Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte!

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Fantastic debt novel by Astrid Scholte!
Thanks to NetGalley, Edelweiss and Penguin Random House for the opportunity to read and review Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte!
Quadara is a nation divided into quadrants. Each quadrant plays a part in the nation’s economy. Archia provides crops and natural resources;Eonia develops medicine and technology; Ludia provides art, fashion and entertainment; Toria arranges imports and exports. The story is told in alternating points of view between the queens and Keralie, Kera for short. When Iris, an 18-year-old Queen is murdered in the Palace Garden, the mystery begins. Kera is a thief working for Mackiel. He’s sent her to steal a comm case containing memory chips. The messenger she steals from is smart and ends up tracking her down at the auction house. Mackiel becomes cruel and Kera escapes with the messenger, Varin, after dissolving the chips in her mouth, watching and absorbing the memories. She sees a palace full of blood and murdered queens. Varin and Kera go to the palace to help find the assassin and share the chips as evidence. They realize that they’re ahead of the assassin when they reach the palace and they try to warn the queens of the danger they’re in. The mystery builds as the queens are murdered, one at a time. The twists are enjoyable and I love Kera and Varin. Unique world building and storyline filled with dynamic characters, 4 stars!

The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White

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Great start to a new trilogy by Kiersten White!

The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White. I pre-ordered this book as soon as I heard about it. The description drew me in and piqued my curiosity! The gorgeous cover emulates mystery and the first chapter lives up to all of my expectations! Traveling through a forest surrounded by knights, the main character heads toward Camelot and King Arthur, her husband-to-be. She loves the forest surroundings but keeps that secret to herself. When they reach a river they have to cross, her true fear comes out and Mordred, Arthur’s best knight and nephew , carries her across the water to safety. No one can understand why she’s afraid and she reminds herself to act the part of Queen Guinevere. Arthur and Merlin planned for her to play the part of the deceased Queen Guinevere so she could protect Arthur from harm, which Merlin has foretold. She has no idea where the threat is or where it will come from but she does everything in her power to protect Arthur and his kingdom. Magic has been and continues to be banished from Camelot but Guinevere keeps running across bits of magic that she eventually discovers the origins of. She enjoys spending time with Arthur and she’s grateful that he knows everything about her, so he’s the one person she can be herself around. They have a marriage of convenience and friendship but Guinevere feels more when she’s with Mordred. The author has built a wonderful setting with many enjoyable characters that I fell in love with. I’m happy that this is the first book in a planned trilogy, so I have two more books to look forward to reading! I like the strength that both Arthur and Guinevere show and the sacrifices they’re willing to make. I enjoyed Dindrane’s attitude and Mordred’s mystery. I can’t wait to continue reading this story, 5 stars!

The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman

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Cliffhanger ending!
Thanks to NetGalley and Disney Hyperion for the opportunity to read and review The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman.
A mix of characters is introduced in the first few chapters. They all have something in common; they’re all descended from the main four families that have resided in Four Paths for decades. These families have protected the town from the Beast that resides in the mysterious and frightening Gray. Hawthorne, Carlisle, Saunders and Sullivan are the four head families. Violet Saunders has recently moved to Four Paths with her mother, Juniper. It’s just the two of them since Violet’s sister and father have both passed away. Justin and May Hawthorne are the children of the sheriff of Four Paths, their mother Augusta. Violet and Juniper live with Darla, Juniper’s sister. Harper Carlisle lost a hand earlier and she keeps training to still be strong and helpful; she has four siblings. Isaac Sullivan is part of the fourth founding family but the rest of his family is gone, in one way or another. Secrecy seems to be the rule between families and hiding truths from the Four Paths citizens is how the heads of the families claim to keep the town safe. Secrets are painfully revealed and trust is broken. The teenagers’ lives and relationships all intertwine and complicate matters because the teens don’t want the secrecy. They want honesty and openness. The teens also get thrown into violence and deception by the Powers that run the town. They each have to decide who they will be loyal to and what they will do with their own powers and futures. The story ends with a bit of a cliffhanger and I’m expecting the sequel to shine more light on Isaac’s mysterious family. 4 stars for a supernatural story that has much more to tell!

Fear the Drowning Deep by Sarah Glenn Marsh

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Fantasy and sea life set on the Isle of Man!
Fear the Drowning Deep by Sarah Glenn Marsh tells the story of sea monsters and the fear that the island people are living with.
Bridey hates the beach and has ever since she watched her grandfather drown. A deceased young woman washes up on the beach and no one knows what happened to her. A young man mysteriously appears on the beach also. He’s alive but badly injured and suffers from memory loss. Bridey helps him get to her home where her family nurses him back to health. They give the young, injured man Fynn for a name since he can’t remember his. More disappearances occur and the town is in an uproar, some of them blaming Fynn because he’s an outsider. In the meantime, Bridey works for the local recluse; an elderly woman that the townspeople have labeled a witch. Bridey’s mother paints what she sees in her dreams and the paintings have become darker, showing horrible sea creatures and attacks. When Bridey’s sister goes missing, she faces her deepest fears to do everything she can to rescue her sister. I had never heard of the Isle of Man and after reading this book and the author’s notes at the end, I looked up information and images; it’s an interesting part of human history and a beautiful place. Mystery and sea creatures make up this fantasy, 5 stars!

House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig

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Mesmerizing cover and enchanting story!
House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig is a young adult fantasy full of tragedy.
A large family, living in an estate by the sea, continues to lose family members. Several sisters and their mother die from a variety of causes. Verity, one of Annaleigh’s younger sisters, sees the deceased siblings as ghosts, who are injured according to how they died. Verity sketches what she sees but doesn’t seem frightened by the injured ghosts. Annaleigh is adamant that someone killed Eulalie because suspicion surrounds her death. On and on this tragedy continues and the sisters become confused about what’s really happened and what are illusions. The sisters love each other and have been close so the losses are tearing them apart. Annaleigh learns about a Trickster who causes chaos and she tries to figure out who called the Trickster and made a selfish deal, ending in ripping their family into pieces. Full of fantasy and mystery, this book weaves a beautifully written tale of enchantment, 5 stars!

Girls With Sharp Sticks by Suzanne Young!

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Riveting read!
Thanks to NetGalley and Simon Pulse for the opportunity to read and review Girls with Sharp Sticks by Suzanne Young!
It took me a minute to get into the book because I was annoyed at the submissive behavior of the main character, Mena. As I read on, I realized that submissiveness is the reason behind the story. The teen girls are taught to listen without question and do everything in their power to please and appease others. Disturbing but so on point with gender discrimination. The poem entitled Girls with Sharp sticks encompasses everything about this story, including the book’s namesake. As I read and reread the poem, found on pages 154-156, I feel disgusted, hopeful, saddened, angered, afraid and then a little cautiously hopeful at the end. It sums up the story concisely. POWERFUL. A thought-provoking read, 5 stars!

Vow of Thieves by Mary E. Pearson

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Love, loyalty, bravery and perseverance!
Thanks to NetGalley, Edelweiss and Delacorte Press for the opportunity to read and review Vow of Thieves by Mary E. Pearson!
Kazi and Jase are heading to his home when they receive a cryptic message that they’re not sure they can trust. The message says that Samuel is dead. They’re devastated and Jase takes off towards his home, with Kazi close behind. They’re attacked and the last thing she knows about Jase is that he’s been shot with several arrows and one of those arrows was embedded in his chest. Someone grabs Jase. Later, Kazi sees a severed hand with his ring on it. She continues staying in Jase’s kingdom even though it’s been overrun with attacks and most of his family fled and is in hiding. Kazi stays to help Lydia and Nash, Jase’s young siblings. Kazi isn’t sure if she can trust anyone and the danger spirals around her. I can’t say much more without giving some of the story away! An intriguing story of love, loyalty, bravery and perseverance, 5 stars!

Dreaming Darkly by Caitlin Kittredge!

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Creepy fun! I thoroughly enjoyed Dreaming Darkly by Caitlin Kittredge!
Ivy’s mother recently committed suicide, so she’s going to live on the island of Darkhaven with her Uncle Simon and his housekeeper. Ivy soon learns about the Bloodgood family curse from the only other people living on the island, the Ramsey family. Veronica, the housekeeper, later explains the curse to Ivy. Uncle Simon also tells Ivy about the murders her great grandfather committed. He killed an entire household leaving only one Ramsey family member alive and then his twelve-year-old daughter walked in and saw him covered in blood. Supposedly this curse makes people crazy. Ivy does make a few friends and school isn’t too bad but living in the manor becomes stranger and scarier. Ivy sees skeletons, ghosts and finds a body covered in blood. She almost falls off the cliff but Doyle Ramsey happens to wake her just in time from her sleep walking. I would have liked a little more information about Ivy’s parents and the relationship they had but Dreaming Darkly is spooky fun with all the suspense and creepiness needed to make an edge-of-your-seat read, 5 stars!

The Escape Room by Megan Goldin

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Intense and clever!
Thanks to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review The Escape Room by Megan Goldin!
The story opens as Miguel walks his night shift rounds in the empty, not-yet-open office building. He hears a scream and gunshots so he calls 9-1-1 and two policemen arrive. The police are skeptical until an elevator door opens and they start shooting. When Miguel finally gets a view of the elevator, he’s disturbed because he’s never seen that much blood before. The story then jumps back to thirty-four hours earlier when four people meet in an empty office building in the South Bronx on a Friday night. Next, Sylvie, Sam, Jules and Vincent are introduced to the story and they’re all on edge since the meeting was set up last minute and is interfering with their personal plans. The meeting appears to be an escape room challenge and as the four coworkers struggle to find clues, the story alternates with Sara as she’s interviewed, hired and works for Stanhope. Fresh out of college, Sara is thrown right into the devious nature of the career path she’s chosen and the financial and investment banker world takes a devastating toll on her entire life. Greed makes people cold and brutal and Sara learns firsthand how cruel people can be. She’s upset over the supposed suicidal death of coworker Lucy and questions Vincent when she feels that Lucy didn’t really commit suicide. She asks him if he thinks that maybe there was foul play. After that discussion, Sara’s berated about her work and her appearance and she eventually loses her job. The story alternates between Sara and her four elevator-confined coworkers. The escape room clues are interesting and we learn the reasoning behind them as the trapped four work them out. A solid suspenseful tale of greed, self-absorption and actions people might take to ensure that they come out on top, 4 stars!

T-Minus by Shannon Greenland

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Thrilling read!
Thanks to NetGalley, Edelweiss and Entangled Teen for the opportunity to read and review T-Minus by Shannon Greenland!
The president’s daughter, Sophie, is awakened during the night when the secret service has discovered a terrorist attack in the making. The story alternates between the present, as the attack progresses, with snippets of past experiences and memories that Sophie has with her family and friends. Her brother Erik is not home and the family believes he’s in danger and they are right. The mystery gradually unravels as to the purpose behind the attack but meanwhile people are dying, being kidnapped or, as in Sophie’s case, being manipulated into doing the terrorists’ bidding. Sophie is part of the TIA, a teenage agency created by the CIA to train and teach survival skills and tactics to teens. She’s made strong friends in the TIA and they help her get to the bottom of what’s going on. Unique characters and the alternating of past and present builds the relationships up and creates empathy for the characters. A suspenseful YA mystery, 4 stars!