Release by Patrick Ness

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I received Release by Patrick Ness through a Goodreads giveaway! Adam is plugging along until he can be on his own in one more year, when he graduates high school and can leave his small town. A strict family and a priest father with a lot of rules make him feel suffocated at times. His perfect brother, Marty, shocks Adam with the news that he got a woman pregnant and she’s not the girlfriend the family knows. Everything is changing and it seems to be happening all in the span of one day. This book contains graphic sexual content and belongs in LGBT and new adult genres, to make the reader aware. The characters are realistic with realistic problems and faults. The story comes full circle and I can see it helping readers deal with acceptance. I never truly understood the ghost part of the story other than making a point with the title. 4 stars for a well-written book with a punch.

Redemption Lake by Susan Clayton-Goldner

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I voluntarily read and reviewed Redemption Lake by Susan Clayton-Goldner. Matt ends up in an extremely bad situation when he wakes up after sleeping some beer off at his friend’s house and finds his best friend’s mother, Crystal, dead in her bathtub with a slit throat. Matt worries about the consequences of every one of his actions and how those actions affect the people around him. The mystery surrounding Crystal’s death causes turmoil within the community. The suspect becomes difficult to narrow down and the uncertainty left me guessing until the end. Secrets are exposed and relationships are stretched thin in this well written mystery. “…wisdom grows out of disillusionment. We evolve from what hurts us, what happens in our own hearts as a result of that pain.” Profound and life-changing statement. 5 stars!

The United States of Absurdity by Dave Anthony and Gareth Reynolds

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Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review.
Thanks to NetGalley and Ten Speed Press for the opportunity to read and review The United States of Absurdity: Untold Stories from American History! This book is separated into six different sections: Great American Characters, The Best of American Sports, Great American Medical Breakthroughs, Very Bad American Ideas, When Americans Go Wrong and American Tails. Also included is a conclusion and an index. Disturbingly funny and morbidly fascinating, this interesting book grossed me out, made me laugh out loud and gave me the heebie jeebies! 4 stars for this nonfiction book with an adult sense of humor and content!

The Marvelous Misadventures of Ingrid Winter by J.S. Drangsholt

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Received a free ebook as a Goodreads giveaway.
The Marvelous Misadventures of Ingrid Winter by J.S. Drangsholt is about a mother, wife and a college employee struggling to find happiness and contentment. Ingrid lives with her three children in a small house with her husband. She seems to be having difficulty with all aspects of her home and work life. Problems and misfortunes pile up and she feels overwhelmed. She mistakenly offers too much money for a house bid, things get crazier at work and little mistakes compound into bigger problems. A story that we can all relate to because sometimes life feels like it’s getting out of hand. 4 stars for this realistic fiction aimed toward an adult audience.

Mosaic by Sarah Fine

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Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review.
Thanks to NetGalley and 47 North for the opportunity to read and review Mosaic by Sarah Fine; the last book in the Reliquary trilogy. Asa and Mattie travel around the world together. Asa is captured and Mattie spends her time frantically trying to figure out how to get him back. Mattie discovers a lot about Asa and his family as she searches for him. This new adult story is like a maze of uncertainty and heartbreak with an ambiguous ending, 4 stars!

Splinter by Sarah Fine

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Splinter by Sarah Fine is the second book in the Reliquary series by this same author. Mattie has lost tremendous weight and seems unhealthy. At this point, she’s preparing for her wedding. Ben continues to make bad choices for the sake of his relationship with Mattie and Mattie continues to suffer the consequences. This sequel to Reliquary holds just as much suspense, excitement and action as the first book in the series. Mattie and Asa help each other out of more tough situations and drive each other crazy the whole way in this series geared towards adults. 5 stars for the believable world building and the intense characters in the Reliquary series!

Mona Lisa’s Secret by Phil Philips

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Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review.
Thanks to Mystery Thriller Week and Phil Philips for the opportunity to read and review his book, Mona Lisa’s Secret. The action begins immediately with a supposed attack on the Mona Lisa painting hanging in the Louvre. In 1911, the real Mona Lisa was stolen by Joey Peruggia’s great grandfather, Vincenzo. Joey and his girlfriend, Maria, discover a secret room in the mansion he inherited and, lo and behold, they find the Mona Lisa inside! They plan on returning the original painting to the Louvre, but things quickly get out of hand. Full of action, adventure, twists, surprises and suspense and even allusion to more mystery, which makes this book fun for any mystery and action reader. The author’s descriptions of the France scenery and historical sites made me feel like I was actually there seeing it all in person! This written for adults story is a fairly clean read with a few swear words that are used as dialogue in swear worthy stressful events. I highly recommend this enjoyable mystery by giving it 5 stars!

The You I’ve Never Known by Ellen

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The You I’ve Never Known by Ellen Hopkins confronts many difficult and possibly controversial circumstances. A young woman lives with her father, but they never stay in one place very long. Ariel loves her father when he isn’t drinking or being too overprotective. Other times he is abusive and angry. Ariel and her father finally stay in one place for an entire school year and she makes friends that she feels comfortable with. She is struggling with her sexuality because her father has always claimed that her mother is a lesbian. Ariel isn’t sure about what she wants or who she wants it with. Another story is being told alternately with Ariel’s. Maya also struggles with family situations and friendships. The stories of these two young women hold a strong, emotional mystery that knocked my socks off! In Ellen Hopkins standard writing, the mystery unfolds. 4 stars for an emotional book full of growth!

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

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Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review.
Thanks to NetGalley and Random House for the opportunity to read and review The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden. Marina dies after giving birth to Vasya, who is supposed to be special and mysterious in the same way Marina’s mother was. Years later, when Vasya is a young girl, she wanders into the forest and gets lost. She meets two strangers. The first one is told to sleep by the second man. Vasya bolts and is found by her brother, Sasha. Vasya’s father decides to find a new wife so Vasya can have a mother to raise her. Pyotr returns from Moscow with his new wife, Anna. Anna sees strangers just as Vasya does, but she treats Vasya cruelly even though they have this in common. Vasya’s nurse, Dunya, loves Vasya unconditionally. When Dunya dies, Vasya asks for the help of her brother Alyosha. Alyosha truly believes Vasya and helps her to rid the village of evil. After Vasya was threatened with being sent to a convent, Anna bargains with her. If Vasya will venture into the frozen woods and gather snowdrop flowers for Anna’s daughter, Irina, then Anna will let Vasya stay home. While Vasya is in the woods, she’s saved and taken by the stranger, Morozko the Frost Demon, on the white horse. Set in the Russian wilderness and based on Russian history and folklore, this debut novel is beautifully written and imagined. I give it 5 stars because this is the perfect book to read in the middle of a snowy winter.

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!