The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco

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Japanese cultures and legends with a spooky aspect kept me glued to the pages of The Girl From the Well by Rin Chupeco!
I bought this book years ago because the synopsis intrigued me, but I hadn’t gotten around to reading it until it was set as the October read for the Dragons & Tea Book Club. The first five chapters introduce us to a ghost that sees murderers and scares them to death. This ghost’s life was ended in murder and she seeks justice and rids the world of killers. She notices a teen boy with strange tattoos that he tries to keep hidden as he moves into a house in Applegate, with his father. The boy, Tarquin (Tark for short) lives alone with his father since his mother seemingly tried to kill him when he was younger. The two visit her in the psychiatric hospital and she is terrified when she sees Tark and she’s threatening harm to whoever she thinks is going to hurt him, and only she can see this being. Tark thinks he freaks her out but his mother sees a dark shadow in him. The ghost sees the shadow too. The suspense heightens immensely in the next few chapters and leaves me rooting for the ghostly woman and her strong intentions. Chapters 6- 10: The action picks up alongside the suspense and I didn’t want to stop reading! 11-14: detailed descriptions of Japanese ghost legends surrounding Okiku in the well explain the ghost’s story and the humor picks up as Tark and Callie exchange emails. 15: A group of high school boys committed horrible and mutilating acts on a young woman and this setting opens a chapter with a new murder and retribution. 16-20: Tark, his father and cousin Callie travel to the shrine where Tark’s mother grew up. They learn about her life and all the things they never knew about her from the people she was raised by and grew up with. They witness a possession and exorcism of a little boy and see the shrine’s powers at work. 20-ending: sacrifices are made, tragedy strikes and parts of the shrine are damaged and destroyed.
I love this book and read through it quickly because it was interesting, suspenseful and I grew to love the characters and wanted to know how everything turned out for them. I enjoyed learning more about Japanese culture and legends, 5 stars!

Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys

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The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys is a novel masterpiece!
Poverty and suppression hidden under sunshine and kindness describes the picture painted of Spain as the rest of the world sees the land and its people. The story tells itself with alternating points of view and the author’s writing draws the reader into the characters’ lives, so I was pulled quickly into caring for them. Ana lives with her siblings and each of them works as many jobs as possible since their parents are no longer with them. Daniel traveled to Spain from Texas with his parents, his mother of Spanish descent and oil-rich father. Daniel meets Ana at the hotel where she works as a maid. Daniel loves photography and Ana helps him as much as she dares. Daniel starts noticing that Ana keeps her distance like she’s afraid. Another revelation occurs when Ana’s brother Rafe and his coworker realize that the baby coffins being sent to the cemetery for them to bury are actually empty. More injustice is revealed as we learn that Ana’s parents were killed because they wanted to start a school and their ideas went against the beliefs of the leader of Spain, Francisco Franco. The snippets taken from primary sources bring this story to a deeper level and helped me to understand how the rest of the world perceived Spain during this time frame.
The characters and their lives all connect in one way or another and those relationships show how truly complicated and complex Spain’s history is. My heart goes out to the people who suffered in silence for decades and for those still affected by the repercussions. Ruta Sepetys amazes me with every book she writes. Her dedication stands above and beyond what is required because she pours her heart and soul into the stories she creates. I’m grateful that she shares them with the world because, with each book, I gain more knowledge of cultures and history across the globe.
Fountains of Silence, a true work of art! 5 stars!

Soul of the Sword by Julie Kagawa

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Menagerie of Japanese characters!
Thanks to Harlequin Teen and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review The Soul of the Sword by Julie Kagawa!
The book opens with a thousand-year-old legend of a sword known as Godslayer. Tatsumi wielded this sword when it contained the demon Hakaimono. Since then, the demon has possessed Tatsumi, who continues to fight for survival against Hakaimono. Yumeko continues her mission to the Steel Feather Temple but has been waylaid with her companions to try to save Tatsumi, even though a pact was made centuries ago that if Haikaimono possessed a person, that person would be killed to stop destruction that the demon might cause. As everyone tries to thwart the demon’s plans, he shows his power and what he’s willing to do to get what he wants. The plot twists as the rivalry changes and the enemy of both becomes the focus of all. Genno, the demon who wants the scroll pieces so he can summon a Kami for the wish to rule all, will be the focus of the third book in this trilogy. At times, Yumeko seems a bit dim but then she manages to pull off some amazing feats, with the help and inspiration of others; go teamwork! I also found myself struggling to keep names and descriptions straight and I’m sure that’s because I need to learn more about the Japanese culture. 4 stars for a Japanese fantasy full of a menagerie of characters!

Where the Sea Takes Me by Heidi R. Kling

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Brilliant and eye-opening!
Thanks to NetGalley and Entangled Teen for the opportunity to read and review Where the Sea Takes Me by Heidi R. Kling!
Sienna has just finished college finals and is planning a Team Hope trip to Cambodia. Her friend, Spider, wants to make their relationship more than just friends and Sienna isn’t too sure about that idea. Her father knocks her off her feet when he calls to tell her that Deni will be visiting soon. Deni, as in the Deni that Sienna fell in love with two years ago and who she helped recover from the tsunami in Indonesia on her last Team Hope relief trip. Deni arrives and he and Sienna fall instep with each other and Spider doesn’t quite know how to handle the situation. Team Hope travels to Cambodia on a long ride and Sienna has her eyes opened wide to the beautiful country torn apart by war, poverty and sex trafficking. The Cambodian people have extreme perseverance and are living in the results of Pol Pot’s destruction. Realistic fiction, adventure and history create the story and a touch of romance brings it all forward. Where the Sea Takes Me is a brilliant, eye-opening read, 5 stars!

Chibi!: The Official Mark Crilley How-to-Draw Guide!

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Draw your very own Chibi!
Thanks to NetGalley and F+W Media for the opportunity to read and review Chibi!: The Official Mark Crilley How-To-Draw Guide! This instructional book is narrated by a cute, humorous character with a fun name (made by a play on Japanese culture) in a comic/manga format. The sections are “Chibi Basics”, “Characters and Poses” and “Chibi Craft Projects” and give detailed instructions for drawing any Chibi you could ever want to draw. I love this book because it’s not limiting Chibi drawing to characters inside a story but gives a variety of inspiring ideas for your very own Chibi! I’m purchasing this book for the school library! 5 stars!

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

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Family members left behind after a suicide face deep pain. Resources offering real help are included in this book! Thanks to NetGalley and Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for the opportunity to read and review The Astonishing Color of After! The main character saw her mother’s suicide and believes that her mother has visited her as a bird. No one believes her even though she has physical evidence. Her and her father visit her maternal grandparents in Taiwan and even though they don’t speak much English, they believe that the bird is true. This book is difficult to categorize into a genre, but even though it has supernatural happenings throughout the story, I feel that this is still, above all, a realistic fiction tale. The deep pain that survivors of suicidal family members face is a real problem and an intense struggle that hasn’t been addressed as much as it’s needed. The Astonishing Color of After helps! Resources are included towards the end of the book for various needs of those dealing with depression, loss, suicide and/or suicidal thoughts. The resources are categorized under the following headings: Suicide Prevention, For Suicide Loss Survivors and Understanding Mental Illness. The cultural education and coping skills made the story more interesting and I love Axel and the great friend that he is to Leigh and I appreciate the author’s honesty about her own experiences of being a suicide survivor. 4 stars!

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

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Thanks to NetGalley and MacMillan Children’s Publishing Group for the opportunity to read and review Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi! Females, young and old, train together to learn to be strong, independent and to gain self-defense skills. This training is hidden from the rest of the kingdom because they would be in trouble and danger if anyone else found out they are more than timid servants. These women lost loved ones in a horrific act of violence against their community and have been training ever since. Zelie is a part of this group and when she was five she watched her mother being dragged away and then hung. Amari is an unhappy princess who escapes and inadvertently ends up with Zelie and her family. They run from Prince Inan, Amari’s brother, as he struggles with his internal conflict of whether or not magic is good or evil. During this time, Zelie’s magic grows and she works at controlling her powers. As Zelie, her brother Tzain and Amari learn to trust each other and work together, they encounter horrific dangers as they continue their quest for the artifacts-the scroll, sunstone and the bone dagger. With these artifacts, magic can be restored. Some romance and humor lighten the dark world that Zelie lives in and both of these help her conquer the evil and pain that drags her under. The impressive storyline, immaculate world building and strong, dynamic characters make Children of Blood and Bone an intense fantasy read worth 5 stars!

 

Wicked Charm by Amber Hart

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Thanks to Entangled Publishing for the opportunity to read and review Wicked Charm by Amber Hart! Willow moves to a bayou town and hears rumors about Beau, the local young man who breaks every young woman’s heart. She wants to find out for herself if the stories are true or not. Beau and Willow get to know each other despite their families feuding and the secrecy surrounding both of them. A young woman is found in the swamp, having been murdered. Her name was Samantha and she had been dating Beau until that afternoon, when he broke it off. Another teen girl is found in the swamp, murdered in the same way as Samantha. Suspicions fly, as well as rumors, with the majority of the town suspecting Beau as the killer. The community is fearful with a serial killer loose and the police are working hard to solve and stop the murders. I enjoyed the southern setting and the food made my mouth water and crave the dishes. The suspense and anticipation built which made the book even more fun to read. I also liked learning about the characters and their pasts. 5 stars for a southern mystery!

 

You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone by Rachel Lynn Solomon

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Thanks to NetGalley and Simon Pulse for the opportunity to read and review You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone by Rachel Lynn Solomon. Adina takes music lessons from Arjun in his apartment. Arjun is twenty-five and Adina has a crush on him. She’s also fearful of her possibly life threatening genetic test results. Adina is being tested for the same disease that her mother suffers from. Tovah, Adina’s twin, will be taking the genetic test for Huntington’s disease also. Their mother was diagnosed four years ago and she struggles with the effects. The girls have Jewish heritage from their mother and while Tovah embraces it, Adina doesn’t. I like how Tovah explains why she believes God didn’t cause their mother to have Huntington’s disease: “God has limits, humans have free will, and the natural world isn’t ruled by a higher power”. So, in other words, God doesn’t make people have illnesses. The sisters seem to be complete opposites in everything they do and believe and with their actions and choices.
The story’s complexity deals with heritage, Huntington’s disease, twins with extreme differences, genetic testing, coming of age, sexuality, relationships, culture, religion and family. 4 STARS for this debut novel with a lot of depth!

Pretty Dead Girls by Monica Murphy

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I thoroughly enjoyed Pretty Dead Girls by Monica Murphy! The dedication builds suspenseful excitement and I love the quote that opens the story: “Is all that we see or seem but a dream within a dream?”-Edgar Allan Poe. I fell into the story immediately because the intensity begins in the first chapter with an angry attack, which leads to murder. I thought I may have figured out who the murderer is but as the story progresses, things change and so does my perspective. The points of view are interesting because it’s mostly Penelope with others’ randomly thrown in. This makes the action and anxiety more erratic showing us how the community must feel knowing there’s a murderer in their midst. Also, through the killer’s point of view, we get a glimpse of incentive and motive. I read this book straight through with fervor and the story doesn’t disappoint! 5 stars for this young adult murder mystery!

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