What Lies in the Woods by Kate Alice Marshall

Book edition:

Three eleven year old girls entered the woods and two came out. One of them had been stabbed so the other two girls got help and testified that a serial killer rapist was to blame. Years later, when the three girls have become adults, the killer dies in prison. The three women meet and discuss how relieved but worried they are about a secret they’re hiding. The mystery of their secret becomes many mysteries buried, one on top of another. This is a delightfully twisted and unexpected mystery, 5 stars!

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.

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

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

A powerful, authentic read!

Starr lives in a rough part of town and after one of her best friends gets shot in a drive by shooting when they’re ten, Starr’s parents have her attend a private school that’s safer. Now Starr is sixteen and she witnesses her other childhood friend getting fatally shot by a police officer. Her friend did nothing to provoke the shooting. This is a powerful novel about much more than racism. It’s also about choices, bravery, integrity and helping others. This book has a lot of swearing which is authentic to the lifestyle of the character’s surroundings but the message of empowerment makes it a must read. 5 stars for a novel that will stick with me.

Likes/dislikes:
I liked how the author shows reality and brings her characters to life to make the readers care about them. I like that two different worlds are brought together by two teens living in both and experiencing the stark differences in each. Character development is abundant and bravery and integrity are a huge factor in the main character’s life and family. I love how the main character’s family is open to discussing everything instead of keeping secrets from each other.
Mature content: PG-13
Underage drinking, marijuana use
Page 81 foreplay (boyfriend touching of girlfriend’s pubic region)
Page 376 arousal (the boyfriend had a bulge in his pants when he kissed his girlfriend)
Violence: PG-13
Fatal Shooting at a party. Police brutality and fatal shooting of a teen male. Riots, gang beatings, starting fires.
Language: R for 100+ swears and 54 f-bombs

https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/the-hate-u-give

The Haunting of Maddy Clare

A haunting spooky thriller!

Sarah Piper is alone in the world. She lives in a little apartment and works temporary jobs for a living. In 1920’s post-war England, live is dreary. Most young adult men have injuries from the war, physically and mentally and jobs aren’t easy to find. When the temp service calls her to assist an unfamiliar male writer, Alistair, Sarah is leery but accepts the meeting and eventually the job as his ghost research assistant. They travel to a haunted barn in a small town and meet the homeowner. Mrs. Clare has told Alistair about the haunting, the ghost Maddy, and that Maddy hates men and recently chased a vicar away who was trying to perform an exorcism. Alistair is hoping for actual evidence of a haunting or manifestation and Sarah just wants the job. Both of them become part of a horrible past tragedy and the terror the tragedy caused. A haunting, spooky thriller! 5 stars!

Near the Bone by Christina Henry

Horror adventure thriller!

Mattie is about twenty and lives with her much older husband, William, in the mountains in solitude. William is abusive in all ways. He treats her like a possession, not a person, and keeps her hidden on the mountain in a cabin. She’s not allowed to leave the area around the cabin. Mattie is having flashbacks and bits of her past are returning to her as memories despite William lying to her for so long. A strange, unknown creature has shown up on the mountain near the cabin and it’s killing animals and sorting their bones and organs into distinct piles inside its cave. When Mattie and William discover the cave, he believes it’s the work of a demon and that he’s destined by God to get rid of it. Hikers are searching for new animals when William threatens them to leave his mountain. They see Mattie’s injured face and one of the hikers recognizes her from news reports. She’s unsure of what he’s talking about and William denies anything about the reports and restates that Mattie is his wife and the hikers need to leave or he will harm them. Mattie continues to recall bits of her past and when William leaves for town, the strangers approach the cabin to talk to her, filling her in on who she really is. The mystery and danger are suspenseful and Mattie has great strength despite her confusion. Horror adventure thriller worth 4 stars!

*Information on book content:
language content: 23 swear words and 3 f-words
mature content: PG-13, mentions wifely duties and drugs are found and mentioned a small amount
violence: PG-13, bloody animal found dead, gore, abuse to main character with blood involved.

These Fleeting Shadows by Kate Alice Marshall

An unusual story with twisted ideals!

Helen travels with her mom and stepdad Simon to Harrow; the place where her maternal family has resided for decades. Her grandfather has died and left Harrow and the responsibility of being the master of the manor and the family to Helen. If she doesn’t agree to stay, everyone in the family will lose their entire inheritance. Mystery surrounds the manor and the family. Several girls have disappeared through the years and it seems that Harrow is in the middle of the suspicion. An old journal is found describing the founder of Harrow, Nicholas Vaughn. In the journal are descriptions of poison and separating body parts of victims to control a being known as the Other. Nicholas wanted power and control and he found both by sacrificing girls to this being. Things have gotten out of control and the power is loose. Helen discovers more than she’s ready for and she wants to stop the violence but she’s going to need help. An unusual story about greed and twisted ideals, 4 stars!

Gone Dark by Amanda Panitch

Her survival skills might keep her alive!

Zara’s father is a survivalist that lives on a compound. Zara and her mother used to live on the compound too, until seven years ago. Now she lives with her mother and attends public school far away from her father’s compound. Her father’s survival lessons are drilled into Zara’s head and she replays them often. When there’s a widespread blackout, Zara uses her survival knowledge to get away from a strange man chasing her, to find her mother and to help her friends. As they travel looking for safety and to reach her father’s compound for protection, they come across a lot of danger and strange, sometimes creepy situations, cult communities, religious communities, families stealing supplies from them and people that will do anything for self preservation. Interesting, unique dystopian story, 4 stars!

Hotel Magnifique by Emily J. Taylor

Family and friends above all!

The prologue pulled me right in! Two sisters are trying to get an interview for jobs at the Hotel Magnifique. Jani watches over her younger sister Zosa, since she’s the only family she has left. Their mother died several years ago. Jani wants to go back to their homeland and they need money to travel there. Hotel Magnifique is stopping close by and Jani talks Zosa into interviewing for a job. Secrets surround the hotel and once they’re part of the workforce, they’re separated. Jani is desperate to find her sister and when she does, she’s horrified at how Zosa is being treated. Jani also digs for the truth about how the hotel is run and who’s in charge. Alistair is the lead magician but he’s hiding much and will do anything to protect what he’s gained. Danger builds and mysteries are cracked wide open as Jani tries to save her sister and eventually everyone that’s been used by Alistair for his greedy goals. Family and friends above all, 4 stars!

Blood Scion by Deborah Falaye

Jam-packed with action!

A young woman is searching for evidence of her mother in unmarked graves. Sloane knows that the Nightwalkers are responsible for her mother’s disappearance and she wants the proof. She’s caught by a Nightwalker and attacked. She unleashes her Scion power to save herself and burns him to ash in the process. Her identity as a Scion has to be kept secret or the rulers will kill her. She runs home to her grandfather, Baba. He has news that one of her friends ran from the draft and was killed because of it. Now three more people will be sent draft letters. She’s one of them, along with her best friend Teo. Teo has saved money and planned for the two of them to run if they are drafted. He shows Sloane his plan but she knows he’ll get killed if they run. To get him to drop his plans, Sloane threatens to turn him in. He walks off. Sloane is drafted, along with her bully Malachi. Malachi hates Sloane and wants revenge on her because she accidentally killed his family in a fire that she started. As the story continues, Sloane discovers secrets about her mother, finds possible allies and learns that not everyone is as they seem or appear to be. She also has to lose some of her humanity and empathy to sacrifice and do her part in becoming a hardened soldier. So many surprises and twists pop up in this book, making it a fast-paced read that’s also jam-packed with action and acts of violence. Sloane’s world is brutal and she makes some horrible choices to stay alive. 4 stars!