House of Dragons by Jessica Cluess

I was so excited about House of Dragons by Jessica Cluess. I enjoyed her debut series and was anxious to read her new book!
First of all, cover love! The intriguing synopsis made me want to dive right into the story. Five contestants are called to compete for the throne. Emilia has concealed her deadly, powerful magic her entire life. Lucian destroys the family sword, vowing to never use the weapon again. He’s had enough of killing. Vespir is a dragon caretaker who is chosen over the Lord’s daughter, Antonia. Vespir and Antonia also happen to love each other. Ajax is a fifteen year old younger brother in a house full of almost thirty sons. He is chosen over his father’s two true heirs. Hyperia is the eldest royal daughter and when her younger sister is chosen, Hyperia promptly slits her sister’s throat. The author handles the five characters well by transitioning in the same order to help the reader get familiar with each of them. Each of the five are sent to an island to hunt a basilisk. The hunt is the first task of four (the tasks are The Hunt, The Game, The Race and The Truth) the chosen will need to compete in. The five chosen are not expected and, in the past, the first born heirs were always chosen and groomed for the competition. These contenders are all ill-prepared except for one, Hyperia, because she’s the first born heir of her family. I enjoyed the touch of humor throughout the intensity of the story, as well as the character development. The story starts off simply and grows into a complex tale of a huge array of characters with diverse personalities and strengths. 5 stars for this fantasy adventure!

A Heart So Fierce and Broken by Brigid Kemmerer

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Impressive sequel!
A Heart So Fierce and Broken by Brigid Kemmerer
Rumors abound about and rewards are offered for the lost heir of Emberfall. Grey is working as a stable boy and goes by the name of Hawk. He mostly keeps to himself except for his stable companion and coworker, a young boy named Tycho. One night Grey tests out the silver bracelet Lilith gave him for transport into Harper’s world. He didn’t know if it worked anymore but when he touched the bracelet, he left the stables and when he returned, Tycho was staring at him. The ruthless leader that threatened Emberfall before has returned with her daughters to force Rhen into an alliance. The daughter named heir is like her mother while the other cares for people and their well being. Rhen brutalizes Grey and Tycho and the group escapes Emberfall because Grey unintentionally uses his magic. Grey doesn’t trust either kingdom or their rulers but the kind, wise daughter convinces the group to go to her kingdom despite worrying about her mother. A tremendous amount of character development bonded me with this story. I thought A Curse so Dark and Lonely was a wonderful read but this sequel is just as good! 5 stars for this impressive sequel that introduces even more great characters!

A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer

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Surprise ending!
A Curse so Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer is one of the best fairy tale retellings that I have read.
The writing demanded my attention from the first chapter and each chapter ends in a bit of a cliffhanger! I had to force myself to stop reading to go to bed. Harper is kidnapped but for reasons that are different from what she ever expected. She’s been kidnapped from Washington D.C. to help break a prince’s curse. Prince Rhen and his top guard, Grey, are the only two that know about the curse and the secret that Rhen is horrified about. Lilith cursed Rhen years ago and he’s turned into a violent monster every season since. Once he changes, he has no memory or control, and because of that he’s ending up killing the royal family, his family. Harper doesn’t like Rhen at first but she understands him better the more she gets to know him. Grey is an intimidating guard but a kind and caring soul. Each season, Rhen becomes a different creature but he’s always violent and ruthless. Harper helps Rhen and his kingdom by pretending to be a princess. A cruel ruler threatens to take over the kingdom and Harper and Rhen tell her that the princess’s father is sending reinforcements to stop her. Rhen, Harper and Grey continue to work together and become closer. This story is full of action, loyalty and bravery and ends in an intense surprise, 5 stars!

A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn

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Interesting and intelligent mystery!
Thanks to NetGalley and Berkley Publishing Group for the opportunity to read and review A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn!
Veronica is an orphan who has been raised by her Aunt Nell and Aunt Lucy. They weren’t really her aunts but they gave her what she needed. The story opens as Veronica attends the funeral for Aunt Nell. Afterwards, as she’s entering the cottage she resides in, she realizes someone has ransacked the place. She assumes that a burglar was trying to steal whatever they could find after her aunt’s passing. A baron comes to escort her to London for her safety and Veronica can’t fathom that anyone might harm her. She thinks she’s unimportant and happily so. The baron takes her to his friend’s house to keep her safe. This friend goes by the name of Stoker and he’s a complete enigma to Veronica. Little by little, they get to know each other and each other’s stories and secrets. Soon enough, Veronica’s life is threatened and the secret surrounding the danger is brought to light. The secret is a whopper! This is a wonderful mystery filled with intelligent and interesting characters set in Victorian London. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series, 5 stars!

Run, Hide, Fight Back by April Henry

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Run, Hide, Fight Back by April Henry.
A shooting occurs in a mall on an otherwise normal day. We learn a little about each of the characters highlighted in the chapters, gaining insight into their lives, as they try to hide from the shooters. The whole concept of this story has become all too real and we gain insight into all sides as we read dispatch messages, interactions between police and shooters, and as the crime unfolds. The book is a fairly quick read and when the true reason for the shooting is revealed, greed prevails. Interesting and thought provoking, 4 stars!

What I Want You to See by Catherine Linka

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Interesting and unique story!
Thanks to NetGalley and Disney Book Group for the opportunity to read and review What I Want You to See by Catherine Linka!
Sabine has lost her mother and is now on her own. She’s attending art school and has great talent. She’s attending due to a scholarship but her art teacher is harsh and without his recommendation, she won’t keep her scholarship and will have to drop out of school. Sabine gets conned into practicing and perfecting her artistic skills by secretly painting a replica of her tough professor’s painting, that has yet to be revealed. This painting has already been sold for almost a million dollars but when it’s put out for the art exhibition, Sabine knows it’s not the professor’s painting but her copy because she can see her flaws. She’s devastated and realizes she was tricked and now she’s going to be the fall guy because the con man has fled. The story touches on homelessness and college students who struggle to make ends meet. The author has given information about homelessness in her ending notes. Riveting suspense and food for thought. 4 stars!

Echoes Between Us by Katie McGarry

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Controversial issues and thought provoking!
Thanks to NetGalley and Tor Teen, Edelweiss and Bookish First for the opportunity to read and review Echoes Between Us by Katie McGarry!
Veronica has an awesome father who drives trucks and makes waffles. Sawyer moves into the three story house that Veronica lives in. Veronica and her father live on the third and second floor. Sawyer lives with his little sister Lucy and their mom on the first floor. Supposedly the house is haunted. Veronica gets migraines and ghosts often accompany her headaches. She’s unsure whether the ghosts are truly there or hallucinations. Veronica’s deceased mother often appears and she wants to believe her mom’s ghost is watching over her. Veronica has a benign brain tumor but she does her best to live her life despite the wrenching headaches that disable her. Sawyer is tired of his mom controlling his life and he’s sick of her drinking. The two of them develop a relationship and help each other deal with their struggles.
Several controversial topics are explored in this book, the use of medical marijuana, if ghosts are real or not, choosing or denying treatment for an illness, addiction, enabling addiction and self-care.
4 thought-provoking stars!

A Sorrow Fierce and Falling by Jessica Cluess

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Interesting character development!
Thanks to NetGalley and Random House for the opportunity to read and review A Sorrow Fierce and Falling by Jessica Cluess!
Now that Blackwood and Nettie are engaged, they are able to fully work together. They move to Blackwood’s estate, Sorrow Fell, and Nettie discovers the curse that goes along with the stolen Fae dwelling. The Blackwood bride deteriorates for decades. Blackwood becomes Imperator and the power changes him and not in a good way. He craves honor, love and acceptance, which he never received from his parents. He yearns to control everything and this puts a wall between himself and Nettie. As the Ancients get closer, the sorcerers, magicians and witches struggle with leadership and the possibility of working together. This third and last book of the series contains more emotional upheavals and ups and downs, as well as great character development! Jessica Cluess has proven herself as a wonderful fantasy author and I would love to read this series again, 5 stars!

Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys

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The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys is a novel masterpiece!
Poverty and suppression hidden under sunshine and kindness describes the picture painted of Spain as the rest of the world sees the land and its people. The story tells itself with alternating points of view and the author’s writing draws the reader into the characters’ lives, so I was pulled quickly into caring for them. Ana lives with her siblings and each of them works as many jobs as possible since their parents are no longer with them. Daniel traveled to Spain from Texas with his parents, his mother of Spanish descent and oil-rich father. Daniel meets Ana at the hotel where she works as a maid. Daniel loves photography and Ana helps him as much as she dares. Daniel starts noticing that Ana keeps her distance like she’s afraid. Another revelation occurs when Ana’s brother Rafe and his coworker realize that the baby coffins being sent to the cemetery for them to bury are actually empty. More injustice is revealed as we learn that Ana’s parents were killed because they wanted to start a school and their ideas went against the beliefs of the leader of Spain, Francisco Franco. The snippets taken from primary sources bring this story to a deeper level and helped me to understand how the rest of the world perceived Spain during this time frame.
The characters and their lives all connect in one way or another and those relationships show how truly complicated and complex Spain’s history is. My heart goes out to the people who suffered in silence for decades and for those still affected by the repercussions. Ruta Sepetys amazes me with every book she writes. Her dedication stands above and beyond what is required because she pours her heart and soul into the stories she creates. I’m grateful that she shares them with the world because, with each book, I gain more knowledge of cultures and history across the globe.
Fountains of Silence, a true work of art! 5 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!