A History of Wild Places by Shea Ernshaw

Unique tale surrounded by mystery!

Travis has been hired to find a missing author. He follows Maggie’s path as far as he can then he disappears too. The forest community has secrets that threaten to be revealed unless the leader can keep everyone subdued and believing in him and the community. When a young woman delivers her baby two months too early, members want to retrieve medical help from the outside but the leader, Levi, refuses to allow it. That’s when things start to unravel. Interesting and unique tale surrounded with mystery, 4 stars!

The Shattered City by Lisa Maxwell

Intelligent fantasy!

Told in alternating timelines of 1902 and 1983 Brooklyn, each time focuses on different people. Esta and Harte move forward to 1983 where they can go to the future, get away from the enemy, and figure out how to solve the problems of the Brink and the evil Nibsy Lorcan. Viola and Jianyu are in 1902 with Nibsy. All of the main characters from the past books of this series are mentioned in different timelines. The characters eventually all end up in the same timeline together. The storyline consists of turmoil and struggles to right the wrongs of the past and give freedoms to the people who have an affinity for magic. An intelligent time travel fantasy.

Likes/dislikes:
The many timelines, characters and struggles almost need a chart to keep track of. This is the fourth book of The Last Magician series and it just adds another layer to the whole concept and plot. If this series is going to be read, the books should be read together without much time between to help keep it all straight. I like the diversity of the characters and their strengths.

Mature content: PG-13 for drug use by side character, kissing
Language: R for 53 swears and 1 f-bomb
Violence: PG-13 for villain shooting himself, explosions that killed people.
Ethnicity/other info: The ethnicity is mixed with white, Italian, Oriental and Black.

A Consuming Fire by Laura Weymouth

A deadly fantasy!

In an imaginary Britain, Anya sends her sister off to give a sacrifice to the god but when Ilva returns she has sacrificed everything and soon dies. Anya vows to kill the god so no one else will ever have to sacrifice to him again. She travels under the guise of a willing sacrifice while learning everything possible to kill the god. Along the way, she learns a great deal about herself, what it means to be a family, loyalty, dedication and love. She meets wanderers and befriends them as they teach her and protect her. She also meets the mysterious thief Tieran who is an enigma to everyone he spends time with.

Likes/dislikes:
I love Anya and her determination. I enjoyed uncovering Tieran’s mysterious nature while reading the story. I like how the story ended and all that was revealed throughout the book.
Language: G for no swears, bitches is used once to describe female dog.
Mature Content: PG for kissing
Violence: PG for mutilations and death

Cruel Illusions by Margie Fuston

Unique story!

In a world where vampires exist, Ava Perry lives with her brother Parker, and Jacob, another foster kid, and their foster parent Deb. Ava’s and Parker’s Dad was killed in a suspicious mugging when they were really young and their mother was supposedly killed by a vampire less than a decade ago. Ava has always wanted to follow in her parents’ footsteps and become a magician and she wants revenge on the vampire that killed her mom. She meets magicians and is invited into their secret society, which turns out to be the home of vampire hunters who use their magic to kill vampires. While spending time with this society, Ava discovers the truth about her parents’ pasts and their deaths and does everything in her power to right the wrongs her eyes have been opened too. 3.5 stars for an original story!

Likes/dislikes:
The beginning of the story doesn’t flow well so it’s difficult to keep important details straight. The connections between the vampires/vampire hunters/magicians were confusing for a while until more of the background was explained. By mid-book, the story picked up momentum and grabbed my interest more.
Language: R for 54 swears and 3 f-bombs
Mature content: PG
Violence: PG-13 for bloody deaths, stabbings and shootings

Gone Dark by Amanda Panitch

Her survival skills might keep her alive!

Zara’s father is a survivalist that lives on a compound. Zara and her mother used to live on the compound too, until seven years ago. Now she lives with her mother and attends public school far away from her father’s compound. Her father’s survival lessons are drilled into Zara’s head and she replays them often. When there’s a widespread blackout, Zara uses her survival knowledge to get away from a strange man chasing her, to find her mother and to help her friends. As they travel looking for safety and to reach her father’s compound for protection, they come across a lot of danger and strange, sometimes creepy situations, cult communities, religious communities, families stealing supplies from them and people that will do anything for self preservation. Interesting, unique dystopian story, 4 stars!

She Who Rides the Storm by Caitlin Sangster

Riveting fantasy!

Anwei and Knox are thieves. Knox is a Devoted soldier for the Warlord and Anwei found him passed out on the ground a year ago. They’ve been companions ever since. Anwei is a dirty witch and she poses as a Goddess in a temple. When people place letters or coins at the statue of the goddess, a temple servant places them in a specific hidden spot for Anwei (the goddess) to gather. She also receives requests in the same way, asking her to steal items for people. Anwei has kept Knox hidden from the warlord’s search for him. In return, Knox helps with her reconnaissance and safety.

Lia has been with the Devoted since they took her at the age of eleven and she’s miserable. She’s supposed to be helping with the search for Knox and she’s sees a bit of his aura and wonders how he’s keeping it hidden. Lia escapes with her sister after Ewan, a fellow Devoted, attacks her. Lia and Ari run to their father’s house to hide. Their father wants to keep his title of power and he’s struggling to find a way to heal his sick wife. This story weaves several characters’ lives together to build a complex plot that all makes sense at the end of this book but the story will continue in a sequel. Lia, Anwei, Knox and Mateo will find themselves entwined in a devious, greedy plan for power. Rich world building and complicated story kept me riveted, 5 stars!

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

Shanghai ports and a terrible monster in the prologue piqued my curiosity. A retelling of Romeo and Juliet with rival gangsters in Shanghai and a mysterious string of strange deaths. Roma and Juliettte are two nineteen-year-old gangster heirs that love each other but are meant to hate each other. Shanghai is being terrorized by a strange monster that causes madness and death. The two heirs are desperately trying to save their gangs and territories from the madness, communism and other foreigners threatening to take control of Shanghai. They don’t want to cross paths, but Roma and Juliette realize they need each other’s information to solve their problems. Two strong main characters that are conflicted bring angst and empathy to this retelling, 4 stars!

I Killed Zoe Spanos by Kit Frick

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Impressive mystery!
Thanks to NetGalley and Margaret McElderry Books for the opportunity to read and review I Killed Zoe Spanos by Kit Frick!
The book begins in August as Anna is being questioned by the police about Zoe Spanos, a young woman who has been missing for two months and looks similar to Anna. Then, the story moves back to June when Anna starts her nanny job. Little by little, Anna meets members of the community and gets to know the neighborhood. The story of Anna alternates with the local podcast, Missing Zoe, created by a Spanos family friend. The podcast explores the investigation into Zoe and her disappearance. The story keeps moving between June when Anna started her job as a nanny in Herron Mills and August when she was arrested for the manslaughter of Zoe. People tend to act strangely around Anna and she starts to wonder why. She knows it’s not just from how she looks. The mystery and questions about Zoe’s disappearance build ominously until the very end of the book. Complicated and fascinating in each part and with all of the characters, I Killed Zoe Spanos weaves a complex, twisty mystery that’s worth a full 5 stars!

Something Like Gravity by Amber Smith

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Tough situations handled well by author!
Thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing and Margaret K. McElderry Books for the opportunity to read and review Something Like Gravity by Amber Smith!
First we meet Chris, who’s changed identities. Next is Maia who has lost her sister Mallory. Both main characters feel lost and, while Chris is struggling with the transformation of being transgender, Maia is trying to figure out the basics of who she is without her sister. The two of them work through some of their struggles together but Maia seems to be having a more difficult time adjusting personally than Chris. Transgenderism is handled perfectly from all perspectives, personal, family, friends and romantic relationships. Being transgender would be difficult enough as it is, but adding a relationship would make everything even more complicated. How and when do you tell your romantic interest or even just a new friend? They have a right to know, so their feelings are respected too. The author approaches these issues gently and respectfully for all sides involved. Losing a loved one is also part of this book and that’s something that all of us will have to deal with at sometime in our lives. These tough situations are handled well by the author, who also shares her own experiences with sexuality. I wish the cover was better though; I can see it being a deterrent for readers. 3.5 stars!

Splendor and Spark by Mary Taranta

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Adventure within a dark fantasy world!
Thanks to NetGalley and Margaret K. McElderry Books for the opportunity to read and review Splendor and Spark by Mary Taranta!
North is on a path he doesn’t necessarily want but feels that he has to be on. Faris and Cadence are prisoners still. Bryn seems to be gaining everything she wants, power and to be queen. Cadence adores Bryn and she shows nothing but disdain for Faris. Faris struggles to let her sister be until she finally gives in to the fact that letting Cadence make her own choices is the right thing to do. North striving to find his father becomes more and more complicated. North and Faris lose much but learn a lot and, as their wisdom grows, they understand what they need to do to accomplish their goals, North with his father and Faris finding a place where she belongs. The world building is descriptive and thorough while the characters are dynamic. I especially like Alistair because he fascinates me and I want to know more about his background and past experiences. 4 stars for this dark fantasy adventure!