Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian

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Dynamic Fantasy!

Thanks to NetGalley and Random House for the opportunity to read and review Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian.
A six-year-old Theodosia watches her mother as her life is taken from her. Her mother tells Theodosia that she’s the only hope for their people. The story jumps ahead ten years. Theodosia is a prisoner in the palace with the man who killed her mother, the Kaiser’s second in command- the Theyn. The Kaiser and the Theyn keep her with their own children in the palace, except she receives frequent whippings to remind her of their cruelty and her kingdom’s weakness. The Kaiser also gave her new names, Thora and Ash Princess. The Kaiser summons her to kill a rebel. This man used to be her guardian and he’s also her father. He pleads with her as his queen. He tells her to remember her rightful place as a princess and now a queen. He also tells her to kill him and she fulfills his request knowing that the guards will drag out his death but she will make it quick. The Prinze escorts her to her room and she vomits because of the trauma she’s just been through. Her maid helps her get undressed and puts ointment on her whip marks. Hoa, the maid, can’t speak because her mouth has been sewn shut. The stitches are cut every few days to allow Hoa to eat, then her mouth is sewn back up! There are no words to describe how horrible and deplorable that is. Thora is bolstering herself up to do what both her mother and father asked of her, to be their queen and she knows it’s up to her now because there’s no one left to rescue her. She discovers that a childhood friend is in the palace, Blaise, and he gives her hope once again. Blaise and two other rebels take the place of Thora’s private guards and together they plot the death of the Kaiser, the Prinz, the Theyn and his daughter. Pressure and learning more about the violent crimes towards her people make Thora determined to be the queen she was meant to be. 5 stars for this dynamic fantasy full of strong, interesting characters!

Grace and Fury by Tracy Banghart

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Once I started reading, I couldn’t put it down!  So good, I actually read it twice already!
Thanks to NetGalley and Hachette Book Group for the opportunity to read and review Grace and Fury by Tracy Banghart!
Serina and her family await Signor Pietro to make his choice of one of the community’s young women who will travel to Bellaqua, join others from different provinces, and vie for the opportunity to be a Grace for the royal Heir. Sera’s mother is thrilled when she’s the one who’s chosen, but her siblings Nomi and Renzo seem to feel otherwise. Sera’s unsure how her father feels. Sera has learned to be happy with the lack of options given to women in Viridia but Nomi openly hates the idea.
The Heir, Malachi, chooses three Graces every three years. This will be his first year of choosing Graces. The Superior has forty Graces and everyone assumes he will step down and let the Heir rule Viridia. At the ball, Nomi wanders into a palace library and notices a beautiful copy of the book Renzo taught her to read with, when they were younger. Reading is forbidden for women but Nomi loves to read. She slips this book into her clothes and as she’s going back to the ball, runs straight into the Heir and his younger brother Asa. The Heir demands to know what she’s doing and she coyly answers that she was using the restroom and if he needs it she points to where it is. Nomi can’t fathom how she could have been so rude to the Heir and she’s sure she’s going to be sent home. Sera is the only young woman the Heir dances with at the ball. He makes his decision afterwards, choosing two women and then Nomi instead of Sera! Grace and Fury is fast paced and full of intrigue! This magnificent book twists and turns with suspense that kept me on the edge of my seat! Once I started reading it, I couldn’t stop. Fantastic writing, unique storyline and intriguing characters make Grace and Fury a must-read- 5 stars!

Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

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Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell is a heart-wrenching mystery! The prologue pulled me right in, making me want to unravel what happened to Ellie. The story alternates between Ellie’s past leading up to her disappearance… and her mother Laurel’s present. A few more points of view are added in eventually, helping the reader discover more about Ellie and the other characters. I enjoyed the English setting and the author’s vivid descriptions, especially of smells. I became absorbed in the mystery and the harsh reality of tragedy caused by others and how the story comes full circle, 5 stars!

After the Fire by Will Hill

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Gripping realistic fiction for young adults!
Thanks to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire for the opportunity to read and review After the Fire by Will Hill! The story opens during an attack and the main character, Moonbeam, is running for her life. She’s a resident of a community made up of fellow followers of The Legion and their leader is Father John. The fenced in community is under attack by the Government. Eventually, the attack is over and Moonbeam is at a rehabilitation center for mental and physical healing and also to learn to return to what she knows as the Outside. Moonbeam tells her story and the story of her fellow community members, Legionmates, through her interviews with a therapist and a government agent. The whole time I was reading this book, I kept thinking about the Waco Siege and its similarities to the Legion community. As I read the author’s note at the end of the book, he explains his reasoning for writing about the fictional character of Moonbeam and I was impressed with how delicately and respectfully he dealt with the similarities to Karesh’s religious community near Waco, Texas and how he honors the followers. The idea of one person gripping so many people and convincing them to sacrifice everything for that leader is curious and interesting and very sad. Will Hill handles this content well and breathes life into the characters and the tragic events that they lived or didn’t live through. 5 stars for this gripping realistic fiction story for young adults!

Sadie by Courtney Summers

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A heartbreaking mystery!
Thanks to NetGalley and Wednesday Books for the opportunity to read and review Sadie by Courtney Summers!
Sadie seems lost. She’s searching for her stepfather to exact revenge for her younger sister’s murder. As the story is told, Sadie’s background unfolds. She’s had a life of abuse and neglect along with several “stepdads”. Sadie raised her younger sister Mattie since their mother was usually high or nonexistent in their lives. Sadie is a difficult book to review because I don’t want to give anything away. The intensity and pain broke my heart but the unconditional love that Sadie has for Mattie warmed my heart back up again. Sadie’s stutter made it difficult for her to make friends and her tragic life made it impossible for her to even keep or have friends. She lives in painful loneliness and only has the idea of vengeance to keep her going. A difficult to put down mystery, Sadie pulled 100% of my attention until I finished reading the book, 5 heartbreaking stars!

Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

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Secrets and Folklore!
Thanks to Bookish first, Atria Books, Simon & Schuster, and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield!
Twists and turns and many characters along with their stories bring Once Upon a River to life. The book opens with a background of the setting and builds up to the present when a four-year-old girl is found and brought to the Swan, where storytelling is at its finest. The man who brought the little girl in is very injured and he loses consciousness, so no one can ask questions. The storytelling begins by the regular inhabitants of the Swan and continues to build with speculation. Everyone falls in love with the little girl and their hearts warm to her. Because of the girl’s appearance in the community, many lives are changed and things that have been hidden for years come to light. A food for thought story full of folklore and secrets, 4 stars!

Tradition by Brendan Kiely

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Realistic fiction with food for thought!
Thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for the opportunity to read and review Tradition by Brendan Kiely!
The book opens as Jules is recovering from an attack that she’s trying to wrap her head around. She decides she needs to get up and walk home. Next, James is helping a teen girl to her dorm after he found her unconscious in the woods. Part One: Before- introduces James to Fullbrook, his new school, his dorm and fellow sports players, then Jules as she is trying to hand out women’s health pamphlets to students, since it’s move-in day. Mothers are extremely offended and some are angry about this. As school begins for the year, inequality is apparent in many ways and it’s the way things are and always have been at Fullbrook. James is trying to fit in and mentally recover from a football accident last year that had his Iowa hometown reeling and Jules wants to change the inequality to help more people feel comfortable and accepted. Jules becomes friends with Aileen, a loner, and Javi, who has been her friend throughout high school. The three of them hang out with James and realize they have a lot in common because none of them are snobby, rude, bullies or pushy people. They are relaxed around each other and completely accepting of each other’s differences and they have a great time sneaking out of their dorms and into a college party together. Part Two: The Night at Horn Rock- tells us about Jules’ attack and the girl that James helped get to her dorm and brings the inequality to light in so many ways. Part Three: After- shows the aftermath of the attack and how Fullbrook sweeps problems under the rug for certain people. Part Four: The Winter Ball- brings a new group of freshmen girls into the Senior Send-Off Tradition with all of their naivety and innocence. Tradition addresses many controversial issues intelligently and without being too graphic about any of them. 5 stars for a realistic fiction book and its food for thought!

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

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As a reread, this book is just as amazing the second time around!

An Ember in the Ashes, by Sabaa Tahir, opens as Laia witnesses the killings of her grandparents and the capture of her brother Darin as soldiers attack their home, accusing Darin of being a part of the Resistance. Laia’s story alternates with Elias, a soldier training most of his life to serve the Empire. Laia finds the Resistance to try and save Darin while Elias debates desertion or staying and serving the Empire. Laia is bought as the Commandant’s new slave girl, a Resistance idea to find out information about Darin so they can plan how to help him. Laia discovers life as a slave is horrible and she’s having a very difficult time getting information for the Resistance. Four Masks are sent into nightmarish trials, Elias and Helene are two of the soldiers, and they must overcome their worst fears to survive as their love, loyalty and hearts are strained through horrific events. Throughout the story, Elias and Laia unexpectedly run into each other and they unwillingly get to know each other. Each chapter ends with intensity, so it’s a difficult book to put down. Dynamic, complex characters to love and hate make this story suspenseful, exciting and interesting, 5 stars!

Project Prometheus by Aden Polydoros

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Interesting character development!
Thanks to NetGalley and Entangled Teen for the opportunity to read and review Project Prometheus by Aden Polydoros!
This sequel dives deeper into the effects of Project Pandora. My heart broke for Hades. His story is made more powerful through the alternating points of view of Hades, Shannon and Tyler. Hades is on a mission to destroy Charles Warren, the man in charge of Project Pandora and the man who treated Hades horribly while “conditioning” him. Shannon and Tyler search for any and all information that they can find on Project Pandora and come across another project-Project Prometheus. While Project Pandora was about creating assassins through environmental control, Project Prometheus is about creating the perfect human beings to control the future through leadership roles. Hades struggles with staying in the moment and he’s unsure if what he’s seeing is actually real and happening or a hallucination. When he meets his mother, he’s unsure how to feel and when she’s uncaring, his heart grows harder. I’m glad this series hasn’t ended yet and I’m looking forward to the next installment. 5 stars for the character depth and development!

 

Scream Site by Justina Ireland

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Edge of your seat horror-mystery!

Thanks to Capstone Press and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review Scream Site by Justina Ireland!

The synopsis creeped me out and I started the book with jittery anticipation. Sabrina loves journalism and, as the story opens, she’s trying to figure out the best article to submit for a summer internship with the Daily Sun newspaper. Her friend, Evelyn, tells her about rumors surrounding the website called Scream Site, that’s holding a competition for scariest video. The rumors involve missing young women and the possibility of murder or torture of these women. The more Sabrina investigates, the more danger she’s in and the more she’s threatened. No one seems to believe her concerns, not ever her detective uncle, so Sabrina takes the investigation into her own hands regardless of personal safety. Along with the mystery, online safety is focused on with helpful reminders for all of us. This edge of your seat horror-mystery kept me riveted and I read it straight through in a few hours, 4 stars.