blog tour · fiction · science fiction · YA

#TheWriteReads Blog Tour Presents Catalyst by Tracy Richardson

Hey guys! Welcome to the latest stop on TheWriteReads’ Blog Tour for Catalyst (The Catalysts #2) by Tracy Richardson (Brown Books Publishing Group, 2020). I’m your friendly first chapter review guide, so buckle up and I’ll introduce you to our narrator, but you’re going to want to don your tinfoil hat before we take off.

Meet Marcie. Upon first glance, she may seem like your average young woman, set to spend the summer helping her mother on her archaeological dig at Angel Mounds with her brother Eric and his girlfriend Renee. Not a bad way to spend a summer, right? But Marcie’s…different. She’s had some experiences with things not of this world, including a one-time connection with the spirit of a Native American girl that she was never able to recreate, but that always left her open to more, and wondering.

Almost the second Marcie steps foot onto the dig site, she recognizes that something’s up, something that not everyone is aware of. Zeke and Lorraine, two of the grad students, seem to be able to communicate with her just by thought, something that jars her and sets her on edge, especially because Zeke leaves her feeling uneasy. There’s something about them that’s maybe not quite right. It might be a long summer at this dig site…

Okay, I’m definitely intrigued. While I’ve never been a huge reader of paranormal books, when I was young, one of my favorite reads was The Girl with the Silver Eyes by Willo Davis Roberts, about a young girl who can move objects with her eyes and who eventually comes across other kids like her. That’s the kind of paranormal stuff I enjoy reading about, and with Marcie being able to both communicate with spirits and hear other people’s thought communication toward her, I want to know more.

This first chapter invites a whoooooooooole lotta questions: What exactly is being dug at this dig site? What’s the deal with Zeke and Lorraine? Where did they come from and what’s their story? Are they dangerous? How can they communicate via thoughts, and why Marcie and no one else? What makes that possible? What’s the extent of their powers, and of Marcie’s? Are there more than just these varying ways of paranormal communication? Is there a how-to at the end of this book? (Yes? Please say yes.)

My reading time right now is so much more limited than usual, but this is definitely one I’ll be coming back to when I’m not trying to get through other stacks of books. From the blurb, this novel also pulls in environmental themes, which is *so* important, and I’m glad to see this cropping up in various genres of fiction. I’m curious as to how it plays out and if it manages to inspire the reader to be more proactive about caring for the environment without verging too far into the dystopian. Guess I’ll find out when I’m able to dive in further, but if you’re intrigued by characters with special powers (and seriously, aren’t we all, at least a little? Who doesn’t want to read minds and move things with their eyes and maybe fly?), Catalyst may be the escapist fiction you need right now.

Thanks to Dave at TheWriteReads and Tracy Richardson for including me on this tour!

Visit Tracy Richardson’s website here.

Follow her on Instagram here.

Follow The_WriteReads on Twitter here.

fiction · horror · YA

#TheWriteReads Blogtour Presents: Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis

Welcome to the latest stop on TheWriteReads’ blog tour for Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis (Penguin, 2020). Harrow Lake is a young adult thriller, and you’re going to want to turn on every light in the house before you crack the spine on this one- or start reading long before it gets dark.

The book begins with an interview with Nolan Nox, famed horror movie director, whose daughter had gone missing a year before. Fall back in time and the story is now narrated by Lola Nox. After finding her father having been stabbed, Lola is unceremoniously shipped off to Harrow Lake, Indiana, to the home of a strange, distant grandmother she’s never met before, the mother of Lola’s own mother, who left, then disappeared, when Lola was five. Harrow Lake, the filming site of Nightjar, Nolan’s most famous film, is a spooky town. Collapsed mines that led to hundreds of deaths have provided the town myriad legends, including one resident-turned-mine-dwelling-cannibal, Mr. Jitters. Refusing to believe in stories, Lola begins to comb Harrow Lake for information, hoping to get to know the mother she barely remembers, but her search is impeded at every step.

Creepy townfolk. Eerie abandoned, caved-in mines with a collapsed church inside. A grandmother that seems half-mad on her best days. A mysterious figure who always seems to be watching Lola. Tiny hand-carved wooden insects that skitter and chatter on their own. Ominous shapes that move behind the wallpaper. NO INTERNET OR PHONE SERVICE. It’s every horror movie you’ve ever watched packed into one spine-chilling book, and Lola will need to gather all her wits about her if she wants to really learn the truth about Harrow Lake and what happened to her mother.

EEK. This was SUPER creepy. I haven’t read horror in years, but I loved it as a kid, and I deeply loved horror movies when I was young, so this was a flashback to my younger days. The hand carved wooden ‘jitterbugs’ in Lola’s mother’s room creeped me the HECK out, as did the constant references to Mr. Jitters. Harrow Lake seems about the worst vacation destination ever, and the weirdo townspeople add the perfect touch. Kat Ellis has really created a terrifying place- not quite Children of the Corn weird, but Gatlin and Harrow Lake could be sister cities.

Ms. Ellis really knows how to keep the reader guessing. It’s cliched to say that there are twists and turns on every page, but it’s the absolute truth here. Weirdness abounds in Harrow Lake and Lola, who is trapped there, is constantly thrown off by someone’s odd behavior, a strange noise, the phone lines not working, something else terrifying happening in the woods. It’s a mark of good horror writing for the reader to have their guard up THIS often because the terror never stops, and I don’t know how many times I said some version of, “OMG, just get on the road and WALK back home!”

The ending is as twisty as it gets, with a majorly satisfying conclusion that I found to be absolutely brilliant (and will remember Lola’s friend’s tactic should I ever need to use it!). Harrow Lake is a wild ride through a town I never, EVER want to visit. I’ll stay at home, where there are no collapsed-mine-mass-graves-with-creepy-cannibal-monster-people. But if you enjoy edge-of-your-seat horror that will keep you guessing until- I’m not at all exaggerating here- the very last pages, you’re going to want a copy of Harrow Lake.

Harrow Lake is set for release on July 9th, 2020.

Thanks to Dave at #TheWriteReads, NetGalley, and Kat Ellis for including me on this tour!

Visit Kat Ellis’s website here.

Follow her on Twitter here.

(If you dare! *spooky laughter*)

blog tour · fantasy · fiction · YA

The WriteReads Presents: Magic Unleashed (Venators #1) by Devri Walls Blog Tour!

Welcome to the latest stop on The WriteReads’ Super Awesome Blog Tour for Magic Unleashed (Venators #1) by Devri Walls (Brown Books, 2018, first published 2016). I’m happy to be a part of this! Urban fantasy isn’t my usual genre, but I’m always willing to challenge myself and read outside my normal box, and this was definitely outside- but in a good way.

Rune and Ryker are twins, but they’ve grown apart over the years, and Rune is bothered by this. She’s still there for her brother, who takes far too much delight in bullying Grey, the trenchcoat-wearing misfit from their hometown who ended up at the same college as them, but she’s none too happy with his recent behavior. Beyond that, Ryker has bizarre reactions to the supernatural just as Rune does- rage, mostly, and she can’t understand why.

Grey’s obsessed with everything supernatural and has been ever since that terrifying night years ago when he was attacked by creatures he’d never seen before. When they reappear in his life, just as Rune is starting to realize the two of them may have more of a connection than she previously expected, the two of them are whisked away to the safety- relatively speaking- of another dimension, where they learn the truth about their existence. Everything supernatural, every mythical creature and thing that goes bump in the night, is real, and Grey, Rune, and Ryker, who was kidnapped and taken elsewhere, are Venators, some of the last of their kind, a group once tasked with protection but overtaken by their own rage to the point of devastation of the world around them. The council demands their help, but there are serious games afoot, and Grey and Rune can never be sure who they can trust. Fairies, vampires, werewolves, goblins, shapeshifters, they’re all out there and they all have their own agendas. And where is Ryker???

ACTION. MAJOR ACTION EVERYWHERE. This isn’t one of those fantasy novels where the characters spend 90% of the book trudging through the woods (*stares in Tolkien*). Magic Unleashed (Venators #1) is high-stakes action and the pressure is ON. Grey (who is a fabulous character, an ugly ducking who becomes a swan and stands up for what’s right, even when it puts his own life at risk) and Rune are in the middle of it on every single page, fighting, running, jumping off cliffs (thanks to their newly discovered Venator powers!), sneaking through musty-smelling servant passageways to escape the castle in the dark of night. Ryker’s a full-on douchebag, but the novel isn’t focused on him; let’s hope he improves as the series progresses. I’m wildly curious to know his reaction when the camera pans to him in the next book!

I enjoyed the cast of magical characters: the terrifying, bloodthirsty werewolves, the manipulative fairies, the slick vampires, but my favorite character was Beltran, the shapeshifter who often appears in the form of a crow. He’s definitely got his own agenda, but there’s more to him than meets the eye, and I enjoyed every scene he appeared in. His appearance totally made the last major action scene.

Whenever I step outside my normal genres, I like to examine why I don’t read that particular genre more often, and I did come to some conclusions I hadn’t considered before while reading this- interestingly enough, it’s related to something my husband and I have been discussing recently. My husband is a very visual thinker; he’s a scientist and can usually picture exactly how any experiments he runs will work, because he can picture the mechanisms by which everything should function. This serves him well in computer programming as well. I can’t think in pictures like this. Even when I think something random like, “Okay, I’m going to picture a cereal box on the counter,” I can kiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiind of make a sort of mental picture, but I can’t hold it. I can kind of picture what my counter would look like if there were a cereal box on it, but only a brief glimpse. It’s fascinating how our brains work in completely opposite ways.

That said, I think that’s why I don’t read more fantasy (and it’s a genre my husband likes!): I can’t quite picture these magical creatures in my head, nor can I picture the settings that involve castles and labyrinthine mountain passes and forests. They’re not places I’ve been or creatures I’ve seen. With fiction, I can mentally set those stories in houses, in restaurants, in museums and shops and parks that are familiar to me and that I have a map of in my head. I can assign the characters physical traits of people I’m familiar with. Fantasy? Not quite so much; I can’t picture a green-skinned person in my mind because it’s not an image I’m familiar with in my everyday, boring life.

Isn’t that wild? I’ve never thought of it that way before, but I think I’ve got the answer as to why this isn’t one of my preferred genres, even though I LOVE seeing how excited other readers get over it! So it really does pay to step outside your boundaries now and then. You might learn something new about yourself. 🙂

If you’re into fantasy that doesn’t skimp on the action one single iota, Magic Unleashed (Venators #1) is worth a look- it’s a series, people! Devri Walls seems to be a wildly prolific author, so check out some of her other work as well on Goodreads.

I’m told that Ms. Walls will be answering questions in a video post after the tour, so if you’ve got questions, ask away in the comments! (Seriously, how cool is she for doing this???) I have a question! Ms. Walls, are you able to think in pictures and easily imagine all the fantastic supernatural creatures you write about, or does your brain work in a different way?

Thanks to TheWriteReads and Devri Walls for including me on this fabulous blog tour!!!

Visit Devri Walls’s website here.

Follow her on Twitter here.

blog tour · fiction · time travel

TheWriteReads On Tour Presents: A Different Time by Michael K. Hill

I fully blame my mother’s stash of time travel romances (so popular in the 80’s and early 90’s!) for my love of a good time travel story, and when I heard about TheWriteReads‘ latest blog tour book, A Different Time by Michael K. Hill (Tangent Press, 2019), the young teenager in me that used to sneak books from the downstairs coat closet leaped up and begged to join in, and who am I to say no when a story deals with communicating with the past???

Keith Nolan has been a little more than down on his luck for a very long time. His parents both died young, leaving him alone, fending for himself in this big lonely modern-day world. His job pays the bills, but it’s not exactly fulfilling, and his social life consists of a single guy friend with whom he eats takeout food and plays video games. No girls to speak of, Keith’s a little too shy and awkward for that. One of the few things in life that does bring him joy is spending his weekends combing flea markets for the comic books that will complete the collection of Uncanny X-Men his father left him. But when he finally manages to complete his collection, Keith is stunned by the realization that he never planned for what to do with his life beyond that. Enter Lindsey…

Or, not exactly. Lindsey, an artist and a dreamer, is trying to figure out her post-high school life in 1989. Her impatient mother isn’t willing to let her take her time, and her skeezy stepfather isn’t making Lindsey’s home situation any easier. Desperate for someone, anyone, to talk to, Lindsey pulls out an old camcorder and begins to record a video journal in the hopes of talking out her problems and getting her life in order.

The discovery of an old VHS-C tape at a flea market has Keith running for the VCR and an adapter tape, because merely touching the tape sends tingles running up his arm. And as the tape plays and Keith watches Lindsey, somehow, some way, the two realize they can communicate with each other. It doesn’t make sense to either of them, but Keith knows this is something special, something life-changing…if only he can track down Lindsey’s other tapes. But how? And will he be too late?

While it’s not traditional time travel, it’s still close enough to make my time travel-lovin’ heart squeal with joy. Keith is a sympathetic character from the start. In the beginning, we see him as a young boy, surrounded by the love of his parents on a birthday trip to New York where he’s saved from being run down in the street by the woman who turns out to be his favorite children’s book author, and the next thing we know, he’s a new adult, still aching over the loss of his parents who died on his fourteenth birthday. It’s easy to ache along with him and root for him as he searches (in some vividly disgusting situations!) for Lindsey’s other videotapes.

Lindsey is just as sympathetic. Still reeling from her parents’ divorce and subsequent move from Hawaii to California, Lindsey is so many of us in the years after high school, unsure of which way to go and which path to take. Her mother has, for all purposes, abandoned her emotionally in favor of focusing on her new and extremely skeezy husband (there’s a content warning here for an attempted assault, along with what skews toward emotional abuse from her mother, so please beware if you’re sensitive to these subjects), and Lindsey’s sadness and confusion make her a character you’ll desperately want to find a happily ever after.

What Keith and Lindsey discover together through the tapes is close to instalove, but it’s magical and spellbinding and otherworldly. Some of the best descriptions of the entire book come when Keith is desperately tearing through flea market dumpsters in a frenzied search for Lindsey’s other tapes. Do NOT eat while you’re reading this section; the phrase “garbage juice” alone should tell you enough of a reason why, and I was applauding Mr. Hill’s ability to create a scene I could practically smell from my comfortable reading place in my (better-scented!) home. It was entirely grotesque, incredibly entertaining to read, and it ended up being my favorite part of the book because of how easily I was transported right into those dumpsters alongside Keith.

This had a completely different ending than I expected it would, which pleased me quite a bit; I love when I think I have everything figured out, but it turns out that I was wrong and the ending is actually far more interesting than the one I was expected. The concept of being able to communicate with someone in the past has intrigued me for years, I even adored it in my childhood- if you’re familiar with the book Charlotte Sometimes by Penelope Farmer, that book involved both time travel and communicating with the person with whom Charlotte switched places via letters strategically hidden in a bedpost- but the concept of being able to speak to someone through old VHS tapes was a new (and deeply intriguing!) one to me, and A Different Time has now got me wondering what time travel books will look like in the future when characters travel to and communicate with people of this era. Youtube videos? Files on old jump drives? There are so many possibilities here!

What a fun and ultimately charming book Mr. Hill has written. I’m so happy I got the chance to be a part of this blog tour, and if you’re a fan of books with elements of time travel and a little bit of the supernatural, A Different Time is worth YOUR time.

Thanks for stopping by on this blog tour- huge thanks to Dave at TheWriteReads and Michael K. Hill for allowing me to take part- and I hope you’ll check out some of the other stops!

Visit Michael K. Hill’s website here.

Follow him on Twitter here.

blog tour · fiction

Blog Tour: Bloodrush by Ben Galley

Hey guys! I’ve got something pretty wild up on the block today: I’m part of TheWriteReads and TheWriteReads OnTour blog tour for Ben Galley’s Bloodrush (BenGalley.com, 2014). If you’re not familiar with Ben Galley, fear not! Check out this bio:

Ben Galley is an author of dark and epic fantasy books who currently hails from Victoria, Canada. Since publishing his debut The Written in 2010, Ben has released a range of award-winning fantasy novels, including the weird western Bloodrush and the epic standalone The Heart of Stone. He is also the author of the brand new Chasing Graves Trilogy.

I love helping to promote these hardworking authors (writing books is no joke!), and as I wasn’t sure if Bloodrush would be in my wheelhouse, I signed up to do a first chapter review. Opening the book on my kindle was, much to my surprise, a fascinating and nostalgic trip back to my childhood, but I’ll get to that in a minute. First, let’s discuss what’s going on in these beginning pages.

Following a brief yet creepy prelude about how the old magic and old darkness still exists today, barely covered by our ego-filled technology and new-world shininess, Bloodrush begins with death- the death, the murder, of Lord Karrigan Bastion Hark, that is, Prime Lord of the Empire of Britannia, perpetually disappointed father of thirteen-year-old Tonmerion. Merion is posturing among the adults in the room, attempting to cover his lack of confidence with the surgeon and the constable, until the bastard lawyer Witchazel shows up to drop a bomb about Father’s will. To his shock, Tonmerion won’t be inheriting his father’s assets until his eighteenth birthday; instead, he’s being exiled to his aunt’s. Lilian Rennevie, an undertaker, lives in the New Kingdom, in middle-of-nowhere Fell Falls, Wyoming, forty miles from the nearest town.

As one might expect, Merion is less than thrilled, but his friend, Rhin, an armor-wearing, winged faerie with over two hundred years of life experience under his belt who has been on his side since Merion was 9, is more optimistic. Rhin is up for adventure, and it’s his friendship and trust that Merion clings to as he grimly acquiesces and turns toward this unexpected future in America.

author Ben Galley

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I began clicking my kindle buttons to open Bloodrush. Even the title sounds outside my usual reading norms, but I’ll give anything a try, and I’ve got to say, this book is deeply intriguing. Ben Galley placed me smack in the middle of that macabre first scene, with Merion’s father lying dead, and Merion confused, unsettled, frightened, and desperate to seem more grown up and in control than he truly feels. His writing flows beautifully; even as I paused to take notes, I never once left the world Galley had constructed, and the first chapter left me wanting to know more about Merion’s future. What kind of adventures will he and Rhin find in America? Who IS this Aunt Lilain? Who killed Merion’s father, what will the repercussions of that be, and what’s going to happen when Merion turns eighteen?

Back when I was younger, The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper was a perpetual favorite. I read this book, along with the others in the series, over and over again, and this first chapter of Bloodrush flooded me with a wave of nostalgia for these books of my childhood: both are stories of young boys learning their lives have changed in an instant, both are stories of young boys on journeys of sorts, both stories have magical undertones. It’s not often that I pick up a book that makes me feel the same awe I felt reading a favorite book as a kid, and although it’s been years since I lost myself in a fantasy novel, I’m very much looking forward to reading the rest of this book. Faerie-infused Old West? Much like with Sarah Gailey’s saddled hippos in the American South, I’m intrigued.

Ben Galley’s Bloodrush seems to be, from the first chapter, solidly written fantasy (one scene in particular caught my attention, where Tonmerion stares at his father’s blood drying on a set of stairs, while clutching tickets for his passage to America. What a striking visual contrast between his past and his future. This was an image that I sat with for a few moments, and to which I keep returning for its poignancy ). At some point in my future, I’m definitely going to work the rest of this book into my reading schedule, because I need to know what happens next. From the title, I expected blood and gore from the beginning; instead, I found a captivating story of a young boy set upon an unexpected new path, one rife with uncertainty, but with plentiful adventure ahead.

If epic and/or dark fantasy is your bag, baby (or if you’re looking to expand your reading genres!), check out Ben Galley’s other books:

Huge thanks to TheWriteReads and Ben Galley for including me on this epic blog tour!!!

Check out Ben Galley’s website here.

Follow him on Twitter here.