Frances is now a teacher at Haxahaven. She and Maxine are traveling to Paris and picking up their mutual friend Lena on the way. They travel six days on a fancy ship then stay at Maxine’s family home once they reach Paris. Frances hasn’t told Lena and Maxine that she received a letter from Finn or that she wants to visit her father who abandoned her family when she was young. She meets her father and is underwhelmed with his reaction and his personality. Finn doesn’t evoke trustworthiness but Frances feels that she has to work with him to fix the damage the two of them caused when reaching the veil and speaking to her deceased brother William. Frances and her friends are determined to fix the magic problem caused by the veil breach and they need all the help they can get. Likeable characters! 4 stars!
Mature content: PG-13 for underage drinking, LGBT side characters mentioned Language: R for 7 swears and 1 f-bomb Violence: PG-13 for stabbing, shooting and a tied up victim Mixed Ethnicity and set in 1913 Paris
Political intrigue in 1930’s Orient with a mix of historical fiction and fantasy!
The prologue tells of a painful scientific experiment on a person that has been strapped down. Then the story starts as Rosalind is trapping a criminal who is a member of the group responsible for the death of her cousin Juliette during a past act gone awry. She’s exacting revenge on those who were part of it. Political intrigue, spies, agents, Communists and Nationalists describe the characters in this book. Her handler pairs her with another agent, Orion, who has family issues as well. The two of them have to pretend to be married so they can infiltrate the newspaper company and try to discover information on the serial killer murdering people with a toxic liquid in syringes. What they discover turns their lives around and, unbeknownst to Orion and Rosalind, the reader is given the true identity of a mysterious agent, Priest. The author’s notes on Oriental history during the 1930’s are fascinating. Well-written, complex, beloved characters build a fun historical fiction fantasy. 5 stars!
Likes/dislikes: I enjoyed learning about the history of 1930’s Orient. The author’s notes give readers a glimpse into her research and what’s based on facts and what’s completely fiction in this story. Rosalind and Orion are characters with depth and I had fun getting to know them. Swearing: PG for three swears, no f-bombs Mature content: PG for lgbtq transgender character mentioned Violence: PG-13 for killing by poison, shooting, bloody shooting, stabbing, bloody stabbing
Luminaries are hunters of nightmares. Winnie, sixteen, is about to start the trials that lead to becoming a hunter. She lives with her mother and brother. After her father was exposed as a spy, their family lost everything, including him. Now they struggle to make ends meet. Winnie is bullied by classmates that call her traitor because of her father. She is excited to become a hunter and draws every creature she sees with her wonderful artistic skills. On her first trial, Winnie accidentally stumbles onto a banshee that’s immediately beheaded by someone or something else. She carries the banshee head back to headquarters, completely in shock the whole time. As soon as other hunters see her holding the banshee head, they assume she hunted and killed it. Super impressed, the hunters don’t let Winnie get a word in and she’s finding it hard to speak anyway. After that, she and her family are celebrated and treated much better. Winnie is able to attend hunter school and her brother Darian is promoted. In the meantime, Winnie asks Jay to train her because she feels extremely behind since she hasn’t had access to teaching or coaching for the last four years. Jay agrees but Winnie has difficulty reading him. He’s aloof, strong, and oblivious to the attention and flirting of Winnie’s peers. Jay’s training helps Winnie with the trials but she keeps seeing the Whisperer that no other hunter has seen. As Winnie builds her skills, she discovers a coded message from her father and the book ends with the shocking deciphered note he left for her. A sequel to look forward to! Supernatural mystery, 4 stars!
Likes/dislikes: I like the following: -The quote from Grandpa Frank, “That’s why we’re called the Luminaries, Winnie, we are lanterns the forest can never snuff out”. -The mystery of the Whisperer and the discovery of another mystery that leads into a sequel. -I enjoyed the writing and that Winnie is an artist. -I like Jay and the mystery surrounding his life. Language Content: PG-13 for 16 swears, no f-bombs Mature Content: PG-13 for underage drinking, mentions marijuana; LGBT side character Violence: PG-13 for dead, ripped apart bodies, beheading
Hannah is brought to the psychiatric hospital after being found screaming and half-dressed on the streets. She says she’s trying to save her family and friends by robbing the castle because the village people are starving. Then the timeline jumps back to the 1300’s, where Hannah is with those starving villagers, family and friends. The story continues to alternate between the present and the 1300’s while Hannah is in the psychiatric ward (present) and with her family in the village (1300’s). An intern, Jordan, finds Hannah fascinating and wants to help her heal after hearing her story and background. While Hannah is in the past, she’s captured along with her friends. Her friends are either hanged, stabbed or badly beaten but Hannah is spared by the Baron who is curious about her. While in the present, Hannah attends group meetings, therapy, meets new roommates, loses a fellow ward resident to suicide and builds a relationship with Jordan. While in the past, she is pampered in the castle, brings food to the villagers and has a relationship with the Baron. Jordan investigates as much as possible to discover Hannah’s past to see if trauma is at the root of her story. The mystery kept me hooked, 4 stars!
Mature content: PG-13 for vaguely detailed sex, mention of drugs, suicide and attempted suicide, self harm with razor blades Violence: PG-13 for suicide, suggestion of rape, bleeding cuts, cut herself repeatedly with a spoon sharpened against a table leg, stealing and hanging Language: R for 76 swears, 19 f-bombs Ethnicities: 1300’s timeline- predominately white, present timeline-mixed ethnicity Likes/dislikes: I liked the mystery surrounding the main character, Hannah. Was she experiencing time travel, hallucinations or trauma induced schizophrenia? I appreciate the author’s note at the end sharing experiences working at a psychiatric hospital and acknowledging that those experiences helped shape this book.
The main character’s mom recently passed away and now Cecilia is moving into her grandmother’s house. Her grandmother, Maura, happens to be a famous author and lives in a large home with four floors. Maura has brought fame to the town after writing a fictionalized book about the murder of a classmate that occurred during homecoming when she was in high school. Maura continues to write mysteries and her fandom holds yearly conventions in town. Cecilia makes friends and ends up on the sidelines of their drama. Then she finds the body of another homecoming murder victim and it’s eerily similar to the murder all those years ago. She throws herself into trying to discover the killer as a way to distract herself from losing her mother. She ends up in the middle of trouble and has to fight for her life. A fun mystery, 4 stars!
Language: R for 139 swears and 101 f-bombs Violence: PG-13 for Bodies found in school swimming pool. Strangulation mentioned. Serial killer in community. Premeditated murder. Punching. Mature content: PG-13 for sex mentioned, no details, drug use mentioned. LGBT content: bi mentioned, lesbian mentioned Likes/dislikes: The swearing was too much. The main character, Cecilia, is wishy washy with her new friends. She expects them to immediately divulge their secrets to her because she wants to know but she’s completely disregarding their rights to privacy and gets upset if they ask her questions about her life. I was enthralled by the two mysteries, past and present, and wanted Cecilia to expose the twisted actions of the townspeople. Ethnicity: white, brown, Filipino, Black
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.
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!
The prologue opens with inspiration and excitement for things to come and then ends with horror and devastation. Anthia’s world falls apart when her homeland, Rhodaire, is attacked by Illucians. Her mother is killed and so are the large, beautiful, magical crows that shared their world. Her land is decimated because without the crows’ help, nothing flourishes or grows. Her sister, Caliza, is now queen and has betrothed Anthia to the Illucian Prince Ericen. Of course, neither sister is happy about the deal but they don’t see any other way to try to mend their broken land. Before Anthia leaves her home, she visits the towers where the crows once lived. She finds and hides an egg then takes it to Illucia with her. She has no idea how to get it to hatch but she’s not leaving it behind. She’s searched everywhere for information on the crows and she’s hoping she’s going to figure it out soon. Ericen is difficult to read and Anthia is unsure about trusting him. He seems very loyal to his mother, Razel, the Illucian Queen. Razel is terrible and loves cruelty. She wants to conquer all of the other countries also and doesn’t care about who she harms in the process. Anthia accidentally meets rebels and inadvertently makes new friends in Illucia. She manages to enjoy some of her time there until she discovers a secret of Razel’s. The action and intrigue continues in the sequel, Crow Rider. I enjoyed several characters, their flaws and quirks: Anthia, Kiva, Ericen, Caylus, and the adventure that never seems to end, 5 stars!
Send Me Their Souls by Sara Wolf Zera is with Lucien, Fione and Malachite as they try to figure out how to stop Lucien’s sister’s rampage. She’s focused on destroying everything and everyone in the kingdom. The group travels and learns more about the Bone Tree and learns of the Glass Tree and its intensity and oddity. They begin to understand that the Bone Tree is taking over Varia’s mind and overpowering her judgment, causing her to seek and destroy. The group researches for solutions to stop the destruction while hoping to protect Varia at the same time. The dynamics of the characters and the loyalty make me laugh and warm my heart. Sara Wolf has a knack for endearing characters. The ending of an adventurous fantasy trilogy, 4 stars!
Reverie by Ryan La Sala This fun fantasy adventure has a variety of characters set in different worlds or “reveries”. The story opens as Kane struggles with memory loss and frustration because he’s been accused of reckless behavior, destruction of property and possibly murder but he doesn’t remember any of it. He digs deeper into solving the mystery of his life and discovers that he was part of a group called “Others”. The more he reveals, the crazier everything gets. Dreams from individual minds come to life and most people are swept into the reverie while the Others have special powers of illusion, strength and cleverness to guide people safely through the dream world. The story also has a drag queen reverie guide that adds flair as well as lesbian side characters and Kane, who is the gay main character. These characters add perspective, kindness, diversity and a broad array of personalities to Reverie. A fun adventure fantasy geared towards young adults. The relationship scenes aren’t detailed and are a small part of the Reverie world. 4 stars!