Lakesedge by Lyndall Clipstone

Interesting, unique world!

Violeta is fierce about protecting her brother Arien. Sometimes when he sleeps, dark shadows surround him. When he has an episode in the village during the day; he runs into the woods. He hides because he knows people will be afraid of him. Lord Sylvanan rules the village and he finds Violeta and Arien in the woods and promises that he can help with the shadows. They travel together to Lord Sylvanan’s grounds and discover that he also deals with darkness and guilt. His first name is Rowan but Violeta doesn’t trust him to not harm Arien. They see Rowan’s shadows and how he has to make sacrifices to the Corruption so it won’t take over their world. Slowly, she begins to trust him and tries to help stop the Corruption. Arien is taught to use his magic by Clover, the alchemist who resides in Rowan’s home. The housekeeper Florence takes good care of all of them. Arien grows stronger and believes in himself as Clover helps him grow and direct the shadows. Lord Under appears to Violeta, Leta for short, and she recognizes him from when she made a sacrifice to keep Arien safe when they were younger. She trusts him but she shouldn’t trust him completely. Lord Under watches over the souls of people that have passed on. Their hearts live on in trees within Lord Under’s world. His domain is falling apart too and he’ll do anything to save it. Interesting, unique world. 4 stars!

It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover

A truly touching story with many life lessons!

Lily finds a random rooftop in Boston so she can reflect on the eulogy she gave at her father’s funeral. She misses solitude since she has moved to Boston and has a not quiet roommate. While on this rooftop, she meets Ryle, a neurosurgeon resident. Ryle is adamantly against relationships in his life but he enjoys flirting with Lily. Through coincidental circumstances, Lily sees Ryle here and there throughout the next year. They eventually become involved in a relationship and his family absolutely loves her. She doesn’t about his temper until he hurts her and then she’s left wondering if it was accidental. In the meantime, Lily grows closer to her mother and she runs into Atlas, her first boyfriend. We learn about her past with Atlas and how much they both helped each other when they were teenagers. I read this book quickly because it’s completely engrossing and I fell right into the story! The characters are authentic and I grew to love them, with their humor and quirks and through their struggles. The author’s notes share the author’s perspective as she created this story and I admire how well she dealt with the delicate issues and the choices of the main characters. A truly touching story with several life lessons, 5 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!

Pretend She’s Here by Luanne Rice

Suspenseful, crazy, thought provoking;
5 stars!

Emily lost her best friend Lizzie and now she’s been kidnapped by Lizzie’s family to be her replacement. Lizzie’s mother has gone insane with grief. She’s tried to turn their younger daughter Chloe into Lizzie but that didn’t work because they’re still missing a child and have an empty seat at the kitchen table. Chloe is used as bait to get Emily to the van and convince her to go for a ride. They drug her and kidnap her. Emily is taken from everything she knows and loves and she sees that Lizzie’s mom is twisted in justifying the kidnapping. Emily’s hair is dyed black and she’s forced to wear contacts the colors of Lizzie’s eyes. Little by little, Emily is allowed tiny freedoms and eventually can attend school, if she agrees to send an email to her parents telling them that she ran away. She only agrees to send the email because her mother’s life is threatened if she doesn’t. Trauma, abuse and manipulation are parts of Emily’s daily life now and to keep her family safe, she agrees to be Lizzie.
Suspenseful, crazy, thought provoking; 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!

The Companion by Katie Alender

Creepy, suspenseful fun!

Margot is the sole survivor of a tragic family car accident. She ends up at the Palmer orphanage until a rich family chooses her as their ward. When she first arrives at the mansion, Mr. and Mrs. Sutton are kind and treat her as if she’s special. Margot is soon told about their daughter Agatha who doesn’t speak or show emotion. Agatha used to be a normal teenager but then she became angry and eventually shut down. Mrs. Sutton tells Margot that doctors believe a brain infection caused damage to her frontal cortex and changed her personality. Margot meets Agatha’s brother, Barrett. He’s protective of his sister but eventually warms up to Margot. The longer she’s in the Sutton home, the more strange things she discovers and the foreboding keeps growing. I like Margot and rooted for her throughout the book. Creepy, suspenseful fun, 4 stars!

The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock

Tugs at the heartstrings!

The Smell of Other People’s Houses is a historical fiction story set when Alaska was just barely made into a state of America. Young acquaintances tell their points of view of their lives and their perspective of each other’s. Ruth ends up pregnant with Ray’s baby, Alyce spends her time on the family fishing boat with her father and uncle, Dora lives with Dumpling and Bunny after their father protects Dora from her abusive father and Hank and his brothers stowaway on a ferry. Selma doesn’t know her birth parents but lives with her loving adoptive parents. All of their lives intertwine in different and unique ways. This book is a fairly quick read that pulls at the heartstrings and builds empathy, 5 stars!

Kingdom of Sea and Stone by Mara Rutherford

Characters with strength and integrity!

Zadie and Nor row home and surprise their parents. Talin arrives and the three of them leave on his small ship but see Ceren’s soldiers attack their home as they’re sailing away. Nor seems unsure about the future she wants and when Talin mentions staying together, she panics inside. They travel to Galeth to look for Sami and ask the people for support against Ceren. They make a discovery about the bloodstones and how Ceren uses them to manipulate and control his soldiers. Talin’s four year old sister is queen as the next female heir. Since she’s too young, their mother is representing in her stead. She’s going to war with Ceren and his bloodstone soldiers but she’s using every citizen who’s twelve and older in her army. Nor faces Ceren, trying to talk sense and logic to him. All he wants is power and control no matter how kind and longing for love he might have been when Nor sees a younger Ceren in her visions. He’s a lost soul. This second and last book in the duology finishes the story up nicely with strong characters full of integrity and loyalty, 5 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!

Pony by R.J. Palacio

A western adventure full of action and mystery!

Pony tells the story of a young boy who takes refuge in a tree during a violent storm and when the tree is struck by lightning, receives a burn on his back in the shape of that same tree. The burn heals into a very unique scar. His father revives the boy by using a fireplace bellows. This man is interested in photography but turned to boot making to support his family but the lightning incident stokes his love of art and photos. The young boy, Silas, was born the same day his mother died. So, Silas and his father are without her. Pa is kindhearted and loving and cares deeply about Silas. One night, three riders with pistols drawn, arrive at their home demanding that Pa and Silas go with them. They won’t say why other than their boss wants Pa to work for a week and then he’ll let him return to his home. The riders brought an extra horse and a white-faced pony with them so Pa and Silas could ride along. Pa makes Silas stay behind. The pony shows up soon after the riders leave with Pa. Silas is worried that Pa has been hurt so he rides Pony (Silas’ name for the small horse) and goes after Pa’s trail. He finds so much more than he expected and meets several different allies along the way. Pony is a western adventure full of action and mystery, told with a continuous sense of awe; I loved reading it, 5 stars!