Skin of the Sea by Natasha Bowen

African mythology, culture and history!

Simi has been a mermaid, a Mami Wata, for only a short time but she’s starting to lose her human memories. When she goes on land and transforms into a human, she grasps at memories of her family and holds onto them tightly so she won’t forget once she’s a mermaid again. Her duty is to help souls move on after death and she thinks she’s helping a young man who has just been thrown overboard from a slave trader ship. She assumes he’s dead and she’s ready to perform her task when his eyes open. He is chained and manacled and injured. He loses consciousness and she carries him over her shoulder as she swims to an island. His name is Kola and together they call on the creator of mermaids for help in getting him home. Kola and Simi go through a roller coaster of experiences together to get him home, save his siblings and help the mermaid creator. Simi isn’t supposed to develop feelings or attachments to any human but she grows to care for Kola. They meet the messenger to the gods, Esu, and discover the horrible trickster that he is. Tidbits similar to The Little Mermaid story but with the added African mythology, culture and history! 4 stars!

These Divided Shores by Sara Raasch

Fantasy adventure!

Lu, Vex and Ben continue to battle against the king, Ben’s father, as he deceives and strives to control the nation. Action packed, adventurous and brutality ridden, the story takes us on a roller coaster ride to vanquish evil and greed. Vex has a great sense of humor, Ben is more proper and Lu is a trained warrior but their teamwork just might be what the citizens need to find freedom. Fantasy adventure! 5 stars!

Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Story by Caren Stelson

Perseverance and Strength Shine Through Sachiko’s Story!

This nonfiction book takes us back in time to show us what life was like for Sachiko and other Japanese families during World War II. The historical facts include racism in America, Japan and Germany, information on Japanese Internment Camps, the treatment of prisoners of war by Japan’s soldiers, the reason for the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and the dropping of atomic bombs in Japan. I could only read this in bits because of the horrific results of the bombs on the citizens. Sachiko was at the site of the Nagasaki atomic bomb explosion and her family died one by one because of the short term and long term effects of the bombing. After Japan’s surrender, American soldiers became a large presence in the Japanese communities. I learned quite a lot from this book that’s just a little over one hundred pages; the stifling of information concerning the atomic bombs, propaganda after WWII, the research coalition set up to gather information about but not help the bomb survivors and the statistics of long lasting radiation sickness. Perseverance and strength shine through Sachiko’s story and I’m grateful to have read this inspiring book that teaches us to strive for peace. 5 stars!

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

Intrigue, mystery, and adventure!

Catherine loves to bake and wants to be a professional baker but her parents think that baking is servants’ work and they want her to marry the king, even if it’s against her wishes. The king seems very interested in Catherine’s baking and possibly for marriage with her. She’s not remotely interested. Jest, the new joker, fascinates Cath and the two of them develop a relationship. The Jabberwock continues to terrify and attack the people and Cath tells the king that he should be doing something about it. The king happens to be more interested in parties and happy thoughts than the safety of the kingdom. This fairytale retelling is full of intrigue, mystery and adventure as we learn the story of the Queen of Hearts from Wonderland. Enjoyable, suspenseful and heartbreaking, 5 stars!

A Sky Beyond the Storm by Sabaa Tahir

Tumultuous, action-packed, heart wrenching and beautiful series finale, 5 stars!

The fourth and final book of Ember in the Ashes series!
Laia stays allied to the Shrike and their goal is to get Musa’s ex fiancée’s (Princess Nikla) help against Keris, the Commandant. Elias stands between the jinn and the Augur Cain and learns the truth of the Augurs and what they did a thousand years ago. Keris’ story keeps getting hinted about in order to bring her down. Laia’s traveling to talk to the tribal storytellers for information and tries her best to break through to Elias. More battles take place and Helene fights to keep her feelings for Harper low on her list of priorities. This series seems to have an endless amount of surprises which keeps me on my toes! Tumultuous, action-packed, heart wrenching and beautiful series finale, 5 stars! This is a wonderful series and I would read it again!

Half Sick of Shadows by Laura Sebastian

Fresh Camelot tale!

Elaine is a seer and she is friends with Arthur, Gwen (Guinevere), Lancelot and Morgana. Arthur’s father, the king, dies. So, Arthur has to return home to take over the reign of the kingdom. Morgana has a cruel twin sister, Morgause. None of the friends want to return to Camelot but they have to nonetheless. Elaine sees a vision that horrifies her to the point of being terrified of what’s to come.

The group arrives at Camelot just as Mordred is about to be named king. Since Arthur has shown up, he’s set to go to Lyonesse to procure a treaty. He has little support from Camelot with only a handful of knights willing to go with him and his group of friends. Lyonesse is supposed to be extremely violent and dangerous and most people never return. When they arrive, they sense something ominous but don’t understand it. That night they hear screams and feral howls and are terrified. The next morning Gwen explains the true nature of her kingdom. Somehow, the king offers up his daughter Gwen to duel with Arthur and what follows astounds everyone. This is a wonderfully told Camelot tale. Elaine deals with the curse of being able to see into the future but none of her visions are guaranteed to come to pass. For every outcome, she sees many possibilities and in the meantime, she struggles to prevent bad ones from becoming true. I love the five main characters and wanted their lives to work out well. I’m sad that I finished it because it’s such an engrossing and enjoyable read. Fresh Camelot tale, 5 stars!

Pony by R.J. Palacio

A western adventure full of action and mystery!

Pony tells the story of a young boy who takes refuge in a tree during a violent storm and when the tree is struck by lightning, receives a burn on his back in the shape of that same tree. The burn heals into a very unique scar. His father revives the boy by using a fireplace bellows. This man is interested in photography but turned to boot making to support his family but the lightning incident stokes his love of art and photos. The young boy, Silas, was born the same day his mother died. So, Silas and his father are without her. Pa is kindhearted and loving and cares deeply about Silas. One night, three riders with pistols drawn, arrive at their home demanding that Pa and Silas go with them. They won’t say why other than their boss wants Pa to work for a week and then he’ll let him return to his home. The riders brought an extra horse and a white-faced pony with them so Pa and Silas could ride along. Pa makes Silas stay behind. The pony shows up soon after the riders leave with Pa. Silas is worried that Pa has been hurt so he rides Pony (Silas’ name for the small horse) and goes after Pa’s trail. He finds so much more than he expected and meets several different allies along the way. Pony is a western adventure full of action and mystery, told with a continuous sense of awe; I loved reading it, 5 stars!

Unraveling Eleven by Jerri Chisholm

Action-packed dystopian!

Eve and Wren are ecstatic that they’re free and the sun isn’t scorching like they’ve been told all of their lives. They walk for an hour in happy silence before Wren hears something in the trees. An animal attacks and they fight for their lives. Soon they realize they have no sustenance. They decide to return to the compound and figure out a way to survive on the surface and to return later. Wren and Eve try to settle back into life in Eleven and move forward with jobs while everything around them seems tumultuous, including their relationship. I had thought this was a duology but realized while reading that it wasn’t going to end with this book. Action and danger follow Wren and Eve until they’re in peril. Action packed dystopian, 4 stars!

Escaping Eleven by Jerri Chisholm

Entertaining dystopian for young adults!

Eve is a fighter looking forward to when she can reach the upper level and Earth to see if her younger brother Jack somehow survived being banished nine years ago for being the unlawful second child of the family. He was sent out to the unprotected air and land on his own. Eve meets Wren in a scheduled fight that entertains the crowds. They despise each other at first but soon become allies. While Eve’s friends continue to participate in job tours to help decide their future, she hunts for a way to escape Compound Eleven. Wren is from the upper level so he has access to more and also has a better lifestyle than Eve and her friends in the lower level. He teaches her to shoot a gun and she introduces her to the lowest level of the compound where she helps ration food to the people. They both grow and learn about what they truly want in their futures. Eve is stubborn but loyal and Wren is smart, brave and has integrity. Interesting world building and strong characters add life to this dystopian story, 4 stars!

When All the Girls Are Sleeping by Emily Arsenault

A wonderfully spooky read!

The spookiness starts immediately with the opening of the book. The font in chapter one is perfectly ghostly! Haley’s best friend, Taylor, fell to her death last year. Haley receives an email with an attached video from Taylor’s oldest sibling. He asks Haley if she knows anything about the video and as she starts to watch it, she realizes she doesn’t know what’s happening in it and she’s never seen it before. It gives her the creeps. Haley wants to figure out the truth of what really happened to Taylor and she begins researching hauntings and school history to see if there’s anything that will help her. A paranormal investigator is mentioned in an alumni Facebook group and Haley finds his picture as a dorm supervisor from years earlier. Haley keeps reaching out to alumni and searching the school archives in hopes of digging up more information. She finds letters and interviews from decades ago describing the same thing Taylor experienced in the video. What Haley discovers is so unpredictable and complex that I would have never figured it out on my own and the answer is unexpected! A wonderfully spooky read, 5 stars!