Shimmer and Burn by Mary Taranta

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Shimmer and Burn by Mary Taranta jumps into an intense storyline. Right from the beginning, I was hooked! Faris and Thaelan live completely different lives in opposite areas of the kingdom. Faris and her sister Cadence live in poverty while Thaelan is a member of nobility. Thaelan and Faris are in love and want to run away so they can be together. Faris and Cadence are pretty much on their own because of their dysfunctional father and deceased mother; a mother that stabbed Faris in the chest, trying to kill her years ago. Cadence and Thaelan are captured while they are trying to escape, the two of them receive horrible consequences. Faris is offered a job to earn money to buy Cadence’s freedom. The job offer comes from the kingdom’s executioner and his betrothed, Princess Bryn. Things become a bit confusing when Bryn and Faris are captured and the “owners” change hands a couple of times. Once that’s settled, the situation begins to clear up again. Bryn and Faris end up riding with North, a mysterious young man with secrets of his own. The relationships sparkle and the world frightens in this dark, dreary fantasy made up of magic that cripples and sometimes completely transforms. A range of emotions surrounds the storyline and tragedy, intensity and brutality sum up the characters’ lives. Deeply dynamic, Shimmer and Burn is waiting to pull you into its world! 5 stars!

Grace and Fury by Tracy Banghart

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Once I started reading, I couldn’t put it down!  So good, I actually read it twice already!
Thanks to NetGalley and Hachette Book Group for the opportunity to read and review Grace and Fury by Tracy Banghart!
Serina and her family await Signor Pietro to make his choice of one of the community’s young women who will travel to Bellaqua, join others from different provinces, and vie for the opportunity to be a Grace for the royal Heir. Sera’s mother is thrilled when she’s the one who’s chosen, but her siblings Nomi and Renzo seem to feel otherwise. Sera’s unsure how her father feels. Sera has learned to be happy with the lack of options given to women in Viridia but Nomi openly hates the idea.
The Heir, Malachi, chooses three Graces every three years. This will be his first year of choosing Graces. The Superior has forty Graces and everyone assumes he will step down and let the Heir rule Viridia. At the ball, Nomi wanders into a palace library and notices a beautiful copy of the book Renzo taught her to read with, when they were younger. Reading is forbidden for women but Nomi loves to read. She slips this book into her clothes and as she’s going back to the ball, runs straight into the Heir and his younger brother Asa. The Heir demands to know what she’s doing and she coyly answers that she was using the restroom and if he needs it she points to where it is. Nomi can’t fathom how she could have been so rude to the Heir and she’s sure she’s going to be sent home. Sera is the only young woman the Heir dances with at the ball. He makes his decision afterwards, choosing two women and then Nomi instead of Sera! Grace and Fury is fast paced and full of intrigue! This magnificent book twists and turns with suspense that kept me on the edge of my seat! Once I started reading it, I couldn’t stop. Fantastic writing, unique storyline and intriguing characters make Grace and Fury a must-read- 5 stars!

Snow White’s Mirror by Shonna Slayton

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Snow White’s Mirror by Shonna Slayton is another wonderful fairytale creation! Shonna Slayton perfects historical fiction. Now she’s combining historical fiction with fantasy to create fun and intelligent fairytale stories. Billie has traveled with her uncle to secure her inheritance after her father’s death due to heart failure. She believes that her uncle is keeping things from her as well as gambling away her father’s estate. They stop at a mining town and meet cousin Lou. She oversees a mine with beautiful turquoise veins running through and she does all of the work by herself. Uncle Dale tells Billie that he’s searching for a special mirror that will grant wishes. Billie wants to help her ailing mother, so she wants to find the mirror also. The character pool grows to include Winn, an interesting local young man; Matron, a kind but questionable local businesswoman and Fremont, a relative with dwarfism that has also been missing for a while. Billie discovers more about cousin Lou and stumbles upon an odd window that seems somewhat like a mirror inside Lou’s shack. Billie’s life grows much more complicated than she ever thought it could. I love this book and highly recommend it to fairytale and historical fiction readers, 5 stars!

Sadie by Courtney Summers

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A heartbreaking mystery!
Thanks to NetGalley and Wednesday Books for the opportunity to read and review Sadie by Courtney Summers!
Sadie seems lost. She’s searching for her stepfather to exact revenge for her younger sister’s murder. As the story is told, Sadie’s background unfolds. She’s had a life of abuse and neglect along with several “stepdads”. Sadie raised her younger sister Mattie since their mother was usually high or nonexistent in their lives. Sadie is a difficult book to review because I don’t want to give anything away. The intensity and pain broke my heart but the unconditional love that Sadie has for Mattie warmed my heart back up again. Sadie’s stutter made it difficult for her to make friends and her tragic life made it impossible for her to even keep or have friends. She lives in painful loneliness and only has the idea of vengeance to keep her going. A difficult to put down mystery, Sadie pulled 100% of my attention until I finished reading the book, 5 heartbreaking stars!

The Unbinding of Mary Reade by Miriam McNamara

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Thanks to Edelweiss and Sky Pony Press for the opportunity to read and review The Unbinding of Mary Reade! Mary hides on the ship when Pirates attack and she unexpectedly kills the Captain and swears allegiance to the Pirate Captain. The next chapter goes back in time and tells us how Mary disguised herself, as her dead brother Mark, to please her mother and to receive money from her grandmother. Her mother calls her a bastard girl and tells her that she’s unacceptable in society or in the family. From then on Mary stays disguised as a boy everywhere except when she’s alone with her mother, who’s drunk most of the time. The story moves back and forth between the past and the present and eventually they catch up to each other, with Mary trying to figure out and understand her place in the world. Action and a delicate, tactful handling of Mary’s relationships and how she finally decides what suits her true-self best. A 4 star adventure!

 

A Heart in a Body in the World by Deb Caletti

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Deeply moving!
Thanks to Edelweiss+, NetGalley and Simon Pulse for the opportunity to read and review A Heart in a Body in the World by Deb Caletti!
This story captivated me with it’s mysterious, traumatic event and the strength of the main character and supporting characters. Also, the charm and humor of family and all the quirks that go along with that wonderful six letter word. The story is somewhat difficult to follow; I’m sure that was on purpose by the author because the back and forth, scattered thoughts represent the stress of the main character very well. A heartbreaking and inspiring story that fully reveals the event by the end of the book. 5 stars for this deeply moving realistic fiction!

The Perfect Candidate by Peter Stone

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Great mystery for young adults!
Thanks to NetGalley, Edelweiss and Simon & Schuster for the opportunity to read and review The Perfect Candidate by Peter Stone!
Cameron travels to Washington D.C. to begin an internship under Congressman Beck. Soon after arriving, one of the other Congressman’s workers (Ariel) dies in a drunk driving accident. An FBI agent approaches Cameron for help proving that the Congressman is corrupt. He digs a bit and finds a link to someone that knew Ariel. That leads to Cameron being pulled deeper and deeper into the mystery. I enjoy the characters and Cameron is a good guy trying to figure out his path in life and he and Lena are fun together. Cameron’s roommates and fellow interns make me laugh and I enjoyed reading this entire book. The ending was awesome in more ways than one! I’m looking forward to other books by Peter Stone. 5 stars for an engaging young adult mystery!

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

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As a reread, this book is just as amazing the second time around!

An Ember in the Ashes, by Sabaa Tahir, opens as Laia witnesses the killings of her grandparents and the capture of her brother Darin as soldiers attack their home, accusing Darin of being a part of the Resistance. Laia’s story alternates with Elias, a soldier training most of his life to serve the Empire. Laia finds the Resistance to try and save Darin while Elias debates desertion or staying and serving the Empire. Laia is bought as the Commandant’s new slave girl, a Resistance idea to find out information about Darin so they can plan how to help him. Laia discovers life as a slave is horrible and she’s having a very difficult time getting information for the Resistance. Four Masks are sent into nightmarish trials, Elias and Helene are two of the soldiers, and they must overcome their worst fears to survive as their love, loyalty and hearts are strained through horrific events. Throughout the story, Elias and Laia unexpectedly run into each other and they unwillingly get to know each other. Each chapter ends with intensity, so it’s a difficult book to put down. Dynamic, complex characters to love and hate make this story suspenseful, exciting and interesting, 5 stars!

A Touch of Gold by Annie Sullivan

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A pirating adventure full of dynamic characters!
Thanks to NetGalley and Blink for the opportunity to read and review A Touch of Gold by Annie Sullivan.
This story introduces the daughter of King Midas, Princess Kora, who has seen the bad end of “the curse of the golden touch” which was given to her father by Dionysus. Her skin is the color of gold and she’s been kept hidden for her protection since the curse. Someone steals the king’s gold, the gold that gives him strength. Kora can sense where the gold is, so she sets off on a mission with Duke Aris to retrieve the gold and help her father gain his strength back. Kora’s cousin Hettie sneaks on board for the trip only to be disheartened when she discovers how the ship’s living conditions are unlike the palace’s. Aris has gotten the crew that he’s sailed with for years but things seem to be changing and the crew might not be trustworthy anymore. As their search for the gold continues, Kora and Hettie adapt to life on the ship, while training for sword fighting and gaining friendships. The two of them soon discover who they can and can’t trust. The crew also sees the true horror that Captain Skulls encompasses, with dire circumstances. Touch of Gold is a pirating adventure with originality and dynamic characters, 5 stars!

Keeper of the Bees by Meg Kassel

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Much more complex than I anticipated!
Thanks to NetGalley and Entangled for the opportunity to read and review Keeper of the Bees by Meg Kassel!
I assumed this would be a continuation of Black Bird of the Gallows, but it’s actually a companion novel with separate characters. Essie struggles with hallucinations, like many of her ancestors have. Dresden is the living embodiment of a curse that he received centuries ago. The two meet by chance and stop each other in their tracks. Essie sees Dresden as beautiful and wants to be in his company. Dresden is amazed at her reaction and is intrigued by her. The world building and background history are both fascinating and interesting and this story is so much more complex than I anticipated. A wonderful love story, 4 stars!