Ballads of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

The Ballads of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins, the prequel to the Hunger Games series, we meet a youthful President Snow. We get to know his goals and family. Coriolanus Snow wants to be a mentor for the Hunger Games. He does become a mentor but he’s disappointed with who he gets, the girl from District 12. He assumes she’ll be weak and unhealthy and be one of the first to die in the games. What he gets is a complete surprise. The action starts well before the games and many odd characters are brought into the story. Coriolanus has integrity and is honest with himself about his actions and who he truly is, even though he sees himself and his family a bit above others and he wholeheartedly believes in helping himself. He realizes variables and factors of human nature as he continues to do his best to support his charge, Lucy Gray. His arrogance pushes him to choose himself above anything or anyone else. By the ending, I’m saddened and appalled by his selfishness. A great read with many nods to the future of the Hunger Games, 5 stars!

House of Dragons by Jessica Cluess

I was so excited about House of Dragons by Jessica Cluess. I enjoyed her debut series and was anxious to read her new book!
First of all, cover love! The intriguing synopsis made me want to dive right into the story. Five contestants are called to compete for the throne. Emilia has concealed her deadly, powerful magic her entire life. Lucian destroys the family sword, vowing to never use the weapon again. He’s had enough of killing. Vespir is a dragon caretaker who is chosen over the Lord’s daughter, Antonia. Vespir and Antonia also happen to love each other. Ajax is a fifteen year old younger brother in a house full of almost thirty sons. He is chosen over his father’s two true heirs. Hyperia is the eldest royal daughter and when her younger sister is chosen, Hyperia promptly slits her sister’s throat. The author handles the five characters well by transitioning in the same order to help the reader get familiar with each of them. Each of the five are sent to an island to hunt a basilisk. The hunt is the first task of four (the tasks are The Hunt, The Game, The Race and The Truth) the chosen will need to compete in. The five chosen are not expected and, in the past, the first born heirs were always chosen and groomed for the competition. These contenders are all ill-prepared except for one, Hyperia, because she’s the first born heir of her family. I enjoyed the touch of humor throughout the intensity of the story, as well as the character development. The story starts off simply and grows into a complex tale of a huge array of characters with diverse personalities and strengths. 5 stars for this fantasy adventure!

Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

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This book is just as awesome the second time around!

I love the characters and the historical tidbits throughout the story that keep it in line with factual events!

I read Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco as part of the Goodreads group, One ‘n Done Book Corner for the May Book of the Month (BOTM).

Audrey loves science and wants to pursue a career in the medical field. She’s learned everything she knows about anatomy and diagnosis from her uncle. She finally convinces him to let her be a student in his class, as long as she dresses like a young man and talks to no one. In her first day of class, she meets Thomas. The two have much in common and neither is squeamish around dead bodies. I enjoy the clever banter between Thomas and Audrey. I enjoyed this second reading of this book as much as the first read, even though I knew the ending the second time around. A historical mystery worth 5 stars!

A Heart So Fierce and Broken by Brigid Kemmerer

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Impressive sequel!
A Heart So Fierce and Broken by Brigid Kemmerer
Rumors abound about and rewards are offered for the lost heir of Emberfall. Grey is working as a stable boy and goes by the name of Hawk. He mostly keeps to himself except for his stable companion and coworker, a young boy named Tycho. One night Grey tests out the silver bracelet Lilith gave him for transport into Harper’s world. He didn’t know if it worked anymore but when he touched the bracelet, he left the stables and when he returned, Tycho was staring at him. The ruthless leader that threatened Emberfall before has returned with her daughters to force Rhen into an alliance. The daughter named heir is like her mother while the other cares for people and their well being. Rhen brutalizes Grey and Tycho and the group escapes Emberfall because Grey unintentionally uses his magic. Grey doesn’t trust either kingdom or their rulers but the kind, wise daughter convinces the group to go to her kingdom despite worrying about her mother. A tremendous amount of character development bonded me with this story. I thought A Curse so Dark and Lonely was a wonderful read but this sequel is just as good! 5 stars for this impressive sequel that introduces even more great characters!

This Vicious Cure by Emily Suvada

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A fun sci-fi dystopian story, This Vicious Cure by Emily Suvada, alternates between Cat and Jun Bei, giving insight into each of their thoughts. Cat is inside a simulated environment which is really in Jun Bei’s mind since Jun Bei took over. Both realities are under duress and fighting to fix its own problems. Memories have been wiped, so Cat is new to most, except for feelings of familiarity. Jun Bei wants to fix the Panacea mortality cure and goes to severe lengths to accomplish her goal. For the first time in her life, Jun Bei feels guilty about harming people and regrets the killing she’s been responsible for in the past. Cat can see everything in the environments she’s in and everyone can see her. She looks perfectly real and solid and she’s undetected unless someone tries to touch her because their hands will go right through her image. The science fiction aspect of this series is fascinating. Embryos were created with specific genetic material to make people great coders/hackers. Thirty generations were created, mixed and born within a short period of time. Only two embryos were grown into people who were born and raised to be coding geniuses, Dax and Mato. The Panacea cure/vaccination will make people immortal while the Hydra virus has been mutating people into Lurkers through the tech panels in their arms. The series comes full circle with a satisfying ending, 5 stars!

A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer

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Surprise ending!
A Curse so Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer is one of the best fairy tale retellings that I have read.
The writing demanded my attention from the first chapter and each chapter ends in a bit of a cliffhanger! I had to force myself to stop reading to go to bed. Harper is kidnapped but for reasons that are different from what she ever expected. She’s been kidnapped from Washington D.C. to help break a prince’s curse. Prince Rhen and his top guard, Grey, are the only two that know about the curse and the secret that Rhen is horrified about. Lilith cursed Rhen years ago and he’s turned into a violent monster every season since. Once he changes, he has no memory or control, and because of that he’s ending up killing the royal family, his family. Harper doesn’t like Rhen at first but she understands him better the more she gets to know him. Grey is an intimidating guard but a kind and caring soul. Each season, Rhen becomes a different creature but he’s always violent and ruthless. Harper helps Rhen and his kingdom by pretending to be a princess. A cruel ruler threatens to take over the kingdom and Harper and Rhen tell her that the princess’s father is sending reinforcements to stop her. Rhen, Harper and Grey continue to work together and become closer. This story is full of action, loyalty and bravery and ends in an intense surprise, 5 stars!

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

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Unique and thought-provoking story!
I began reading Life of Pi by Yann Martel and then I tried the audiobook. I prefer the audiobook to reading it on my own, especially because the accent lends to making the story more real. Life of Pi tells the story of Pi’s life, from childhood to adulthood. His family owned a zoo, other people constantly teased him about his name, until one teacher started calling him Pi. Pi experiments with several different religions and decides he likes them all. His father eventually decides to sell the zoo and move to Canada. The family shares a ship with some zoo animals. A storm causes problems and the ship begins to sink. Pi takes the lifeboat, not knowing that some animals are already on it. The hyena really turned my stomach. The tiger finally kills the hyena and Pi manages to train the tiger so they coincide peacefully together. They eventually land on the coast of Mexico and the tiger runs to the jungle. Pi doesn’t see him again. This story is interesting and I am going to watch the movie next. 4 stars for the unique and thought-provoking content.

The Hadley Academy for the Improbably Gifted by Conor Grennan

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A fun read!
Thanks to NetGalley and Thomas Nelson for the opportunity to read and review The Hadley Academy for the Improbably Gifted by Conor Grennan!
Jack and his best friend Freddy are on scholarship at a boarding school. Freddy has a tendency to believe conspiracy theories and go down the rabbit holes of each of these theories. He presents in history class on a military academy that’s secret to the world, The Hadley Academy. No one believes Freddy and he gets a failing grade on his presentation. As soon as the presentation is over, Jack gets permission to use the restroom and he’s whisked away by Hans, the new school security guard. Hans takes Jack to a secret door that transports him to The Hadley Academy! Freddy soon follows. Each recruit becomes a student and passes through the Spade threshold to discover the spade classification they belong to: Kinetic, Theoric, Systemic, and Expathic. Kinetics like taking risks, Theorics are problem solvers, Systemics are highly creative, and Expathics understand their surroundings at a higher level. Since Superior Blue believes Jack has been sent to fulfill a prophecy, he sets up a thirteenth team and sends out recruiters to find three more dormants to join Jack’s team, Freddy included. The thirteenth team is heckled by the rest of the academy but eventually the need for the team members becomes known. Surprises keep popping up that enlarge the world of The Hadley Academy and bring more and more interesting characters into the story. The Hadley Academy is enjoyable, entertaining and fun to read, 4 stars!

The Queen’s Assassin by Melissa de la Cruz

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That ending was so much more than I expected!
Thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Young Readers for the opportunity to read and review The Queen’s Assassin by Melissa de la Cruz!
After the king dies in battle, his best friend makes a bonding vow with the queen to protect her and the royal heir, as well as search for the magical documents and sacred scrolls that have been missing. He has pledged his life and his heir’s life to the queen until the scrolls are found and returned. Eighteen years later, we meet Shadow and Caledon Holt (he’s the best friend’s son, the kingdom’s deadliest weapon and the Queen’s assassin). Shadow is exploring around the Abbey when Caledon saves her life by killing her would-be assassin. The bad thing is that the man Caledon kills is the queen’s brother-in-law, Prince Alast. Alast proves himself a traitor, which is shocking to Caledon. The Queen sends Caledon to Deersia Prison to appease the public and keep the traitorous evidence secret. She wants Caledon to spy and find out where the traitors stem from. Shadow catches a ride to Deersia prison as a stowaway and finds Cal and helps him escape. They move onto Montrice to discover if there’s a spy conspiring against their kingdom and Queen. Shadow and Cal are fun, dynamic characters that work together well but drive each other crazy too. I enjoyed the humor in this book as well as the intrigue and magic. The ending left me ready to read the sequel! 5 stars!

A Sorrow Fierce and Falling by Jessica Cluess

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Interesting character development!
Thanks to NetGalley and Random House for the opportunity to read and review A Sorrow Fierce and Falling by Jessica Cluess!
Now that Blackwood and Nettie are engaged, they are able to fully work together. They move to Blackwood’s estate, Sorrow Fell, and Nettie discovers the curse that goes along with the stolen Fae dwelling. The Blackwood bride deteriorates for decades. Blackwood becomes Imperator and the power changes him and not in a good way. He craves honor, love and acceptance, which he never received from his parents. He yearns to control everything and this puts a wall between himself and Nettie. As the Ancients get closer, the sorcerers, magicians and witches struggle with leadership and the possibility of working together. This third and last book of the series contains more emotional upheavals and ups and downs, as well as great character development! Jessica Cluess has proven herself as a wonderful fantasy author and I would love to read this series again, 5 stars!