Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

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Secrets and Folklore!
Thanks to Bookish first, Atria Books, Simon & Schuster, and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield!
Twists and turns and many characters along with their stories bring Once Upon a River to life. The book opens with a background of the setting and builds up to the present when a four-year-old girl is found and brought to the Swan, where storytelling is at its finest. The man who brought the little girl in is very injured and he loses consciousness, so no one can ask questions. The storytelling begins by the regular inhabitants of the Swan and continues to build with speculation. Everyone falls in love with the little girl and their hearts warm to her. Because of the girl’s appearance in the community, many lives are changed and things that have been hidden for years come to light. A food for thought story full of folklore and secrets, 4 stars!

Tradition by Brendan Kiely

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Realistic fiction with food for thought!
Thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for the opportunity to read and review Tradition by Brendan Kiely!
The book opens as Jules is recovering from an attack that she’s trying to wrap her head around. She decides she needs to get up and walk home. Next, James is helping a teen girl to her dorm after he found her unconscious in the woods. Part One: Before- introduces James to Fullbrook, his new school, his dorm and fellow sports players, then Jules as she is trying to hand out women’s health pamphlets to students, since it’s move-in day. Mothers are extremely offended and some are angry about this. As school begins for the year, inequality is apparent in many ways and it’s the way things are and always have been at Fullbrook. James is trying to fit in and mentally recover from a football accident last year that had his Iowa hometown reeling and Jules wants to change the inequality to help more people feel comfortable and accepted. Jules becomes friends with Aileen, a loner, and Javi, who has been her friend throughout high school. The three of them hang out with James and realize they have a lot in common because none of them are snobby, rude, bullies or pushy people. They are relaxed around each other and completely accepting of each other’s differences and they have a great time sneaking out of their dorms and into a college party together. Part Two: The Night at Horn Rock- tells us about Jules’ attack and the girl that James helped get to her dorm and brings the inequality to light in so many ways. Part Three: After- shows the aftermath of the attack and how Fullbrook sweeps problems under the rug for certain people. Part Four: The Winter Ball- brings a new group of freshmen girls into the Senior Send-Off Tradition with all of their naivety and innocence. Tradition addresses many controversial issues intelligently and without being too graphic about any of them. 5 stars for a realistic fiction book and its food for thought!

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

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As a reread, this book is just as amazing the second time around!

An Ember in the Ashes, by Sabaa Tahir, opens as Laia witnesses the killings of her grandparents and the capture of her brother Darin as soldiers attack their home, accusing Darin of being a part of the Resistance. Laia’s story alternates with Elias, a soldier training most of his life to serve the Empire. Laia finds the Resistance to try and save Darin while Elias debates desertion or staying and serving the Empire. Laia is bought as the Commandant’s new slave girl, a Resistance idea to find out information about Darin so they can plan how to help him. Laia discovers life as a slave is horrible and she’s having a very difficult time getting information for the Resistance. Four Masks are sent into nightmarish trials, Elias and Helene are two of the soldiers, and they must overcome their worst fears to survive as their love, loyalty and hearts are strained through horrific events. Throughout the story, Elias and Laia unexpectedly run into each other and they unwillingly get to know each other. Each chapter ends with intensity, so it’s a difficult book to put down. Dynamic, complex characters to love and hate make this story suspenseful, exciting and interesting, 5 stars!

People Like Us by Dana Mele

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A young adult mean girl mystery!
Thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Group for the opportunity to read and review People Like Us by Dana Mele!
Kay and her group of friends find a body floating in the water when they go on their annual Halloween night jump in the lake. They realize that it’s a classmate and it looks like she’s slashed her wrists. Kay and her group of friends act entitled and insensitive. They also seem to be untrusting and possibly untrustworthy. They are the embodiment of mean girls. Kay is the main character dealing with death in her recent past and guilt about those deaths. Since she started attending the Bates boarding school, she’s truly become spiteful and petty, making decisions from bad to worse. When murder occurs, Kay is forced to step back and evaluate her actions, who she is and who she wants to become. There’s a bit of a twist and the bulk of the book deals with Kay’s background and her relationships with everyone, from family to friends to acquaintances. A young adult mean girl mystery, 4 stars!

The Rules of Rebellion by Amity Hope

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Thanks to NetGalley and Entangled Publishing for the opportunity to read and review The Rules of Rebellion by Amity Hope. Kylie gets teased by her younger sister, Allie, because of her complete lack of social fun, so Kylie decides to make a rebellion list of things she can do to expand her high school social experience. Kylie’s rebellion list contains rules also, such as attend a party (without drinking). With Kylie’s list and the help from her friend Leo, the adventures begin. This story turned out to be more complex than I expected and the foreshadowing was subtle and perfect. Kylie’s group of friends are supportive and fun and I enjoyed the prank that Leo planned for her list. Rules of Rebellion is a fun teen romance with the added maturity that makes it a perfect young adult realistic fiction book! Very adorable and worth 5 stars!

Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer

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Thanks to NetGalley and Bloomsbury for the opportunity to read and review Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer! Two teens that have each lost someone they love begin an ongoing anonymous conversation by adding to a letter left and then found next to a cemetery headstone. The conversation moves to email for convenience and these two strangers help each other grieve. Declan has lost his sister and his father is in prison and no longer part of their family. His mother has married Alan, who isn’t the nicest to Declan. Juliet has lost her journalist mother in a hit and run car accident and she lives with her father. Declan has an amazing best friend, Rev, that’s dealing with his own traumatic past and Juliet’s best friend, Rowan, is supportive and caring. The email relationship remains anonymous and grows deeper and more meaningful as their grief is dealt with together. Letters to the Lost melted my heart with the complicated storyline and endearing, real characters. I love everything about this story, from the caring, helpful teachers to the awkward friends to the dysfunctional family members. All of these components create a beautiful realistic fiction novel worth 5 stars!

The Precious Dreadful by Steven Parlato

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Thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing for the opportunity to read and review The Precious Dreadful by Steven Parlato. Teddi’s summer vacation begins with a few options. She decides to spend time with Summerteens, the local library’s summer writing workshop. Before the workshop kicks off, Teddi has had a spooky encounter, a kiss and an argument with her single, downtrodden mother. I fell in love with The Precious Dreadful, Teddi’s personality and boldness and the variety of characters it holds in its pages! The more I read, the deeper the story took me. Teddi has pretty much raised herself since her mother, Brenda, tends to be drunk and partying with her friends instead of being available and sober for her daughter. Brenda is also keeping secrets from Teddi and has tried to, in her own dysfunctional way, protect her role as a mother. As Teddi’s summer rolls on, relationships become more complicated and drama-ridden and her subconscious is forcing her to remember a traumatic and horrible part of her childhood. The Precious Dreadful bends genres: mystery, horror, supernatural, romance and young adult realistic fiction; this book also pulls at your heartstrings through intense tragedy, awareness of bad choices and the bond of friendship and kindness of others and it’s well deserving of 5 stars!

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

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Thanks to NetGalley and Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for the opportunity to read and review The Cruel Prince by Holly Black! The opening of the book immediately grabbed my full attention with action, intrigue and violence! Jude and Taryn, human twins, are raised with their Faerie older sister, Vivi, in the Faerie kingdom. Jude and Taryn attend school with faerie teenagers and, while Taryn seems to stay off their radar, Jude is constantly being teased by Cardan, Valerian, Locke and Nicasia. Valerian takes the teasing to violent extremes. For this reason, Jude works daily to become stronger (by taking small amounts of poison daily to become immune) and to become a warrior. Little does she know how much her self training and practice will help her kingdom until the future of her kingdom lies within her hands. Fantasy laced with action and intrigue make The Cruel Prince a must read, 5 stars! I’m anxiously awaiting the sequel.

Paper Towns by John Green

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Paper Towns by John Green tells the story of Quentin, otherwise known as Q. Q and his next door neighbor Margo used to be best friends and, as they’ve grown up and become high school seniors, they have turned into acquaintances. One night, Margo talks Q into helping her seek revenge on her ex-boyfriend and ex-best friend, who happen to be sneaking around behind her back to have sex together. After their fun and rowdy late night, Q is anxious to see if Margo acts differently towards him at school. When she’s not at school or even at home for a couple of days, everyone assumes Margo is on just another one of her adventures. As Q tries to figure out and follow the clues, he begins to worry that he might find Margo dead. The ongoing suspense along with the wonderfully executed humor have made this one of my favorite books from beginning to end. Dynamic, complex, real characters bring depth, realism and humor into this adventure of a story-5 Stars!

Before I Let Go by Marieke Nijkamp

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Thanks to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire for the opportunity to read and review Before I Let Go by Marieki Nijkamp! Corey receives news of the drowning of her best friend, Kyra, and she travels back to Lost Creek to mourn her death and discover how she drowned in the middle of winter when the water is frozen several feet deep. Corey is treated like an outsider because she’s been attending a boarding school away from Lost Creek, so they disregard her questions and concerns. Corey’s determination reveals more than she ever wanted to know about the downward spiral of Kyra’s mental health and the ignorance and selfishness of the people of Lost Creek! 4 stars for a poignant look at bipolar disorder and the struggles of the sufferer and the coping mechanisms of the people closest to them.