“Where were you when the dead were following me home?”
Alex Stern. “Ninth House” by Leigh Bardugo (Chapter 6)
Her name is Galaxy Stern but she goes by Alex. A California native, Alex dropped out of school and left her hippie mom’s home to run with her sketchy drug dealer boyfriend. By the age of twenty, Alex has seen it all. Then things go from bad to worse—she becomes the only survivor of a brutal murder. And the killer is still out there. But she receives a special visit during her hospital stay, a benefactor that offers to take her away from L.A. It’s a chance for a new beginning, far from her old life. Of course there’s a catch.
Alex arrives in New Have to begin a new life at Yale. She’s been enrolled as a freshman, but her benefactors have also given her a job. Alex now is part of a mysterious secret society. Yale is home to eight of these active and highly-secret societies who regularly perform rituals of magic to satisfy their wants and needs. Her job is to work with the others of Lethe House to “police” the societies and make sure protocols are followed and campus and New Haven stay safe.
When a town girl is murdered, Alex finds herself on the hunt for the killer. She fights ghosts, powerful magic, and more as she tries to unravel this mystery of this murder as well as one that happened decades earlier. Everything in New Haven is connected. She also has to face the truth about her own past and special abilities.
I enjoyed reading Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo. It is atmospheric and a suspenseful thriller with enough mystery that kept me turning pages. Alex may be flawed, but Bardugo had me rooting for her. Alex’s evolution throughout the story was nicely rounded and believable. There really was a lot to Ninth House and it’s well worth picking up. For me, it was a different look at ghosts and how they may interact with the living. I especially like the Bridegroom; as I don’t do spoilers, just take my word, he has his merits.
Ninth House had plenty of twists and turns, a couple that surprised me and that was fun. While the ending was satisfying, I do like that it’s obvious that this is the start of a series and I look forward to reading the next book.
“When you know as much as we do, how can you ever decide to just . . . stop? Stop fighting? Stop trying to help? Once you’re in, you can’t turn your back on it.”
(Slayer, by Kiersten White, Chapter 17, page 224)
I really liked Slayer by Kiersten White and I say that as a huge fan of both the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie from 1992 and the long-running series—and I did watch all of Angel. I haven’t read the comics or graphic novels, so if you haven’t either, no worries. You won’t be lost, just maybe a bit surprised at few things that have gone down since Buffy, the slayers, and the Scoobies closed the Hellmouth in Sunnydale.
Slayer offers a different look at the Buffyverse, centered on what’s left of the Watchers and what happens when the last slayer becomes activated. Set primarily at and near the Watcher’s Academy, not far from Dublin, twins Artemis and Athena have grown up there. Their mother is on the now very small Watcher’s Council (remember the majority of Watchers were blown up?) and their father was a Watcher too.
Before he died. Protecting his slayer. Buffy.
Artemis and Athena, nicknamed Nina, are the only children of Buffy’s first Watcher, Merrick.
As children of Watchers, the twins’ lives have definitely not been normal, nor has their education. Artemis has trained in weapons and combat, while Nina has been more protected and has a natural hand (and preference) for healing. They’ve dealt with tragedy throughout their young lives, from the death of their father to the devastating fire that almost killed Nina because their mother chose to save Artemis first.
Their world shifts again after Buffy destroys the Seed of Wonder and magic is purged from the world and all portals and hellmouths are closed. However, moments before it’s destroyed, something happens to Nina. She’s now the last slayer, and she never even knew she was a potential. It comes as a bit of shock, once she finally notices. It takes her a bit.
Slayer combines all the elements I have come to know and love from the Buffyverse and then adds a few twists that, for me, worked. There was ample teen angst, relationship issues, and jealousies flouncing about as well as parental units and Watchers that relentlessly get in the way.
I loved the supporting characters, in particular Cillian and Rhys as well as demon Doug. I never fully warmed up to Artemis, but that’s okay. I don’t think she’s completely likable. Then again, Nina definitely has her moments when you want to slap her upside the head as well—but let’s be truthful, there were times we wanted to slap Buffy too.
Kiersten White plays homage to the original Buffyverse nicely. I particularly enjoyed the dream connections and the interaction Nina gets with both Faith and Buffy. Slayer has plenty of action, the right amount of snark and wit, and plenty of heart. Loved the reveal of the “hunter” at the end and look forward to seeing how this all plays out in future stories.
If you’re a fan of any Buffy the Vampire Slayer stories, then definitely check out Slayer by Kiersten White. Also White is the author of one of my favorite (and often re-read) YA series: The Paranormalcy Series. I highly recommend it, you’ll totally love Evie and she always reminded me a bit of Buffy.
Sonora’s popularity means more to her than a new Michael Kors purse. With Fall Fling around the corner, she’s on the lookout for the perfect gown in the small Texas town. But a ghost has different plans.
When her best friend’s body floats ashore Brushy Creek, Sonora is haunted by the corpse-like spirit. The incessant ghost refuses to leave the cheerleader alone. She must risk death and sanity to find her friend’s killer. If Sonora isn’t careful, she’ll be the next victim.
Girl Gone Ghost is a standalone novel. If you like gripping suspense, sizzling chemistry, and dark secrets, then you’ll love Dawn Husted’s mystery, thriller romance.
Perfect for fans of We Were Liars, Pretty Little Liars, and The Sixth Sense.
Would you like to get a sneak peek at Girl Gone Ghost? I’ve got it for you! Read on!
Yes, Brenham—a town in the birthplace of Texas—had a serial killer. My best friend’s body was discovered nine weeks ago.
Holding Magnolia’s obituary in my hand, I couldn’t peel my eyes away from her heart-shaped face. My eyes watered. The newspaper clipping encompassed her mesmerizing smile and all the years we spent growing up together. Why did she have to die? I kicked my shiny green pompoms into the corner of my room. One of my cheerleading medals fell off the bedroom wall, onto Kaylee’s fluffy black and white tail. My border collie growled and her back stiffened, hair raising along her spine.
“They’re only pompoms,” I muttered as I bent to pick up the medal. What’s the matter? The sea green ribbon attached to the medal had formed a perfect M on the carpet. Bending over, a chill wafted over my back and up my neck. The air conditioning hummed on above my head.
Kaylee showed her teeth at the corner. I waved my hand at her. “Stop it. Sit. What’s gotten into you?” I hung the gold medal back on the nail next to dozens of others. My fingers had crinkled the top edge of the clipping. Dang it.
I grabbed my copy of East of Eden off my desk and stuck the clipping between the pages to flatten it again—and put the obit away one last time. A familiar pang squeezed my chest, and I wiped a tear from my cheek with the back of my hand. I couldn’t focus on Magnolia anymore. I needed to let her go. She was gone and she wasn’t coming back. Opening my dresser drawer, I slid the novel inside. It rested beside my half of our friendship necklace, the same one I had removed two days after her death.
My phone buzzed with a text from my boyfriend, Chris Jenkins. Just pulled up.
In the reflection of the dresser mirror, an outline of our high school’s mascot stared at me with wide-eyes and a green, roaring mouth. I remembered the day Magnolia helped me place the cub sticker on the wall—the same day we made the cheerleading squad our freshman year, three years ago. Closing the drawer, I breathed the memory of Magnolia in and out for the last time.
The doorbell rang. I turned my light off and rushed to let Chris inside. We were having dinner tonight—like it was another normal Saturday night with my family.
Opening the front door, Chris walked in and winked. “Hey, babe.” His arms slid around my waist and squeezed. I laced my fingers through his. He smelled woodsy.
I glanced into the kitchen. Mom grabbed food from the island in the middle and placed the bowl on the dining table.
“Sonora, fill the glasses,” she said. Chris released my hands.
“Where have you been? I thought you’d be here fifteen minutes ago?” I asked him.
“Sonora, did you hear me? Fill the glasses, all the way to the top.”
I hated filling glasses with ice, and she knew it. The cold icky cubes sounded like freshly painted fingernails scraping the hood of my Taurus.
Mom’s pristine hair swayed on her poised shoulders as she hung her apron on the hook.
Chris followed me and grabbed the glasses off the kitchen island and handed them to me one by one, winking at me with his dreamy, dark chocolate eyes.
“Make that one half-full,” he whispered to me as he grinned.
I stuck my chin out to mimic her, “Mom likes the ‘hot tea to melt the cubes with perfection.’” I laughed and smiled at Chris but filled each cup as requested.
Here we were, having dinner, like normal. But my senior year was on the brink of spiraling out of control—I could sense it. Who had killed Magnolia? Why? Dad turned off the jazz music playing in the background and shooed my border collie, Kaylee, into my room. “In you go. No begging at the table,” he told her as he shut the door. Dad turned back to the long wooden table. Behind him, vintage racks displaying antique spoons hung on the navy blue wall. We held hands as he sat. “Who wants to say grace? Chris?”
I squeezed Chris’s fingers, prompting him to speak.
“Sure, Mr. Stewart,” Chris replied, closing his eyes and bowing his head.
“Bless this food and help Brenham High win the game Friday.”
“Amen,” Dad said, loosening his tie from around his neck. He wasn’t the football type, but that didn’t stop him from cheering for the team.
“Sonora, can you grab the sour cream please?” Mom asked. Scooting my chair back, I ambled into the kitchen, past my brother’s empty seat. I missed Bram. Why did he have to move out? I yanked on the door and studied the contents. Containers of yogurt, butter, and assorted Tupperware blocked the view. I reached for the sour cream behind leftovers of questionable age. An eerie dampness floated over my arms. Something smelled old and rotten as if seafood had been left to spoil. I rubbed my nose, shaking the horrid odor off, and shut the door. “Mom, you need to clean the fridge,” I said, entering the dining room.
“Sonora, don’t be ridiculous. The fridge is spotless,” she replied, waving my insane notion off as usual. I grimaced. Why did she have to use my name in every sentence? Why? I handed her the container and sat next to Chris, wriggling the moldy smell from my nose. Beneath the table, he casually crossed his ankle over mine.
“So Chris, are you starting on Friday?” My father passed him the green beans from the middle of the table.
“Yes, sir, Coach wouldn’t have it any other way.” Chris plopped a serving onto his plate, passing the blue bowl to me next. “And Sonora will be cheering from the sidelines.” He winked and nudged my side. I was the cheerleader dating the star football player.
“How do you like the new coach?” my dad asked.
Chris nodded, focused on the food.
Dad wasn’t about to ask deeper questions about football. His professor brain didn’t allow much time for sports, but he knew the town had hired a new coach. Everyone in a small town knows when that sort of thing happens.
“Sonora, how’s the dance committee coming along?” Mom asked as I took a bite.
My fork froze in midair. “Fine,” I replied, not exactly feeling in the mood to talk about the Fall Fling. I wanted to stop thinking about Magnolia, but it was hard. I guess Mom found it easy to forget my dead, best friend.
The horrid smell rushed around me. The same fishy smell as before. Weird. Where was it coming from? I leaned over to Chris and sniffed.
“Did you just smell me?” he whispered out the corner of his mouth.
I shook my head, playing it off. His cologne was distinct, rosewood and lemon, his hair astutely angled. He was perfect. My boyfriend wasn’t the rancid haddock source. I glanced over at Mom’s flawless makeup and Dad’s impeccably ironed shirt. Nope. Not them either.
The smell became overwhelming. How did nobody else notice it? I sucked in a breath. It had to be from outside. Chris shoveled mashed potatoes into his face. Dad dipped into the dinner rolls, unaware.
Ugh. I coughed, and an errant bean lodged in my throat. I coughed again, trying to knock the lump lose, but it remained in place.
Then I couldn’t cough.
Trying to take a deep breath, the slimy, healthy vegetable obstructed my airway. I tried to cough. Choking! No air in. No air out.
I frantically gestured to my throat. My eyes widened.
Chris dropped his fork. It clanked against his plate. “Sonora?” Jumping up, he yanked me from my seat and knocked my chair out of the way with his foot. Wrapping his arms around my stomach, he thrust inward and upward violently. My ribs throbbed. My lungs begged for air. Nothing.
“God, do something!” My mom yelled, panicked.
Wait. Mom never panics. Her voice wavered in and out.
“C’mon! Breathe!” Chris clasped his hands around my waist, but I could barely feel them. Stay conscious. Bright neon spots flickered in my vision, and the table clouded out of focus. Was this what Magnolia experienced when she died?
He yanked inward AGAIN.
“Sonora!” Dad’s voice echoed.
My legs wobbled, my stance weakening. Chris thrust his fists into my stomach once more. I hunched over from the force, and the green bean dislodged, skittering across the table.
Inhaling an enormous mouthful of oxygen, life breathed back into my limbs. Weak, I slapped my palms against the table in effort to stay upright. The placemat slipped off the edge, and my plate of food plummeted to the floor—over my new Gucci flora flats.
“Sonora,” my mom said again, sounding less worried and more annoyed by the mess.
Would you please stop? I wanted to scream at her but didn’t. Months ago, I’d had a mental breakdown from stress, and ever since, it was like Mom couldn’t repeat my name enough.
I hung my head as the table slowly stopped spinning. It was as if I’d finished a string of back handsprings at a pep rally, and my brain hadn’t caught up with my eyes.
Chris’s panicked hand rested on my back.
The room became solid once more, but something was different.
In the corner, behind my dad—stood a ghostly corpse, one silvery eyeball hung from its socket. The ghost paled in comparison against the dark blue walls.
I shook my head and squeezed my eyes shut. I must be seeing things. Oxygen starvation did things to a person. I breathed in steadily and looked once more.
The corpse had moved closer. A worm slithered in the hollow place behind the droopy eye. Water ran from its hair and dress, collecting in a silvery pool at its feet. Her drenched white dress sucked to her body, turning the dress a shade of slippery peach. Golden hair hung like sodden pompoms down both sides of a haggard face.
My legs buckled and my right elbow slammed against the table as I collapsed to the floor.
“Sonora!” Chris yelled, dropping next to me, shaking my shoulder. “What’s wrong?”
Four feet away, she peered at me with one glossy eye above swollen cheeks. Her wet face resembled a purple water balloon about to pop. Her eyes and nose a permanent shade of bruise.
The tiny shimmer of a friendship necklace, a gold locket in the shape of half-a-heart, dangled around her translucent neck.
It can’t be.
I plunged backward, away from Chris. Away from everybody. Away from HER! My spine skinned the edge of the wooden chair, and the pain held me upright. This couldn’t be real. She couldn’t be real.
Magnolia had been my best friend—nine weeks ago, her body washed ashore on Brushy Creek’s swampy banks. She had been murdered by the Creekside Killer.
This wasn’t any corpse. It was Magnolia. I’d known her my entire life. I hadn’t seen her dead before, but I’d recognize that necklace anywhere.
The Diviners series is a quartet of young adult books by Libba Bray. Before the Devil Breaks You is book three, an outstanding continuation of the story about evil, racism, ghosts, flappers, love, and the fight for what is right in a country when too many want to turn away from the ugliness.
Before the Devil Breaks You brings back all of our original Diviners characters: Evie, Sam, Memphis, Theta, Henry, Mabel, and Jericho as well as Ling, Isaiah, Will, Sister Walker, Blind Bill, and Jake Marlowe. It’s a story filled with action, intriguing imagery, great Roarin’ 20’s slang, and characters that you both love and hate.
The little group of Diviners, those with special powers like Evie, Sam, Memphis, and Theta, have their hands full. While they may have helped the murderous ghost from book two find peace, the supernatural still runs amok. Ghost sightings have increased around NYC and other places. Equally disturbing, and definitely scarier than the ghosts are the eugenics fanatics who are determined to create a pure race and take America back. Yes, you read that correctly.
It’s between the World Wars and many American-born citizens are in danger facing deportation and worse, the loss of their lives. The Civil Rights Movement is decades away, with laws in most states making it illegal for marriage or even a relationship for a couple like Memphis and Theta. And if you’re gay? Forget it. While you may be able to dance with your partner at some of the speakeasies, there’s no way you can go out in public together and show any type of affection for each other.
In the midst of all this, there’s the ghosts being controlled by the King of Crows. The Diviners figure out a way to pool their special talents and obliterate the ghosts, but can they take down the King of Crows? And what about Jake Marlowe; he’s just as bad.
There’s a lot going on this book, but the pace is good and there’s a nice balance. It was interesting to watch Mabel really grow in this book, a non-Diviner, but equally passionate about her cause. I liked learning more about Ling and in particular more of Sam’s background. Author Libba Bray satisfied my romantic notions as well, allowing more than one couple to evolve their relationship to the next level. Sweet, but sexy.
Always great, quotable moments as well. In addition to the two I shared at the top, I found something that Will said stuck with me. In the chapter titled: Mistakes, I found one of my favorite quotes. Spoken by Will in response to Evie wanting to know why can’t anyone just tell the truth. Will says, “Because it’s so hard to know what the truth is. It shifts, depending on who’s telling it and when.” I find this interesting, because Will says ‘when’ not why. And how accurate is that? Totally—because the when directly affects the why, every time.
If you’re not reading this series, I highly recommend it. It’s a good read for anyone who enjoys paranormal, romance, thrillers, ghost stories, and well-crafted narratives that expertly weave in essential bits of actual history. Although set in the 1920’s, Before the Devil Breaks You is timely, tackling issues we’re still dealing with as a nation today. It’s a must-read.
“You get up in the morning, and do what you have to do. You get up, thinking for just a split second, everything’s the way it was. Then you know it’s not. It’s never going to be, but you get up and keep going.”
(YEAR ONE by Nora Roberts, Chapter Six, page 96)
“Year One” by Nora Roberts offers readers a disturbing glimpse into human nature when civilization as we know it ends and a world with new rules and ancient magicks emerges.
It’s the New Year and amid the revelry a sickness has begun to spread. It hits fast and spreads even quicker. They call it the Doom. Within a few weeks the world has been decimated—more than half the population is dead, infrastructures have collapsed, and the Uncanny are among the immune. The Uncanny have powers and abilities. There are witches, faeries, elves, and others, some light and some dark.
Max and Lana practiced witchcraft before the Doom. Now immunes, their powers have increased and they find themselves trying to get out of New York away from the savages and evil attempting to take over the city. Also heading out of the city are Arlys and Fred, a journalist and a young intern who both worked for the same television station plus their friend Chuck, a tech genius. This trio eventually meets up with another group fleeing the city: Rachel the doctor, Jonah the paramedic, and Katie a young mother who just gave birth to twins and adopted a third baby left orphaned by the Doom.
“Year One” is told from multiple POV’s and spans a full year in time. If you pick up this book expecting the typical Nora Roberts romance, it’s not there. Romance takes a backseat in “Year One” — even though we do get a nicely developed relationship between Lana and Max. This novel focuses more on the breakdown of order and the chaos that quickly follows. There’s the rise of magic as tech dwindles and dies. And there is the fear.
Author Roberts has created a very disturbing reality in “Year One.” She explores the dark side of humanity, both the “normal” humans and their prejudice against any type of Uncanny or person who may be perceived as an Uncanny plus the dark Uncanny who simply are evil. She takes readers on a frightening journey, but also manages to give us hope.
There’s a nice balance in “Year One”. While we see the horrors and atrocities, we also get to see the good. The people who learn to live together, pooling resources and relying on all types of abilities—supernatural as well as natural. Faeries, elves, and witches living and working with policemen, teachers, and lawyers to build a new society that’s safe and welcoming for everyone.
“Year One” by Nora Roberts is epic and a book I highly recommend, especially if you’ve enjoyed her books like The Sign of Seven Trilogy and The Guardians Trilogy. Here is a great link to a list of all her books by published date. If you’ve never read a Nora Roberts book, this actually is a really good one for a start.
Once in a while I enjoy a quirky or paranormal romance. When I stumbled upon “Knew You’d Come: A Haunting Love Story” by author Christine Cacciatore, I was happy to find a novella that effortlessly combines a hot romance with ghosts and a bit of the Old West. Yes, this is a novella — a shorter work that is a great read and easily finished in one sitting.
Author Christine Cacciatore gives us Tansy Reynolds, a ghost hunter who’s investigating the Wilderness Saloon. This old establishment has a reputation for being haunted and it’s Tansy’s job to debunk or confirm the haunting. When the other paranormal investigator doesn’t show up, Tansy is left alone to complete the job. Within hours, she discovers evidence of a presence and by the second night, her entire world is rocked when she makes actual contact with ghost of Whip Daniels.
I enjoyed the story of Tansy and Whip — the mingling of their past and present was intriguing. Cacciatore creates solid characters, fun dialogue, and some super sexy scenes. The heart of the story is true love and how two people can be meant for each other even after decades and death.
So tonight, shut off the TV, pour yourself a glass of wine or cup of tea and get lost in “Knew You’d Come: A Haunting Love Story” by Christine Cacciatore. You can find out more about author Christine Cacciatore on Good Reads; be sure to check out her other books.
“Ordinary people were capable of extraordinary bravery. That was the only magic Sam knew or trusted.”
Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray (page 173)
My original review from 2015 stands in its entirety below. I’ve add a new pic and just a bit more to say as I’m currently re-reading this novel as part of my 2018 Summer of Re-Reads. First, I forgot how much fun this book (and the series) is! You’ve got to love a book with the opening line:
“Every city is a ghost.”
It’s just perfect and set the mood. My original review states that I found the book a bit slow for about the first 100 or so pages. I didn’t this time, and it may be because I went right from the first book to this one in the same day. There are a few spots that have lagged for me, but overall, it’s a great ride and I can’t wait to finish and step into book 3.
Lair of Dreams, the second novel in Libba Bray’s “Diviners” series continues the story of Evie O’Neill who has now become known as the Sweetheart Seer. As a reader, the first book of the series titled The Diviners held me riveted from start to finish. You can check out my GoodReads review of it here. However, Lair of Dreams started a bit slow for me. About 150 pages in, it started to pick up and then author Libba Bray had me again.
Step into Lair of Dreams and the world of the supernatural, where having a special “Diviner” ability doesn’t mean you’re safe from ghosts and creepy crawlies that go bump in the night (or hide in forgotten New York subway tunnels.) While Evie is a Diviner with the ability to “read” objects, divining the secrets of the person who touched the object, other Diviners have the ability to walk in dream, makes themselves undetectable, create fire from their fingertips and even heal.
To save the city from the Sleeping Sickness that has it in its grips and thwart the evil that threatens everyone’s lives, Evie and her friends will have to work together, each using their individual gifts. Libba Bray weaves multiple story threads together, from Evie and Sam’s complicated relationship to Henry and Ling’s dreamwalking escapades, Theta’s secret and Memphis’ personal struggles, plus we can’t overlook Mabel and Jericho with his past. There’ a lot going on, but Bray intertwines each story effortlessly.
I really like the characters in this series, but what I enjoy the most is the setting. I love that this story is set in the Roarin’ Twenties—from the fashion descriptions, to music and especially the era’s slang, it’s just fun and keeps this reader completely immersed from page to page. Libba Bray also creates vivid imagery with her words throughout Lair of Dreams.
I’ll admit it, I’m a fan of this author’s style and I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the Diviners series, pos-i-tut-ly.