Agnes at the End of the World by Kelly McWilliams

Completely Riveting!

Agnes resides within a cult at Red Creek but she doesn’t realize that she’s part of a cult. She’s the eldest of several siblings and is responsible for taking care of their family because their mother is severely depressed. Agnes sneaks to the Outside once a month to retrieve insulin for her younger brother Ezekiel, even though she knows it’s against the rules. Her sister Beth, the next eldest sibling, is a rebel and doesn’t like the rules. When Beth is caught kissing a boy, she’s disgraced by their father and the community. Agnes has been betrothed as a sixth wife to a middle-aged man and before she gets married, she has to teach Beth everything so she can then become the family caretaker. The middle-aged man decides to marry Beth instead of Agnes to straighten Beth out. In the meantime, a ferocious virus is spreading throughout the world and eventually arrives at Red Creek. The Prophet releases an infected dog during a church meeting and, after a few people are bitten, he tells them about his revelation; the Rapture has arrived and everyone must move into the underground bunker. Agnes escapes with Ezekiel and is heartbroken that she’s left the rest of her siblings behind. She knows that the bunker would be a death sentence for Ezekiel because there’s no insulin for him. This is a riveting story about cults, self-worth, self-importance, bravery, love, loyalty, and sacrifice. The author’s note explains the cult background information being from a nonfiction book of a survivor who escaped a true cult. A wonderfully written and all-encompassing story about love, sacrifice, and different faiths, 5 stars!

Namesake by Adrienne Young

Namesake opens with Fable kidnapped and trapped on Zola’s ship, the Luna. Fable is unsure of why she was captured until Zola tells her it’s because he knows who her parents are. She’s forced to harvest gemstones with other dredgers so Zola can use them for payment for something. She soon finds out what the payment is for, to Zola’s detriment. Fable discovers more than she ever could have imagined about her family and her relationship with West worries her. She goes in search of the elusive gemstone, midnight, that her mother supposedly found before her death. This sequel to Fable is exciting, action-packed, dangerous and full of great character development. The series is so good that I want to read it again, 5 stars!

Only Ashes Remain by Rebecca Shaeffer

Nita finds Fabricio at INHUP and vows to kill him. She misses Kovit and emails back and forth with him. She also emails her mother and they plan to meet in Toronto. Nita is heartbroken after hearing about her father’s murder. Kovit and Nita team up and take down some people that are hunting them. The two of them go on a roller coaster ride of a relationship and they both learn and grow because of it. Nita comes to terms with her mother and her actions but doesn’t learn any more about her father’s death. Great sequel, 4 stars!

Fable by Adrienne Young

Fable is on her own, trying to survive long enough to get off the island her father left her on years ago. Her mother died in a shipwreck and her father deserted her and left her to survive completely on her own. She’s tough and has gained survival skills all by her wits. She manages to get off the island by buying passage aboard the Marigold, a ship that she later discovers is one of her father’s. She finally reaches Saint and he’s just as cold to her as she expected, even though she hoped for more. He does give her the inheritance her mother would have left her but nothing is given easily or with any help when Saint is involved. She also figures out why Saint carved into her arm all those years ago. Fable bargains cleverly and becomes a true part of a crew and she finally feels like she has a place where she belongs. I thoroughly enjoyed this story, a pirate adventure with strong characters, great character development and dangerous setting, 5 stars!

All These Monsters by Amy Tintera

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!

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 Many Feathered Thing by Lisa Gerlits

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Heartwarming!
Thanks to NetGalley and Capstone for the opportunity to read and review A Many Feathered Thing by Lisa Gerlits!
This book tells a story about Clara and how she found her “voice”, gained confidence and built her self esteem. Clara continued to have ear infections when she was a baby and a toddler. When she was two, her parents realized she was having hearing problems, surgery helped with her hearing but she struggled to learn speech and lost confidence because of teasing from others and the frustration of trying to get the sounds right. Clara is reading The Diary of Anne Frank with her class at school. As she learns about Anne and her life, Clara sees parallels of Anne’s experiences and feelings in people she knows and associates with. This healing story inspired me to sketch again and that’s something I love to do but haven’t done for decades. Clara grows tremendously within the confines of this story, all because her self awareness grows and her confidence builds, thanks to the realization that she can do things, she can be brave and the faith that others have in her. Sometimes, all we need to grow is to have a chance to see outside ourselves and get a different perspective on life’s situations. A truly heartwarming story, 5 stars!

You Were Here by Cori McCarthy

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You Were Here by Cori McCarthy
On the fifth anniversary of her brother’s death, his graduation night, Jaycee is spending her own graduation night trying to lose herself in the memories that she’s been holding tightly to. She’s revisiting the places he enjoyed but she feels him slipping away. She reluctantly lets people tag along as friends on the adventures and each of them experiences something eye-opening that shoves them into adulthood. I love this book and even though I just finished it, I want to read it again. The circumstances that start the story, the character development and growth, the uniquely different characters and the setting work together to build a wonderful book, 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!