Tamsin,17, and her brother Cabell are Hollowers. Their guardian Nash left them behind after taking them on hunting trips for artifacts and now they have to make it on their own. The two of them have been trying to decipher Nash’s journal and break the cipher so they can solve the mystery of what happened to him and rescue him. Tamsin realizes the artifact they’re looking for is the Servant’s ring and believes that they need to travel to Avalon, King Arthur’s resting place, to find the ring and Nash. They find their way to Avalon in the company of prestigious Hollowers who have their own agendas falling headfirst into danger beyond anything they expected and into the unknown that will change everything.
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
Simi has been a mermaid, a Mami Wata, for only a short time but she’s starting to lose her human memories. When she goes on land and transforms into a human, she grasps at memories of her family and holds onto them tightly so she won’t forget once she’s a mermaid again. Her duty is to help souls move on after death and she thinks she’s helping a young man who has just been thrown overboard from a slave trader ship. She assumes he’s dead and she’s ready to perform her task when his eyes open. He is chained and manacled and injured. He loses consciousness and she carries him over her shoulder as she swims to an island. His name is Kola and together they call on the creator of mermaids for help in getting him home. Kola and Simi go through a roller coaster of experiences together to get him home, save his siblings and help the mermaid creator. Simi isn’t supposed to develop feelings or attachments to any human but she grows to care for Kola. They meet the messenger to the gods, Esu, and discover the horrible trickster that he is. Tidbits similar to The Little Mermaid story but with the added African mythology, culture and history! 4 stars!
Pip is doing her Capstone Project on a five-year-old disappearance case that took place in her town. She isn’t sure that the case was truly solved. She introduces herself to everyone that she thinks was involved in Andie Bell’s disappearance and ruffles lots of feathers as she continues her investigation. Pip and Ravi become friends as they work on solving the mystery. Ravi’s older brother was accused of killing Andie and then committing suicide afterward. The amateur sleuths dive into the case and unravel a complicated weave of problems. Soon, Pip is receiving threats to stay away from the case and it seems that every time she finds a piece of evidence to someone’s guilt, she inevitably discovers more to the story. An enjoyable and intricate mystery, 5 stars!
Wilder Girls by Rory Power is a dystopian sci-fi for young adults. I read an excerpt on Bookish First and was so grateful that I had an ARC from NetGalley and Delacorte Press/Random House so I could finish reading the book immediately! The opening frightened and piqued my curiosity. I also felt sorry for the Tox survivors because civilization deserted them, except for limited, intermittent supply drops from the Navy. Told in alternating points of view between friends, Hetty and Byatt. (I cannot seem to get out of my mind, the fact that if the first letters of both names are exchanged, the names would be Betty and Hyatt);) Hetty starts the story and continues until Byatt suffers a Tox episode and is taken away. Hetty searches for her, can’t find her and overhears one of the leaders on the radio talking about an exchange. Then it’s Byatt’s turn to tell the story. She wakes up in a strange place and she struggles to talk. Soon, she’s surrounded by people in surgical clothing and is forced to take a bitter tasting pill. Byatt has a few more experiences to share but the majority of the story is told through Hetty’s perspective. Strange and frightening discoveries are made and the story ends with a wide opening for more to come. I do enjoy science fiction when it’s in dystopian form and the ending left me wondering what’s next! 4 stars!
Strong, dynamic characters make a wonderful fantasy!
Thanks to NetGalley and Random House for the opportunity to read and review Lady Smoke by Laura Sebastian!
Theo is on Smoke, Dragonbane’s ship, with her Shadows and Soren. They are all working towards gathering allies to get her palace and reign back. Dynamic, strong characters plus the world building make Lady Smoke interesting to read and the uncertainty of Theo’s future drew me into the story even more. The characters’ backgrounds are intense and built fascinating characters that keep growing and stay steadfast by Theo’s side. Amazing strength and loyalty create unparalleled love for the kingdom they are all trying to get back. As the story carries on, more atrocities are brought to light and make the group even more determined! I don’t want to spoil anything but I’m thoroughly enjoying this series and anxiously awaiting the third book! 5 stars for great world building and strong, dynamic characters!
Thanks to NetGalley and Random House for the opportunity to read and review Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian.
A six-year-old Theodosia watches her mother as her life is taken from her. Her mother tells Theodosia that she’s the only hope for their people. The story jumps ahead ten years. Theodosia is a prisoner in the palace with the man who killed her mother, the Kaiser’s second in command- the Theyn. The Kaiser and the Theyn keep her with their own children in the palace, except she receives frequent whippings to remind her of their cruelty and her kingdom’s weakness. The Kaiser also gave her new names, Thora and Ash Princess. The Kaiser summons her to kill a rebel. This man used to be her guardian and he’s also her father. He pleads with her as his queen. He tells her to remember her rightful place as a princess and now a queen. He also tells her to kill him and she fulfills his request knowing that the guards will drag out his death but she will make it quick. The Prinze escorts her to her room and she vomits because of the trauma she’s just been through. Her maid helps her get undressed and puts ointment on her whip marks. Hoa, the maid, can’t speak because her mouth has been sewn shut. The stitches are cut every few days to allow Hoa to eat, then her mouth is sewn back up! There are no words to describe how horrible and deplorable that is. Thora is bolstering herself up to do what both her mother and father asked of her, to be their queen and she knows it’s up to her now because there’s no one left to rescue her. She discovers that a childhood friend is in the palace, Blaise, and he gives her hope once again. Blaise and two other rebels take the place of Thora’s private guards and together they plot the death of the Kaiser, the Prinz, the Theyn and his daughter. Pressure and learning more about the violent crimes towards her people make Thora determined to be the queen she was meant to be. 5 stars for this dynamic fantasy full of strong, interesting characters!
Tumultuous historical fiction!
And I Darken by Kiersten White, book one of the Conqueror’s Saga tells the story of Lada (a female version of Vlad the Impaler) and her brother Radu, as well as Mehmed, who will become a great Conqueror. Lada was born with an intense and strong personality; this is the only way to catch the attention of her father. The only time she’s kind or shows weakness is in helping her younger brother. Their father wakes them before dawn and takes them to a different ruler’s home for protection, but he ends up leaving his children to receive an education. This education consists of cruelty along with their lessons. As Lada and her brother Radu grow, they each find their particular talents and tend to go their separate ways. Lada is outspoken, boisterous and skillful in fighting and Radu is quiet and personable and enjoys religion. I learned more about Islam because of this book and my appreciation of Islamic beliefs grew. The author used the historical information that she could find on two great leaders- Vlad the Impaler and Mehmed the Conqueror- to create this interesting series of intrigue, action and danger. I love when authors explain their process of creating their books and share the research they discovered. Kiersten White lists historical books of information on her subjects and also tells readers why she chose to make Vlad the Impaler a female character- Lada. Lada adds depth, drama, love, loyalty and intensity to the story. And I Darken is the beginning of the turmoil of The Conqueror’s Saga, 4 stars!
Wonderfully informative and humorous guide to Meditation.
Thanks to NetGalley and Random House for the opportunity to read and review Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics by Dan Harris and Jeff Warren. I chuckled at the Table of Contents and how accurate the section and chapter titles were when applied to human nature. Some of the headings are “I Don’t Have Time for This”, “If I Get Too Happy, I’ll Lose My Edge” and “People Might Think I’m Weird”. So great and opens up the path for humor in its pages. I was excited to discover the app that accompanies the instructional meditation given in this book. The commentary is full of humor and deals with thoughts that swirl through our minds as we try to relax and meditate. Short and easily doable meditations are introduced along with helpful, concise cheat sheets. I love the “RAIN”, “Walking Through Sound” and “Ten Good Breaths”! This quote captures the true essence of this practical and useful book, “Meditation is basically the end of boredom.” I was surprised and disturbed by the results of the study “Pandora’s Box” where people were left alone in a room with no stimulus, except a button that produced an electric shock. Many of the participants chose to give themselves electric shocks because of their discomfort of being quietly alone. Wonderfully informative instructional guide on meditation for anyone who wants to try but is skeptical of meditating, 5 stars!
Thanks to NetGalley and Random House for the opportunity to read and review Tempests and Slaughter by Tamora Pierce. Arram, young and gifted beyond his age, attends Mage Academy with older students. He doesn’t have friends but that soon changes when he causes chaos with magic and has a conference with the Academy masters. They deem him gifted and place him with other students similar to him. Academy life becomes much more enjoyable and entertaining after the new placement. Arram, Varice and Zorne become great friends and when Arram is bullied because of his young age, his two new friends help him cope and discover how much fun their time at the academy can be. Varice is smart, fun and a very good kitchen witch while Zorne is seventh in line to the throne of the current prince. The three friends each have different gifts which grow in strength the longer they attend classes. The main focus of the story is on Arram, his powers, education and relationships but we do get a glimpse of the inner workings of the lives of Varice and Zorne. Arram has to learn to build the stomach for being around horribly injured people and his strength as a healer. Varice deals with being looked down on because she’s female and a lowly kitchen witch. Zorne is continuing to move up higher on the list of heirs to the throne, and is worried about his unhealthy mother and how to deal with his protective guards. The story is strong and the world building is a mix of renaissance and ancient Greece. I thought the whole approach to Arram’s puberty was odd and I understand that it will potentially help male preteens with their own changes. I did enjoy the Tempests and Slaughter. 5 stars for this fantasy and its underlying mystery!