Content warning for depictions of eating disorders, suicide, drunk-driving, date rape and drug and alcohol misuse. The creepy cover promises something foreboding ahead. Several teens are mailed a note to meet at the old, abandoned pier where a carnival was burned down decades ago. The notes all ask the same question, “Can you keep a secret?” As they wander around the area, more teens appear, all with a similar note. As one of them walks on the pier, it collapses, trapping them away from the mainland. One of them dies, then another and the rest are scrambling to figure out how to get off of the island. Mysterious, suspenseful, and creepy! The cliffhanger at the end of chapter 17, when the group follows a trail of blood and ends up at the maze of mirrors, is deliciously ominous! This book is on the same line as It by Stephen King, but for young adults. Guilt feeds the dark entity and only one can survive. Creepy fun, 4 stars!
Evvie is a teenager helping her younger siblings to lighten the load of her single mother. Their father is in prison. Jubilation runs in the family and Evvie’s magic is coming on strong. She causes odd behavior in others and can change the world around her, usually unintentionally. She’s falling for Clay, her longtime crush that’s very interested in her too. A creepy stranger keeps showing up, scaring Evvie and her mother tells her the past experiences with him. Virgil Hampton is not a good man and he hurt Evvie when she was little. Her mother lost her job over it because she was angry that he hurt Evvie and she was fired because her family is black and Virgil’s family is white and rich. This is a beautiful story of hardship and perseverance which brought me to tears many times while reading it. I cried for the touching and sweet moments, for the fear and loss and for the bravery, kindness, love and hope. Highly recommended and an emotional journey, 5 stars!
Shatter the Sky by Rebecca Kim Wells surprised me with its immense world building and strong characters! Maren and Kaia have a good relationship and Kaia wants to travel and explore when she’s old enough to. Maren plans on traveling with her. Plans change when Kaia is taken as a seer to possibly be a dragon trainer. Maren decides to leave too by telling her parents that she needs to be out on her own and independent. She’s not completely honest with them. She’s planning on rescuing Kaia. She heads to the dragon fortress and asks and then manipulates her estranged uncle for a job. She becomes the new food taster. Maren is noticed by the Aromatory, Neve, who raises baby dragons until they bond with their lords. Neve uses scents to train and appreciates Maren’s ability to pick up scents that most people can’t detect. While working, Maren meets Sev, who seems friendly but with a hidden story of his own. Things progress and Maren and Sev find each other running away to escape capture and probably death. They decide to help each other and end up discovering so much more about the empire than they ever could have guessed! The ending left me worried about the characters and their safety and I’m looking forward to the sequel, Storm the Sky. A fantasy adventure that will take you for a ride, 5 stars!
In a world being endangered by scrabs (human killing creatures), Clara is ready to do anything to get away from her abusive father, so she decides to join a scrab fighting army. The privately funded army has recruits across the globe. Clara goes to Paris and London with her team. She trains, battles scrabs and builds relationships. One of her relationships turns out toxic while others feel like she belongs to a good family. Dynamics between characters and the world-building create a mix of intrigue, danger and suspense. The ending is a bit of a cliffhanger so I’m struggling to wait for the second book of this duology. 5 stars for a dangerous adventure ride!
They Wish They Were Us by Jessica Goodman, tells the story of Jill and the other members of the Players, who attend an elite school where inclusion is limited and exclusion is the norm. Hazing at its finest and worst is what makes the school run from year to year. The students who are picked to become Players get privileges that no other students receive but they get these privileges at a price. Jill and her group are seniors looking forward to college and their bright futures since they’ve put the death of their friend behind them until new evidence enlightens the police that they may have arrested the wrong person. Amidst the elite and their plans, and their ongoing school expectations, the students are derailed and need to help find the true killer. Strong characters in a fascinating political mess tell this story of discrimination, manipulation, and abuse. The protagonist, Jill, brings brains, strength, and empathy to this unique book, 5 stars!
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!
Twisted Sci-Fi! Bent Heavens by Daniel Kraus tells the tragic story of Liv, her father Lee, and her lifelong friend Doug. I immediately feel sorry for Liv and her father because I can predict the judgmental treatment that will probably happen after his episode of incoherent talking and nakedness in front of the community. Liv and Doug are friends and continue to maintain the traps and protection her father set after he said he was harmed by aliens a few years ago. Lee took Liv and Doug on a hunting trip and he ran away towards something that the other two couldn’t see. Liv is friends with a popular group and Doug is more of a loner that doesn’t fit in. Doug believes Lee, Liv’s father, about the aliens but Liv doesn’t. Her mother doesn’t either and they think he’s just mentally unhealthy. One day, as Liv is checking one of the traps her dad created, she finds an alien caught in one. This blows Liv’s mind. Doug and Liv keep the alien, or skinner as Lee called them, imprisoned in her backyard shed and interrogate it for any information about Lee. The skinner eventually speaks three words: car, bow, hole. Doug believes torture is the best way to get information about Lee from the skinner; Liv disagrees. This disagreement builds a rift between them and they go their separate ways. Liv realizes that car, bow, hole might mean the name Carbajal. She does some searching and meets a mysterious, dilapidated man with that name. He gives her frightening information. Several twists and tragedy build and end the science fiction story, 4 stars!
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 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!
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!