Sparks of Light by Janet B. Taylor

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I was able to read Sparks of Light by Janet B. Taylor thanks to a goodreads giveaway of a hardback book and thanks to NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for an arc! Sparks of light continues the story from Into the Dim, the first book in this series. Hope is with Phoebe and their other companions in the Scottish Highlands. Everyone is adjusting to the drastic change in Hope’s mom and the baby she now has. Hope’s boyfriend Bran has gotten away from his mother, Celia, to tell the companions about his mother’s new plan. After Bran reveals Celia’s plan, the Viators make a plan of their own – to travel back to 1895 and visit Nikola Tesla and his discovery. The trip to 1895 causes extreme circumstances for Doug and Hope when they are involuntarily taken to an asylum and treated with the new drug, heroin. Intense and interesting and on the edge-of-your-seat suspense! Hope describes the asylum and its residents in detail. She also reiterates her previous knowledge of asylum history. Morbidly fascinating and scary. As the comrades work to visit Tesla, they encounter atrocities and tragedy in this time traveling adventure worth 5 stars! I am, once again, anxiously awaiting a sequel!

The Syndicate by Sophie Davis

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The Syndicate by Sophie Davis impressed me with its mix of science fiction and history. The story begins with the Prologue during May, 1796 in Florence, Italy, which is being occupied by Napoleon and the French army. The main character, Stassi, has stolen Napoleon’s letter to Josephine and she’s running to ensure her escape. She’s helped by her partner Gaige. They work for The Syndicate as runners and travel to the past to procure requested items that rich people pay a good chunk of money for. Gaige and Stassi later travel to 1925 Paris to collect a Rosenthal manuscript and they attend a party celebrating Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and its publication. Along with finding the manuscript, a serial killer on the loose adds to the suspense and danger. The elaborate cover stories of the runners, the historical background and interesting, dynamic characters make this a very fun science fiction read worthy of a 5 star rating!

Cold Summer by Gwen Cole

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Cold Summer by Gwen Cole starts off with Kale sitting in his yard thinking about how his life has changed. The mystery of this change pulled me into the story. Harper is moving into her Uncle Jasper’s home where she’s spent her summers when she was younger. She’s looking forward to seeing the neighbors, Kale and his family. The alternating points of view between Kale and Harper tell their stories, bits at a time. Kale struggles with daily life and responsibilities because he gets pulled out of the present and travels to the past. He feels like he has absolutely no control over his life and he’s been kicked off the baseball team and expelled from school, slowly losing everything he cares about. He has been traveling into a World War II war zone and it’s happening more often. Harper helps Kale deal with the time traveling and gives him something to be happy about. This book is genre bending since it’s historical fiction (World War II), science fiction (time travel), contemporary and romance all in one; 4 stars.

The Girl From RawBlood by Catriona Ward

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Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review.
Thanks to Edelweiss, NetGalley and Sourcebooks for the opportunity to read and review The Girl from RawBlood by Catriona Ward. Iris lives with her Papa in the house called RawBlood. This house has been in their family for generations and the family members supposedly have a disease called Horror autotoxicus. They are supposed to live by a strict set of rules, one of which states, “no friends “. The story splits between past and present and dives into the sordid history of RawBlood. The prose is reminiscent of classical writing and brings the reader into that atmosphere with a Gothic feel. Vivisection, drugs, hallucinations and dysfunctional relationships help the story move forward into the horror genre. Even though the story line is somewhat confusing, the disjointed feeling also helps with the oddities and creepiness of the story. 4 stars.

Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier

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Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier opens as Gwyneth helps her cousin Charlotte get home after her first dizzy spell. The first sign of reaching the age and ability to time travel is feeling dizzy. The time travel ability runs in the family and begins around the age of sixteen. Gwyneth ends up traveling through time first, but soon after she lands back in time, she returns to the present. Gwyneth’s friend, Lesley, helps her with research and keeping her confidences. Before she gets the chance to tell her mother that she traveled back in time, Gwyneth takes another journey during the night. She time travels three times before she confides in her mother and her mother stresses and immediately takes Gwyneth to the time travel authorities. The chronograph controls time traveling if it has a record or sample of your blood. Otherwise, time traveling comes at random times and in spurts. Gwyneth learns of the history, chronology and ancestry of time travel and the prophecy/philosophy of the twelve. The Guardians take care of the chronograph and the time travelers. I give this book 4 stars because of the adventure and fun character dynamics!

House of Silence by Sarah Barthel

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Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review.
Thanks to NetGalley and Kensington Books for the opportunity to read and review House of Silence by Sarah Barthel! Isabelle is happily engaged to Gregory after spending the required year of mourning after her father’s death. Then she witnesses Gregory committing a fatal act, but he creates a believable story that makes him look like a hero, so no one believes Isabelle when she tries to convince them that Gregory is a murderer. Out of desperation and for her own safety, she is sent to Bellevue Sanitarium where she befriends Abraham Lincoln’s widow and gains allies in her fight against Gregory. A historical fiction mystery that takes place in the late 1800’s. I enjoyed the characterization and the deception of the antagonist along with the suspense – 4 stars!

My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century by Rachel Harris

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“Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review.”

Thanks to NetGalley and Entangled Publishing for the opportunity to read and review My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century by Rachel Harris! I absolutely love this book and it was just what I needed to relax during a very busy schedule. Cat flies to Italy with her father and the woman he’s engaged to, Jenna. Jenna is planning an extravagant sweet sixteen celebration for Cat. Cat could care less about the party, but she’s thoroughly enjoying the trip to Italy. She has her fortune told, for fun, and walks out of the fortune teller’s tent into a different time. At first, Cat thinks the people around her are very good period actors. She soon realizes that she is someone else, Patience, in a different time, the Renaissance. I especially liked the part when she meets Michelangelo! This story is fun, suspenseful, interesting, contains dynamic characters and has just the right amount of romance to keep me interested and I am now looking forward to more works from Rachel Harris, 5 stars!

Every Hidden Thing

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“Received an advance reader copy for a fair review.”

Thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for the opportunity to read and review Every Hidden Thing by Kenneth Oppel. A dinosaur expedition to dig up the first Tyrannosaurus Rex fossil is the story in this book. Told in alternating points of view between Rachel and Samuel, both of whose fathers are competing paleontologists. The transitions between the two points of view took me a while to get used to because a small change in font is the only acknowledgment. The fathers are competing against each other and Rachel and Samuel are along for the expedition. They end up working the same dinosaur site with tremendous animosity. This historical fiction story includes T-Rex bones, Badlands fossils, the infamous Mr. Barnum with a bit of romance added into the mix. Someone steals from the Indian burial grounds and the Sioux Indians are looking for the items that were taken. This adds more suspense and interest to the story. The story is inspired by a true paleontologist rivalry between Edward Drinkwater Hope and Othniel Charles Marsh. This rivalry took place in the late 1800’s and is known as the “Bone Wars”. 4 stars for this interesting paleontology read!

How to Hang a Witch

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The instant I began reading How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather, I felt pulled into the story. What’s not to love? The history of the Salem Witch Trials, clever characters and an interesting synopsis immediately piqued my curiosity! Told in Sam Mather’s point of view as she moves to Salem, Massachusetts with her stepmother. The two of them reside in Sam’s grandmother’s house while Sam’s father suffers in a coma that has lasted over three months already. Sam is a descendant of Cotton Mather, one of the men who hanged witches during the Salem Witch Trials. A group of students, known as the Descendants, because they are actual descendants of the victims of the Salem Witch Trials hangings, immediately dislike Sam because of her last name. Her neighbors, Jaxon and his mother, are friendly and they knew Sam’s grandmother well and took care of her and her home when she couldn’t anymore. Jaxon seems to be the only friendly person in the entire school, including the teachers. The relationship and banter between Jaxon and Sam makes me smile and when they find a hidden room in her house, the mystery begins.

The author’s beautiful descriptions bring the historical homes to life and portray the magnificence of a Massachusetts autumn. The mystery, suspense and the curse all grow in intensity and I am never quite sure who Sam can trust. Wonderful and creative writing, dynamic and complex characters and a plot that everyone can relate to make this an amazing book. The author’s notes share what is historically accurate and what’s fiction and her personal genealogy makes me think that she needs to write more historical fiction! 5 stars – perfect from beginning to end!

 

Spindle by Shonna Slayton

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Thanks to NetGalley and Entangled Teen for the opportunity to read and review Spindle by Shonna Slayton! I wasn’t expecting this book to be as good as it is. Impressive and creative fairy tale retelling – 5 stars!

Briar, an Irish girl and an orphan, works on the spindle and is hoping for another job sewing for ladies. Briar struggles to take care of her three younger siblings and, since she’s only sixteen, a nanny is helping them until her seventeenth birthday. Henry is Briar’s best friend and cares deeply for her even though his mother doesn’t seem to approve of Briar. Nanny is gone on business and Fanny has taken her place with the children, Since Fanny showed up, people are acting differently than they normally do. For example, Henry Prince is leaving their community even though no Prince family member has ever left before.

The machines are not working well for Briar at the sewing mill. A peddler helps by convincing her to take a special spindle for her machine. Things go downhill from there. Other girls that work at the mill envy Briar’s spindle, touch it and end up becoming very ill. Briar discovers that the people she knows are not all what they appear to be. This fairy tale retelling has historical fiction of the 1890’s added into the storyline. The young women that work at the sewing mill are all dealing with workforce conditions that need improvement and the rights of women who feel trapped, with no options to live differently. Also, the women’s suffrage movement and Polio are part of this story as well. Spindle by Shonna Slayton is the most creative retelling I have ever read! Set generations after Aurora’s lifetime, the true Sleeping Beauty; I highly recommend it!