Bloodleaf by Crystal Smith

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Interesting characters wrapped up in intrigue!
Thanks to NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for the opportunity to read and review Bloodleaf by Crystal Smith!
Witchcraft is forbidden in Aurelia’s kingdom and the story opens as she’s sadly watching two women hang for performing witchcraft. Aurelia has performed her share of magic, even though she’s the princess. She’s being sent away to Achleva to marry the prince. In his kingdom, magic is allowed. Along the way, a plot is revealed and she escapes on her own. She disguises herself as a maid and meets other commoners, befriends them and helps them. Someone is trying to break seals and release dark magic and they finally discover who has been breaking them, only after they’ve lost a wonderful friend. I love the part when the prince stands up to the king, speaking the truth about the seal breaker. The king’s reaction raises suspicion. Some of the transitions could be more clear between reality and Aurelia’s visions but for the most part, the visions add depth to the plot. Aurelia loses people she loves and she discovers her true origins. Unpredictable and entertaining, Bloodleaf kept me riveted to the end, 4 stars!

The Queen’s Assassin by Melissa de la Cruz

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That ending was so much more than I expected!
Thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Young Readers for the opportunity to read and review The Queen’s Assassin by Melissa de la Cruz!
After the king dies in battle, his best friend makes a bonding vow with the queen to protect her and the royal heir, as well as search for the magical documents and sacred scrolls that have been missing. He has pledged his life and his heir’s life to the queen until the scrolls are found and returned. Eighteen years later, we meet Shadow and Caledon Holt (he’s the best friend’s son, the kingdom’s deadliest weapon and the Queen’s assassin). Shadow is exploring around the Abbey when Caledon saves her life by killing her would-be assassin. The bad thing is that the man Caledon kills is the queen’s brother-in-law, Prince Alast. Alast proves himself a traitor, which is shocking to Caledon. The Queen sends Caledon to Deersia Prison to appease the public and keep the traitorous evidence secret. She wants Caledon to spy and find out where the traitors stem from. Shadow catches a ride to Deersia prison as a stowaway and finds Cal and helps him escape. They move onto Montrice to discover if there’s a spy conspiring against their kingdom and Queen. Shadow and Cal are fun, dynamic characters that work together well but drive each other crazy too. I enjoyed the humor in this book as well as the intrigue and magic. The ending left me ready to read the sequel! 5 stars!

The Night Country by Melissa Albert

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Thanks to NetGalley, Edelweiss and Flatiron Books for the opportunity to read and review The Night Country!
The sequel to The Hazel Wood has danger, deception, and characters struggling to find purpose in this world. When murders occur, the Ex-story characters try to stick together for safety and strength. Alice feels that she’s being blamed and, after she’s attacked, she vows to capture whoever or whatever is harming others. Mysterious and twisty, The Night Country weaves worlds, characters, and creators into a fight for life, 4 stars!

Keystone by Katie Delahanty

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Thanks to Entangled Teen and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review Keystone by Katie Delahanty!
The story opens with action as the main character becomes the only survivor of a yacht accident. Her identity is changed and she becomes Elisha Dewitt. She’s becoming a Disconnect, part of a group that chooses to disconnect themselves from the internet and go off the grid, as much as they can for their own safety. The Disconnected live at Keystone, the safest place in the world. The story is told through the alternating past and present of the main character, Elisha. We learn how her parents and friends mistreated her, used her and took her for granted. We also discover that people weren’t who they seemed. As a Disconnect, she trains and practices skills, techniques and thievery because, as a Disconnect, stealing artifacts and preserving them in Keystone is expected and required. I enjoyed the different characters and their unique personalities along with the different groups’ dynamics. Action and unknown factors kept the story unpredictable, 5 stars!

Black Canary Ignite by Meg Cabot and Illustrated by Cara McGee

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Action, adventure and awesome illustrations!
Thanks to DC Comics and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review Black Canary Ignite by Meg Cabot, illustrated by Cara McGee. This seven chapter graphic novel tells the story of Detective Lance’s daughter, Dinah. Dinah’s mother is the Black Canary and she helped fight crime before Dinah was born. Dinah has inherited her mother’s Canary Cry, a supersonic voice. Dinah tries to control her power but it’s not easy. Fun origin story full of action, adventure and colorful illustrations, 5 stars!

Cold as a Marble by Zoe Aarsen

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Sequel to Light as a Feather!
Thanks to NetGalley, Edelweiss and Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing for the opportunity to read and review Cold As a Marble by Zoe Aarssen, the sequel to Light As a Feather.
McKenna and her friends’ lives were completely disrupted in the first book. Two out of their friend group died, Olivia and Candace, and they believe both deaths were caused by Violet, the new girl who insisted they play the game Light As a Feather. During the game, Violet described their deaths and McKenna accused Violet of killing her friends. A restraining order was placed on McKenna and she was sent away to a different school. She’s home for Christmas and more teenage girls are dying. McKenna, her neighbor and boyfriend Trey, and Olivia’s brother Henry diligently work together to stop Violet and the curse she’s helping along. Suspenseful and interesting adventures and actions that the three dive into cause stress and more problems in their personal lives than helping stop the curse. I liked this sequel better than the first book in this series because it was faster paced and had more character development. Spooky, dangerously fun read for young adults! 4 stars!

Glow of the Fireflies by Lindsey Duga

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Otherworldly powers and alternate worlds bring Glow of the Fireflies by Lindsey Duga to life. Thanks to Entangled and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this book.
Brye is not known as a team player. She seems to do better independently and when she doesn’t have to rely on anyone else. Her father calls her after her swim meet and gives her the unwanted news that she’s being sent away for the summer. Brye will be going to Firefly Valley in the Smoky Mountains to take care of her reclusive grandma that’s broken her leg. Brye hasn’t seen or talked to this grandma for six years, since the house fire that gave Brye scars and amnesia when she was ten. Luckily, she’s taking her best friend Izzy along for the summer trip. The trip isn’t calm like the two best friends thought it would be because Brye reunites with people she hasn’t seen since she left the valley. She’s thrown into a fantastical world of fairies and ethereal and astral planes where she’s told to save her mom, who she thought left them by choice after the tragic fire. A fun mix of characters in this fantasy reminiscent of Fablehaven, 4 stars!

Graceling by Kristin Cashore!

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Action, adventure, mystery, tragedy and romance all wrapped up in a fantasy, 5 stars!
Graceling by Kristin Cashore is a thoroughly enjoyable read! The main character Katsa has been given the Grace skill to kill well, but she hates this gift. She frees an elderly Lienid prisoner by knocking out guards and giving them each a pill that keeps them out long enough for her to complete the rescue. By doing this, she completed her mission without killing anyone. She works under King Randa’s orders and he often orders her to harm or kill people when they’ve supposedly wronged him. Katsa has few people that she’s comfortable with, her companions Giddon and Oll and her cousin Raffin, who’s also the prince.
The Lienid prisoner’s grandson, Po, has visited several places searching for his grandfather. Po’s relieved when he discovers that his grandfather is safe and being cared for by Katsa and her companions. Po is also a Grace and his skill is intuition. He’s also a skilled fighter and has passed on fighting as his Grace skill because people would be afraid of him or use him for his intuitive abilities.
Katsa and Po become friends and I enjoy their unique friendship and all of its humor. When Katsa decides she no longer wants to do King Randa’s bidding, she leaves with Po. They arrive in King Leck’s territory just as he’s killing his wife for hiding their daughter Bitterblue from him. King Leck is also the one who had Po’s grandfather kidnapped. He did this so his wife would obey him. His wife is Po’s aunt. She’s running towards Po when Leck kills her but she has time to yell at Po to protect Bitterblue. Leck is a horrible person who has a Grace of manipulation and he has used this power for his own benefit since he was young. He killed the King and Queen years ago, after they took him in as their own, so he could rule as King. He mutilates and tortures children, specifically girls, and animals. A lot of action and adventure take place in Graceling, as well as some romance in this young adult fantasy. I enjoyed the relationship and relaxed ease between Po and Katsa, it was refreshing!

Dorothy and the Glass Key by Christopher J. Finn

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Thanks to Austin Macaulay Publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review Dorothy and the Glass Key by Christopher J. Finn!
Dorothy, a twenty-five year old who is wheelchair bound, is brought to a recovery center for hopeful assistance. A friend brought her to the center after searching the world for help but not getting any changes in Dorothy. She’s catatonic but looks healthy otherwise. The center administrator is baffled so the friend tells her the story of how it all began eleven years earlier.
Rags explains the keys and worlds that he, Dorothy and their mutual friend Charlie used and visited. Traveling to each other’s worlds, building friendships with each other and helping each other cope with life’s struggles made their relationships strong. An evil presence took away all that was good, along with their memories and the pain they had endured. The story comes full circle and the ending surprised me!
Interesting concept and story but the grammatical errors took away from that, (example: taught instead of taut). I also would have liked to know more about the antagonist’s background. 3.5 stars for this fantasy mystery!

Soul of the Sword by Julie Kagawa

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Menagerie of Japanese characters!
Thanks to Harlequin Teen and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review The Soul of the Sword by Julie Kagawa!
The book opens with a thousand-year-old legend of a sword known as Godslayer. Tatsumi wielded this sword when it contained the demon Hakaimono. Since then, the demon has possessed Tatsumi, who continues to fight for survival against Hakaimono. Yumeko continues her mission to the Steel Feather Temple but has been waylaid with her companions to try to save Tatsumi, even though a pact was made centuries ago that if Haikaimono possessed a person, that person would be killed to stop destruction that the demon might cause. As everyone tries to thwart the demon’s plans, he shows his power and what he’s willing to do to get what he wants. The plot twists as the rivalry changes and the enemy of both becomes the focus of all. Genno, the demon who wants the scroll pieces so he can summon a Kami for the wish to rule all, will be the focus of the third book in this trilogy. At times, Yumeko seems a bit dim but then she manages to pull off some amazing feats, with the help and inspiration of others; go teamwork! I also found myself struggling to keep names and descriptions straight and I’m sure that’s because I need to learn more about the Japanese culture. 4 stars for a Japanese fantasy full of a menagerie of characters!