Road of Bones by Christopher Golden

Cold, spooky and dangerous!

A documentary producer, Teig, takes his partner, Prentiss, to the area in Russia known as the Road of Bones and the prisoner gulags of Stalin’s time. One of the coldest places on earth. The two travel and meet the guide then continue on traveling the road of bones. They reach the community where the guide is from and find abandoned homes and bare footprints leading out of doors into the snow. The guide’s niece is catatonic from what she’s seen. The group sees movement in the trees and are soon attacked. Large wolves kill the guide, injure Prentiss and chase the truck the men are escaping in with the niece and a woman whose SUV broke down on the road. They reach the small community where they’d eaten earlier and enter the same building as the wolves come closer. More injuries and more people either die or slowly transform into antler people. The few survivors bargain with the supernatural leader, the parnee, to save the rest. Cold, spooky and dangerous.

Russian history mixed with the supernatural!

The Shattered City by Lisa Maxwell

Intelligent fantasy!

Told in alternating timelines of 1902 and 1983 Brooklyn, each time focuses on different people. Esta and Harte move forward to 1983 where they can go to the future, get away from the enemy, and figure out how to solve the problems of the Brink and the evil Nibsy Lorcan. Viola and Jianyu are in 1902 with Nibsy. All of the main characters from the past books of this series are mentioned in different timelines. The characters eventually all end up in the same timeline together. The storyline consists of turmoil and struggles to right the wrongs of the past and give freedoms to the people who have an affinity for magic. An intelligent time travel fantasy.

Likes/dislikes:
The many timelines, characters and struggles almost need a chart to keep track of. This is the fourth book of The Last Magician series and it just adds another layer to the whole concept and plot. If this series is going to be read, the books should be read together without much time between to help keep it all straight. I like the diversity of the characters and their strengths.

Mature content: PG-13 for drug use by side character, kissing
Language: R for 53 swears and 1 f-bomb
Violence: PG-13 for villain shooting himself, explosions that killed people.
Ethnicity/other info: The ethnicity is mixed with white, Italian, Oriental and Black.

The Orphan Keeper by Camron Wright; Adapted for Young Readers Edition

Based on a miraculous true story!

A young boy, Chellamathu, lives with his family amongst Indian poverty. He has many siblings and it’s difficult for his family to take care of everyone. He’s kidnapped and taken to an orphanage for sale. He’s kidnapped along with a few other children and they ride for three hours before they reach the orphanage. While there, he helps the other children with fear, loneliness and sickness. He’s eventually sold to an American family and moves away. Little by little, he forgets his past and that he was kidnapped. He did tell his American family that he was kidnapped when they first received him but they didn’t speak his language. He learns to participate in school and activities but never truly feels like he belongs anywhere. He can’t understand why he feels that way. His family kept photos, records and a voice recording from when they adopted him and named him Taj. In the recording, he states that he’s been kidnapped. When he’s college age, he meets an Indian family and they hear the recording and tell him what he said. After that, Taj starts on a mission to find his Indian home and family. Through acquaintances, luck and perseverance, he finds them and has a heartwarming reunion! Great story. Even though the writing is dry, the story is touching and miraculous! 4 stars!

The Book of Cold Cases by Simone St. James

Shea is a receptionist in a doctor’s office and makes a crime podcast in the evenings. She wants to interview a woman accused of but acquitted of murdering two men forty years ago, Beth Greer. Beth is a rich heiress who lives alone in the family mansion after her father was shot and her mother died in a car accident. Mystery surrounds Beth. She reaches out to Shea to talk about what happened forty years ago. Little by little, Shea is exposed to Beth’s life and secrets and the further she digs the more dangerous it all becomes. 5 stars for this well-written haunted mystery!

What Lies in the Woods by Kate Alice Marshall

Book edition:

Three eleven year old girls entered the woods and two came out. One of them had been stabbed so the other two girls got help and testified that a serial killer rapist was to blame. Years later, when the three girls have become adults, the killer dies in prison. The three women meet and discuss how relieved but worried they are about a secret they’re hiding. The mystery of their secret becomes many mysteries buried, one on top of another. This is a delightfully twisted and unexpected mystery, 5 stars!

Edgewood by Kristen Ciccarelli

Mystery, fantasy, adventure and romance!

Emeline Lark lives in Montreal where she’s trying to leave her forest hometown of Edgewood in the past. She’s on the verge of becoming a singer with a recording company but as she performs she sees signs of the Edgewood Forest creeping onto the stage. Emeline sees a mysterious hooded stranger in the audience who becomes the key to her past and future, unbeknownst to her at the time. Pa, her grandfather, has dementia and when she goes home to take care of him, she’s pulled into the Edgewood Forest and her life is thrown into upheaval and danger. To free herself from the evil and corrupted Wood King, Emeline will have to dig deep and get to the bottom of the forest curse.

5 solid stars!!! Mystery, fantasy, action and romance.

Likes/dislikes:
The writing pulled me into the story with incredible world building and mysterious surroundings and characters. Hawthorn is a fascinating character. The story has action, tenderness and a roller coaster of emotions.
Language: R for 14 swears and 3 f-bombs
Mature content: R for Sex on page 295 that doesn’t mention genitals and is described vaguely; non-detailed oral sex on page 340. The relationship between the two characters is a loving one and the sex is because of this love for each other.
Violence: PG for Stabbing of the Shadowskin creatures, no blood involved; danger and Shadowskins chasing people.
Ethncity: Predominantly white in Montreal and Edgewood but mixed colors of skin in the otherworldly forest of the Wood King.

Blade of Secrets by Tricia Levenseller

A fun, dangerous adventure with the added touch of magic!

Ziva is a magical blacksmith who creates weapons with a touch of magic added. She lives with her younger sister Temra. Their parents were killed when Ziva was five. They lived at an orphanage and then Ziva was trained by a blacksmith until he retired. Ziva and Temra now run a smithy business together. Ziva’s abilities are widely known and when a warlord gives her a job, she’s thrilled. Until she discovers the warlord’s plans to conquer the kingdom and enslave the people. She decides to take her magical weapons and run with her sister. They take Petrik, a scholar, and Kellyn, a mercenary, along for safety. They head to their father’s family that they’ve never met, thinking that’s the safest place to go. On their travels, they deal with ambushes and the worry of trusting Petrik and Kellyn. Their grandmother welcomes them when they arrive and they attend religious services with her. The priestess delivers the sermon about the dangers of magic and that magic holders should be and will be killed. Ziva and Temra are terrified. That’s just another dangerous situation among many that they have to deal with on their mission to protect the kingdom from the warlord’s lofty, greedy goals. The group dynamics are interesting and their banter made me laugh several times. The book started off a bit slow in the first few pages but then picked up the pace and then I couldn’t stop reading it! A fun, dangerous adventure with the added touch of magic, 5 stars!

The House in the Pines by Ana Reyes

An unusual mystery that grabbed my attention!

An unusual mystery that grabbed my attention!
I read The House in the Pines by Ana Reyes as part of Reese’s Book Club January Pick. I’m so glad I read this book! It’s completely different than I thought it would be. I jumped right into reading without looking at the synopsis, so I didn’t know what to expect. The murders occurred in a way that I would have never imagined before. Prepared to be engaged in the author’s writing and held in perplexity in trying to figure out the mystery. It’s mellower than I expected but riveting and interesting all the same.
Maya struggles with sleeping because of an incident that happened seven years prior. Her friend died right in front of her and she suspects Frank of murder but she can’t prove or figure out how he killed her friend. She has taken Klonopin to help her sleep ever since her friend died but she has to go cold turkey because she lost her access to the medication. While dealing with withdrawal symptoms, she sees an online video of Frank with a woman dying right in front of him, all caught on a security camera. Maya immediately assumes Frank caused this woman’s death but it just looks like she fell over without him touching her at all. This video causes Maya to want to get to the bottom of her friend’s death and stop Frank from ever doing this again. Maya goes down a rabbit hole of past memories and current weirdness. She can’t trust her instincts, memories or what she has seen and she needs all the help she can get to stop Frank.

I enjoyed the author’s writing and mystery building skills!

Trigger by N. Griffin

Disturbing fictional neglect and abuse!

Small town, USA is where Didi attends school but she lives with her father in a secluded area. He’s abusive and neglects to give Didi everything she needs. Didi is terrified and on edge always, even when she’s not around her father because she’s worried she’ll do something wrong and he’ll find out somehow. Her father makes her run laps around the property so she can become as quick as possible but she doesn’t know why he cares about that. He also forces her to learn and play chess and compete in tournaments and she has to be the best. Eventually Didi understands the reason her father has made her do these things but it might be too late for her to save herself.

Likes/dislikes:
The story is disturbing because of the neglect and abuse. The effects on the child’s physical and mental well-being are portrayed through the coping skills the main character develops over time to deal with her life; they were heartbreaking at times. The timeline jumps around and that was difficult to follow. The ending was the best part.
Language: R for 67 swears and 22 f-bombs.
Mature Content: R for physical abuse and severe neglect.
Violence: R for child abuse and hunting child with a gun.
Ethnicity: Didi has brown hair but other characters’ ethnicities aren’t described.

The Ones We Burn by Rebecca Mix

Intrigue in a supernatural world!

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.