The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

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Based on the true events of Florida’s infamous reform school!
Thanks to NetGalley and Doubleday for the opportunity to read and review The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead!
Historical fiction novel based on the real reform school that horribly mistreated the boys who resided there. Traumatized young men were left to deal with the abuse on their own. The story focuses on Elwood and we learn about other boys’ stories through his eyes as he witnesses them. The prevalent racism harbored hatred to the point of punishing innocent people and sending them to this terrible reform school where even harsher acts of racism occurred. The abuse went on for decades and through several headmasters. After reading this novel, I felt compelled to research the truth behind the story and was sickened at the amount of violence and abuse that young boys had to live through. Some didn’t survive. I truly don’t understand how the adults took part in or witnessed and kept quiet about any of the abuse. What’s their excuse? The Nickel Boys is tremendously powerful, enlightening and tragic, 4 stars!

8 Souls by Rachel Rust

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A haunting that just won’t stop!
Thanks to Entangled Teen and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review 8 Souls by Rachel Rust!
Spooky and ominous from the beginning; I was instantly hooked! Mysterious and recurring dreams about a house haunt Chessie; they have since she was little. These dreams were part of her life, to the point that she drew the house for her elementary teacher after she gave the students the assignment of drawing their dream house. Little does she know that Chessie dreams of a house where murders were committed over a century before. When Chessie draws her dream house scene, the teacher is worried and notifies her parents. She then ends up being sent to a psychiatrist. Ever since then, Chessie keeps her dreams to herself, even when she’s hearing voices. She finally confides in someone else and the two of them share the struggle of solving the haunting. 8 Souls is well-written, contains awesome characters and a haunting that won’t stop until justice is complete; 5 spooky stars!

Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian

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Dynamic Fantasy!

Thanks to NetGalley and Random House for the opportunity to read and review Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian.
A six-year-old Theodosia watches her mother as her life is taken from her. Her mother tells Theodosia that she’s the only hope for their people. The story jumps ahead ten years. Theodosia is a prisoner in the palace with the man who killed her mother, the Kaiser’s second in command- the Theyn. The Kaiser and the Theyn keep her with their own children in the palace, except she receives frequent whippings to remind her of their cruelty and her kingdom’s weakness. The Kaiser also gave her new names, Thora and Ash Princess. The Kaiser summons her to kill a rebel. This man used to be her guardian and he’s also her father. He pleads with her as his queen. He tells her to remember her rightful place as a princess and now a queen. He also tells her to kill him and she fulfills his request knowing that the guards will drag out his death but she will make it quick. The Prinze escorts her to her room and she vomits because of the trauma she’s just been through. Her maid helps her get undressed and puts ointment on her whip marks. Hoa, the maid, can’t speak because her mouth has been sewn shut. The stitches are cut every few days to allow Hoa to eat, then her mouth is sewn back up! There are no words to describe how horrible and deplorable that is. Thora is bolstering herself up to do what both her mother and father asked of her, to be their queen and she knows it’s up to her now because there’s no one left to rescue her. She discovers that a childhood friend is in the palace, Blaise, and he gives her hope once again. Blaise and two other rebels take the place of Thora’s private guards and together they plot the death of the Kaiser, the Prinz, the Theyn and his daughter. Pressure and learning more about the violent crimes towards her people make Thora determined to be the queen she was meant to be. 5 stars for this dynamic fantasy full of strong, interesting characters!

Shimmer and Burn by Mary Taranta

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Shimmer and Burn by Mary Taranta jumps into an intense storyline. Right from the beginning, I was hooked! Faris and Thaelan live completely different lives in opposite areas of the kingdom. Faris and her sister Cadence live in poverty while Thaelan is a member of nobility. Thaelan and Faris are in love and want to run away so they can be together. Faris and Cadence are pretty much on their own because of their dysfunctional father and deceased mother; a mother that stabbed Faris in the chest, trying to kill her years ago. Cadence and Thaelan are captured while they are trying to escape, the two of them receive horrible consequences. Faris is offered a job to earn money to buy Cadence’s freedom. The job offer comes from the kingdom’s executioner and his betrothed, Princess Bryn. Things become a bit confusing when Bryn and Faris are captured and the “owners” change hands a couple of times. Once that’s settled, the situation begins to clear up again. Bryn and Faris end up riding with North, a mysterious young man with secrets of his own. The relationships sparkle and the world frightens in this dark, dreary fantasy made up of magic that cripples and sometimes completely transforms. A range of emotions surrounds the storyline and tragedy, intensity and brutality sum up the characters’ lives. Deeply dynamic, Shimmer and Burn is waiting to pull you into its world! 5 stars!

Grace and Fury by Tracy Banghart

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Once I started reading, I couldn’t put it down!  So good, I actually read it twice already!
Thanks to NetGalley and Hachette Book Group for the opportunity to read and review Grace and Fury by Tracy Banghart!
Serina and her family await Signor Pietro to make his choice of one of the community’s young women who will travel to Bellaqua, join others from different provinces, and vie for the opportunity to be a Grace for the royal Heir. Sera’s mother is thrilled when she’s the one who’s chosen, but her siblings Nomi and Renzo seem to feel otherwise. Sera’s unsure how her father feels. Sera has learned to be happy with the lack of options given to women in Viridia but Nomi openly hates the idea.
The Heir, Malachi, chooses three Graces every three years. This will be his first year of choosing Graces. The Superior has forty Graces and everyone assumes he will step down and let the Heir rule Viridia. At the ball, Nomi wanders into a palace library and notices a beautiful copy of the book Renzo taught her to read with, when they were younger. Reading is forbidden for women but Nomi loves to read. She slips this book into her clothes and as she’s going back to the ball, runs straight into the Heir and his younger brother Asa. The Heir demands to know what she’s doing and she coyly answers that she was using the restroom and if he needs it she points to where it is. Nomi can’t fathom how she could have been so rude to the Heir and she’s sure she’s going to be sent home. Sera is the only young woman the Heir dances with at the ball. He makes his decision afterwards, choosing two women and then Nomi instead of Sera! Grace and Fury is fast paced and full of intrigue! This magnificent book twists and turns with suspense that kept me on the edge of my seat! Once I started reading it, I couldn’t stop. Fantastic writing, unique storyline and intriguing characters make Grace and Fury a must-read- 5 stars!

A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir

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A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir is an amazing sequel! On the run, Elias and Laia work together to evade capture. Helene undergoes intense, brutal interrogation but her father makes a bargain with Marcus, the Emperor, to free her. Elias ends up poisoned, so he and Laia travel to Raider’s Roost for medicine. Elias is in and out of consciousness while Laia fights to keep him alive as they travel for help. Helene has been summoned and given the order to hunt down Elias and then execute him publicly. Helene takes her chosen and trusted Masks and Harper, the commandant’s spy, as the Black Guard to search for Elias. As the story progresses, the suspense builds and I don’t want to give anything away because the suspense makes this great story even better. Each character reveals a back story and, with so many twists and surprises, the book is hard to put down. Complex characters and dynamic storytelling mixed with the author’s descriptive writing makes an intense, interesting sequel! 5 stars!

The Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix

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Intelligent and creative retelling!
Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix by Julie C. Dao tells the story of Jade. Jade lives with and has been raised by the monks, being prepared to accept her rightful place as Empress. Jade is summoned to the Empire by soldiers and she meets Xifeng, the Empress that holds Jade’s fate in her hands. Xifeng is cruel and self-absorbed to the point that she’s the only person that matters. Jade makes saving the kingdom from Xifeng her mission and she’s sent on an adventure that takes her through the mythical stories she was raised on, learning how helpful the tales truly are. Julie C. Dao has created an interesting series, with the transformation of Xifeng, that I want to binge read so I can get the most out of everything the characters experience in both books. Intelligent writing, a mythical atmosphere and charming characters earn 5 stars!

 

Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

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Secrets and Folklore!
Thanks to Bookish first, Atria Books, Simon & Schuster, and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield!
Twists and turns and many characters along with their stories bring Once Upon a River to life. The book opens with a background of the setting and builds up to the present when a four-year-old girl is found and brought to the Swan, where storytelling is at its finest. The man who brought the little girl in is very injured and he loses consciousness, so no one can ask questions. The storytelling begins by the regular inhabitants of the Swan and continues to build with speculation. Everyone falls in love with the little girl and their hearts warm to her. Because of the girl’s appearance in the community, many lives are changed and things that have been hidden for years come to light. A food for thought story full of folklore and secrets, 4 stars!

A Heart in a Body in the World by Deb Caletti

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Deeply moving!
Thanks to Edelweiss+, NetGalley and Simon Pulse for the opportunity to read and review A Heart in a Body in the World by Deb Caletti!
This story captivated me with it’s mysterious, traumatic event and the strength of the main character and supporting characters. Also, the charm and humor of family and all the quirks that go along with that wonderful six letter word. The story is somewhat difficult to follow; I’m sure that was on purpose by the author because the back and forth, scattered thoughts represent the stress of the main character very well. A heartbreaking and inspiring story that fully reveals the event by the end of the book. 5 stars for this deeply moving realistic fiction!

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

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As a reread, this book is just as amazing the second time around!

An Ember in the Ashes, by Sabaa Tahir, opens as Laia witnesses the killings of her grandparents and the capture of her brother Darin as soldiers attack their home, accusing Darin of being a part of the Resistance. Laia’s story alternates with Elias, a soldier training most of his life to serve the Empire. Laia finds the Resistance to try and save Darin while Elias debates desertion or staying and serving the Empire. Laia is bought as the Commandant’s new slave girl, a Resistance idea to find out information about Darin so they can plan how to help him. Laia discovers life as a slave is horrible and she’s having a very difficult time getting information for the Resistance. Four Masks are sent into nightmarish trials, Elias and Helene are two of the soldiers, and they must overcome their worst fears to survive as their love, loyalty and hearts are strained through horrific events. Throughout the story, Elias and Laia unexpectedly run into each other and they unwillingly get to know each other. Each chapter ends with intensity, so it’s a difficult book to put down. Dynamic, complex characters to love and hate make this story suspenseful, exciting and interesting, 5 stars!