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!

This Cruel Design by Emily Suvada

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Intriguing sci-fi and the best science fiction series I’ve read!
Thanks to NetGalley, Edelweiss and Simon Pulse for the opportunity to read and review This Cruel Design by Emily Suvada!
Cat, Cole and Leoben are hiding while resting and waiting for Cole to heal from the explosion. Cat is also waiting for her tech to start working again. She is with Cole in the forest when they both see Virtual Reality videos replaying from her past. She realizes that she’s missing six months of her life with no recollection or records of where she was or what happened to her. Cat is discussing this with Cole when Leoben’s Jeep is hit and explodes. Cat finally meets Anna and together the group works with Mato, another coder, to find Lachlan’s hideout. Changes keep occurring to the virus and it seems to be mutating too quickly for a vaccine to work or be adjusted. Every time I think that Cat can’t have any more surprises, the author proves me wrong. Another twisting book in the This Mortal Coil series and I’m looking forward to the next and third installment, 5 stars!

Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

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Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell is a heart-wrenching mystery! The prologue pulled me right in, making me want to unravel what happened to Ellie. The story alternates between Ellie’s past leading up to her disappearance… and her mother Laurel’s present. A few more points of view are added in eventually, helping the reader discover more about Ellie and the other characters. I enjoyed the English setting and the author’s vivid descriptions, especially of smells. I became absorbed in the mystery and the harsh reality of tragedy caused by others and how the story comes full circle, 5 stars!

Dance of Thieves by Mary E. Pearson

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Dance of Thieves by Mary E. Pearson tells the story of Ten who has been an impressive thief since she was ten years old. She’s now a soldier for the queen and goes by the name Kazi. She encounters Jase, who has recently been made ruler due to his father’s unexpected death. Kazi and Jase become prisoners together when they are captured by labor hunters. The two of them are very similar in personalities and demeanor and at first, they drive each other crazy. They’re both clever, strong and loyal with banter that is fun and intelligent. With Kazi’s thieving background, she helps orchestrate their escape. Their relationship gets more complicated and more interesting from there. The story also becomes more complex, bringing in the backgrounds of Kazi and Jase and adding side characters and different kingdoms’ ideals and history. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Kazi and Jase and being on the sidelines of their tumultuous relationship. With interesting side characters and wonderful world building, I sped through the book and the ending left me wondering and anxiously awaiting the sequel! 5 solid 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!

 

After the Fire by Will Hill

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Gripping realistic fiction for young adults!
Thanks to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire for the opportunity to read and review After the Fire by Will Hill! The story opens during an attack and the main character, Moonbeam, is running for her life. She’s a resident of a community made up of fellow followers of The Legion and their leader is Father John. The fenced in community is under attack by the Government. Eventually, the attack is over and Moonbeam is at a rehabilitation center for mental and physical healing and also to learn to return to what she knows as the Outside. Moonbeam tells her story and the story of her fellow community members, Legionmates, through her interviews with a therapist and a government agent. The whole time I was reading this book, I kept thinking about the Waco Siege and its similarities to the Legion community. As I read the author’s note at the end of the book, he explains his reasoning for writing about the fictional character of Moonbeam and I was impressed with how delicately and respectfully he dealt with the similarities to Karesh’s religious community near Waco, Texas and how he honors the followers. The idea of one person gripping so many people and convincing them to sacrifice everything for that leader is curious and interesting and very sad. Will Hill handles this content well and breathes life into the characters and the tragic events that they lived or didn’t live through. 5 stars for this gripping realistic fiction story for young adults!

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!

Can Your Conversations Change the World? by Erinne Paisley

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Become an activist for equality with another guide from Erinne Paisley!
Thanks to Orca Book Publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review Can Your Conversations Change the World? by Erinne Paisley!
This book takes a look at feminism and the continuation of working towards equal rights. As part of the POPACTIVISM series, this book focuses on the importance of discussing feminism and what it means for equality. The author shares a bit of her upbringing and the educational background her parents gave her that has helped foster her independence throughout her life. The author has written other activism books and she’s still a teenager. Very impressive! Feminism simply means believing in equality and human rights for both males and females. 5 stars for this impressive book!

Body Swap by Sylvia McNicoll

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Fun with a twist!
Thanks to NetGalley and Dundurn Press for the opportunity to read and review Body Swap by Sylvia McNicoll!
Hallie, a teenager, focuses on her cell phone so much that she walks in front of a car and gets hit. An elderly woman, Susan, was driving the car and she blames the car’s mechanical problems for the accident. Both of them are badly injured and unconscious and while they’re in that state, they involuntarily switch places. This story reminds me of Freaky Friday except the switchers aren’t family members and ageism is prevalent. Hallie is a spunky, self-absorbed teenage girl that’s slightly boy crazy and Susan is an octogenarian that’s feeling smothered by her son and daughter-in-law. They want to take away her independence, her car and her condo and make her move into a retirement home. When Hallie and Susan trade places, they gradually grow to truly care for each other and gain a great deal of compassion. I like how the author brought ageism to light and built empathy towards both young and old. Endearing realistic fiction with a twist, 4 stars!

The Unbinding of Mary Reade by Miriam McNamara

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Thanks to Edelweiss and Sky Pony Press for the opportunity to read and review The Unbinding of Mary Reade! Mary hides on the ship when Pirates attack and she unexpectedly kills the Captain and swears allegiance to the Pirate Captain. The next chapter goes back in time and tells us how Mary disguised herself, as her dead brother Mark, to please her mother and to receive money from her grandmother. Her mother calls her a bastard girl and tells her that she’s unacceptable in society or in the family. From then on Mary stays disguised as a boy everywhere except when she’s alone with her mother, who’s drunk most of the time. The story moves back and forth between the past and the present and eventually they catch up to each other, with Mary trying to figure out and understand her place in the world. Action and a delicate, tactful handling of Mary’s relationships and how she finally decides what suits her true-self best. A 4 star adventure!