The Witch Hunt by Sasha Peyton Smith

Likeable characters!

Frances is now a teacher at Haxahaven. She and Maxine are traveling to Paris and picking up their mutual friend Lena on the way. They travel six days on a fancy ship then stay at Maxine’s family home once they reach Paris. Frances hasn’t told Lena and Maxine that she received a letter from Finn or that she wants to visit her father who abandoned her family when she was young. She meets her father and is underwhelmed with his reaction and his personality. Finn doesn’t evoke trustworthiness but Frances feels that she has to work with him to fix the damage the two of them caused when reaching the veil and speaking to her deceased brother William. Frances and her friends are determined to fix the magic problem caused by the veil breach and they need all the help they can get. Likeable characters! 4 stars!

Mature content: PG-13 for underage drinking, LGBT side characters mentioned
Language: R for 7 swears and 1 f-bomb
Violence: PG-13 for stabbing, shooting and a tied up victim
Mixed Ethnicity and set in 1913 Paris

The Witch Haven by Sasha Peyton Smith

A magical, tragic fantasy!

Frances works in a sewing factory in 1911 America. Working and living conditions aren’t very good. She’s working late one night so she can finish an order that’s scheduled to be delivered the next morning when her boss rushes in to steal money from the till and then notices Frances. He tries to force himself on her and he’s choking her to hold her still. Frances is struggling for air when she suddenly feels an odd sensation in her fingers and hears a whoosh sound. Her boss gasps and lets her go because her scissors have somehow ended up embedded in his neck. It takes Frances a minute to catch her breath and notice that her scissors have killed him. She panics, throws up and decides that the only way to get out of this situation is to stage a crime scene. Her supervisor helps her. She’s picked up by two strangers taking her to a sanitarium but they’re actually witches taking her to a training school. Haxahaven is a school that helps young women use their magical skills to help them become better wives and mothers and conform to the early 1900’s society. Many of these girls also want to learn how to use their magical abilities to protect themselves. Frances and a couple of others sneak out to venture and meet Finn who says he’ll help them train and help Frances figure out what happened to Will, her deceased brother. An entire world opens up to the girls and they get involved in much more than they bargained for. 5 stars for this magical, tragic fantasy!

Three Truths and a Lie by Brent Hartinger

Quick read with a great twist!

Thanks to NetGalley and Simon Pulse for the arc of Three Truths and a Lie by Brent Hartinger! This suspenseful mystery thriller involves four friends who go away for the weekend. Rob, Liam, Galen and Mia all go to Mia’s family cabin in logging territory. They play the game Three Truths and a Lie and after that, strange things start to happen and they wonder if someone wants to cause them harm. The suspense builds and the mystery stays unsolved. The story winds itself around to the beginning of the weekend and all is explained. This book contains some explicit sex, just to be warned, but is psychologically twisted and maddeningly interesting and a wonderful mystery thriller read!

Second reading:
Four friends stay at the lake in Mia’s family cabin when they’re suddenly without a phone or vehicle because someone has tampered with them. They try to figure out who is doing the tampering while trying to protect themselves and stay safe. One by one, they end up dying and the killer is revealed. Quick read with a great twist, 3.5 stars!

Likes/dislikes: I didn’t appreciate the overly detailed sex (this keeps the book our of school libraries.) I liked that it was a quick read. I enjoyed the twist at the end.
Language: R for 17 swears and 16 f-bombs.
Mature content: R for descriptive sex.
Violence: PG-13 for killing by a hard hit to the head, poisoning and strangling.

Enola Holmes and the Elegant Escapade by Nancy Springer

A thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining quick read with mystery and humor, 5 stars!

Enola is once again on the case and this time she’s trying to save a young woman with a dual personality, Cecily. Cecily was kidnapped in a past case and Enola helped her then and will help her now by saving her from the tyrant of a father that has locked her up, neglected and abused her. Cecily doesn’t know she has a dual personality but Enola notices that when Cecily uses her right hand, she’s submissive and when using her left, she’s brave. Enola and Sherlock discuss Cecily’s situation and the mistreatment of her father toward her mother, siblings and herself. Enola discovers that the tyrant has been committing crimes and wants Cecily to bargain with him for better treatment for her family. Sherlock doesn’t want any part of blackmail but admires Enola’s bravery and intelligence. This is a thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining quick read with mystery and humor, 5 stars!

No swearing
Violence- description of crimes but no details of the actions.

Belladonna by Adalyn Grace

Pure reading enjoyment!

Signa is born into a rich family. When she’s two months old, her mother Rima throws a party. No one realizes the wine is poisoned and baby Signa sees Death approach her mother before he moves onto the others who drank the wine. Signa is left alone in the home after Death tries to take her too but he sees her brilliant future instead of her short past, what he usually sees as he takes someone’s life. Now, at nineteen years old, Signa lives with Aunt Magda. Signa has lived with several relatives throughout her lifetime. After Rima died, Sigma lived with her loving grandmother until her death. After that, relatives have wanted to be her guardian only for the money she’ll receive when she’s twenty and the payments they receive for housing her. Most of them haven’t loved her and Aunt Magda is especially mean to Signa. Every guardian she’s had has died and she thinks it’s her fault and that Death’s taking people on purpose and because of her. When Magda dies, Death appears once again and assures Signa that’s not the case. Signa is retrieved by her new guardian’s workers and taken to Thorn Grove where the lady of the manor, Aunt Lillian, is deceased and Signa’s cousin Blythe is ill. Cousin Percy and Uncle Elijah seem healthy though. Sylas, the worker who brought her to Thorn Grove, helps investigate Lillian’s death. They believe someone poisoned her and is poisoning Blythe too. Signa finds help for Blythe when Sylas shows her the manor library. She finds natural remedies to rid Blythe’s body of poison and she gets somewhat better. In the meantime, Signa can’t stop thinking of Sylas and Death and how she feels attracted to both of them. I can’t say much more without including a spoiler or two but this book was a pure enjoyment to read and I’m anxiously awaiting the sequel, Foxglove. 5 stars!

Likes/dislikes:
I love the rich prose and beautiful descriptions of the scenery. I appreciate the fact that the book has very little swearing and vague details of sex that keep it out of the sensitive materials area. I enjoyed reading about the main character’s views on and dealings with proper etiquette and the setting is beautifully descriptive. The ethnicity is white and brown.

Language: PG for two swears, no f-bombs

Mature Content: PG-13, alluded to sex and two women embracing in public mentioned once.

Violence: PG, Death touches a person and then that person immediately dies. Poisonings

Foul Lady Fortune by Chloe Gong

Political intrigue in 1930’s Orient with a mix of historical fiction and fantasy!

The prologue tells of a painful scientific experiment on a person that has been strapped down. Then the story starts as Rosalind is trapping a criminal who is a member of the group responsible for the death of her cousin Juliette during a past act gone awry. She’s exacting revenge on those who were part of it. Political intrigue, spies, agents, Communists and Nationalists describe the characters in this book. Her handler pairs her with another agent, Orion, who has family issues as well. The two of them have to pretend to be married so they can infiltrate the newspaper company and try to discover information on the serial killer murdering people with a toxic liquid in syringes. What they discover turns their lives around and, unbeknownst to Orion and Rosalind, the reader is given the true identity of a mysterious agent, Priest. The author’s notes on Oriental history during the 1930’s are fascinating. Well-written, complex, beloved characters build a fun historical fiction fantasy. 5 stars!

Likes/dislikes:
I enjoyed learning about the history of 1930’s Orient. The author’s notes give readers a glimpse into her research and what’s based on facts and what’s completely fiction in this story. Rosalind and Orion are characters with depth and I had fun getting to know them.
Swearing: PG for three swears, no f-bombs
Mature content: PG for lgbtq transgender character mentioned
Violence: PG-13 for killing by poison, shooting, bloody shooting, stabbing, bloody stabbing

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

A powerful, authentic read!

Starr lives in a rough part of town and after one of her best friends gets shot in a drive by shooting when they’re ten, Starr’s parents have her attend a private school that’s safer. Now Starr is sixteen and she witnesses her other childhood friend getting fatally shot by a police officer. Her friend did nothing to provoke the shooting. This is a powerful novel about much more than racism. It’s also about choices, bravery, integrity and helping others. This book has a lot of swearing which is authentic to the lifestyle of the character’s surroundings but the message of empowerment makes it a must read. 5 stars for a novel that will stick with me.

Likes/dislikes:
I liked how the author shows reality and brings her characters to life to make the readers care about them. I like that two different worlds are brought together by two teens living in both and experiencing the stark differences in each. Character development is abundant and bravery and integrity are a huge factor in the main character’s life and family. I love how the main character’s family is open to discussing everything instead of keeping secrets from each other.
Mature content: PG-13
Underage drinking, marijuana use
Page 81 foreplay (boyfriend touching of girlfriend’s pubic region)
Page 376 arousal (the boyfriend had a bulge in his pants when he kissed his girlfriend)
Violence: PG-13
Fatal Shooting at a party. Police brutality and fatal shooting of a teen male. Riots, gang beatings, starting fires.
Language: R for 100+ swears and 54 f-bombs

https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/the-hate-u-give

The Haunting of Maddy Clare

A haunting spooky thriller!

Sarah Piper is alone in the world. She lives in a little apartment and works temporary jobs for a living. In 1920’s post-war England, live is dreary. Most young adult men have injuries from the war, physically and mentally and jobs aren’t easy to find. When the temp service calls her to assist an unfamiliar male writer, Alistair, Sarah is leery but accepts the meeting and eventually the job as his ghost research assistant. They travel to a haunted barn in a small town and meet the homeowner. Mrs. Clare has told Alistair about the haunting, the ghost Maddy, and that Maddy hates men and recently chased a vicar away who was trying to perform an exorcism. Alistair is hoping for actual evidence of a haunting or manifestation and Sarah just wants the job. Both of them become part of a horrible past tragedy and the terror the tragedy caused. A haunting, spooky thriller! 5 stars!

The Luminaries by Susan Dennard

A supernatural mystery!

Luminaries are hunters of nightmares. Winnie, sixteen, is about to start the trials that lead to becoming a hunter. She lives with her mother and brother. After her father was exposed as a spy, their family lost everything, including him. Now they struggle to make ends meet. Winnie is bullied by classmates that call her traitor because of her father. She is excited to become a hunter and draws every creature she sees with her wonderful artistic skills. On her first trial, Winnie accidentally stumbles onto a banshee that’s immediately beheaded by someone or something else. She carries the banshee head back to headquarters, completely in shock the whole time. As soon as other hunters see her holding the banshee head, they assume she hunted and killed it. Super impressed, the hunters don’t let Winnie get a word in and she’s finding it hard to speak anyway. After that, she and her family are celebrated and treated much better. Winnie is able to attend hunter school and her brother Darian is promoted. In the meantime, Winnie asks Jay to train her because she feels extremely behind since she hasn’t had access to teaching or coaching for the last four years. Jay agrees but Winnie has difficulty reading him. He’s aloof, strong, and oblivious to the attention and flirting of Winnie’s peers. Jay’s training helps Winnie with the trials but she keeps seeing the Whisperer that no other hunter has seen. As Winnie builds her skills, she discovers a coded message from her father and the book ends with the shocking deciphered note he left for her. A sequel to look forward to! Supernatural mystery, 4 stars!

Likes/dislikes:
I like the following:
-The quote from Grandpa Frank, “That’s why we’re called the Luminaries, Winnie, we are lanterns the forest can never snuff out”.
-The mystery of the Whisperer and the discovery of another mystery that leads into a sequel.
-I enjoyed the writing and that Winnie is an artist.
-I like Jay and the mystery surrounding his life.
Language Content: PG-13 for 16 swears, no f-bombs
Mature Content: PG-13 for underage drinking, mentions marijuana; LGBT side character
Violence: PG-13 for dead, ripped apart bodies, beheading