Trigger by N. Griffin

Disturbing fictional neglect and abuse!

Small town, USA is where Didi attends school but she lives with her father in a secluded area. He’s abusive and neglects to give Didi everything she needs. Didi is terrified and on edge always, even when she’s not around her father because she’s worried she’ll do something wrong and he’ll find out somehow. Her father makes her run laps around the property so she can become as quick as possible but she doesn’t know why he cares about that. He also forces her to learn and play chess and compete in tournaments and she has to be the best. Eventually Didi understands the reason her father has made her do these things but it might be too late for her to save herself.

Likes/dislikes:
The story is disturbing because of the neglect and abuse. The effects on the child’s physical and mental well-being are portrayed through the coping skills the main character develops over time to deal with her life; they were heartbreaking at times. The timeline jumps around and that was difficult to follow. The ending was the best part.
Language: R for 67 swears and 22 f-bombs.
Mature Content: R for physical abuse and severe neglect.
Violence: R for child abuse and hunting child with a gun.
Ethnicity: Didi has brown hair but other characters’ ethnicities aren’t described.

The Ones We Burn by Rebecca Mix

Intrigue in a supernatural world!

In an imaginary kingdom full of mixed ethnicities, Ranka is desperate to find Yeva. So desperate that she agrees to the betrothal of the Prince so she can search for her. Soon, Ranka’s companions include Prince Galen, Princess Aramis and the noble young ambassador Percy. After the virus winalin is discovered throughout the kingdom, the four companions want to stop it. Winalin is turning witches into diseased monsters that are intent on killing. While trying to get to the bottom of the mystery, their lives are completely overturned. Ranka, Prince Galen, Princess Aramis and Percy each realize that none of them might survive.

Likes/dislikes:
I like that the story creates empathy and approaches the topic of abusive manipulation. Ranka’s character development is interesting. I like that there’s little swearing.
Mature content: PG-13 for drinking.
Language: PG-13 for 11 swears, no f-bombs.
Violence: PG-13 for non-detailed bloody deaths.

A Consuming Fire by Laura Weymouth

A deadly fantasy!

In an imaginary Britain, Anya sends her sister off to give a sacrifice to the god but when Ilva returns she has sacrificed everything and soon dies. Anya vows to kill the god so no one else will ever have to sacrifice to him again. She travels under the guise of a willing sacrifice while learning everything possible to kill the god. Along the way, she learns a great deal about herself, what it means to be a family, loyalty, dedication and love. She meets wanderers and befriends them as they teach her and protect her. She also meets the mysterious thief Tieran who is an enigma to everyone he spends time with.

Likes/dislikes:
I love Anya and her determination. I enjoyed uncovering Tieran’s mysterious nature while reading the story. I like how the story ended and all that was revealed throughout the book.
Language: G for no swears, bitches is used once to describe female dog.
Mature Content: PG for kissing
Violence: PG for mutilations and death

A Wilderness of Stars by Shea Ernshaw

Sci-fi fantasy!

An ominous prologue piqued my interest. Vega is with her fatally ill mother when she sees twin stars in the sky. Her mother has taught her to watch for these stars that only show up every one hundred years and when they appear, Vega needs to find The Architect for information on how to travel to the sea. Soon after her mother passes away, Pa shows up. He’s not Vega’s father but a family friend. She goes with him when he leaves so she can get started on her journey. They travel to a town and sell Pa’s cure-all tonic as three men watch them from afar. Later, these men and more find Pa and Vega and steal his horse and the supplies he has for making his tonic. Now he has nothing left for the future. They move on, finding a deserted farmhouse set in an orchard. They rest and head to the next town. Vega keeps asking around for The Architect even though her mother warned her to be discreet. That evening, Vega decides to head out on her own, leaving Pa behind. She enters a saloon and soon after four thieves enter also and demand money from the bartender for protection. A fight erupts. Vega gets knocked down and her constellation tattoo is revealed when her hair falls out of the way. Everyone is curious and wants to see her mark when a girl saves her, taking her out of the saloon. This girl, Cricket, takes Vega to The Architect and soon after the group is attacked and he’s killed. Noah then becomes The Architect and vows to help Vega get to the sea. Cricket, Noah and Vega travel together as a team to complete the mission of generations of astronomers and architects. They meet danger and adventure at every turn and have to fight for their lives. Sci-fi fantasy, 4 stars!

Likes/dislikes:
I would have liked to have more insight into Noah’s thoughts and point of view. I enjoyed the mystery surrounding the blackness in the sky and the information passed down through generations of astronomers and architects. The bond between Noah and Vega is endearing.
I enjoyed the Old West setting and the mixed ethnicities.

Language: R for 31 swears and 4 f-bombs
Mature Content: PG-13 for saloon visit and kissing
Violence: PG-13 for Outlaws stealing, bloody stabbing and shooting

The Witch Hunt by Sasha Peyton Smith

Likeable characters!

Frances is now a teacher at Haxahaven. She and Maxine are traveling to Paris and picking up their mutual friend Lena on the way. They travel six days on a fancy ship then stay at Maxine’s family home once they reach Paris. Frances hasn’t told Lena and Maxine that she received a letter from Finn or that she wants to visit her father who abandoned her family when she was young. She meets her father and is underwhelmed with his reaction and his personality. Finn doesn’t evoke trustworthiness but Frances feels that she has to work with him to fix the damage the two of them caused when reaching the veil and speaking to her deceased brother William. Frances and her friends are determined to fix the magic problem caused by the veil breach and they need all the help they can get. Likeable characters! 4 stars!

Mature content: PG-13 for underage drinking, LGBT side characters mentioned
Language: R for 7 swears and 1 f-bomb
Violence: PG-13 for stabbing, shooting and a tied up victim
Mixed Ethnicity and set in 1913 Paris

Summer’s Edge by Dana Mele

Eerie, odd and interesting!

Emily died last summer in the lake house fire. Emily’s group of friends has spent each summer at the lake house since they were in elementary school. Kennedy and her family owns the lake house. Emily, Ryan, Chase and Chelsea are always invited. This summer, they’re all invited back and Chelsea thinks that Emily is haunting them. Eventually, Ryan shows his dark side and halfway through the book, the point of view changes to Kennedy. She talks about “others”, presences that reside in and around the lake house and they get angry. Next, it changes to Emily’s point of view. Then to Chelsea’s.

This book is eerie and creepy until the point of view change’s midway through the book then it’s odd and I was grasping for understanding of what I was reading. It threw me off but the interesting ending brought it all back together, 4 stars!

Turning by Joy L. Smith

A story that gives readers perspective!

Genie is a dancer who has lost the ability to walk. Ballet has been her life and was going to be her future but she fell and everything changed. Genie now uses a wheelchair to get around. She’s keeping a secret hidden from her family and she has more than one secret that’s pulling her down. Her ex-boyfriend is pushy and she has to force him to listen to anything she tries to say. This frustrates Genie tremendously and she wants to move on. She meets Kyle in physical therapy and he has his own tragedy that he’s struggling with. The two of them become friends. When her secrets are revealed, Genie will hopefully have the love and support she needs. A realistic fiction story that helps readers realize that troubles and struggles could be much worse. 4 stars!

She Who Rides the Storm by Caitlin Sangster

Riveting fantasy!

Anwei and Knox are thieves. Knox is a Devoted soldier for the Warlord and Anwei found him passed out on the ground a year ago. They’ve been companions ever since. Anwei is a dirty witch and she poses as a Goddess in a temple. When people place letters or coins at the statue of the goddess, a temple servant places them in a specific hidden spot for Anwei (the goddess) to gather. She also receives requests in the same way, asking her to steal items for people. Anwei has kept Knox hidden from the warlord’s search for him. In return, Knox helps with her reconnaissance and safety.

Lia has been with the Devoted since they took her at the age of eleven and she’s miserable. She’s supposed to be helping with the search for Knox and she’s sees a bit of his aura and wonders how he’s keeping it hidden. Lia escapes with her sister after Ewan, a fellow Devoted, attacks her. Lia and Ari run to their father’s house to hide. Their father wants to keep his title of power and he’s struggling to find a way to heal his sick wife. This story weaves several characters’ lives together to build a complex plot that all makes sense at the end of this book but the story will continue in a sequel. Lia, Anwei, Knox and Mateo will find themselves entwined in a devious, greedy plan for power. Rich world building and complicated story kept me riveted, 5 stars!

Where Secrets Lie by Eva V. Gibson

A wonderful friendship has been injured and the three friends are holding grudges against each other. The grudges are put on hold when Nat, Teddy’s younger sister, comes up missing. I love the character development! The author does a great job bringing her characters to life. Ben’s colorful personality has grown from his dysfunctional family life full of contradictions and hypocrisy, but he’s loyal to his best friends, who are his cousin Amy and their mutual friend Teddy. Nat is precious and precocious and adorable. Amy is hounded by her mother and her extreme expectations and Teddy and Nat live with their single mother in a trailer on Ben and Amy’s grandparents’ property. The three friends work together to try to figure out what happened to Nat. The timeline alternates between two summers and the changes that occurred in their relationships. The police believe that Nat drowned but the three friends know she would have never gone into the water alone. Nat was terrified of swimming after she almost drowned years earlier. As Ben, Teddy and Amy search for clues, they stumble across a trophy box from a possible serial killer. Intensity and suspense amid a large amount of dysfunction kept me reading into the wee hours of the night, 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!