Long Live the Pumpkin Queen by Shea Ernshaw

A cozy fun read with a nice twist!

Sally is the happiest she’s ever been, now that she’s Jack’s new bride. She is unsure of how well she will do as queen even though Jack reassures her. After their honeymoon travels, Sally ventures into Dream Town and accidentally leaves the door open. A monster travels to the different towns causing everyone to sleep. Even her beloved Jack, the Pumpkin King, won’t wake up. Sally feels guilty for causing this problem, especially because she had wished to be alone since she felt too inadequate to be queen. She goes to Dream Town hoping for the community to help her bring the monster, the Sandman, back but no one wants to talk about him. Then she’s summoned to the Governor’s house and her world changes. The descriptions of other towns are wonderful and fun! Each holiday has a town themed around its holiday. Dream Town is all about cozy sleep with its lavender crops, Dream Sand factory and Lullaby Library. I love the description of Dream Sand: a blend of stardust, moonbeams, and a pinch of yawns. Such a cozy, fun read with a bit of suspense and a nice twist! 4 stars!

No swearing.
Violence: PG- the Sandman ripping apart rag dolls and forcing everyone to sleep.
Mature content: PG- kidnapping Sally out of her window when she was twelve.

The Patron Thief of Bread by Lindsay Eagar

A clean read for upper elementary and middle school readers!

I love the cover because two images can be seen when you change your perspective, black outline of a girl tossing coins and black print of a gargoyle on a cathedral wall.
The opening is told in the gargoyle’s point of view and the statue sees a young woman carrying her baby while running from men. As they almost capture her, she jumps into the river while holding onto her baby. Eight years later, Duck is a young girl within a group of traveling thieves. She’s trying to prove that she’s helpful and ends up as a baker’s apprentice to infiltrate the bakery and steal from inside. She continues to give bread to her thief group, the Crowns, but doubts more and more that she’s doing the right thing because she’s feeling loved by the baker. As the stakes rise, Duck will have to make some tough choices and decide who her family is and who she’s loyal to. 4 stars for this sweet tale of finding your true self.

Ethnicity is predominantly white; it is a historical fiction fantasy.
Language content: no swears
Violence content: PG – men chasing woman and baby and she’s running for their safety.
Mature content: PG – thievery, grooming for a gang
Likes/dislikes: I like the baker. She’s tremendously generous and kind. I appreciate the author’s writing of Duck’s conflicts between right and wrong and in finding her sense of belonging. This is a clean read with a good message. Alternating timelines with a unique gargoyle and a young girl named Duck.

These Twisted Bonds by Lexi Ryan

Romance, adventure and fantasy all wrapped up in one, 5 stars!

Brie is trying to get Sebastian and Finn to form an alliance to stop the queen who wants to imprison and enslave Unseelie Fae. The queen is Sebastian’s mother and he has gone behind her back to free as many as he can. Brie doesn’t trust anyone and doesn’t believe that she belongs in the Fae or in the mortal realm. She tries to learn to trust those around her and when she discovers her lineage, she finds her place. She has to complete a task to save herself and everyone in the Fae realm. Brie and Finn learn they’re tethered, meaning they draw power from each other and give each other strength. The long sleep, where children sleep and never wake up, is affecting the Unseelie children because their kingdom is dying. Finn is willing to sacrifice everything for his kingdom and Brie is willing to do the same. If the two of them can get Sebastian to help then they just might save everything. Romance, adventure and fantasy all wrapped up in one, 5 stars!

Mature content: sex but vaguely detailed, naked aroused breasts
Violence: blood and guts
Swearing: 15 swears and two f-bombs
Ethnicity: mortal mix and Fae

It Ends In Fire by Andrew Shvarts

4 stars for the writing and intensity of the story!

Sixteen-year-old Alka tricks a group of thieves into stopping a wagon for her. They think the wagon holds treasure but it holds a Wizard that is the senator’s powerful daughter. Alka wants revenge on the Wizards for killing her parents ten years ago and Lady Alayne is the key. After dueling with Alayne, Alka retrieves Alayne’s invitation to Blackwater Academy of Magic so she can go in her place and infiltrate the Wizard power. The next chapter explains what happened to Alka’s parents. Wizards arrive at their home so seven-year-old Alka and her six-year-old sister Sera hide under the floorboards like their parents told them to. Their father, Petyr, admits he’s a rebel to save his wife but the Enforcers kill them both. But before Petyr dies, he tells his daughters to run and then he sets off an explosion to kill the Wizards. Alka’s childhood ended that day. Her world completely changed. Now, she travels to Blackwater Academy to take Alayne’s place and exact her revenge. Fylmonela Potts befriends Alka and the two form an alliance preparing for the intense competitive Blackwater Academy where one third of the students will drop out or die instead of graduating. At the opening ceremony, Alka sees the man who killed her parents, Magnus Aberdeen, headmaster of Blackwater Academy. After a failed attempt to get close to Aberdeen, Alka meets the exchange student Prince Talyn Ravensgale IV. The story continues to alternate between young Alka and the present Alka, when she’s at Blackwater. She pretends to mess up a Glyph that distracts Aberdeen and the entire class so she can steal the last four Glyph pages from the master codex of the wizard spells to keep and learn on her own. She wants to be the most powerful so she can take down the wizards. When she was being trained by rebels, she was told not to feel remorse for killing wizards or others who stand in the way of her mission. Despite that, Alka gains allies and friends and when their order competes in a school challenge, they try a daring stunt to beat the competition. This makes the ruling order angry but the rest of the school feels empowered. The second challenge doesn’t go down as planned and when a friend dies, Alka knows the end is coming. She’s got to make a plan that will take the biggest toll of all. 4 stars for the writing and the intensity. Similar to a Harry Potter outline.

The Liar’s Crown by Abigail Owen

A mystery wrapped up in a fantasy!

Twin princesses are born. A rival ruler always kills the twin, so the second princess is hidden away. When the queen dies, the twins’ grandmother, Tabra becomes queen and her sister Meren is kidnapped by a mysterious man who might be the Shadowraith. He actually thinks Meren is Tabra, so she plays the part. He’s terrifying and has secrets that Meren is scared of but curious about. The two get to know each other better as they help one another through danger and eventually get to the Shadowraith’s home. He explains who he is and introduces himself as Reven. He’s been giving a home to the Vanished and others that are shunned from their communities, giving them jobs, safety and a place to belong. When Reven’s sanctuary is attacked, Meren creates a portal for the people to escape. All that’s left are Reven and Meren. They both end up making extreme sacrifices for the people they love. The ending leads to a sequel. 4 stars for the mystery wrapped up in this fantasy!

These Hollow Vows by Lexi Ryan

A fantasy full of conflict!

A thief, Abriella, breaks into the vault of a man who became rich from selling females into prostitution. She only steals enough to carry so he won’t notice it’s missing. On her way home, Brie (Abriella) stops at a friend’s home to pay for the contract her daughter has just signed with the rich man. She did this to get medicine for her mother. Now Brie doesn’t have enough money to pay her rent to Madam V., her greedy, horrible aunt who makes Brie and her younger sister Jas live in a basement storage room. Brie and Jas also have to slave away taking care of the house and two spoiled cousins. When Jas is sold to the Fae King, Brie travels through a portal pretending to be one of the many human women wanting to marry the Fae Prince Ronan. She meets an intriguing Fae male that keeps showing up wherever she goes but then she’s caught by the king and finds out he took Jas as bait to get Brie’s help. The king wants Brie to steal artifacts from Prince Ronan’s court. She sees Sebastian where she never thought she would and runs from him because she’s surprised and angry. Once she comes to terms with who Sebastian really is, Brie realizes that she can use it to her advantage in finding the relics and getting Jas back. She does care for Sebastian and feels guilty for using him. The intriguing Fae male is Finn and she works with his group to stop the king. They help her with the shadow magic she has. Brie feels trapped and alone throughout the story because she doesn’t know if she can trust anyone but she perseveres to get Jas safe again.
I enjoyed reading this book because of Brie, the main character. She’s strong, resilient and will do anything to save her sister. The conflicting two main male characters make the story interesting, especially since they’re both vying for Brie’s attention. 5 stars for this fantasy full of conflict!

A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas

Nesta’s story!

SPOILER ALERT…
Nesta is falling off the edge so the Night Court members stage an intervention and give her an ultimatum, live at the House of Wind, train with Cassian two hours each morning then help the priestesses in the library every afternoon or be taken to and left in the human world. She grumbles and gripes but goes to the House of Wind. Eventually her walls begin to break down and Cassian is there to catch her if she falls or falters. Nesta makes friends with Emerie, an Illyrian shop owner, and Gwyn, a priestess in the library. Together they train and more priestesses join them, so Cassian enlists Azriel to help with the training. Nesta confides in Cassian about all the things that are breaking her spirit and making her feel as though she doesn’t deserve to live. She feels guilty about how she treated her father and Feyre, and all the hurt she’s caused by being snippy to Cassian and others. The Night Court members have discussed the Dread Trove, three items of great magical value.With the help of Azriel and Cassian, and an unlucky kelpie, Nesta retrieves the Mask and wakes the dead in the black lake when the kelpie threatens her life. She attends priestess services and listens to Gwyn’s beautiful voice amongst the congregation. While being swept away in the music, Nesta is transported to a chamber under the prison to where the Harp is hidden. She and Cassian go to the prison to retrieve the Harp and accidentally release Lanthys. The Harp and the sword Nesta accidentally magicked help her and Cassian slay Lanthys and escape the prison. The Harp transports them to Feyre’s front yard. Cassian is healed and takes Nesta in a hike to help her heal from her inner struggles. They become more than acquaintances with benefits and vow to be with each other forever. During the ball, Nesta dances with Eris to bring him to their side as a solid ally. She’s an amazing dancer and he’s taken with her and later sends a proposal offer to her through Rhysand.Nesta, Emerie and Gwyn are kidnapped and dropped off at the Blood Rite.
Nesta fights off the last of the competition during the Blood Rite while Emerie carries Gwyn to the top of Ramiel to touch the stone as the winners. The two are transported to Feyre’s home and their injuries immediately healed after touching the stone. Meanwhile, Cassian drops down by Nesta but he’s under the human crone queen’s control. She orders him to kill Nesta. Nesta calls to her powers and unmakes the queen so she ages backwards into nothing but ash. Cassian wakes up and is back to himself and flies them to Feyre’s home. They see that Feyre is dying from loss of blood as she’s trying to deliver her baby. Nesta makes a bargain with the Cauldron to give back what she took when she was made Fae if Feyre, the baby and Rhys could live. It works and most of Nesta’s power is taken but a small amount is left for her. Cassian and Nesta have an ornate mating ceremony, given to them by a very grateful Rhys. 5 stars! Wonderful writing, strong characters, amazing character development, suspenseful but a bit more vulgar than the previous books in the series.

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!

The Righteous by Renee Ahdieh

Pippa and Arjun become the main characters in this book!

Odette has been kept from death as much as Ifan can save her and now she’s in a limbo state while Arjun travels to the Fey world for help. He ends up owing six weeks of service to the dwarf king who is actually Sunan but Arjun doesn’t know that fact. Pippa desperately wants to find Celine who has supposedly left with Bastien, according to the note left for Pippa. With Eloise’s help, Pippa breaks into Arjun’s apartment and follows him into the Fey realm. He finds her surrounded by fey and quickly states they’re engaged, so he can save her. They become entangled in the Fey world and its rituals while desperately trying to find a way home. Most of this book involves Arjun and Pippa but Celine and Bastien show up too. The four of them get pulled into politics and danger in the Fey realm and so does Detective Michael Grimaldi. This book opens up so much more interest and adventure in The Beautiful series, 5 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!