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!

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!

Whisper of the Tide by Sarah Tolcser

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A perfect read!
Thanks to NetGalley and Bloomsbury for the opportunity to read and review Whisper of the Tide by Sarah Tolcser! The sarcastic humor shines right off the beginning of the story. Caro and Markos feel more mature in this sequel to Song of the Current and their worries have taken a toll on them. I enjoyed this book more than the first one and I think it’s because the world building had already been set up and the characters show tremendous growth. I enjoyed the side characters also, with their diverse personalities. Danger, intrigue, twists and interesting characters made me love this book. Diric, the pirate, is endearingly charming with all of his good and bad attributes mixed well together. Fun, adventurous and suspenseful and a perfect read for anyone with an interest in pirates and fantasy. 5 stars!

Every Note Played by Lisa Genova

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A heartwrenching and heartwarming realistic fiction story! Thanks to a Goodreads giveaway, I received Every Note Played by Lisa Genova! As the main characters and their lives are set up for the story, I’m interested and sad at the same time. You never know what life is going to bring your way and it made me remember and appreciate how good my life is. The book is difficult to read because the reader gets a bird’s eye view of what Richard is feeling, going through and ultimately losing because of ALS and his life regrets. This touching novel brings the reader into the life of someone diagnosed with ALS and includes all of the intimate details of his struggles with the disease and the relationships that have built him into the person he is. Ultimately a tale of forgiveness, Every Note Played opens our eyes to the patients, loved ones, patient care, technology and research based on ALS. The author put a lot of research and love into this novel and her notes are shared at the end of the book, along with stories of real ALS patients and the inspiration they have given to everyone they left behind, which are their legacies. ALS research continues and as Every Note Played was going to press, a new breakthrough occurred and was in a trial in Japan, giving hope and possible help to patients worldwide. 5 stars for this heart wrenching and heartwarming realistic fiction story!

Song of the Current by Sarah Tolcser

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Mythological fantasy!
Thanks to NetGalley and Bloomsbury USA for the opportunity to read and review Song of the Current by Sarah Tolcser! Caroline and her father are smugglers that come across a tragic sight as they pull into a harbor; boats are ablaze and have been destroyed. The port was attacked by a ship passing through and no one understands the purpose of the attack. Papa is arrested for smuggling and Caroline makes a deal with the commander to deliver cargo, contents unknown, to Valonikos in exchange for Papa’s freedom. The cargo box is opened and Caroline finds a young man, Tarquin, inside. He’s supposed to be delivering a message about the assassination of the Emparch, a ruler. Caroline suspects that he’s not telling the complete truth. Eventually, Tarquin explains to Caroline who he really is. Once she hears his truth and they realize what’s at stake, their plans completely change. They now plan on going to a completely different place to save his sister. The danger increases and so does the death toll. The first part of the book shows the characters, their lives and builds the world of The Song of the Current. The second part brings action, intrigue and danger and I became concerned with the characters’ well being. The humor grows in the end also. The story ends with excitement for the future and anticipation for the sequel, Whisper of the Tide. 4 stars for this fantasy built with an author-created mythology!

Inferno by Julie Kagawa

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Thanks to NetGalley and Harlequin Teen for the opportunity to read and review Inferno by Julie Kagawa! The fifth and final book of the Talon Saga opens with our heroes in the jungle, searching for a hope to help them fight against Talon’s clone forces. They discover Ouroboros, a centuries old dragon that believes Talon should fall. Once again, the story alternates through the points of view of Ember, Garret, Riley and Dante. This quote from Inferno is something all of us need to take to heart, “Words couldn’t hurt you; as long as you didn’t believe them, they meant nothing.” Put in present tense: words can’t hurt you; as long as you don’t believe them, they mean nothing; this quote becomes a mantra for helping us deal with the bombardment of negativity surrounding us daily. For some reason, negative comments seem to stick with us so much more strongly than positive comments. As I read Inferno, I stopped and realized how this book pulled me in just as the first four books of this series had, with suspense, intrigue, bravery, interesting characters and complete world building. I’m invested in the characters, to the very last page! Resolution, grief, determination, loyalty, friendship and love round out the Talon saga and build it into a fantasy that I plan on revisiting in its entirety, 5 stars!

Cakespell by Gaby Triana

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Cakespell by Gaby Triana tells a story about Rose. Rose loves baking and has aspirations of becoming a famous baker and opening her own shop someday. Her mother hates the idea of Rose baking or working and she wants Rose to only focus on her schoolwork so she can eventually support herself, be self-sufficient and independent. Rose decides to spend her time baking at her grandpa’s house and keeps it a secret from her mother. Her grandpa, who she calls Papa, is more than happy to have Rose at his home. Papa gives Rose all of her deceased grandma’s baking utensils and her special apron that Rose has wonderful memories of. Papa believes that Rose has special baking skills like her grandmother and he teaches her a special Cakespell that makes her baked goods help people fall in love. Rose’s creations are delicious and she begins to gain customers by the dozens. Cakespell is a cute, fun story that also deals with the heavier issues of self-image, losing a loved one, friendship struggles, setting and working toward goals, sportsmanship and lack of parental support. An enjoyable young adult read with crushes, humor and love that round out this adorable tale of baking with a bit of mischief, 4 stars!

Sweet Peril by Wendy Higgins

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Sweet Peril by Wendy Higgins opens with a story from Rome in the 1700’s where two Nephilim are punished for loving each other. Six months have passed since book one and since Anna and Kaidan have seen each other. Kaidan and Anna know they need to stay apart for their own safety as well as the safety of the rebelling Nephilim and supporting demons. Anna has been given a mission and she’s going to be working with Kope. Their mission is to save a young woman in a part of the world where women are devalued, degraded and abused. Her name is Zania. Kope and Anna meet with two Nephilim and then their emotions get in the way, so they decide traveling together is too difficult. Anna then travels alone and she is finally able to have a conversation with Kaidan and they are finally honest with each other and learn how to make their relationship work. Unexpectedly, Kope and Kaidan work together, by wearing Arabic disguises and saving Zania by pretending to purchase her for slavery. Blake, Kaidan, Anna, Kope and Zania are forced to hide in the cold ocean water because the Dukes come to the island they are staying on. While shivering in the water, they are witnesses to a Nephilim murder by the Neph’s own father. The group works with Anna’s father, continually strategizing to build the rebellion up. Sweet Peril is just as exciting as the first book, Sweet Evil, in this supernatural series by Wendy Higgins. 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!