TITLE: Blood Debts
AUTHOR: Terry J. Benton-Walker
PUBLISHER: Tor Teen
RELEASE DATE: April 4, 2023
GENRES: YA Fantasy, LGBTQ+
Thirty years ago, a young woman was murdered, a family was lynched, and New Orleans saw the greatest magical massacre in its history. In the days that followed, a throne was stolen from a queen.
On the anniversary of these brutal events, Clement and Cristina Trudeau—the sixteen-year-old twin heirs to the powerful, magical, dethroned family—are mourning their father and caring for their sick mother. Until, by chance, they discover their mother isn’t sick—she’s cursed. Cursed by someone on the very magic council their family used to rule. Someone who will come for them next.
Cristina, once a talented and dedicated practitioner of Generational magic, has given up magic for good. An ancient spell is what killed their father and she was the one who cast it. For Clement, magic is his lifeline. A distraction from his anger and pain. Even better than the random guys he hooks up with.
Cristina and Clement used to be each other’s most trusted confidant and friend, now they barely speak. But if they have any hope of discovering who is coming after their family, they’ll have to find a way to trust each other and their family’s magic, all while solving the decades-old murder that sparked the still-rising tensions between the city’s magical and non-magical communities. And if they don’t succeed, New Orleans may see another massacre. Or worse.
Disclaimer: I received this e-arc from the author. Thanks! All opinions are my own.
Book: In Darkness: The Vampire
Author: L. Diane Wolfe
Book Series: Standalone
Recommended For…: paranormal, romance, vampires
Publication Date: February 7, 2023
Age Relevance: 18+ (alcohol consumption, gore, violence, animal violence, animal death, sexual content, romance)
Explanation of Above: There are scenes with alcohol consumption. There are a lot of violent scenes and there is a lot of blood gore. There is one scene of animal violence and death involving a bear. There is some sexual content and romance.
Publisher: Dancing Lemur Press LLC
Synopsis: Souls shrouded in darkness…
Stuck working as a barmaid for her demanding father, Anna dreams of adventure. When mysterious strangers enter the bar, she overhears they seek Zancrela, an ancient fortress filled with treasure and a magical library. Taking her chance, she offers to guide them. The conditions: deliver Zancrela or die.
As they journey through the wilderness, she discovers their secret: they are vampires. And most view her as food. One takes interest in her and her heart dares to hope, but it might not be enough to change her fate. Will Anna find Zancrela or become a vampire morsel?
Review: For the most part I thought this was a fun paranormal/fantasy read. The book revolves around this girl who is seeking adventure and decides to join a team to do so… except they’re hunting for this mysterious library. She offers to guide them, but soon discovers they are vampires and she might be on the menu if she doesn’t deliver them to this sacred area. The book is very fast paced and keeps you on your toes with the suspense. There is a lot of great suspense and romance moments. I thought the plot was good and the world building was great. The character development also was good.
The only issues I had with the book was the POV switching. It was a little jarring and in at least one instance it happened within the same chapter. I also thought that the book was a bit too fast paced for my liking and I would have liked it to be a bit slowed down and more fleshed out.
Verdict: It was good! I liked it.
Sun Keep Rising by Kristen R. Lee
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Publishing Date: January 24, 2023
When rent increases put a teen mom at risk of losing her home, she resorts to a dangerous game to keep her family afloat. But all games have consequences, and this isn’t one she can afford to lose. A gripping story about race, income instability, and the strength it takes to survive from a critically acclaimed author.
Kristen R. Lee is a miraculous story weaver-Mahogany L. Browne, author of Vinyl Moon
B’onca always knew how to get by. And then her daughter is born. She wouldn’t trade Mia for anything, but there is never enough cash to go around. When their gentrifying Memphis neighborhood results in higher prices and then an eviction notice, B’onca’s already fragile world spirals. Desperate to make things right, B’onca forges a risky plan to help pay the bills. But one wrong move could cost B’onca–and her family–everything.
From the celebrated author of Required Reading for the Disenfranchised Freshman comes a compelling story about a teen mom navigating income disparity and racial inequality, and defying challenges to protect those she loves.
Content Warning: gentrification
About the Author:
Kristen R. Lee is a native of Memphis Tennessee, whose love of books stems from her grandmother who was a school teacher. After graduating with a bachelor’s in communication from MTSU, she began to draft her first novel which focuses on systemic racism and Black culture. Growing up in Memphis, a majority Black city, writing stories that reflect her upbringing is what she strives to do. When she’s not writing, you can find her on twitter sharing memes about not writing.
Disclaimer: I received this e-arc from the publisher. Thanks! All opinions are my own.
Book: Delicious Monsters
Author: Liselle Sambury
Book Series: Standalone
Diversity: Canadian Black MC, Black characters, Black plus size MC, Black gay side character, Korean side character, Plus size side charcters, Sri Lankan Canadian lesbian side character, Sapphic relationship mentioned
Recommended For…: young adult readers, paranormal, ghosts, haunted houses, horror, thriller, mystery, supernatural
Publication Date: February 28, 2023
Genre: YA Paranormal Horror
Age Relevance: 15+ (death, language, sexual content, racism, religious trauma, Christian religion, child abuse, child sexual abuse, child neglect, grief, underage alcohol consumption, blood gore, teen pregnancy, animal death and violence, body shaming, ghost possession, narcissistic abuse, suicide, grooming, violence)
Explanation of Above: There is death, blood gore/body horror, grief, and violence in this book. There is also animal death and violence to a goat detailed off-screen a couple of times in the book. There is some slight vague sexual content, some religious trauma, and a mention of Christianity. There are some slight showings and off-page mentions of child abuse, child sexual abuse, grooming, child neglect, and teen pregnancy. Narcissistic abuse including gaslighting, body shaming via fatphobia and skinny shaming, and ghost possession are also shown in the book. There is some cursing. There are a couple of instances of racism being mentioned. There is one scene of underage alcohol consumption. There are a handful of ghostly possession scenes. There is an off-page mention of suicide.
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Synopsis: Daisy sees dead people—something impossible to forget in bustling, ghost-packed Toronto. She usually manages to deal with her unwanted ability, but she’s completely unprepared to be dumped by her boyfriend. So when her mother inherits a secluded mansion in northern Ontario where she spent her childhood summers, Daisy jumps at the chance to escape. But the house is nothing like Daisy expects, and she begins to realize that her experience with the supernatural might be no match for her mother’s secrets, nor what lurks within these walls…
A decade later, Brittney is desperate to get out from under the thumb of her abusive mother, a bestselling author who claims her stay at “Miracle Mansion” allowed her to see the error of her ways. But Brittney knows that’s nothing but a sham. She decides the new season of her popular Haunted web series will uncover what happened to a young Black girl in the mansion ten years prior and finally expose her mother’s lies. But as she gets more wrapped up in the investigation, she’ll have to decide: if she can only bring one story to light, which one matters most—Daisy’s or her own?
As Brittney investigates the mansion in the present, Daisy’s story runs parallel in the past, both timelines propelling the girls to face the most dangerous monsters of all: those that hide in plain sight.
Review: I loved this book so much! I loved all the gothic vibes to it and how it was told in a Duel POV, but separated by time and from kinda a documentary style look at it. The two stories, which are their own separate stories, intertwine to create a story kinda about intergenerational trauma. In both stories, the mother character is narcissistic, neglectful, and/or downright abusive. They parentify their daughters in an attempt for the daughters to take care of things for them (Daisy with her powers, Brittney with her stability). They discard their daughters for their own selfish whims, but, as shown with Grace, the mothers may be the villains but they can also be the victims. I felt that deep in my bones when reading this book. As someone who’s mother is narcissistic and has been on the receiving end of a lot of abuse, it’s been a long fight on my end to stop the abuse before I pass it to my children, but also a long fight on my mother’s end to correct the mistakes her mother made to her. Trauma can be inherited and this book does so well to symbolize that in so many different ways. The book is not only a deep metaphor for what we are handed at birth, but one about how ultimately we have the power in us to stop the abuse and become healthier individuals, whether that be through confrontation and cut off or through rebirth and redemption. The book is extremely well written and is one of Sambury’s best works to date. The characters are well developed and the world building is immaculate. The story is wonderfully well told and if you’re into stories about haunted houses ala Rose Madder, this may be the one for you.
The only issue I had with the book is that in the arc there are a couple of points where it’s not clear what happened or how certain characters got to conclusions, but I have no doubt that was all cleaned up in the finalized version.
Verdict: Highly recommend this for everyone who has generational trauma to process.
Disclaimer: I received this e-arc and finished copy from the author. Thanks! All opinions are my own.
Book: The Southern Magicks
Author: Ashton K. Rose
Book Series: The Southern Magicks Book 1
Diversity: Gay MC, M/M/NB
Recommended For…: fantasy, queer, LGBT, magic, mystery
Publication Date: August 22, 2022
Age Relevance: 18+ (death, violence, language, prejudice, homophobia, romance, sexual content)
Explanation of Above: There is death mentioned and violence detailed in the book. There is a lot of cursing. There is some sexual content and romance. There are showings and mentions of prejudice and homophobia.
Publisher: Geekaflame Publishing
Synopsis: A month ago, a demon tore the thin veneer of a normal life I’d crafted apart when it almost killed me. Revealing my husband, Eli, as the prodigal son of a powerful magic family.
When I grew up, I walked away from magic. Left my remote hometown and pretended the ghosts Gran taught me to see weren’t there while I went to university to become a librarian.
Our one secret tightly held to my heart.
Never let them know!
Two years later, with no other financial option, I moved back to my small hometown.
It was easy to pretend the fuzzy gaps in my memory weren’t there as I got a job under the strict woman who almost killed my childhood love of books.
I thought everything was perfect when I married my dream guy.
Then the attack happened.
The “good” folks at the local magical law enforcement agency knew about me the whole time. They’ve pressured me to work for them as an exorcist because they’re convinced I was a vigilante who committed multiple murders. My odd, intriguing mentor Cory watches for any misstep as I avoid the seduction attempt he’s been asked to perform.
Now they’ve accused my estranged older brother of taking over my “crimes.” I know I was framed, despite the gaps in my memory.
The worst part?
The only people who seem to believe me are my friend June and my journalist cousin Kat.
Eli, filled with spite for the local magical rulers, seems to know something I DON’T and thinks I should play them at their own game and seduce my mentor, so we can interrogate him together…
Review: For the most part this was a good book. It has an interesting concept and I loved the magic in this book. It felt a bit men-in-black like with all the secrets and stuff and I also thought it was interesting how the different families were intertwined. The MC himself, while not my favorite, was intriguing and kept me motivated to continue the story. The book has a lot of bookish elements in it that make a bit of an easter egg hunt for readers. I thought that the book was evenly paced and it has the potential to be an amazing magical and bookish book.
However, the book still needs some work in my opinion. The characters and world building are not fully developed, which is a shame since this is set in Australia and I wanted to know more about how magic and Australia could combine, and the interactions between the characters just felt very off. The beginning of the book is a mess and it feels almost like I skipped a book, like there’s a book before this one I need to read to understand this one. This is another one where I feel reading the synopsis first is a necessary, which is not something I particularly like. The book is better the more you go into it, but that beginning is a bit off-putting.
Verdict: It’s good just needs a little more work on the front end.
Disclaimer: I received this e-arc and finished copy from the publisher. Thanks! All opinions are my own.
Book: This Is Not My Home
Author: Vivienne Chang and Eugenie Yoh
Book Series: Standalone
Diversity: Taiwanese MC and characters
Recommended For…: picture book readers, moving, Taiwan, making new friends
Publication Date: January 24, 2023
Genre: Picture Book
Age Relevance: 0+ (moving, making new friends)
Explanation of Above: The book focuses on our MC’s move from their home to Taiwan and how they feel about the move. The book also focuses a little on the MC making new friends after having to leave their friends behind.
Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Synopsis: When Lily’s mom announces their family must move back to Taiwan to take care of her elderly Ah Ma, Lily is devastated to leave behind her whole life for a place that is most definitely her home. But Lily soon realizes, through the help of her family and friends, what home means to them. And perhaps someday—maybe not today, but someday—it might become her home too.
Review: I thought this was such a cute little read! The book focused on our MC, named Lily, who moves from her home to Taiwan. The book explores her complicated feelings about the move and how nothing feels like home to her anymore. The book shows that while this might not be her home, it’s her mother’s home and together they can make it their home. This helps Lily start to feel more at home and eventually she gains the confidence to make a home there. I thought this book had such a moving message for young children who might also be in a similar situation like Lily and might be moving away from their home to a new home. The book also has amazing illustrations and the illustrations of Taiwan are gorgeous.
Verdict: An absolute must read for moving or soon-to-be moving young children.
This is Not My Home by Vivienne Chang and Eugenia Yoh
Genre: Children’s Picture Book
Publishing Date: January 24, 2023
From debut author-illustrator duo Vivienne Chang and Eugenia Yoh comes a humorous and heartfelt reverse immigration story that will resonate across cultures and show us how a place can become home.
This is not my backyard barbecue.
This is not our car, these are not my fireflies.
This is not my farmer’s market and…
This is not my home.
When Lily’s mom announces their family must move back to Taiwan to take care of her elderly Ah Ma, Lily is devastated to leave behind her whole life for a place that is most definitely not her home. But Lily soon realizes, through the help of her family and friends, what home means to them. And perhaps someday—maybe not today, but someday—it might become her home too.
About the Author:
Vivienne Chang and Eugenia Yoh met at Washington University in St. Louis. Eugenia studied Communication Design and now works at Chronicle Books. Vivienne studies Economics and is still stuck in St. Louis.
They hope to continue telling stories that simplify seemingly universal ideas through humor. When they are not discussing their next book concept, they can be found at a lake, a library, or in the yogurt section of Whole Foods. Who is this dog? We do not know. We found her in North Carolina.
Joint Website: https://www.vivienneandeugenia.com/