Empress of All Seasons by Emiko Jean

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Action filled mythological adventure!
Thanks to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, NetGalley and Edelweiss for the opportunity to read and review Empress of All Seasons by Emiko Jean.
Taro is the son of the emperor but, unlike his father, Taro has a kind heart. This kindness angers the emperor. Mari is an Animal Wife yokai (a human with supernatural powers that can change into a beast) with the strength and intelligence to best her opponents. She’s not beautiful, so her mother is disappointed in her and makes her train as a warrior instead. Mari’s mother wants Mari to conquer the Empire, become Empress and steal the prince’s fortune. Akira, known as the Son of Nightmares because of his scarred face, loves Mari, even though to her they will only ever be friends. He follows behind the procession taking Mari to the Empire for the Seasons Rooms competition, so he can keep an eye on her without anyone knowing. Akira has a wonderful sense of humor, even though he’s had a painful and lonely life. Mari feels overwhelmed by the competition and because of all of the young women involved but she uses her wits and her values to overcome her challenges. I enjoyed the intermittent stories of gods and goddesses that explain the creation of Mari’s world. Action packed, filled with mythology and adventure, Empress of All Seasons is an unputdownable fantasy read worthy of 5 stars!

The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell

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The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell. Several stories intertwine from past and present within a city filled with magic. Esta uses a special piece of jewelry to travel through time. On one of her time traveling trips, the jewelry piece breaks and she can’t return home. Esta figures out the way to return home but she needs the help of a few unsuspecting people, which gets interesting. Several characters make up this story and their lives continue to affect each other. Clever writing and an interesting setting create an intelligent fantasy worth reading, 5 stars!

Body Swap by Sylvia McNicoll

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Fun with a twist!
Thanks to NetGalley and Dundurn Press for the opportunity to read and review Body Swap by Sylvia McNicoll!
Hallie, a teenager, focuses on her cell phone so much that she walks in front of a car and gets hit. An elderly woman, Susan, was driving the car and she blames the car’s mechanical problems for the accident. Both of them are badly injured and unconscious and while they’re in that state, they involuntarily switch places. This story reminds me of Freaky Friday except the switchers aren’t family members and ageism is prevalent. Hallie is a spunky, self-absorbed teenage girl that’s slightly boy crazy and Susan is an octogenarian that’s feeling smothered by her son and daughter-in-law. They want to take away her independence, her car and her condo and make her move into a retirement home. When Hallie and Susan trade places, they gradually grow to truly care for each other and gain a great deal of compassion. I like how the author brought ageism to light and built empathy towards both young and old. Endearing realistic fiction with a twist, 4 stars!

Broken Things by Lauren Oliver

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Broken Things by Lauren Oliver and published by HarperCollins tells the story of how Mia, Brynn and the whole town were left reeling from the horrible murder of Summer.
Summer, Mia and Brynn were friends. The three girls pretended that a fantasy book world, Lovelorn, was real until the devastating loss of Summer. Five years later, Mia and Brynn try to piece all of the clues of this unsolved murder together. With the help of Mia’s friend Abby and Brynn’s cousin Wade, they scour the town and surrounding areas to solve this mystery. Twisting between make-believe and reality, the story spins seemingly in circles until the truth stands out clearly. Interesting, intense and emotionally jarring, Broken Things is a 5 star must read!

Frequency by Christopher Krovatin

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Engaging read!
Thanks to NetGalley and Entangled for the opportunity to read and review Frequency by Christopher Krovatin!
Fiona sees her father and his companions threaten and beat up a young man when she’s a young girl. The story jumps to an eighteen year old Fiona and her boyfriend Horace. She’s content with her life until Horace and their mutual friends get caught up in the party life, drugs and mind altering music of Pit Viper, the DJ that was beaten up by Fiona’s father all those years ago. The mystery surrounding Pit Viper is confusing to Fiona and she’s not sure whether it’s ominous or misunderstood. Fiona enters a world that she might regret and a relationship she might not be ready for. Part science fiction, part fantasy and all engaging, 5 stars!

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

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As a reread, this book is just as amazing the second time around!

An Ember in the Ashes, by Sabaa Tahir, opens as Laia witnesses the killings of her grandparents and the capture of her brother Darin as soldiers attack their home, accusing Darin of being a part of the Resistance. Laia’s story alternates with Elias, a soldier training most of his life to serve the Empire. Laia finds the Resistance to try and save Darin while Elias debates desertion or staying and serving the Empire. Laia is bought as the Commandant’s new slave girl, a Resistance idea to find out information about Darin so they can plan how to help him. Laia discovers life as a slave is horrible and she’s having a very difficult time getting information for the Resistance. Four Masks are sent into nightmarish trials, Elias and Helene are two of the soldiers, and they must overcome their worst fears to survive as their love, loyalty and hearts are strained through horrific events. Throughout the story, Elias and Laia unexpectedly run into each other and they unwillingly get to know each other. Each chapter ends with intensity, so it’s a difficult book to put down. Dynamic, complex characters to love and hate make this story suspenseful, exciting and interesting, 5 stars!

Rule by Ellen Goodlett

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Fantasy at its best!
Thanks to NetGalley, Edelweiss and Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for the opportunity to read and review Rule by Ellen Goodlett!
Zofi overhears people asking her mother about her and while her mother distracts them, Zofi cuts a slash in the back of their tent and sneaks away. She’s proficient with the Blood Arts and when she makes a tiny nip in her skin with the end of her knife, energy is pulled into her blood and she makes a much quicker getaway. To her dismay, Zofi is captured anyway. Akeylah is beaten and hated by her family, especially her father, because their mother died giving birth to her. She gets help to put a curse on her father and make him sick, through the Vulgar Arts. Florencia, (Ren), is a servant, as her mother is. Ren has been raised in the palace and knows how to interact with royalty and she believes she’s guilty of a traitorous act that caused the death of almost two thousand people. The three young women have been summoned to the king and he tells them that they are his daughters and he needs one of them to take the place of his heir, Prince Nicolen, that’s no longer alive. And the king himself is sick and dying. Akeylah realizes that she’s the one who made him ill because he’s her real father. Each of the king’s daughters has a secret to hide. It seems that someone knows about their secrets because each of them has been receiving knowledgeable blackmail notes and other messages. The three sisters begin working together to figure out who the blackmailer is and end the threat. Rule is a complex fantasy that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. The ending is intense! Fantasy at its best, 5 stars!

A Touch of Gold by Annie Sullivan

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A pirating adventure full of dynamic characters!
Thanks to NetGalley and Blink for the opportunity to read and review A Touch of Gold by Annie Sullivan.
This story introduces the daughter of King Midas, Princess Kora, who has seen the bad end of “the curse of the golden touch” which was given to her father by Dionysus. Her skin is the color of gold and she’s been kept hidden for her protection since the curse. Someone steals the king’s gold, the gold that gives him strength. Kora can sense where the gold is, so she sets off on a mission with Duke Aris to retrieve the gold and help her father gain his strength back. Kora’s cousin Hettie sneaks on board for the trip only to be disheartened when she discovers how the ship’s living conditions are unlike the palace’s. Aris has gotten the crew that he’s sailed with for years but things seem to be changing and the crew might not be trustworthy anymore. As their search for the gold continues, Kora and Hettie adapt to life on the ship, while training for sword fighting and gaining friendships. The two of them soon discover who they can and can’t trust. The crew also sees the true horror that Captain Skulls encompasses, with dire circumstances. Touch of Gold is a pirating adventure with originality and dynamic characters, 5 stars!

Seventh Born by Monica Sanz

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Fantasy with a touch of romance!
Thanks to NetGalley and Entangled Teen for the opportunity to read and review Seventh Born by Monica Sanz!
Seraphina lives in a society that’s prejudice against her because she’s a seventh born. She’s not allowed to have any friends, not even other seventh borns, and she’s forced to grovel to authority. Sera does have one forbidden friend that’s helpful and kind to her, Mary. As Mary and Sera are gathering books to give themselves a chance to talk to each other, a teen boy “accidentally” knocks books down on top of them. Sera is so angry that she causes his clothes to smolder without using a wand, so he can’t prove her fault without calling her powerful and without getting himself in trouble for dropping the books. A professor gets her out of the situation and later invites her to see him privately. Sera cautiously visits Professor Barrington and is relieved and surprised when he offers her a referral letter if she’ll help him investigate murders and be his investigative assistant. A new world is opened up to Sera as she learns spells, the history and reality of the seventh born persecution and her own abilities. A fantasy with a touch of romance and some twists, 5 stars!

Keeper of the Bees by Meg Kassel

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Much more complex than I anticipated!
Thanks to NetGalley and Entangled for the opportunity to read and review Keeper of the Bees by Meg Kassel!
I assumed this would be a continuation of Black Bird of the Gallows, but it’s actually a companion novel with separate characters. Essie struggles with hallucinations, like many of her ancestors have. Dresden is the living embodiment of a curse that he received centuries ago. The two meet by chance and stop each other in their tracks. Essie sees Dresden as beautiful and wants to be in his company. Dresden is amazed at her reaction and is intrigued by her. The world building and background history are both fascinating and interesting and this story is so much more complex than I anticipated. A wonderful love story, 4 stars!