Agnes at the End of the World by Kelly McWilliams

Completely Riveting!

Agnes resides within a cult at Red Creek but she doesn’t realize that she’s part of a cult. She’s the eldest of several siblings and is responsible for taking care of their family because their mother is severely depressed. Agnes sneaks to the Outside once a month to retrieve insulin for her younger brother Ezekiel, even though she knows it’s against the rules. Her sister Beth, the next eldest sibling, is a rebel and doesn’t like the rules. When Beth is caught kissing a boy, she’s disgraced by their father and the community. Agnes has been betrothed as a sixth wife to a middle-aged man and before she gets married, she has to teach Beth everything so she can then become the family caretaker. The middle-aged man decides to marry Beth instead of Agnes to straighten Beth out. In the meantime, a ferocious virus is spreading throughout the world and eventually arrives at Red Creek. The Prophet releases an infected dog during a church meeting and, after a few people are bitten, he tells them about his revelation; the Rapture has arrived and everyone must move into the underground bunker. Agnes escapes with Ezekiel and is heartbroken that she’s left the rest of her siblings behind. She knows that the bunker would be a death sentence for Ezekiel because there’s no insulin for him. This is a riveting story about cults, self-worth, self-importance, bravery, love, loyalty, and sacrifice. The author’s note explains the cult background information being from a nonfiction book of a survivor who escaped a true cult. A wonderfully written and all-encompassing story about love, sacrifice, and different faiths, 5 stars!

Daughters of Jubilation by Kara Lee Corthron

Evvie is a teenager helping her younger siblings to lighten the load of her single mother. Their father is in prison. Jubilation runs in the family and Evvie’s magic is coming on strong. She causes odd behavior in others and can change the world around her, usually unintentionally. She’s falling for Clay, her longtime crush that’s very interested in her too. A creepy stranger keeps showing up, scaring Evvie and her mother tells her the past experiences with him. Virgil Hampton is not a good man and he hurt Evvie when she was little. Her mother lost her job over it because she was angry that he hurt Evvie and she was fired because her family is black and Virgil’s family is white and rich. This is a beautiful story of hardship and perseverance which brought me to tears many times while reading it. I cried for the touching and sweet moments, for the fear and loss and for the bravery, kindness, love and hope. Highly recommended and an emotional journey, 5 stars!

The Little Mermaid’s Voice by Shonna Slayton

The Little Mermaid’s Voice by Shonna Slayton
The story opens as the Little Mermaid watches the prince walk away. The sea witch tricked her. Fast forward one hundred years and the mermaids are still suffering from restrictions placed on them because of the Little Mermaid’s actions. She was the present Queen’s sister. Mairin is a daughter of the Queen and she wants to breathe above water but that’s one of the restrictions placed on her people; no going to the surface. An advisor approaches her and gives her the job of going to the surface and tells her how to get to the location where she needs to be. When she arrives she’s told that she has to keep the human prince alive per the agreement made by the Little Mermaid all those years ago. The prince’s descendants have to be kept safe. A finman approaches Mairin and taunts her into listening to his idea to save her kingdom. Go above the surface, make the prince fall in love with her then break his heart by leaving him. This will break the curse and allow the restricted barrier to be broken. Edwin is the descendant that Mairin has to protect and when he boards the Titanic, she has to find a way to get aboard also. What follows is an adventure that takes a dreadful turn. This story meshes fairytale with history, 4 stars!

The Poet by Lisa Renee Jones

Detective Jazz is assigned a case of a missing detective. The case belonged to Roberts and he investigated for two days then supposedly left town for a different job. There’s no way to get a hold of him. The murderer is leaving poems on paper inside the victims’ mouths and Detective Jazz thinks he has a god complex. Many investigators are helping with the case, from tracking cyanide purchases to surveillance. Jazz believes she has it narrowed down to a man she refers to as The Poet. I enjoyed the book until the ending. The mystery has an interesting base but feels rushed in the end. I would have liked a little more length added to the chase. The ending felt anticlimactic. 3 stars!

All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

The mystery begins early in the book and the story unravels backwards in a period of two weeks. I admire the author for her ability to make this work! I couldn’t put the book down and on Day 14, I kept wondering why and how Nicolette had the missing girl’s key. Down the rabbit hole I went. Nic (Nicolette) travels to her hometown to help with her father’s estate. When she arrives, she walks back into her past. Toxic acquaintances, loyal friends, twisted and changing relationships morph into one big mystery that’s lasted a decade. One mystery turns into two and somehow the mysteries are connected. Megan Miranda creates an ominous atmosphere with characters who readers are unsure of trusting. This is the second book that I have read by this author and she’s a capable and talented writer of mysteries! Highly recommended, couldn’t put it down, 5 stars!

Havoc by Mary Lindsey

Rain and Freddie are perfectly content with their present lives and the future they’ve planned together until her mother shows up. Freddie’s mother left her at birth and shows up unannounced and brings not-so-good news of a contract signed when Freddie was hours young. If Freddie doesn’t completely cut ties with Rain and marry Conrad, Rain will be killed. People are getting hurt, being attacked and being accused of illegal acts. The mystery becomes more complicated and complex before it begins to unravel. Strong characters and brave actions made me root for them. A fun read, 4 stars!

Namesake by Adrienne Young

Namesake opens with Fable kidnapped and trapped on Zola’s ship, the Luna. Fable is unsure of why she was captured until Zola tells her it’s because he knows who her parents are. She’s forced to harvest gemstones with other dredgers so Zola can use them for payment for something. She soon finds out what the payment is for, to Zola’s detriment. Fable discovers more than she ever could have imagined about her family and her relationship with West worries her. She goes in search of the elusive gemstone, midnight, that her mother supposedly found before her death. This sequel to Fable is exciting, action-packed, dangerous and full of great character development. The series is so good that I want to read it again, 5 stars!

All the Tides of Fate by Adalyn Grace

All the Tides of Fate is the sequel to All the Stars and Teeth. Amora is ruling the kingdom after her father’s death. She’s dealing with advisers and others that are trying to show their lack of confidence in her through insubordination and rude remarks, but Amora handles it well. Bastian arrives at the meeting and announces himself an adviser. At the end of the meeting, Amora is asked to prove her magic is working and is told that she needs to be engaged to give the kingdom something to look forward to and as a distraction. Amora manages to trick the advisers into believing her magic is intact with the help of a few others. She travels with her crew to pretend to find a fiancé and search for the artifact needed to restore her magic and make her soul complete. Full of action and loyalty and deception and tough decisions, All the Tides of Fate is a perfect ending to this duology, 5 stars!

Only Ashes Remain by Rebecca Shaeffer

Nita finds Fabricio at INHUP and vows to kill him. She misses Kovit and emails back and forth with him. She also emails her mother and they plan to meet in Toronto. Nita is heartbroken after hearing about her father’s murder. Kovit and Nita team up and take down some people that are hunting them. The two of them go on a roller coaster ride of a relationship and they both learn and grow because of it. Nita comes to terms with her mother and her actions but doesn’t learn any more about her father’s death. Great sequel, 4 stars!

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

Shanghai ports and a terrible monster in the prologue piqued my curiosity. A retelling of Romeo and Juliet with rival gangsters in Shanghai and a mysterious string of strange deaths. Roma and Juliettte are two nineteen-year-old gangster heirs that love each other but are meant to hate each other. Shanghai is being terrorized by a strange monster that causes madness and death. The two heirs are desperately trying to save their gangs and territories from the madness, communism and other foreigners threatening to take control of Shanghai. They don’t want to cross paths, but Roma and Juliette realize they need each other’s information to solve their problems. Two strong main characters that are conflicted bring angst and empathy to this retelling, 4 stars!