Skin of the Sea by Natasha Bowen

African mythology, culture and history!

Simi has been a mermaid, a Mami Wata, for only a short time but she’s starting to lose her human memories. When she goes on land and transforms into a human, she grasps at memories of her family and holds onto them tightly so she won’t forget once she’s a mermaid again. Her duty is to help souls move on after death and she thinks she’s helping a young man who has just been thrown overboard from a slave trader ship. She assumes he’s dead and she’s ready to perform her task when his eyes open. He is chained and manacled and injured. He loses consciousness and she carries him over her shoulder as she swims to an island. His name is Kola and together they call on the creator of mermaids for help in getting him home. Kola and Simi go through a roller coaster of experiences together to get him home, save his siblings and help the mermaid creator. Simi isn’t supposed to develop feelings or attachments to any human but she grows to care for Kola. They meet the messenger to the gods, Esu, and discover the horrible trickster that he is. Tidbits similar to The Little Mermaid story but with the added African mythology, culture and history! 4 stars!

She Who Rides the Storm by Caitlin Sangster

Riveting fantasy!

Anwei and Knox are thieves. Knox is a Devoted soldier for the Warlord and Anwei found him passed out on the ground a year ago. They’ve been companions ever since. Anwei is a dirty witch and she poses as a Goddess in a temple. When people place letters or coins at the statue of the goddess, a temple servant places them in a specific hidden spot for Anwei (the goddess) to gather. She also receives requests in the same way, asking her to steal items for people. Anwei has kept Knox hidden from the warlord’s search for him. In return, Knox helps with her reconnaissance and safety.

Lia has been with the Devoted since they took her at the age of eleven and she’s miserable. She’s supposed to be helping with the search for Knox and she’s sees a bit of his aura and wonders how he’s keeping it hidden. Lia escapes with her sister after Ewan, a fellow Devoted, attacks her. Lia and Ari run to their father’s house to hide. Their father wants to keep his title of power and he’s struggling to find a way to heal his sick wife. This story weaves several characters’ lives together to build a complex plot that all makes sense at the end of this book but the story will continue in a sequel. Lia, Anwei, Knox and Mateo will find themselves entwined in a devious, greedy plan for power. Rich world building and complicated story kept me riveted, 5 stars!

Steelstriker by Marie Lu

The action and fighting keep going as the rebellion tries to end the Premier!

The story opens six months after Skyhunter ends. Talin has been transformed into a Skyhunter for the Premier and Red is in the woods with some Strikers, doing what they can to fight the Federation. Talin and Red haven’t sensed much of each other but they are both missing their connection and they each keep trying to reach out to the other one. While sleeping, Talin sees through Red’s eyes what the rebels are planning. The premier sees everything through their connection and is able to sabotage them. Jeran and Red escape but the rest of the group gets captured. Talin is sick with worry and tries her best to subdue the connection with the Premier, even trying to survive without sleep. The premier forces the captured Strikers to compete in a game against Ghosts. They’re trapped in a maze made up of metal sliding walls. Only two of the four survive. The action and fighting keep going as the rebellion tries to end the Premier. Intrigue, brutality, torture and the horrific making of ghosts kept the story hopping until the very end, 4 stars!

Instant Karma by Marissa Meyer

A fun, clean romance!

The story opens as the main character, Prudence, awaits her class partner for their group project presentation. Quint shows up late and acts nonchalant. She believes that she’s done all of the work but the teacher gives her the lower grade because she struggles with teamwork. She’s allowed an extra credit assignment and grade if she’ll do more research on the topic and demonstrate her ability for teamwork. She volunteers at Quint’s family owned sea animal rescue center for her research. During summer break, Prudence expands her horizons and broadens her perspective. She also helps catch an embezzler. A clean read with some unexpected happenings, 4 stars!

*I also listened to the audiobook which was fun to listen to!

Once Upon a Broken Heart by Stephanie Garber

Mix of mythology and fairytales!

Evangeline makes a deal with Jacks, the Fate known as a heartbreaker and the Prince of Hearts. She wants Luc back but he’s in love with Marisol, Evangeline’s stepsister. Because of the deal, Luc is attacked by a wolf and badly injured. Marisol doesn’t know about Evangeline’s part in it. Evangeline feels guiltier as time goes by. She takes Marisol to an exclusive ball to meet Prince Apollo. Because of her deal with Jacks, Evangeline owes him three kisses that are given to others. The first kiss is given to Prince Apollo. They enjoy their kiss but not much comes of it. Eventually, Prince Apollo is enamored with Evangeline. Another kiss is given to Madame Fortuna to convince her to show Jacks and Evangeline the hidden Valory Arch. Chaos follows Evangeline and she ends up searching for Jacks’ help, which doesn’t make circumstances easier. Once part of a mystery is solved, more questions appear. A new discovery opens up possibilities but that’s where the story ends to be continued in the sequel. Reminiscent of mythology and fairy tales with a few twists for a unique story, 4 stars!

Beasts of Prey by Ayana Gray

Unexpected twist!

Koffi and her mother are indentured servants at the Night Zoo, which is a prison that the servants can’t seem to escape. The zookeeper continues to add time to their service and they’re kept inside a brick-walled area. One night, the zoo catches on fire and the servants set the animals free and Koffi tries to escape with her mother. Her mother is struck down and Koffi realizes that she’s on her own. Ekon, a soldier, allows her to escape because she saves him from a terrifying creature, the Shetani, but he faces punishment for helping her. The Shetani has been mutilating and killing people for as long as anyone can remember. Koffi meets a kind woman who offers her a job and as she’s heading back to accept the position, she’s attacked by the night zoo manager. Koffi makes a deal with the manager; in exchange for her freedom, she’ll capture the Shetani and return to the night zoo so the creature can be caged and bring curious, paying visitors to the zoo. He agrees. Meanwhile, Ekon plans to find the creature too and bring it back to the temple so the killings can be stopped. Through some mishaps, Koffi and Ekon eventually team up to capture the Shetani and their lives change forever. This is a delightful book to read, two emotionally flawed main characters, the mystery behind the Shetani, African mythology and the unexpected twist at the ending, 5 stars!

When All the Girls Are Sleeping by Emily Arsenault

A wonderfully spooky read!

The spookiness starts immediately with the opening of the book. The font in chapter one is perfectly ghostly! Haley’s best friend, Taylor, fell to her death last year. Haley receives an email with an attached video from Taylor’s oldest sibling. He asks Haley if she knows anything about the video and as she starts to watch it, she realizes she doesn’t know what’s happening in it and she’s never seen it before. It gives her the creeps. Haley wants to figure out the truth of what really happened to Taylor and she begins researching hauntings and school history to see if there’s anything that will help her. A paranormal investigator is mentioned in an alumni Facebook group and Haley finds his picture as a dorm supervisor from years earlier. Haley keeps reaching out to alumni and searching the school archives in hopes of digging up more information. She finds letters and interviews from decades ago describing the same thing Taylor experienced in the video. What Haley discovers is so unpredictable and complex that I would have never figured it out on my own and the answer is unexpected! A wonderfully spooky read, 5 stars!

The Photographer by Mary Dixie Carter

Disturbingly creepy!

Delta is a professional photographer who assimilates quickly to her surroundings, especially when she decides she wants to be part of the group. She meets Natalie at her eleventh birthday party and meets her parents also. Delta decides she wants to befriend them. Little by little, she inserts herself into their lives, to the point of moving in. The problem with Delta is that she’s delusional and no one knows how far she’s going to go to belong. This mystery is tamer than I was expecting but still enough to be disturbingly creepy, 3 stars!

Wish You Were Gone by Kieran Scott

Told in several points of view by Emma and her friends. The story opens with a crash in her home, late at night. Her son, Hunter, rushes into Emma’s room to ask her about the noise. The two venture through the house and find her husband and Hunter’s father dead in his car, that’s been crashed through the garage. James had been known to drink and drive, so that’s what everyone assumes happened to cause the crash. Little things come to Emma’s attention that don’t add up to James causing the crash on his own. The landscaper finds James’ necktie in the bushes and Emma finds his briefcase behind baskets of fruit from well-wishers. He would have had his tie on and his briefcase in the car with him. His phone is also missing and when Emma calls it, a young woman answers. The story grows more complex as it is told, with more variables coming to light. This was truly an unpredictable story for me and a very satisfying mystery! 5 stars!

A Slow Fire Burning by Paula Hawkins

A man is discovered murdered on his houseboat. A neighbor lady finds his body. Several characters are added into the mix, each with a connection to the murdered man, Daniel. We learn about Daniel, his mother Angela, his Aunt Carla and Uncle Theo, his one night stand Laura, all alternating with snippets from a killer’s point of view. The writing is impressive in the way everything and everyone connects and once the characters were all introduced, the storyline fell into place and flowed through to the ending. A very interesting mystery involving a few different timelines that’s worth every minute spent reading, 5 stars!