I think it’s a fair goal to continue to read one Steven King book every month until I’m sick of it. The good news here is that every book I read just causes me to crave more 😅
Additionally helpful towards this goal is the fact that Will Patton narrates a considerable number of Stephen King’s books and he is by far my favorite audiobook narrator of all time.
I think the first question that readers looking at The Outsider should consider is: Do I have to read the Bill Hodges trilogy first? Do I want to? It’s a bit of a commitment but I do believe that meeting Holly Gibney prior and having some familiarity with that series will greatly enhance enjoyment of The Outsider, as it did for me. That said though, you could absolutely read this one alone and only miss a few references. (Plus Will Patton also narrates those books so you could take that route 😅)
Bookish Quick Facts:
Title: The Outsider
Series: Holly Gibney #1
Author: Stephen King
Publisher & Release: Scribner, 2018
Length: 576 pages
Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ not for the fainthearted
Here’s the synopsis:
An eleven-year-old boy’s violated corpse is discovered in a town park. Eyewitnesses and fingerprints point unmistakably to one of Flint City’s most popular citizens—Terry Maitland, Little League coach, English teacher, husband, and father of two girls. Detective Ralph Anderson, whose son Maitland once coached, orders a quick and very public arrest. Maitland has an alibi, but Anderson and the district attorney soon have DNA evidence to go with the fingerprints and witnesses. Their case seems ironclad.
As the investigation expands and horrifying details begin to emerge, King’s story kicks into high gear, generating strong tension and almost unbearable suspense. Terry Maitland seems like a nice guy, but is he wearing another face? When the answer comes, it will shock you as only Stephen King can.
As a quick note on the audiobook: offered by Simon & Shuster Audio, narrated by Will Patton at almost 19 hours and worth every second.
Alright this one starts out as a straightforward enough crime novel, and then takes a rather jarring turn for the supernatural once Holly gets involved. I think though that since this is something I’ve come to expect from Stephen King, the supernatural transition worked for me and was neither a shock nor a jar as I’ve seen some people writing in their reviews.
As you can tell from the first sentence of the synopsis, if any kind of child brutality bothers you definitely do not read this one. I don’t think I would recommend it as someone’s first Stephen King book either, but I have no problem saying you could start with the Bill Hodges Trilogy and then work into it.
I almost always love the majority of King’s characters. Ralph is enjoyable both as a detective and a person, especially towards the end when he is willing to suspend disbelief to help Holly the most. He’s a real hero! My other favorite character was Yune Sablo, although I’m not sure if I would have liked him as much without Will Patton lending his voice. Yune served as a bridge between all of the other factions and was one of the first to throw some legitimacy into the supernatural line of thought. That and he was just funny.
After the events of End of Watch I wondered how Holly was going to hold up, and thankfully she seems to be doing well. Quirky and whip smart as ever. I like watching her manage her issues and relate to others in her own way, and it’s undeniable that she’s as brave and prepared for action as anyone on the force.
While the book was brutal and a little bit hard to read at times, I appreciated The Outsider because the action never let up and there was always something to be interested in. At least in the first half of the book too it was fun to play detective and try to figure out how the heck the crime had occurred. I like the themes of the supernatural versus the terrible things that criminals do in everyday life, and how different really is our understanding of these things? Holly had some excellent insights too into the nature of the paranormal and humanity’s potential reaction to the possibility.
Overall, I would definitely recommend this one if you are a fan of Kings writing or a fan of crime/paranormal detective thrillers. I’ll certainly continue to seek out other books along this line that he’s written.
(P.s. no, I have not seen the TV series yet but I am 100% interested in it, especially since Stephen King liked it, so maybe I’ll try to track that down this winter!)
Thanks for checking out my book review & audiobook review of The Outsider by Stephen King!
I continue to have no regrets about reading through my endless Stephen King backlog. In October I finished both Wizard and Glass (The Gunslinger #4) and Later, which is his third surprisingly deep horror & crime novel for the Hard Case Crime publisher.
What I like most about King as a person, and an author, is that it’s 2022 and he’s still writing amazing shit like “he kept moving further west like some fucked up braindead pioneer” to describe the main characters uncle, who kept moving to cheaper nursing homes as the family’s finances got worse. It’s equal parts fucked up and hilarious – King is my go to author when I need a break from the politically correct world.
As an aside, I started and now love following King on Twitter. His comments are like a little morale boost in the middle of a crazy world.
Anyway, ok let’s talk about Later
BOOKISH QUICK FACTS:
Author: Stephen King
Publisher & Release: Hard Case Crime, 2021
Length: 272 pages
Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ for classic King & horror/paranormal fans
A note on the audio: Later is narrated by Seth Numrich, who has narrated many King novels and is absolutely phenomenal. Solely rating Numrich’s narration, an easy 5 stars. 6h32m long for Simon & Shuster Audio
Here’s the synopsis off Am*zon:
SOMETIMES GROWING UP
MEANS FACING YOUR DEMONS
The son of a struggling single mother, Jamie Conklin just wants an ordinary childhood. But Jamie is no ordinary child. Born with an unnatural ability his mom urges him to keep secret, Jamie can see what no one else can see and learn what no one else can learn. But the cost of using this ability is higher than Jamie can imagine – as he discovers when an NYPD detective draws him into the pursuit of a killer who has threatened to strike from beyond the grave.
LATER is Stephen King at his finest, a terrifying and touching story of innocence lost and the trials that test our sense of right and wrong. With echoes of King’s classic novel It, LATER is a powerful, haunting, unforgettable exploration of what it takes to stand up to evil in all the faces it wears.
Later is a short little novel that has an incredible amount packed into it. It’s a coming of age story for Jamie, it’s a touching-at-times story of different ghosts, there’s a crime aspect, and it’s a horror story.
Like I said, this is a horror story
It’s so much more than that though. I love the characters too, from Jamie to his mom to the old professor that the family stays friends with and eventually guides Jamie through his murdery ghost problem. Nothing like an eccentric old man that likes to make fairy tales sound academic and terrible, right?
Oh, right. I was absolutely never bored, and thankfully never that scared either. Some King books are downright horrifying but Later never quite fit that mold even when it was in it’s horror element. I think he meant to keep a slightly lighter tone and focus more on the people than the scares in this one.
Another of my favorite King aspects is that he loves to shout out his prior novels and other authors too. The Ritual of Chud is back. Jamie’s mom runs a literary agency and mentions many, many books & authors including Sue Grafton.
I was so ready to smash that 5 star button until that very last reveal! It wouldn’t be a King book if someone didn’t have a mommy problem, but, it didn’t work for me at all. I’m glad to see others agreeing with this sentiment🤣
I don’t want to ramble forever but I would wholeheartedly recommend this one if you like fast paced stories with a little bit of humanity, horror, action, ghosts, monsters in all their forms, and King’s classically offbeat sense of fucked up humor.
As a note about Stephen King audiobooks – I don’t know if King personally hand picks his narrators or what but I’ve discovered most of my favorite narrators through listening to his books. They are an amazing bunch including Will Patton and Seth Numrich, both of whom bring their stories straight to life and add that little bite that adds something extra to King’s novels!
Thank you so much to Wednesday Books for the free early read of Wake the Bones in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own.
Honestly I liked this one quite a bit but struggled with it’s age group appropriateness, so it was hard for me to rate. I would push it on the 18-25 age group and keep it off the YA imprint.
With walking bones, rising evil, death, abuse, and a terribly disillusioned drowned ghost among other eldritch things, this is definitely one to have on board for spooky season. It’s much more lyrical than a typical horror novel though and encompasses magical realism and literary fiction too.
Bookish Quick Facts:
Title: Wake the Bones
Author: Elizabeth Kilcoyne
Publisher & Release: Wednesday Books, July 12, 2022
Length: 320 pages
Rate & Recommend: *scratches head* I just don’t think it’s a YA, 16+ if I were really stretching it
Here’s the synopsis:
The sleepy little farm that Laurel Early grew up on has awakened. The woods are shifting, the soil is dead under her hands, and her bone pile just stood up and walked away.
After dropping out of college, all she wanted was to resume her life as a tobacco hand and taxidermist and try not to think about the boy she can’t help but love. Instead, a devil from her past has returned to court her, as he did her late mother years earlier. Now, Laurel must unravel her mother’s terrifying legacy and tap into her own innate magic before her future and the fate of everyone she loves is doomed.
Elizabeth Kilcoyne’s Wake the Bones is a dark, atmospheric debut about the complicated feelings that arise when the place you call home becomes hostile.
Ok here are my quick thoughts on the age thing: it’s marketed as YA (13-18) but I really truly strongly feel it should target an 18-20something age group. The characters are 18+, one was in college and dropped out, and all were struggling with loyalty to home, their future, and generational bonds vs their own fate. Is their home down on the holler or where does fate lead them? Many of the conflicts and issues were not ones that 13-17 yr olds are going to face, although some will, plus the language includes at least one f*co per chapter, s*x scene at the penultimate moment AGAIN (please, YA authors, stop doing this – we assume a second couple shacked up that night too) … I just have a hard time with this on the YA imprint.
That said: let’s talk about this contemporary fantasy / horror / literary fiction
It takes place mostly on Kentucky farmland, where Laurel’s family tobacco farm has sat for generations. The atmosphere it set from the start with a hunt for bones and trip to the graveyard, where we learn that Laurel has a penchant for death. From there, things slowly start getting spookier and spookier. It never gets to the splattering stage but there are dead animals, blood trails, dreams of the dead, her mother’s drowned ghost, lots of blood, someone is hanged, and the devil is downright creepy .. among other things.
The spooky parts are interspersed with a number of important themes to the New Adult (18- ?) age group, like generational chains. Laurel’s family has been rooted on Kentucky for generations, and she tried leaving, failed, and came home to the farm and friends that needs her. Another character is abused by his father, and wants to leave, but also struggles with loyalty to his friends and the area. One doesn’t want to leave at all and is happy as is, and, the fourth has no idea what he wants.
So we see these scary parts mixed with chapters about love and mixed feelings. Two male characters (Isaac and Garrett) have feelings for each other and that is a constant storyline, plus Laurel and Ricky feel fated towards each other but recognize fear and obligation as obstacles.
All this taking place in a muggy, hot summer, in the middle of a pretty severe haunting. Each character, even a fifth that is brought in as a guide to Laurel, has different parental and generational issues that has shaped their experience growing up in this small town.
Can they all be friends like they were before, what needs to change, what will their futures hold? Will they even be alive to find out?
Coming home and self acceptance are huge themes. I loved how the magic worked, as Laurel’s mother was tied to the land and so is she. Land based magic is my favorite but I’ve never seen it in a contemporary fantasy before so that was interesting
I wish I could share quotes … I normally am not a fan of purple prose but Kilcoyne manages to write about death, life, and survival in such a way that I had SO many quote tabs on the pages.
OH, yeah, survival is a HUGE theme too. Everyone has to survive their upbringing, life situation, and all the self destruction of those around them while taking hold of their own futures.
The real question is … Does everyone survive? Heh heh I actually did like what the author did at the end, but no spoilers
For me, 🌟🌟🌟🌟, but I’m 33 and would hold this one til my kid was at least 17. I will not rate it for YA
Lo and behold I finally read a book this month! The Diviners by Libba Bray is a great fall or Halloween time of the year pick. The frights and gore and level of creepiness probably make this YA paranormal read appropriate for age 16+, but would not recommend for younger kids!
Bookish Quick Facts:
Title: The Diviners
Series: The Diviners, #1
Author: Libba Bray
Publisher & Release: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers – September 2012
Length: 578 pgs
Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ for fans of paranormal, 1920s, creepy vibes and darker themes
Here is the book blurb:
A young woman discovers her mysterious powers could help catch a killer in the first book of The Diviners series–a stunning supernatural historical mystery set in 1920s New York City, from Printz Award-winning and New York Times bestselling author Libba Bray.
Evangeline O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and sent off to the bustling streets of New York City–and she is ecstatic. It’s 1926, and New York is filled with speakeasies, Ziegfeld girls, and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is that she has to live with her uncle Will and his unhealthy obsession with the occult. Evie worries he’ll discover her darkest secret: a supernatural power that has only brought her trouble so far.
When the police find a murdered girl branded with a cryptic symbol and Will is called to the scene, Evie realizes her gift could help catch a serial killer. As Evie jumps headlong into a dance with a murderer, other stories unfurl in the city that never sleeps. And unknown to all, something dark and evil has awakened…
Audiobook note: it is slightly over 18 hours of listening time, narrated by January LaVoy. Published by Listening Library in 2012. LaVoy is a freaking amazing narrator, she has to cover everything from flappers to demons to jazz musicians and totally nails it
“Your mother and I do not approve of drinking. Have you not heard of the Eighteenth Amendment?”
“Prohibition? I drink to it’s health whenever I can”
Ok so this book, AND the audio, both have truly creepy vibes at times. It is a chonker but for the most part extremely quick paced and a lot of fun to both read and listen to. I felt the danger while they were investigating the murders and dealing with the spirit!
There is a lot of 1920s slang that was a little annoying, and I don’t know if it’s authentic or not. Evie and Sam, Jericho, Theta, Memphis, Will, they were all great characters with their own arcs of trauma, self acceptance, and skills to bring to the table. Their back stories were interesting, sad and dark. There were a lot of characters but no one was wasted. I just docked a star because I was not buying the romance at the end, at all, it happened pretty quick and just didn’t feel real
“People will believe anything if it means they can go on with their lives and not have to think too hard about it.”
The mystery itself seemed dark for YA, but unique and I loved it. A demon? Spirit? Ghost? Is acting out the 12 offerings in a sacred text to become the prophesied beast, reign hellfire, reshape the Earth. It results in bloody murders across NYC that Evie is in a unique position to help solve
How do you invent a religion?” Evie asked.
Will looked over the top of his spectacles. “You say, ‘God told me the following,’ and then wait for people to sign up.”
I was thinking about the concept of having to banish/kill the spirit on his own terms, as in the legend/religion/prophecy becomes true because it’s believed, or is fuelled by beliefs. I see that theme in paranormal and mythology texts lot, and then got to laughing because in a Christmas eve homily about 10 years ago the priest said something like “it’s true because we believe it” — and we all looked at each other saying “no, we believe it because it’s true, not vice versa” lol.
Now I am stuck on this whole belief vs truth thing. It is a huge theme in the book and an interesting one for that YA age to ponder
“People tend to think that hate is the most dangerous emotion. But love is equally dangerous,” Will said. “There are many stories of spirits haunting the places and people who meant the most to them. In fact, there are more of those than there are revenge stories.
So yeah, this is a book/audio that I’d definitely recommend for those who like sassy female leads, paranormal, mysteries, life in the 20s, and all that. Some tough themes are handled like death, violence, corpse and live body mutilation, confronting dead parents, religious zealotry, a kitty is killed for a ritual 😭 and implied sexual thoughts, but 16+ should be fine!
Hi everyone! Welcome to the inaugural Sunday Brunch Author Interview, I hope this will become a long standing series! Shadow Stained author Rachel Hobbs was nice enough to take the leap with me, so read on!
She talks about her publishing journey, morally gray characters, social media, and more!
1. Thank you for taking the time to chat! Tell everyone a little about yourself and your novel!
My name’s Rachel Hobbs and I’m the author of the dark fantasy novel Shadow-Stained. Love and hate, good and evil, I write about morally grey monsters and opposites that both attract and violently polarize. I’m a dental nurse for a small local practice, and when I’m not working with teeth, I’m summoning demons at my keyboard.
My characters don’t always deserve your affection, but just maybe they’ll steal your heart anyway.
2. What was the Indie publishing journey like for you? Do you have any tips for fellow indie authors trying to publish a book?
I actually queried Shadow-Stained for a good nine months before making the decision to self-publish. I had this dream of seeing my book on the shelves of a physical book store, and having done my research on both avenues of publishing, I knew that you could fall back on self publishing after querying, but not the other way around. I went into the querying trenches with realistic expectations and came out on the other side with the kind of thick skin and determination only one hundred plus agent rejections could get you! When I made the decision to go it alone and publish Shadow-Stained anyway, I was nervous of getting it wrong. In hindsight, self-publishing my debut novel was the best decision I could have made. I was in full control of every aspect of my launch – final content, cover design, marketing – and my books still made it into my local indie book shop. I couldn’t be happier with the way things panned out.
If I had one tip, it would be don’t skimp on the cost of your cover. A good cover will sell your book time and time again, so a good cover designer is an investment that you won’t be sorry you made. There are so many amazing book covers out there already. Why set yourself at a disadvantage from the get go?
3. How do you feel about social media? I am seeing a lot of love towards indie authors these days and it’s amazing
I know some authors tend to find social media a chore. Personally, I’ve been made to feel very welcome on Twitter, especially in the writing community. I’ve made a lot of solid friends on that platform and in some ways, it’s almost like having one big online family! Everyone is so supportive of each other and cheering for your success. In a similar way, social media is a goldmine of undiscovered gems. I’ve found a few of my current favourite reads this way, books by extremely talented indie authors that deserve all the love and attention. I don’t enjoy Facebook, but maintain one anyway. It really is each to their own, when it comes to social media.
4. There is also a lot of “noise” out there and I have seen authors on Twitter lamenting about ratings and having their work seen, has that been a challenge?
Ratings are everything when you’re first starting out. When your name means nothing to anyone, a reader is relying solely on existing reviews, the book blurb, the cover. It can be disheartening to put yourself so wholly out there and get very little back, but writing is marathon, not a sprint. There isn’t really such a thing as an overnight success, because the chances are, that successful person worked really hard in the shadows for a long time before being discovered. All you can do is show up and put the work in. It can be a challenge to get your work in front of the right eyeballs, especially when there are so many amazing books already out there. But it’s important to remember that the other authors are not your competitors, they are your community. And the chances are that by supporting and lifting others, you yourself will eventually be lifted in kind.
5. One of the main characters in Shadow Stained is a morally gray, “destruction and mayhem vs saving a girl” kind of guy. What do you think makes up a good “Gray” character?
Morally grey characters are so deliciously complex. Thorny and often only looking out for number one, one of the best things about a good ‘grey’ character is that they’re unpredictable. One moment they’re saving your life, the next you’re facing off as enemies. They have the potential to be both the hero and the villain at any given moment, depending on what most suits their needs at any given time. They’re not boxed into any one category, and because of this, you never quite know which way they’re going to turn.
With Drayvex, my morally grey Demon Lord from Shadow-Stained, I know I really pushed the boundaries of grey. He’s about as wicked as a character can be without actually being the villain! But to me, this makes it all the more compelling when he finds himself stumbling towards the hero side of antihero, clueless as to how he even got there, but fully committed for his own personal reasons. I think another thing that can have us so attached to a great morally grey character is their unflinching drive, their tunnel vision commitment to what they consider to be the only rational way forward. We don’t always agree with them, but by damn we want them to win.
6. In your bio you wrote that narcolepsy and parasomnia inspired some of your writing, are you comfortable elaborating on that?
When I was in my early teens, I had a hard time staying awake. Sometimes it felt like I was dragging a physical weight around with me all day long, and I would fall asleep at inconvenient moments at school. What I didn’t know at the time was that this was a neurological condition called narcolepsy, but it was the parasomnia at night on top of this that really pushed me to the edge. To summarize, we’re talking sleepwalking, hallucinations and periods of paralysis upon waking and falling asleep, so I really had my hands full! As a sort of coping mechanism, and a way to explain what I didn’t understand, I made each of these conditions into a demon that was personally responsible for my suffering. It’s for this reason that demons feature so heavily in Shadow-Stained. Turning to creative therapy, when I eventually started to pour my demons onto the blank page, it sparked a wildfire idea for the darkest little monster story. That creative fire has been burning ever since.
7. What else inspires your writing?
I’ve always thought of ideas as being like sand. Inspiration can come from anywhere and everywhere; the secret smile of a stranger, a snippet of conversation you overheard on the train, a vivid memory, a really good film. By themselves, they’re just grains of sand. But meld them all together and they become something else entirely. I suppose that’s quite vague, but I know that a lot of my inspiration is subconscious. It’s a really strange feeling when you read back something you’ve wrote, and only after you’ve wrote it and it’s on the page do you start to pinpoint the origins of such an idea. When I’m looking for inspiration, I can turn to a good book, a curated playlist, or even Pinterest.
8. Alright let’s end this with some easy rapid fire general bookishquestions: Do you have a favorite book that you always recommend? Favorite literary character? What genre do you usually read? Do you have any strange and wonderful bookish habits?
One of my favourite authors is Darren Shan. He has quite the extensive back catalogue at this point, and I often change my mind on which of his books is my favourite. But Lady of the Shades is a cracker, and I’d recommend it to anyone who likes a dark twisty thriller that will keep you on your toes. If I had to pick a favourite literary character, I’d have to go with August Flynn from V E Schwab’s Monsters of Verity duology. August is effectively the one monster with a conscience in an entire city of savages. His heart and his melancholy, along with this chink of light inside him that makes him want to show up and fight his true nature again and again, is what makes him such an interesting character. I like dark, gritty fantasy, and love to read the kind of things I love to write. Monsters and rogues, enemies to lovers, villains that are the heroes of their own story. I’m sure by now you’re seeing a pattern forming! I don’t really have any strange and wonderful bookish habits that I know of, but maybe it’s time I adopted one. 😉
9. Thank you so much again for offering to interview! If there is anything else you want to say about yourself, your novels, your life, or anything at all, please do so here!
I get overly attached to book characters. I’ve lost count of how many times over the space of a book or a series that I’ve made a character the latest object of my obsession –ahem, I mean affection– and then had my heart ripped out when there are no more pages left. I love it, I dread it. It’s like losing a friend. And then of course, there’s the void to fill in their absence. But the best characters stay with you, and some even live on in little pieces of my own characters. All in all, the book hangovers are a small price to pay. We really are suckers for punishment!
Meet the author (from Google Books)
Rachel Hobbs lives in soggy South West Wales, where she hibernates with with her bearded dragon and her husband. By day she is a dental nurse at a small local practice. By night, she writes. Her debut novel SHADOW-STAINED is the first in a dark fantasy series for adults, inspired by her dark and peculiar experiences with narcolepsy and parasomnia. She’s since subjugated her demons, and writes under the tenuous guise that they work for her. Fuelled by an unhealthy amount of coffee, she writes about hard-boiled monsters with soft centres and things that go bump in the night
Here are Rachel’s author links and links to view and purchase the book!
Thank you so much to Rachel Hobbs for reaching out to respond to an open interview call for my blog! While that feature will be coming later this month, I also read and reviewed her debut novel Shadow Stained!
At least as we speak, the novel is available on Kindle Unlimited and I found it to be a well formatted and compatible copy!
Bookish Quick Facts:
Title: Shadow Stained
Series: Stones of Power, #1
Author: Rachel Hobbs
Publisher & Release: Nielsen, 03/05/20
Length: 360 pages
Rate & recommend: 🌟🌟🌟 yes for fans of paranormal, demons, etc!
Here is the book blurb from Amazon:
For her, it’s her late grandma’s legacy. For him, the mother of all black arts spoils, granting one demon the power of a God. Immortality.
When occult-magnet Ruby falls victim to Demon Lord Drayvex’s viperous allure, she loses a sentient dark relic to his light fingers and appetite for power. Like calls to like. But when Drayvex himself loses the relic to a traitor to the throne, Ruby coerces him – the tyrant king with a soft spot for humanity – into helping her save her pokey old world village from becoming a ground zero of mass demonic carnage.
Both invested in reclaiming the relic, the one thing Ruby and Drayvex agree on is that it’s in the wrong hands. Co-existing in a precarious arrangement between predator and prey, to save the planet they both love for different reasons, they must become a formidable double-team in the face of an apocalyptic takeover. Now, the fate of both human and demon alike rests with a killer that walks between worlds, and a woman with a curse in her bloodline.
The Plot & Story: This is a paranormal adventure for adult readers, where a young woman and her stone of power inadvertently draw the attention of a demon lord. This escalates into a fullscale invasion of Earth and exciting battle of the most powerful demons in the realm. There is also this ongoing back and forth of whether or not the demon lord and girl will ever just get together already. I still am not sure on that point, I honestly thought it was going to be a paranormal romance (but it isn’t thankfully).
It’s an interesting and quickly moving story. I don’t read very much in this genre so it’s pretty new to me in general.
The characters: the demon, Drayvex, is everything. He is such a sociopath and total egomaniac but has a small amount of cinnamon-roll filling inside, and man does he HATE it! His dialogue and monologue, alongside the plot itself, carried the book for me. It helps that he has a darkly attractive human form.
Ruby is not a bad character but she has no fighting prowess at all, no clue what’s going on, and can’t defend herself. She wants to stay and fight demons even though she’s almost died multiple times and Drayvex has to keep rescuing her. I think I would have liked her more if she wasn’t so entirely helpless. Ruby is some kind of witch or cursed, or something, but the most paranormal thing that happened to her before Drayvex is that she is drawn to occult objects at garage sales? I would have liked to know what this is all hinting at, since it is known to other characters that she is special but the reader gets no indication as to why. Which means I’m reading book 2.
I really just want more Drayvex.
The side character demons created some funny moments as well. The lower level ones are not very smart, and sometimes created a three stooges feel. I loved the little chef demon 😍
The Worldbuilding: The descriptions of the demon world were very well done. I loved the twinkling red stars and red sands, as well as the description of the throne. With a new world like that I want to know what it sounds, smells, feels like. I want to be standing at the foot of those black mountains! I got small European village vibes from the time on Earth, with plenty of rain.
Misc: With a tad more to make me care for Ruby and one more round of edits, I would really enjoy this snarky duo. One thing I want to say is that Drayvex reminded me of the Monty Python skit “The Many Uses of the Word Fuck” – it’s a noun, an adverb, lol. In an adult novel this is fine and I did love his personality.
Overall I think it’s a solid debut, and I plan on reading the next in the series! Would recommend for fans of paranormal, demons, and snarky bad boy characters
I am glad this month to have some to read books from my own backlogged TBR! One book that I have been meaning to get to is River Magic, because I try hard to support local authors!
The book is a new adult coming of age/romance, and takes place in the area my mom’s side of the family is from. The tippy top corner of Northern NY, St Lawrence / Alexandria Bay / Watertown region. It was so cool to read a book featuring places I’ve been, a hospital I’ve worked at, etc! I’m just picturing the highway scenery as the characters drive along!
Title: River Magic
Series: Rituals of Rock Bay, #1
Author: M.A. Philips
Publisher & Release: Shadow Spark Publishing, October 2020
Length: 366 pg
Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⚡ yes but be aware of mature romantic content
Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:
Budding clairvoyant Lacey Moran seeks to understand her dreams and find her life’s purpose along the St. Lawrence River. If only her visions of silver arms and Cian O’Connor’s blue eyes were easier to understand! The pieces begin coming together when she encounters a mermaid in the river, joins a group of Druids, and opens herself to romance with an old friend.
Can Lacey overcome her doubts, or is she in over her head?
I was so thrilled to see a book set in the Alexandria Bay and Watertown area! A story of finding oneself as an adult, embracing life choices, finding one’s faith, and reconciling adult friendships. I loved how everyone worked together and supported one another.
This is a romance (low steam level but it’s there), and coming of age story. I wasn’t expecting bedroom content so it threw me a bit, but it’s easily skimmable without missing storyline.
The main character, Lacey, is a sort of pagan who discovers Druidism and feels like she found a new home. It was interesting to learn about the rituals as Lacey did, and some of the Irish Mythology attached. Her eventual boyfriend, Cian, is trying to find his own way as well. His family is traditionally Catholic but it doesn’t seem like the right road for him. Man the struggle was real for his parents too, I felt for them. The relationships were level headed and real, with the characters talking through things instead of losing their minds. Very refreshing to not have conflict without undue drama. The other characters were supportive and interesting as well.
One other theme I appreciated was how hard it can be to change and accept new viewpoints and changing culture, especially from a religious standpoint. The Catholicism vs Pagan interactions were handled realistically, I think, and a lot of the novel is about embracing instinct and one’s own path in life. Trust me that Catholics know it’s 2020, they don’t need to be reminded in argument. Changing times are a little bit much sometimes but I think Cian’s parents handled things well for how much was thrown at them at once.
It was interesting to learn a little about Druidism and rituals too, and all the other mystic elements in the book. I thought the mermaid was going to be one of the lost island residents but that storyline surprised me! A twist of mystery and danger was fun to read as someone is threatening a local endangered species.
All in all, a great new adult aged novel about finding your own paths, adult friendships and relationships, community and conservation. All set along the gorgeous St Lawrence River!
Thank you so much to Sterling Teen for the giveaway win! I won a finished copy of Mortal Remains and found it to be a quick and entertaining YA contemporary / paranormal read.
Title: Mortal Remains
Author: Mary Ann Fraser
Publisher & Release: Sterling Teen, 2/2/20
Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟⚡ for Young Adult Readers and fans of YA
Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:
Morticia. Ghoul Girl. Freak. Eighteen-year-old Lily McCrae has heard it all. But despite what the bullies say, she loves her job doing makeup for the dead for her family’s failing funeral home business. Lately, though, Lily’s best friend Mallory is too busy reinventing herself to hang out, her stepbrother Evan is preoccupied with college applications, and her father is pushing her into taking over the family business without even asking her opinion, so she feels lonelier than ever. She finds herself spending all her time in the prep room talking to her “clients.” After all, the dead are the only ones who really listen.
Then the neighboring house is leveled in an explosion, dredging up memories of Adam, the boy who lived there and saved her life the day of the accident that left her scarred and disabled, and of the things she saw there that she just wanted to forget. When she, Mallory, and Evan go exploring and find a mysterious hatch in the rubble, they discover that someone’s been trapped inside. Someone who says his name is Adam. Trouble is, Adam has been missing for four years. And this Adam doesn’t have any memory of her and seems to be keeping a lot of secrets. As she spends more time with him, she can’t help her growing feelings even as his unwillingness to be open leaves her troubled.
Lily is forced to reconcile her feelings for Adam as together they delve into his mysterious past while she also struggles to figure out what she wants out of life and tries to fix her rocky relationships with Mallory and her parents. Will Lily ever decide who she wants to be? And is love enough to overcome truth?
Wow, for once I am actually in the minority of favorable opinions on this one. GoodReads seems split but hey, I enjoyed it.
Lily works in her family’s funeral home. She is extremely talented at the makeup and fixing required to make bodies presentable for open casket funerals, although this profession earns her quite a bit of bullying and teasing from peers. Lily had an accident as a child as well that left her slightly crippled, and now she finds her solace talking to bodies and honoring their lives.
Measure twice, box once
Adam was the neighbor kid that Lily used to hang out with until his father chased her off. Did she see a body one night?? When Adam’s house is blown up and he is found weeks later in an underground laboratory, with none of his old memories, all weirdness breaks loose.
Tread lightly on hallowed ground
I think the relationship arcs in this book are great. Finding Adam starts to slowly bring out the self confidence and self acceptance that Lily needs to find her own path. The father wants her to take over the mortuary business, the step mom is kind of just mean, actually they both are. Lily needed an external source to start seeing her actual worth. Watching her gain the confidence to deal with the bullies AND her family was nice. Both teens have a great character arc.
Each death helps us to become more human
The supernatural part includes Adam and whatever his father was doing down in that underground lab. No spoilers here but the mystery involved kept the story moving as they searched for answers about his life.
Don’t lose yourself in the narrative of death and dying
There was a bit of teen partying too, Lily had one friend that still tried to bring her out into the social world of her peers, with mixed results. There are not so subtle hints at party safety and drunk driving included. These parts were good to round out the lives of the characters and give them that real teenager aspect.
Leather has no place in a mortician’s wardrobe
So yes – a cute budding romance (only to kissing, nothing more), a paranormal mystery, also a murder mystery, mortuary science, a girl overcoming her fears and her bullies, and friends sticking together. No language or sex or anything else that kids really don’t need to be seeing either.
I would happily recommend this one to teens and fans of YA!
Thank you so much, as always, to Storytellers On Tour for having me on their book tour for Kept From Cages by Phil Williams! Thank you as well to the author for my finished copy, all opinions are my own!
Title: Kept From Cages
Series: Ikiri, #1
Author: Phil Williams
Publisher & Release: Rumian Publishing, September 2020
Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes for fans of urban paranormal, thrillers, and sass!
Here is the synopsis:
No one returns from Ikiri.
Reece’s gang of criminal jazz musicians have taken shelter in the wrong house. There’s a girl with red eyes bound to a chair. The locals call her a devil – but Reece sees a kid that needs protecting. He’s more right than he knows.
Chased by a shadowy swordsman and an unnatural beast, the gang flee across the Deep South with the kid in tow. She won’t say where she’s from or who exactly her scary father is, but she’s got powers they can’t understand. How much will Reece risk to save her?
On the other side of the world, Agent Sean Tasker’s asking similar questions. With an entire village massacred and no trace of the killers, he’s convinced Duvcorp’s esoteric experiments are responsible. His only ally is an unstable female assassin, and their only lead is Ikiri – a black-site in the Congo, which no one leaves alive. How far is Tasker prepared to go for answers?
Kept From Cages is the first part in an action-packed supernatural thriller duology, filled with eccentric characters and intricately woven mysteries
The plot/story: there is so much going on in this book that the action is literally almost nonstop, from the first page. There are two separate storylines that alternate chapters, one being the gang of musicians and the other is agent Tasker. Both storylines are packed with action and I found myself more drawn to the musicians and the little girl.
Bits and pieces of the overall puzzle are brought into the action slowly, so it took a while to start learning what was going on but I was well entertained in the process! Eventually the two storylines start to connect and it’s an absolute whirlwind when they finally do.
The Setting: deep Southern Louisiana is apparently a really great setting for a paranormal clash between criminal jazz musicians and a mysterious, evil man with a sword. The heck were those demons?? Agent Tasker’s story ends up in Ikiri, a village in the African Congo that the toughest men out there don’t return from. Is it civil war or a front for something darker that is leaving all those villages slaughtered? Williams doesn’t waste too much momentum on setting but I never had any problem picturing the layout, and my favorite setting was definitely the homemade town on stilts. For the biblical flood when it comes, obviously.
Somewhere in between the plot and the characters are the supernatural elements too. Power from…a spirit? An energy? Zombies! Unexplained mass murders. Women in trees and a whole pack of apparently undead assassins…. Omg so much packed in that it almost got confusing at times.
The characters: ah gosh the characters are amazing. The band is a sassy group, especially Leigh Ann. I loved their banter and found family-ness, it seems like most od them have lost quite a bit and then found each other! Zip is a cool character once she comes out of her shell, a literally red-eyed child that may or may not be some kind of devil spawn.
Tasker is an agent that investigates magical energy, and he’s trying to figure out what the heck this giant corporation unleashed in the Congo. Why did a village in Norway look like a rabid mob came through? He finds a sort of partner, a super unstable assassin with an imaginary friend, who if not likeable is at least interesting. Tasker’s team is a motley bunch and it’s interesting watching him unravel the international mysteries surrounding … The Source.
Overall takeaways: Anyway – yes, I am totally on board with this. Each chapter has a little cliffhanger that makes the book REALLY hard to put down. I wondered about an English author trying to write Southern American slang, but he does a really brilliant job with the linguistics, then come to find he writes language texts! I would totally recommend for fans of paranormal anything, and fans of thrillers. Kept From Cages is different but totally worth the read, I’m on board for book 2 when it’s ready!
Phil Williams is an author of contemporary fantasy and dystopian fiction, including the Ordshaw urban fantasy thrillers and the post-apocalyptic Estalia series. He also writes reference books to help foreign learners master the nuances of English, two of which are regular best-sellers on Kindle. He lives with his wife by the coast in Sussex, UK, and spends a great deal of time walking his impossibly fluffy dog, Herbert.
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.
**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!