Gone Dark by Amanda Panitch

Her survival skills might keep her alive!

Zara’s father is a survivalist that lives on a compound. Zara and her mother used to live on the compound too, until seven years ago. Now she lives with her mother and attends public school far away from her father’s compound. Her father’s survival lessons are drilled into Zara’s head and she replays them often. When there’s a widespread blackout, Zara uses her survival knowledge to get away from a strange man chasing her, to find her mother and to help her friends. As they travel looking for safety and to reach her father’s compound for protection, they come across a lot of danger and strange, sometimes creepy situations, cult communities, religious communities, families stealing supplies from them and people that will do anything for self preservation. Interesting, unique dystopian story, 4 stars!

Hotel Magnifique by Emily J. Taylor

Family and friends above all!

The prologue pulled me right in! Two sisters are trying to get an interview for jobs at the Hotel Magnifique. Jani watches over her younger sister Zosa, since she’s the only family she has left. Their mother died several years ago. Jani wants to go back to their homeland and they need money to travel there. Hotel Magnifique is stopping close by and Jani talks Zosa into interviewing for a job. Secrets surround the hotel and once they’re part of the workforce, they’re separated. Jani is desperate to find her sister and when she does, she’s horrified at how Zosa is being treated. Jani also digs for the truth about how the hotel is run and who’s in charge. Alistair is the lead magician but he’s hiding much and will do anything to protect what he’s gained. Danger builds and mysteries are cracked wide open as Jani tries to save her sister and eventually everyone that’s been used by Alistair for his greedy goals. Family and friends above all, 4 stars!

Blood Scion by Deborah Falaye

Jam-packed with action!

A young woman is searching for evidence of her mother in unmarked graves. Sloane knows that the Nightwalkers are responsible for her mother’s disappearance and she wants the proof. She’s caught by a Nightwalker and attacked. She unleashes her Scion power to save herself and burns him to ash in the process. Her identity as a Scion has to be kept secret or the rulers will kill her. She runs home to her grandfather, Baba. He has news that one of her friends ran from the draft and was killed because of it. Now three more people will be sent draft letters. She’s one of them, along with her best friend Teo. Teo has saved money and planned for the two of them to run if they are drafted. He shows Sloane his plan but she knows he’ll get killed if they run. To get him to drop his plans, Sloane threatens to turn him in. He walks off. Sloane is drafted, along with her bully Malachi. Malachi hates Sloane and wants revenge on her because she accidentally killed his family in a fire that she started. As the story continues, Sloane discovers secrets about her mother, finds possible allies and learns that not everyone is as they seem or appear to be. She also has to lose some of her humanity and empathy to sacrifice and do her part in becoming a hardened soldier. So many surprises and twists pop up in this book, making it a fast-paced read that’s also jam-packed with action and acts of violence. Sloane’s world is brutal and she makes some horrible choices to stay alive. 4 stars!

The Last to Vanish by Megan Miranda

Appalachian Trail Mystery!

Abby works at the Passage resort that sits next to the beginning of the Appalachian Trail. This resort is known for the disappearance of a group of four men twenty five years ago. Since those four friends went missing, three separate disappearances have happened, two women and a man. The latest disappearance, Landon West, occurred four months ago and his brother Trey just came to stay at The Passage. He wants to search for information about his brother and hopes to find answers. Abby and Trey both end up finding items that belonged to missing people. This makes her suspicious and a little creeped out. The story of the missing fraternity four is interesting and eerie but I would have liked more details of the last three crimes. I do feel that the ending was somewhat rushed. 4 stars!

Gilded by Marissa Meyer

Suspenseful, dangerous and interesting fairytale retelling!

Serilda enjoys creating stories to tell and embellishing the tales every time she retells them. One snowy night, she hears noises outside her house. She dares to go outside and she sees two moss maidens trying to hide from hunters. Serilda helps them hide but lies to the Erlking to keep them safe. He’s intrigued by her story of being able to spin straw into gold so he sends for her to come to his castle. After that, she’s bound to keep going back to the castle because the Erlking won’t let her go. She meets Gild, who the Erlking classifies as a poltergeist. Gild has the gift of magic that allows him to spin straw into gold. He helps Serilda but requires payment in return each time he helps her. The first two times, Serilda gives him the gifts the moss maidens gave her when she saved them from the Erlking. The third time, she offers her future firstborn child as payment. That is the only thing she has to offer. Gild accepts this offer, so his magic will work. Everything grows more complicated and the people Serilda love become endangered. The Erlking is heartless, cold and brutal. He will do whatever it takes to get what he wants.
Gilded is one of the best fairytale retellings I’ve read because Marissa Meyer adds twists and brings original characters to the story. Suspenseful, dangerous and interesting fairytale retelling, 5 stars!

This Woven Kingdom by Tahereh Mafi

Reads like an old-fashioned fairytale!

Alizeh is alone in the world, hiding her true identity and living as an overworked servant. She’s Jinn and has ice in her veins. She’ll be in danger if anyone discovers who she is because she’ll be seen as a threat to the human king. Kamran, the young prince, sees Alizeh help a homeless thief and is intrigued by her actions. The more he observes her, the more curious he becomes. The king, Kamran’s grandfather, sees that the prince is interested in the girl so he explains that their kingdom’s peace is at stake if they let her live. He orders Kamran to put her to death and then be ready to attend the planned ball the next evening and choose a wife. Alizeh works as a seamstress after her servant hours are finished for the day. She’s helping Miss Huda with several gowns. Alizeh is exhausted and after she leaves Miss Huda, she’s attacked by six men. She warns them but they laugh at her so she subdues them with the only weapons she has available, seamstress needles and scissors. Afterwards, she’s approached by a man who has been searching for her and wanting to protect her from harm. He sees the attack and knows she can protect herself. He offers her assistance and safety. He will take her away at the ball the following night. He also gives her a nosta, a rare orb that warms in your hand when the truth is told and chills like ice when a lie appears. This man’s identity is a surprising twist to the story! Huzzah!!!
The action takes over and another twist is revealed, ending the book with a bang! I can hardly stand to wait for the next book! Elegant storytelling, 5 stars!

As Good As Dead by Holly Jackson

Intense to the very end!

This is the best book of the series! Action packed and suspenseful enough to keep the stress level high! The author made me feel everything that Pip went through, physically and emotionally. Pip’s stubbornness exasperated me at times but her intelligence knows no bounds and makes her stubborn because she can analyze situations and outcomes that others might not see. The mysteries come full circle with intensity and full force. I don’t want to spoil the story but if you like mysteries then this series is a must-read, 5 stars!

Crossbones by Kimberly Vale

Absolutely magnificent!

Absolutely magnificent!
Csilla, captain of the Scarlet Maiden, is heading to the Gallows and wondering why her family and crew aren’t there to save her. Kane, captain of the Iron Jewel, is fighting to earn enough gold to pay off a debt. Loralei struggles to have patience with her mother who seems to be going senile and has fearful outbursts at inopportune moments. These three will soon be entwined in the adventure of their lives. The pirate king is dead and the Trials will take place to find the new ruler. The pirate captains will complete in the Trials and one of them will become the next pirate ruler. A secret has been hidden for years. An heir who has no idea who she truly is will throw a kink into everything that has been set forth. True adventure, pirate wit, intrigue and great characters build one enjoyable read worthy of 5 swashbuckling stars!

The Storm Crow by Kalyn Josephson

The adventure never ends!

The prologue opens with inspiration and excitement for things to come and then ends with horror and devastation. Anthia’s world falls apart when her homeland, Rhodaire, is attacked by Illucians. Her mother is killed and so are the large, beautiful, magical crows that shared their world. Her land is decimated because without the crows’ help, nothing flourishes or grows. Her sister, Caliza, is now queen and has betrothed Anthia to the Illucian Prince Ericen. Of course, neither sister is happy about the deal but they don’t see any other way to try to mend their broken land. Before Anthia leaves her home, she visits the towers where the crows once lived. She finds and hides an egg then takes it to Illucia with her. She has no idea how to get it to hatch but she’s not leaving it behind. She’s searched everywhere for information on the crows and she’s hoping she’s going to figure it out soon. Ericen is difficult to read and Anthia is unsure about trusting him. He seems very loyal to his mother, Razel, the Illucian Queen. Razel is terrible and loves cruelty. She wants to conquer all of the other countries also and doesn’t care about who she harms in the process. Anthia accidentally meets rebels and inadvertently makes new friends in Illucia. She manages to enjoy some of her time there until she discovers a secret of Razel’s. The action and intrigue continues in the sequel, Crow Rider. I enjoyed several characters, their flaws and quirks: Anthia, Kiva, Ericen, Caylus, and the adventure that never seems to end, 5 stars!

Anatomy: A Love Story by Dana Schwartz

A great mix of mystery and historical fiction!

The setting is early 1800’s. Hazel is fascinated with science and specifically medical applications. She sneaks in to watch a medical lecture because women aren’t allowed to attend. Jack scrapes by with odd jobs, such as digging up recently buried bodies to sell for medical studies. Hazel and Jack meet when he helps her sneak into a medical presentation. Hazel later disguises herself as a young gentleman so she can attend classes to become a physician. She’s found out but the professor makes a deal with her and gives her some help to prepare for the physician’s exam. Her family is away so she can study as much as she wants. She also begins treating people that aren’t taken care of by the hospital. She ends up treating patients with Roman Fever; a plague that seems to be appearing again. Jack brings exhumed bodies to Hazel for studying and live patients for her to treat. Jack and Hazel become close, even though she’s been betrothed to a viscount’s son since she was a child. Jack and Hazel get involved in the horrible experimentation of an eccentric doctor and everything gets turned upside down for both of them. I love Jack and Hazel. They’re both strong and selfless and they have an adorable relationship. I would love a sequel to be written to continue the story but at this point, I can’t see any sign of that happening. A mix of mystery and historical fiction to be enjoyed, 5 stars!