To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

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A swashbuckling read!
Thanks to NetGalley and MacMillan Children’s Publishing for the opportunity to read and review To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo!
Lira is a siren that steals someone’s heart every year for her birthday. Lira captures a Prince while her cousin Kahlia steals a queen. The Midasan prince is introduced next, Prince Elian. This prince has two lives- one in the castle and one as a pirate, captain of his own ship and crew and a siren hunter. Lira will take her mother’s place as the Sea Queen someday, but in the meantime her mother is cruel and abusive. The Sea Queen punishes Lira for being kind and weak by turning her human and leaving her stranded in the ocean. Elian and his crew rescue Lira, thinking she’s an orphan that’s lost her family to drowning, but they are wary about her story. Elian’s goal is to kill the Prince’s Bane- the siren that kills princes. Elian has no idea that the Prince’s Bane is Lira and she’s keeping her background hidden from the crew and everyone they come in contact with. As Elian works toward his goal, he makes deals along the way with separate princesses and a slave trader. Eventually, Elian and his crew start to trust Lira because of the loyalty she’s shown by saving Elian’s life. Lira’s goal is to take over as Sea Queen and rid the world of her monstrous, manipulative mother and she hopes for peace as an end result. To Kill a Kingdom bursts with action, adventure and intrigue. This fantasy full of magic creates an amazing world with unique characters and backgrounds of their own. A wonderfully fun read worth a swashbuckling 5 stars!

Where the Sea Takes Me by Heidi R. Kling

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Brilliant and eye-opening!
Thanks to NetGalley and Entangled Teen for the opportunity to read and review Where the Sea Takes Me by Heidi R. Kling!
Sienna has just finished college finals and is planning a Team Hope trip to Cambodia. Her friend, Spider, wants to make their relationship more than just friends and Sienna isn’t too sure about that idea. Her father knocks her off her feet when he calls to tell her that Deni will be visiting soon. Deni, as in the Deni that Sienna fell in love with two years ago and who she helped recover from the tsunami in Indonesia on her last Team Hope relief trip. Deni arrives and he and Sienna fall instep with each other and Spider doesn’t quite know how to handle the situation. Team Hope travels to Cambodia on a long ride and Sienna has her eyes opened wide to the beautiful country torn apart by war, poverty and sex trafficking. The Cambodian people have extreme perseverance and are living in the results of Pol Pot’s destruction. Realistic fiction, adventure and history create the story and a touch of romance brings it all forward. Where the Sea Takes Me is a brilliant, eye-opening read, 5 stars!

Burning Bright by Chris Cannon

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The World of Bryn!
Thanks to NetGalley and Entangled Teen for the opportunity to read and review Burning Bright by Chris Cannon! Bryn’s story opens three months after the tumultuous events of the last book of the Going Down in Flames series. She’s had the summer break to be proper and forge ahead without anytime to mourn or recuperate since she’s had to spend the whole time with her stoic grandparents. Now Bryn’s returning to school with her friends, Clint and Ivy and Jaxon, her betrothed. As the school year moves forward, a weird and creepy set of attacks occurs, leaving everyone untrusting of each other and scared to go anywhere alone. I appreciate how easily the author brought the world and story background up to speed in Burning Bright because my memory was refreshed like I had just recently read the first four books of the series, even though it has been a while. I enjoy Bryn and her relationship with Clint and Ivy and how they work so well together, personality wise and with loyalty. It’s fun being in Bryn’s world again! 4 stars for the good story; I just felt like the ending flew by too quickly.

Sweet Reckoning by Wendy Higgins

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Sweet Reckoning by Wendy Higgins and Harper Teen continues right after the demons almost caught the group of Nephilim on the island. The demons are discussing traitors and set up a demon meeting. They suspect Anna and her father of rebellion and plan to take them down. She is constantly running to keep safe. Kaidan is sent by the demons to take care of Anna and if he doesn’t, they will kill him. The only way they can be safe together and keep Anna righteous for the sword, is by getting married. The rebellion Nephilim become closer and become true, loyal friends while they help each other survive. Everything comes to a head and suspense and intensity build as the rebels find out who’s on their side and who’s against them. 5 stars for the touching end to the Sweet Evil trilogy!

Mean Little People by Paige Dearth

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Heartbreaking realistic fiction.
Thanks to NetGalley, Fiction With Meaning LLC and a Goodreads giveaway for the ARC of Mean Little People by Paige Dearth.
The prologue broke my heart with the bullying of a seven-year-old boy. Tony was severely bullied by children and then he went home after being saved by a passerby and was bullied horribly by his father. The story continues on as Tony grows up, makes friends, loses friends and stands up to his father. The story jumps through Tony’s life and is somewhat choppy for a while but then finally settles and flows better. Once Tony becomes a teenager, the jumping stops and the story continues on with the tragically sad, horrifying and heartbreaking events that he’s living through. Tony sees his friend Salvatore harm someone. Vincent and Salvatore run away but Tony stays to help the injured person. A witness sees Tony by the person and tells the police that Tony was the killer when the person dies. Tony ends up in a juvenile detention center where he’s abused beyond comprehension. The only reason he was arrested is because he wouldn’t tell on Salvatore. Salvatore’s father is the mob boss but he’s cold and uncaring so he doesn’t help Tony as much or as quickly as he should. The mob eventually kills the witness and Tony is released. Now he has nowhere to go because his wretched father refuses to let him stay at home because he’s a “criminal”. He’s homeless. Tony finds a friend in a male drug addict and they share a room in an abandoned apartment building. This is the first time that he feels safe and isn’t harmed by someone he’s trusted. He also meets Donata, who owns a bakery that Tony frequently visits on the rare occasion when he has money. Donata and her granddaughter Ruth become family to Tony. His addict friend freezes to death and Tony is left on the streets alone and terrified of freezing to death too. He ends up joining the Slayers, a violent gang, just so he has a warm place to sleep. Through all of this, Salvatore begs his father to help Tony. The mob boss finally gives Tony a job, freeing him from the Slayers. He always tells Tony that he is indebted to him and the mob family and owes them, even though Salvatore continues to remind his father that he’s really indebted to Tony for saving him from the awful detention center in the first place. This story reminds me of the movie “Scarface”, with the hatred, anger and violence. I admire the author for being brutally honest with the details of the harm and violence that is predominantly portrayed throughout the book. Perseverance is strongly represented also. Tony has amazing strength and because we’re given his view of tragedies that he suffered through, his strength and perseverance become even more hard- earned and amazing because he carries on. The choppy grammar is used to make the characters real and it does work. Heartbreaking realistic fiction that’s also very eye-opening, 4 stars.

Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett

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Starry Eyes is a charming, fun, mature realistic fiction for young adults.
Thanks to NetGalley and Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing for the opportunity to read and review Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett!
Zorie and Lennon are neighbors at home and work. They also used to be best friends until family problems and drama got in the way. A teen group camping trip, which is supposed to be fun and not exactly “roughing it “, turns out dangerous with Lennon and Zorie stranded. Luckily, they’re both smart enough to help each other and work together to try to make it back to civilization. The two teenagers finally get the opportunity they need to talk and work out their relationship. Humor lightens the drama and Lennon and Zorie have interesting personalities that make Starry Eyes a charming, fun, mature realistic fiction for young adults. 5 stars!

Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi

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A charming book about relationships!
Thanks to NetGalley and Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing for the opportunity to read and review Emergency Contact by Mary H. K. Choi! Penny lives with her single mother and every neighborhood man seems to hover around her. This embarrasses Penny to no end. Sam lives where he works, literally, and he absolutely loves to bake. Sam’s ex-girlfriend shows up to tell him she might be pregnant and that information knocks him over. By chance, Sam and Penny meet and through an unfortunate panic attack, they become friends. I enjoyed their relaxed friendship and their humor. Both Penny and Sam have family issues and other things they need to figure out. Emergency Contact shares their stories, with all the ups and downs, the good and bad and builds a charming book about relationships in the process. 5 stars!

Furyborn by Claire Legrand

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Wonderful and complex characters!
Thanks to NetGalley, Sourcebooks Fire and Bookish First for the opportunities to read and review Furyborn by Claire Legrand!
The prologue opens the book with Queen Rielle as she’s delivering her baby girl. Then the story goes back two years in Rielle’s point of view, before she’s queen. The next chapter takes place over one thousand years later and introduces Eliana. The story continues on, alternating between Rielle and Eliana, chapter to chapter. Rielle has many powers and potential for more and the kingdom wonders if she’s part of a prophecy. Eliana is a hired hand for the Empire, capturing rebels as requested. Rielle does not have a handle on her powers, even though she’s been training for over a decade. She’s afraid of the destruction she might cause and ashamed of the destruction she’s already caused. Eliana lives with her mother and younger brother and she’s noticed that females are disappearing, being stolen. While she’s given a new job, she discovers that her mother is gone. She leaves in search of her mother with her brother in tow. Destruction seems to follow Eliana and her wall of anger and defiance seem to be cracking and regrets start seeping in. Foreshadowing builds the suspense to intense levels. The story comes together seamlessly and is exposed throughout the length of the book. Wonderful and complex characters make Furyborn an amazing and exciting fantasy read worthy of 5 stars! I’m already anticipating the second book in the Empirium trilogy!

Lizzie by Dawn Ius

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The story of Lizzie Borden with fictional flair!
Thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for the opportunity to read and review Lizzie by Dawn Ius! Mystery sums up the prologue with the narrator disoriented and seemingly injured. Chapter one opens five years later. Facts about the historical and infamous Lizzie Borden are scattered throughout the story and some are facts that I wasn’t already aware of, even though I have read a few books about the true story of Lizzie Borden and the mystery surrounding her. The present setting threw me off a bit but it’s because I was expecting a setting in the 1800’s. The more I learn about Lizzie, the more interested I become. The contemporary setting allows for more humor and also the addressing of the controversy surrounding sexual orientation. I don’t want to spoil any parts of the story for future readers. Lizzie is a unique book and adds a little flair to the history the story is based on; 4 stars!

The Stone Girl’s Story by Sarah Beth Durst

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Perseverance and Friendship!
Thanks to NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for the opportunity to read and review The Stone Girl’s Story by Sarah Beth Durst! Mayka, a twelve-year-old girl carved out of stone, lives on the mountain with other stone creations carved by her father, a famous stonemason. Her father is no longer alive and when the markings on the stone creatures began to fade and when Turtle no longer moves, Mayka decides to leave the mountain to find a stonemason who can carve the markings anew. She finds greed and danger but also loyalty and friendship on her search and Mayka learns and grows more than she ever realized she could. The Stone Girl’s Story is a sweet tale of hope, friendship and perseverance! 4 stars!