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!

Wicked Fox by Kat Cho

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Korean folklore!
Thanks to Bookish First for the ARC of Wicked Fox by Kat Cho!
The two main characters meet when Miyoung saves Jihoon’s life from a goblin and Jihoon sees Miyoung’s true form. The next day, Miyoung shows up at Jihoon’s school as a transfer student and, little by little, she reluctantly becomes his friend and then their relationship turns into something more. Yena, Miyoung’s mother seems cruel and uncaring to her and she forces her to move often so they don’t make ties with anyone. The self-denigrating behavior from Jihoon and Miyoung became a little tiresome. I was also confused by the many different names that the characters were each called. The differences became cumbersome to remember. I’m sure if I was better acquainted with Korean culture and folklore, it would be easier for me. There’s a good deal of character development in a few of the characters and we learn some secrets about Yena’s background which are very interesting. 4 stars for this first book in the Gumiho series!

 

Graceling by Kristin Cashore!

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Action, adventure, mystery, tragedy and romance all wrapped up in a fantasy, 5 stars!
Graceling by Kristin Cashore is a thoroughly enjoyable read! The main character Katsa has been given the Grace skill to kill well, but she hates this gift. She frees an elderly Lienid prisoner by knocking out guards and giving them each a pill that keeps them out long enough for her to complete the rescue. By doing this, she completed her mission without killing anyone. She works under King Randa’s orders and he often orders her to harm or kill people when they’ve supposedly wronged him. Katsa has few people that she’s comfortable with, her companions Giddon and Oll and her cousin Raffin, who’s also the prince.
The Lienid prisoner’s grandson, Po, has visited several places searching for his grandfather. Po’s relieved when he discovers that his grandfather is safe and being cared for by Katsa and her companions. Po is also a Grace and his skill is intuition. He’s also a skilled fighter and has passed on fighting as his Grace skill because people would be afraid of him or use him for his intuitive abilities.
Katsa and Po become friends and I enjoy their unique friendship and all of its humor. When Katsa decides she no longer wants to do King Randa’s bidding, she leaves with Po. They arrive in King Leck’s territory just as he’s killing his wife for hiding their daughter Bitterblue from him. King Leck is also the one who had Po’s grandfather kidnapped. He did this so his wife would obey him. His wife is Po’s aunt. She’s running towards Po when Leck kills her but she has time to yell at Po to protect Bitterblue. Leck is a horrible person who has a Grace of manipulation and he has used this power for his own benefit since he was young. He killed the King and Queen years ago, after they took him in as their own, so he could rule as King. He mutilates and tortures children, specifically girls, and animals. A lot of action and adventure take place in Graceling, as well as some romance in this young adult fantasy. I enjoyed the relationship and relaxed ease between Po and Katsa, it was refreshing!

T-Minus by Shannon Greenland

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Thrilling read!
Thanks to NetGalley, Edelweiss and Entangled Teen for the opportunity to read and review T-Minus by Shannon Greenland!
The president’s daughter, Sophie, is awakened during the night when the secret service has discovered a terrorist attack in the making. The story alternates between the present, as the attack progresses, with snippets of past experiences and memories that Sophie has with her family and friends. Her brother Erik is not home and the family believes he’s in danger and they are right. The mystery gradually unravels as to the purpose behind the attack but meanwhile people are dying, being kidnapped or, as in Sophie’s case, being manipulated into doing the terrorists’ bidding. Sophie is part of the TIA, a teenage agency created by the CIA to train and teach survival skills and tactics to teens. She’s made strong friends in the TIA and they help her get to the bottom of what’s going on. Unique characters and the alternating of past and present builds the relationships up and creates empathy for the characters. A suspenseful YA mystery, 4 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!

Queen of Ruin by Tracy Banghart

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Queen of Ruin by Tracy Banghart! I’ve been looking forward to reading this sequel since I finished Grace and Fury and the synopsis couldn’t be better! One of my favorite lines: With an un-Heir like snort… ! That description of Malachi made me chuckle. A lot takes place in this 325 page book, character development, action, power changing hands, and turns of fate. Nomi and Serina are reunited because Asa sends Nomi to Mount Ruin. Serina and Nomi share their experiences and are both surprised at what’s happened. The women on Mount Ruin are ready for rebellion and Nomi is right there with them. Asa shows his true self and as Malachi comes to terms with his father’s death and his brother’s betrayal, he uses the time to decide his future actions. Relationships grow, are torn apart, and change the future of Viridia. I enjoy the varied relationships and the story’s suspense the most out of everything else that takes place in this book. Dystopian fantasy worth 4.5 stars! I would have enjoyed more details about the relationships between Val and Serina and between Malachi and Nomi.

The Darkest Star by Jennifer L. Armentrout!

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Fun, intrigue, mystery, supernatural and sci-fi rolled into one!
Thanks to NetGalley and Harlequin Teen for the opportunity to read and review The Darkest Star by Jennifer L. Armentrout!
Two teenage girls, Evie and Heidi, go into an all-inclusive club and while one is having fun dancing the other one is being interrogated by Luc, who’s being extremely rude. Evie isn’t the least bit impressed with Luc and tells him so. The club gets raided and Luc takes Evie to hide inside a closet with him, claiming to be protecting her. She realizes the next day that she’s lost her phone and it’s probably at the club. She heads back to retrieve her phone, to no avail and from there, the acquaintance with Luc grows into more. In the meantime, the Luxen invasion is described and Origins are explained. Luc and Evie are fun characters, each with distinct personalities and I thoroughly enjoy their banter. This story contains several mysteries, which build then unfold throughout the book. I love the author’s writing and have devoured her realistic fiction novels, The Problem with Forever and If There’s No Tomorrow. The Darkest Star is the first supernatural novel of hers that I’ve read and it’s just as awesome, showing how talented Jennifer L. Armentrout is! Even though many mysteries come into the light, there are still unanswered questions at the ending which leads the reader into the next book, The Burning Shadow. Supernatural mystery earning a solid 5 stars!

Of Rioters and Royals by M.L. Greye

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I received a copy of Of Rioters & Royals by M. L. Greye from the author. Declan is vying to become a challenger to end the long-lasting feud that’s overrun the kingdom. He’s going to be a competitor in the fight for Princess Emry’s favor and to become her Knight. The first part of the book sets the background and world building and once Declan and Emry are introduced, I became invested! The two of them share a pull that draws them together, even though it’s been several years since they’ve seen each other. Declan seems independent and Emry is adventurous. In their world, different colors of eyes have specific skills and talents. Declan has teal eyes that give him speed. Emry’s eyes are silver and she can cast shadows and hide herself. They are both keeping secrets from each other and eventually they discover what those secrets are. If I say more, I might give too much away. Of Rioters & Royals is the first in the Swift Shadows series that continues with the sequel, Entwined Paths. Lots of intrigue and somewhat unknown backstories make a fun-to-read fantasy, 5 stars!

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

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Beyond my expectations!
Thanks to Edelweiss, NetGalley and Wednesday Books for the opportunity to read and review The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi!
Whoa, that prologue! I expect intrigue, deception, action and suspense after reading it and chapter one alludes to all of the above! The complexity of forging and the variety of characters, all introduced smoothly and interestingly, attests to Roshani Chokshi’s writing talent. Severin leads L’Eden, his home full of wayward, talented people. Such as Laila, who’s skilled in baking delicacies, Zofia, her forging talents cause a bit of chaos, and Tristan, who forges diverse landscapes with plants. Enrique’s personality is fun and interesting. Laila is paradoxical with a unique birth story and the group works well together as they try to restore Severin’s birthright. Severin, along with the help of Enrique, manages to steal the compass from Hypnos; the compass that contains a map. The group develops another elaborate plan and as they begin to carry it out, Laila discovers Hypnos lounging on her chaise lounge when she enters her dressing room. She immediately assumes he’s there to stop their plan but Hypnos surprises her when he states that they need to save Tristan and Severin from death within the hour. By the time the story winds down, tragedy has struck and the group is heartbroken and struggling to move forward. This complex story is the beginning of a new trilogy that shows the beauty and horror of the 19th century, as the author’s notes acknowledge. I’m astounded by the fact of a human zoo at the World’s Fair in Paris and can’t really wrap my head around that disturbing reality. My respect for Roshani Chokshi has grown because of her talented writing, her research and her honesty in sharing the process of her story building. The world of The Gilded Wolves is based a large amount on reality, with a touch of fantasy. The dynamics between the characters and the puzzles throughout their search builds suspense and an interesting story worth 5 stars!

When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

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Truly original fantasy!
I read When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore as a buddy-read event for Dragons & Tea Book Club. Thanks to NetGalley and Thomas Dunne Books for the opportunity to read and review this book by providing the ARC!
This is a unique story that pulls from deep-seated cultural roots and a little deception. Sam and Miel share trust, loyalty and a special relationship. They also share their community with a group of sisters that could be considered mean girls, with a power they’ve grown so used to, that they do not want to lose it and will do whatever it takes to keep it. Wow! Aracely’s background revelation was something I was not expecting! Sam struggles with the decision of who (what gender) he wants to be in the near future. He’s struggling to the point of desperation. Miel blames herself for the loss of her mother and brother. She thinks the river might give them back to her. The fantastical elements are kind of difficult to understand in this story but I do enjoy the flow of the author’s writing. As usually is the case, the author’s notes are enlightening! They are also helpful in understanding Miel’s fears and Sam’s struggles. I appreciate that Anna-Marie McLemore shares such personal experiences and revelations with her readers! 4 stars for this unique fantasy!