A History of Wild Places by Shea Ernshaw

Unique tale surrounded by mystery!

Travis has been hired to find a missing author. He follows Maggie’s path as far as he can then he disappears too. The forest community has secrets that threaten to be revealed unless the leader can keep everyone subdued and believing in him and the community. When a young woman delivers her baby two months too early, members want to retrieve medical help from the outside but the leader, Levi, refuses to allow it. That’s when things start to unravel. Interesting and unique tale surrounded with mystery, 4 stars!

Road of Bones by Christopher Golden

Cold, spooky and dangerous!

A documentary producer, Teig, takes his partner, Prentiss, to the area in Russia known as the Road of Bones and the prisoner gulags of Stalin’s time. One of the coldest places on earth. The two travel and meet the guide then continue on traveling the road of bones. They reach the community where the guide is from and find abandoned homes and bare footprints leading out of doors into the snow. The guide’s niece is catatonic from what she’s seen. The group sees movement in the trees and are soon attacked. Large wolves kill the guide, injure Prentiss and chase the truck the men are escaping in with the niece and a woman whose SUV broke down on the road. They reach the small community where they’d eaten earlier and enter the same building as the wolves come closer. More injuries and more people either die or slowly transform into antler people. The few survivors bargain with the supernatural leader, the parnee, to save the rest. Cold, spooky and dangerous.

Russian history mixed with the supernatural!

The Shattered City by Lisa Maxwell

Intelligent fantasy!

Told in alternating timelines of 1902 and 1983 Brooklyn, each time focuses on different people. Esta and Harte move forward to 1983 where they can go to the future, get away from the enemy, and figure out how to solve the problems of the Brink and the evil Nibsy Lorcan. Viola and Jianyu are in 1902 with Nibsy. All of the main characters from the past books of this series are mentioned in different timelines. The characters eventually all end up in the same timeline together. The storyline consists of turmoil and struggles to right the wrongs of the past and give freedoms to the people who have an affinity for magic. An intelligent time travel fantasy.

Likes/dislikes:
The many timelines, characters and struggles almost need a chart to keep track of. This is the fourth book of The Last Magician series and it just adds another layer to the whole concept and plot. If this series is going to be read, the books should be read together without much time between to help keep it all straight. I like the diversity of the characters and their strengths.

Mature content: PG-13 for drug use by side character, kissing
Language: R for 53 swears and 1 f-bomb
Violence: PG-13 for villain shooting himself, explosions that killed people.
Ethnicity/other info: The ethnicity is mixed with white, Italian, Oriental and Black.

What Lies in the Woods by Kate Alice Marshall

Book edition:

Three eleven year old girls entered the woods and two came out. One of them had been stabbed so the other two girls got help and testified that a serial killer rapist was to blame. Years later, when the three girls have become adults, the killer dies in prison. The three women meet and discuss how relieved but worried they are about a secret they’re hiding. The mystery of their secret becomes many mysteries buried, one on top of another. This is a delightfully twisted and unexpected mystery, 5 stars!

Edgewood by Kristen Ciccarelli

Mystery, fantasy, adventure and romance!

Emeline Lark lives in Montreal where she’s trying to leave her forest hometown of Edgewood in the past. She’s on the verge of becoming a singer with a recording company but as she performs she sees signs of the Edgewood Forest creeping onto the stage. Emeline sees a mysterious hooded stranger in the audience who becomes the key to her past and future, unbeknownst to her at the time. Pa, her grandfather, has dementia and when she goes home to take care of him, she’s pulled into the Edgewood Forest and her life is thrown into upheaval and danger. To free herself from the evil and corrupted Wood King, Emeline will have to dig deep and get to the bottom of the forest curse.

5 solid stars!!! Mystery, fantasy, action and romance.

Likes/dislikes:
The writing pulled me into the story with incredible world building and mysterious surroundings and characters. Hawthorn is a fascinating character. The story has action, tenderness and a roller coaster of emotions.
Language: R for 14 swears and 3 f-bombs
Mature content: R for Sex on page 295 that doesn’t mention genitals and is described vaguely; non-detailed oral sex on page 340. The relationship between the two characters is a loving one and the sex is because of this love for each other.
Violence: PG for Stabbing of the Shadowskin creatures, no blood involved; danger and Shadowskins chasing people.
Ethncity: Predominantly white in Montreal and Edgewood but mixed colors of skin in the otherworldly forest of the Wood King.

Master of Iron by Tricia Levenseller

Suspense, action and humor!

The story opens as the group travels to the healer that will hopefully save Temra after she was injured and received a nick in her lung. The group consists of the captured warlord Kymora, Ziva, Temra, Kellyn and Petrik. Kymora happens to be Petrik’s mother and his father is the deceased king. They’re all on their way to get help from Petrik’s half brother, Prince Skiro. Soon after they arrive at their destination, they’re informed that the healer has been kidnapped by Prince Ravis, Skiro’s oldest and war hungry sibling. Petrik shows Kellyn and Ziva the portals to the siblings’ connected kingdoms. They use the portrait portal to quickly get to Ravis’ kingdom and rescue the healer by Kellyn causing a distraction. Ziva sends Petrik and the healer back to Skiro’s kingdom then she destroys the portrait and goes back for Kellyn. She’s captured along with him and forced to create magical weapons to conquer the other kingdoms. Ziva vows never to create magical weapons again after seeing what Kymora and Ravis do with them. The group moves from one conflict to another after Ziva escapes with Kellyn and goes back to Skiro’s castle. Ravis soon attacks and Skiro uses the imprisoned Kymora against the attack. She’s loose and still wants to conquer the world. Ziva has tough decisions to make involving her magical abilities, Temra, Kellyn and their future. She also works at overcoming her anxiety and undergoes tremendous character development. The suspense and action made the reading go by quickly and I like the snippets of humor woven through the duology, 5 stars!

Blade of Secrets by Tricia Levenseller

A fun, dangerous adventure with the added touch of magic!

Ziva is a magical blacksmith who creates weapons with a touch of magic added. She lives with her younger sister Temra. Their parents were killed when Ziva was five. They lived at an orphanage and then Ziva was trained by a blacksmith until he retired. Ziva and Temra now run a smithy business together. Ziva’s abilities are widely known and when a warlord gives her a job, she’s thrilled. Until she discovers the warlord’s plans to conquer the kingdom and enslave the people. She decides to take her magical weapons and run with her sister. They take Petrik, a scholar, and Kellyn, a mercenary, along for safety. They head to their father’s family that they’ve never met, thinking that’s the safest place to go. On their travels, they deal with ambushes and the worry of trusting Petrik and Kellyn. Their grandmother welcomes them when they arrive and they attend religious services with her. The priestess delivers the sermon about the dangers of magic and that magic holders should be and will be killed. Ziva and Temra are terrified. That’s just another dangerous situation among many that they have to deal with on their mission to protect the kingdom from the warlord’s lofty, greedy goals. The group dynamics are interesting and their banter made me laugh several times. The book started off a bit slow in the first few pages but then picked up the pace and then I couldn’t stop reading it! A fun, dangerous adventure with the added touch of magic, 5 stars!

The Corpse Queen by Heather M. Herrman

Riveting read!

In 1855 Philadelphia, Molly lives at an orphanage until her aunt requests that she live with her. Before she even meets her aunt, she’s told she has to pick up a package first which turns out to be nothing like she expects. Molly is mourning the death of her friend Kitty who drowned in the river. Mother Superior told Molly, with a sneer, that Kitty was pregnant and this made Molly angry because Kitty told that secret in confession and no one else should know except the priest. Tom works for Molly’s aunt Ava and he picks her up from the orphanage, takes her to pick up the package then transports her to Ava’s home. Molly finally meets Ava and is given snippets of information about living there and what she’s required to do to stay. She’s expected to collect bodies for Dr. Lavall’s lectures and usually this requires dishonesty. Molly is eventually allowed to join the lectures and discovers that she wants to become a doctor herself even though she’s not welcomed into the surgical world by society. Molly also becomes deeply entwined in the mystery of The Knifeman and it’s going to take all her cleverness and bravery to keep from becoming a victim herself.

Likes/dislikes:
Suspenseful, creepy and frightening story kept me riveted. Molly’s strength overcomes her insecurities from being left in an orphanage by her parents and the abuse she suffered there. I enjoy the diverse characters and Tom’s personality and perseverance. The mystery is interesting.

Language: R for 43 swears and 4 f-bombs.
Mature content: PG-13 for
premarital sex without details and unwed pregnancy by side characters, kissing with main characters.
Violence: PG-13 for grave robbery and stealing parts from dead bodies, such as teeth, an ear and skin, bloody remains, stabbing.

Trigger by N. Griffin

Disturbing fictional neglect and abuse!

Small town, USA is where Didi attends school but she lives with her father in a secluded area. He’s abusive and neglects to give Didi everything she needs. Didi is terrified and on edge always, even when she’s not around her father because she’s worried she’ll do something wrong and he’ll find out somehow. Her father makes her run laps around the property so she can become as quick as possible but she doesn’t know why he cares about that. He also forces her to learn and play chess and compete in tournaments and she has to be the best. Eventually Didi understands the reason her father has made her do these things but it might be too late for her to save herself.

Likes/dislikes:
The story is disturbing because of the neglect and abuse. The effects on the child’s physical and mental well-being are portrayed through the coping skills the main character develops over time to deal with her life; they were heartbreaking at times. The timeline jumps around and that was difficult to follow. The ending was the best part.
Language: R for 67 swears and 22 f-bombs.
Mature Content: R for physical abuse and severe neglect.
Violence: R for child abuse and hunting child with a gun.
Ethnicity: Didi has brown hair but other characters’ ethnicities aren’t described.

The Ones We Burn by Rebecca Mix

Intrigue in a supernatural world!

In an imaginary kingdom full of mixed ethnicities, Ranka is desperate to find Yeva. So desperate that she agrees to the betrothal of the Prince so she can search for her. Soon, Ranka’s companions include Prince Galen, Princess Aramis and the noble young ambassador Percy. After the virus winalin is discovered throughout the kingdom, the four companions want to stop it. Winalin is turning witches into diseased monsters that are intent on killing. While trying to get to the bottom of the mystery, their lives are completely overturned. Ranka, Prince Galen, Princess Aramis and Percy each realize that none of them might survive.

Likes/dislikes:
I like that the story creates empathy and approaches the topic of abusive manipulation. Ranka’s character development is interesting. I like that there’s little swearing.
Mature content: PG-13 for drinking.
Language: PG-13 for 11 swears, no f-bombs.
Violence: PG-13 for non-detailed bloody deaths.