Inferno by Julie Kagawa

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Thanks to NetGalley and Harlequin Teen for the opportunity to read and review Inferno by Julie Kagawa! The fifth and final book of the Talon Saga opens with our heroes in the jungle, searching for a hope to help them fight against Talon’s clone forces. They discover Ouroboros, a centuries old dragon that believes Talon should fall. Once again, the story alternates through the points of view of Ember, Garret, Riley and Dante. This quote from Inferno is something all of us need to take to heart, “Words couldn’t hurt you; as long as you didn’t believe them, they meant nothing.” Put in present tense: words can’t hurt you; as long as you don’t believe them, they mean nothing; this quote becomes a mantra for helping us deal with the bombardment of negativity surrounding us daily. For some reason, negative comments seem to stick with us so much more strongly than positive comments. As I read Inferno, I stopped and realized how this book pulled me in just as the first four books of this series had, with suspense, intrigue, bravery, interesting characters and complete world building. I’m invested in the characters, to the very last page! Resolution, grief, determination, loyalty, friendship and love round out the Talon saga and build it into a fantasy that I plan on revisiting in its entirety, 5 stars!

Cakespell by Gaby Triana

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Cakespell by Gaby Triana tells a story about Rose. Rose loves baking and has aspirations of becoming a famous baker and opening her own shop someday. Her mother hates the idea of Rose baking or working and she wants Rose to only focus on her schoolwork so she can eventually support herself, be self-sufficient and independent. Rose decides to spend her time baking at her grandpa’s house and keeps it a secret from her mother. Her grandpa, who she calls Papa, is more than happy to have Rose at his home. Papa gives Rose all of her deceased grandma’s baking utensils and her special apron that Rose has wonderful memories of. Papa believes that Rose has special baking skills like her grandmother and he teaches her a special Cakespell that makes her baked goods help people fall in love. Rose’s creations are delicious and she begins to gain customers by the dozens. Cakespell is a cute, fun story that also deals with the heavier issues of self-image, losing a loved one, friendship struggles, setting and working toward goals, sportsmanship and lack of parental support. An enjoyable young adult read with crushes, humor and love that round out this adorable tale of baking with a bit of mischief, 4 stars!

Sweet Peril by Wendy Higgins

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Sweet Peril by Wendy Higgins opens with a story from Rome in the 1700’s where two Nephilim are punished for loving each other. Six months have passed since book one and since Anna and Kaidan have seen each other. Kaidan and Anna know they need to stay apart for their own safety as well as the safety of the rebelling Nephilim and supporting demons. Anna has been given a mission and she’s going to be working with Kope. Their mission is to save a young woman in a part of the world where women are devalued, degraded and abused. Her name is Zania. Kope and Anna meet with two Nephilim and then their emotions get in the way, so they decide traveling together is too difficult. Anna then travels alone and she is finally able to have a conversation with Kaidan and they are finally honest with each other and learn how to make their relationship work. Unexpectedly, Kope and Kaidan work together, by wearing Arabic disguises and saving Zania by pretending to purchase her for slavery. Blake, Kaidan, Anna, Kope and Zania are forced to hide in the cold ocean water because the Dukes come to the island they are staying on. While shivering in the water, they are witnesses to a Nephilim murder by the Neph’s own father. The group works with Anna’s father, continually strategizing to build the rebellion up. Sweet Peril is just as exciting as the first book, Sweet Evil, in this supernatural series by Wendy Higgins. 5 stars!

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

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Family members left behind after a suicide face deep pain. Resources offering real help are included in this book! Thanks to NetGalley and Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for the opportunity to read and review The Astonishing Color of After! The main character saw her mother’s suicide and believes that her mother has visited her as a bird. No one believes her even though she has physical evidence. Her and her father visit her maternal grandparents in Taiwan and even though they don’t speak much English, they believe that the bird is true. This book is difficult to categorize into a genre, but even though it has supernatural happenings throughout the story, I feel that this is still, above all, a realistic fiction tale. The deep pain that survivors of suicidal family members face is a real problem and an intense struggle that hasn’t been addressed as much as it’s needed. The Astonishing Color of After helps! Resources are included towards the end of the book for various needs of those dealing with depression, loss, suicide and/or suicidal thoughts. The resources are categorized under the following headings: Suicide Prevention, For Suicide Loss Survivors and Understanding Mental Illness. The cultural education and coping skills made the story more interesting and I love Axel and the great friend that he is to Leigh and I appreciate the author’s honesty about her own experiences of being a suicide survivor. 4 stars!

The Fates Divide by Veronica Roth

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The Fates Divide by Veronica Roth opens as the action picks up where it left off in Carve the Mark, reacquainting us with the characters and their situations. Cyra and Akos have formed a strong bond with each other, Ryazek is in prison and Eijah still suffers from loss of his own memories. Death follows and problems grow. The story is told in first person and third person and alternates between four characters. Complicated, but effective, storytelling flows so well that I was pulled right back into Cyra’s world full of rebellion, intrigue and heartache. Cyra and Akos learn a shocking truth that changes the course of their fates. The suspense builds to intense levels and rounds out this amazingly creative science fiction story. The only thing that bothers me is when the author mixes up Cisi as a Noavek while she’s healing and pondering her fate on page 418. 4.5 stars for the imagination that was put into creating the Noavek/Kereseth world!

The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw

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Thanks to NetGalley and Simon and Schuster for the opportunity to read and review The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw! Chapter One opens the book with the introduction of the main characters, the setting of the town of Sparrow and Lumiere Island, a spooky tale and foreshadowing of death. The main characters are Penny, who lives alone with her mother after her father disappeared three years ago, and Rose. Rose’s mother owns a bakery that sells mini cakes that supposedly help people forget their struggles and painful memories. Tourist season starts and the town celebrates the legend of the three Swan Sisters and their drowning centuries ago. The Swan sisters Marguerite, Aurora and Hazel were drowned after being accused of witchcraft. The story is told in parts, past and present, alternating to reveal the history of the sisters, the disappearance of Penny’s father and the secrets of Bo, the visitor that ends up working on Lumiere Island with Penny. Wicked Deep is a fantasy wrapped in darkness, engulfed in tragedy and heartbreak with intrigue, deception and sacrifice that ultimately brings love into its pages. Wonderfully written and rates a highly recommended 5 stars!

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

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Thanks to NetGalley and MacMillan Children’s Publishing Group for the opportunity to read and review Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi! Females, young and old, train together to learn to be strong, independent and to gain self-defense skills. This training is hidden from the rest of the kingdom because they would be in trouble and danger if anyone else found out they are more than timid servants. These women lost loved ones in a horrific act of violence against their community and have been training ever since. Zelie is a part of this group and when she was five she watched her mother being dragged away and then hung. Amari is an unhappy princess who escapes and inadvertently ends up with Zelie and her family. They run from Prince Inan, Amari’s brother, as he struggles with his internal conflict of whether or not magic is good or evil. During this time, Zelie’s magic grows and she works at controlling her powers. As Zelie, her brother Tzain and Amari learn to trust each other and work together, they encounter horrific dangers as they continue their quest for the artifacts-the scroll, sunstone and the bone dagger. With these artifacts, magic can be restored. Some romance and humor lighten the dark world that Zelie lives in and both of these help her conquer the evil and pain that drags her under. The impressive storyline, immaculate world building and strong, dynamic characters make Children of Blood and Bone an intense fantasy read worth 5 stars!

 

Unraveled by Kate Jarvik Birch

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Thanks to NetGalley and Entangled Publishing for the opportunity to read and review Unraveled by Kate Jarvik Birch, the third installment in her Perfected series! Ella and Penn are on the run for their own freedom and safety and they continue to fight for the freedom of all of the Pets. The group they’re with is bombarded after being deceived into believing they would be rescuing many Pets. No one is truly sure about who can be trusted after that deception. Penn and Ella still have a beautiful relationship, regardless of Penn being the horrible Congressman’s son and Ella still deeply cares for Ruby, Penn’s younger sister. Unraveled shows growth in its characters and the mark that choices leave, decisions always have consequences. Suspense is the overriding emotion throughout the story and the feeling of not knowing who to trust carries on also. I thoroughly enjoyed Unraveled and especially the variety of characters and their dynamics. 5 stars for this dystopian novel!

The Precious Dreadful by Steven Parlato

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Thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing for the opportunity to read and review The Precious Dreadful by Steven Parlato. Teddi’s summer vacation begins with a few options. She decides to spend time with Summerteens, the local library’s summer writing workshop. Before the workshop kicks off, Teddi has had a spooky encounter, a kiss and an argument with her single, downtrodden mother. I fell in love with The Precious Dreadful, Teddi’s personality and boldness and the variety of characters it holds in its pages! The more I read, the deeper the story took me. Teddi has pretty much raised herself since her mother, Brenda, tends to be drunk and partying with her friends instead of being available and sober for her daughter. Brenda is also keeping secrets from Teddi and has tried to, in her own dysfunctional way, protect her role as a mother. As Teddi’s summer rolls on, relationships become more complicated and drama-ridden and her subconscious is forcing her to remember a traumatic and horrible part of her childhood. The Precious Dreadful bends genres: mystery, horror, supernatural, romance and young adult realistic fiction; this book also pulls at your heartstrings through intense tragedy, awareness of bad choices and the bond of friendship and kindness of others and it’s well deserving of 5 stars!

Chalk Houses by Tracy Clark

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Chalk houses by Tracy Clark tells the story of Talon who lives with her single mother that always seems to have a new boyfriend, drinks and is involved with drugs. The story begins on Talon’s sixteenth birthday and her mother doesn’t even remember what day it is. Talon’s goals are to educate herself and receive a degree in psychology and child development so she will be equipped to help neglected children and never be like her mother. She begins receiving emails from Aunt T, who supposedly wants to get to know Talon. They create a circle journal of communication with their emails. Talon has one true friend, Karalyn, who always gives Talon moral support. Gabby, Talon’s younger next door neighbor that lives with an aunt and uncle and is pretty much neglected by them, is under Talon’s wing of protection. Talon spreads out and tests relationship waters with others as she expands her social circle. She makes some dumb decisions and struggles with the consequences and in the meantime she discovers much more about her mother than she could have ever guessed at before. Chalk Houses is a coming of age, coming into your own work of literary art with its beautiful, dynamic characters and other characters that are horrific in their actions. The story comes full circle and is a real tear-jerker full of disappointment, hurt and hope. 5 heart expanding stars!