Skin of the Sea by Natasha Bowen

African mythology, culture and history!

Simi has been a mermaid, a Mami Wata, for only a short time but she’s starting to lose her human memories. When she goes on land and transforms into a human, she grasps at memories of her family and holds onto them tightly so she won’t forget once she’s a mermaid again. Her duty is to help souls move on after death and she thinks she’s helping a young man who has just been thrown overboard from a slave trader ship. She assumes he’s dead and she’s ready to perform her task when his eyes open. He is chained and manacled and injured. He loses consciousness and she carries him over her shoulder as she swims to an island. His name is Kola and together they call on the creator of mermaids for help in getting him home. Kola and Simi go through a roller coaster of experiences together to get him home, save his siblings and help the mermaid creator. Simi isn’t supposed to develop feelings or attachments to any human but she grows to care for Kola. They meet the messenger to the gods, Esu, and discover the horrible trickster that he is. Tidbits similar to The Little Mermaid story but with the added African mythology, culture and history! 4 stars!

She Who Rides the Storm by Caitlin Sangster

Riveting fantasy!

Anwei and Knox are thieves. Knox is a Devoted soldier for the Warlord and Anwei found him passed out on the ground a year ago. They’ve been companions ever since. Anwei is a dirty witch and she poses as a Goddess in a temple. When people place letters or coins at the statue of the goddess, a temple servant places them in a specific hidden spot for Anwei (the goddess) to gather. She also receives requests in the same way, asking her to steal items for people. Anwei has kept Knox hidden from the warlord’s search for him. In return, Knox helps with her reconnaissance and safety.

Lia has been with the Devoted since they took her at the age of eleven and she’s miserable. She’s supposed to be helping with the search for Knox and she’s sees a bit of his aura and wonders how he’s keeping it hidden. Lia escapes with her sister after Ewan, a fellow Devoted, attacks her. Lia and Ari run to their father’s house to hide. Their father wants to keep his title of power and he’s struggling to find a way to heal his sick wife. This story weaves several characters’ lives together to build a complex plot that all makes sense at the end of this book but the story will continue in a sequel. Lia, Anwei, Knox and Mateo will find themselves entwined in a devious, greedy plan for power. Rich world building and complicated story kept me riveted, 5 stars!

A Sky Beyond the Storm by Sabaa Tahir

Tumultuous, action-packed, heart wrenching and beautiful series finale, 5 stars!

The fourth and final book of Ember in the Ashes series!
Laia stays allied to the Shrike and their goal is to get Musa’s ex fiancée’s (Princess Nikla) help against Keris, the Commandant. Elias stands between the jinn and the Augur Cain and learns the truth of the Augurs and what they did a thousand years ago. Keris’ story keeps getting hinted about in order to bring her down. Laia’s traveling to talk to the tribal storytellers for information and tries her best to break through to Elias. More battles take place and Helene fights to keep her feelings for Harper low on her list of priorities. This series seems to have an endless amount of surprises which keeps me on my toes! Tumultuous, action-packed, heart wrenching and beautiful series finale, 5 stars! This is a wonderful series and I would read it again!

Steelstriker by Marie Lu

The action and fighting keep going as the rebellion tries to end the Premier!

The story opens six months after Skyhunter ends. Talin has been transformed into a Skyhunter for the Premier and Red is in the woods with some Strikers, doing what they can to fight the Federation. Talin and Red haven’t sensed much of each other but they are both missing their connection and they each keep trying to reach out to the other one. While sleeping, Talin sees through Red’s eyes what the rebels are planning. The premier sees everything through their connection and is able to sabotage them. Jeran and Red escape but the rest of the group gets captured. Talin is sick with worry and tries her best to subdue the connection with the Premier, even trying to survive without sleep. The premier forces the captured Strikers to compete in a game against Ghosts. They’re trapped in a maze made up of metal sliding walls. Only two of the four survive. The action and fighting keep going as the rebellion tries to end the Premier. Intrigue, brutality, torture and the horrific making of ghosts kept the story hopping until the very end, 4 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!

Cupcake by Cookie O’Gorman

Deliciously cute and innocently romantic!

Cupcake by Cookie O’ Gorman is a deliciously cute and innocently romantic read for young adults!
Ariel is a full bodied young woman and she’s proud of who she is even when others are unkind. Her best friend, Toni, nominates her for the Homecoming royalty without Ariel knowing. Ariel may like herself but she’s been bullied about her size and that makes her wary of gaining attention or being in any spotlight. Being part of the homecoming royalty stresses her out. Ariel has many talents and friends. She’s kind and caring and loves to bake amazing treats for sharing and posting on her vlog. Rhys is her designated homecoming prince for all of the activities and he’s also the star quarterback. She’s a bit intimidated by him and the other royalty. As she gets to know the other royalty better and they get to know her, friendships begin. Cupcake is an adorable story of growth, confidence and loving yourself!

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!

Breathless by Jennifer Niven

Encompasses everything wonderful, stressful and everything in between of falling in love for the first time.

Coming of age story about Claudine, aka Claude. Contains explicit sexual content, heads up to readers that may be bothered.
Breathless encompasses everything wonderful, stressful and everything in between and around falling in love for the first time. Claude and her mother travel to an island where they have family roots. They plan on staying for the summer to give Claude’s father a break after he decided he wants a divorce. Angry and annoyed, Claude and her mother arrive on the secluded island with very little internet service. She has to adjust to not being able to text her friends and father back home. She meets the summer young-adult workers and becomes friends with most of them. One in particular catches her eye, Jeremiah Crew (Miah). They hang out and eventually become more than friends. During this summer, Claude and Miah mature, and together they help each other deal with their personal lives and the problems they’re both dealing with. Miah teaches Claude how to ride a bike and shares his island adventures with her. Claude helps Miah talk about his personal life. They have a great and memorable summer together but dread the day they have to say goodbye when it ends. A beautiful story with unique characters that grow in depth and maturity together. A perfect romance for a summer read, 5 stars!

The Love Song of Ivy K. Harlowe by Hannah Moskowitz

Food for thought!

I begin reading with an open mind and a few pages in there’s a comment about people knowing the narrator is gay because of piercings and colorful tattoos. I don’t believe that everyone that fits in that category is gay; that’s just stereotypical annoyance. The book has more new adult than young adult content since the characters are college age, and content contains sexual innuendos and swearing. I actually grew to enjoy the variety of characters and appreciate the topics that the author approached tastefully. Mental and physical health, drugs, overdoses and the universal question of what to do with your life are brought up and dealt with well. I do worry about STDs and the nonchalant sex life of Ivy. I wish something about protection during sexual activity was mentioned, especially since the main character’s mother is a nurse. I enjoyed the story and couldn’t put it down after a while. Interesting with food for thought, 4 stars!

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

Remember history!

Lale is transported to an Auschwitz concentration camp in a rail car with many other men. He arrives and is requested to help the camp tattoist because of his fluency in several languages. On his first days of tattooing prisoners, Lale tattoos a woman that he immediately feels a strong connection with. Her name is Gita and their relationship continues to grow. As the tattooist, Lale gets extra food rations and he befriends the camp residents that take the prisoners clothes and belongings to sort them out. They find many valuables and share with Lale so he can get supplies, such as food and medicine for needy prisoners. He comes face to face with Mengele, the infamous and horrible doctor that experiments on prisoners. His assistant is castrated by Mengele and I had no idea that he performed terrible acts like castration, which was probably tame compared to his other experiments. Years go by as prisoners, and eventually the camp, is liberated. Lale searches for Gita as soon as he possibly can. This is a true story that’s heartbreaking and heartwarming. It’s full of historical information that the world needs to remember, 4 stars!