Have you ever been completely caught off guard by a series?
Have you picked up a book that sounds interesting–if a little quirky and weird–and then been totally blown away?
I know, I say “quirky” and “weird” as if that’s not exactly what I’m usually looking for. You know I love quirky and weird. The challenge is finding quirky and weird and good all together in once place.
Often what sounds quirky and weird ends up being directionless and confusing, especially with indie books.
But C.S. Boyack’s paranormal mystery series about Lizzie and the Hat is quirky and weird, and fantastic!
I have read some of Boyack’s work before. You can read my review of his cyberpunk detective novel Grinders, here. So I knew this series would be good.
Why this series?
I usually read and review sci-fi. But in autumn, I really start to gravitate toward spooky, Halloween-y books…
So what better place to start than with a series of short novels about a monster-slaying musician and her mysterious talking hat?
I was looking for something light-hearted, fun, and quick to read, in the weeks between finishing my draft for Bubbles in Space #4 Spit ‘Em Out and getting my edits back from my editor. I was also supposed to be getting out corporate taxes done early for once instead of leaving it to the last minute like I do every year…
So this series from C.S. Boyack sounded perfect.
And it was!
Except… I didn’t get my taxes done because I was having too much fun reading.
Lizzie St. Laurent is dealing with many of the struggles of young life. She lost her grandmother, and her living arrangements. Her new roommate abandoned her, and she’s working multiple jobs just to keep her head above water.
She inherits an old hat from her grandmother’s estate, but it belonged to her grandfather. This is no ordinary hat, but a being from an alternate dimension. One with special powers.
Lizzie and the hat don’t exactly hit it off right away, but when her best friend’s newborn is kidnapped by a ring of baby traffickers, Lizzie turns to the hat for help. This leads her deep into her family history and a world she’s never known.
Lizzie gives up everything to rescue the babies. She loses her jobs, and may wind up in jail before it’s over. Along the way, she and the hat may have a new way of making ends meet.
Humorous and fun, The Hat is novella length. Wonderful escapism for an afternoon.
The Hat is the first book in the series, though each story stands alone and they can be read in any order.
It does a great job of setting up the series, introducing us to Lizzie and the mysterious Hat, and some of the problems Lizzie will face as the series progresses. It’s quick, funny, and fast-paced. I read this one in a single sitting.
Other than the hat and a few practice ghoulies, this is the least “paranormal” book of the series, but that didn’t detract from my enjoyment at all. I love the details with Lizzie’s various jobs and with the Hat’s love of music.
I’d recommend reading the books in order, as I feel Boyack really does a great job of building up the world and the relationships between the characters. As I continued with the series, I loved each book better than the last!
Someone knows about the hat. The creature from another dimension that helps Lizzie fight against the creatures of darkness.
They are summoned to a cryptic meeting with a secret society, where they meet other people with enhanced skills. It turns out someone, or something, has been tampering with the world’s vaccine supply. The goal doesn’t appear to be political or financial, but biblical pestilence.
Can this group of loners come together in time to make a difference when even the proper authorities are obstacles?
Check out Viral Blues, for your dose of paranormal adventure, with a strong sample of dark humor. And in recent superhero style, don’t miss the secret last chapter after the back material.
The second book in the series is Viral Blues which, is the most sci-fi flavoured book in the series so far. This one is a little different than the first in that we are dealing with a whole host of characters as Lizzie and the Hat join a secret society to help save the world from a familiar threat… a deadly string of viruses caused by the vaccines that are meant to protect!
This book was written in 2019, long before any of us were thinking about diving headfirst into a global pandemic and all of the complications we’ve had with vaccines and viruses in the last two years. It is actually kind of eerie how close Boyack comes to things that have actually happened (and things that people are afraid of happening) even if his virus outbreak was paranormally driven.
If you are suffering from coronavirus overload and don’t want to think about that kind of thing for a while, you could safely skip this one and not lose anything from the rest of the series.
That said, I really enjoyed this one. I loved all the various characters (each have their own books in Boyack’s back catalogue and are well worth checking out!) and I love the heist style action team. This book is a bit darker than the other three, and definitely has a grittier hard-boiled feel, especially with the character Clovis. But Viral Blues has everything from witchcraft and demons to zombies and ghouls to mobsters and machine guns. It is absolutely packed full of fantastic characters, witty dialogue, great fight scenes, and high-stakes action. If you can handle the virus/vaccine theme, I definitely wouldn’t skip it!
Lizzie and the hat are back, and this time they’re chasing vampires across a subculture of America. A pair of rodeo cowboys are holding a woman captive to use like a milk cow since they joined the undead.
The person who put them onto the trail is also a vampire, but he has to be the worst vampire in history. Is he really that pitiful, or is he setting a trap for our heroes? Does the woman even exists? Can Lizzie and the hat find her before she also takes up blood sucking?
Follow Lizzie and the hat as they use their cover band to stalk vamps across the country music scene.
Vampire cowboys! Okay, now we’re talking…
The Ballad of Mrs. Molony is a much more traditional take on the paranormal mystery genre. But the unusual setting, with vampires stalking the rodeo circuit, makes this a vampire hunting book unlike anything you’ve probably ever read.
I really appreciated the details about the rodeo scene as I have rodeo competitors in my family (barrel racers, bronc riders, and rodeo clowns) and I feel like it was really well researched and perfectly captured. Especially the scene with the rodeo clowns; it’s really the most dangerous job there is!
There are no sparkly romantic vamps here. These are dangerous predators, and the tensions rise for Lizzie and the Hat as Lizzie prepares to take on the most monstrous creatures she has battled yet!
Plus we get all the great details of Lizzie and the Hat playing with their band, which I absolutely adore. This is my favourite thing about these books, the subplots with the band. It’s so much fun and adds yet another layer to make this series completely different. When I finished this book I thought “How is he going to top this?”
Lizzie and the hat are back in action, only this time they’re up against the most tragic monster of all, a werewolf.
This adventure is more like hunting an animal, and the werewolf is unlikely to come to any of their musical performances. This puts Lizzie out in the dark corners and wooded areas of the city. It may be more beneficial to get the monster to hunt Lizzie than to stalk him on his own turf. All she has to do is be quicker on the trigger than the wolf is on his feet.
At the same time, the police think they’re after a serial killer. Lizzie tries to keep them alive while also keeping them out of her way. As the body count rises, so do the pressures. It doesn’t help that people are blaming Lizzie and the hat for the killings. This involves an urban myth about them that the locals call Hellpox.
Pull on your boogie shoes and join the hunt. Designed as an afternoon read, this one is tons of supernatural fun.
This one is my favourite so far!
The tension really starts to heat up in the fourth installment of the series as the Hat tries to protect Lizzie from a monster she’s not ready to fight, and Lizzie starts to worry that the killer might be someone she knows.
Lunar Boogie really checks all the paranormal mystery boxes for me. It’s scary, sometimes funny, tense, and well structured. Boyack has a great balance here between Lizzie’s private life and her monster-hunting secret identity, and we start to see the borders between the two blur a little. I loved the additional perspective of the detective who is trying to solve the case alongside Lizzie. And I extra loved the final scenes with Lizzie’s hippy-dippy mom. I absolutely can’t wait to read the next book when it comes out!
What’s your favourite paranormal series? What’s the most unusual book you’ve read recently? Will you give Lizzie and the Hat a try? Tell me all about it in the comments!