Review: Black Sun (Between Earth and Sky #1) by Rebecca Roanhorse

Black Sun (Between Earth and Sky, #1)Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Black Sun slapped me in the face. I was not expecting to love this as much as I did. I expected to enjoy it, sure, but this absolutely transported me to another world.

This lush, epic Fantasy is inspired by civilizations of the Pre-Columbian Americas. I loved the incorporation of those aspects. It was like nothing I had ever read before.

Following multiple-POVs, Roanhorse was able to seamlessly transition from one perspective to the next without disrupting the flow of the narrative. I thought all the different angles were handled so well.

There’s an ancient prophecy that you get to watch coming to fruition right before your eyes, as all the puzzle pieces move into place just in time for a rare celestial event; a solar eclipse on the day of the winter solstice.

The Sun Priest, basically the highest religious position of this ancient land, has stated that this event will bring about an imbalance in the world.

As the story begins, you are introduced to the main characters, Serapio, Xiala, Naranpa and Okoa, who will play fundamental roles in this prophecy. They’re on the move, everyone is heading towards the holy city of Tova, where a great festival for the solstice will be held.

The tension builds at a nice steady pace over the course of the story, but as you approach the end, hold onto your hats, it feels like it is all going to explode. I was shocked an awed by it all.

I loved the level of intrigue, plotting, back-stabbing and danger that Roanhorse brought to this story. It’s multifaceted and fascinating.

Even though this is a complex story, set in a fully built-out world, it never felt overwhelming or info-dumpy. That’s a hard thing to do. To create a world like this, done this well, takes real skill. I doff my cap to Roanhorse.

I’m so excited to get my hands on the next book in this series and am extremely glad it is going to be releasing soon. This first book definitely ends on a bit of a cliffhanger and I don’t want to forget a thing!

This was one of the easiest 5-star ratings I have given this year. I am so happy I finally fit this one into my schedule. A complete delight!

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Review: The Camelot Betrayal (Camelot Rising #2) by Kiersten White

The Camelot Betrayal (Camelot Rising, #2)The Camelot Betrayal by Kiersten White
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

The Camelot Betrayal is the second book in Kiersten White’s Camelot Rising trilogy. Granted it had been a minute since I read the first book, The Guinevere Deception, so I was concerned about being completely lost when I picked this up.

Alas, I had nothing to fear. White is a seasoned author; she wouldn’t let me down like that.

In this installment, Guinevere is still struggling to find her place in Camelot. She feels completely unmoored by the fact that she cannot remember who she actually is and where she truly came from.

Even though her relationships with Arthur and her new friends continue to grow stronger, there’s still so much she needs to know. She has blanks she wants to fill in.

While she tries to remain focused on all that’s going on around her, such as Arthur working to expand his kingdom, and Brangien pining for her lost love, Isolde, it’s really difficult with these lost pieces of herself constantly looming over her.

When a young lady arrives in the kingdom, claiming to be Guinevere’s true sister, her mere presence threatens everything Guinevere has been working towards in Camelot. Or does it?

I will be honest, I wasn’t too sure about this one in the beginning. It started a little slow for me and the stakes didn’t appear to be particularly high.

I did enjoy the character growth Guinevere was displaying and I also really enjoyed the subplot following Isolde and Brangien; give me a rescue mission any day.

The further the story went on, the more invested I became. In the end, White really brought it around. There were many interesting reveals and now I am itching to get my hands on the final book.

There’s a showdown coming to Camelot and I want to be front and center for it!

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Review: Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson

Eight Perfect MurdersEight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Years ago, when he first started working at a local bookstore, Malcolm Kershaw, running the store’s online presence, wrote a blog post titled, Eight Perfect Murders.

The mystery aficionado made of a list of what he considered to be the genre’s most unsolvable murders. Little did he know that one seemingly inconsequential post would come back to haunt him.

Presently, Malcolm owns his own Boston bookstore and while he still loves books, he hasn’t been reading as many mysteries as he used to.

After suffering the loss of his wife, a lot in Malcolm’s world changed.

On the day of a terrible snow storm, Mal is in his shop alone when an FBI agent arrives. According to her, she’s investigating a serial killer who appears to be using Mal’s list to commit his crimes.

Mal’s shocked to hear this. How would the killer have even found that old post?

When it starts to appear that the killer not only found the list, but is keeping an eye on Mal as well, Mal begins to think it’s personal. So, he takes matters into his own hands and starts to look for suspects.

Y’all know I love an amateur sleuth trope, and a book seller main character! What a fantastic set-up for a Mystery!

I listened to this audiobook on my drive home from Christmas holiday and it kept me thoroughly entertained. It was a great way to pass the hours.

I loved the narration. It had a sort of film noir quality to it that I felt really fit this story. I would definitely recommend the audio if you are planning to read this yourself.

This was my first Swanson novel and I appreciated how he didn’t hold back. This was completely wild and over-the-top. It was full of unbelievable things, but that’s what made it so fun.

I would definitely be interested in reading more of his work. I know this one had some mixed reviews, but I was pleasantly surprised by it. I think Swanson and I could turn out to have a beautiful friendship.

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Review: The Orphan of Cemetery Hill by Hester Fox

The Orphan of Cemetery HillThe Orphan of Cemetery Hill by Hester Fox
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Tabby can communicate with spirits. She developed this gift at quite a young age and after her parents passed away, she and her sister, Alice, were taken in by their Aunt, who was well aware of Tabby’s blossoming talent.

Seances had grown in popularity in the first half of the 1800s and Aunt Bellefonte wished to use Tabby’s gift in order to make herself rich.

Obviously, anyone who would exploit a recently orphaned child that way, is not a character we can get behind.

Unsurprisingly, Tabby and Alice flee their Aunt’s household and make their way to downtown Boston, a bustling metropolis, where the girls hope they’ll be able to blend into the crowd and avoid their Aunt ever finding them again.

The girls weren’t really prepared for how busy and large the city actually was, however, and they end up getting separated. Without any means to find each other, the girls must do whatever they can individually to survive.

For Tabby, that means ingratiating herself to the steward of a large Boston cemetery, Eli. Over the years, she becomes for all intents and purposes, his daughter, helping him with the general maintenance and other duties.

Things get dark when a string of grave robberies begin to plague the city and a young man Tabby is fond of is accused of committing a dasterdly act, for which Tabby knows he cannot possibly be responsible.

Tabby must tap into her gift, which she has kept buried for so long, in order to try to get to the bottom of both mysteries. Little does she know, they’re all connected in one wild and wicked web.

Set in 1844, Boston, The Orphan of Cemetery Hill is steeped in the broody historical atmosphere I have grown to love from Hester Fox.

The gothic feel, paired with her likable characters, always make for an enjoyable story.

While I didn’t become quite as invested in this one as I have with some of her earlier work, I definitely really enjoyed reading it.

I loved the setting of Boston and the historical topics explored, particularly the robbing of graves for the use in medical and scientific exploration, as well as the popularity of seances at the time. Both of those things made this an intriguing premise indeed.

It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of Hester Fox. I will continue to pick up anything she releases until the end of time.

This novel, as is standard for her style, is perfect for this time of year; giving off all those chilly, creepy Autumnal vibes!

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Review: I Hope You’re Listening by Tom Ryan

I Hope You're ListeningI Hope You’re Listening by Tom Ryan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

When she was just 7-years old, Dee Skinner’s best friend, Sibby, was kidnapped as the two girls were playing in the woods adjacent to their houses.

Dee witnessed the incident, but as a 7-year old, was unable to help Sibby. This fact has haunted her every day since. Sibby has never been found.

As a teen, Dee has distanced herself from her peers. Her one good friend, Burke, has remained steadfastly by her side, even though she’s a bit prickly with everyone else.

Burke is also Dee’s secret keeper. He’s the only person who knows that Dee is the creator and host of a hugely popular podcast, Radio Silent, that discusses and investigates missing persons cases from around the country.

Dee feels like the podcast helps to relieve some of her guilt over not being taken while Sibby was. Dee hosts the podcast completely anonymously, using the name, The Seeker.

Her many fans and listeners actively investigate the cases discussed on the show. Dubbed as the LDA, Laptop Detective Agency, they have actually found people!

Two things happen in close succession in Dee’s life though, that soon threaten her hold on her anonymity. An attractive girl moves into the house directly across the street and a little girl, living in Dee’s former house, has gone missing.

Dee wants to do whatever she can to help find the missing girl, Layla, whose disappearance seems too much of a coincidence. Could it possibly be related to Sibby’s disappearance? Even 10-years later?

As Dee and the girl across the street, Sarah, grow ever closer, Dee is able to open up to her in a way she has been unable to before with anyone else. Even though it makes her vulnerable in a way, it also gives her strength, because now she has someone on her side.

Dee has always felt like the people in town judged her after Sibby’s disappearance; like they felt she could have done something to help. Since Sarah just moved to town, she doesn’t have any preconceived notions of who Dee is, which helps Dee to be able to connect with her more naturally.

After Dee opens up to Sarah, the two girls begin to investigate Layla’s disappearance together and go on one heck of an adventure doing so!

Reading Dee and Layla’s relationship evolve was one of my favorite aspects of this story. I loved how Dee could finally let her guard down and be honest about herself with someone else. I think it means a lot to find that one person you can truly be yourself around, especially when you have been hiding a bit, like Dee was.

In addition to the evolution of the girl’s relationship, which if you are wondering, is romantic, I also enjoyed the overall evolution of the story. How Ryan went out revealing the situation with Dee and Sibby; everything that happened leading up to the kidnapping and shortly thereafter.

I also very much enjoyed, unsurprisingly, the podcast element. Listening to the audiobook, you really get a feel for what Radio Silent actually would have sounded like. That was quite compelling.

It got pretty crazy towards the end, but by then, I was committed to these characters and this story. A lot of it was great, wild and fun, but there were a couple of plot points at the very end that just seemed to be wrapped up a little too conveniently for my tastes.

Thusly, my overall enjoyment suffered just a wee bit; but seriously, just a tiny bit.

I definitely recommend this for fans of YA Mysteries, missing person, or cold case tropes, and of course, people who love a podcasting element to their Mystery/Thrillers.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Albert Whitman & Company, for providing me a copy to read and review. I had a lot of fun with it and look forward to reading more from Tom Ryan!

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Review: The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

The Inheritance Games (The Inheritance Games, #1)The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Avery Grambs has had a tough go at it since her mother passed away. Since that time, she has been living with her half-sister, working as much as she can and just trying to make it through high school.

She has plans for her future, but at this rate, she’s going to need to qualify for every scholarship she can in order to be able to attend college.

Making matters worse is the fact that her sister, Libby, as sweet as she is, has terrible taste in men. When her on-again-off-again boyfriend comes around, Avery goes as far as sleeping in her car to avoid him.

On a day that Avery is just about at the end of her rope, she receives an unbelievable invitation.

She is asked to attend the reading of the last will and testament of one, Tobias Hawthorne, an eccentric billionaire.

Without explanation, the recently deceased elder Hawthorne, decided to leave almost his entire fortune to Avery. The only catch is, she needs to move into the extravagant Hawthorne House for a full year.

Sure, that sounds easy enough, but also residing in the manse are the family members Tobias basically disinherited. As you can imagine, they’re not happy.

His four grandsons and their mother are understandably puzzled by the whole turn of events. Is Avery possibly a con-woman of some sort, come to steal their vast fortune?

Particularly intriguing to Avery, who is positive she’s not a con-woman and entirely innocent of conspiring in this strange twist of fate, are Grayson and Jameson Hawthorne.

Two handsome brothers, the closest to her age, keep her fairly well occupied during her time in Hawthorne House. There’s riddles, puzzles and games of all sorts as they try to get to the bottom of the mystery behind the infamous will.

I had a lot of fun with this story. It completely sucked me in. It was easy to sympathize with Avery and root for her once she started living at Hawthorne House.

The puzzles and riddles were super engaging. I loved that aspect; trying to figure it all out along with the characters. I also enjoyed the hint of danger threaded throughout. Who was angry enough to try to take Avery out?

Inheritance stories are always fun for me; it’s just a trope I tend to really enjoy. Family drama and secrets, backstabbing, plotting, revenge, confessions; it’s a good time. What else can I say?

If you are looking for a fun and fast-paced YA-Mystery, with twist and turns galore, as well as intriguing and suspicious characters, you should definitely give this one a shot!

I am really looking forward to continuing on with this trilogy. Oh, the places it could go!

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Horrid by Katrina Leno

HorridHorrid by Katrina Leno
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After her Father’s unexpected death, Jane and her Mother, Ruth, are forced to leave California behind and move to the distant state of Maine.

Due to money troubles, Ruth wouldn’t be able to keep them in their family home, however, she fairly recently inherited the home she grew up in. Problem solved, off they go.

While it’s not ideal, Jane seems to be handling it all fairly well. Maybe it is due to the numbness she feels about her Dad’s passing. It’s like she’s seeing the world through a haze; it’s surreal.

Arriving at North Manor, they find it in quite a state of disrepair. Add it to the list of unpleasant circumstances lately, but regardless, they know they can make it work.

As Fall, the most perfect season of the year arrives, Jane begins to settle into life in their new town. While she makes a couple of good friends, she also seems to draw the attention of the local bully, Melanie.

Melanie seems to have a particular distaste for Jane; it’s a little strange considering they only just met. It’s like Melanie’s holding a grudge against her, but why?

It’s not just Melanie though. There’s something about the house itself that’s off. Jane feels unsettled there and she’s experiencing things she can’t explain.

Her Mother also seems to be spiraling back in her childhood home. Jane suddenly feels the need to learn why Ruth left all those years ago, and why did she never choose to return?

Horrid is an another fabulous example of Katrina Leno’s unique style. Leno’s writing is beautiful, introspective and always seems to tackle fairly heavy topics with grace.

In this one, as the truth behind North Manor, and all that occurred there, was slowly revealed, I was completely drawn in. I could picture it all playing out extremely vividly.

The Horror imagery was well done in my opinion and I enjoyed how Leno structured the reveals. It kept me engaged throughout. I needed answers!

As always, I appreciated how much substance Leno brought to the table with this. Jane is a character struggling with grief, loss and self-doubt; all while outwardly projecting that she is okay. I think masking one’s negative emotions behind a cloak of, I’m fine, is something a lot of Readers will be able to relate to.

Additionally, Jane finds comfort in books and there was quite a few references to Dame Agatha Christie and her works. It’s hard not to find that endearing.

I will mention a trigger warning for self-soothing via (view spoiler)

Overall, I felt this was really well done and I enjoyed my time with it. It included a lot of tropes I tend to enjoy, such as long-buried family secrets, returning to a hometown and haunted houses.

I am also a big fan of Leno’s writing and this only served to reinforce that fact.

Now that we are in the midst of Spooky Season, y’all know it starts September 1st, I encourage you to give this one a go. It’s wickedly entertaining!!

**Please note, I picked this up as part of Bookoplathon ((my favorite Readathon ever)) as a Poll Pick. This was the winner of a poll I ran on Twitter. I am so happy with it. Thank you to all on Twitter who voted!!

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Review: Soul of Cinder (Heart of Thorns #3) by Bree Barton

Soul of Cinder (Heart of Thorns, #3)Soul of Cinder by Bree Barton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

Soul of Cinder is the final book in Bree Barton’s YA-Fantasy trilogy, Heart of Thorns.

Following the world-shattering events of the second book, Tears of Frost, we find most of our characters separated and unaware of who has survived.

After slightly bonding, Mia and Pilar, newfound allies, seem to be at one another’s throats once again. Together with the indefatigable, Nelladine, the girls are one their way, via sea voyage, to Pembuk in search of the Shadowess.

Prince Quin, unbeknowst to the ladies, has also survived and he is making his way home to reclaim his kingdom. He blames the lot of them for his current circumstances and is hellbent on revenge.

And what of Angelyne; Mia’s younger sister? Some would say she’s the impetus of these events, but where is she now?

I enjoyed this. I enjoyed this whole trilogy, although I won’t be memorializing it as a new favorite, I can appreciate it for what it did.

This entire trilogy is a beautiful examination of trauma, recovery and growth. Barton really did an exceptional job of exploring those topics and showing that everyone’s journey will be different. There is no one correct way to heal.

I also appreciate the feminist underpinnings woven throughout these three books. Autonomy, choice, the right to kick some butt, it’s all here. It was substantive; definitely well done.

I think this is a great series for Readers just starting out in the YA-Fantasy space. I sort of feel like, for me, I may have enjoyed this more had I read it three or four years ago.

I think as far as content goes, plot-wise, I have just moved past this point in my YA-Fantasy journey.

With that being said, this is a solid series, start-to-finish. Great characters, a lot of action and the examination of some fairly serious topics.

I will be donating my hard copies of this entire trilogy to my local high school library, where I know it will be enjoyed for years to come!

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Review: Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam

Leave the World BehindLeave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

Leave the World Behind is essentially Paul Tremblay’s The Cabin at the End of the World written for people with a subscription to the New Yorker.

While I was reading this, I felt like I had read it before and frankly, for me, I enjoyed how Tremblay did it more.

Amanda and Clay, a married couple with two teenaged children, have a lovely family vacation planned in a remote area of Long Island.

Their goal is the same as many people going on vacation, to let loose and unplug from the stressors of life in the city. If they happen to reconnect as a family, all the better.

Arriving at the rental house, they’re quite pleased; it’s perfect. Everything they were hoping for. The kids can’t wait to get into the pool.

Over the course of the first evening, Amanda and Clay really begin to settle into vacation mode. All is going swimmingly, until quite late when there’s an unexpected knocking at the door.

Surprised at the interruption, they’re even more surprised when they open the door and find an older black couple standing on the porch.

They say their names are G.H. and Ruth and this is their house.

They’re quite apologetic, but explain that something is happening in the city. They aren’t exactly sure what, but something big. There’s a blackout.

They had been out at an event and didn’t feel safe returning to their apartment. They plead with Amanda and Clay to let them stay, which after a quick debate, the couple agrees to do.

The two couples stay up, having a few drinks, and speculating on the bizarre turn of events. In their minds, Amanda and Clay are questioning whether or not to believe these people at all. They have no cell service, no wifi, there’s no way to check their story.

The morning finds no new information, as the tension and uncertainty continues to build.

This is absolutely a tense and captivating story. You get a glimpse into all of the character’s inner thoughts and at times, it’s confusing AF.

Their reactions and musings, it’s all so potent. I needed to know what was happening!

I think if I hadn’t already read The Cabin at the End of the World, I would have enjoyed this more and given it a higher rating.

However, as mentioned earlier, there were just so many similarities between this book and that one, and I personally, enjoyed the Horror writing style of Tremblay’s version more. It was a better fit for my tastes.

With this being said, I appreciate what this story accomplished. The level of tension and sense of dread this author’s words were able to illicit; it’s powerful.

While I know this may leave some Readers underwhelmed, it’s smart, eerie and subtly terrifying. I would definitely be interested in picking up more from Rumaan Alam.

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Review: Ghost Wood Song by Erica Waters

Ghost Wood SongGhost Wood Song by Erica Waters
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

Mood. This book is a mood and I loved it!!

Shady Grove is a fiddle-playing high school girl, who has been struggling a bit since her father’s untimely death.

Her mother has since remarried and her step-dad, Jim, has a contentious relationship with Shady’s older brother, Jesse. This makes life at home far from peaceful.

Shady finds respite practicing her fiddle in the woods surrounding their trailer. At least for a while.

She’s also in a band with her best friends, Sarah and Orlando. While Shady enjoys playing with them, she really wants to play just bluegrass, the music she was raised on, but they have a different opinion; especially Sarah.

Making matters worse is the fact that Shady and Sarah were an almost couple. It never ended up happening and now it feels like there is a giant elephant in the room every time they are together.

When they compete in an open mic night and a boy in a rival band catches Shady’s eye, it seems like things may finally explode with Sarah.

Shady hardly has time to focus on that however, when something much more serious happens.

Her brother, Jesse, gets arrested; accused of murder.

Shady recognizes her brother has a temper and he admittedly, hasn’t been in the best place mentally as of late, but she also knows he could never do this.

Remembering the stories her father used to tell her, how he could channel spirits by playing his fiddle, Shady decides there’s only one thing for her to do.

She needs to find her Dad’s old fiddle and raise the spirit of the person Jesse is said to have killed. That way she can ask him what happened to him and use that knowledge to help free Jesse. Sounds fairly simple, right?

This novel has so many elements that I traditionally love.

There’s the storyline featuring music and musicians, a murder, a haunted old farmhouse, long-buried family secrets, a beautifully-constructed love triangle for our bi-girl protagonist and a haunting, gritty setting.

Tie all of this together with Erica Waters exceptional writing, how could I not absolutely love this story?

I was drawn in from the very start. Some of her descriptions of music, what it is like playing music, the way it can overtake your body; gahhhhhh, it was so well done.

The murder mystery was interesting and just added another level to an already intriguing tale.

Additionally, I loved how Waters weaved in the lore surrounding Shady’s family and their obviously haunted property. Shady’s Aunt Ena was one of my favorite characters.

Then there’s the overriding grief that permeates this entire story. It’s morose, it’s lyrical, it’s so many wonderful things.

I do recognize this story will not be for everyone, but for me and my tastes, it was close to perfection. I would respectfully and lovingly refer to this as a type of Hillbilly Noir. It’s enchanting and I can’t get enough of it.

I cannot wait to check out more of this author’s work! If I love any of it half as much as this one, I will be a happy girl.

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