A Wilderness of Stars by Shea Ernshaw

Sci-fi fantasy!

An ominous prologue piqued my interest. Vega is with her fatally ill mother when she sees twin stars in the sky. Her mother has taught her to watch for these stars that only show up every one hundred years and when they appear, Vega needs to find The Architect for information on how to travel to the sea. Soon after her mother passes away, Pa shows up. He’s not Vega’s father but a family friend. She goes with him when he leaves so she can get started on her journey. They travel to a town and sell Pa’s cure-all tonic as three men watch them from afar. Later, these men and more find Pa and Vega and steal his horse and the supplies he has for making his tonic. Now he has nothing left for the future. They move on, finding a deserted farmhouse set in an orchard. They rest and head to the next town. Vega keeps asking around for The Architect even though her mother warned her to be discreet. That evening, Vega decides to head out on her own, leaving Pa behind. She enters a saloon and soon after four thieves enter also and demand money from the bartender for protection. A fight erupts. Vega gets knocked down and her constellation tattoo is revealed when her hair falls out of the way. Everyone is curious and wants to see her mark when a girl saves her, taking her out of the saloon. This girl, Cricket, takes Vega to The Architect and soon after the group is attacked and he’s killed. Noah then becomes The Architect and vows to help Vega get to the sea. Cricket, Noah and Vega travel together as a team to complete the mission of generations of astronomers and architects. They meet danger and adventure at every turn and have to fight for their lives. Sci-fi fantasy, 4 stars!

Likes/dislikes:
I would have liked to have more insight into Noah’s thoughts and point of view. I enjoyed the mystery surrounding the blackness in the sky and the information passed down through generations of astronomers and architects. The bond between Noah and Vega is endearing.
I enjoyed the Old West setting and the mixed ethnicities.

Language: R for 31 swears and 4 f-bombs
Mature Content: PG-13 for saloon visit and kissing
Violence: PG-13 for Outlaws stealing, bloody stabbing and shooting

Three Truths and a Lie by Brent Hartinger

Quick read with a great twist!

Thanks to NetGalley and Simon Pulse for the arc of Three Truths and a Lie by Brent Hartinger! This suspenseful mystery thriller involves four friends who go away for the weekend. Rob, Liam, Galen and Mia all go to Mia’s family cabin in logging territory. They play the game Three Truths and a Lie and after that, strange things start to happen and they wonder if someone wants to cause them harm. The suspense builds and the mystery stays unsolved. The story winds itself around to the beginning of the weekend and all is explained. This book contains some explicit sex, just to be warned, but is psychologically twisted and maddeningly interesting and a wonderful mystery thriller read!

Second reading:
Four friends stay at the lake in Mia’s family cabin when they’re suddenly without a phone or vehicle because someone has tampered with them. They try to figure out who is doing the tampering while trying to protect themselves and stay safe. One by one, they end up dying and the killer is revealed. Quick read with a great twist, 3.5 stars!

Likes/dislikes: I didn’t appreciate the overly detailed sex (this keeps the book our of school libraries.) I liked that it was a quick read. I enjoyed the twist at the end.
Language: R for 17 swears and 16 f-bombs.
Mature content: R for descriptive sex.
Violence: PG-13 for killing by a hard hit to the head, poisoning and strangling.

Enola Holmes and the Elegant Escapade by Nancy Springer

A thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining quick read with mystery and humor, 5 stars!

Enola is once again on the case and this time she’s trying to save a young woman with a dual personality, Cecily. Cecily was kidnapped in a past case and Enola helped her then and will help her now by saving her from the tyrant of a father that has locked her up, neglected and abused her. Cecily doesn’t know she has a dual personality but Enola notices that when Cecily uses her right hand, she’s submissive and when using her left, she’s brave. Enola and Sherlock discuss Cecily’s situation and the mistreatment of her father toward her mother, siblings and herself. Enola discovers that the tyrant has been committing crimes and wants Cecily to bargain with him for better treatment for her family. Sherlock doesn’t want any part of blackmail but admires Enola’s bravery and intelligence. This is a thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining quick read with mystery and humor, 5 stars!

No swearing
Violence- description of crimes but no details of the actions.

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

Foul Lady Fortune by Chloe Gong

Political intrigue in 1930’s Orient with a mix of historical fiction and fantasy!

The prologue tells of a painful scientific experiment on a person that has been strapped down. Then the story starts as Rosalind is trapping a criminal who is a member of the group responsible for the death of her cousin Juliette during a past act gone awry. She’s exacting revenge on those who were part of it. Political intrigue, spies, agents, Communists and Nationalists describe the characters in this book. Her handler pairs her with another agent, Orion, who has family issues as well. The two of them have to pretend to be married so they can infiltrate the newspaper company and try to discover information on the serial killer murdering people with a toxic liquid in syringes. What they discover turns their lives around and, unbeknownst to Orion and Rosalind, the reader is given the true identity of a mysterious agent, Priest. The author’s notes on Oriental history during the 1930’s are fascinating. Well-written, complex, beloved characters build a fun historical fiction fantasy. 5 stars!

Likes/dislikes:
I enjoyed learning about the history of 1930’s Orient. The author’s notes give readers a glimpse into her research and what’s based on facts and what’s completely fiction in this story. Rosalind and Orion are characters with depth and I had fun getting to know them.
Swearing: PG for three swears, no f-bombs
Mature content: PG for lgbtq transgender character mentioned
Violence: PG-13 for killing by poison, shooting, bloody shooting, stabbing, bloody stabbing

The Luminaries by Susan Dennard

A supernatural mystery!

Luminaries are hunters of nightmares. Winnie, sixteen, is about to start the trials that lead to becoming a hunter. She lives with her mother and brother. After her father was exposed as a spy, their family lost everything, including him. Now they struggle to make ends meet. Winnie is bullied by classmates that call her traitor because of her father. She is excited to become a hunter and draws every creature she sees with her wonderful artistic skills. On her first trial, Winnie accidentally stumbles onto a banshee that’s immediately beheaded by someone or something else. She carries the banshee head back to headquarters, completely in shock the whole time. As soon as other hunters see her holding the banshee head, they assume she hunted and killed it. Super impressed, the hunters don’t let Winnie get a word in and she’s finding it hard to speak anyway. After that, she and her family are celebrated and treated much better. Winnie is able to attend hunter school and her brother Darian is promoted. In the meantime, Winnie asks Jay to train her because she feels extremely behind since she hasn’t had access to teaching or coaching for the last four years. Jay agrees but Winnie has difficulty reading him. He’s aloof, strong, and oblivious to the attention and flirting of Winnie’s peers. Jay’s training helps Winnie with the trials but she keeps seeing the Whisperer that no other hunter has seen. As Winnie builds her skills, she discovers a coded message from her father and the book ends with the shocking deciphered note he left for her. A sequel to look forward to! Supernatural mystery, 4 stars!

Likes/dislikes:
I like the following:
-The quote from Grandpa Frank, “That’s why we’re called the Luminaries, Winnie, we are lanterns the forest can never snuff out”.
-The mystery of the Whisperer and the discovery of another mystery that leads into a sequel.
-I enjoyed the writing and that Winnie is an artist.
-I like Jay and the mystery surrounding his life.
Language Content: PG-13 for 16 swears, no f-bombs
Mature Content: PG-13 for underage drinking, mentions marijuana; LGBT side character
Violence: PG-13 for dead, ripped apart bodies, beheading

How To Survive Your Murder by Danielle Valentine

A slam-in-your-face ending!


Alice loses her sister in a murder spree cut short one Halloween night. She saw Claire get stabbed by Owen and a year later is planning to testify that Owen killed Claire. Any more info in my review will be a spoiler. This unique mystery thriller jumps around and then slams you in the face with the ending. A suspenseful read that I could not put down! 5 stars!

Danielle Valentine is Danielle Vega’s pseudonym and this is her debut thriller!

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

A perfect mystery thriller!

Emma remembers summer camp fifteen years ago when her three cabin mates disappeared. She’s now an artist and the three missing girls disappearing into the forest are the subject of most of her paintings. At her art show, the camp owner shows up, purchases one of her paintings and asks her to lunch. At lunch the next day, Emma is asked to be an art teacher to camp residents when it reopens. When she arrives she’s told the counselors are to pick a cabin to stay in with the campers, so Emma requests Dogwood, her old cabin. She’ll be the only adult in the cabin with three teens, Miranda, Krystal and Sasha. Emma is anxious about being back at the camp and every sight, sound and scent reminds her of fifteen years ago. When Miranda, Krystal and Sasha go missing, chaos erupts throughout the camp, accusations fly and the danger has just begun. A perfect mystery thriller, 5 stars!

The Girl in the Castle by Emily Raymond & James Patterson

The mystery kept me hooked!

Hannah is brought to the psychiatric hospital after being found screaming and half-dressed on the streets. She says she’s trying to save her family and friends by robbing the castle because the village people are starving. Then the timeline jumps back to the 1300’s, where Hannah is with those starving villagers, family and friends. The story continues to alternate between the present and the 1300’s while Hannah is in the psychiatric ward (present) and with her family in the village (1300’s). An intern, Jordan, finds Hannah fascinating and wants to help her heal after hearing her story and background. While Hannah is in the past, she’s captured along with her friends. Her friends are either hanged, stabbed or badly beaten but Hannah is spared by the Baron who is curious about her. While in the present, Hannah attends group meetings, therapy, meets new roommates, loses a fellow ward resident to suicide and builds a relationship with Jordan. While in the past, she is pampered in the castle, brings food to the villagers and has a relationship with the Baron. Jordan investigates as much as possible to discover Hannah’s past to see if trauma is at the root of her story. The mystery kept me hooked, 4 stars!

Mature content: PG-13 for vaguely detailed sex, mention of drugs, suicide and attempted suicide, self harm with razor blades
Violence: PG-13 for suicide, suggestion of rape, bleeding cuts, cut herself repeatedly with a spoon sharpened against a table leg, stealing and hanging
Language: R for 76 swears, 19 f-bombs
Ethnicities:
1300’s timeline- predominately white, present timeline-mixed ethnicity
Likes/dislikes: I liked the mystery surrounding the main character, Hannah. Was she experiencing time travel, hallucinations or trauma induced schizophrenia? I appreciate the author’s note at the end sharing experiences working at a psychiatric hospital and acknowledging that those experiences helped shape this book.

Pretty Dead Queens by Alexa Donne

A fun mystery!

The main character’s mom recently passed away and now Cecilia is moving into her grandmother’s house. Her grandmother, Maura, happens to be a famous author and lives in a large home with four floors. Maura has brought fame to the town after writing a fictionalized book about the murder of a classmate that occurred during homecoming when she was in high school. Maura continues to write mysteries and her fandom holds yearly conventions in town. Cecilia makes friends and ends up on the sidelines of their drama. Then she finds the body of another homecoming murder victim and it’s eerily similar to the murder all those years ago. She throws herself into trying to discover the killer as a way to distract herself from losing her mother. She ends up in the middle of trouble and has to fight for her life. A fun mystery, 4 stars!

Language: R for 139 swears and 101 f-bombs
Violence: PG-13 for Bodies found in school swimming pool. Strangulation mentioned. Serial killer in community. Premeditated murder. Punching.
Mature content: PG-13 for sex mentioned, no details, drug use mentioned.
LGBT content: bi mentioned, lesbian mentioned
Likes/dislikes: The swearing was too much. The main character, Cecilia, is wishy washy with her new friends. She expects them to immediately divulge their secrets to her because she wants to know but she’s completely disregarding their rights to privacy and gets upset if they ask her questions about her life. I was enthralled by the two mysteries, past and present, and wanted Cecilia to expose the twisted actions of the townspeople.
Ethnicity: white, brown, Filipino, Black