The Hacienda by Isabel Canas

I did not want this book to end!

Beatriz marries Rodolfo. He’s a businessman and owns a large estate. He leaves to do business so Beatriz runs the estate in his absence. Juana, Rodolfo’s sister, believes she’s the one in charge and she treats everyone gruffly. Beatriz starts to feel like she’s being watched and things get creepier from there, to the point that she’s afraid for her life. She asks the local priests for help and all but one shun her. Padre Andres helps her under the guise of being a priest to help the estate workers. He has knowledge from his ancestors that can help exorcise evil. The house has an extremely powerful, angry spirit and it’s harmful. This is an elaborate and beautifully written horror story that I didn’t ever want to put down. I also didn’t want it to end. 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!

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!

Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Story by Caren Stelson

Perseverance and Strength Shine Through Sachiko’s Story!

This nonfiction book takes us back in time to show us what life was like for Sachiko and other Japanese families during World War II. The historical facts include racism in America, Japan and Germany, information on Japanese Internment Camps, the treatment of prisoners of war by Japan’s soldiers, the reason for the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and the dropping of atomic bombs in Japan. I could only read this in bits because of the horrific results of the bombs on the citizens. Sachiko was at the site of the Nagasaki atomic bomb explosion and her family died one by one because of the short term and long term effects of the bombing. After Japan’s surrender, American soldiers became a large presence in the Japanese communities. I learned quite a lot from this book that’s just a little over one hundred pages; the stifling of information concerning the atomic bombs, propaganda after WWII, the research coalition set up to gather information about but not help the bomb survivors and the statistics of long lasting radiation sickness. Perseverance and strength shine through Sachiko’s story and I’m grateful to have read this inspiring book that teaches us to strive for peace. 5 stars!

Half Sick of Shadows by Laura Sebastian

Fresh Camelot tale!

Elaine is a seer and she is friends with Arthur, Gwen (Guinevere), Lancelot and Morgana. Arthur’s father, the king, dies. So, Arthur has to return home to take over the reign of the kingdom. Morgana has a cruel twin sister, Morgause. None of the friends want to return to Camelot but they have to nonetheless. Elaine sees a vision that horrifies her to the point of being terrified of what’s to come.

The group arrives at Camelot just as Mordred is about to be named king. Since Arthur has shown up, he’s set to go to Lyonesse to procure a treaty. He has little support from Camelot with only a handful of knights willing to go with him and his group of friends. Lyonesse is supposed to be extremely violent and dangerous and most people never return. When they arrive, they sense something ominous but don’t understand it. That night they hear screams and feral howls and are terrified. The next morning Gwen explains the true nature of her kingdom. Somehow, the king offers up his daughter Gwen to duel with Arthur and what follows astounds everyone. This is a wonderfully told Camelot tale. Elaine deals with the curse of being able to see into the future but none of her visions are guaranteed to come to pass. For every outcome, she sees many possibilities and in the meantime, she struggles to prevent bad ones from becoming true. I love the five main characters and wanted their lives to work out well. I’m sad that I finished it because it’s such an engrossing and enjoyable read. Fresh Camelot tale, 5 stars!

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!

Seven Dirty Secrets by Natalie Richards

A fun, fantastic horror story!

Cleo gets done showering and sees a gift- wrapped package on the bathroom sink that wasn’t there before she got in the shower. She assumes it’s from a family member or friend but when she asks about it, no one has any idea about the package. This freaks Cleo out so she calls the police and the cop is respectful and helps her realize that she did the right thing by calling. No victim shaming. Her best friend Hope shows up in the meantime. The officer finds a few windows unlocked in her house but nothing else. After the officer leaves, the two friends find another box containing a scavenger hunt clue like the first package. The hunt grows creepier as the clues dredge up memories that Cleo would like to forget. This mystery gets more interesting as the creep factor cranks up! A fun, fantastic horror story, 5 stars!

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

Unique story of freedom, love and sacrifice!

Addie was going to be forced to marry a widower with young children, so she prayed and sacrificed to any God that would listen. Darkness appeared and made a deal to give her freedom for her soul. Years, decades, then three centuries go by while Darkness visits Addie sporadically. No one remembers her after she leaves their sight. If she sees them again, they reintroduce themselves as if they’ve never seen her before. She’s truly lonely. She also can’t keep possessions or stay in one place long. Every one of her possessions disappears except for a carved wooden ring. She wanders the world for three hundred years, experiencing famine, poverty, cruelty and love. Addie shows great strength as her character grows through her many experiences. A truly unique story of freedom, love and sacrifice, 5 stars!

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson

Intricate, enjoyable mystery!

Pip is doing her Capstone Project on a five-year-old disappearance case that took place in her town. She isn’t sure that the case was truly solved. She introduces herself to everyone that she thinks was involved in Andie Bell’s disappearance and ruffles lots of feathers as she continues her investigation. Pip and Ravi become friends as they work on solving the mystery. Ravi’s older brother was accused of killing Andie and then committing suicide afterward. The amateur sleuths dive into the case and unravel a complicated weave of problems. Soon, Pip is receiving threats to stay away from the case and it seems that every time she finds a piece of evidence to someone’s guilt, she inevitably discovers more to the story. An enjoyable and intricate mystery, 5 stars!

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

A story of great strength, determination, and unbelievable perseverance!

Elsinore has grown up feeling ugly, unloved, and like she’s a burden to her family. They tell her she’s too tall, not pretty, and sickly. It’s the 1920’s and women tend to be married and have children by the time they’re twenty years old and Elsinore is twenty-five. She wants a change and wants to enjoy life so she cuts her waist-length hair to her chin and buys red silk and creates a flapper dress. She sneaks out one night to go to the speakeasy in town but they won’t let her in and tell her to go home when they realize it’s her. She walks down the street and meets an eighteen-year-old Italian man who wants to have fun. They both admit they’re lonely and see each other a few times to have sex. Rafe calls Elsinore “Els”; she likes the nickname and feels wanted when she’s with him. She ends up with morning sickness and her parents disown her and her father takes her and one packed suitcase to Rafe’s family farm. Elsinore’s father tells Rafe’s parents what’s going on and leaves her there, stating that their family is done with her. Rafe’s parents have saved for him to go to college for a better life but he seems happy to stay on the farm with Els and says that he doesn’t want to go to college anyway. Elsa and Rafe have a girl then a boy. His parents are grateful for Elsa because she’s strong, brave, a hard worker, and a good wife and mother. When the Great Depression hits, Rafe leaves his family behind because he can’t stand staying on the farm anymore. His parents help Elsa raise their grandchildren and they all take care of the farm together. When the land turns into a dust bowl, life gets even worse! The people and animals struggle to survive the heat, the powerful winds, and the extreme dust everywhere. Ant, the youngest grandchild, becomes deathly sick with dust pneumonia and that’s when they decide it’s time to leave the Great Plains behind. When Elsa leaves for California with her children, she’s terrified but sees no other solution. They make it to California but find discrimination and harsh prejudice, horrible working and living conditions, and struggle to survive because of little and sometimes no income. The three do discover strength and loyalty and what they are truly capable of. A story of great strength, determination, and unbelievable perseverance, 5 stars!