Catherine loves to bake and wants to be a professional baker but her parents think that baking is servants’ work and they want her to marry the king, even if it’s against her wishes. The king seems very interested in Catherine’s baking and possibly for marriage with her. She’s not remotely interested. Jest, the new joker, fascinates Cath and the two of them develop a relationship. The Jabberwock continues to terrify and attack the people and Cath tells the king that he should be doing something about it. The king happens to be more interested in parties and happy thoughts than the safety of the kingdom. This fairytale retelling is full of intrigue, mystery and adventure as we learn the story of the Queen of Hearts from Wonderland. Enjoyable, suspenseful and heartbreaking, 5 stars!
Zadie and Nor row home and surprise their parents. Talin arrives and the three of them leave on his small ship but see Ceren’s soldiers attack their home as they’re sailing away. Nor seems unsure about the future she wants and when Talin mentions staying together, she panics inside. They travel to Galeth to look for Sami and ask the people for support against Ceren. They make a discovery about the bloodstones and how Ceren uses them to manipulate and control his soldiers. Talin’s four year old sister is queen as the next female heir. Since she’s too young, their mother is representing in her stead. She’s going to war with Ceren and his bloodstone soldiers but she’s using every citizen who’s twelve and older in her army. Nor faces Ceren, trying to talk sense and logic to him. All he wants is power and control no matter how kind and longing for love he might have been when Nor sees a younger Ceren in her visions. He’s a lost soul. This second and last book in the duology finishes the story up nicely with strong characters full of integrity and loyalty, 5 stars!
Emilia finds herself in the Seven Circles of Hell with Wrath by her side. He’s guiding her to Pride and she’s reminded of the temptations surrounding her in Hell. Wrath keeps reminding her that what she’s seeing isn’t real but a test.
They eventually get to Wrath’s elaborate home and Emilia senses and eventually knows that he’s continuing to have secrets that either he won’t or can’t share. This is a story of intensities, secrets, curses, deception, bonds, passion, and twists. I could not put this book down and the ending is perfect for continuing the story into the third and final book! Wrath and Emilia have an intriguing relationship and they’re both stuck in a kind of limbo. Emilia has been kept in the dark and Wrath isn’t allowed to divulge information. I’m anticipating the third and final book. This series reminds me of Sarah J. Maas’ writing in the ACOTR series because they’re both awesome! 5 stars!
Twin sisters grow up hearing tales of the Wicked princes of Hell and heeding the warnings that go hand in hand with the stories. Eventually the warnings of danger wear off since they haven’t seen any real evidence of the Wicked until tragedy strikes when they’re eighteen. Emilia is desperate to find whoever is responsible for Vittoria’s death so she summons a demon but ends up with one of the Wicked, Prince Wrath. His disdain for humans is immense but Emilia wears him down and surprises him with her abilities and intellect. When she’s attacked by a large viper shaped demon, Wrath saves her. He also pulls her out of despair after she’s attacked by Lust. Their relationship fluctuates between understanding each other and despising each other. They’re both trying to stop evil so they decide to work together until tragedy strikes again. This supernatural mystery held my complete attention and I’m excited for the sequel, 5 stars!
A young woman who has been without her family for ten years, is a prisoner in a camp that sounds similar to the concentration camps of World War II. She’s responsible for carving a z into the prisoners’ hands. The z represents the prison’s name and it reminds me of The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris, except this is a fantasy story. She’s also the prison healer in charge of treating prisoners. A well-known rebel arrives at the prison and she’s known as the Rebel Queen. She’s supposed to be put through the Trials as punishment. Kiva receives a message from her family that states they’re coming to rescue her and implores her to keep the Rebel Queen alive. She’s also threatened by another prisoner to keep the Rebel Queen alive or her younger assistant, Tipp, will be killed. Kiva sacrifices herself to the Trials hoping that she’s going to be rescued before they’re over, since no one ever survives them without magic. A new prisoner arrives, Jaren, and he befriends Tipp and Kiva because she healed his wounds. The Trials consist of four Ordeals that are insanely dangerous and fatal. Kiva doesn’t know what any of the Ordeals are before she’s thrown into each one. During the time of the Trials, a stomach sickness is ravaging the prison and Kiva and Tipp work endlessly to find a cure. This is a unique story and that ending was awesome, 4 stars!
Agnes resides within a cult at Red Creek but she doesn’t realize that she’s part of a cult. She’s the eldest of several siblings and is responsible for taking care of their family because their mother is severely depressed. Agnes sneaks to the Outside once a month to retrieve insulin for her younger brother Ezekiel, even though she knows it’s against the rules. Her sister Beth, the next eldest sibling, is a rebel and doesn’t like the rules. When Beth is caught kissing a boy, she’s disgraced by their father and the community. Agnes has been betrothed as a sixth wife to a middle-aged man and before she gets married, she has to teach Beth everything so she can then become the family caretaker. The middle-aged man decides to marry Beth instead of Agnes to straighten Beth out. In the meantime, a ferocious virus is spreading throughout the world and eventually arrives at Red Creek. The Prophet releases an infected dog during a church meeting and, after a few people are bitten, he tells them about his revelation; the Rapture has arrived and everyone must move into the underground bunker. Agnes escapes with Ezekiel and is heartbroken that she’s left the rest of her siblings behind. She knows that the bunker would be a death sentence for Ezekiel because there’s no insulin for him. This is a riveting story about cults, self-worth, self-importance, bravery, love, loyalty, and sacrifice. The author’s note explains the cult background information being from a nonfiction book of a survivor who escaped a true cult. A wonderfully written and all-encompassing story about love, sacrifice, and different faiths, 5 stars!
Two of Bitterblue’s advisers have perished in a shipwreck. They managed to send a message for Bitterblue before they perished. The message tells her to look into zilfium, a fuel used in the Torlan continent but illegal to use in Winterkeep. She discovers that she’s been swindled out of money when selling materials from her kingdom’s mountains, unknowingly selling traces of zilfiium that are found next to those materials. She’s angered and decides to visit Winterkeep, taking Giddon and Hava with her. She’s swept overboard and her crew thinks she perished. Instead, she’s being kept hidden away from her crew and most of Winterkeep. We meet her kidnappers and see the conditions she’s kept in. An array of characters fills the pages and intrigue turns the story. This latest addition to the Graceling realm adds another interesting culture to this vast world. Spies, loyalty and grief spin a complex riddle, 4 stars!
Amara is set to be the next ruler but she doesn’t pass the test in front of her father or the people of the kingdom that are watching. She’s imprisoned but escapes with Bastian, a mysterious pirate. Amara’s fiancé Ferrick travels with them also. They’re trying to figure out how to stop Kaven. He’s become a ruthless leader and vows to conquer Amara’s father. Along the way, the three of them meet a mermaid and help her escape her servitude and she willingly helps the crew of rebels. They reach Kaven and see firsthand what his rule has cost his people. Amara touches a cursed dagger and sees the memory of what truly happened to the magic so many years ago. The truth could crush her father’s rule. When Amara and her crew return home, they find it under a vicious attack. They jump into the fight and have to do some quick thinking if they’re going to survive. I love the main characters and the development they underwent throughout this book. Amara, Bastian, Ferrick and Vataea are strong, brave and have great loyalty and integrity. I enjoyed the section on Sira’s memory and how it adds a twist to everything Amara and her kingdom know. A grand adventure, 5 stars!
Love Spells and Other Disasters by Angie Barrett
Rowan lives with her ghost-whisperer mom in an old family mansion that belonged to Rowan’s deceased father’s family. Her mother is famous for her abilities and Rowan is slightly embarrassed by it all, since she doesn’t believe in any of that stuff. At school, she’s paired with a snobby Abby who isn’t nice to Rowan. Their assignment is to create a lucrative business together. Abby comes up with the idea of making love spells and has Rowan write them up and fold them into origami hearts. Luca is helping with the renovation of Rowan’s home. Luca and Rowan talk and begin dating and everyone seems surprised by this because Luca is popular and was a star athlete until an injury ended that and everyone thinks Rowan is odd. The love spells were supposed to be harmless fun but Abby finds a real love spell and Rowan uses it on her mom because she seems lonely. Afterward, Rowan notices that some of the couples are unhappy and her mom has gone loopy. She finds a reversal spell that undoes the real spells, causing angry customers. She deals with the backlash through acts of kindness that seem to appease and calm people down. 4 stars for this romance with a bit of magic!
Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin
Lou is a witch and thief who’s hiding from more than just the law. Reid is the leader of the Archbishop’s soldiers who have all been trained to despise and kill witches. Lou and Reid meet under not-so-friendly circumstances and their relationship grows from there. Forced to marry, the two start out hating each other but eventually begin to care when they truly see who they are. Action-packed fantasy with a splash of humor make this a fun read, 5 stars!