Seven-year-old Christopher is on the run with his mom. Her boyfriend Jerry was mean one too many times. They reach a new town and she finds a job cleaning at a nursing home. Christopher struggles with school until he reappears after missing in the woods for six days. He can’t remember anything about that time. Everything seems to get better for Christopher and his mom, Kate. Then Christopher sneaks out with his friends to build a treehouse in the forbidden woods. He gets sick and doesn’t sleep because of the nightmares he keeps having. His mother sees him falling apart and before she can fix anything their lives and whole world turn upside down. This story has an eerie, spooky feel. It’s part supernatural and part mystery with a Stephen King, albeit mellow, feel. Unique and strange, 4 stars!
Beasts of Prey by Ayana Gray
Koffi and her mother are indentured servants at the Night Zoo, which is a prison that the servants can’t seem to escape. The zookeeper continues to add time to their service and they’re kept inside a brick-walled area. One night, the zoo catches on fire and the servants set the animals free and Koffi tries to escape with her mother. Her mother is struck down and Koffi realizes that she’s on her own. Ekon, a soldier, allows her to escape because she saves him from a terrifying creature, the Shetani, but he faces punishment for helping her. The Shetani has been mutilating and killing people for as long as anyone can remember. Koffi meets a kind woman who offers her a job and as she’s heading back to accept the position, she’s attacked by the night zoo manager. Koffi makes a deal with the manager; in exchange for her freedom, she’ll capture the Shetani and return to the night zoo so the creature can be caged and bring curious, paying visitors to the zoo. He agrees. Meanwhile, Ekon plans to find the creature too and bring it back to the temple so the killings can be stopped. Through some mishaps, Koffi and Ekon eventually team up to capture the Shetani and their lives change forever. This is a delightful book to read, two emotionally flawed main characters, the mystery behind the Shetani, African mythology and the unexpected twist at the ending, 5 stars!
Pony by R.J. Palacio
Pony tells the story of a young boy who takes refuge in a tree during a violent storm and when the tree is struck by lightning, receives a burn on his back in the shape of that same tree. The burn heals into a very unique scar. His father revives the boy by using a fireplace bellows. This man is interested in photography but turned to boot making to support his family but the lightning incident stokes his love of art and photos. The young boy, Silas, was born the same day his mother died. So, Silas and his father are without her. Pa is kindhearted and loving and cares deeply about Silas. One night, three riders with pistols drawn, arrive at their home demanding that Pa and Silas go with them. They won’t say why other than their boss wants Pa to work for a week and then he’ll let him return to his home. The riders brought an extra horse and a white-faced pony with them so Pa and Silas could ride along. Pa makes Silas stay behind. The pony shows up soon after the riders leave with Pa. Silas is worried that Pa has been hurt so he rides Pony (Silas’ name for the small horse) and goes after Pa’s trail. He finds so much more than he expected and meets several different allies along the way. Pony is a western adventure full of action and mystery, told with a continuous sense of awe; I loved reading it, 5 stars!
Unraveling Eleven by Jerri Chisholm
Eve and Wren are ecstatic that they’re free and the sun isn’t scorching like they’ve been told all of their lives. They walk for an hour in happy silence before Wren hears something in the trees. An animal attacks and they fight for their lives. Soon they realize they have no sustenance. They decide to return to the compound and figure out a way to survive on the surface and to return later. Wren and Eve try to settle back into life in Eleven and move forward with jobs while everything around them seems tumultuous, including their relationship. I had thought this was a duology but realized while reading that it wasn’t going to end with this book. Action and danger follow Wren and Eve until they’re in peril. Action packed dystopian, 4 stars!
Escaping Eleven by Jerri Chisholm
Eve is a fighter looking forward to when she can reach the upper level and Earth to see if her younger brother Jack somehow survived being banished nine years ago for being the unlawful second child of the family. He was sent out to the unprotected air and land on his own. Eve meets Wren in a scheduled fight that entertains the crowds. They despise each other at first but soon become allies. While Eve’s friends continue to participate in job tours to help decide their future, she hunts for a way to escape Compound Eleven. Wren is from the upper level so he has access to more and also has a better lifestyle than Eve and her friends in the lower level. He teaches her to shoot a gun and she introduces her to the lowest level of the compound where she helps ration food to the people. They both grow and learn about what they truly want in their futures. Eve is stubborn but loyal and Wren is smart, brave and has integrity. Interesting world building and strong characters add life to this dystopian story, 4 stars!
When All the Girls Are Sleeping by Emily Arsenault
The spookiness starts immediately with the opening of the book. The font in chapter one is perfectly ghostly! Haley’s best friend, Taylor, fell to her death last year. Haley receives an email with an attached video from Taylor’s oldest sibling. He asks Haley if she knows anything about the video and as she starts to watch it, she realizes she doesn’t know what’s happening in it and she’s never seen it before. It gives her the creeps. Haley wants to figure out the truth of what really happened to Taylor and she begins researching hauntings and school history to see if there’s anything that will help her. A paranormal investigator is mentioned in an alumni Facebook group and Haley finds his picture as a dorm supervisor from years earlier. Haley keeps reaching out to alumni and searching the school archives in hopes of digging up more information. She finds letters and interviews from decades ago describing the same thing Taylor experienced in the video. What Haley discovers is so unpredictable and complex that I would have never figured it out on my own and the answer is unexpected! A wonderfully spooky read, 5 stars!
All These Bodies by Kendare Blake
This is a historical fiction book about a serial killer in 1958 that’s committing the Bloodless Murders. Police find a fifteen year old girl among the latest victims and she’s unharmed but drenched in blood. This is a story told from an observer’s point of view and the observer becomes friends with one of the accused murderers. At the latest victims’ home, Marie is captured by police when she’s found standing by the bodies. Once she’s in custody, she’ll only talk to the sheriff’s son Michael. Michael tells this story that really leaves more questions than answers. I wanted the mystery to be solidly solved and to know if Marie committed these murders on her own or if she really was being trained by an older man. I can see her being delusional and thinking there’s someone with her or being vague to throw suspicion off of herself. Then the ending…? 3.5 stars for a truly atmospheric experience that made me feel like I had been transported to the late 1950’s and the characters that pulled the tale along!
Kingdom of the Cursed by Kerri Maniscalco
Emilia finds herself in the Seven Circles of Hell with Wrath by her side. He’s guiding her to Pride and she’s reminded of the temptations surrounding her in Hell. Wrath keeps reminding her that what she’s seeing isn’t real but a test.
They eventually get to Wrath’s elaborate home and Emilia senses and eventually knows that he’s continuing to have secrets that either he won’t or can’t share. This is a story of intensities, secrets, curses, deception, bonds, passion, and twists. I could not put this book down and the ending is perfect for continuing the story into the third and final book! Wrath and Emilia have an intriguing relationship and they’re both stuck in a kind of limbo. Emilia has been kept in the dark and Wrath isn’t allowed to divulge information. I’m anticipating the third and final book. This series reminds me of Sarah J. Maas’ writing in the ACOTR series because they’re both awesome! 5 stars!
Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco
Twin sisters grow up hearing tales of the Wicked princes of Hell and heeding the warnings that go hand in hand with the stories. Eventually the warnings of danger wear off since they haven’t seen any real evidence of the Wicked until tragedy strikes when they’re eighteen. Emilia is desperate to find whoever is responsible for Vittoria’s death so she summons a demon but ends up with one of the Wicked, Prince Wrath. His disdain for humans is immense but Emilia wears him down and surprises him with her abilities and intellect. When she’s attacked by a large viper shaped demon, Wrath saves her. He also pulls her out of despair after she’s attacked by Lust. Their relationship fluctuates between understanding each other and despising each other. They’re both trying to stop evil so they decide to work together until tragedy strikes again. This supernatural mystery held my complete attention and I’m excited for the sequel, 5 stars!
Cupcake by Cookie O’Gorman
Deliciously cute and innocently romantic!
Cupcake by Cookie O’ Gorman is a deliciously cute and innocently romantic read for young adults!
Ariel is a full bodied young woman and she’s proud of who she is even when others are unkind. Her best friend, Toni, nominates her for the Homecoming royalty without Ariel knowing. Ariel may like herself but she’s been bullied about her size and that makes her wary of gaining attention or being in any spotlight. Being part of the homecoming royalty stresses her out. Ariel has many talents and friends. She’s kind and caring and loves to bake amazing treats for sharing and posting on her vlog. Rhys is her designated homecoming prince for all of the activities and he’s also the star quarterback. She’s a bit intimidated by him and the other royalty. As she gets to know the other royalty better and they get to know her, friendships begin. Cupcake is an adorable story of growth, confidence and loving yourself!