse, her teeth are rotten, and the women become immediately concerned.  At the start of the book I found it hard to keep them apart in my mind – Molly and Mae and Elise, with Elise being the main character.  They all speak in very young sounding slang as well, using words such as ‘peace’ and ‘deuces’ and saying ‘love you’ at least 50 times.

I think too much time was spent with the women just gossiping behind Julie’s back about her.   I either was skimming gossip or feeling horrified after reading something with very little in between. There were a few long diversions from the main storyline that only contributed to the related character’s back story, but ultimately didn’t help the plot.  For example: one about Elise entering a married lover’s house helped show that she could be a little nuts, although it was pages long and  totally unrelated to the story in the hotel.

Speaking of length, I felt like 40 page long chapters couldn’t hold my attention very well for a novel that took place mainly over the course of a weekend.

I also feel like setting can be important in suspense and horror novels.  The hotel was definitely eccentric, isolated, and ran by an odd duck, but there was nothing inherently spooky or scary about the place. A lot of the horror portrayed was in Elise’s mind, at least until some real terror was brought into the place.   I think I would have been more scared by something inherently wrong with the hotel itself.

Finding out what happened to Julie does occur  at the end of the book. While reading I was definitely pretty observant of shadows and windows in my house (as I said, easily scared), but at the same time thought the climactic reveal at the end sounded a little corny.

I think I would recommend this as like an “intro to horror” novel.  It is perfect for people who want to be *a little* scared, although hardcore horror readers may not be as thrilled.  I would have no problem recommending the book to anyone curious though! The Return releases 3/24/20 and I once again want to thank Berkley for the book!!

Categories
Contemporary Paranormal Young Adult

Echoes Between Us by Katie McGarry

Thank you so much to BookishFirst and Tor/Forge Books for my advanced copy of Echoes Between Us by Katie McGarry! Synopsis from GoodReads:

Veronica sees ghosts. More specifically, her mother’s ghost. The afterimages of blinding migraines caused by the brain tumor that keeps her on the fringes and consumes her whole life haunt her, even as she wonders if it’s something more… Golden boy Sawyer is handsome and popular, a state champion swimmer, but his adrenaline addiction draws him to Veronica. A girl with nothing to live for and a boy with everything to lose–can they conquer their demons together?

I do not read a lot of young adult contemporary because as a 30 something year old, I can never identify with the characters or stories, and I am SO HAPPY to say that this is not the case with this amazing book.

First I just want to comment on the location: I originally thought that the book took place in Saranac Lake because of the TB hospital and note up front, but there is a portion of a real diary included in the novel from a patient at the hospital. The book actually takes place somewhere in Kentucky, but I still was jumping at home being mentioned in a book at all.

I loved the characters and the lessons they learned. Veronica is dealing with a brain tumor and believes that she is living life to the fullest… or is she just waiting to die? Sawyer is a popular kid who has a whole houseful of his own issues, and the unlikely couple end up empowering each other to confront their fears.

The book revolves around a school project that Veronica and Sawyer are doing together, to prove or disprove that ghosts exist. The themes about residual hauntings are absolutely beautiful, concluding that these are caused by emotions and events too powerful to leave the mortal world, and they can haunt a person in their day to day decisions. There may or may not be evidence of other ghosts in the story, but those are part of the fun of reading.

It is not a ghost story though, I thought it was shaping up to turn into one but it really isn’t, it is SO much more. The book deals with delicate and important themes like depression, alcoholism, enablers, addiction in general, and mortal illness. Poor little Lucy, Sawyer’s younger sister, seems to be the wildcard in the story and I just felt so bad for that little girl.

The one part that I wasn’t quite thrilled with was Sawyer’s voice when we first met him, I don’t really like cryptic language that usually means a poor attempt at foreshadowing. Stick with him though because it ends up making sense, and he ended up being my favorite of the dual points of view.

I think Veronica and Sawyer have a great relationship though and their groups of friends are really, truly good friends, which is shown towards the end of the book. Their dad’s are also great characters, V’s dad is a big amazing papa bear and I loved him, then Sawyer’s dad at the end stepping up and taking care of his kids was a good message as well. I think this is a great book for young adults and teens (and even adults) to read. It made me really think about some of the aforementioned themes … I can’t get this residual haunting concept out of my head.

I would totally recommend this book to ANYONE, which is rare for me. It publishes January 14th so check it out if it sounds up your alley!

Categories
Paranormal Suspense Thrillers

Ghoster by Jason Arnopp

Thank you to Orbit Books via NetGalley for the eARC in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own!

Ghoster by Jason Arnopp is a fairly long book at 496 pages, but it reads super quickly. Kate meets Scott on Tinder and then at a social media retreat, and their relationship takes off running. It seems idyllic but rushed, and 4 months later Kate is moving in with Scotr…but he is gone. His stuff is gone. His phone was left behind. So the mystery of “where did Scott go” ends up entirely consuming Kate, and gets progressively weirder as ghosts and murderers and strange entities get involved.

At first I thought it was just going to be a mystery, then there were thriller elements introduced, then the addition of ghosts and a horror/supernatural element made it all seem a little bit weird. I did like how everything was mostly tied together at the end, although I won’t pretend to fully understand what happened with that cell phone! No spoilers though, that’s rude!

One fun part was reliving through Kate all of the silly social media things, like OK Cupid, Tinder, Whatsapp, etc. I don’t remember what it was called, not sickfuxx, but there WAS a site we used to dare each other to go to as teens that showed everything from gunshots to porn, and I wonder if that’s what Arnopp was nodding to. We are totally obsessed with our phones as a society and the book offers a really scary example of media addiction.

So yes, the book was long but I would still recommend it for fans of thrillers and light paranormal elements. I gave it 4 stars as I was personally not so much into the paranormal part, but 100% hooked while reading it anyway. The book releases 10/22 so check it out if it sounds up your alley!!!

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Categories
Paranormal Suspense Thrillers Young Adult

The Furies by Katie Lowe

Thank you SO much to St. Martin’s Press via NetGalley for the eARC in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own! Here is the first part of the Goodreads summary:

In 1998, a sixteen-year-old girl is found dead on school property, dressed in white and posed on a swing, with no known cause of death. The novel opens with this image, as related to us by the narrator, Violet, looking back on the night it happened from the present day, before returning to relate the series of events leading up to the girl’s murder.

The Furies by Katie Lowe is an atmospheric read set in a small coastal town at the end of the line. All the lines. Literally. It seems like a very depressed area that has a history of witch hunts and unexplained deaths/murders. At the heart is a school for girls, where Violet is a new student and she ends up falling in with an odd group of girls that are part of a secret society. The past is mixed with the present as Violet recalls the events of her first year at the school.

So the good things first: I really did enjoy Lowe’s writing style. Violet had a detached voice that kind of mirrored the….. ….hell, I’ll say it, she’s a bit of a sociopath. The whole book had a creepy, depressed, airy tone that her voice did a good job imparting.

The other voice that we hear a lot of is the secret society/art teacher, Annabel. She gives us some interesting discourse on the history of the town and school, as well as a critical view of some mythological and literary classics through a feminist lens. The only parts that really lost me were these discourses – yes it is cool to have mini lessons on Chaucer, Dante’s Inferno, and others, but it was a bit of a sidetrack. And extensive. Very occasionally it was hard in other places to understand what was happening, but the storyline would pick back up quickly enough.

The girls might have been abused by the men in their lives, and then had good reason fo seek revenge, but they took women’s empowerment to a scary level! They attempted – attempted? to summon the mythical furies as had their study group’s members in earlier years, evoking their powers. Violet was an at risk teen to start but she seemed way too eager to start smoking, drinking, doing drugs, losing weight, and contemplating murder…just to fit into this group. None of those girls were healthy.

Otherwise I really loved how the witchcraft, history, and mythology all tied together in the book. I don’t think anyone could have possibly seen that end coming. I would definitely recommend the book if atmospheric, spellcrafty, spooky and slightly psychopathic reads are up your alley!

The title releases on 10/8 and is available for preorder!

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Categories
Fantasy Paranormal

A Pack of Blood and Lies by Olivia Wildenstein

Title: A Pack of Blood and Lies

Author: Olivia Wildenstein

Publisher: Twig Publishing

Rating: 4/5 ****

Release Date: April 30th 2019

Thank you to NetGalley and Twig Publishing for the eARC in exchange for an honest review! This book isn’t coming out until the end of April but if it is up your alley, check it out and consider pre-ordering!

Summary:

Ness is a teenage werewolf living in LA. After her mother dies of cancer, her aunt and uncle decide that she should come back to the rest of the family (and the pack) in Colorado. Ness, as the only female born to the pack in generations, was originally not allowed to join. They are definitely sexist and manly-men, and the warning excerpt states that the book contains Alpha males. Anyway, Ness is understandably frustrated and unwilling to return.

Once there, she is thrown into life at the family inn, which is also pack headquarters. The old pack alpha, Heath Kolane, was a truly terrible man who is now dead. His son, Liam, is in line to become the new Alpha until Ness decides to challenge him, assuming that he is also a terror like his father.

Enter a slightly favored competition for alpha, angsty romance, bromance, and lies upon layers of lies (and misunderstandings) as Ness fights for her place among the men.

The world and story:

The world is modern day Colorado and Wildenstein did a good job describing pack history throughout the book. This is my first werewolf/changeling book and I still had some questions about their motivations, but I was satisfied with the amount of “world-building” for now. I read the whole thing in about two sittings, the story definitely kept me going. The little murder mystery aspect was as interesting as the competition, but I also had no problem staying involved when she was describing the friend outings or building relationships.

The writing:

Solid writing! The book flows well in first person and is well edited. Even when writing text messages from phones, it flows smoothly enough and I can always tell who is talking. There are a lot of flowery examples at first but I like the point of view when I feel like I am there.

The characters:

I really liked Ness. Main characters that are passive drive me nuts. She doesn’t let the boys intimidate her, doesn’t back down from the competition despite being taunted, waylaid, and eventually blackmailed. A true strong female lead! Liam is everything an alpha should be, and has a soft spot for Ness. He doesn’t let her preconceived notions of him stop him from being a decent guy, and he saves her life at least twice. These two have a slightly cringe worthy hate – to – love relationship, for half of the book I was saying “just get together already!” Typical young adult angsty miscommunication nonsense!

The other main characters are Liam’s friends in the pack, a generally decent group of guys even though they come across as pigs sometimes. I liked the “bromance” element. Sarah was a wildcard, as were some of the other characters mentioned, but most of them ended up being pretty generally good people. A few of them seemed to act out of character at times, like Matt towards the end, it all worked out though.

Overall:

I cringed a few times during the relationship parts, but it was overally clean and appropriate for young adult. I would probably let 16+ read it if it were my kid, but the warning states 14+. It really was hard to put down, kept me interested, and makes me want to read more books by Olivia Wildenstein, because this is my first by her and I like her style! Recommended for fans of YA, werewolves, with a romance bit. There may be more in the next books. 4/5 stars and looking forward to the next release!

Categories
Fiction Paranormal Uncategorized

After Hope Dies by Lily Haraden

First off – I am so sorry for missing the publication date on this, I was swamped at work all weekend but feel bad!!

Title: After Hope Dies

Author: Lily Haraden

Release date: 10/20/18

Length: 350 pages

Thank you first to Lilly Haraden and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this in exchange for an honest review!

The publisher’s warning should definitely be taken seriously, there are multiple upsetting themes and rough language used throughout.
Some of those themes include child prostitution, rape, murder, suicide, racism, Lilly Haraden a lot of big ones! On the flip side she also uses some stunningly beautiful language, such as any time when the cranes of hope and despair appear. It feels like an intentional balance the way the passages are placed.

Some of the language forced a slower read for me to keep track of what was happening at times, and I got the feeling that the reader is supposed to shrug and accept the supernatural aspects- much like the characters. Sometimes it was hard to understand what happened but the idea is there. The story has some unique points such as the characters creating monsters that create more monsters/spirits/ entities, very cool.

I really did enjoy the hope, despair and death imagery. I loved Hugo’s character, and most disliked the vampire because she felt thrown into the mix and unrelated.

As a social commentary the book does it’s job, if nothing else evoking some strong feelings and making us think about class, race, desperation, and despair among brighter aspects. It definitely is not meant to be a happy story but it is a good one. I would rate 3.5/5 stars and recommend this to those with a strong stomach and big imagination. Fans of the supernatural and fantasy won’t be let down.