An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

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As a reread, this book is just as amazing the second time around!

An Ember in the Ashes, by Sabaa Tahir, opens as Laia witnesses the killings of her grandparents and the capture of her brother Darin as soldiers attack their home, accusing Darin of being a part of the Resistance. Laia’s story alternates with Elias, a soldier training most of his life to serve the Empire. Laia finds the Resistance to try and save Darin while Elias debates desertion or staying and serving the Empire. Laia is bought as the Commandant’s new slave girl, a Resistance idea to find out information about Darin so they can plan how to help him. Laia discovers life as a slave is horrible and she’s having a very difficult time getting information for the Resistance. Four Masks are sent into nightmarish trials, Elias and Helene are two of the soldiers, and they must overcome their worst fears to survive as their love, loyalty and hearts are strained through horrific events. Throughout the story, Elias and Laia unexpectedly run into each other and they unwillingly get to know each other. Each chapter ends with intensity, so it’s a difficult book to put down. Dynamic, complex characters to love and hate make this story suspenseful, exciting and interesting, 5 stars!

Star-crossed by Pintip Dunn

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Unique sci-fi!
Thanks to NetGalley and Entangled Teen for the opportunity to read and review Star-crossed by Pintip Dunn! Aegis eat for the entire community. They eat and then donate their nourishment, which is then made into pills for everyone to take or to use as currency. Astana is dying and her best friend, Princess Vela, steals food for her and eats more than her quota so she can give Astana her extra pills to use as currency. When Vela is caught sneaking food to her friend, she’s sentenced to administering the Fittest Trials in which one teenager is chosen, out of two hundred, to sacrifice themselves for the King. The story line seems odd at first but grows in complexity and details. The whole Aegis concept is completely unique and original. The story gains complexity as characters are introduced and more are added. Star-crossed is a sci-fi mystery that earns 4 stars for originality!

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!

When Forever Changes by Siobhan Davis

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When Forever Changes by Siobhan Davis tells the story of Dylan and Gabby and how their strong relationship withered and ultimately why. Vulgar language irritated me and distracted from the characters and plot. Dylan changes drastically in a short amount of time and cheats and shows deviant behavior. They break up and go their separate ways until Dylan has a seizure and discovers why his personality changed. After Gabby broke up with Dylan, she moved on, but when she discovers she’s pregnant she feels the need to make peace with Dylan. I felt a little thrown into the messed up parts of their relationship and I would have liked to have gotten to know Dylan and Gabby during their good, happy times before things went haywire. This would have built up my investment with the characters even more. When Forever Changes is a bittersweet tale full of wisdom in hindsight, second chances, love and loyalty. 4 stars for this new adult realistic fiction story!

A Touch of Gold by Annie Sullivan

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A pirating adventure full of dynamic characters!
Thanks to NetGalley and Blink for the opportunity to read and review A Touch of Gold by Annie Sullivan.
This story introduces the daughter of King Midas, Princess Kora, who has seen the bad end of “the curse of the golden touch” which was given to her father by Dionysus. Her skin is the color of gold and she’s been kept hidden for her protection since the curse. Someone steals the king’s gold, the gold that gives him strength. Kora can sense where the gold is, so she sets off on a mission with Duke Aris to retrieve the gold and help her father gain his strength back. Kora’s cousin Hettie sneaks on board for the trip only to be disheartened when she discovers how the ship’s living conditions are unlike the palace’s. Aris has gotten the crew that he’s sailed with for years but things seem to be changing and the crew might not be trustworthy anymore. As their search for the gold continues, Kora and Hettie adapt to life on the ship, while training for sword fighting and gaining friendships. The two of them soon discover who they can and can’t trust. The crew also sees the true horror that Captain Skulls encompasses, with dire circumstances. Touch of Gold is a pirating adventure with originality and dynamic characters, 5 stars!

If There’s No Tomorrow by Jennifer L. Armentrout

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If There’s No Tomorrow by Jennifer L. Armentrout. Harlequin teen. The book opens with Lena disoriented and barely waking up while hearing a voice say she’s a fighter and that will make her mother happy. She soon falls asleep after a nurse administers more medication to her. The story backs up to when Leah is looking forward to senior year and spending time with her crush, her best friend and her neighbor, Sebastian. Sebastian and Lena have a comfortable, relaxed relationship and always have until the day she gives him a quick kiss and that’s when things turn awkward. A few days later, Sebastian is back to treating Lena as a friend, as he normally does. They go to a party and he throws Lena into the pool, clothes and all. She gets angry at Sebastian and sits and talks to her friends. That’s the last thing she remembers when she wakes up in ICU after the accident. Her mom and sister Lori tell her that Cody was driving and Megan, Phillip and Chris were in the SUV also. Lena is the only survivor. Now Lena is reeling from the aftermath of the accident, her injuries, knowing she should have been driving because she was the only one sober and survivor’s guilt. With the help of a loving family, loyal and caring friends and a very capable therapist, Lena starts to face the realization of her choices and the fatalities of the accident. If There’s No Tomorrowtells a powerful story and sends a strong message to all of us, 5 stars for this deep thinking realistic fiction novel!

Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith

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A down to Earth story with lovable characters!
Thanks to NetGalley and Delacorte Press for the opportunity to read and review Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith!
Alice has lived with her cousin Leo since she was nine, after her parents died. She’s content and treated well. Leo, Alice and Teddy are three best friends and Alice has had a long-standing crush on Teddy for years. Alice purchases a lottery ticket for Teddy’s birthday and it ends up being a winner! Life gets more complicated after that, plus the fact that the three friends are trying to make plans for the future. They’re each trying to decide what college to attend or whether college is an option at all. Teddy finds out the hard way how people use you after they discover you’re rich, including his own father. Windfall shows a lot of character growth and insights that we can all use and learn from. I love the little added extra about the lottery overseer and how winners and their actions have been observed over time. Windfall is a romance above all and even though it’s about winning the lottery, it’s a down to Earth story, 5 stars for the lovable characters!

Seafire by Natalie C. Parker

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Pirate adventure with a touch of sci-fi!
Thanks to Edelweiss, NetGalley and Razorbill for the opportunity to read and review Seafire by Natalie C. Parker!
Caledonia sails with her mother, brother and close comrades until they are attacked. Caledonia and Pisces, her shipmate, are the only ones that are left behind. Caledonia blames herself for the fatal attack and kidnappings because an enemy Bullet, one of Aric’s men, distracted her by pretending to be kind, then he stabbed her. The rest of the crew are either dead or enslaved. The story moves four years ahead and Caledonia and Pisces have gathered a new crew for her mother’s rebuilt ship. They still thirst for vengeance. An enemy, Oran, is captured after saving Pisces’ life and he states that he knows where Caledonia’s and Pisces’ brothers are and that they’re still alive. He’s giving them help and information for the brothers’ rescue. The crew gets out of some close calls because of how they help each other and Oran begins to wear down the crew’s distrust. The suspense grows to intense levels while Caledonia searches for her brother and the ending…All I can say is that I need the sequel now! 5 stars for a pirating adventure with a touch of sci-fi!

Letting Go of Gravity by Meg Leder

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Touching realistic fiction!
Thanks to NetGalley and Simon Pulse for the opportunity to read and review Letting Go of Gravity by Meg Leder! Parker and Charlie are twins. One of them is giving the Valedictorian speech at high school graduation and the other watches from the audience, not graduating because of being held back a year in school, due to a second bout with leukemia. Parker has her future set out for her and Charlie is tired of dealing with leukemia. At the same time, Charlie seems much more confident about what he’s feeling and what he wants compared to Parker, who has uncertainties about everything. Parker crosses paths with Finn, a friend from elementary school that she lost track of. Charlie acts like he has a death wish and it’s upsetting his family and friends so much that his parents send him to a cancer therapy support group. Parker thinks that Charlie hates her and she seems to keep making the same mistakes, over and over, that make him angry. Through the turmoil of figuring out their lives and futures, Parker and Charlie surprise each other with how similar they are but different at the same time. A touching realistic fiction story with Ruby and Finn, dynamic side characters that bring an extra level of maturity to the plot and story line. 5 stars!

Cinderella’s Shoes by Shonna Slayton

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A lovely historical fiction book!
Cinderella’s Shoes by Shonna Slayton opens as the ceremony moving the protection responsibility from Aunt Elsie to Kate is performed by Princess Kolodenko. Kate is now ward of Cinderella’s three dresses but the shoes have been lost. Kate gets the chance to travel to Europe with the royal family and teach Princess Nessa everything she knows about the dresses. Nessa has no respect for the dresses and she’s frivolous with them. After getting to Europe, Kate travels to Poland with Lidka, who Kate isn’t sure about trusting. Princess Kolodenko shares a secret about the shoes with Kate before she leaves for Poland to meet Malwinka, a descendant of one of Cinderella’s stepsisters, who supposedly has the shoes. Once Kate and Lidka reach Poland, things become frightening and magical. A lovely historical fiction book that explains much of what the story of Cinderella left out. 5 stars!