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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S’more to Lose by Beth Merlin

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Thanks to NetGalley and Ink Monster for the opportunity to read and review S’more to Lose by Beth Merlin! Four years after the first book, this sequel finds Gigi and Perry in London and at an impasse in their relationship. They have moved on from their relationship, by all appearances. Perry is famous for writing a popular musical and Gigi and Jamie have built a growing, productive designer business, G-Malone. Prince Alexander and Victoria Ellicott are planning their wedding and want G-Malone to design the wedding dress and wedding attire for the upcoming royal wedding celebration. Gigi meets Gideon and they gradually fall for each other and all is well until paparazzi create a gossip story under false pretenses and blow everything out of the water. Tumultuous and romantic with the added bonus of artistic creativity build into a very enjoyable story; 5 stars!

The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden

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Thanks to NetGalley and Del Rey for the opportunity to read and review The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden! This sequel to Bear and the Nightingale is a wonderful fantasy with beautiful descriptions and fascinating legendary characters of Russian heritage. Vasya is still uniquely interesting and after surviving different adventures, she meets her niece, Marya. The two of them have a great deal in common and Vasya finally has someone she can share her magical sights with, until they are forbidden to spend time together because of the impropriety of Marya showing her face in public. She truly is a girl locked in a tower. Their lives scatter out of control when a secret Vasya has kept quiet is revealed and everything spirals downward from there. I enjoyed this sequel as much as the first book and even more. The ending left me wanting more and I sure hope there’s a third book planned. I noticed on Goodreads that the next addition to the Winternight Trilogy is set to be published August 2018 and is entitled The Winter of the Witch! The Russian information and resources in the Author’s Notes helped with the understanding of legends, vocabulary and names. I am also interested in researching more of this section of Russian history, thanks to the sources mentioned. This beautiful story rates 5 stars for its atmospheric descriptions and dynamic characters!

 

Where I Found You by Heidi R. Kling

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Thanks to NetGalley and Entangled Publishing for the opportunity to read and review Where I Found You by Heidi R. Kling. Sienna is still reeling from her mother’s disappearance that occurred five years ago. Her father is trying to move forward, but still honor his lost wife at the same time. It’s assumed that she went down in a plane crash over the Indian Ocean. Sienna reluctantly agrees to go with her father to a community across the world in Indonesia that has been struck by a Tsunami which caused disaster. While there, Sienna’s eyes are opened and her empathy for those who have suffered through the Tsunami and lost so much overcomes her own feelings of loss. She meets and helps several people and gains a close, wonderful relationship with a young man named Reni. She discovers that Reni is searching for his father and she does everything she can to help him. This touching, beautiful realistic fiction story opened my eyes to the horrible tragedy and suffering of the Tsunami victims, many things I had never thought about or heard of. I enjoyed learning about another culture also. I’m anxiously awaiting the sequel!!! 5 stars.

Girl Rising by Tanya Lee Stone

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Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review.
Thanks to NetGalley and Random House for the opportunity to read and review Girl Rising: Changing the World One Girl at a Time by Tanya Lee Stone! The research done by Tanya Lee Stone after watching the film, Girl Rising, is attributed to the film producers sharing over forty-five hours of video interviews with her. The author combed through the videos to find touching, true, heartbreaking stories that will open up our eyes to what is happening to so many innocent young women and girls all over the world. The whole concept of Girl Rising is overwhelming and a vicious cycle. Families having too many children and they can’t afford to take care of them, so they sell or trade their daughters off to continue the cycle with another generation. The entire time I was reading this book, I kept thinking about birth control and trying to brainstorm some way of stopping the injustice. The cultural reasoning is one-sided and doesn’t take into account the loss of education and childhood/teenage-hood that these girls are missing out on. A girl’s eye view of human slavery, child marriage, lack of education and educational opportunities make this a difficult book to read, but we all need to be aware. This book is inspiring because of the highlighted stories and struggles that these girls have overcome – 4 stars! I want to get books to these places, if possible, so these young women and girls have a chance to read even if they can’t attend school on a daily basis.