The Corpse Queen by Heather M. Herrman

Riveting read!

In 1855 Philadelphia, Molly lives at an orphanage until her aunt requests that she live with her. Before she even meets her aunt, she’s told she has to pick up a package first which turns out to be nothing like she expects. Molly is mourning the death of her friend Kitty who drowned in the river. Mother Superior told Molly, with a sneer, that Kitty was pregnant and this made Molly angry because Kitty told that secret in confession and no one else should know except the priest. Tom works for Molly’s aunt Ava and he picks her up from the orphanage, takes her to pick up the package then transports her to Ava’s home. Molly finally meets Ava and is given snippets of information about living there and what she’s required to do to stay. She’s expected to collect bodies for Dr. Lavall’s lectures and usually this requires dishonesty. Molly is eventually allowed to join the lectures and discovers that she wants to become a doctor herself even though she’s not welcomed into the surgical world by society. Molly also becomes deeply entwined in the mystery of The Knifeman and it’s going to take all her cleverness and bravery to keep from becoming a victim herself.

Likes/dislikes:
Suspenseful, creepy and frightening story kept me riveted. Molly’s strength overcomes her insecurities from being left in an orphanage by her parents and the abuse she suffered there. I enjoy the diverse characters and Tom’s personality and perseverance. The mystery is interesting.

Language: R for 43 swears and 4 f-bombs.
Mature content: PG-13 for
premarital sex without details and unwed pregnancy by side characters, kissing with main characters.
Violence: PG-13 for grave robbery and stealing parts from dead bodies, such as teeth, an ear and skin, bloody remains, stabbing.

The Second Death of Edie and Violet Bond by Amanda Glaze

Riveting, suspenseful and fun to read!

In 1885 Sacramento, amidst the fight for women’s rights, runaway twins work for a performance troupe as psychics. Edie is reserved while her twin Violet is theatrical. They conduct a seance for an elderly woman who recently lost her cat. While pretending that the cat’s spirit is with them in the room, Edie senses the Veil thinning and a cold, uncomfortable feeling enters the room. She douses the smoldering lavender and the feeling goes away. They’ve helped their customer feel comfort but they’re shaken. Edie’s and Violet’s mother had spiritualist powers and she helped her daughters learn how to be safe with the powers they inherited from her. When their mother dies due to a shadow spirit, their preacher father threatens to send them to an asylum so they run away. They join up with the troupe and meet like-minded women trying to make a living. Edie and Violet become embroiled in a mystery that’s bigger than they ever imagined and much more dangerous than they planned on. Riveting, suspenseful and fun to read, 5 stars!

Likes/dislikes:
I appreciate the author’s note explaining how she based this story on her deceased great grandmother and her twin sister, who both happened to be spiritualists. I was riveted throughout the entire book because the story is interesting and I love the characters. The danger and suspense are intense. The ethnicity is mixed with white, Italian and Black.

Language: PG for 4 swears and no f-bombs
Mature content: PG for a lesbian couple mentioned. Edie (female) and Laws (male)kissing.
Violence: PG-13 for An angry shadow spirit threatening spiritualists, kidnapping and trapping and a bloody death.

The Witch Hunt by Sasha Peyton Smith

Likeable characters!

Frances is now a teacher at Haxahaven. She and Maxine are traveling to Paris and picking up their mutual friend Lena on the way. They travel six days on a fancy ship then stay at Maxine’s family home once they reach Paris. Frances hasn’t told Lena and Maxine that she received a letter from Finn or that she wants to visit her father who abandoned her family when she was young. She meets her father and is underwhelmed with his reaction and his personality. Finn doesn’t evoke trustworthiness but Frances feels that she has to work with him to fix the damage the two of them caused when reaching the veil and speaking to her deceased brother William. Frances and her friends are determined to fix the magic problem caused by the veil breach and they need all the help they can get. Likeable characters! 4 stars!

Mature content: PG-13 for underage drinking, LGBT side characters mentioned
Language: R for 7 swears and 1 f-bomb
Violence: PG-13 for stabbing, shooting and a tied up victim
Mixed Ethnicity and set in 1913 Paris

The Witch Haven by Sasha Peyton Smith

A magical, tragic fantasy!

Frances works in a sewing factory in 1911 America. Working and living conditions aren’t very good. She’s working late one night so she can finish an order that’s scheduled to be delivered the next morning when her boss rushes in to steal money from the till and then notices Frances. He tries to force himself on her and he’s choking her to hold her still. Frances is struggling for air when she suddenly feels an odd sensation in her fingers and hears a whoosh sound. Her boss gasps and lets her go because her scissors have somehow ended up embedded in his neck. It takes Frances a minute to catch her breath and notice that her scissors have killed him. She panics, throws up and decides that the only way to get out of this situation is to stage a crime scene. Her supervisor helps her. She’s picked up by two strangers taking her to a sanitarium but they’re actually witches taking her to a training school. Haxahaven is a school that helps young women use their magical skills to help them become better wives and mothers and conform to the early 1900’s society. Many of these girls also want to learn how to use their magical abilities to protect themselves. Frances and a couple of others sneak out to venture and meet Finn who says he’ll help them train and help Frances figure out what happened to Will, her deceased brother. An entire world opens up to the girls and they get involved in much more than they bargained for. 5 stars for this magical, tragic fantasy!

Enola Holmes and the Elegant Escapade by Nancy Springer

A thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining quick read with mystery and humor, 5 stars!

Enola is once again on the case and this time she’s trying to save a young woman with a dual personality, Cecily. Cecily was kidnapped in a past case and Enola helped her then and will help her now by saving her from the tyrant of a father that has locked her up, neglected and abused her. Cecily doesn’t know she has a dual personality but Enola notices that when Cecily uses her right hand, she’s submissive and when using her left, she’s brave. Enola and Sherlock discuss Cecily’s situation and the mistreatment of her father toward her mother, siblings and herself. Enola discovers that the tyrant has been committing crimes and wants Cecily to bargain with him for better treatment for her family. Sherlock doesn’t want any part of blackmail but admires Enola’s bravery and intelligence. This is a thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining quick read with mystery and humor, 5 stars!

No swearing
Violence- description of crimes but no details of the actions.

Foul Lady Fortune by Chloe Gong

Political intrigue in 1930’s Orient with a mix of historical fiction and fantasy!

The prologue tells of a painful scientific experiment on a person that has been strapped down. Then the story starts as Rosalind is trapping a criminal who is a member of the group responsible for the death of her cousin Juliette during a past act gone awry. She’s exacting revenge on those who were part of it. Political intrigue, spies, agents, Communists and Nationalists describe the characters in this book. Her handler pairs her with another agent, Orion, who has family issues as well. The two of them have to pretend to be married so they can infiltrate the newspaper company and try to discover information on the serial killer murdering people with a toxic liquid in syringes. What they discover turns their lives around and, unbeknownst to Orion and Rosalind, the reader is given the true identity of a mysterious agent, Priest. The author’s notes on Oriental history during the 1930’s are fascinating. Well-written, complex, beloved characters build a fun historical fiction fantasy. 5 stars!

Likes/dislikes:
I enjoyed learning about the history of 1930’s Orient. The author’s notes give readers a glimpse into her research and what’s based on facts and what’s completely fiction in this story. Rosalind and Orion are characters with depth and I had fun getting to know them.
Swearing: PG for three swears, no f-bombs
Mature content: PG for lgbtq transgender character mentioned
Violence: PG-13 for killing by poison, shooting, bloody shooting, stabbing, bloody stabbing

The Patron Thief of Bread by Lindsay Eagar

A clean read for upper elementary and middle school readers!

I love the cover because two images can be seen when you change your perspective, black outline of a girl tossing coins and black print of a gargoyle on a cathedral wall.
The opening is told in the gargoyle’s point of view and the statue sees a young woman carrying her baby while running from men. As they almost capture her, she jumps into the river while holding onto her baby. Eight years later, Duck is a young girl within a group of traveling thieves. She’s trying to prove that she’s helpful and ends up as a baker’s apprentice to infiltrate the bakery and steal from inside. She continues to give bread to her thief group, the Crowns, but doubts more and more that she’s doing the right thing because she’s feeling loved by the baker. As the stakes rise, Duck will have to make some tough choices and decide who her family is and who she’s loyal to. 4 stars for this sweet tale of finding your true self.

Ethnicity is predominantly white; it is a historical fiction fantasy.
Language content: no swears
Violence content: PG – men chasing woman and baby and she’s running for their safety.
Mature content: PG – thievery, grooming for a gang
Likes/dislikes: I like the baker. She’s tremendously generous and kind. I appreciate the author’s writing of Duck’s conflicts between right and wrong and in finding her sense of belonging. This is a clean read with a good message. Alternating timelines with a unique gargoyle and a young girl named Duck.

The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel

Inspiring!

Eva is Jewish and lives with her parents in Paris during World War II. Her father is captured and sent to a prison camp while Eva and her mother are away from home helping a neighbor. Eva’s father made her promise earlier that she would leave Paris and travel to Switzerland if he was ever captured. Eva convinces her mother to go. They stop in a town close to the border and meet people that are very interested in the documents Eva made for her and her mother so they could get out of Paris. She discovers they’re forgers and resistance helping Jewish children by creating false documents to help them get to Switzerland. The resistance members are impressed with her work and ask for her help. Eva meets another forger, Remy, who is French. He’s not Jewish but he wants to do everything he can to help stop the Germans and their genocide. Eva and Remy improve their techniques and create better documents faster. They help save many children until the group is betrayed by one of their own. Everything is looted or destroyed by German soldiers and most of the resistance members are captured and killed. This is an inspiring story that gives readers perspective to our times and struggles. I enjoyed reading the author’s notes and her acknowledgments and discovering the research she conducted and the nonfiction books she based her characters and their actions on. I’m interested in reading the author’s other books that also deal with World War II and the resistance groups. 5 heartfelt stars!

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Tremendously honest, heartbreaking and soul healing!

Kya lives in the marshlands of North Carolina with her poverty stricken family. Her father is abusive and, one by one, her siblings leave and, eventually, so does her mother. Her father stays and he seems better for a time, even kind. Then he falls back into his old ways again and ends up leaving too. Kya tries school for a day but after being bullied, she doesn’t return. She makes it completely on her own and digs mussels to sell to the local store to bring in money for food. Tate, a boy a few years older than Kya, loves to explore the marsh. They become friends and he teaches her to read. With reading, she discovers and teaches herself to be literate and all about the marshlands and its nature. She illustrates and collects samples of everything she finds in her marsh area. Tate leaves to attend college and becomes a biologist and works in the marsh. He submits Kya’s illustrations and notes to a publisher and she becomes a published author several times over. She adds comforts to her house and lives well by her own wealth. She lives simply but she gets electricity and running water and other basic comforts that she’s never had. When Tate went away to college, he realized that his life would be difficult for Kya. So, he doesn’t visit her for years. While he’s away, the local and popular Chase moves in on Kya. He tricks her into thinking he’s going to marry her, all the while dating other women. Kya eventually sees his engagement article in the local newspaper and ends it with him. Later, he attacks her, trying to rape her and he beats her up. She fights back and escapes. His body is found later and it looks like he fell from the fire tower in the marsh. Since he was a local celebrity, the police are pushed to investigate for foul play. Kya is arrested and faced with a murder trial. The whole time I’m reading the part after Chase attacks Kya, I’m hoping she killed him but I also don’t want her to be found guilty. The suspense builds to intensity and I couldn’t put the book down! Tremendously honest, heartbreaking and soul healing! 5 stars!

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!