Poisoned by Jennifer Donnelly

Poisoned by Jennifer Donnelly

Fairytale retelling of Snow White with a pro-feminist twist that questions negative comments and the doubts they create. Princess Sophia has a kind heart and a selfless personality. She cares about everything and everyone. Her stepmother, Queen Adelaide, berates Sophia for being soft and weak and therefore will undoubtedly make a terrible ruler. Adelaide commands the huntsman to kill Sophia and take her heart but, amazingly, she survives. As she struggles to live and recapture her heart, Princess Sophia meets many people of different backgrounds and circumstances and she helps everyone in anyway she can. A tale of courage and confidence, 5 stars!

Send Me Their Souls by Sara Wolf

Send Me Their Souls by Sara Wolf
Zera is with Lucien, Fione and Malachite as they try to figure out how to stop Lucien’s sister’s rampage. She’s focused on destroying everything and everyone in the kingdom. The group travels and learns more about the Bone Tree and learns of the Glass Tree and its intensity and oddity. They begin to understand that the Bone Tree is taking over Varia’s mind and overpowering her judgment, causing her to seek and destroy. The group researches for solutions to stop the destruction while hoping to protect Varia at the same time. The dynamics of the characters and the loyalty make me laugh and warm my heart. Sara Wolf has a knack for endearing characters. The ending of an adventurous fantasy trilogy, 4 stars!

Reverie by Ryan La Sala

Reverie by Ryan La Sala
This fun fantasy adventure has a variety of characters set in different worlds or “reveries”. The story opens as Kane struggles with memory loss and frustration because he’s been accused of reckless behavior, destruction of property and possibly murder but he doesn’t remember any of it. He digs deeper into solving the mystery of his life and discovers that he was part of a group called “Others”. The more he reveals, the crazier everything gets. Dreams from individual minds come to life and most people are swept into the reverie while the Others have special powers of illusion, strength and cleverness to guide people safely through the dream world. The story also has a drag queen reverie guide that adds flair as well as lesbian side characters and Kane, who is the gay main character. These characters add perspective, kindness, diversity and a broad array of personalities to Reverie. A fun adventure fantasy geared towards young adults. The relationship scenes aren’t detailed and are a small part of the Reverie world. 4 stars!

What the Dead Want by Norah Olson

What the Dead Want by Norah Olson

Gretchen receives a call from her great aunt Esther, who asks her to visit the Axton Mansion where Esther is residing. Gretchen takes an eight hour ride to the desolate and decrepit mansion. She’s surprised by the state of the home but shocked by her aunt. Gretchen can’t decide if Esther is an alcoholic or is suffering from dementia or both. She’s even more surprised by Esther’s background. The mansion and town are haunted by the terrible happenings of the Axton ancestors during the civil war era. Abolitionists against racists and the racists won the violent battles. Satisfyingly spooky, 5 stars!

Beauty’s Rose by Shonna Slayton

Set in the 1980’s, Beauty’s Rose tells the story of Margot visiting an Aunt in France. Aunt Suzette owns a cozy bookshop in a small French town steeped in traditional tourist attractions, royalty, knights, jousting, and festivals. Margot meets several people her age and enjoys the scenery of Chapais. Burke is an aloof mystery to the town and Sylvain seems to be a player. When Margot starts having dreams involving conversations with a beast, she thinks she’s losing her mind. Aunt Suzette’s friends, who are actually fairies (Clove, Sage, and Thyme), let Margot in on the curse that’s taking over the local prince’s life. Burke and Margot become friends and end up trapped in a hidden mansion together as he transforms into the beast. I was saddened when the story ended because I wanted more! A gentle, contemporary 1980’s fairytale retelling about love, loyalty, and sacrifice.

In the Hall with the Knife by Diana Peterfreund

A winter storm hits Blackbrook Academy, causing students and adults to be stranded. The headmaster is one of the adults staying in Tudor House because of the storm. Headmaster Boddy is found later with a knife in his chest. No one is sure whether he was killed by a looter, which seems highly unlikely because of the storm, or murdered by one of the people staying in Tudor House along with them. Each character has a distinct personality. Scarlett and Finn both look out for themselves above everything else. Beth is focused completely on her physical strength and tennis and has a very abrupt nature. Mustard has military focus and wants to protect everyone. Vaughn is kind and honest but has a horrible twin brother named Oliver. Orchid is quiet and avoids people because she’s hiding her true identity. Kayla and Karlee seem to be airheads. While everyone is worrying about their safety, a few are focusing on themselves. I don’t want to give anything away but this is a light mystery thriller that definitely reminded me of the game Clue. A mystery geared towards young adults and a fun read, 4 stars!

The Girl in the White Van by April Henry

Savannah lives with her mom in her boyfriend’s house. Savannah’s mom met Tim online and the two of them moved to Tim’s community and into his home less than a year ago. Savannah is tired of her mom meeting men online and uprooting their lives every time she thinks a guy will be great. Tim is physically rough with her mom but only verbally rude to Savannah. He makes fun of the fact that she attends Kung Fu classes and just wants Savannah and her mom to wait on him and do everything for him. Savannah is a loner at school and she’s decided that it’s not worth making friends if she’s going to be moving again anyway. She enjoys her Kung Fu classes and there’s a teenage boy that she gets along with really well, Daniel Diaz. After class one evening, the two stay after to mop the dojo floor and walk out together. Daniel offers to walk Savannah home but she tells him her mom is picking her up. This isn’t true because her mom works the swing shift and Savannah plans on walking home on her own. Before she knows what happened, she’s kidnapped and thrown into a van. No one realizes she’s missing for a day and then her mom talks to the Student Resource Officer, who happens to be Daniel’s father. Meanwhile, Savannah is put in an RV with Jenny, who was kidnapped by the same guy ten months earlier. Jenny tried to escape at the beginning but was mauled by the kidnapper’s guard dog. The two teens try to figure out a way to escape and do everything they can to help each other. Young adult horror full of Bruce Lee quotes and inspiration! 5 stars for a suspenseful thriller for young adults!

Be Not Far From Me by Mindy McGinnis

Be Not Far From Me by Mindy McGinnis
It took me a day after I finished reading this book to be able to write my review because there’s so much to process: depth, philosophy, relationships, perseverance, and personal strength. The main character is bluntly honest and she’s strong-willed. Being drunk and upset, Ashley ran, fell, was injured, and became horribly lost. She spends many days trying to find her way out of the woods but it seems as though she’s just getting deeper into them. She comes across interesting and amazing things and experiences desperation, humility, and gratitude. This book is just barely over 200 hundred pages but it sure packs a punch, 5 stars for a solid adventure story!

Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin

Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin
Lou is a witch and thief who’s hiding from more than just the law. Reid is the leader of the Archbishop’s soldiers who have all been trained to despise and kill witches. Lou and Reid meet under not-so-friendly circumstances and their relationship grows from there. Forced to marry, the two start out hating each other but eventually begin to care when they truly see who they are. Action-packed fantasy with a splash of humor make this a fun read, 5 stars!

They Wish They Were Us by Jessica Goodman

They Wish They Were Us by Jessica Goodman, tells the story of Jill and the other members of the Players, who attend an elite school where inclusion is limited and exclusion is the norm. Hazing at its finest and worst is what makes the school run from year to year. The students who are picked to become Players get privileges that no other students receive but they get these privileges at a price. Jill and her group are seniors looking forward to college and their bright futures since they’ve put the death of their friend behind them until new evidence enlightens the police that they may have arrested the wrong person. Amidst the elite and their plans, and their ongoing school expectations, the students are derailed and need to help find the true killer. Strong characters in a fascinating political mess tell this story of discrimination, manipulation, and abuse. The protagonist, Jill, brings brains, strength, and empathy to this unique book, 5 stars!