Daughters of Nri by Reni K. Amayo

Twins, stolen and separated!

Naala gets reprimanded for getting dirt all over her wedding gown that Gini designed and sewed. Sinai is trying to avoid a bully. These two young women are twins separated soon after they were born and they have no idea that the other one exists. Twins are forbidden and usually killed because the leader has heard a prophecy that twins will be his undoing. The girls’ parents were royalty, also unknown to them. Their mother died after giving birth to them and their father planned on keeping them safe afterwards but the girls were stolen and their father died of a broken heart. Now Naala and Sinai are living separate lives and know nothing about each other, their parents or the prophecy. Naala has just escaped the slaying of her village and is living on the run with other survivors of Eze’s army. Sinai has made a pact with a magical older lady and now she’s supposed to be spying on Eze. The mythology was all new to me since I didn’t have much background knowledge of the specific culture and I enjoyed learning about that. I would have liked more action and development of the characters but still a good read, 4 stars!

Blade of Secrets by Tricia Levenseller

A fun, dangerous adventure with the added touch of magic!

Ziva is a magical blacksmith who creates weapons with a touch of magic added. She lives with her younger sister Temra. Their parents were killed when Ziva was five. They lived at an orphanage and then Ziva was trained by a blacksmith until he retired. Ziva and Temra now run a smithy business together. Ziva’s abilities are widely known and when a warlord gives her a job, she’s thrilled. Until she discovers the warlord’s plans to conquer the kingdom and enslave the people. She decides to take her magical weapons and run with her sister. They take Petrik, a scholar, and Kellyn, a mercenary, along for safety. They head to their father’s family that they’ve never met, thinking that’s the safest place to go. On their travels, they deal with ambushes and the worry of trusting Petrik and Kellyn. Their grandmother welcomes them when they arrive and they attend religious services with her. The priestess delivers the sermon about the dangers of magic and that magic holders should be and will be killed. Ziva and Temra are terrified. That’s just another dangerous situation among many that they have to deal with on their mission to protect the kingdom from the warlord’s lofty, greedy goals. The group dynamics are interesting and their banter made me laugh several times. The book started off a bit slow in the first few pages but then picked up the pace and then I couldn’t stop reading it! A fun, dangerous adventure with the added touch of magic, 5 stars!

The House in the Pines by Ana Reyes

An unusual mystery that grabbed my attention!

An unusual mystery that grabbed my attention!
I read The House in the Pines by Ana Reyes as part of Reese’s Book Club January Pick. I’m so glad I read this book! It’s completely different than I thought it would be. I jumped right into reading without looking at the synopsis, so I didn’t know what to expect. The murders occurred in a way that I would have never imagined before. Prepared to be engaged in the author’s writing and held in perplexity in trying to figure out the mystery. It’s mellower than I expected but riveting and interesting all the same.
Maya struggles with sleeping because of an incident that happened seven years prior. Her friend died right in front of her and she suspects Frank of murder but she can’t prove or figure out how he killed her friend. She has taken Klonopin to help her sleep ever since her friend died but she has to go cold turkey because she lost her access to the medication. While dealing with withdrawal symptoms, she sees an online video of Frank with a woman dying right in front of him, all caught on a security camera. Maya immediately assumes Frank caused this woman’s death but it just looks like she fell over without him touching her at all. This video causes Maya to want to get to the bottom of her friend’s death and stop Frank from ever doing this again. Maya goes down a rabbit hole of past memories and current weirdness. She can’t trust her instincts, memories or what she has seen and she needs all the help she can get to stop Frank.

I enjoyed the author’s writing and mystery building skills!

The Corpse Queen by Heather M. Herrman

Riveting read!

In 1855 Philadelphia, Molly lives at an orphanage until her aunt requests that she live with her. Before she even meets her aunt, she’s told she has to pick up a package first which turns out to be nothing like she expects. Molly is mourning the death of her friend Kitty who drowned in the river. Mother Superior told Molly, with a sneer, that Kitty was pregnant and this made Molly angry because Kitty told that secret in confession and no one else should know except the priest. Tom works for Molly’s aunt Ava and he picks her up from the orphanage, takes her to pick up the package then transports her to Ava’s home. Molly finally meets Ava and is given snippets of information about living there and what she’s required to do to stay. She’s expected to collect bodies for Dr. Lavall’s lectures and usually this requires dishonesty. Molly is eventually allowed to join the lectures and discovers that she wants to become a doctor herself even though she’s not welcomed into the surgical world by society. Molly also becomes deeply entwined in the mystery of The Knifeman and it’s going to take all her cleverness and bravery to keep from becoming a victim herself.

Likes/dislikes:
Suspenseful, creepy and frightening story kept me riveted. Molly’s strength overcomes her insecurities from being left in an orphanage by her parents and the abuse she suffered there. I enjoy the diverse characters and Tom’s personality and perseverance. The mystery is interesting.

Language: R for 43 swears and 4 f-bombs.
Mature content: PG-13 for
premarital sex without details and unwed pregnancy by side characters, kissing with main characters.
Violence: PG-13 for grave robbery and stealing parts from dead bodies, such as teeth, an ear and skin, bloody remains, stabbing.

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.

The Second Death of Edie and Violet Bond by Amanda Glaze

Riveting, suspenseful and fun to read!

In 1885 Sacramento, amidst the fight for women’s rights, runaway twins work for a performance troupe as psychics. Edie is reserved while her twin Violet is theatrical. They conduct a seance for an elderly woman who recently lost her cat. While pretending that the cat’s spirit is with them in the room, Edie senses the Veil thinning and a cold, uncomfortable feeling enters the room. She douses the smoldering lavender and the feeling goes away. They’ve helped their customer feel comfort but they’re shaken. Edie’s and Violet’s mother had spiritualist powers and she helped her daughters learn how to be safe with the powers they inherited from her. When their mother dies due to a shadow spirit, their preacher father threatens to send them to an asylum so they run away. They join up with the troupe and meet like-minded women trying to make a living. Edie and Violet become embroiled in a mystery that’s bigger than they ever imagined and much more dangerous than they planned on. Riveting, suspenseful and fun to read, 5 stars!

Likes/dislikes:
I appreciate the author’s note explaining how she based this story on her deceased great grandmother and her twin sister, who both happened to be spiritualists. I was riveted throughout the entire book because the story is interesting and I love the characters. The danger and suspense are intense. The ethnicity is mixed with white, Italian and Black.

Language: PG for 4 swears and no f-bombs
Mature content: PG for a lesbian couple mentioned. Edie (female) and Laws (male)kissing.
Violence: PG-13 for An angry shadow spirit threatening spiritualists, kidnapping and trapping and a bloody death.

Mysteries of Thorn Manor by Margaret Rogerson

A fun, lighthearted novella!

In this sequel novella to Sorcery of Thorns, Nathaniel and Elisabeth are together at Thorn Manor and trapped inside with Silas and the new maid Mercy. The manor is protesting the fact that Nathaniel isn’t married or engaged and in this protest, the manor has locked them inside and created a tremendous storm outside that will continue until he does something to remedy the situation. A fun, lighthearted novella, 4 stars!

Likes/dislikes:
I thoroughly enjoyed the charm and light humor in this novella. The characters are fun and care for each other’s wellbeing. It’s a quick lighthearted read.
Violence:
None
Mature content: PG for kissing and the mention of a kiss between Nathaniel and an old acquaintance, Felix.
Language Content: G for no swears.

The Drowned Woods by Emily Lloyd-Jones

Once upon a time, Mer lives in the kingdom of Wales which is full of magic and conflict. Mer is a diviner of magic who wants a peaceful life after she’s escaped from the abusive prince. The spymaster that captured her for the prince years ago offers her a job that will give her revenge on the prince and lots of coin so she can start a new life somewhere safe. She meets the rest of the group that includes a lord’s cousin with a gambling debt, a man who seeks revenge, a man that made a deal with the Otherfolk and a past acquaintance who happens to be an excellent thief. The banter and dynamics keep their journey interesting and the danger builds to intense levels. Mer will have to choose between herself and others and that will help decide her fate and the fate of the kingdom. Incredible world building, 5 stars!

Likes/dislikes:
The prose is beautiful and the world building is incredible. I love the variety of characters, especially the Corgi dog. I like how this book ties into the author’s book, The Bone Houses. The ethnicity is European.
Language: PG for one swear and no f-bombs
Violence: PG-13
Bandits burning homes with families inside. A young girl being taken from her family. Fighting to the death. A knife buried by the prince into a spy’s eye. A water horse bites a man in half. A giant magical boar stabs a man with his tusk.
Mature Content: PG for kissing.

Five Survive by Holly Jackson

The intensity builds to the extreme!

Red is traveling in an RV to Florida with her friends to spend a week celebrating spring break together. They lose cell service and GPS capabilities then end up down a dead end road getting a flat tire. After replacing the flat tire with the spare, Red sees a red dot hovering around the RV and yells at the others to notice. They ignore her until they hear the gunshots that take out all four tires. The group runs into the RV for protection. The shooter leaves a walkie talkie for communication and tells them that one of them has a secret they need to share. The secret is going to be revealed, one way or another!

Likes/dislikes:
Oliver is annoying because he’s a know-it-all with a superiority complex. The mystery is interesting to try to unravel when a few characters allude to having secrets. The suspense builds intensely, which makes a riveting read.

Mature Content:
PG-13 for drinking

Language:
R for 20 swears and 105 f-bombs.

Violence:
PG-13 for Someone shoots at the RV and holds the travelers hostage inside. The sniper fatally shoots an elderly couple that stop to help. Bloody shootings. Attack with a knife.

Ethnicity:
Mixed, Korean, Mexican, white, African American