The Realm Breaker by Victoria Aveyard

Fantastic world building and strong character development, 5 stars for this series opener!

Different lives become connected through unpleasant events. Andry witnesses the horrible deaths of a group of knights that he was traveling with. One brother killed another and set loose a horde of violent corpses that kills everyone in its path. Reminiscent of the Lord of the Rings, this updated epic fantasy brings action and a gathering of many to fight a common enemy that wants to take over the world. The group of forsaken allies grows stronger after being betrayed by someone they thought was one of their own. This group is made up of a young woman with a special family line, a large and powerful Elder, an honorable squire, a young assassin and more continue to join as the story unfolds. They face dangerous creatures and powerful foes in this high, epic fantasy that opens a series bound to be a story for the ages! Fantastic world building and strong character development, 5 stars for this series opener!

Nameless Queen by Rebecca McLaughlin

Coin is homeless and alone. She picks pockets to survive. The homeless people are called Nameless and are ignored and treated horribly by everyone else and have no legal rights. The king passes away and the kingdom is awaiting news of who the heir is. The heir is chosen as the king speaks his last words, mentioning a name. Then a tattoo magically appears on the shoulder of the person named. Coin happens to be that person, therefore the heir. She’s with her friend Hat when she gets a stinging pain on her shoulder and the two of them see her tattoo. She’s arrested for forging the tattoo and escapes only to be tested by the king’s daughter. Danger, intrigue, and a new world surround Coin as she adjusts to royal etiquette, duties, and the constant threat to her life. Self-worth, loyalty and friendship bind this unique story together, 4 stars!

Agnes at the End of the World by Kelly McWilliams

Completely Riveting!

Agnes resides within a cult at Red Creek but she doesn’t realize that she’s part of a cult. She’s the eldest of several siblings and is responsible for taking care of their family because their mother is severely depressed. Agnes sneaks to the Outside once a month to retrieve insulin for her younger brother Ezekiel, even though she knows it’s against the rules. Her sister Beth, the next eldest sibling, is a rebel and doesn’t like the rules. When Beth is caught kissing a boy, she’s disgraced by their father and the community. Agnes has been betrothed as a sixth wife to a middle-aged man and before she gets married, she has to teach Beth everything so she can then become the family caretaker. The middle-aged man decides to marry Beth instead of Agnes to straighten Beth out. In the meantime, a ferocious virus is spreading throughout the world and eventually arrives at Red Creek. The Prophet releases an infected dog during a church meeting and, after a few people are bitten, he tells them about his revelation; the Rapture has arrived and everyone must move into the underground bunker. Agnes escapes with Ezekiel and is heartbroken that she’s left the rest of her siblings behind. She knows that the bunker would be a death sentence for Ezekiel because there’s no insulin for him. This is a riveting story about cults, self-worth, self-importance, bravery, love, loyalty, and sacrifice. The author’s note explains the cult background information being from a nonfiction book of a survivor who escaped a true cult. A wonderfully written and all-encompassing story about love, sacrifice, and different faiths, 5 stars!

Daughters of Jubilation by Kara Lee Corthron

Evvie is a teenager helping her younger siblings to lighten the load of her single mother. Their father is in prison. Jubilation runs in the family and Evvie’s magic is coming on strong. She causes odd behavior in others and can change the world around her, usually unintentionally. She’s falling for Clay, her longtime crush that’s very interested in her too. A creepy stranger keeps showing up, scaring Evvie and her mother tells her the past experiences with him. Virgil Hampton is not a good man and he hurt Evvie when she was little. Her mother lost her job over it because she was angry that he hurt Evvie and she was fired because her family is black and Virgil’s family is white and rich. This is a beautiful story of hardship and perseverance which brought me to tears many times while reading it. I cried for the touching and sweet moments, for the fear and loss and for the bravery, kindness, love and hope. Highly recommended and an emotional journey, 5 stars!

A Heart So Fierce and Broken by Brigid Kemmerer

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Impressive sequel!
A Heart So Fierce and Broken by Brigid Kemmerer
Rumors abound about and rewards are offered for the lost heir of Emberfall. Grey is working as a stable boy and goes by the name of Hawk. He mostly keeps to himself except for his stable companion and coworker, a young boy named Tycho. One night Grey tests out the silver bracelet Lilith gave him for transport into Harper’s world. He didn’t know if it worked anymore but when he touched the bracelet, he left the stables and when he returned, Tycho was staring at him. The ruthless leader that threatened Emberfall before has returned with her daughters to force Rhen into an alliance. The daughter named heir is like her mother while the other cares for people and their well being. Rhen brutalizes Grey and Tycho and the group escapes Emberfall because Grey unintentionally uses his magic. Grey doesn’t trust either kingdom or their rulers but the kind, wise daughter convinces the group to go to her kingdom despite worrying about her mother. A tremendous amount of character development bonded me with this story. I thought A Curse so Dark and Lonely was a wonderful read but this sequel is just as good! 5 stars for this impressive sequel that introduces even more great characters!

The Midnight Lie by Marie Rutkoski

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More than what I expected!
The Midnight Lie by Marie Rutkoski tells the story of Nirrim, an orphan that lives with other women that don’t have anywhere else to go. They all live under the care of Raven, who treats them like money-making slaves. Nirrim found and captured a priceless bird and was put in jail where she meets Sid. They talk back and forth but they’re in separate cells and low light, so they can’t see each other clearly. Somehow Sid gets them both released and Nirrim is surprised to find out that Sid is actually a woman when she thought Sid was a man during her stay in jail. Sid is a traveler, which is rare in Nirrim’s kingdom. The two befriend each other with a wary trust. The two travel together until a visitor brings Sid worrisome news and she has to return to her home. Then all Nirrim wants is the truth behind the history of her kingdom. What she discovers is much more than she bargained for. The ending left me speechless and was so much bigger than I expected it to be! Different types of abuse and manipulation are touched on as parts of Nirrim’s life. I appreciate the author addressing these issues and helping readers understand the perspective of the abused and used. A complex world with complicated characters, 5 stars!

Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys

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The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys is a novel masterpiece!
Poverty and suppression hidden under sunshine and kindness describes the picture painted of Spain as the rest of the world sees the land and its people. The story tells itself with alternating points of view and the author’s writing draws the reader into the characters’ lives, so I was pulled quickly into caring for them. Ana lives with her siblings and each of them works as many jobs as possible since their parents are no longer with them. Daniel traveled to Spain from Texas with his parents, his mother of Spanish descent and oil-rich father. Daniel meets Ana at the hotel where she works as a maid. Daniel loves photography and Ana helps him as much as she dares. Daniel starts noticing that Ana keeps her distance like she’s afraid. Another revelation occurs when Ana’s brother Rafe and his coworker realize that the baby coffins being sent to the cemetery for them to bury are actually empty. More injustice is revealed as we learn that Ana’s parents were killed because they wanted to start a school and their ideas went against the beliefs of the leader of Spain, Francisco Franco. The snippets taken from primary sources bring this story to a deeper level and helped me to understand how the rest of the world perceived Spain during this time frame.
The characters and their lives all connect in one way or another and those relationships show how truly complicated and complex Spain’s history is. My heart goes out to the people who suffered in silence for decades and for those still affected by the repercussions. Ruta Sepetys amazes me with every book she writes. Her dedication stands above and beyond what is required because she pours her heart and soul into the stories she creates. I’m grateful that she shares them with the world because, with each book, I gain more knowledge of cultures and history across the globe.
Fountains of Silence, a true work of art! 5 stars!