Road of Bones by Christopher Golden

Cold, spooky and dangerous!

A documentary producer, Teig, takes his partner, Prentiss, to the area in Russia known as the Road of Bones and the prisoner gulags of Stalin’s time. One of the coldest places on earth. The two travel and meet the guide then continue on traveling the road of bones. They reach the community where the guide is from and find abandoned homes and bare footprints leading out of doors into the snow. The guide’s niece is catatonic from what she’s seen. The group sees movement in the trees and are soon attacked. Large wolves kill the guide, injure Prentiss and chase the truck the men are escaping in with the niece and a woman whose SUV broke down on the road. They reach the small community where they’d eaten earlier and enter the same building as the wolves come closer. More injuries and more people either die or slowly transform into antler people. The few survivors bargain with the supernatural leader, the parnee, to save the rest. Cold, spooky and dangerous.

Russian history mixed with the supernatural!

Edgewood by Kristen Ciccarelli

Mystery, fantasy, adventure and romance!

Emeline Lark lives in Montreal where she’s trying to leave her forest hometown of Edgewood in the past. She’s on the verge of becoming a singer with a recording company but as she performs she sees signs of the Edgewood Forest creeping onto the stage. Emeline sees a mysterious hooded stranger in the audience who becomes the key to her past and future, unbeknownst to her at the time. Pa, her grandfather, has dementia and when she goes home to take care of him, she’s pulled into the Edgewood Forest and her life is thrown into upheaval and danger. To free herself from the evil and corrupted Wood King, Emeline will have to dig deep and get to the bottom of the forest curse.

5 solid stars!!! Mystery, fantasy, action and romance.

Likes/dislikes:
The writing pulled me into the story with incredible world building and mysterious surroundings and characters. Hawthorn is a fascinating character. The story has action, tenderness and a roller coaster of emotions.
Language: R for 14 swears and 3 f-bombs
Mature content: R for Sex on page 295 that doesn’t mention genitals and is described vaguely; non-detailed oral sex on page 340. The relationship between the two characters is a loving one and the sex is because of this love for each other.
Violence: PG for Stabbing of the Shadowskin creatures, no blood involved; danger and Shadowskins chasing people.
Ethncity: Predominantly white in Montreal and Edgewood but mixed colors of skin in the otherworldly forest of the Wood King.

Blade of Secrets by Tricia Levenseller

A fun, dangerous adventure with the added touch of magic!

Ziva is a magical blacksmith who creates weapons with a touch of magic added. She lives with her younger sister Temra. Their parents were killed when Ziva was five. They lived at an orphanage and then Ziva was trained by a blacksmith until he retired. Ziva and Temra now run a smithy business together. Ziva’s abilities are widely known and when a warlord gives her a job, she’s thrilled. Until she discovers the warlord’s plans to conquer the kingdom and enslave the people. She decides to take her magical weapons and run with her sister. They take Petrik, a scholar, and Kellyn, a mercenary, along for safety. They head to their father’s family that they’ve never met, thinking that’s the safest place to go. On their travels, they deal with ambushes and the worry of trusting Petrik and Kellyn. Their grandmother welcomes them when they arrive and they attend religious services with her. The priestess delivers the sermon about the dangers of magic and that magic holders should be and will be killed. Ziva and Temra are terrified. That’s just another dangerous situation among many that they have to deal with on their mission to protect the kingdom from the warlord’s lofty, greedy goals. The group dynamics are interesting and their banter made me laugh several times. The book started off a bit slow in the first few pages but then picked up the pace and then I couldn’t stop reading it! A fun, dangerous adventure with the added touch of magic, 5 stars!

The Corpse Queen by Heather M. Herrman

Riveting read!

In 1855 Philadelphia, Molly lives at an orphanage until her aunt requests that she live with her. Before she even meets her aunt, she’s told she has to pick up a package first which turns out to be nothing like she expects. Molly is mourning the death of her friend Kitty who drowned in the river. Mother Superior told Molly, with a sneer, that Kitty was pregnant and this made Molly angry because Kitty told that secret in confession and no one else should know except the priest. Tom works for Molly’s aunt Ava and he picks her up from the orphanage, takes her to pick up the package then transports her to Ava’s home. Molly finally meets Ava and is given snippets of information about living there and what she’s required to do to stay. She’s expected to collect bodies for Dr. Lavall’s lectures and usually this requires dishonesty. Molly is eventually allowed to join the lectures and discovers that she wants to become a doctor herself even though she’s not welcomed into the surgical world by society. Molly also becomes deeply entwined in the mystery of The Knifeman and it’s going to take all her cleverness and bravery to keep from becoming a victim herself.

Likes/dislikes:
Suspenseful, creepy and frightening story kept me riveted. Molly’s strength overcomes her insecurities from being left in an orphanage by her parents and the abuse she suffered there. I enjoy the diverse characters and Tom’s personality and perseverance. The mystery is interesting.

Language: R for 43 swears and 4 f-bombs.
Mature content: PG-13 for
premarital sex without details and unwed pregnancy by side characters, kissing with main characters.
Violence: PG-13 for grave robbery and stealing parts from dead bodies, such as teeth, an ear and skin, bloody remains, stabbing.

The Ones We Burn by Rebecca Mix

Intrigue in a supernatural world!

In an imaginary kingdom full of mixed ethnicities, Ranka is desperate to find Yeva. So desperate that she agrees to the betrothal of the Prince so she can search for her. Soon, Ranka’s companions include Prince Galen, Princess Aramis and the noble young ambassador Percy. After the virus winalin is discovered throughout the kingdom, the four companions want to stop it. Winalin is turning witches into diseased monsters that are intent on killing. While trying to get to the bottom of the mystery, their lives are completely overturned. Ranka, Prince Galen, Princess Aramis and Percy each realize that none of them might survive.

Likes/dislikes:
I like that the story creates empathy and approaches the topic of abusive manipulation. Ranka’s character development is interesting. I like that there’s little swearing.
Mature content: PG-13 for drinking.
Language: PG-13 for 11 swears, no f-bombs.
Violence: PG-13 for non-detailed bloody deaths.

The Drowned Woods by Emily Lloyd-Jones

Once upon a time, Mer lives in the kingdom of Wales which is full of magic and conflict. Mer is a diviner of magic who wants a peaceful life after she’s escaped from the abusive prince. The spymaster that captured her for the prince years ago offers her a job that will give her revenge on the prince and lots of coin so she can start a new life somewhere safe. She meets the rest of the group that includes a lord’s cousin with a gambling debt, a man who seeks revenge, a man that made a deal with the Otherfolk and a past acquaintance who happens to be an excellent thief. The banter and dynamics keep their journey interesting and the danger builds to intense levels. Mer will have to choose between herself and others and that will help decide her fate and the fate of the kingdom. Incredible world building, 5 stars!

Likes/dislikes:
The prose is beautiful and the world building is incredible. I love the variety of characters, especially the Corgi dog. I like how this book ties into the author’s book, The Bone Houses. The ethnicity is European.
Language: PG for one swear and no f-bombs
Violence: PG-13
Bandits burning homes with families inside. A young girl being taken from her family. Fighting to the death. A knife buried by the prince into a spy’s eye. A water horse bites a man in half. A giant magical boar stabs a man with his tusk.
Mature Content: PG for kissing.

Five Survive by Holly Jackson

The intensity builds to the extreme!

Red is traveling in an RV to Florida with her friends to spend a week celebrating spring break together. They lose cell service and GPS capabilities then end up down a dead end road getting a flat tire. After replacing the flat tire with the spare, Red sees a red dot hovering around the RV and yells at the others to notice. They ignore her until they hear the gunshots that take out all four tires. The group runs into the RV for protection. The shooter leaves a walkie talkie for communication and tells them that one of them has a secret they need to share. The secret is going to be revealed, one way or another!

Likes/dislikes:
Oliver is annoying because he’s a know-it-all with a superiority complex. The mystery is interesting to try to unravel when a few characters allude to having secrets. The suspense builds intensely, which makes a riveting read.

Mature Content:
PG-13 for drinking

Language:
R for 20 swears and 105 f-bombs.

Violence:
PG-13 for Someone shoots at the RV and holds the travelers hostage inside. The sniper fatally shoots an elderly couple that stop to help. Bloody shootings. Attack with a knife.

Ethnicity:
Mixed, Korean, Mexican, white, African American

The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones

A wonderfully immersive story, 5 stars!

Ryn, Gareth and Ceridwen are siblings living alone since their mother died and their father went to the copper mine and never returned. Ellis is a mapmaker traveling in the mountains when Ryn finds him being attacked by a dead man that’s risen and she promptly saves him. The three siblings are barely scraping a living but they’re loyal to each other. Ellis wants Ryn to be his paid guide through the mountains so he can make a map and try to discover his origins. Ryn agrees because she wants to search for her father in the mine and also stop the rising dead, the bone houses. They travel together through dangerous terrain with bone houses all around and find the reason behind the curse. A wonderfully immersive story, 5 stars!

Language: PG for 8 swears, no f-bombs

Mature content: PG for kissing

Violence: PG for dead bodies rising and trying to harm people. Axe and sword cutting of the risen dead.

Likes/dislikes:
I love this tale of bravery, mystery and loyalty set in a fantasy world. Ryn and Ellis are my favorite characters even though they’re very different from each other. I like that the author wrote this story out of respect for Lloyd Alexander’s books and the love that she has for his writing since her childhood.

Ethnicity:
Mixed

Setting:
An imaginary village, Colbern, is where Ryn lives with her siblings.

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.

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