Categories
Fiction General Fiction Paranormal Romance

Book Review: River Magic by M.A. Philips (local author alert)!

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!

Quick Facts:

  • 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!

Will be reading book two!

Categories
Contemporary Paranormal Science Fiction Young Adult

Book Review: Mortal Remains by Mary Ann Fraser

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.

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Mortal Remains
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Mary Ann Fraser
  • Publisher & Release: Sterling Teen, 2/2/20
  • Length: 360pg
  • 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!

Categories
Adventure Paranormal Thrillers

My Stop on the *Kept From Cages* Book Blog Tour!!!

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!

IMG_20210116_092411_824

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Kept From Cages
  • Series: Ikiri, #1
  • Author: Phil Williams
  • Publisher & Release: Rumian Publishing, September 2020
  • Length: 261pg
  • 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!

Guys! If you follow this link you can find the other tour host’s reviews, and I highly encourage you to do to so!

Meet the author!

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.

Here are the author and book links!!

Book Links
• Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/55115499-kept-from-cages
• Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1913468097
— — —
Author Links!
Website: https://phil-williams.co.uk/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/fantasticphil
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/philwilliamsauthor
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ordshawphil/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6579274.Phil_Williams

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 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
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
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!

Categories
Middle Grade Paranormal Science Fiction Young Adult

ARC Review: Catalyst by Tracy Richardson

  • Title: Catalyst
  • Series: The Catalysts, #2 (reads as a standalone though!!)
  • Author: Tracy Richardson
  • Publisher & Release: Brown Books Publishing Group: June 2, 2020
  • Length: 248 pages
  • Rating & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ for younger readers

Thank you so much to Books Forward for my advanced copy of Catalyst by Tracy Richardson!  This is the second book in a series but reads as a standalone with no spoilers, so no worries there.

Here is the description from Goodreads:

Marcie Horton has a sixth sense. Not in the “I see dead people” way, but . . . well, maybe a little. She feels a sort of knowing about certain things that can’t be explained – an intuition that goes beyond the normal. Then there was that one summer four years ago, when she connected with a long-departed spirit . . . But nothing that incredible has happened to Marcie since.

This summer, Marcie is spending time working at Angel Mounds, the archeological dig her mother heads, along with her brother, Eric, and his girlfriend, Renee. The dig is the site of an ancient indigenous civilization, and things immediately shift into the paranormal when Marcie and her teammates meet Lorraine and Zeke. The two mysterious dig assistants reveal their abilities to access the Universal Energy Field with their minds-something Marcie knows only vaguely that her brother has also had experience with.

Marcie learns how our planet will disintegrate if action is not taken, and she and her team must decide if they are brave enough to help Lorraine and Zeke in their plan to save Mother Earth, her resources, and her history. It looks like the summer just got a lot more interesting.

This book contains a lot of really great messages for young readers, first and foremost the environmental consequences of our actions.  Marcie and her team are dealing with an energy company that wants to expand fracking in the area, and there is a great amount of info about that and other environmental disasters.

Marcie has an interesting character arc as well.  She knows there is something about the world that she can sense, but isn’t sure what it is.  With the help of Zeke and Lorraine, two grad students on the dig, Marcie and the other teens learn about the Universal Energy Field and the implications of the fourth, fifth, and dimensions beyond.  Leo is the other main character and provides the opposing point of view on fracking, as his father works for the energy industry.   Their relationship is interesting because it pretty accurately portrays how teens have trouble with opposing viewpoints, and how to talk around issues and make compromises. I really shipped them.

I’m also Greek and ran cross country and share a name with the alien space ship…so…yeah, there are those things too.  I liked Marcie a lot.  The book reminds me of The Celestine Prophecies, which I was obsessed with in high school, and I’m really glad that this generation of young readers gets a book like this too.

The book turns from fairly normal, to paranormal, to sci-fi Jesus in a spaceship REAL quick, and I loved it.  I thought the context of spiritual leaders made sense, since it would be pretty egocentric to assume that the gods and goddesses and religious leaders are only dedicated to one planet.  The sci-fi element is definitely a bit out there in left field but it worked for me.

The book is relatively short at 248 pages.  The pacing is pretty even and I’m sad that it took me so long to start because once I did, I read it in two sittings.  I was never bored at all. I would totally and fully recommend this for teen readers as an environmentally and self-conscious read that has some great examples of conflict resolution and interpersonal relationships within the team.

The paperback releases on September 22nd, while the Kindle version released on June 2nd.

Have you read it? Want to discuss it? Let me know!

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!