Near the Bone by Christina Henry

Horror adventure thriller!

Mattie is about twenty and lives with her much older husband, William, in the mountains in solitude. William is abusive in all ways. He treats her like a possession, not a person, and keeps her hidden on the mountain in a cabin. She’s not allowed to leave the area around the cabin. Mattie is having flashbacks and bits of her past are returning to her as memories despite William lying to her for so long. A strange, unknown creature has shown up on the mountain near the cabin and it’s killing animals and sorting their bones and organs into distinct piles inside its cave. When Mattie and William discover the cave, he believes it’s the work of a demon and that he’s destined by God to get rid of it. Hikers are searching for new animals when William threatens them to leave his mountain. They see Mattie’s injured face and one of the hikers recognizes her from news reports. She’s unsure of what he’s talking about and William denies anything about the reports and restates that Mattie is his wife and the hikers need to leave or he will harm them. Mattie continues to recall bits of her past and when William leaves for town, the strangers approach the cabin to talk to her, filling her in on who she really is. The mystery and danger are suspenseful and Mattie has great strength despite her confusion. Horror adventure thriller worth 4 stars!

*Information on book content:
language content: 23 swear words and 3 f-words
mature content: PG-13, mentions wifely duties and drugs are found and mentioned a small amount
violence: PG-13, bloody animal found dead, gore, abuse to main character with blood involved.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Tremendously honest, heartbreaking and soul healing!

Kya lives in the marshlands of North Carolina with her poverty stricken family. Her father is abusive and, one by one, her siblings leave and, eventually, so does her mother. Her father stays and he seems better for a time, even kind. Then he falls back into his old ways again and ends up leaving too. Kya tries school for a day but after being bullied, she doesn’t return. She makes it completely on her own and digs mussels to sell to the local store to bring in money for food. Tate, a boy a few years older than Kya, loves to explore the marsh. They become friends and he teaches her to read. With reading, she discovers and teaches herself to be literate and all about the marshlands and its nature. She illustrates and collects samples of everything she finds in her marsh area. Tate leaves to attend college and becomes a biologist and works in the marsh. He submits Kya’s illustrations and notes to a publisher and she becomes a published author several times over. She adds comforts to her house and lives well by her own wealth. She lives simply but she gets electricity and running water and other basic comforts that she’s never had. When Tate went away to college, he realized that his life would be difficult for Kya. So, he doesn’t visit her for years. While he’s away, the local and popular Chase moves in on Kya. He tricks her into thinking he’s going to marry her, all the while dating other women. Kya eventually sees his engagement article in the local newspaper and ends it with him. Later, he attacks her, trying to rape her and he beats her up. She fights back and escapes. His body is found later and it looks like he fell from the fire tower in the marsh. Since he was a local celebrity, the police are pushed to investigate for foul play. Kya is arrested and faced with a murder trial. The whole time I’m reading the part after Chase attacks Kya, I’m hoping she killed him but I also don’t want her to be found guilty. The suspense builds to intensity and I couldn’t put the book down! Tremendously honest, heartbreaking and soul healing! 5 stars!

Hotel Magnifique by Emily J. Taylor

Family and friends above all!

The prologue pulled me right in! Two sisters are trying to get an interview for jobs at the Hotel Magnifique. Jani watches over her younger sister Zosa, since she’s the only family she has left. Their mother died several years ago. Jani wants to go back to their homeland and they need money to travel there. Hotel Magnifique is stopping close by and Jani talks Zosa into interviewing for a job. Secrets surround the hotel and once they’re part of the workforce, they’re separated. Jani is desperate to find her sister and when she does, she’s horrified at how Zosa is being treated. Jani also digs for the truth about how the hotel is run and who’s in charge. Alistair is the lead magician but he’s hiding much and will do anything to protect what he’s gained. Danger builds and mysteries are cracked wide open as Jani tries to save her sister and eventually everyone that’s been used by Alistair for his greedy goals. Family and friends above all, 4 stars!

It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover

A truly touching story with many life lessons!

Lily finds a random rooftop in Boston so she can reflect on the eulogy she gave at her father’s funeral. She misses solitude since she has moved to Boston and has a not quiet roommate. While on this rooftop, she meets Ryle, a neurosurgeon resident. Ryle is adamantly against relationships in his life but he enjoys flirting with Lily. Through coincidental circumstances, Lily sees Ryle here and there throughout the next year. They eventually become involved in a relationship and his family absolutely loves her. She doesn’t about his temper until he hurts her and then she’s left wondering if it was accidental. In the meantime, Lily grows closer to her mother and she runs into Atlas, her first boyfriend. We learn about her past with Atlas and how much they both helped each other when they were teenagers. I read this book quickly because it’s completely engrossing and I fell right into the story! The characters are authentic and I grew to love them, with their humor and quirks and through their struggles. The author’s notes share the author’s perspective as she created this story and I admire how well she dealt with the delicate issues and the choices of the main characters. A truly touching story with several life lessons, 5 stars!

Pretend She’s Here by Luanne Rice

Suspenseful, crazy, thought provoking;
5 stars!

Emily lost her best friend Lizzie and now she’s been kidnapped by Lizzie’s family to be her replacement. Lizzie’s mother has gone insane with grief. She’s tried to turn their younger daughter Chloe into Lizzie but that didn’t work because they’re still missing a child and have an empty seat at the kitchen table. Chloe is used as bait to get Emily to the van and convince her to go for a ride. They drug her and kidnap her. Emily is taken from everything she knows and loves and she sees that Lizzie’s mom is twisted in justifying the kidnapping. Emily’s hair is dyed black and she’s forced to wear contacts the colors of Lizzie’s eyes. Little by little, Emily is allowed tiny freedoms and eventually can attend school, if she agrees to send an email to her parents telling them that she ran away. She only agrees to send the email because her mother’s life is threatened if she doesn’t. Trauma, abuse and manipulation are parts of Emily’s daily life now and to keep her family safe, she agrees to be Lizzie.
Suspenseful, crazy, thought provoking; 5 stars!

The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward

Morbidly fascinating!

Weird. Psychologically twisted. Wow… This story is a mystery in itself because of the narrators. As I read, I was unsure if I could trust any of the narrators. They all seem unreliable in some way. Ted, the man with extremely odd behavior and lifestyle, Olivia, Ted’s cat, and Dee, a woman who moved into Ted’s neighborhood who’s secretly looking for her younger sister that’s been missing for years. Ted supposedly has a daughter, Lauren. It’s difficult to decipher her age and maturity. Also, it seems that Ted’s mother handicapped Lauren so she’s unable to walk. It took me a few chapters to get into the story but then I needed to finish it to figure it all out. By the time, I read the entire book, I was fascinated, albeit a bit morbidly. I completely appreciate the author’s notes at the end of the book, explaining everything and making sense of it all and her spoiler alert at the beginning of her notes. So, don’t read her notes until after you’ve finished reading the book. She shares her research also, which is impressive! I want to read more of Catriona Ward’s books now. She wrote an intricate and complicated story, The Last House on Needless Street, showing the fragility and capabilities we all have within us. 5 stars!

This Woven Kingdom by Tahereh Mafi

Reads like an old-fashioned fairytale!

Alizeh is alone in the world, hiding her true identity and living as an overworked servant. She’s Jinn and has ice in her veins. She’ll be in danger if anyone discovers who she is because she’ll be seen as a threat to the human king. Kamran, the young prince, sees Alizeh help a homeless thief and is intrigued by her actions. The more he observes her, the more curious he becomes. The king, Kamran’s grandfather, sees that the prince is interested in the girl so he explains that their kingdom’s peace is at stake if they let her live. He orders Kamran to put her to death and then be ready to attend the planned ball the next evening and choose a wife. Alizeh works as a seamstress after her servant hours are finished for the day. She’s helping Miss Huda with several gowns. Alizeh is exhausted and after she leaves Miss Huda, she’s attacked by six men. She warns them but they laugh at her so she subdues them with the only weapons she has available, seamstress needles and scissors. Afterwards, she’s approached by a man who has been searching for her and wanting to protect her from harm. He sees the attack and knows she can protect herself. He offers her assistance and safety. He will take her away at the ball the following night. He also gives her a nosta, a rare orb that warms in your hand when the truth is told and chills like ice when a lie appears. This man’s identity is a surprising twist to the story! Huzzah!!!
The action takes over and another twist is revealed, ending the book with a bang! I can hardly stand to wait for the next book! Elegant storytelling, 5 stars!

Wish You Were Gone by Kieran Scott

Told in several points of view by Emma and her friends. The story opens with a crash in her home, late at night. Her son, Hunter, rushes into Emma’s room to ask her about the noise. The two venture through the house and find her husband and Hunter’s father dead in his car, that’s been crashed through the garage. James had been known to drink and drive, so that’s what everyone assumes happened to cause the crash. Little things come to Emma’s attention that don’t add up to James causing the crash on his own. The landscaper finds James’ necktie in the bushes and Emma finds his briefcase behind baskets of fruit from well-wishers. He would have had his tie on and his briefcase in the car with him. His phone is also missing and when Emma calls it, a young woman answers. The story grows more complex as it is told, with more variables coming to light. This was truly an unpredictable story for me and a very satisfying mystery! 5 stars!

Seven Dirty Secrets by Natalie Richards

A fun, fantastic horror story!

Cleo gets done showering and sees a gift- wrapped package on the bathroom sink that wasn’t there before she got in the shower. She assumes it’s from a family member or friend but when she asks about it, no one has any idea about the package. This freaks Cleo out so she calls the police and the cop is respectful and helps her realize that she did the right thing by calling. No victim shaming. Her best friend Hope shows up in the meantime. The officer finds a few windows unlocked in her house but nothing else. After the officer leaves, the two friends find another box containing a scavenger hunt clue like the first package. The hunt grows creepier as the clues dredge up memories that Cleo would like to forget. This mystery gets more interesting as the creep factor cranks up! A fun, fantastic horror story, 5 stars!

Crown of Coral and Pearl by Mara Rutherford

Sibling sacrifice and great strength!

Two sisters, Nor and Zadie, are twins and best friends who live in a village where villagers reside in houses on stilts in the ocean. Their mother has planned and prepared for them to be valid princesses so the Elders can choose one of them for the prince’s wife when he’s ready to rule. Nor has a scar on her face caused by a scrape against a blood coral so the villagers assume that Zadie or Alys will be chosen by the Elders. Zadie and Nor have been best friends with Sami since they were young and now Zadie and Sami are in love, so Zadie doesn’t want to leave home. Nor has always wanted to explore the world beyond the village. When Zadie is chosen, she’s desperate to do anything to stay with Sami. After she acts on her desperation, Nor’s life is turned upside down. She travels to New Castle in the mountains far away from home so she can meet and marry the prince who turns out to be cold and unkind. Nor gathers some allies and vows to do everything she can to take care of her family, village and the kingdom she’s going to be the princess of someday. 5 stars for this fantasy involving sibling sacrifice and strength!