Bloodleaf by Crystal Smith

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Interesting characters wrapped up in intrigue!
Thanks to NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for the opportunity to read and review Bloodleaf by Crystal Smith!
Witchcraft is forbidden in Aurelia’s kingdom and the story opens as she’s sadly watching two women hang for performing witchcraft. Aurelia has performed her share of magic, even though she’s the princess. She’s being sent away to Achleva to marry the prince. In his kingdom, magic is allowed. Along the way, a plot is revealed and she escapes on her own. She disguises herself as a maid and meets other commoners, befriends them and helps them. Someone is trying to break seals and release dark magic and they finally discover who has been breaking them, only after they’ve lost a wonderful friend. I love the part when the prince stands up to the king, speaking the truth about the seal breaker. The king’s reaction raises suspicion. Some of the transitions could be more clear between reality and Aurelia’s visions but for the most part, the visions add depth to the plot. Aurelia loses people she loves and she discovers her true origins. Unpredictable and entertaining, Bloodleaf kept me riveted to the end, 4 stars!

A Sorrow Fierce and Falling by Jessica Cluess

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Interesting character development!
Thanks to NetGalley and Random House for the opportunity to read and review A Sorrow Fierce and Falling by Jessica Cluess!
Now that Blackwood and Nettie are engaged, they are able to fully work together. They move to Blackwood’s estate, Sorrow Fell, and Nettie discovers the curse that goes along with the stolen Fae dwelling. The Blackwood bride deteriorates for decades. Blackwood becomes Imperator and the power changes him and not in a good way. He craves honor, love and acceptance, which he never received from his parents. He yearns to control everything and this puts a wall between himself and Nettie. As the Ancients get closer, the sorcerers, magicians and witches struggle with leadership and the possibility of working together. This third and last book of the series contains more emotional upheavals and ups and downs, as well as great character development! Jessica Cluess has proven herself as a wonderful fantasy author and I would love to read this series again, 5 stars!

Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys

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The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys is a novel masterpiece!
Poverty and suppression hidden under sunshine and kindness describes the picture painted of Spain as the rest of the world sees the land and its people. The story tells itself with alternating points of view and the author’s writing draws the reader into the characters’ lives, so I was pulled quickly into caring for them. Ana lives with her siblings and each of them works as many jobs as possible since their parents are no longer with them. Daniel traveled to Spain from Texas with his parents, his mother of Spanish descent and oil-rich father. Daniel meets Ana at the hotel where she works as a maid. Daniel loves photography and Ana helps him as much as she dares. Daniel starts noticing that Ana keeps her distance like she’s afraid. Another revelation occurs when Ana’s brother Rafe and his coworker realize that the baby coffins being sent to the cemetery for them to bury are actually empty. More injustice is revealed as we learn that Ana’s parents were killed because they wanted to start a school and their ideas went against the beliefs of the leader of Spain, Francisco Franco. The snippets taken from primary sources bring this story to a deeper level and helped me to understand how the rest of the world perceived Spain during this time frame.
The characters and their lives all connect in one way or another and those relationships show how truly complicated and complex Spain’s history is. My heart goes out to the people who suffered in silence for decades and for those still affected by the repercussions. Ruta Sepetys amazes me with every book she writes. Her dedication stands above and beyond what is required because she pours her heart and soul into the stories she creates. I’m grateful that she shares them with the world because, with each book, I gain more knowledge of cultures and history across the globe.
Fountains of Silence, a true work of art! 5 stars!

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!

How It Feels to Float by Helena Fox

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Original, thought-provoking story!
Thanks to Bookish First for the ARC of How It Feels To Float by Helena Fox and Dial Books. I received the book as a Bookish First winner!
Elizabeth, Biz, sees and hears her dad even though he’s been dead for many years. Biz lives in Australia with her single mother and younger twin siblings. She has a best friend named Grace that’s loyal to the point of vandalizing, on Biz’s behalf. They both receive warnings from the police even though Grace keeps saying that Biz was innocent. Grace’s family sends her away and Biz becomes more withdrawn. So, Biz starts therapy and a photography class. Her therapist advises Biz to stay in the moment and acknowledge her feelings and live. She meets new people and makes new friends as she spreads her wings. She also acknowledges the problems that have been buried deep inside. How It Feels to Float was a therapeutic read for me and I relished the professional advice given to Biz. I can see how this book might be triggering, especially if the reader is dealing with similar struggles. I really cannot sum this book’s effect in one word because it’s somewhat enigmatic.,thought-provoking, eye-opening and uniquely unusual! The revealing of the cause of Biz’s struggles was jittery and not explained as well as I expected it to be. I would have appreciated more explanation and feel that this would be more healing and helpful to those that have experienced the same traumas and for this reason, I rate this book 4 stars!

 

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White

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Introspective retelling!
Thanks to NetGalley and Delacorte Press for the opportunity to read and review The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White!
The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein is a fresh and unique retelling of Mary Shelley’s classic story. I love the female protagonist, Elizabeth. Her background has been lonely and she’s always struggling to secure her place in the world, much like women of the time period the story takes place in. The mystery intrigued me and after Elizabeth’s background was set, the action and mystery picked up the story’s pace. Tragedy seems to strike all too often around the Frankenstein manor where Elizabeth was taken in as a young girl. Her favorite companion has always been Victor Frankenstein and he claims ownership and complete companionship of Elizabeth. The story becomes darker as it progresses, which makes it even more interesting to read. Historical fiction, horror, and a retelling earn 5 stars! Kudos to Kiersten White for her remarkable retelling!

Of Rioters and Royals by M.L. Greye

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I received a copy of Of Rioters & Royals by M. L. Greye from the author. Declan is vying to become a challenger to end the long-lasting feud that’s overrun the kingdom. He’s going to be a competitor in the fight for Princess Emry’s favor and to become her Knight. The first part of the book sets the background and world building and once Declan and Emry are introduced, I became invested! The two of them share a pull that draws them together, even though it’s been several years since they’ve seen each other. Declan seems independent and Emry is adventurous. In their world, different colors of eyes have specific skills and talents. Declan has teal eyes that give him speed. Emry’s eyes are silver and she can cast shadows and hide herself. They are both keeping secrets from each other and eventually they discover what those secrets are. If I say more, I might give too much away. Of Rioters & Royals is the first in the Swift Shadows series that continues with the sequel, Entwined Paths. Lots of intrigue and somewhat unknown backstories make a fun-to-read fantasy, 5 stars!

Crown of Feathers by Nicki Pau Preto

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Great beginning to a new fantasy series!
Thanks to NetGalley, Edelweiss and Simon Pulse for the opportunity to read and review Crown of feathers by Nicki Pau Preto!
Val and Veronyka are sisters who can communicate with animals (animages) and convince the animals to do their bidding. The sisters also have that same effect on people (shadowmages). The law prohibits this behavior, so the sisters are in hiding and they have been for years, alone and on their own, moving from place to place to survive and hunt for Phoenix eggs to rejuvenate the Phoenix riders. They discover two eggs and one hatches; the Phoenix chick chooses Veronyka instead of the elder sister Val.
Sev is a soldier by choosing service instead of punishment for his crimes. He accidentally sees Veronyka and her Phoenix, Xyphera, while Raiders are attacking her cabin. Sev and a prisoner help her escape the notice of the raiders. Later, Val kills Xyphera because she thinks Veronyka has raised her poorly. This breaks Veronyka’s heart and she leaves Val behind to search for Phoenix eggs and Phoenix riders on her own. During her search, Veronyka meets Sparrow, an animage with a bird companion named Chirp.
Tristan is a Phoenix rider who’s afraid of fire and he feels like he’s a constant disappointment to his father. The group of Phoenix riders that Veronyka finds only accepts boys and Sparrow gives her the idea to pose as a boy, becoming Veronyka’s “brother”, Nyk. Nyk meets Tristan, the son of the Phoenix riders’ Commander. They have a tumultuous relationship for a while because Tristan is under his father’s thumb. Everything comes to a head when Nyk sees Val in the crowd! Veronyka’s life becomes much more complicated after Val shows up and many truths are revealed, leaving Veronyka questioning everything about who she is. 5 stars for this complex and unique fantasy!

Paper Girl by Cindy R. Wilson

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Fun romance!
Thanks to NetGalley and Entangled Teen for the opportunity to read and review Paper Girl by Cindy R. Wilson!
Zoe is home-schooled and Jackson is homeless and they play chess together online, not knowing each other’s true identities. Before things changed for Zoe, she talked to Jackson at a basketball game her sister was cheering at. Zoe and Jackson think about each other from before she was home-schooled but neither of them realize that. Since Zoe needs help with Math and Physics, her mother hires Jackson for tutoring and their relationship grows into more than just friendly acquaintances. They help each other deal with personal struggles, Zoe’s anxiety and Jackson’s relationship with his father. Paper Girl is therapeutic and a cute young adult romance, 5 stars!