Category Archives: paranormal

Mayhem by Estelle Laure

mayhemMayhem is a Brayburn.  That family name meant a lot to the people of Santa Maria, California, but Mayhem herself didn’t really understand the significance of her lineage until she and her mom finally returned to their hometown.  They had left town more than a decade before when Mayhem’s father died, presumably by suicide, and ended up settling in a small Texas town.  And though Roxy was a victim of both emotional and physical abuse at the hands of her new husband, Lyle, that wasn’t the main source of the chronic pain that she always seemed to be trying to escape with booze and pills.  Mayhem had no idea what caused this pain, though, because Roxy refused to talk about it — or, really, about their past at all.

This book is touted by many as a female-led, feminist retelling of The Lost Boys, and that definitely got me interested to check it out in the first place.  As I was reading it, though, I couldn’t help but think of The Tear Collector by Patrick Jones.  Why?  The Brayburn women were very powerful creatures — almost like vampires, but not quite.  They were mysterious and seductive, and absolutely deadly if left unchecked… But they didn’t feed on blood and had an alternative source to their mystical powers.  Does that have you curious?  If so, this is a good book to add to your TBR list.

Happy Reading!

Oasis by Katya de Becerra

oasisAlif was really excited to spend the summer working on her father’s archaeological dig site. She had always enjoyed the painstaking work, even if some people would find it tedious.  Even better?  Four of her best friends were coming along!  The five friends weren’t totally sure what the summer had in store, but none of them could have guessed the truth. I am a huge fan of the Indiana Jones movie franchise and the Lost TV series, and I was thrilled to find this book reminiscent of both. I can only hope someone turns this into a movie quickly!

When a man wandered into the camp, delirious and near death, Alif tried to make sense of his ramblings but everyone else assumed it was nonsense. And, then, the sandstorm came. Alif, her four friends, and her father’s (super cute) research assistant were separated from the rest of the camp. The six of them wandered in the desert, certain they would die — but then they came upon a mysterious oasis. Though they were seemingly saved by the oasis’ food and water, there didn’t seem to be any way out. And then some really strange things began to happen. Could that man have been in the oasis before them? And could his ramblings have any clues that would help them?

Happy Reading!

Release by Patrick Ness

ReleaseAdam Thorn’s whole life seems to be falling apart.  First and foremost, his heart is broken.  His ex-boyfriend, Enzo, is moving away — which should honestly be more of a relief when you consider the fact that Enzo began to claim that their relationship was nothing more than messing around and that he wasn’t even truly gay.  Pretty harsh when he knew very well that Adam was in love with him and had even said, previously, that he loved Adam too.  Secondly, there is the fact that Adam is hiding his true self from his Evangelical Christian family.  His father is a pastor and his brother is in training to be a pastor, and even though it’s pretty clear that everyone is just pretending not to know the truth, Adam is happy to play along to avoid a full-on confrontation and the possibility that they would disown him.  Add in the fact that he is being sexually harrassed by his creepy boss and that his best friend, Angela, is about to drop another bomb on him, and it really doesn’t seem as if this day could get any worse…

Juxtaposed with Adam’s story, nevertheless, is that of a local girl, Katherine, who was recently murdered.  It seems her spirit got caught up with that of a queen whose servant, a faun, is trying to disentangle them before it’s too late.  Katherine is exploring the woods in which she was killed and discovering/reliving what happened.  There are a few small bits where the stories overlap, but I found the magical realism storyline a bit distracting from the main plot.  All in all, though, this was a great coming of age story because it touched on being truthful to one’s self and explored love in the context of friendship, family, and romantic involvement.

Happy Reading!

The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman

36535913I don’t know about the rest of you, but I am *dying* over here as I wait for the 3rd season of Stranger Things.  So, when I saw a blurb that said this book was likely to become a “new obsession” for fans of The Raven Boys and Stranger Things… You better believe I immediately requested a review copy from NetGalley!  (I’m so grateful I was approved!)

Having to move near the end of high school has got to be tough in and of itself. Violet had it even worse, though, because her dad was dead, her sister had just died, and her mom kept her from the extended family on her father’s side. The only family Violet had left were her mother and her aunt — who was struggling with mental illness and now required her sister’s care.

Almost immediately upon entering Four Paths, Violet realized something was not quite right.  As it turns out, she was a member of one of the four “founding families” who had joined forces and used their special powers to trap an evil beast in an alternate dimension called the Gray.  Violet’s ignorance caused her to release the monster from the Gray and set off a terrible chain of events.

I really liked how Herman used Violet’s coming of age story to explore the themes of friendship, family, and loyalty. And I especially loved how the Gray did, in fact, resonate with me as much as the Upside Down.

Happy Reading!

The Black Witch by Laurie Forest

black-witchI recently went through the list of the YALSA 2018 Teens’ Top 10 nominees and made a plan to read all of the books I hadn’t yet read.  There are 25 books on the list and I had only read 7 of them.  Gah!  While I recognize that I may not get it done before they announce the winners, what with all the other books I keep on adding to my TBR list, I figured I had to at least try!  I had just finished my audiobook and this one was readily available to me, so I went for it.  I didn’t even read any of the summaries before getting started with requesting books and audiobooks.  I decided I would read them “blind” because they are included on the list of nominees and that is all I need to know to trust that I will enjoy them.  My verdict so far?!?  Wow!  At a time when real world racial tensions are high and the “religious right” are working to pass laws that justify and allow for bigotry in the US, this book sometimes felt a bit too real and less like an escape.

In Erthia, there are many different races — Elves, Fae, Gardnerians, Icarals, Kelts, Lupines, Selkies, Urisks, Vu Trin, etc. — and they have all been raised with certain beliefs and prejudices about each other.  Elloren Gardner is the granddaughter of the famed Gardnerian Black Witch, though she has been raised in seclusion and without any magical training.  Why bother when she has no magical abilities of her own, right?  When her uncle allows her to attend the illustrious Verpax University to persue her life-long dream of becoming an apothecary, he asks that she focus on her studies and promise him NOT to be wandfasted (think arranged marriage) until after she has completed her studies.  Unfortunately, though, Elloren’s Aunt Vyvian would like nothing more than to wandfast her to a powerful Gardnerian in order to compensate for the girl’s lack of magic and to protect their family’s socio-political standing.

I appreciated the fact that Forest so thoughtfully explored stereotypes and prejudices.  Though it was tough in the beginning of the story to see how accepting Elloren was of the racist ideals and stereotypes with which she had been raised, I think it was very necessary to set the stage for her awakening.  From xenophobia and racism to misogyny and homophobia, this story line pushed Elloren/readers to challenge her/their pre-conceived notions and to see how people in power often try to skew people’s perceptions to suit an agenda.  One of my favorite quotes was from Professor Kristian, when he was talking to Elloren about how history books written by different groups of people had very conflicting depictions of what actually happened:

Real education doesn’t make your life easy. It complicates things and makes everything messy and disturbing. But the alternative, Elloren Gardner, is to live your life based on injustice and lies.

Happy Reading!

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao

forest-of-a-thousand-lantersnXifeng is a beautiful girl, but she has an ugly secret.  Her aunt has been teaching her dark magic, and she plans to use that magic to fulfill her fate — to become the Empress of Feng Lu.  The only problem is that, while foretold by the cards, this fate is not guaranteed.  Xifeng still has choices to make, and some of those choices are nearly impossible.  Will she be able to sacrifice a relationship with the man she loves in order to become a lady in waiting for the current Empress?  Will she be able to kill people who potentially stand in her way?  This anti-heroine reminds me of Malificent (from Sleeping Beauty) or Queen Levana (from The Lunar Chronicles).  No matter how much I want to detest her, I felt sorry for her because I knew some of her history and how it shaped her to be so cold and calculating.  A marvelous fantasy, but not for the feint of heart.

Happy Reading!

Spill Zone by Scott Westerfeld

spill-zoneOh. Em. Gee!  I didn’t even know this book was out until I saw something about the second book coming out this July.  Even though I am not a huge graphic novel reader, I try to push myself to read at least a couple a year so that I can stay in touch with what it out there for my library patrons who do prefer graphic novels.  Since I am also a huge fan of Scott Westerfeld’s work, especially the Uglies series, I figured it was a good bet that I would enjoy this one.  I am happy to report that reading this was a lot more fun than work!  😉  In fact, I read this entire book in only three sittings because it was so hard to put down.

In Poughkeepsie, NY, there has been a Spill.  No one really seems to know what exactly happened.  They just know that it is no longer safe inside the Spill Zone.  Military personnel guard the perimeter and people don’t tend to go inside except government scientists in hazmat suits.  There are all sorts of weird things happening.  Animals morphing into strange creatures.  Inanimate objects moving around despite a lack of wind.  And, in the words of Addison Merrick, the dead have become “meat puppets.”  Though she was not in town when the Spill happened, he little sister was.  Because they are allowed to stay in their home, which is inside the Spill Zone, Addison has taken to exploring and taking pictures she can sell to support her sister.  But, how long will it be before her explorations take her too far?!?

Happy Reading!

Speaking of Westerfeld’s Uglies series…  Check this out!  (#squeeeeeeee)


Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe by Preston Norton

neanderthalCliff Hubbard was probably the biggest loser in his school, both literally and figuratively speaking.  He was 6’6″, 250 pounds, and had a physique that earned him the nickname Neanderthal.  And, ever since his brother Shane killed himself, his life at home had become increasingly terrible as well.  So, how did he end up getting a girlfriend and becoming friends with the über cool and extremely popular quarterback, Aaron Zimmerman?  Well, it all started when Aaron met God.  After awaking from a coma, which resulted from a drunken boating accident, Aaron Zimmerman claimed that he had met God and that God had entrusted him with a list of tasks to complete in order to make Happy Valley High School a better place.  And The List, as it was often called, apparently required the assistance of Cliff Hubbard.

While I don’t think there are a ton of teens out there who will suddenly be called upon by God with specific lists of ways to make their own schools suck less, I think it is entirely possible that this book could inspire greatness.  And although the circumstances of HVHS might not align exactly with the circumstances of every high school, readers can certainly draw some parallels between The List and the ways they could reach out and help out people in their own schools and communities.  I highly recommend that Nerdfighters who want to end Worldsuck check this book out when it’s published in May.

Happy Reading!

Before I Let Go by Marieke Nijkamp

before-i-let-goWhen Corey moved away from Lost Creek, Alaska, she promised to come back to her best friend Kyra.  And Kyra promised to wait for Corey.  But, only a few days before Corey was scheduled to go back, she received word that Kyra had died.  In the middle of the harsh Alaskan winter, Kyra had supposedly fallen through some ice and drowned.  To Corey, who knew that Kyra suffered from Bipolar Disorder (and how very thick the ice could get in the middle of winter), it seemed much more likely that Kyra had chosen to break that ice and taken her own life.  The insistence that it was an accident wasn’t even the most bizarre thing, though, as far as Corey was concerned.  Even more bizarre was the way the small town’s people reacted to Kyra’s death.  For her entire life, the people of Lost Creek had never cared for Kyra or her art, but they were suddenly displaying her artwork all over the place and talking about how well liked and respected she had been.  Instead of acknowledging that Kyra had been suffering from depression, her mother insisted that Kyra was truly happy near the end.  And, even though Corey had grown up in Lost Creek and only moved away a short time ago, people suddenly treated her coldly, called her an outsider, and warned her not to “pry into other people’s business.”  When she carried on asking questions to try and understand what had happened, Kyra’s mother simply said, “Her death was inevitable, and so be it.”  Say what?!?

I absolutely loved Nijkamp’s first book, This Is Where It Ends.  I saw on Facebook that a friend had read this ARC, so I immediately messaged her and asked if she had an actual physical copy and, if so, whether she would *PLEASE* send it on to me.  Luckily, it was and she did!  Just like TIWIE, I could not put this book down!  I read the first 150 pages in a single shot and only stopped at that point because my husband would have been upset if I chose my book over dinner with him and our daughter.  😉  I read the rest of the book in one more sitting and almost considered re-reading it to make sure I didn’t miss anything.  Sadly, this book is not slated to be published until January 2018, so it looks like most of y’all will need to wait to read it.  But just trust me and put it on your TBR list now…  It will be worth the wait.

Happy Reading!

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

the-rest-of-us-just-live-hereIf you’re a Buffy the Vampire Slayer (BtVS) fangirl like me, you will probably agree that Patrick Ness must be a huge BtVS fan too…  I mean.  You can’t help but get a Sunnyview/Hellmouth vibe from everything going down in Mikey’s small town!  (I can’t seem to recall where, exactly, it was other than some hick town in Washington state…  Did he ever mention the name of the town?  Anyway…)  I don’t make this comparison to BtVS lightly, by the way, because there are just so many parallels.  Between all the supernatural creatures that randomly show up and attack the teenagers in their town, the fact that the adults seem to be in complete denial of what has been and is currently going on, and the fact that the story is a tongue-in-cheek offshoot of the classic “chosen one” theme, I can’t imagine a BtVS fan who would be disappointed in this story.  Mikey even reminds me of my favorite BtVS characvter, Xander, who once said, “They’ll never know how tough it is, Dawnie. To be the one who isn’t chosen. To live so near to the spotlight and never step in it. But I know. I see more than anybody realizes because nobody’s watching me.”

That being said, I don’t want people to think I’m saying this was just a BtVS ripoff, either.  The characters in this story are most definitely unique, as is the plot of the story.  I enjoyed the fact that the supernatural elements of the story were almost periphery to the main plot.  I honestly think that the interpersonal relationships, dysfunctional families, and personal struggles of the characters could have kept this story afloat even without the battles between the chosen ones (who all seemed to be “indie kids”) and the supernatural creatures like vampires, werewolves, and the Immortals.  It was rather ambitious of Ness to merge teen angst and tough issues with a lighthearted, satirical supernatural story — but it worked very well.

Happy Reading!