Sal 17, lives in Juniper, California with his sick mother and alcoholic father. Sal attends school while trying to help keep the family hotel afloat. Sal and Noor, 18, were best friends until they had a fight months ago and haven’t spoken since. Sal’s mom collapses and needs to be taken to the hospital while Noor happens to be visiting her. Sal’s mother passes away and her last words to Noor were to forgive. Sal and Noor try to mend their friendship but they’re both keeping secrets and trying to persevere through their own harsh situations. When life implodes, they both have to make some tough choices.
Likes/dislikes: I enjoyed learning about Pakistani culture and its languages. The author gives a comprehensive, concise content warning at the beginning of the book and lists resources at the end for help with domestic violence, child abuse, sexual assault, immigration and refugee rights, children’s defense fund, and women of color. I appreciate how the author portrayed harsh realities to readers in a way that is educational and with empathy but not graphic. This book is a must read. Language: R for 147 swears and 3 f-bombs. Mature Content: PG for brief undescribed kiss, drug dealer selling pills, mention of marijuana (weed), deeper kiss. Violence: PG-13 for child abuse (a push against the wall), bloody face from abuse, kicking ribs, mentions of repressed sexual assault, continued abuse. Ethnicity: Sal and Noor and their family members are Pakistani living in a predominantly white community. There is a Pakistani religious leader and his wife is Black. The Judge is Mexican American and the story contains mixed ethnicity police officers.
Declan hurts his shoulder by climbing where there’s a “no climbing” sign and it takes his future away. He needs surgery and physical therapy to heal and in the meantime he has an angry attitude. He pushes his friends away and joins a hate group that promotes propaganda and conspiracy theories about cultures that aren’t predominantly white, focusing especially on Jewish people. He’s happily blaming others for his problems and being fed propaganda by his “new friends” and he’s taking it too far by willingly participating in hate crimes. When Declan’s lifelong friend is threatened, he has to make the choice to harm or protect.
Likes/dislikes: Declan was whiny and ungrateful even though the accident was because he made the choice to do something negligent. I enjoyed the history class discussion about different cultures and evaluating online sources. The author approached hate groups from an insider’s perspective from both sides. Mature content: G for nondescriptive kissing Violence: PG for undescribed phone threats from a hate group, vandalism, bomb threat. Language: PG for 6 swears and no f-bombs. Ethnicity: mixed
Emma lives in Prosper, Oregon with her mother, father and six year old brother Kyle. They moved from San Francisco because her father was in trouble for inappropriate behavior with a minor, Alice, a friend of Emma’s. Now it seems that he’s in trouble again with another friend of Emma’s, Hannah. Hannah’s mom found her journal where she’d written about Emma’s father touching her, so the police were called and he was arrested. Emma’s parents have coerced her into standing by her father’s side even if it means lying about the things he’s done to her for years. She’s struggling with loyalty, being treated like a burden and wanting to stand up for her friend and herself.
This is a story about surviving and the strength that takes! 5 stars!
Likes/dislikes: I appreciate the content warning at the beginning of the book to let readers be aware before reading. I enjoyed the gradual unraveling of the mystery surrounding the main character. I like how the author represented survivors and the resources list at the end of the book.
Mature Content: PG-13 for xexual abuse stated but not detailed; verbal abuse, gaslighting of children, physical and emotional neglect; mention of a nonbinary side character with positive interaction and respect.
Violence: PG for temper tantrums and angry outbursts from adults.
In the imaginary continent of Vesteria, three princesses celebrate their sixteenth birthday together and mourn their time together. They will be sent off to other kingdoms to marry princes. Each princess will go to a different kingdom and marry the ruler; Sophronia is marrying King Leopold, who treats her kindly along with his family and court; Beatriz is marrying Prince Pasquale and seems unwanted by him but she’s meant to sway Lord Savelle, as her mother instructed; Daphne is marrying Cillian, who dies before she arrives, so the second heir, Bairre, takes his place in marriage. Each princess struggles with who to trust and in completing their set missions for their mother and her ultimate goals. They’re in more danger than they realize and start to see that they can’t rely on their mother for help or love.
Likes/dislikes: I had a difficult time keeping the three princesses and their corresponding kingdoms straight. I like the premise of villainous deception and seeing the changes that took place within the princesses. I enjoyed the side characters of each prince and the diversity amongst the kingdoms.
Mature Content: PG-13 for kissing and drinking wine. Language: PG-13 for 19 swears and no f-bombs. Violence: PG-13 for a beheading. Ethnicity: predominantly white.
In an imaginary kingdom full of mixed ethnicities, Ranka is desperate to find Yeva. So desperate that she agrees to the betrothal of the Prince so she can search for her. Soon, Ranka’s companions include Prince Galen, Princess Aramis and the noble young ambassador Percy. After the virus winalin is discovered throughout the kingdom, the four companions want to stop it. Winalin is turning witches into diseased monsters that are intent on killing. While trying to get to the bottom of the mystery, their lives are completely overturned. Ranka, Prince Galen, Princess Aramis and Percy each realize that none of them might survive.
Likes/dislikes: I like that the story creates empathy and approaches the topic of abusive manipulation. Ranka’s character development is interesting. I like that there’s little swearing. Mature content: PG-13 for drinking. Language: PG-13 for 11 swears, no f-bombs. Violence: PG-13 for non-detailed bloody deaths.
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.
Red is traveling in an RV to Florida with her friends to spend a week celebrating spring break together. They lose cell service and GPS capabilities then end up down a dead end road getting a flat tire. After replacing the flat tire with the spare, Red sees a red dot hovering around the RV and yells at the others to notice. They ignore her until they hear the gunshots that take out all four tires. The group runs into the RV for protection. The shooter leaves a walkie talkie for communication and tells them that one of them has a secret they need to share. The secret is going to be revealed, one way or another!
Likes/dislikes: Oliver is annoying because he’s a know-it-all with a superiority complex. The mystery is interesting to try to unravel when a few characters allude to having secrets. The suspense builds intensely, which makes a riveting read.
Mature Content: PG-13 for drinking
Language: R for 20 swears and 105 f-bombs.
Violence: PG-13 for Someone shoots at the RV and holds the travelers hostage inside. The sniper fatally shoots an elderly couple that stop to help. Bloody shootings. Attack with a knife.
Ethnicity: Mixed, Korean, Mexican, white, African American
Mattie is about twenty and lives with her much older husband, William, in the mountains in solitude. William is abusive in all ways. He treats her like a possession, not a person, and keeps her hidden on the mountain in a cabin. She’s not allowed to leave the area around the cabin. Mattie is having flashbacks and bits of her past are returning to her as memories despite William lying to her for so long. A strange, unknown creature has shown up on the mountain near the cabin and it’s killing animals and sorting their bones and organs into distinct piles inside its cave. When Mattie and William discover the cave, he believes it’s the work of a demon and that he’s destined by God to get rid of it. Hikers are searching for new animals when William threatens them to leave his mountain. They see Mattie’s injured face and one of the hikers recognizes her from news reports. She’s unsure of what he’s talking about and William denies anything about the reports and restates that Mattie is his wife and the hikers need to leave or he will harm them. Mattie continues to recall bits of her past and when William leaves for town, the strangers approach the cabin to talk to her, filling her in on who she really is. The mystery and danger are suspenseful and Mattie has great strength despite her confusion. Horror adventure thriller worth 4 stars!
*Information on book content: language content: 23 swear words and 3 f-words mature content: PG-13, mentions wifely duties and drugs are found and mentioned a small amount violence: PG-13, bloody animal found dead, gore, abuse to main character with blood involved.
The prologue opens with inspiration and excitement for things to come and then ends with horror and devastation. Anthia’s world falls apart when her homeland, Rhodaire, is attacked by Illucians. Her mother is killed and so are the large, beautiful, magical crows that shared their world. Her land is decimated because without the crows’ help, nothing flourishes or grows. Her sister, Caliza, is now queen and has betrothed Anthia to the Illucian Prince Ericen. Of course, neither sister is happy about the deal but they don’t see any other way to try to mend their broken land. Before Anthia leaves her home, she visits the towers where the crows once lived. She finds and hides an egg then takes it to Illucia with her. She has no idea how to get it to hatch but she’s not leaving it behind. She’s searched everywhere for information on the crows and she’s hoping she’s going to figure it out soon. Ericen is difficult to read and Anthia is unsure about trusting him. He seems very loyal to his mother, Razel, the Illucian Queen. Razel is terrible and loves cruelty. She wants to conquer all of the other countries also and doesn’t care about who she harms in the process. Anthia accidentally meets rebels and inadvertently makes new friends in Illucia. She manages to enjoy some of her time there until she discovers a secret of Razel’s. The action and intrigue continues in the sequel, Crow Rider. I enjoyed several characters, their flaws and quirks: Anthia, Kiva, Ericen, Caylus, and the adventure that never seems to end, 5 stars!
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!