Thanks to NetGalley and Candlewick Press for the opportunity to read and review Everything I Thought I Knew by Shannon Takaoka! Damn good book! Mind-blowing, thought-provoking, and beautiful. Chloe has cardiac arrest while running during cross country practice. She’s always been healthy but the doctor found her heart defect after her heart attack. She’s placed on the transplant list and receives a heart on December 18th. Chloe’s life changed dramatically after her heart defect was found. She had good grades, college goals, and future plans. Now she has to attend summer school to catch up and, for some reason, she craves surfing. She buys a board and gets the phone number of a young man who gives lessons. His name is Kia. Chloe learns to surf and the two of them build a relationship together. She hunts down the donor of her heart and she questions everything she’s ever known. A magnificent story, 5 stars!
A cop, Tim, from Florida needs a change, so he leaves and heads north to see where life takes him. Luke Ellis lives happily with his parents until they’re shot, unknown to him, and he’s kidnapped. He’s taken to The Institute where children are experimented and tested on for telepathic and telekinetic abilities. The treatment isn’t kind and any empathy they do get seems to be for manipulative purposes only. Stephen King’s writing tends to pull me completely under and into the story and I became immersed in the children’s Institute lives and their well-being and mistreatment. The characters are laid out and built up with depth, as is the author’s way, and I was rooting for Tim and Luke the whole time. Another aspect of Mr. King’s writing is the philosophical pondering that always takes place when I read his books. The Institute made me stop and think about the greater good and how perspectives differ drastically. The children of the Institute had quirks, talents, and innocence until the experimenting drained them of everything. Thought-provoking and intense dystopian, 5 stars!
In a world being endangered by scrabs (human killing creatures), Clara is ready to do anything to get away from her abusive father, so she decides to join a scrab fighting army. The privately funded army has recruits across the globe. Clara goes to Paris and London with her team. She trains, battles scrabs and builds relationships. One of her relationships turns out toxic while others feel like she belongs to a good family. Dynamics between characters and the world-building create a mix of intrigue, danger and suspense. The ending is a bit of a cliffhanger so I’m struggling to wait for the second book of this duology. 5 stars for a dangerous adventure ride!
Fairytale retelling of Snow White with a pro-feminist twist that questions negative comments and the doubts they create. Princess Sophia has a kind heart and a selfless personality. She cares about everything and everyone. Her stepmother, Queen Adelaide, berates Sophia for being soft and weak and therefore will undoubtedly make a terrible ruler. Adelaide commands the huntsman to kill Sophia and take her heart but, amazingly, she survives. As she struggles to live and recapture her heart, Princess Sophia meets many people of different backgrounds and circumstances and she helps everyone in anyway she can. A tale of courage and confidence, 5 stars!
Send Me Their Souls by Sara Wolf Zera is with Lucien, Fione and Malachite as they try to figure out how to stop Lucien’s sister’s rampage. She’s focused on destroying everything and everyone in the kingdom. The group travels and learns more about the Bone Tree and learns of the Glass Tree and its intensity and oddity. They begin to understand that the Bone Tree is taking over Varia’s mind and overpowering her judgment, causing her to seek and destroy. The group researches for solutions to stop the destruction while hoping to protect Varia at the same time. The dynamics of the characters and the loyalty make me laugh and warm my heart. Sara Wolf has a knack for endearing characters. The ending of an adventurous fantasy trilogy, 4 stars!
Reverie by Ryan La Sala This fun fantasy adventure has a variety of characters set in different worlds or “reveries”. The story opens as Kane struggles with memory loss and frustration because he’s been accused of reckless behavior, destruction of property and possibly murder but he doesn’t remember any of it. He digs deeper into solving the mystery of his life and discovers that he was part of a group called “Others”. The more he reveals, the crazier everything gets. Dreams from individual minds come to life and most people are swept into the reverie while the Others have special powers of illusion, strength and cleverness to guide people safely through the dream world. The story also has a drag queen reverie guide that adds flair as well as lesbian side characters and Kane, who is the gay main character. These characters add perspective, kindness, diversity and a broad array of personalities to Reverie. A fun adventure fantasy geared towards young adults. The relationship scenes aren’t detailed and are a small part of the Reverie world. 4 stars!
Gretchen receives a call from her great aunt Esther, who asks her to visit the Axton Mansion where Esther is residing. Gretchen takes an eight hour ride to the desolate and decrepit mansion. She’s surprised by the state of the home but shocked by her aunt. Gretchen can’t decide if Esther is an alcoholic or is suffering from dementia or both. She’s even more surprised by Esther’s background. The mansion and town are haunted by the terrible happenings of the Axton ancestors during the civil war era. Abolitionists against racists and the racists won the violent battles. Satisfyingly spooky, 5 stars!
Set in the 1980’s, Beauty’s Rose tells the story of Margot visiting an Aunt in France. Aunt Suzette owns a cozy bookshop in a small French town steeped in traditional tourist attractions, royalty, knights, jousting, and festivals. Margot meets several people her age and enjoys the scenery of Chapais. Burke is an aloof mystery to the town and Sylvain seems to be a player. When Margot starts having dreams involving conversations with a beast, she thinks she’s losing her mind. Aunt Suzette’s friends, who are actually fairies (Clove, Sage, and Thyme), let Margot in on the curse that’s taking over the local prince’s life. Burke and Margot become friends and end up trapped in a hidden mansion together as he transforms into the beast. I was saddened when the story ended because I wanted more! A gentle, contemporary 1980’s fairytale retelling about love, loyalty, and sacrifice.
A winter storm hits Blackbrook Academy, causing students and adults to be stranded. The headmaster is one of the adults staying in Tudor House because of the storm. Headmaster Boddy is found later with a knife in his chest. No one is sure whether he was killed by a looter, which seems highly unlikely because of the storm, or murdered by one of the people staying in Tudor House along with them. Each character has a distinct personality. Scarlett and Finn both look out for themselves above everything else. Beth is focused completely on her physical strength and tennis and has a very abrupt nature. Mustard has military focus and wants to protect everyone. Vaughn is kind and honest but has a horrible twin brother named Oliver. Orchid is quiet and avoids people because she’s hiding her true identity. Kayla and Karlee seem to be airheads. While everyone is worrying about their safety, a few are focusing on themselves. I don’t want to give anything away but this is a light mystery thriller that definitely reminded me of the game Clue. A mystery geared towards young adults and a fun read, 4 stars!
Savannah lives with her mom in her boyfriend’s house. Savannah’s mom met Tim online and the two of them moved to Tim’s community and into his home less than a year ago. Savannah is tired of her mom meeting men online and uprooting their lives every time she thinks a guy will be great. Tim is physically rough with her mom but only verbally rude to Savannah. He makes fun of the fact that she attends Kung Fu classes and just wants Savannah and her mom to wait on him and do everything for him. Savannah is a loner at school and she’s decided that it’s not worth making friends if she’s going to be moving again anyway. She enjoys her Kung Fu classes and there’s a teenage boy that she gets along with really well, Daniel Diaz. After class one evening, the two stay after to mop the dojo floor and walk out together. Daniel offers to walk Savannah home but she tells him her mom is picking her up. This isn’t true because her mom works the swing shift and Savannah plans on walking home on her own. Before she knows what happened, she’s kidnapped and thrown into a van. No one realizes she’s missing for a day and then her mom talks to the Student Resource Officer, who happens to be Daniel’s father. Meanwhile, Savannah is put in an RV with Jenny, who was kidnapped by the same guy ten months earlier. Jenny tried to escape at the beginning but was mauled by the kidnapper’s guard dog. The two teens try to figure out a way to escape and do everything they can to help each other. Young adult horror full of Bruce Lee quotes and inspiration! 5 stars for a suspenseful thriller for young adults!