House of Dragons by Jessica Cluess

I was so excited about House of Dragons by Jessica Cluess. I enjoyed her debut series and was anxious to read her new book!
First of all, cover love! The intriguing synopsis made me want to dive right into the story. Five contestants are called to compete for the throne. Emilia has concealed her deadly, powerful magic her entire life. Lucian destroys the family sword, vowing to never use the weapon again. He’s had enough of killing. Vespir is a dragon caretaker who is chosen over the Lord’s daughter, Antonia. Vespir and Antonia also happen to love each other. Ajax is a fifteen year old younger brother in a house full of almost thirty sons. He is chosen over his father’s two true heirs. Hyperia is the eldest royal daughter and when her younger sister is chosen, Hyperia promptly slits her sister’s throat. The author handles the five characters well by transitioning in the same order to help the reader get familiar with each of them. Each of the five are sent to an island to hunt a basilisk. The hunt is the first task of four (the tasks are The Hunt, The Game, The Race and The Truth) the chosen will need to compete in. The five chosen are not expected and, in the past, the first born heirs were always chosen and groomed for the competition. These contenders are all ill-prepared except for one, Hyperia, because she’s the first born heir of her family. I enjoyed the touch of humor throughout the intensity of the story, as well as the character development. The story starts off simply and grows into a complex tale of a huge array of characters with diverse personalities and strengths. 5 stars for this fantasy adventure!

A Many Feathered Thing by Lisa Gerlits

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Heartwarming!
Thanks to NetGalley and Capstone for the opportunity to read and review A Many Feathered Thing by Lisa Gerlits!
This book tells a story about Clara and how she found her “voice”, gained confidence and built her self esteem. Clara continued to have ear infections when she was a baby and a toddler. When she was two, her parents realized she was having hearing problems, surgery helped with her hearing but she struggled to learn speech and lost confidence because of teasing from others and the frustration of trying to get the sounds right. Clara is reading The Diary of Anne Frank with her class at school. As she learns about Anne and her life, Clara sees parallels of Anne’s experiences and feelings in people she knows and associates with. This healing story inspired me to sketch again and that’s something I love to do but haven’t done for decades. Clara grows tremendously within the confines of this story, all because her self awareness grows and her confidence builds, thanks to the realization that she can do things, she can be brave and the faith that others have in her. Sometimes, all we need to grow is to have a chance to see outside ourselves and get a different perspective on life’s situations. A truly heartwarming story, 5 stars!

You Were Here by Cori McCarthy

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You Were Here by Cori McCarthy
On the fifth anniversary of her brother’s death, his graduation night, Jaycee is spending her own graduation night trying to lose herself in the memories that she’s been holding tightly to. She’s revisiting the places he enjoyed but she feels him slipping away. She reluctantly lets people tag along as friends on the adventures and each of them experiences something eye-opening that shoves them into adulthood. I love this book and even though I just finished it, I want to read it again. The circumstances that start the story, the character development and growth, the uniquely different characters and the setting work together to build a wonderful book, 5 stars!

A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn

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Interesting and intelligent mystery!
Thanks to NetGalley and Berkley Publishing Group for the opportunity to read and review A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn!
Veronica is an orphan who has been raised by her Aunt Nell and Aunt Lucy. They weren’t really her aunts but they gave her what she needed. The story opens as Veronica attends the funeral for Aunt Nell. Afterwards, as she’s entering the cottage she resides in, she realizes someone has ransacked the place. She assumes that a burglar was trying to steal whatever they could find after her aunt’s passing. A baron comes to escort her to London for her safety and Veronica can’t fathom that anyone might harm her. She thinks she’s unimportant and happily so. The baron takes her to his friend’s house to keep her safe. This friend goes by the name of Stoker and he’s a complete enigma to Veronica. Little by little, they get to know each other and each other’s stories and secrets. Soon enough, Veronica’s life is threatened and the secret surrounding the danger is brought to light. The secret is a whopper! This is a wonderful mystery filled with intelligent and interesting characters set in Victorian London. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series, 5 stars!

Run, Hide, Fight Back by April Henry

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Run, Hide, Fight Back by April Henry.
A shooting occurs in a mall on an otherwise normal day. We learn a little about each of the characters highlighted in the chapters, gaining insight into their lives, as they try to hide from the shooters. The whole concept of this story has become all too real and we gain insight into all sides as we read dispatch messages, interactions between police and shooters, and as the crime unfolds. The book is a fairly quick read and when the true reason for the shooting is revealed, greed prevails. Interesting and thought provoking, 4 stars!

Malice by Pintip Dunn

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I enjoyed this book more than any other Pintip Dunn book (that I have read). The concept is unique and the character growth and depth is profound.
Thanks to NetGalley and Entangled Teen for the opportunity to read and review Malice by Pintip Dunn!
Alice begins to hear a voice that’s telling her what to do. She soon realizes that the voice belongs to her future self, and is warning present time Alice, about a future virus that is going to destroy the world. Future Alice wants her to kill the virus maker. As the story unfolds, I kept thinking that I had figured out who the virus maker was, but I just kept getting hit with one surprise after another! The story concept is interesting and I especially like the mystery surrounding the virus maker. Bandit is intriguing but I want to know more about Zeke. Alice goes through a whirlwind of back and forth time travel, possible futures and the shocks and surprises that are thrown at her. This is the absolute best Pintip Dunn book I’ve read! 4 stars!

Echoes Between Us by Katie McGarry

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Controversial issues and thought provoking!
Thanks to NetGalley and Tor Teen, Edelweiss and Bookish First for the opportunity to read and review Echoes Between Us by Katie McGarry!
Veronica has an awesome father who drives trucks and makes waffles. Sawyer moves into the three story house that Veronica lives in. Veronica and her father live on the third and second floor. Sawyer lives with his little sister Lucy and their mom on the first floor. Supposedly the house is haunted. Veronica gets migraines and ghosts often accompany her headaches. She’s unsure whether the ghosts are truly there or hallucinations. Veronica’s deceased mother often appears and she wants to believe her mom’s ghost is watching over her. Veronica has a benign brain tumor but she does her best to live her life despite the wrenching headaches that disable her. Sawyer is tired of his mom controlling his life and he’s sick of her drinking. The two of them develop a relationship and help each other deal with their struggles.
Several controversial topics are explored in this book, the use of medical marijuana, if ghosts are real or not, choosing or denying treatment for an illness, addiction, enabling addiction and self-care.
4 thought-provoking stars!

Bloodleaf by Crystal Smith

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Interesting characters wrapped up in intrigue!
Thanks to NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for the opportunity to read and review Bloodleaf by Crystal Smith!
Witchcraft is forbidden in Aurelia’s kingdom and the story opens as she’s sadly watching two women hang for performing witchcraft. Aurelia has performed her share of magic, even though she’s the princess. She’s being sent away to Achleva to marry the prince. In his kingdom, magic is allowed. Along the way, a plot is revealed and she escapes on her own. She disguises herself as a maid and meets other commoners, befriends them and helps them. Someone is trying to break seals and release dark magic and they finally discover who has been breaking them, only after they’ve lost a wonderful friend. I love the part when the prince stands up to the king, speaking the truth about the seal breaker. The king’s reaction raises suspicion. Some of the transitions could be more clear between reality and Aurelia’s visions but for the most part, the visions add depth to the plot. Aurelia loses people she loves and she discovers her true origins. Unpredictable and entertaining, Bloodleaf kept me riveted to the end, 4 stars!

Hope and Other Punchlines by Julie Buxbaum

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Insight into 9/11 and its effect on New York citizens and the aftermath, 5 stars!
The editor/publisher note at the beginning explains the intent of the book and I’m interested. Chapter one introduces Abbi and I’m hooked! She’s known as Baby Hope because she was photographed on the morning of 9/11 with a red balloon and a paper crown while a tower was crumbling in the background. She’s turning sixteen. Abbi gets a job at a kids’ day camp a county or two away from her home. No one should know she’s Baby Hope or recognize her. She has people approach her all the time. Noah also works at the camp and recognizes Abbi from school but he keeps her Baby Hope identity a secret for her. Some 9/11 survivors have been diagnosed with cancer in different forms because of the debris they were exposed to. Abbi has started coughing up blood but she doesn’t want anyone to know just yet. She wants to have a normal teenage summer. Noah has a mission to identify the three unknown people in the 9/11 Baby Hope photo that have been unidentified all these years. Noah sets up interviews with everyone in the photo that have been identified. The survivors and Hope help him figure out each of the photographed people and this opens up an entirely new story to swallow. I absolutely love this book and the characters, character dynamics and character development! The author does an amazing job weaving tragedy and hope together with the every day happenings of those left behind.

Providence by Caroline Kepnes

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Once I started reading, I didn’t want to put it down. Providence weaves a young friendship that’s postponed, over and over, from becoming more. Jon is awkward and kind. Chloe has many friends but she considers Jon her best friend. Her other friends don’t like Jon and some of them are outright bullies to him. He walks through the woods to get to school so he can avoid the bullies. One day, while walking through the woods, Jon is hit over the head and kidnapped. He isn’t heard from for four years. He does return home but he’s different and so is everyone else. Chloe mourned him along with his parents but no one else did. Jon discovers that he has a negative effect on people, causing them to have heart attacks if he gets too close or too emotional. His life becomes lonely solitude and he doesn’t dare get near his parents or Chloe. Providence is a unique story with complex characters. It’s a thought provoking read that never reveals the mystery entirely; 5 stars for characters that I truly cared about!