Edgewood by Kristen Ciccarelli

Mystery, fantasy, adventure and romance!

Emeline Lark lives in Montreal where she’s trying to leave her forest hometown of Edgewood in the past. She’s on the verge of becoming a singer with a recording company but as she performs she sees signs of the Edgewood Forest creeping onto the stage. Emeline sees a mysterious hooded stranger in the audience who becomes the key to her past and future, unbeknownst to her at the time. Pa, her grandfather, has dementia and when she goes home to take care of him, she’s pulled into the Edgewood Forest and her life is thrown into upheaval and danger. To free herself from the evil and corrupted Wood King, Emeline will have to dig deep and get to the bottom of the forest curse.

5 solid stars!!! Mystery, fantasy, action and romance.

Likes/dislikes:
The writing pulled me into the story with incredible world building and mysterious surroundings and characters. Hawthorn is a fascinating character. The story has action, tenderness and a roller coaster of emotions.
Language: R for 14 swears and 3 f-bombs
Mature content: R for Sex on page 295 that doesn’t mention genitals and is described vaguely; non-detailed oral sex on page 340. The relationship between the two characters is a loving one and the sex is because of this love for each other.
Violence: PG for Stabbing of the Shadowskin creatures, no blood involved; danger and Shadowskins chasing people.
Ethncity: Predominantly white in Montreal and Edgewood but mixed colors of skin in the otherworldly forest of the Wood King.

The Corpse Queen by Heather M. Herrman

Riveting read!

In 1855 Philadelphia, Molly lives at an orphanage until her aunt requests that she live with her. Before she even meets her aunt, she’s told she has to pick up a package first which turns out to be nothing like she expects. Molly is mourning the death of her friend Kitty who drowned in the river. Mother Superior told Molly, with a sneer, that Kitty was pregnant and this made Molly angry because Kitty told that secret in confession and no one else should know except the priest. Tom works for Molly’s aunt Ava and he picks her up from the orphanage, takes her to pick up the package then transports her to Ava’s home. Molly finally meets Ava and is given snippets of information about living there and what she’s required to do to stay. She’s expected to collect bodies for Dr. Lavall’s lectures and usually this requires dishonesty. Molly is eventually allowed to join the lectures and discovers that she wants to become a doctor herself even though she’s not welcomed into the surgical world by society. Molly also becomes deeply entwined in the mystery of The Knifeman and it’s going to take all her cleverness and bravery to keep from becoming a victim herself.

Likes/dislikes:
Suspenseful, creepy and frightening story kept me riveted. Molly’s strength overcomes her insecurities from being left in an orphanage by her parents and the abuse she suffered there. I enjoy the diverse characters and Tom’s personality and perseverance. The mystery is interesting.

Language: R for 43 swears and 4 f-bombs.
Mature content: PG-13 for
premarital sex without details and unwed pregnancy by side characters, kissing with main characters.
Violence: PG-13 for grave robbery and stealing parts from dead bodies, such as teeth, an ear and skin, bloody remains, stabbing.

The Ones We Burn by Rebecca Mix

Intrigue in a supernatural world!

In an imaginary kingdom full of mixed ethnicities, Ranka is desperate to find Yeva. So desperate that she agrees to the betrothal of the Prince so she can search for her. Soon, Ranka’s companions include Prince Galen, Princess Aramis and the noble young ambassador Percy. After the virus winalin is discovered throughout the kingdom, the four companions want to stop it. Winalin is turning witches into diseased monsters that are intent on killing. While trying to get to the bottom of the mystery, their lives are completely overturned. Ranka, Prince Galen, Princess Aramis and Percy each realize that none of them might survive.

Likes/dislikes:
I like that the story creates empathy and approaches the topic of abusive manipulation. Ranka’s character development is interesting. I like that there’s little swearing.
Mature content: PG-13 for drinking.
Language: PG-13 for 11 swears, no f-bombs.
Violence: PG-13 for non-detailed bloody deaths.

Belladonna by Adalyn Grace

Pure reading enjoyment!

Signa is born into a rich family. When she’s two months old, her mother Rima throws a party. No one realizes the wine is poisoned and baby Signa sees Death approach her mother before he moves onto the others who drank the wine. Signa is left alone in the home after Death tries to take her too but he sees her brilliant future instead of her short past, what he usually sees as he takes someone’s life. Now, at nineteen years old, Signa lives with Aunt Magda. Signa has lived with several relatives throughout her lifetime. After Rima died, Sigma lived with her loving grandmother until her death. After that, relatives have wanted to be her guardian only for the money she’ll receive when she’s twenty and the payments they receive for housing her. Most of them haven’t loved her and Aunt Magda is especially mean to Signa. Every guardian she’s had has died and she thinks it’s her fault and that Death’s taking people on purpose and because of her. When Magda dies, Death appears once again and assures Signa that’s not the case. Signa is retrieved by her new guardian’s workers and taken to Thorn Grove where the lady of the manor, Aunt Lillian, is deceased and Signa’s cousin Blythe is ill. Cousin Percy and Uncle Elijah seem healthy though. Sylas, the worker who brought her to Thorn Grove, helps investigate Lillian’s death. They believe someone poisoned her and is poisoning Blythe too. Signa finds help for Blythe when Sylas shows her the manor library. She finds natural remedies to rid Blythe’s body of poison and she gets somewhat better. In the meantime, Signa can’t stop thinking of Sylas and Death and how she feels attracted to both of them. I can’t say much more without including a spoiler or two but this book was a pure enjoyment to read and I’m anxiously awaiting the sequel, Foxglove. 5 stars!

Likes/dislikes:
I love the rich prose and beautiful descriptions of the scenery. I appreciate the fact that the book has very little swearing and vague details of sex that keep it out of the sensitive materials area. I enjoyed reading about the main character’s views on and dealings with proper etiquette and the setting is beautifully descriptive. The ethnicity is white and brown.

Language: PG for two swears, no f-bombs

Mature Content: PG-13, alluded to sex and two women embracing in public mentioned once.

Violence: PG, Death touches a person and then that person immediately dies. Poisonings

Foul Lady Fortune by Chloe Gong

Political intrigue in 1930’s Orient with a mix of historical fiction and fantasy!

The prologue tells of a painful scientific experiment on a person that has been strapped down. Then the story starts as Rosalind is trapping a criminal who is a member of the group responsible for the death of her cousin Juliette during a past act gone awry. She’s exacting revenge on those who were part of it. Political intrigue, spies, agents, Communists and Nationalists describe the characters in this book. Her handler pairs her with another agent, Orion, who has family issues as well. The two of them have to pretend to be married so they can infiltrate the newspaper company and try to discover information on the serial killer murdering people with a toxic liquid in syringes. What they discover turns their lives around and, unbeknownst to Orion and Rosalind, the reader is given the true identity of a mysterious agent, Priest. The author’s notes on Oriental history during the 1930’s are fascinating. Well-written, complex, beloved characters build a fun historical fiction fantasy. 5 stars!

Likes/dislikes:
I enjoyed learning about the history of 1930’s Orient. The author’s notes give readers a glimpse into her research and what’s based on facts and what’s completely fiction in this story. Rosalind and Orion are characters with depth and I had fun getting to know them.
Swearing: PG for three swears, no f-bombs
Mature content: PG for lgbtq transgender character mentioned
Violence: PG-13 for killing by poison, shooting, bloody shooting, stabbing, bloody stabbing

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

Hearts, Strings, and Other Breakable Things by Jacqueline Firkins

Tugged at my heart!

Edie has been in foster care for three years since her mom passed away. Her mother’s sister, Norah, brings her to their home as her new guardian to improve her. Norah and her daughters, Maria and Julia, make it their mission to improve Edie through makeovers, new clothes and unsolicited advice. Edie doesn’t feel like she belongs or is even wanted other than as a project for them. Her long ago friend, crush and first kiss, Sebastian, lives next door but he has a girlfriend, Claire. Claire’s brother Henry is a player and he’s showing interest in Edie. Edie doesn’t trust him until he shows her that he’s actually a nice, sweet guy that truly cares for her. The relationship they build helps ease crush pains. She learns a lot about herself through her relationship with Henry and grows as a person. This book is more than I expected and it tugged at my heart. 5 stars!

Fairy Tale by Stephen King

The best main character!

Charlie Reade lost his mom when he was a young boy and his Dad was so heartbroken that he became an alcoholic and lost his job. Charlie prayed for help and offered to do kind deeds in return for helping his family out. Charlie hears a dog howling and finds the elderly local neighborhood scary guy, Howard Bowditch, hurt. He’s fallen off a ladder and broken his leg. Charlie stays until the ambulance comes and then he promises Mr. Bowditch that he will take care of his dog, Radar, for him. Mr. Bowditch insists that Charlie call him Howard. Before he’s released from the hospital, Howard tells the staff that Charlie is the only person he wants staying at his house while he recovers from surgery. Charlie agrees. Charlie has also fallen in love with Radar and Radar loves him in return and he thinks that’s why Howard trusts him. Charlie helps Howard recover from surgery and gain back the use of his leg. Howard knows that he and Radar are old and their days are numbered. He starts confiding in Charlie, little by little. Charlie takes Howard’s word for it but checks his information out for his own safety and sanity. Howard is healing well until an incident in the shed causes him to overexert his heart. Howard knows he doesn’t have much longer so he records his secrets on a cassette tape for Charlie. What he tells Charlie is unbelievable! Charlie goes on the mission set forth by Howard and he’s tested in every way and learns to believe in magical things. A unique book for Stephen King because it’s more fantasy than horror and it’s written for young adults. I do enjoy his writing! 5 stars for this fairytale with the best main character!

Language: R for 100+ swears and 19+ f-bombs
Violence: PG for shooting, electric shock, a giant killing minor characters
Mature content: none
Likes/dislikes: The writing pulled me in with hints of mystery and foreshadowing.
Kind, brave main character and gruff older man help and care for each other and the dog, Radar, bonds them together. I enjoy the mysterious feel throughout the book and Stephen King wields words to encompass the reader! The illustrations are detailed and help bring the story to life.
Ethnicity: The setting is the present day America and Other realm and the ethnicities are white and Other realm characters.

I Guess I Live Here Now by Claire Ahn

A well-written and descriptive realistic fiction story that makes me want to visit Korea! 4 stars!

Melody is caught by a police officer smoking her first joint with her friend Sophie. They both managed one cough-inducing puff. The officer takes them both home, giving them a warning to not do it again. The next day she discovers that her parents have decided that they all need to be together so she’s moving with her mom to Korea and away from New York City. The two of them have lived in a tiny New York City apartment for most of Melody’s life while her father has worked in Korea and traveled back and forth to visit them. Melody and her mom have a close relationship but everything in Melody’s life changes once they’re in Korea. Her father is strict and gruff, her grandparents seem cold, distant and uncaring. She does make some friends and her Dad encourages socializing, which helps ease the family tensions and the homework stress. Her relationship with Sophie is strained too and Melody wants to figure out how to pursue her dream of becoming an interior designer while mending relationships with the people she cares about and navigating two countries as her home. A well-written and descriptive realistic fiction story that makes me want to visit Korea! 4 stars!

Language: 24 swears, including 1 f-bomb
Mature content: PG-13-kissing; underage smoking of marijuana
Violence: PG-arguing
Ethnicity: Korean, Ethiopian, American and many languages, such as French, spoken and ethnicities represented in Korea when Melody goes to a nightclub.
Likes/dislikes: I love the descriptions of each setting the main character is in. I also like the relevance of family contention and teen angst that takes place as Melody’s father tries to completely control her and she discovers her mother keeping secrets. She sees her grandfather treat her father the same way her father treats her and she wonders why he does that to her when he seems to dislike being treated like that. Great insight into Korean culture through Melody’s experiences as she visits places and tries new foods.

Survive the Night by Riley Sager

Unexpected turns!

Charlie wants to leave college and go home. She hasn’t been able to focus since her dorm mate was murdered and she just needs to get away. Her boyfriend Robbie wants her to return for spring semester but he understands that she needs a change of perspective. He’s busy and can’t change his schedule to take her home so she gets a ride from Josh, someone offering a ride on the rider board. They head off for the six hour drive and Charlie can’t help but think of all the ways she’s just put herself in danger by riding with a stranger. Josh is heading to Ohio, the same direction as Charlie. At first, it’s an uncomfortable silence and then they play twenty questions and Charlie discovers something she wishes she hadn’t. Now she’s sure she’s in danger. Most of the story is from Charlie’s point of view but there are small snippets from a few other characters. I was riveted as soon as I started reading but then there was a lull when the suspense slowed down. Soon the intensity built back up. This book has unexpected turns and developments and I enjoyed reading it! 4 stars!