Belladonna by Adalyn Grace

Pure reading enjoyment!

Signa is born into a rich family. When she’s two months old, her mother Rima throws a party. No one realizes the wine is poisoned and baby Signa sees Death approach her mother before he moves onto the others who drank the wine. Signa is left alone in the home after Death tries to take her too but he sees her brilliant future instead of her short past, what he usually sees as he takes someone’s life. Now, at nineteen years old, Signa lives with Aunt Magda. Signa has lived with several relatives throughout her lifetime. After Rima died, Sigma lived with her loving grandmother until her death. After that, relatives have wanted to be her guardian only for the money she’ll receive when she’s twenty and the payments they receive for housing her. Most of them haven’t loved her and Aunt Magda is especially mean to Signa. Every guardian she’s had has died and she thinks it’s her fault and that Death’s taking people on purpose and because of her. When Magda dies, Death appears once again and assures Signa that’s not the case. Signa is retrieved by her new guardian’s workers and taken to Thorn Grove where the lady of the manor, Aunt Lillian, is deceased and Signa’s cousin Blythe is ill. Cousin Percy and Uncle Elijah seem healthy though. Sylas, the worker who brought her to Thorn Grove, helps investigate Lillian’s death. They believe someone poisoned her and is poisoning Blythe too. Signa finds help for Blythe when Sylas shows her the manor library. She finds natural remedies to rid Blythe’s body of poison and she gets somewhat better. In the meantime, Signa can’t stop thinking of Sylas and Death and how she feels attracted to both of them. I can’t say much more without including a spoiler or two but this book was a pure enjoyment to read and I’m anxiously awaiting the sequel, Foxglove. 5 stars!

Likes/dislikes:
I love the rich prose and beautiful descriptions of the scenery. I appreciate the fact that the book has very little swearing and vague details of sex that keep it out of the sensitive materials area. I enjoyed reading about the main character’s views on and dealings with proper etiquette and the setting is beautifully descriptive. The ethnicity is white and brown.

Language: PG for two swears, no f-bombs

Mature Content: PG-13, alluded to sex and two women embracing in public mentioned once.

Violence: PG, Death touches a person and then that person immediately dies. Poisonings

It’s All in How You Fall by Sarah Henning

A very cute YA romance!

Ethnicity- predominantly white with a mix of colored people.
Caroline, a fifteen-year-old gymnast, has to stop competing due to an injury. Her brother’s friend Alex tries to help her find something else that’s active but not harmful to her back and is enjoyable for her, so they try several different sports to see what Caroline likes. Alex has a crush on Caroline’s friend Sunny so she’s trying to set the two up without being obvious. Everything is going fine until she realizes she’s developed a crush on Alex. This is a super cute story that builds on friendship and appreciation and turning into more. A very cute, young adult romance! 4 stars!

Ethnicity- predominantly white with a mix of colored people.
No violence, PG content, two f-bombs and 37 other swears, mostly by Caroline’s brother.

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.

Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse

Wonderful character building!

Hanneke lives in Holland with her mother and father. She’s a young woman who has lost her boyfriend in the war, who works as the undertaker’s receptionist and also helps the undertaker with black market dealings. Her jobs support her family. On one of her deliveries, an elderly woman confides in Hanneke that she’d been hiding a Jewish teenage girl, in her home, in a secret compartment behind her pantry. The girl is missing and there’s no evidence of how she left the house. The woman pleads for Hanneke to help her find the teenage girl, Mirjam. Hanneke reluctantly agrees to help so she starts searching for any information she can find on Mirjam. As she’s searching, she inadvertently ends up at a resistance group meeting and becomes accidentally involved in a delivery of a Jewish baby, to an adoptive family, after the baby’s family had been detained by the Nazis. Hanneke learns about all of the ways that young adults around her have been helping with the resistance and she sees how selfish she was by keeping to herself and not becoming involved but that changes during her search for Mirjam. The young adults work together to find Mirjam and help everyone they can in this inspiring story of young heroism and perseverance. A wonderful character building historical fiction book, 4 stars!

Agnes at the End of the World by Kelly McWilliams

Completely Riveting!

Agnes resides within a cult at Red Creek but she doesn’t realize that she’s part of a cult. She’s the eldest of several siblings and is responsible for taking care of their family because their mother is severely depressed. Agnes sneaks to the Outside once a month to retrieve insulin for her younger brother Ezekiel, even though she knows it’s against the rules. Her sister Beth, the next eldest sibling, is a rebel and doesn’t like the rules. When Beth is caught kissing a boy, she’s disgraced by their father and the community. Agnes has been betrothed as a sixth wife to a middle-aged man and before she gets married, she has to teach Beth everything so she can then become the family caretaker. The middle-aged man decides to marry Beth instead of Agnes to straighten Beth out. In the meantime, a ferocious virus is spreading throughout the world and eventually arrives at Red Creek. The Prophet releases an infected dog during a church meeting and, after a few people are bitten, he tells them about his revelation; the Rapture has arrived and everyone must move into the underground bunker. Agnes escapes with Ezekiel and is heartbroken that she’s left the rest of her siblings behind. She knows that the bunker would be a death sentence for Ezekiel because there’s no insulin for him. This is a riveting story about cults, self-worth, self-importance, bravery, love, loyalty, and sacrifice. The author’s note explains the cult background information being from a nonfiction book of a survivor who escaped a true cult. A wonderfully written and all-encompassing story about love, sacrifice, and different faiths, 5 stars!

The Deck of Omens by Christine Lynn Herman

The teens of the founding families are each struggling with their responsibilities, relationships, and more. Together they fight for the corruption cure only to discover the truth behind everything they’ve been led to believe in their whole lives. They’ve been deceived about their entire purpose of protecting the community. The responsibility to end the corruption falls completely on the teenagers and they work past their grudges and become a strong team. The cause of the corruption isn’t what they think and they are shocked when they find out who is truly the cause of everything bad. 4 stars for a supernatural read!

When the Stars Lead to You by Ronni Davis

When the Stars Lead to You by Ronni Davis tells a beautiful love story alongside a fight against depression.
Thanks to NetGalley and Little Brown for the opportunity to read and review this book!
Devon meets Ashton and they hit it off immediately. They enjoy each other’s company so much that they don’t really want to spend time with anyone else. Devon notices that Ashton’s mind drifts away sometimes but it’s nothing that he talks about. On their last summer day together, Ashton doesn’t show up and he never answers any of Devon’s texts. A year later and on the first day of school, a new student sits by her in the school assembly audience. When she turns to see who it is, it’s Ashton. They don’t take the time to talk about things until they end up volunteering at a pet shelter all day. Ashton takes Devon to eat and then to his house to talk privately since his parents are away. He tells Devon that his parents expect him to be with an all-white descendant girl and won’t allow him to date her because she’s Black/Irish. Ashton takes things into his own hands and Devon discovers how much stress and pressure he’s dealing with. As they build their relationship, they both expand on who they are. This book has such an eye-opening story about depression and how it can be debilitating. It creates empathy for anyone dealing with depression and the people who love them. 5 stars for a beautiful love story that’s full of reality!

Queen of Ruin by Tracy Banghart

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Queen of Ruin by Tracy Banghart! I’ve been looking forward to reading this sequel since I finished Grace and Fury and the synopsis couldn’t be better! One of my favorite lines: With an un-Heir like snort… ! That description of Malachi made me chuckle. A lot takes place in this 325 page book, character development, action, power changing hands, and turns of fate. Nomi and Serina are reunited because Asa sends Nomi to Mount Ruin. Serina and Nomi share their experiences and are both surprised at what’s happened. The women on Mount Ruin are ready for rebellion and Nomi is right there with them. Asa shows his true self and as Malachi comes to terms with his father’s death and his brother’s betrayal, he uses the time to decide his future actions. Relationships grow, are torn apart, and change the future of Viridia. I enjoy the varied relationships and the story’s suspense the most out of everything else that takes place in this book. Dystopian fantasy worth 4.5 stars! I would have enjoyed more details about the relationships between Val and Serina and between Malachi and Nomi.

Rule by Ellen Goodlett

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Fantasy at its best!
Thanks to NetGalley, Edelweiss and Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for the opportunity to read and review Rule by Ellen Goodlett!
Zofi overhears people asking her mother about her and while her mother distracts them, Zofi cuts a slash in the back of their tent and sneaks away. She’s proficient with the Blood Arts and when she makes a tiny nip in her skin with the end of her knife, energy is pulled into her blood and she makes a much quicker getaway. To her dismay, Zofi is captured anyway. Akeylah is beaten and hated by her family, especially her father, because their mother died giving birth to her. She gets help to put a curse on her father and make him sick, through the Vulgar Arts. Florencia, (Ren), is a servant, as her mother is. Ren has been raised in the palace and knows how to interact with royalty and she believes she’s guilty of a traitorous act that caused the death of almost two thousand people. The three young women have been summoned to the king and he tells them that they are his daughters and he needs one of them to take the place of his heir, Prince Nicolen, that’s no longer alive. And the king himself is sick and dying. Akeylah realizes that she’s the one who made him ill because he’s her real father. Each of the king’s daughters has a secret to hide. It seems that someone knows about their secrets because each of them has been receiving knowledgeable blackmail notes and other messages. The three sisters begin working together to figure out who the blackmailer is and end the threat. Rule is a complex fantasy that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. The ending is intense! Fantasy at its best, 5 stars!

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

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Family members left behind after a suicide face deep pain. Resources offering real help are included in this book! Thanks to NetGalley and Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for the opportunity to read and review The Astonishing Color of After! The main character saw her mother’s suicide and believes that her mother has visited her as a bird. No one believes her even though she has physical evidence. Her and her father visit her maternal grandparents in Taiwan and even though they don’t speak much English, they believe that the bird is true. This book is difficult to categorize into a genre, but even though it has supernatural happenings throughout the story, I feel that this is still, above all, a realistic fiction tale. The deep pain that survivors of suicidal family members face is a real problem and an intense struggle that hasn’t been addressed as much as it’s needed. The Astonishing Color of After helps! Resources are included towards the end of the book for various needs of those dealing with depression, loss, suicide and/or suicidal thoughts. The resources are categorized under the following headings: Suicide Prevention, For Suicide Loss Survivors and Understanding Mental Illness. The cultural education and coping skills made the story more interesting and I love Axel and the great friend that he is to Leigh and I appreciate the author’s honesty about her own experiences of being a suicide survivor. 4 stars!