Dance of Thieves by Mary E. Pearson

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Dance of Thieves by Mary E. Pearson tells the story of Ten who has been an impressive thief since she was ten years old. She’s now a soldier for the queen and goes by the name Kazi. She encounters Jase, who has recently been made ruler due to his father’s unexpected death. Kazi and Jase become prisoners together when they are captured by labor hunters. The two of them are very similar in personalities and demeanor and at first, they drive each other crazy. They’re both clever, strong and loyal with banter that is fun and intelligent. With Kazi’s thieving background, she helps orchestrate their escape. Their relationship gets more complicated and more interesting from there. The story also becomes more complex, bringing in the backgrounds of Kazi and Jase and adding side characters and different kingdoms’ ideals and history. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Kazi and Jase and being on the sidelines of their tumultuous relationship. With interesting side characters and wonderful world building, I sped through the book and the ending left me wondering and anxiously awaiting the sequel! 5 solid stars!

The Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix

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Intelligent and creative retelling!
Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix by Julie C. Dao tells the story of Jade. Jade lives with and has been raised by the monks, being prepared to accept her rightful place as Empress. Jade is summoned to the Empire by soldiers and she meets Xifeng, the Empress that holds Jade’s fate in her hands. Xifeng is cruel and self-absorbed to the point that she’s the only person that matters. Jade makes saving the kingdom from Xifeng her mission and she’s sent on an adventure that takes her through the mythical stories she was raised on, learning how helpful the tales truly are. Julie C. Dao has created an interesting series, with the transformation of Xifeng, that I want to binge read so I can get the most out of everything the characters experience in both books. Intelligent writing, a mythical atmosphere and charming characters earn 5 stars!

 

After the Fire by Will Hill

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Gripping realistic fiction for young adults!
Thanks to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire for the opportunity to read and review After the Fire by Will Hill! The story opens during an attack and the main character, Moonbeam, is running for her life. She’s a resident of a community made up of fellow followers of The Legion and their leader is Father John. The fenced in community is under attack by the Government. Eventually, the attack is over and Moonbeam is at a rehabilitation center for mental and physical healing and also to learn to return to what she knows as the Outside. Moonbeam tells her story and the story of her fellow community members, Legionmates, through her interviews with a therapist and a government agent. The whole time I was reading this book, I kept thinking about the Waco Siege and its similarities to the Legion community. As I read the author’s note at the end of the book, he explains his reasoning for writing about the fictional character of Moonbeam and I was impressed with how delicately and respectfully he dealt with the similarities to Karesh’s religious community near Waco, Texas and how he honors the followers. The idea of one person gripping so many people and convincing them to sacrifice everything for that leader is curious and interesting and very sad. Will Hill handles this content well and breathes life into the characters and the tragic events that they lived or didn’t live through. 5 stars for this gripping realistic fiction story for young adults!

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!

Can Your Conversations Change the World? by Erinne Paisley

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Become an activist for equality with another guide from Erinne Paisley!
Thanks to Orca Book Publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review Can Your Conversations Change the World? by Erinne Paisley!
This book takes a look at feminism and the continuation of working towards equal rights. As part of the POPACTIVISM series, this book focuses on the importance of discussing feminism and what it means for equality. The author shares a bit of her upbringing and the educational background her parents gave her that has helped foster her independence throughout her life. The author has written other activism books and she’s still a teenager. Very impressive! Feminism simply means believing in equality and human rights for both males and females. 5 stars for this impressive book!

Body Swap by Sylvia McNicoll

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Fun with a twist!
Thanks to NetGalley and Dundurn Press for the opportunity to read and review Body Swap by Sylvia McNicoll!
Hallie, a teenager, focuses on her cell phone so much that she walks in front of a car and gets hit. An elderly woman, Susan, was driving the car and she blames the car’s mechanical problems for the accident. Both of them are badly injured and unconscious and while they’re in that state, they involuntarily switch places. This story reminds me of Freaky Friday except the switchers aren’t family members and ageism is prevalent. Hallie is a spunky, self-absorbed teenage girl that’s slightly boy crazy and Susan is an octogenarian that’s feeling smothered by her son and daughter-in-law. They want to take away her independence, her car and her condo and make her move into a retirement home. When Hallie and Susan trade places, they gradually grow to truly care for each other and gain a great deal of compassion. I like how the author brought ageism to light and built empathy towards both young and old. Endearing realistic fiction with a twist, 4 stars!

The Unbinding of Mary Reade by Miriam McNamara

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Thanks to Edelweiss and Sky Pony Press for the opportunity to read and review The Unbinding of Mary Reade! Mary hides on the ship when Pirates attack and she unexpectedly kills the Captain and swears allegiance to the Pirate Captain. The next chapter goes back in time and tells us how Mary disguised herself, as her dead brother Mark, to please her mother and to receive money from her grandmother. Her mother calls her a bastard girl and tells her that she’s unacceptable in society or in the family. From then on Mary stays disguised as a boy everywhere except when she’s alone with her mother, who’s drunk most of the time. The story moves back and forth between the past and the present and eventually they catch up to each other, with Mary trying to figure out and understand her place in the world. Action and a delicate, tactful handling of Mary’s relationships and how she finally decides what suits her true-self best. A 4 star adventure!

 

A Heart in a Body in the World by Deb Caletti

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Deeply moving!
Thanks to Edelweiss+, NetGalley and Simon Pulse for the opportunity to read and review A Heart in a Body in the World by Deb Caletti!
This story captivated me with it’s mysterious, traumatic event and the strength of the main character and supporting characters. Also, the charm and humor of family and all the quirks that go along with that wonderful six letter word. The story is somewhat difficult to follow; I’m sure that was on purpose by the author because the back and forth, scattered thoughts represent the stress of the main character very well. A heartbreaking and inspiring story that fully reveals the event by the end of the book. 5 stars for this deeply moving realistic fiction!

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!

Star-crossed by Pintip Dunn

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Unique sci-fi!
Thanks to NetGalley and Entangled Teen for the opportunity to read and review Star-crossed by Pintip Dunn! Aegis eat for the entire community. They eat and then donate their nourishment, which is then made into pills for everyone to take or to use as currency. Astana is dying and her best friend, Princess Vela, steals food for her and eats more than her quota so she can give Astana her extra pills to use as currency. When Vela is caught sneaking food to her friend, she’s sentenced to administering the Fittest Trials in which one teenager is chosen, out of two hundred, to sacrifice themselves for the King. The story line seems odd at first but grows in complexity and details. The whole Aegis concept is completely unique and original. The story gains complexity as characters are introduced and more are added. Star-crossed is a sci-fi mystery that earns 4 stars for originality!