Thoughts on books, family, and life in one impressive package.

Yes, I’m still here and have been reading up a storm. This means I am even further behind in writing reviews than last month. My goal is to catch up on outstanding reviews by the end of the year. Let’s start with those new releases from October.

The Sacrifice by Rin Chupeco
The Sacrifice by Rin Chupeco was a perfect read for October. With its tropical paradise setting, ominous curse, and mysterious narrator, Mx. Chupeco sets the tone from the opening page. Add in a mostly unlikeable Hollywood crew, and you honestly do not know if it is so much a horror story as it is a much-deserved comeuppance. Interestingly, a reader could interpret The Sacrifice as a warning story regarding imperialism since the Hollywood execs land on the island laughing at native superstition and lack of technology.

Mx. Chupeco does an excellent job of keeping readers guessing while keeping them on edge. They create an intriguing combination of curiosity and tension as the events on the island become more ominous while remaining baffling. Readers will need to continue to read to get answers while feeling a considerable level of anxiety at the creepiness of the events. It is precisely what you want for a spooky read, and I recommend The Sacrifice the next time you want to scratch that horror itch.

Malice House by Megan Shepherd
Malice House by Megan Shepherd surprised me. I was not expecting the level of gore or horror that I read. Don’t get me wrong. I liked what I read, and the story continues to haunt me.

In Malice House, Ms. Shepherd plays with the adage regarding the power of the pen wherein the pen, or another artistic medium, literally has the ability to bring monsters to life. As if monsters hunting you are not enough horror, Ms. Shepherd adds untrustworthy acquaintances, a dark and creaky house that may or may not be haunted, odd burglary attempts, and a strange neighbor to the creep factor. Where the story ends is not at all expected and is what keeps you thinking about Malice House long after you finish it. For any reader, there is no higher praise than that.

The First to Die at the End by Adam Silvera
The First to Die at the End by Adam Silvera is the much-anticipated prequel to the tremendous They Both Die at the End. As with the first novel, you know that Mr. Silvera will break your heart by the end of the story. Even though it is easy to predict how Orion and Valentino’s stories will end, the predictability does not take anything away from the heartbreak that does indeed occur.

The First to Die at the End, Mr. Silvera cleverly connects the characters from both books while setting up a third story to the Death-Cast series. How he does it is subtle and requires an almost perfect memory of everything that occurs in the first novel. My only complaint is that because the story occurs with the very first Death-Cast call, I was hoping for more answers regarding the Death-Cast itself. We meet the founder of the company and creator of the prediction system after all, so it would stand to reason that we get more of a behind-the-scenes peek at the system itself. Instead, the focus is on soft skills rather than science. It’s a small disappointment in what is a clever and emotional addition to what is still one of the best novels I’ve read.

Princess of Souls by Alexandra Christo
Princess of Souls by Alexandra Christo is a fascinating Rapunzel adaptation in which the heroine can see someone’s death by touch. That is a rather unfortunate gift to have, and it means Selestra has had an isolated upbringing. The sympathy you feel for her is instantaneous, made more palpable once you understand how cold and unfeeling her mother is. Nox adds a refreshing breath of irreverence, mystery, and thirst for revenge and provides an excellent impetus for Selestra to learn more about her powers.

As much as I love book series, I enjoy a stand-alone every once in a while, and Princess of Souls provides a satisfying arc for Selestra’s story once she starts taking an active interest in her own life. I love Nox, and his scenes are so enjoyable, but I’m glad this is a one-off. Extending it into a second book would have stretched the story too thin. Princess of Souls is excellent as it is, and Selestra is a welcome addition to the list of strong heroines who learn they are even stronger than they ever believed possible.

Night of the Raven, Dawn of the Dove by Rati Mehrotra
Night of the Raven, Dawn of the Dove by Rati Mehrotra is another novel that surprised me. I wasn’t certain what to expect but quickly found myself drawn into its lush descriptions and an intriguing mystery involving royalty and monsters. Katyani has quite an exciting past and present, and I adore her fierceness. She is a woman who knows her worth and will not let anyone or anything tell her she’s wrong. As the story unfolds, we learn the depths to which people will go to obtain or maintain power, which is ugly. Katyani’s world implodes, and we can only watch and wait to see how she handles it and what happens next.

Night of the Raven, Dawn of the Dove is the type of novel that draws you in so entirely that you lose track of time. The setting is almost magical in its luxury while being exotic at the same time. The characters are intense, while the magic feels almost subtle but is anything but that. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Katyani and would love to explore more of her world. This is another stand-alone, but in this instance, I would love it if Ms. Mahrotra would set another novel in this world of hers because I want more.

The Sevenfold Hunters by Rose Egal
The Sevenfold Hunters by Rose Egal is a novel with a little bit of everything. It is set in a boarding school for those who like that trope. The boarding school happens to be training future alien hunters, complete with cool equipment for those who want their science fiction or spy novels. The aliens, who inhabit human bodies, survive by drinking humans’ blood, making them more vampiric, appealing to the fantasy lovers out there. While it may not look like this mash-up doesn’t work, I am here to tell you that it does. It works so well that I could not stop The Sevenfold Hunters and mourned when I finished it.

What makes The Sevenfold Hunters work is the cast of characters. We see the novel unfold through two main characters, both of whom appeal to readers for varying reasons. Abyan is strong and intelligent, a born leader. She knows how to get the best out of her team and leads by example. When we meet her, however, past traumas begin to affect her, causing erratic behavior that is not normal and becomes downright dangerous to her team.

Meanwhile, Artemis is Abyan’s exact opposite. She is not strong, and she is not that intelligent compared to the rest of her team. We see the two women struggle and search for answers and cannot help but feel their pain and confusion as we try to put together the clues they uncover.

What we find through their research is not anything I expected. Their discoveries became one big game-changer in how I viewed the entire story and the team’s place. Ms. Egal makes sure to leave plenty of questions unanswered but not too many as to create a frustrating cliffhanger. Instead, I can only sit, wait, and think of potential answers until there is news of a second book. Please don’t make us wait long!

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