A Bend in the Willow by Susan Clayton-Goldner

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Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review.
Thanks to the author’s request for me to read and review A Bend in the Willow by Susan Clayton-Goldner! Maya Angelou opens the story with her quote, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” Robin Lee changed her name to Catherine years ago to escape her painful past, but her husband knows nothing about her past experiences. She fabricated a life story. Their son Michael is in an accident on his fifth birthday and while assessing his health, the doctor finds leukemia. The only hope he has for recovery is a bone marrow transplant from a matching relative. Catherine goes to her hometown and faces her past head on. She meets her brother Kyle and he doesn’t believe that she’s Robin Lee. She approached him too abruptly about her son instead of first trying to ease the pain from their past. The past keeps blowing up in her face and she struggles, and so do her family members, with trying to take care of Michael. The innocence of children brought tears to my eyes and this story is tragic and beautiful at the same time – 5 stars – for this adult realistic fiction novel with kudos to perseverance and unconditional love and compassion!

Fate of Flames by Sarah Raughley

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Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review.
Thanks to NetGalley and Simon Pulse for the opportunity to read and review Fate of Flames by Sarah Raughley! The book opens with an excerpt from “The Fight with the Dragon” by Friedrich von Schiller, translated by Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton 1852. I found the excerpt and its implications to the story interesting. The area has been attacked by hostiles, as the warning siren is telling the city. The students and teachers at the school are heading to the shelter. Maia sees a terrified young girl under a jeep. Maia feels the need to save her, since she is now an effigy and has been for forty-eight hours. That’s when an Effigy mentor died and Maia took her place. There can only be four effigies at a time. Earth, fire, ice and wind are the four effigies at a time. When Maia meets Saul, I was instantly intrigued by his silver hair and mysterious ring. There’s more to Saul and his ring than Maia realizes. The Effigies are a type of super hero with flaws and attributes just like regular people. The mystery goes beyond someone just being a villain. The plot is intense, interesting and full of twists. I give 4 stars for this science fiction adventure!

Lost Girls by Merrie Destefano

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Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review.
Thanks to NetGalley and Entangled Publishing for the opportunity to read and review Lost Girls by Merrie Destefano! Wow! The story jumps right into the action and mystery by opening with a girl waking up in a gully, with no memories of the past year or where she is or how she got there. Little by little, she learns what has taken place as her memories trickle back. The human trafficking in this book reminds me a bit of the Liam Neeson movie, Taken, with plenty of mystery and action all on its own. Rachel has a strength unmatched by others and she has to rely on that strength to get her through her current struggles. As her memories resurface, Rachel realizes that many teenagers- male and female – are in danger and she will do whatever it takes to help them. Banter between Rachel and her brother Kyle, alleviate some of the teen angst and dark struggles in this story. A bit of hopeful romance adds charm that lightens the mood also. This is unpredictable and a unique take on young adult mystery and I rate it 4 stars! I appreciate the author adding runaway, suicide, teen safety and teen health and wellness hotline information at the end of the book. As is often the case, when someone suffers it is difficult to ask people we know for help, so this hotline information is a wonderful resource.

Nemesis by Anna Banks

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Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review.

Thanks to NetGalley and Feiwel and Friends for the opportunity to read and review Nemesis by Anna Banks! Sepora has escaped her kingdom with the help of her mother and her pet, whom she loves very much. In a neighboring kingdom, Tarik has been honored as he takes over the role of king when his father gets sick, deteriorates quickly and dies. This story is told in two points of view featuring Sepora as one and Tarik as the other. Sepora and Tarik alternate consistently throughout the book. I like this switching between the two because it gives insight into both of their thoughts and perspectives.

Sepora is captured then sold as a concubine in Tarik’s harem, which he never visits. She escapes and seeks an audience with Tarik and being amused by Sepora, he makes her an assistant. She’s a handful for Tarik and he’s not sure how to deal with her because he enjoys her and learns a lot from her, but he is expected to punish her actions by his peers and subjects. Told in beautiful prose, Nemesis weaves romance, intrigue and a unique story into a new and fantastic world, 5 stars! I’m looking forward to the sequel, Ally coming out Fall 2017!

All Laced Up

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Thanks to NetGalley and Entangled Teen for the opportunity to read and review All Laced Up by Erin Fletcher! This cute romantic story starts on a Saturday when Lia is helping Mr. Kozlov at the skating rink by teaching young skaters. Her co-teacher is Pierce Miller, local young hockey hero. Lia is immediately annoyed by Pierce because he seems distracted by his fame and all of the attention he receives. Little does Lia know that Pierce helps his parents with his younger brother, Carson, who has sensory issues. Lia and Pierce begin to have two relationships – one online and one offline. Lia uses a pseudonym to talk to Pierce online on the hockey chat room forum and they develop a friendship that way. Since teaching skaters together, they get to know each other face to face also. They both have struggles to overcome and friendships to keep. This clean-read romance involves family dynamics and character development that makes the characters realistic. 5 stars!

Spindle by Shonna Slayton

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Thanks to NetGalley and Entangled Teen for the opportunity to read and review Spindle by Shonna Slayton! I wasn’t expecting this book to be as good as it is. Impressive and creative fairy tale retelling – 5 stars!

Briar, an Irish girl and an orphan, works on the spindle and is hoping for another job sewing for ladies. Briar struggles to take care of her three younger siblings and, since she’s only sixteen, a nanny is helping them until her seventeenth birthday. Henry is Briar’s best friend and cares deeply for her even though his mother doesn’t seem to approve of Briar. Nanny is gone on business and Fanny has taken her place with the children, Since Fanny showed up, people are acting differently than they normally do. For example, Henry Prince is leaving their community even though no Prince family member has ever left before.

The machines are not working well for Briar at the sewing mill. A peddler helps by convincing her to take a special spindle for her machine. Things go downhill from there. Other girls that work at the mill envy Briar’s spindle, touch it and end up becoming very ill. Briar discovers that the people she knows are not all what they appear to be. This fairy tale retelling has historical fiction of the 1890’s added into the storyline. The young women that work at the sewing mill are all dealing with workforce conditions that need improvement and the rights of women who feel trapped, with no options to live differently. Also, the women’s suffrage movement and Polio are part of this story as well. Spindle by Shonna Slayton is the most creative retelling I have ever read! Set generations after Aurora’s lifetime, the true Sleeping Beauty; I highly recommend it!

Jasper Dent Series(3 books)

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I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga is interesting from the very beginning. The author alludes to stress factors on the main character, Jazz, and this kept me curious and wanting to learn all about him. I can see this book improving readers’ vocabulary and increasing interest in and gaining knowledge of science because of the way the author writes, making it extremely real, but not too gory. Jazz tries to deal with the fact that his father is a serial killer who raised Jazz to be exactly like him. Metaphors and similes help with understanding how Jazz grew up. The intensity cranks up when Jazz visits his father, Billy Dent, the notorious serial killer, in prison. Wow! The writing flows well and Barry Lyga brings Jazz into our world as a believable person that is dealing with tremendous stress. An unexpected ending leading into the next book made me want to immediately continue reading the series. 5 stars!

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Game by Barry Lyga, the second book in the Jasper Dent series, dives right into a mystery. An added aspect to this book, alternating Jazz’ and Connie’s points of view, make this story even more entertaining. Connie’s point of view helps the reader understand how other people see Jazz, instead of just hearing his thoughts. Howie’s personality adds comic relief and made me giggle out loud.

Jazz has been taken to New York to help solve a new serial killer mystery. Morales, an FBI agent that worked on the Billy Dent case, offers to work with Jazz to find his father and kill him. Jazz still struggles with not trusting himself and this is interfering with his relationship with Connie. The book ends with three major cliffhangers! Aaahhh! I do not want to add spoilers, so I am keeping the extreme cliffhangers to myself. 😉 5 stars!

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I put off reading Blood of My Blood by Barry Lyga because I did not want this series to end! The third book of the Jasper Dent series takes off where Game ended. Jazz is still locked in a storage unit, Billy has Connie and Howie wakes up in the hospital. Billy saves Jazz, then kills the Hat killer. Connie discovers that she is locked up with Jazz’ mother and they are trying to help each other. Jazz’ aunt has disappeared and his grandmother is in the hospital. Nonstop action, intensity and surprises amp up the suspense in this final book.

Jazz will do anything to save his mother and it looks like he will do things he never believed he could, to protect her. The danger increases and the mystery unfolds, while the story delves deeper into the perverse childhood of Jazz. Twisting and unpredictable, this story never failed to enthrall and entertain me. 5 stars!

The Jasper Dent series is perfect for young adults who like to read horror stories!

Chasing Truth

I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

Thanks to Entangled Teen for the arc of Chasing Truth by Julie Cross! Wow, what a ride! This adventure, mystery, thriller, romance, young adult story held my attention from beginning to end.

Chasing Truth is cleverly written, with complex main characters and side characters, and mysterious because the main character has hidden agendas and a secrecy surrounding her. I like Ellie (Eleanor) with her clever, quick wit and the fact that she seems to care about people and also values integrity in others. Ellie’s friend, Simon, supposedly committed suicide but the investigation into his death is ongoing. This book is hard to put down and I just wanted to keep reading, but alas, life needs to be lived;).

I loved this line, “This makes me hate him 2 percent less, which is useful when I have to pretend not to hate him”. I laughed out loud! It’s priceless! Out of context, this line doesn’t make much sense, but when you get to know Ellie and how she is dealing with her con-artist background while trying to be normal, it makes great dialogue!

The mysterious background of Ellie and the mystery surrounding Simon’s death kept me riveted throughout the book, 5 stars!

Stalking Jack the Ripper

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I thoroughly enjoyed Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco, with fantastic writing that delves into the infamous Jack the Ripper murders. Audrey Rose, a strong willed young woman in the late 1800’s, enjoys science and learning from her uncle, who teaches medicine with passion bordering on obsession. Audrey Rose is allowed to attend her uncle’s class if she dresses as a boy and speaks to no one. Another student, Thomas Caldwell, is working with Audrey Rose to solve the mystery of Jack the Ripper. The two of them become friendly rivals who grate on each other’s nerves. The twists and turns leave Audrey Rose not knowing who she can trust and the mystery keeps getting more personal than she feels comfortable with. Unbearable suspense and intense plot equal 5 stars!

Shadow of a Girl

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Thanks to Entangled Publishing for the opportunity to read and review Shadow of a Girl by Shannon Greenland! Eve has never felt love from her family or the people she has grown up around. Her only friend risks everything to help Eve escape her horrible and tragic life. Once she escapes, Eve is continually hiding from her prison like past while trying to learn how to enjoy life with her new acquaintances. She never truly feels free. West is interesting and entertaining from the first time Eve meets him and West has secrets of his own… Shadow of a Girl deals with difficult issues, such as abuse and overcoming it and how much of a struggle that can be and even more. Amazing character development! This realistic story will empower! 5 stars!