Synopsis: Be careful who you let in.
Soon after her twenty-fifth birthday, Libby Jones returns home from work to find the letter she’s been waiting for her entire life. She rips it open with one driving thought: I am finally going to know who I am.
She soon learns not only the identity of her birth parents, but also that she is the sole inheritor of their abandoned mansion on the banks of the Thames in London’s fashionable Chelsea neighborhood, worth millions. Everything in Libby’s life is about to change. But what she can’t possibly know is that others have been waiting for this day as well—and she is on a collision course to meet them.
Twenty-five years ago, police were called to 16 Cheyne Walk with reports of a baby crying. When they arrived, they found a healthy ten-month-old happily cooing in her crib in the bedroom. Downstairs in the kitchen lay three dead bodies, all dressed in black, next to a hastily scrawled note. And the four other children reported to live at Cheyne Walk were gone.
In The Family Upstairs, the master of “bone-chilling suspense” (People) brings us the can’t-look-away story of three entangled families living in a house with the darkest of secrets. (Amazon)
Publication Date: November 5, 2019
Rating: 4 stars
I AM PHIN.
While I was reading this book, someone mentioned to me that more so than your typical Thriller, this book read like a family drama. I agree completely. You are not going to get your usual roller-coaster moments; you are not going to get edge-of-your-seat thrills; but you are going to get a fascinating story about a twisted compound of people living together who are, at the core of things, toxic for one another.
The story is told from three perspectives: the lead Libby, the sister of the narrator, Lucy, and the narrator and mysterious third perspective that we later find out to be Henry.
Through Henry we learn what happened years ago at the house where he and Lucy grew up. We learn how police came across a murder scene that read like a cult, why it happened, and what the beginnings of it all were. Through Lucy we read the story of a woman who has had rather ill luck in life, who struggles to keep her family together, and who fights to return to her childhood home to meet the baby that was abandoned when the murders occurred. And Libby is that abandoned baby, someone who has grown up thinking she knows what happened but has no real idea of the details that brought her into existence.
The Family Upstairs begins at a slow but thorough pace and spreads out the mystery for you, slowly knitting the pieces together. I've read another one of Lisa Jewell's books in the past, Watching You, and she did a much better job here of engaging the reader. Even when no action is taking place, you are so enthralled and eager to know what comes next that you can't help but continue reading.
There are some expected twists and turns, some horrible revelations, most of them delivered or executed by Henry. And they are delivered beautifully. The reader is purposefully misled on more than one occasion, and the payoff—finding out the truth—makes you have that AHA! moment we love so much when it comes to books like these.
Henry himself is a conundrum of a character. Libby puts it so well at the end of the story, when she states that she doesn't quite know how to feel about him. He presents a specific picture to everyone of such a charismatic person, who maybe tries a little too hard to be liked, but you forgive that because he's trying and so you want to try as well. But inside he's twisted and weird, creepy even. He delivers the end of the novel in such a chilling way, making us only imagine how he's going to bring his comeuppance to the character that throughout this story drives his ultimate obsession: Phin.
Phin is his drive while everything is falling apart at home when he's a teenage boy, Phin takes up every waking thought once they escape the house after the deaths, and Phin is his ultimate goal. And after everything is said and done, at the bottom of it, The Family Upstairs subtly tells the story of the psychopathic character of Henry Lamb, and that's the beauty of this novel: you don't realize how fooled you've been until the last page, and by then it's too late.
Thank you NetGalley and Tor Books for this ARC. All thoughts and opinions are mine.
Synopsis: What if you knew how and when you will die?
Csorwe does — she will climb the mountain, enter the Shrine of the Unspoken, and gain the most honored title: sacrifice.
But on the day of her foretold death, a powerful mage offers her a new fate. Leave with him, and live. Turn away from her destiny and her god to become a thief, a spy, an assassin—the wizard's loyal sword. Topple an empire, and help him reclaim his seat of power.
But Csorwe will soon learn – gods remember, and if you live long enough, all debts come due. (Amazon)
Publication Date: February 20, 2020
Genre: Fantasy / YA
Rating: 3 stars
What a fascinating premise to this new fantasy novel. How can anyone who's a fan of the genre resist? Unfortunately, the reality fell short of the premise, which is always a disappointment.
The first part of the book dragged more than it needed to, and then I noticed a pattern throughout the rest of it until I arrived at the fourth and final section of The Unspoken Name. Chapters in novels, usually, end at a specific moment in the storytelling process. There's a sixth sense in the reader that instinctively knows when a break will come and another chapter will start up because that hitch naturally comes to pass. But this novel lacked that, which resulted in chapters going on and on for such long periods of time that it felt as if it were taking me longer than usual to read. And this structural discrepancy distracted me so much from enjoying the whole piece that at times I thought of setting it aside.
The Traitor's Grave, the fourth part of the novel, was excellent. Whatever action lacked throughout the first part of The Unspoken Name was packed into this section. The last five chapters, especially, were delicious to read. There was murder, torture, a fast-paced and heroic liberation of a kidnapped character... It was fantastic, and exciting, and made me wonder why the first part of this story was not like that... Until I recalled the very special and important chapter structure's fissure.
I had a difficult time grasping the full personality of the lead, which was odd, because almost every other character made it really easy for me to see who they were—with the exception of Sethennai, and that's a valid point given who his character really is and what it hide. But Csorwe went through the novel almost listlessly. She would rise to the occasion whenever physical action called for it, but otherwise she seemed content to just go along with the flow. We're told again and again that she's the right hand of Sethennai, she's this tough and dangerous sword-woman, but I never saw that. The only time that I saw her lift her hand with a blade was either in self defense, or in an attempt to help others around her. Whatever reputation was attached to her never came to pass because by the time that she had gained it, the story had fast-forwarded and we never got to see it, which made it impossible to believe.
Others, like Shuthmili, herself, were thankfully a breath of fresh air. She came out of her cocoon little by little, and beautifully at that. She was enjoyable to see evolve, give in to her sense of humor, give into the madness and danger that lives inside of her. Her, Oranna and Tal—who is unapologetically himself, with every tarnish that his personality holds—were the trio that saved this story and made me want to continue reading.
The world is fantastic to see described, the magic system is very interesting—and I always enjoy it when magic is directly derived from the gods in a novel's pantheon—as are the few character races that we meet. Especially Atharaisse, of Echentyr.
There was beauty to The Unspoken Name, and growth that still has time to occur. The first in a series is not always fully realized, so I have high hopes should the second novel be released in the future.
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I've been a fan of the Owlcrate subscription boxes on and off for over a year and I have loved every single box. I have, however, not ventured out of that little comfort zone before, despite the many, many many many bookish boxes now available out there. This was my first time subscribing to FaeCrate, and I was pleasantly surprised with the 2019 December box.
The box included a hardcover copy of Elizabeth Tammi's December 2019 release The Weight of a Soul, along with a signed nameplate (which I am always excited to get in a box). Along with this highlight, the goodies that were included were:
A silver collector's coin with the quote “Every story has a story” from Renee Ahdieh's The Wrath and the Dawn (one of my favorite things from the box).
A full 2020 12-month calendar with original work from the amazingly talented Gabriella Bujdoso.
The opportunity and info to download and read the e-book Olympian Challenger by Astrid Arditi.
A “Polaroid” of Zelie and Nailah inspired by Tomi Adeyemi's Children of Blood and Bone series.
A print inspired by Crown of Feathers by Nicki Pau Preto.
A ceramic piece with the quote “What an unequaled gift for disaster you have.” inspired by Naomi Novik's Uprooted (also a huge favorite).
An iridescent bookmark with the quote “It takes one word to make the whole world stop and listen. All you need is the right one.” from Jay Kristoff's Endsinger.
A lovely sky blue, white and yellow set of 4 buttons inspired by Adrienne Young's Sky in the Deep.
And a wristband with the inspiring quote “There is greatness in you. It matters little where that power comes from.”.
I did not receive the sweatshirt that would have been included in the box per my own selection (and I might be regretting it a little bit, but I wanted to get a beginner's small taste of my first FaeCrate subscription). Despite this, overall I would say that for the price of the box, the items included are well worth it. They're all top quality, varied, well matched with the December theme of “Of Legends and Lore”.
I will definitely be giving this subscription box another try in the near future.
'Nutmeg Street: Egyptian Secrets (A Botanic Hill Detectives Mystery, #1)' by Sherrill Joseph - Review
Publication Date: February 1, 2020
Genre: Middle Grade / Mystery
Rating: 2.5 stars
Thank you NetGalley and Acorn Publishing for this ARC. All thoughts and opinions are mine.
As an adult, I've done my best to make up for those pre-teen years when other readers were gorging themselves on stories of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys (or other like-minded mysteries that to this day I am not as well versed in as I wish I were). I've done a fairly good job with the Nancy Drew books, have greatly enjoyed them for the sake of nostalgia, and have even become a huge fan of the PC games based on the series. Nutmeg Street: Egyptian Secrets brought back those same cozy and comfortable feels that I get whenever I pick up a Nancy Drew mystery.
Don't let the rating fool you, overall, I enjoyed the read. It's a cute mystery, with an adorable group of four young friends who go around solving cases on their parents' many travels and in their hometown. But the book was far too much like the Nancy Drew ones I've read, so much alike as a matter of fact that it was as if a template of it had been taken and the specifics altered to make it its own copy.
The story was fun to follow, but it was very simplistic. And the world around the characters is premised as a vibrant and lush setting but we barely get enough detail in it. Books for young readers can be as full and detailed as they are for adults—I think we're at a point in literature where this younger targeted audience is more than happy to become as engrossed in a heavier story as the more mature readers do.
All in all, for an easy and swift read, this is a good one to go with. Not a lot of time is spent dwelling on the culprit of the story and the mystery behind which he does what he does, but that's, again, very similar to past mysteries of of this book's ilk. Pick this one up and you will fly through it, and truly do get to meet an amusing and sweet bunch of kids who will take you on a merry little chase.
Publication Date: January 7, 2020
Genre: Thriller / Science Fiction
Rating: 4 stars
Thank you NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for this ARC. All thoughts and opinions are mine.
I've had a repeating nightmare in the past, where I'm walking down a long hallway, and no matter what door I open, I know there is no way out without even stepping through one of them. I'm sure everyone's had some sort of variation of that dream at some point.
That's how it felt to read The God Game, with all of the anxiety and desperation of that nightmare.
As the story began to unfold at the beginning, the setting and characters and plot felt a bit juvenile. And that might have been on purpose. It's such a silly game at first, almost playful. Because, really, how can something like this be real. It does stretch the limits of not only imagination but reality—far too much at times—but that's also what makes you think “How is no one able to stop this??? How can something like this go so far???” And really, how much of this is even believable? But the more that the story progresses, the more that juvenile quality begins to fade away as things become darker.
The fact that this is all centered around a group of high school students is almost too perfect. High school, where life is not the easiest for many of those who attend, already filled with its lot of cruelty and issues, makes the “game” start off as a salvation—as advertised—only to wrap its claws around the players and sink them deeper to the bottom. It's very predictable, but it does the job very well.
The more I read, the more I started to feel a horrible, creeping dread while events escalated. It's perfect, that sensation. That's the story nicely seeping into us the reader, doing a hell of a job with its craft and the torment of its characters. And despite this, the novel is just plain fun to read. It drags ever so slightly at the beginning, there yet barely noticeable. But once it picks up speed, everything careens toward its inevitable conclusion and you cannot help but want to be along for the ride.
I wouldn't say that finding out the main culprit among the group of friends was surprising. The clues were there all along. The reveal, however, was still satisfactory, even if the character's staged death played a little weakly at the closing. That door left open, letting you see that, oh, you thought it was over but no no no, it will continue. I think a finite conclusion would have played out better, but if anybody wants to imagine how things will keep progressing then imagination now has food for thought.
Publication Date: November 5, 2019
Genre: Fantasy / YA
Rating: 5 stars
Loving fictional characters is bittersweet. You are so full of joy as you devour their stories, then stand devastated if they either die in-story or that story ends. When I finished reading The Raven Cycle, the devastation struck me hard. I impatiently waited to find out if more from these characters would be released, and was both relieved and delighted at the news that Call Down the Hawk would be published. I did my best to keep my reservations, attempted to keep my hopes down, because surely nothing could be as great as The Raven Cycle had been.
It's a good thing that the lies I told myself did not pan out, because not only was I unable to keep that hope from rising, but Call Down the Hawk was just as amazing as I knew it would be.
Maggie Stiefvater is a master at creating people that readers will not only fall in love with, but be desperate to have them be a part of their real lives. And I call them people, not characters, because that is what she is capable of. They drive her stories, make them even bigger than they are, and make the plot explode into action.
Here's the crux of the matter: the story has been done before by other authors. The particulars are her own, but the idea of a group of people going after those who are different and wanting to kill them for X reason? That has been done so many times, in so many ways, and we know this. But the important thing is that it is done differently here. And the genius this specific tale brightly exists, because, again, Stiefvater's characters make it stand out.
Taking in the leads, Ronan, Declan and Matthew are such variations of themselves. They have their own personalities—even lovely dream Matthew—their own triggers, their joys and secrets. You put them together, and they are a pleasure to behold when in action. Remembering them from the previous series, to now, makes their development stand out even more. Ronan is no longer just that angry teen who lets no one in, Matthew has a lot more to offer other than an adorable cheery and seemingly empty disposition, and Declan... Declan surprised me to no end in this novel. Seeing that mask come down and let us begin to glimpse what lies behind it was surprising and delightful, a tease, a need for more.
Jordan/Hennessy is a punch to the face. There's no other way to describe that duo with the burst of their personalities. You can tell from the beginning that out of all the girls, they will be the ones you remember—which is later made very obvious from the actions that take place. They're two sides of the same coin while retaining their own intricate pieces. Which is captivating, and goes to show what Hennessy (and a dreamer) is capable of as the creator of Jordan, another dreamed self made come to life. Their roles into this new series, along with the cameos of Adam (whose romance with Ronan is such a beautiful and intense thing to behold)—and indirectly, Gansey, made my heart full to bursting.
It's not to say that the antagonistic side of this story holds less importance, but I think there's a purpose in making the “good guys” in the story stand out in this first installment. We're given the cast, and made to have a strong connection with the ones that we will obviously be hoping make it out in the end. We're meant to dislike the Moderators coming after the “Zeds,” as they're referred to, destroying their dreams and saving a world that is supposed to die if those dreamers are allowed to survive.
There's something symbolic and very real to that, I think, if you pay close attention past the plot laid out before you. Something that hits rather close to home.
We're in stasis now, taken away by the enigmatic and seemingly powerful Bryde, with so many pieces dangled about and needing to be solved. Beyond the new Fenian and the likeness of Aurora, beyond the dangers awaiting our heroes, beyond the need to destroy driving the “bad guys” while they ironically attempt to save...the end of the world awaits. We still don't know who will be the match that lights that fire, but I cannot wait go on that ride and see it all burn.
Every new year I think that the idea of coming up with a new year's resolution list is a ton of fun. Sometimes I actually write one. More often than not that list gets lost within a couple of months into the year and I never see it again, the poor thing lost among the valleys and mountains of miscellaneous papers and books on and around my desk.
So, obviously, I'm still going to write one for 2020. But with the idea of coming up with a list that centers around one of the things that I love most in this world, I figured I'd give it a bookish theme. I'll create a challenge for myself, rather than an inventory of miscellaneous to-do's which will end up giving me anxiety borne from the pressure of not completing it. I simply cannot start the new year—and the new decade!—in such a stressful manner.
Keeping it down to eight challenges (which is a really random number, I know, but it is the even amount that I decided on) I present to you my little trial. That sounds entertaining and completely none-threatening, right?
You're welcome to try it for yourself, to add or delete as you see fit and complete them at your own pace throughout the year—as I certainly will.
It'll be fun! No pressure.
Read a book published on my birthday month. Ha! Easy. Let's face it, this is a totally self-serving challenge. I've been obsessing over the release of Sarah J. Maas' House of Earth and Blood since I pre-ordered it on Amazon...in April! I've been planning to wait and read it during the couple of days off work I'll take for my birthday, but I can't promise that I'll have the necessary self control to wait so much time after its release to crack open that spine. Just kidding, I'd be loathe to crack a book's spine if I can help it!
Read a book outside. Look, I live in Florida, where the temperature is set to “possible meltdown” no matter the season. We don't even have seasons. It's perpetual heat from January until December. So this one will be a challenge. Just thinking about doing this makes me want to lock myself inside and set the A/C to freezing. But, I want to get out of my comfort zone a little and blah blah blah. I'll stay positive. I'll try.
Donate books. I have piles upon piles of unread books not just stacked atop my bookcases but on the floor. And I love books, I'm obsessed with books, but I know that I am not going to read all of the ones that I currently own. At the very least, not now, and that means that I don't know when I'd get around to them. So I'll donate them to Goodwill—or any other organization/individual that I come across—so that others who may actually enjoy them will have the opportunity to fall in love with them as well.
Buy a book from a used books bookstore. I'm a tiny bit of a snob. I am. I admit it. It's only during the last year that I began to borrow books from the library again, and that's in a digital format. But if I buy books, fancy me needs to make sure that it is new. And if it happens to be a special edition? Oh, man, that's cause for real celebration involving a dance or a few squeals of delight, or a combination. But all things fair, used books deserve love too, not just to be wasting away their time when they can be opened again and appreciated. Who knows, I might come across a certain Stephen King hardback I've been wanting to purchase for a while, or a super rare edition of Frankenstein. A girl has dreams.
Speaking of the library... Go to the library. I used to practically live at the library. My parents would drive me every week, sometimes twice a week, to either return or borrow books. And every time I visited, I would leave with 5-10 books in arms. While walking into a bookstore feels like coming home, I do miss going to the library and reliving that stage of my life. You know, the stage where I couldn't afford most of the books and bookish items that I now buy because I didn't have a job and therefore no money to afford my sometimes expensive hobby/obsession? It's time to reminisce.
Go to a book fair. If I were not a creature with the homebody ways of a hermit and the sun fearing habits of a vampire, I would've attended one of these a long, long time ago. As it is, I know for a fact that my “hometown” hosts a book fair every November. It's advertised on light poles down the road clearly enough that it's all you can see for a mile at a time. And every year, I declare loudly and proudly to everyone who will listen—which is usually a wild crowed of one or two people, since my exceptional people skills make me such lively company—that I will attend. The fact that I've jotted this one down as one of my challenges, I think, makes it rather clear how well that declaration fares as the month of November progresses each year.
Craft a book poster. I can fairly easily do this in Photoshop, but I don't want to just put together a book poster and print it. I want to—as the challenge quite literally states--craft a book poster. I want to old-style buy magazines, markers, poster board, construction paper, search/find/scavenge/steal whatever miscellaneous pieces I will need and create a poster so that it represents one of my favorite books. Later, I will not only be able to admire it, but proudly display it upon one of my walls. The hands-on artist in me has been been re-awakened as of recent months, so I might as well give it a push and see what it can do from days of yore. Quite excited about this one, actually.
Re-read the first book I ever loved. The first book I ever loved was The Ugly Duckling, which might be a bonus read. I was a toddler back then, however, and for a while neither cataloged nor kept track of books I enjoyed. The book I clearly remember loving, as a pre-teen re-discovering the world of reading, was Rumble Fish by S. E. Hinton. I don't remember what it was about that tattered cover that captured my eye when my teacher at the time prompted my English class to pick a book and take home for the Summer, but Rumble Fish stole my heart. Nor do I remember what it was about it that made me enjoy it so much that I just had to get my hands on every book that I could find after and read, read read! But I'm forever grateful to S. E. Hinton, and I am eager to re-read that lost treasure.
And so, with that in mind... Ready. Set. Go. Time to start working on my first one of the lot.
Publication Date: January 8, 2019
Genre: Fantasy / YA
Rating: 4 stars
When I was a child, I went through a period of time where wondered, on and off, if I was adopted. I'm sure that it was brought on by some book I that read, or a movie that I watched, and I even think I asked my mom once. She laughed it off, assured me that wasn't the case, proceeded to show me baby photos that I'd seen countless times before. But not long after I caught her silently wiping at her eyes. She couldn't help it, I understood it even then, but I think that a few children sometimes wonder these things. I think it's borne out of the same curiosity which makes some of us also question if there are other worlds out there full of magic and possibilities that our “real” world does not offer—with far-off quests, vicious villains, brave heroes and wild monsters to conquer. Even after we grow up, we keep these fantasies. At least book lovers do.
I know that I keep to them.
In an Absent Dream brought all of that back. Not the adoption part. Though the memory was triggered, my parents have convinced me of the improbability of this. But rather the possibility of those alternate worlds. And who's to say that they're not true? No one knows all there is to know of the universe. And thank goodness for that, since it means that mysteries still exist.
Lundy is a child with a ferocious imagination who does not belong in the world onto which she is born. I don't think that she even realizes this until she comes across that magical tree and looks upon her first door with the words BE SURE written cleverly over it. But she goes through the door and steps into the Goblin Market, leaving behind the house with her first family and stepping into her true home with a new family of her choosing.
The rules are set for her from the beginning—as they oftentimes are in fairy tales of a sort—the warning is given for them to be followed, and a price must be paid when they are broken. And the price of those broken rules is that the child who had found her home is banished, the magic is removed and set as punishment, and she never gets to walk through the door again.
I've had my ups and downs with the books in this series, and since I do tend to lean and favor the darker tales that follow a plot like this one—which is why so far, my favorite in this set of books has been Down Among the Sticks and Bones—there was a sort of bleak loveliness to this installment. Call me a glutton for dreariness in stories, and I'll be guilty as charged.
It didn't grasp me at first, but the closer I got to the ending, the more I appreciated that bleakness and therefore the good in the novel. Where at first I found annoyance in the fact that the world outside the Goblin Market barely held description, I realized it was to better drive home the point that the Goblin Market was really all that mattered to Lundy and therefore deserved attention. Where I wished more interaction would have occurred between Lundy and her family outside the Goblin Market, more did I enjoy it when it did happen in the form of Diana and her desperation to have the love of her sister. And where I wished that we would've witnessed the actual action between Lundy and the moments with the battle and conquest of the Wasp King or the Bone Wraiths, the more I appreciated the growth, rather, that the character had after these events.
Part of me still wants for the things that I feel I was cheated out of, but we come to the fair value of the story and sometimes it gives before taking again. There's anguish and loss and happiness to be found, and I think that Lundy got just what she wanted in the end. However, it brings home once more something that the Archivist attempted to instill in Lundy more than once (and us, as the attentive reader): be sure, before you ask, or request, or want for something, because there is always a price to pay. Lundy got just what she asked for, but it came at a stark cost.
Title: One of Us is Next (One of Us is Lying #2)
Author: Karen McManus
Publication Date: January 7, 2020
Genre: Mystery / YA
SYNOPSIS: Come on, Bayview, you know you've missed this.
A ton of copycat gossip apps have popped up since Simon died, but in the year since the Bayview four were cleared of his shocking death, no one's been able to fill the gossip void quite like he could. The problem is no one has the facts.
This time it's not an app, though—it's a game.
Truth or Dare.
Phoebe's the first target. If you choose not to play, it's a truth. And hers is dark.
Then comes Maeve and she should know better—always choose the dare.
But by the time Knox is about to be tagged, things have gotten dangerous. The dares have become deadly, and if Maeve learned anything from Bronwyn last year, it's that they can't count on the police for help. Or protection.
Simon's gone, but someone's determined to keep his legacy at Bayview High alive. And this time, there's a whole new set of rules. (Goodreads)
Karen McManus' first installment into these sets of books, One of Us is Lying, was a cozy and comforting mystery that took me back to the feels of the 80s. Just like advertised, it had huge Breakfast Club vibes...with a dead body thrown in and a set of teens bound together to find out who did the crime. I'm expecting the same thing in One of Us is Next, along with a fun new story to follow and a new cast that will be thrown into the dangerous mix. I cannot wait!
Title: The Hand on the Wall (Truly Devious #3)
Author: Maureen Johnson
Publication Date: January 21, 2020
Genre: Mystery / YA
SYNOPSIS: Ellingham Academy must be cursed. Three people are now dead. One, a victim of either a prank gone wrong or a murder. Another, dead by misadventure. And now, an accident in Burlington has claimed another life. All three in the wrong place at the wrong time. All at the exact moment of Stevie’s greatest triumph . . .
She knows who Truly Devious is. She’s solved it. The greatest case of the century.
At least, she thinks she has. With this latest tragedy, it’s hard to concentrate on the past. Not only has someone died in town, but David disappeared of his own free will and is up to something. Stevie is sure that somehow—somehow—all these things connect. The three deaths in the present. The deaths in the past. The missing Alice Ellingham and the missing David Eastman. Somewhere in this place of riddles and puzzles there must be answers.
Then another accident occurs as a massive storm heads toward Vermont. This is too much for the parents and administrators. Ellingham Academy is evacuated. Obviously, it’s time for Stevie to do something stupid. It’s time to stay on the mountain and face the storm—and a murderer.
In the tantalizing finale to the Truly Devious trilogy, New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson expertly tangles her dual narrative threads and ignites an explosive end for all who’ve walked through Ellingham Academy. (Goodreads)
There's just something about a school campus setting in a story that makes me happy. It's a joy that I am more than glad to sink into, and if a mystery is involved, all the better. Lead Stevie has unapologetically been her “weird” (I say unique) self in this trilogy since Truly Devious, and she has become one of my favorite characters in the last few years to read. She's the kind of girl detective that I would've loved to be had I actually sunk my claws into that sort of lifestyle (I came to reading Nancy Drew too late in life to fully get into the role, I think). She's the main thing that makes reading these novels entertaining, but the fact that the story is coming to a close and we are finally going to be having all of our questions answered has me making eager grabby hands for this book. Alice Ellingham, what really happened to you???
Title: The Sun Down Motel
Author: Simone St. James
Publication Date: February 18, 2020
SYNOPSIS: The secrets lurking in a rundown roadside motel ensnare a young woman, just as they did her aunt thirty-five years before, in this new atmospheric suspense novel from the national bestselling and award-winning author of The Broken Girls.
Upstate NY, 1982. Every small town like Fell, New York, has a place like the Sun Down Motel. Some customers are from out of town, passing through on their way to someplace better. Some are locals, trying to hide their secrets. Viv Delaney works as the night clerk to pay for her move to New York City. But something isn't right at the Sun Down, and before long she's determined to uncover all of the secrets hidden… (Goodreads)
We all have our comfort reads. And from the last two books in this list, I think it's obvious that mystery is a comfort read of mine. Add even the smallest smidgen of the supernatural to that and it's pure bliss. While Simone St. James' books don't always showcase that element in an obvious way, there's a flair to her novels that makes you settle into that mind-space. I love her stories; I've breezed through almost every single one of them save for Lost Among the Living. I am a fan. I have no doubt that I'm going to be delighted by this new release.
Title: House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City #1)
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Publication Date: March 3, 2020
Genre: Fantasy / NA
SYNOPSIS: Bryce Quinlan had the perfect life—working hard all day and partying all night—until a demon murdered her closest friends, leaving her bereft, wounded, and alone. When the accused is behind bars but the crimes start up again, Bryce finds herself at the heart of the investigation. She’ll do whatever it takes to avenge their deaths.
Hunt Athalar is a notorious Fallen angel, now enslaved to the Archangels he once attempted to overthrow. His brutal skills and incredible strength have been set to one purpose—to assassinate his boss’s enemies, no questions asked. But with a demon wreaking havoc in the city, he’s offered an irresistible deal: help Bryce find the murderer, and his freedom will be within reach.
As Bryce and Hunt dig deep into Crescent City’s underbelly, they discover a dark power that threatens everything and everyone they hold dear, and they find, in each other, a blazing passion—one that could set them both free, if they’d only let it. (Goodreads)
At this point, anything that Sarah J. Maas releases, I want. I want to read it, hold it, cherish it, protect it with the same zealousness with which Gollum keeps his preciousssss. I am addicted to her writing and the stories that she weaves. Whatever disappointment I might have felt over the fact that there is no future release date in 2020 for any other novel in the ACOTAR series, was more than alleviated when I found out that a first book in her new Crescent City series was being published. There were squeals, there was shock, there may have even been a little danced jiggle in the middle of my room. And don't think me insane for taking personal delight in the fact that House of Earth and Blood releases in March, my birthday month, and therefore I think that's totally a gift meant just for me. I'm fine, reaaaaally.
Title: Harrow the Ninth (The Locked Tomb #2)
Author: Tamsyn Muir
Publication Date: June 2, 2020
Genre: Fantasy / Sci-Fi
SYNOPSIS: She answered the Emperor's call.
She arrived with her arts, her wits, and her only friend.
In victory, her world has turned to ash.
After rocking the cosmos with her deathly debut, Tamsyn Muir continues the story of the penumbral Ninth House in Harrow the Ninth, a mind-twisting puzzle box of mystery, murder, magic, and mayhem. Nothing is as it seems in the halls of the Emperor, and the fate of the galaxy rests on one woman's shoulders.
Harrowhark Nonagesimus, last necromancer of the Ninth House, has been drafted by her Emperor to fight an unwinnable war. Side-by-side with a detested rival, Harrow must perfect her skills and become an angel of undeath — but her health is failing, her sword makes her nauseous, and even her mind is threatening to betray her.
Sealed in the gothic gloom of the Emperor's Mithraeum with three unfriendly teachers, hunted by the mad ghost of a murdered planet, Harrow must confront two unwelcome questions: is somebody trying to kill her? And if they succeeded, would the universe be better off? (Goodreads)
Holy crap was I shocked by the fact that I liked Gideon the Ninth as much as I did. I did not take the synopsis seriously when I first read it, and at the end picked up the book because I could not make up my mind on what else to read. To me, it sounded like a flippant, floppy, satirical novel of what something dark and dreary was meant to be—whatever it is meant to be, depending on one's own personal belief. But halfway through the first chapter, I was hooked. I may or may not have shed a tear at the ending, I may or may not have been a bit heartbroken, and I may or may not still hold (probably pathetic) hope that what happened will be remedied. But, even if that's not the case, Harrow the Ninth promises to be just as badass as Gideon the Ninth was. After all, Harrow is one of the most delightful anti-villians I've come across. Or is she an anti-hero? With Harrow, you never really know, and that's terrific.
Title: Forest of Souls (Shamanborn #1)
Author: Lori M. Lee
Publication Date: June 23, 2020
Genre: Fantasy / YA
SYNOPSIS: Sirscha Ashwyn comes from nothing, but she’s intent on becoming something. After years of training to become the queen’s next royal spy, her plans are derailed when shamans attack and kill her best friend Saengo.
And then Sirscha, somehow, restores Saengo to life.
Unveiled as the first soulguide in living memory, Sirscha is summoned to the domain of the Spider King. For centuries, he has used his influence over the Dead Wood—an ancient forest possessed by souls—to enforce peace between the kingdoms. Now, with the trees growing wild and untamed, only a soulguide can restrain them. As war looms, Sirscha must master her newly awakened abilities before the trees shatter the brittle peace, or worse, claim Saengo, the friend she would die for. (Goodreads)
It's happened spontaneously, but since then, little by little I've been drawn to reading novels—mostly fantasy—that draw from Asian lore. It's always a gamble, and I'm not as well versed in the original works as others, but I find these stories so beautiful and lyrical that whenever I find a new one, I am instantly prompted to add it to my TBR mountain. Forest of Souls sounds intriguing, with a promising lead, and a fascinating setting. Plus, let's face it, any place in a novel called the Dead Wood just made that story ten times more gripping.
Title: Empire of the Vampire (Empire of the Vampire #1)
Author: Jay Kristoff
Publication Date: September 3, 2020
SYNOPSIS: Twenty-seven years have passed since the last sunrise, and for almost three decades, the creatures of the night have walked the day without fear. Once, humanity fought bravely against the coldblood legions, but now, we exist only in a few scattered settlements—tiny sparks of light in a growing sea of darkness.
Gabriel de León is the last of the Silversaints, a holy order dedicated to defending realm and church, now utterly destroyed. Imprisoned for the murder of the vampiric king, Gabriel is charged with telling the story of his life.
His tale spans years, from his youth in the monastery of San Michel, to the forbidden love that spelled his undoing, and the betrayal that saw his order annihilated. Most importantly, Gabriel will tell of his discovery of the Grail—the legendary cup prophesied to bring an end to the eternal night.
But the Grail was no simple chalice; and its secret was held by a smart-mouthed teenage urchin named Dior. Their journey with a band of unlikely allies would see Dior and Gabriel forge an unbreakable bond, and set the broken paragon on a road to redemption.
But now, the Grail is shattered. And with the cup of the Savior destroyed and the last Silversaint awaiting execution, what can bring an end to this unholy empire? (Goodreads)
Granted, I've never read a book written solely by Jay Kristoff—this must be remedied as soon as possible. But I did read the Illuminae Files, written alongside Amie Kaufman, some of the most entertaining and uniquely formatted novels I've experienced. I fully intend to make Empire of the Vampire my first of his works—if nothing else falls onto my lap before then. It's been quite a while since I've read a vampire novel, and this one sounds like it'll have a few traces of that inviting darkness which makes these stories all the more satisfying. I'm ever so slightly worried about the similarity drawn from Interview with the Vampire, but I hold my hopes up. It can still—and likely will—turn out to be something phenomenal.
Title: Blood & Honey (Serpent & Dove #2)
Author: Shelby Mahurin
Publication Date: September 1, 2020
Genre: Fantasy / YA / Romance
No synopsis or cover art yet available, sadly. However, Serpent & Dove was one of the biggest surprises for me in 2019. It was not the best rendition of witchcraft in fiction that exists out there, although what was presented was very entertaining. And the romance/chemistry between the leads was so much fun that it more than made up for anything else that may have been lacking. It was a guilty little pleasure. I'm not sure whose story follows in Blood & Honey, and quite frankly, I do not care. All that I know is that I am incredibly eager to keep reading more of this story.
Title: UNTITLED (Dreamer Trilogy #2)
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Publication Date: November 10, 2020
Genre: Fantasy / YA
No synopsis or cover art yet available, sadly yet again. I have not yet read Call Down the Hawk, I confess it. I do, however, fully intend to make that my first read of 2020, and I already love the world of this story so much that I cannot possibly imagine how I could ever dislike it (may I not have to bite back my words). Which is why I'm so excited to see that there is already a second novel in the works to release later in the year. Mr. Ronan Lynch was my favorite character from The Raven Cycle series, that the fact that he gets his own set of books makes my fan-girl heart soar with joy.
Thank you to the author and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this novel. All thoughts and opinions are mine.
Publication Date: June 15, 2019
Rating: 2 stars
The Dawnvel Druids is the tale of a young man who is given the opportunity to attend the college of Dawnvel in England and becomes embroiled in the goings-on of its group of druids, soon learning that he is a druid himself.
The premise of the story is that the druids exist because there is a portal to the Otherworld—the realm where other beings and beasts live—and therefore they are there to guard that portal, always needing seven to be the number of druids needed. After one of them is murdered, one of our leads—Simone--brings Bobby (our unlikely hero) forward as the next possible druid. Once he undergoes the Joining, which is the magical initiation ceremony of their kind, it is proven that he is indeed a druid.
Story-wise, the novel is entertaining. Not once did I feel a need to put it aside, it has a brisk pace that's easy to follow. And there are a lot of moments when comedy steps in and makes a scene well worthwhile, especially whenever Bobby attempts to get away from the rest of the cast, refusing to believe that he is one of them while he accuses the lot of being a cult. As a matter of fact, Bobby is one of my favorite parts of the novel, and I highly appreciated the fact that he doesn't fall into the category of leads who easily accept something that is out of their realm of knowledge and belief just because it looks “cool” or “amazing”. He resists right up and 'til the end, which is as realistic as it can be for someone suddenly put into a position such as he is.
The writing, however, was rather underdeveloped. And the brisk pace of the story gave way to it being rushed, which became even more evident when crucial moments happened: such as the Joining, or the breaking in of Tarin and her gang into the home of the druids.
I was left with questions as to why Simone's father needs the drug Orachun—or what the drug really is/does—nor do I yet know why seven druids are specifically needed to secure the portal. Then Bobby states at the start of the novel that he has anxiety issues around others, proven when Warren first confronts him and he cowers from him, yet he is so comfortable confronting his roommate despite the lesser level of harassment he receives from him compared to Warren. It's such a leap.
Despite these points, there is a nice diversity in the characters' personalities—no one is a cookie cutter version of anyone else. And while I wish I would know who is the culprit in Zander's murder, I enjoyed the idea of a mystery surrounding it, albeit one that was not seen to fruition. The ending of the novel holds its promise and the possible realization of Warren and Lana's suspicions about who and what Bobby really is. Although, I do hope that he doesn't easily give into the sudden dark desires his new wand seems to want to explore, as seemed to be the case at the closing of the last chapter. Hopefully, he continues to use that charming resistance of his and grow.