When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

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Truly original fantasy!
I read When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore as a buddy-read event for Dragons & Tea Book Club. Thanks to NetGalley and Thomas Dunne Books for the opportunity to read and review this book by providing the ARC!
This is a unique story that pulls from deep-seated cultural roots and a little deception. Sam and Miel share trust, loyalty and a special relationship. They also share their community with a group of sisters that could be considered mean girls, with a power they’ve grown so used to, that they do not want to lose it and will do whatever it takes to keep it. Wow! Aracely’s background revelation was something I was not expecting! Sam struggles with the decision of who (what gender) he wants to be in the near future. He’s struggling to the point of desperation. Miel blames herself for the loss of her mother and brother. She thinks the river might give them back to her. The fantastical elements are kind of difficult to understand in this story but I do enjoy the flow of the author’s writing. As usually is the case, the author’s notes are enlightening! They are also helpful in understanding Miel’s fears and Sam’s struggles. I appreciate that Anna-Marie McLemore shares such personal experiences and revelations with her readers! 4 stars for this unique fantasy!

Not If I Save You First by Ally Carter

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Not if I Save You First by Ally Carter opens as ten-year-old Logan and his best friend Maddie witness the violence that occurs with the attempted kidnapping of his mother, the First Lady. Logan is the president’s son and his best friend is the daughter of the head of the Secret Service. Maddie’s father gets shot and badly injured during the kidnapping attempt, so he decides to move to Alaska with his daughter to recover and distance themselves from the danger. Now, six years later, Logan gets sent to stay with them for his own safety. Logan has a tendency to be careless and unconcerned about what happens to him and this has exasperated his parents. Maddie is extremely angry at Logan because she wrote letters to him for years after their move to Alaska and she never received anything from him. The day Logan arrives, Maddie’s father leaves to make a quick delivery because a terrible storm is coming. While he’s away, Maddie and Logan are confronted by an abductor who wants to use Logan for leverage. Maddie is shoved down a hill, left for dead and the kidnapper forces Logan to move on. The danger compounds because of the Alaskan wilderness and lack of food, shelter and heat. I thoroughly enjoyed Not If I Save You First for several reasons- the suspense, mystery and sarcastic humor and I love the characters! 5 solid stars for a fun, action-packed adventure!

In Another Life by C.C. Hunter

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Realistic fiction by C. C. Hunter!
Thanks to Wednesday Books and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review In Another Life by C. C. Hunter!
Chloe moved to Joyful, Texas with her mom after the divorce. She’s lived in Joyful before, when she was three years old and had just been adopted. She doesn’t really remember anything about it from before. Cash lives in a foster home with Ms. Fuller. She’s an amazing foster parent and truly cares about Cash. Cash knows that Ms. Fuller lost her daughter a long time ago and he wants to help her feel better. The story jumps around and finally transitions more smoothly after the first quarter of the book. I felt like I became more invested in the characters of Chloe and Cash after that point. The story involves con artists, kidnapping, deception, friendship and family. With all of the events, the two strong main characters and the author’s writing style, In Another Life is an enjoyable read worth 4 stars!

Shimmer and Burn by Mary Taranta

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Shimmer and Burn by Mary Taranta jumps into an intense storyline. Right from the beginning, I was hooked! Faris and Thaelan live completely different lives in opposite areas of the kingdom. Faris and her sister Cadence live in poverty while Thaelan is a member of nobility. Thaelan and Faris are in love and want to run away so they can be together. Faris and Cadence are pretty much on their own because of their dysfunctional father and deceased mother; a mother that stabbed Faris in the chest, trying to kill her years ago. Cadence and Thaelan are captured while they are trying to escape, the two of them receive horrible consequences. Faris is offered a job to earn money to buy Cadence’s freedom. The job offer comes from the kingdom’s executioner and his betrothed, Princess Bryn. Things become a bit confusing when Bryn and Faris are captured and the “owners” change hands a couple of times. Once that’s settled, the situation begins to clear up again. Bryn and Faris end up riding with North, a mysterious young man with secrets of his own. The relationships sparkle and the world frightens in this dark, dreary fantasy made up of magic that cripples and sometimes completely transforms. A range of emotions surrounds the storyline and tragedy, intensity and brutality sum up the characters’ lives. Deeply dynamic, Shimmer and Burn is waiting to pull you into its world! 5 stars!

Plague Land by Alex Scarrow

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Mutating virus on the rampage!
Thanks to Edelweiss, NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire for the opportunity to read and review Plague Land by Alex Scarrow.
A fast-moving, fast-killing virus is spreading across the globe while some governments are hiding the fact and scientists are scurrying to understand and overcome the virus. Leon, his sister and mother are traveling by train to his grandparents’ house when the virus hits. Several people on the train are infected and die, so when daylight comes, they travel outdoors and watch for the telltale flakes of the virus. Two of their group get touched by the virus and by the time they reach a barn for shelter, they show signs of the virus and die in front of their eyes. The virus continues to evolve and grow into larger organisms that fight even harder for survival. The author creates intense imagery and a frightening sense of loneliness and destruction. Creepy dystopian, 4 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!

#Murdertrending by Gretchen McNeil

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Horror with a bit of humor!
Thanks to NetGalley and Disney Book Group for the opportunity to read and review Murder Trending by Gretchen McNeil!
Government-sanctioned serial killers entertain citizens on The Postman app, which shows them hunting and killing convicts. A seventeen-year-old has been convicted of killing her stepsister. This teen’s name is Dee and she says she’s innocent. After the trial, Dee woke up on Alcatraz Island in a cell that reminded her of when she’d been kidnapped as an eleven-year-old. She has no recollection of the time between her trial and waking up in a cell on Alcatraz Island. The back and forth telling of the kidnapping and Alcatraz Island was difficult to follow for a while, but I kept reading and the story did get better. The characters grew on me and the unique plot and setting drew my interest. With some twists and turns and a bit of humor, #Murdertrending is entertaining, 4 stars!

Neverwake by Amy Plum

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Never Wake by Amy Plum, the sequel to Dreamfall, starts right where the first book left off. Dreamfall ended with the documented knowledge that one of the teens is a psychopath. The intensity is amplified and the suspense keeps building! The dream state is lasting longer and the void is shortening, so the teens are inside nightmares longer each time and their rest time will eventually disappear. They’re already struggling to survive while the nightmares become more dangerous. The intern observing the trial keeps taking detailed notes and she’s noticed the changes and believes the patients are dreaming and she’s trying to convince the researchers. She was also able to warn Fergus about one of the teens being a psychopath, but he fell back asleep before she stated the psychopath’s name. Neverwake’s intensity kept me glued to the book and this young adult horror full of unique, interesting characters earns 5 stars!

Dreamfall by Amy Plum

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Dream Fall by Amy Plum involves a group of teenagers suffering from insomnia. They meet for the introduction of a medical treatment that’s supposed to help them all get full nights of sleep. This is a medical trial for these seven teenagers who are in the second batch of testing, the betas. One person, the alpha, has been successful with the treatment already. After the seven reach the dream state, there’s a power bump which causes them to enter a comatose state, according to the research doctors. But the teenagers are actually stuck in a horrifying dream world together. One by one, the dreaming teenagers realize that they are together in a combined dream state. None of them can remember the medical trial or any other short term happenings. While the teens sleep on, the doctors over the trial frantically try to fix their comatose state. As the group moves through each other’s nightmares, they began to recall where they are. The danger keeps increasing and death becomes all too real. The ending is a cliffhanger and the scariest part of the story. 4 stars for this young adult horror story!

Letting Go of Gravity by Meg Leder

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Touching realistic fiction!
Thanks to NetGalley and Simon Pulse for the opportunity to read and review Letting Go of Gravity by Meg Leder! Parker and Charlie are twins. One of them is giving the Valedictorian speech at high school graduation and the other watches from the audience, not graduating because of being held back a year in school, due to a second bout with leukemia. Parker has her future set out for her and Charlie is tired of dealing with leukemia. At the same time, Charlie seems much more confident about what he’s feeling and what he wants compared to Parker, who has uncertainties about everything. Parker crosses paths with Finn, a friend from elementary school that she lost track of. Charlie acts like he has a death wish and it’s upsetting his family and friends so much that his parents send him to a cancer therapy support group. Parker thinks that Charlie hates her and she seems to keep making the same mistakes, over and over, that make him angry. Through the turmoil of figuring out their lives and futures, Parker and Charlie surprise each other with how similar they are but different at the same time. A touching realistic fiction story with Ruby and Finn, dynamic side characters that bring an extra level of maturity to the plot and story line. 5 stars!