An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir introduces Laia and her brother Darin, who both live with their grandparents. When the Empire raids their home, Darin runs and instructs Laia to hide his sketchbook. They’re both caught and taken back inside to watch their grandparents lose their lives. Elias is introduced next. He’s a soldier of the Empire, known as a Mask. Masks are skilled soldiers and trained killers. Elias watches with the rest of the Masks as a deserter is whipped to death by the Commandant. This sickens him because he’s planning on deserting also and he thinks that he will be the next to die at the hands of the Commandant. The Commandant is Elias’ mother and she holds nothing but hatred for her son. The story alternates between Laia and Elias and suspense flows throughout the entire book, each section ending on a cliffhanger. Laia enters the Empire as the Commandant’s slave and as a spy for the resistance, in exchange for helping Darin. A new era is upon the Empire and The Trials have been set and will challenge four Masks, only two will survive and one of them will be the new Emperor. Relationships grow more complicated for both Laia and Elias and the struggle for their lives becomes more desperate. This rollercoaster of a story keeps the suspense heightened to the very last page! 5 well-deserved stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️!
Thanks to NetGalley and Entangled Publishing for the opportunity to read and review The Heartbreak Cure by Amanda Ashby! Cat is trying to move on after being humiliated by Bennet, who dated Cat as a challenge and not because he liked her. Then he told everyone about it by putting it online in the form of a YouTube video, humiliating her even more. Alex is Cat’s friend and has been for years. He’s dealing with his family problems but wants to help Cat. The two of them make an agreement to pose as girlfriend/boyfriend to soften any blow that will surely happen when school starts up again. Alex feels as though he’s hiding his true self from everyone he cares about and he’s afraid to share a secret that’s been tearing him apart since the day his mom and siblings died in a car accident years ago. Cat and Alex are realistic and lovable characters that build this story into more than just a romantic tale. The two of them, along with the dynamic and interesting side characters, make this young adult realistic fiction fun! 5 stars for the complexity and realism of the characters!
Thanks to NetGalley and Entangled Publishing for the opportunity to read and review Where I Found You by Heidi R. Kling. Sienna is still reeling from her mother’s disappearance that occurred five years ago. Her father is trying to move forward, but still honor his lost wife at the same time. It’s assumed that she went down in a plane crash over the Indian Ocean. Sienna reluctantly agrees to go with her father to a community across the world in Indonesia that has been struck by a Tsunami which caused disaster. While there, Sienna’s eyes are opened and her empathy for those who have suffered through the Tsunami and lost so much overcomes her own feelings of loss. She meets and helps several people and gains a close, wonderful relationship with a young man named Reni. She discovers that Reni is searching for his father and she does everything she can to help him. This touching, beautiful realistic fiction story opened my eyes to the horrible tragedy and suffering of the Tsunami victims, many things I had never thought about or heard of. I enjoyed learning about another culture also. I’m anxiously awaiting the sequel!!! 5 stars.
The Sweetheart Sham by Danielle Ellison. I’m immediately drawn into the story because of the lovable two main characters, best friends Will and Georgie. Georgie is protecting Will’s secret. She will do anything to help him and when an old beau returns to town, the secret and Georgie’s loyalty are challenged. I love how the author approaches Will’s secret and the different points of view in the small southern town. This realistic situation with all of the stresses and anxiety rings true. One of my favorite scenes of the book is the escape of Georgie from Beau when they run into each other in Charleston while she’s supposedly on a date with Will; classic fun! The author brings a poignant story into our hearts and gives readers food for thought with the friendship, loyalty and honesty of wonderful and complicated characters. Young adult romance worth 5 stars!
Thanks to NetGalley and Philomel Books for the opportunity to read and review Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao. Xifeng lives with and under the control of her Aunt Guma in a poverty-stricken kingdom where the king forces young women to be his concubines. Guma uses magic that makes others suspicious and cautious. She’s reading cards for Xifeng’s future and the cards state that Xifeng is going to be Empress someday. Xifeng and her boyfriend Wei leave the village for their freedom and their futures. They each discover something new about themselves and each other. This debut novel contains unique elements. The protagonist also seems to be the antagonist and as the story unfolds the theme seems to change. I’m fascinated with Xifeng and her reasoning with all of her actions as well as the beautiful relationship she has with Wei. An impressive, entertaining first novel by Julie C. Dao! 5 stars!
*I received a complimentary copy of this book for voluntary consideration.
Thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Group for the opportunity to read and review Rescued by Peter Zheutlin. Rescued by Peter Zheutlin is about the all-encompassing wonderfulness of dogs. Each chapter opens with a quote sharing and stating the unconditional love of dogs and then tells of experiences when people’s lives have been touched by dogs. Beautiful, touching, humorous and deserving of a solid 5 stars for a book for all dog lovers!
* I received a complimentary copy of this book for voluntary consideration.
Beyond the darkened sky by Dana Alexander begins as Sara awakens in a forest alone, but she feels like someone is watching her. They show themselves and partially explain who they are. She’s confused and lost as they explain to her who she is and why she’s there. Once again, science fiction is not my favorite genre and the story elements were confusing, even though the descriptions were well done, they were too deep for me. 3.5 stars.
Thanks to NetGalley and Three Saints Press for the opportunity to read and review All Things New by Lauren Miller. Jessa struggles with anxiety and panic attacks. She can’t seem to deal with life very well. After her accident, she’s dealing with so much more than she was before, plus the scars on her face. She refuses to talk about why she’s angry with Wren or anything that’s bothering her. Jessa agrees to move to Colorado with her dad and attend an art school. She makes some friends and builds a relationship with her dad while learning to deal with the aftermath of the accident. Along with her anxiety and scars, Jessa sees bruises and scars on people even though their faces are blemish free. She realizes that she’s hallucinating and her mind is seeing what isn’t there. Jessa works on her confidence, the relationship with her father and building friendships and trust in others. As she’s doing these things, Jessa grows and understands more than the eye can see. 4 stars for this eye-opening realistic fiction novel for young adult readers!
I received a complimentary copy of this book for voluntary consideration.
Thanks to NetGalley and Entangled: Crush for the opportunity to read and review The First Kiss Hypothesis by Christina Mandelski! Nora has a sound scientific hypothesis that she created based on her loving grandparents, their wonderful marriage and a kissing booth where they first met and kissed for the first time. Nora has a huge crush on Eli and he’s also her best friend and neighbor. She tried testing her hypothesis once on Eli but he had just taken a big gulp of soda, so it didn’t turn out well. Now she’s even more determined to prove her first kiss theory. The ups and downs of the relationship between Nora and Eli are funny, frustrating and everything in between. The story is fun, cute and romantic with entertaining secondary characters and main characters that are impossible not to root for. 5 star worthy!
I received a complimentary copy of this book for voluntary consideration!
The Mortician’s Daughter: One Foot in the Grave by CC Hunter- Riley lost her mother when she was four years old. She lives with her father who is a mortician. She’s been attending her new school for less than two weeks and knows only a few people. They have moved twice lately due to her father losing his jobs. Riley is worrying about whether or not he’s an alcoholic or depressed. Riley gets visits from ghosts of the people her father has helped prepare for burial. The visitors need Riley’s help and until she helps them they keep visiting. I have a soft spot for Ford Mustangs and it’s cool that Riley has a Mustang and deals with the car’s maintenance and mechanical issues with her dad. The more I read, the more I realized how complicated Riley’s life is. I don’t want to give anything away, but the story just kept getting better and better. The dynamic characters are interesting and the suspense grows in intensity and I was on the edge of my seat as the story ended! I want the sequel now!!! 5 stars for pure supernatural entertainment!