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!

The Light Between Worlds by Laura E. Weymouth

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A wonderful historical fiction fantasy!
Thanks to Edelweiss and HarperTeen for the opportunity to read and review The Light Between Worlds by Laura E. Weymouth!
Evie is the youngest of the three children in her family. Her brother James and sister are both college age so she’s traveling to school on her own this year, which is 1949. She reminisces about the times the three of them were together. Five years ago, they huddled in their shelter during the war bombings in London. Evie wished they could be anywhere but there and because of this wish, they were drawn into Woodlands. The Woodlands become their home for most of their teenage years and for Evie, it turned into the home where she felt like she truly belonged. Once the three siblings return to their London home, they each struggle to readjust. In London time, they were gone for only a moment even though years passed in the Woodlands. Evie goes through dark spells of depression, especially during the winter and one day no one can find her. Everyone fears the worst and they try to move on but Evie’s sister is consumed by guilt and blames herself for Evie’s unhappiness. This beautiful story has the perfect book cover portraying its multidimensional world. A wonderful fantasy, 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!

Broken Things by Lauren Oliver

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Broken Things by Lauren Oliver and published by HarperCollins tells the story of how Mia, Brynn and the whole town were left reeling from the horrible murder of Summer.
Summer, Mia and Brynn were friends. The three girls pretended that a fantasy book world, Lovelorn, was real until the devastating loss of Summer. Five years later, Mia and Brynn try to piece all of the clues of this unsolved murder together. With the help of Mia’s friend Abby and Brynn’s cousin Wade, they scour the town and surrounding areas to solve this mystery. Twisting between make-believe and reality, the story spins seemingly in circles until the truth stands out clearly. Interesting, intense and emotionally jarring, Broken Things is a 5 star must read!

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!

Be Mindful & Stress Less by Gina Biegel

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Completely helpful!
Thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Random House for the opportunity to read and review Be Mindful & Stress Less by Gina M. Bigel!
The fifty ways to deal with your crazy life are broken down into parts. Pay attention with senses is part one, part two is self-care, part three is always consider other responses, and each of these focuses on how to handle stress, learning to be mindful of our surroundings and stress triggers and self-care. My favorite stress relief is to “just breathe”! So relaxing. Taking mindful pauses to keep stress in check and to become more aware of our responses to problems is a wonderful tip also. The 5 G’s, gratitude exercises to help express and experience gratitude, and encouragement to treat yourself with kindness are resourceful and beneficial advice sections. Wonderful book for dealing with life’s inevitable stresses, 5 stars!

Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith

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A down to Earth story with lovable characters!
Thanks to NetGalley and Delacorte Press for the opportunity to read and review Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith!
Alice has lived with her cousin Leo since she was nine, after her parents died. She’s content and treated well. Leo, Alice and Teddy are three best friends and Alice has had a long-standing crush on Teddy for years. Alice purchases a lottery ticket for Teddy’s birthday and it ends up being a winner! Life gets more complicated after that, plus the fact that the three friends are trying to make plans for the future. They’re each trying to decide what college to attend or whether college is an option at all. Teddy finds out the hard way how people use you after they discover you’re rich, including his own father. Windfall shows a lot of character growth and insights that we can all use and learn from. I love the little added extra about the lottery overseer and how winners and their actions have been observed over time. Windfall is a romance above all and even though it’s about winning the lottery, it’s a down to Earth story, 5 stars for the lovable characters!

Letting Go of Gravity by Meg Leder

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Touching realistic fiction!
Thanks to NetGalley and Simon Pulse for the opportunity to read and review Letting Go of Gravity by Meg Leder! Parker and Charlie are twins. One of them is giving the Valedictorian speech at high school graduation and the other watches from the audience, not graduating because of being held back a year in school, due to a second bout with leukemia. Parker has her future set out for her and Charlie is tired of dealing with leukemia. At the same time, Charlie seems much more confident about what he’s feeling and what he wants compared to Parker, who has uncertainties about everything. Parker crosses paths with Finn, a friend from elementary school that she lost track of. Charlie acts like he has a death wish and it’s upsetting his family and friends so much that his parents send him to a cancer therapy support group. Parker thinks that Charlie hates her and she seems to keep making the same mistakes, over and over, that make him angry. Through the turmoil of figuring out their lives and futures, Parker and Charlie surprise each other with how similar they are but different at the same time. A touching realistic fiction story with Ruby and Finn, dynamic side characters that bring an extra level of maturity to the plot and story line. 5 stars!

Price of Duty by Todd Strasser

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Heartbreaking, tear-jerking, gut-wrenching reality!
Thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for the opportunity to read and review Price of Duty by Todd Strasser. As the story opens, we’re thrown right into a Humvee being hit by an IED! The main character, Jake, narrates in first person point of view, alternating between the present and his active duty as a U.S. soldier. His life has completely changed since he enlisted in the military and he’s holding onto anger from seeing his comrades harmed and killed, feeling deceived by the recruiter, struggling with his own injuries and having to face being reactivated. He’s hiding his anger from everyone and he’s afraid he’ll let it slip and his family and hometown will think less of him. Price of Duty shows us what war is really about in heartbreaking, tear jerking, gut wrenching reality, 5 stars for a book that I’m definitely buying for the library collection!