A Wilderness of Stars by Shea Ernshaw

Sci-fi fantasy!

An ominous prologue piqued my interest. Vega is with her fatally ill mother when she sees twin stars in the sky. Her mother has taught her to watch for these stars that only show up every one hundred years and when they appear, Vega needs to find The Architect for information on how to travel to the sea. Soon after her mother passes away, Pa shows up. He’s not Vega’s father but a family friend. She goes with him when he leaves so she can get started on her journey. They travel to a town and sell Pa’s cure-all tonic as three men watch them from afar. Later, these men and more find Pa and Vega and steal his horse and the supplies he has for making his tonic. Now he has nothing left for the future. They move on, finding a deserted farmhouse set in an orchard. They rest and head to the next town. Vega keeps asking around for The Architect even though her mother warned her to be discreet. That evening, Vega decides to head out on her own, leaving Pa behind. She enters a saloon and soon after four thieves enter also and demand money from the bartender for protection. A fight erupts. Vega gets knocked down and her constellation tattoo is revealed when her hair falls out of the way. Everyone is curious and wants to see her mark when a girl saves her, taking her out of the saloon. This girl, Cricket, takes Vega to The Architect and soon after the group is attacked and he’s killed. Noah then becomes The Architect and vows to help Vega get to the sea. Cricket, Noah and Vega travel together as a team to complete the mission of generations of astronomers and architects. They meet danger and adventure at every turn and have to fight for their lives. Sci-fi fantasy, 4 stars!

Likes/dislikes:
I would have liked to have more insight into Noah’s thoughts and point of view. I enjoyed the mystery surrounding the blackness in the sky and the information passed down through generations of astronomers and architects. The bond between Noah and Vega is endearing.
I enjoyed the Old West setting and the mixed ethnicities.

Language: R for 31 swears and 4 f-bombs
Mature Content: PG-13 for saloon visit and kissing
Violence: PG-13 for Outlaws stealing, bloody stabbing and shooting

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

A powerful, authentic read!

Starr lives in a rough part of town and after one of her best friends gets shot in a drive by shooting when they’re ten, Starr’s parents have her attend a private school that’s safer. Now Starr is sixteen and she witnesses her other childhood friend getting fatally shot by a police officer. Her friend did nothing to provoke the shooting. This is a powerful novel about much more than racism. It’s also about choices, bravery, integrity and helping others. This book has a lot of swearing which is authentic to the lifestyle of the character’s surroundings but the message of empowerment makes it a must read. 5 stars for a novel that will stick with me.

Likes/dislikes:
I liked how the author shows reality and brings her characters to life to make the readers care about them. I like that two different worlds are brought together by two teens living in both and experiencing the stark differences in each. Character development is abundant and bravery and integrity are a huge factor in the main character’s life and family. I love how the main character’s family is open to discussing everything instead of keeping secrets from each other.
Mature content: PG-13
Underage drinking, marijuana use
Page 81 foreplay (boyfriend touching of girlfriend’s pubic region)
Page 376 arousal (the boyfriend had a bulge in his pants when he kissed his girlfriend)
Violence: PG-13
Fatal Shooting at a party. Police brutality and fatal shooting of a teen male. Riots, gang beatings, starting fires.
Language: R for 100+ swears and 54 f-bombs

https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/the-hate-u-give

Fairy Tale by Stephen King

The best main character!

Charlie Reade lost his mom when he was a young boy and his Dad was so heartbroken that he became an alcoholic and lost his job. Charlie prayed for help and offered to do kind deeds in return for helping his family out. Charlie hears a dog howling and finds the elderly local neighborhood scary guy, Howard Bowditch, hurt. He’s fallen off a ladder and broken his leg. Charlie stays until the ambulance comes and then he promises Mr. Bowditch that he will take care of his dog, Radar, for him. Mr. Bowditch insists that Charlie call him Howard. Before he’s released from the hospital, Howard tells the staff that Charlie is the only person he wants staying at his house while he recovers from surgery. Charlie agrees. Charlie has also fallen in love with Radar and Radar loves him in return and he thinks that’s why Howard trusts him. Charlie helps Howard recover from surgery and gain back the use of his leg. Howard knows that he and Radar are old and their days are numbered. He starts confiding in Charlie, little by little. Charlie takes Howard’s word for it but checks his information out for his own safety and sanity. Howard is healing well until an incident in the shed causes him to overexert his heart. Howard knows he doesn’t have much longer so he records his secrets on a cassette tape for Charlie. What he tells Charlie is unbelievable! Charlie goes on the mission set forth by Howard and he’s tested in every way and learns to believe in magical things. A unique book for Stephen King because it’s more fantasy than horror and it’s written for young adults. I do enjoy his writing! 5 stars for this fairytale with the best main character!

Language: R for 100+ swears and 19+ f-bombs
Violence: PG for shooting, electric shock, a giant killing minor characters
Mature content: none
Likes/dislikes: The writing pulled me in with hints of mystery and foreshadowing.
Kind, brave main character and gruff older man help and care for each other and the dog, Radar, bonds them together. I enjoy the mysterious feel throughout the book and Stephen King wields words to encompass the reader! The illustrations are detailed and help bring the story to life.
Ethnicity: The setting is the present day America and Other realm and the ethnicities are white and Other realm characters.

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.

Family of Liars by E. Lockhart

Heads up, Family of Liars is a prequel but also a spoiler to We Were Liars!

Carrie is the oldest of three sisters. When the youngest sister Rosemary drowns, the three remaining sisters must follow the family motto and not show any grief. Carrie becomes addicted to painkillers after jaw surgery that her father insists she needed to give her a stronger looking jaw. The summer after Rosemary drowns, their cousin Yardley brings her boyfriend and his two best friends to the island. They’re funny and help lighten the mood on the island. Carrie and Pfeff are interested in each other but he keeps being inconsiderate and annoys Carrie. She discovers a secret that her mother’s been keeping and it’s consuming Carrie. Pfeff also turns out to be self-centered and when the cousins see him kissing Carrie’s sister Penny, things become precarious. I enjoyed Pfeff’s humor and the writing is exemplary. I felt firsthand what the characters were going through because of the details. Humorous parts with Pfeff changing lyrics of Mary poppins song, Step In Time:
Take no prisoners, do some crimes
Know your math facts! Step in time.
Every time he would sing this, it made me chuckle!
Heads up, Family of Liars is a prequel but also a spoiler to We Were Liars! It’s an enjoyable read full of teen angst, 5 stars!

Ethnicity is predominantly white.
Mature content is PG-13, underage drinking and smoking, attempted rape
Violence is PG-13

These Twisted Bonds by Lexi Ryan

Romance, adventure and fantasy all wrapped up in one, 5 stars!

Brie is trying to get Sebastian and Finn to form an alliance to stop the queen who wants to imprison and enslave Unseelie Fae. The queen is Sebastian’s mother and he has gone behind her back to free as many as he can. Brie doesn’t trust anyone and doesn’t believe that she belongs in the Fae or in the mortal realm. She tries to learn to trust those around her and when she discovers her lineage, she finds her place. She has to complete a task to save herself and everyone in the Fae realm. Brie and Finn learn they’re tethered, meaning they draw power from each other and give each other strength. The long sleep, where children sleep and never wake up, is affecting the Unseelie children because their kingdom is dying. Finn is willing to sacrifice everything for his kingdom and Brie is willing to do the same. If the two of them can get Sebastian to help then they just might save everything. Romance, adventure and fantasy all wrapped up in one, 5 stars!

Mature content: sex but vaguely detailed, naked aroused breasts
Violence: blood and guts
Swearing: 15 swears and two f-bombs
Ethnicity: mortal mix and Fae

These Hollow Vows by Lexi Ryan

A fantasy full of conflict!

A thief, Abriella, breaks into the vault of a man who became rich from selling females into prostitution. She only steals enough to carry so he won’t notice it’s missing. On her way home, Brie (Abriella) stops at a friend’s home to pay for the contract her daughter has just signed with the rich man. She did this to get medicine for her mother. Now Brie doesn’t have enough money to pay her rent to Madam V., her greedy, horrible aunt who makes Brie and her younger sister Jas live in a basement storage room. Brie and Jas also have to slave away taking care of the house and two spoiled cousins. When Jas is sold to the Fae King, Brie travels through a portal pretending to be one of the many human women wanting to marry the Fae Prince Ronan. She meets an intriguing Fae male that keeps showing up wherever she goes but then she’s caught by the king and finds out he took Jas as bait to get Brie’s help. The king wants Brie to steal artifacts from Prince Ronan’s court. She sees Sebastian where she never thought she would and runs from him because she’s surprised and angry. Once she comes to terms with who Sebastian really is, Brie realizes that she can use it to her advantage in finding the relics and getting Jas back. She does care for Sebastian and feels guilty for using him. The intriguing Fae male is Finn and she works with his group to stop the king. They help her with the shadow magic she has. Brie feels trapped and alone throughout the story because she doesn’t know if she can trust anyone but she perseveres to get Jas safe again.
I enjoyed reading this book because of Brie, the main character. She’s strong, resilient and will do anything to save her sister. The conflicting two main male characters make the story interesting, especially since they’re both vying for Brie’s attention. 5 stars for this fantasy full of conflict!

The Fire Keeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley

Strong characters!

Daunis is looking forward to college and her future. She’s attending with her best friend Lily. They’re both descendants of members of the Tribe Council who are Native American. She befriends a new hockey player that just moved to town. His name is Jamie and he’s good at avoiding answering questions about his personal life. When a murder-suicide affects Daunis, she’s asked to help the undercover investigation to catch and stop the drug dealing happening in their community. She reluctantly and cautiously becomes an FBI informant. Daunis worries that she’ll betray her people by not helping the FBI see the good in her community, only the drug issues. A wonderful glimpse of a piece of Native American life, language and culture. Strong characters, true character development and the surrounding mystery pulled me deep into the story and it’s still sticking with me days later. Betrayal, deception, mistrust, broken family, violence, loyalty (sometimes misplaced), and manipulative behavior are all parts of this book. 4 stars!

This Woven Kingdom by Tahereh Mafi

Reads like an old-fashioned fairytale!

Alizeh is alone in the world, hiding her true identity and living as an overworked servant. She’s Jinn and has ice in her veins. She’ll be in danger if anyone discovers who she is because she’ll be seen as a threat to the human king. Kamran, the young prince, sees Alizeh help a homeless thief and is intrigued by her actions. The more he observes her, the more curious he becomes. The king, Kamran’s grandfather, sees that the prince is interested in the girl so he explains that their kingdom’s peace is at stake if they let her live. He orders Kamran to put her to death and then be ready to attend the planned ball the next evening and choose a wife. Alizeh works as a seamstress after her servant hours are finished for the day. She’s helping Miss Huda with several gowns. Alizeh is exhausted and after she leaves Miss Huda, she’s attacked by six men. She warns them but they laugh at her so she subdues them with the only weapons she has available, seamstress needles and scissors. Afterwards, she’s approached by a man who has been searching for her and wanting to protect her from harm. He sees the attack and knows she can protect herself. He offers her assistance and safety. He will take her away at the ball the following night. He also gives her a nosta, a rare orb that warms in your hand when the truth is told and chills like ice when a lie appears. This man’s identity is a surprising twist to the story! Huzzah!!!
The action takes over and another twist is revealed, ending the book with a bang! I can hardly stand to wait for the next book! Elegant storytelling, 5 stars!

As Good As Dead by Holly Jackson

Intense to the very end!

This is the best book of the series! Action packed and suspenseful enough to keep the stress level high! The author made me feel everything that Pip went through, physically and emotionally. Pip’s stubbornness exasperated me at times but her intelligence knows no bounds and makes her stubborn because she can analyze situations and outcomes that others might not see. The mysteries come full circle with intensity and full force. I don’t want to spoil the story but if you like mysteries then this series is a must-read, 5 stars!