Gone Dark by Amanda Panitch

Her survival skills might keep her alive!

Zara’s father is a survivalist that lives on a compound. Zara and her mother used to live on the compound too, until seven years ago. Now she lives with her mother and attends public school far away from her father’s compound. Her father’s survival lessons are drilled into Zara’s head and she replays them often. When there’s a widespread blackout, Zara uses her survival knowledge to get away from a strange man chasing her, to find her mother and to help her friends. As they travel looking for safety and to reach her father’s compound for protection, they come across a lot of danger and strange, sometimes creepy situations, cult communities, religious communities, families stealing supplies from them and people that will do anything for self preservation. Interesting, unique dystopian story, 4 stars!

Crown of Bones by A.K. Wilder

Action packed with many hidden secrets!

Ash is non-savant which means that she doesn’t have an alter that gives her powers like savants have. She’s friends with the heir Marcus who will be heading to Aku for training. Once his alter finally appears, it surprises everyone with its strength. On the group’s journey to Aku, they sail on a ship until the captain turns on them. The only way they survive is because of Kailyn, a shipmate who steps in and protects them from harm. He also helps them get to Aku despite several dangerous situations they find themselves in. Ash and Kailyn become friends and maybe a bit more and Marcus realizes he’s jealous. Their voyage comes full circle when they arrive back home to warn about an attack but things have changed. This action packed story alludes to many secrets being hidden by several characters and this first book of the series only gives readers a sneak peek into the mysteries surrounding them. 4 stars!

Lakesedge by Lyndall Clipstone

Interesting, unique world!

Violeta is fierce about protecting her brother Arien. Sometimes when he sleeps, dark shadows surround him. When he has an episode in the village during the day; he runs into the woods. He hides because he knows people will be afraid of him. Lord Sylvanan rules the village and he finds Violeta and Arien in the woods and promises that he can help with the shadows. They travel together to Lord Sylvanan’s grounds and discover that he also deals with darkness and guilt. His first name is Rowan but Violeta doesn’t trust him to not harm Arien. They see Rowan’s shadows and how he has to make sacrifices to the Corruption so it won’t take over their world. Slowly, she begins to trust him and tries to help stop the Corruption. Arien is taught to use his magic by Clover, the alchemist who resides in Rowan’s home. The housekeeper Florence takes good care of all of them. Arien grows stronger and believes in himself as Clover helps him grow and direct the shadows. Lord Under appears to Violeta, Leta for short, and she recognizes him from when she made a sacrifice to keep Arien safe when they were younger. She trusts him but she shouldn’t trust him completely. Lord Under watches over the souls of people that have passed on. Their hearts live on in trees within Lord Under’s world. His domain is falling apart too and he’ll do anything to save it. Interesting, unique world. 4 stars!

It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover

A truly touching story with many life lessons!

Lily finds a random rooftop in Boston so she can reflect on the eulogy she gave at her father’s funeral. She misses solitude since she has moved to Boston and has a not quiet roommate. While on this rooftop, she meets Ryle, a neurosurgeon resident. Ryle is adamantly against relationships in his life but he enjoys flirting with Lily. Through coincidental circumstances, Lily sees Ryle here and there throughout the next year. They eventually become involved in a relationship and his family absolutely loves her. She doesn’t about his temper until he hurts her and then she’s left wondering if it was accidental. In the meantime, Lily grows closer to her mother and she runs into Atlas, her first boyfriend. We learn about her past with Atlas and how much they both helped each other when they were teenagers. I read this book quickly because it’s completely engrossing and I fell right into the story! The characters are authentic and I grew to love them, with their humor and quirks and through their struggles. The author’s notes share the author’s perspective as she created this story and I admire how well she dealt with the delicate issues and the choices of the main characters. A truly touching story with several life lessons, 5 stars!

The Hacienda by Isabel Canas

I did not want this book to end!

Beatriz marries Rodolfo. He’s a businessman and owns a large estate. He leaves to do business so Beatriz runs the estate in his absence. Juana, Rodolfo’s sister, believes she’s the one in charge and she treats everyone gruffly. Beatriz starts to feel like she’s being watched and things get creepier from there, to the point that she’s afraid for her life. She asks the local priests for help and all but one shun her. Padre Andres helps her under the guise of being a priest to help the estate workers. He has knowledge from his ancestors that can help exorcise evil. The house has an extremely powerful, angry spirit and it’s harmful. This is an elaborate and beautifully written horror story that I didn’t ever want to put down. I also didn’t want it to end. 5 stars!

Blood Scion by Deborah Falaye

Jam-packed with action!

A young woman is searching for evidence of her mother in unmarked graves. Sloane knows that the Nightwalkers are responsible for her mother’s disappearance and she wants the proof. She’s caught by a Nightwalker and attacked. She unleashes her Scion power to save herself and burns him to ash in the process. Her identity as a Scion has to be kept secret or the rulers will kill her. She runs home to her grandfather, Baba. He has news that one of her friends ran from the draft and was killed because of it. Now three more people will be sent draft letters. She’s one of them, along with her best friend Teo. Teo has saved money and planned for the two of them to run if they are drafted. He shows Sloane his plan but she knows he’ll get killed if they run. To get him to drop his plans, Sloane threatens to turn him in. He walks off. Sloane is drafted, along with her bully Malachi. Malachi hates Sloane and wants revenge on her because she accidentally killed his family in a fire that she started. As the story continues, Sloane discovers secrets about her mother, finds possible allies and learns that not everyone is as they seem or appear to be. She also has to lose some of her humanity and empathy to sacrifice and do her part in becoming a hardened soldier. So many surprises and twists pop up in this book, making it a fast-paced read that’s also jam-packed with action and acts of violence. Sloane’s world is brutal and she makes some horrible choices to stay alive. 4 stars!

The Last to Vanish by Megan Miranda

Appalachian Trail Mystery!

Abby works at the Passage resort that sits next to the beginning of the Appalachian Trail. This resort is known for the disappearance of a group of four men twenty five years ago. Since those four friends went missing, three separate disappearances have happened, two women and a man. The latest disappearance, Landon West, occurred four months ago and his brother Trey just came to stay at The Passage. He wants to search for information about his brother and hopes to find answers. Abby and Trey both end up finding items that belonged to missing people. This makes her suspicious and a little creeped out. The story of the missing fraternity four is interesting and eerie but I would have liked more details of the last three crimes. I do feel that the ending was somewhat rushed. 4 stars!

Gilded by Marissa Meyer

Suspenseful, dangerous and interesting fairytale retelling!

Serilda enjoys creating stories to tell and embellishing the tales every time she retells them. One snowy night, she hears noises outside her house. She dares to go outside and she sees two moss maidens trying to hide from hunters. Serilda helps them hide but lies to the Erlking to keep them safe. He’s intrigued by her story of being able to spin straw into gold so he sends for her to come to his castle. After that, she’s bound to keep going back to the castle because the Erlking won’t let her go. She meets Gild, who the Erlking classifies as a poltergeist. Gild has the gift of magic that allows him to spin straw into gold. He helps Serilda but requires payment in return each time he helps her. The first two times, Serilda gives him the gifts the moss maidens gave her when she saved them from the Erlking. The third time, she offers her future firstborn child as payment. That is the only thing she has to offer. Gild accepts this offer, so his magic will work. Everything grows more complicated and the people Serilda love become endangered. The Erlking is heartless, cold and brutal. He will do whatever it takes to get what he wants.
Gilded is one of the best fairytale retellings I’ve read because Marissa Meyer adds twists and brings original characters to the story. Suspenseful, dangerous and interesting fairytale retelling, 5 stars!

The Fire Keeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley

Strong characters!

Daunis is looking forward to college and her future. She’s attending with her best friend Lily. They’re both descendants of members of the Tribe Council who are Native American. She befriends a new hockey player that just moved to town. His name is Jamie and he’s good at avoiding answering questions about his personal life. When a murder-suicide affects Daunis, she’s asked to help the undercover investigation to catch and stop the drug dealing happening in their community. She reluctantly and cautiously becomes an FBI informant. Daunis worries that she’ll betray her people by not helping the FBI see the good in her community, only the drug issues. A wonderful glimpse of a piece of Native American life, language and culture. Strong characters, true character development and the surrounding mystery pulled me deep into the story and it’s still sticking with me days later. Betrayal, deception, mistrust, broken family, violence, loyalty (sometimes misplaced), and manipulative behavior are all parts of this book. 4 stars!

This Woven Kingdom by Tahereh Mafi

Reads like an old-fashioned fairytale!

Alizeh is alone in the world, hiding her true identity and living as an overworked servant. She’s Jinn and has ice in her veins. She’ll be in danger if anyone discovers who she is because she’ll be seen as a threat to the human king. Kamran, the young prince, sees Alizeh help a homeless thief and is intrigued by her actions. The more he observes her, the more curious he becomes. The king, Kamran’s grandfather, sees that the prince is interested in the girl so he explains that their kingdom’s peace is at stake if they let her live. He orders Kamran to put her to death and then be ready to attend the planned ball the next evening and choose a wife. Alizeh works as a seamstress after her servant hours are finished for the day. She’s helping Miss Huda with several gowns. Alizeh is exhausted and after she leaves Miss Huda, she’s attacked by six men. She warns them but they laugh at her so she subdues them with the only weapons she has available, seamstress needles and scissors. Afterwards, she’s approached by a man who has been searching for her and wanting to protect her from harm. He sees the attack and knows she can protect herself. He offers her assistance and safety. He will take her away at the ball the following night. He also gives her a nosta, a rare orb that warms in your hand when the truth is told and chills like ice when a lie appears. This man’s identity is a surprising twist to the story! Huzzah!!!
The action takes over and another twist is revealed, ending the book with a bang! I can hardly stand to wait for the next book! Elegant storytelling, 5 stars!