Lovely War by Julie Berry

Two beautiful people open the story with their jaw-dropping presence. They turn out to be the god of war, Ares, and the goddess of love, Aphrodite. Aphrodite describes how she feels no passion or love and this is because she’s bound to give love to others but never be able to feel it in return, for all of eternity. She tells the story of James and Hazel; when they first met one week before he was heading into the Great War. Their story continues through letters after he’s sent to war, at least during his training. Hazel becomes a relief volunteer and heads to France. Aubrey, a pianist from Harlem, is in France with his unit heading to the war. Colette has lost her loved ones during the German attack on Belgium. The story floats around the interactions and experiences of these four, Hazel, James, Aubrey, and Colette. World War I history has been unclear to me but this book helped my understanding of this horrible war known as the Great War. I adore the four main characters and my heart soared and broke right alongside theirs. Based on historical facts and people, Lovely War tells a powerful tale, 5 stars!

Winterkeep by Kristin Cashore

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!

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

The prologue shares the confusion of Bitterblue and her mother as they try to stay focused on truth to keep from becoming muddled by Bitterblue’s father, King Leck. Almost nine years later, Queen Bitterblue struggles to rule her country under the many advisers who “help” her. She sneaks out of the castle one night to check out the village and ends up in a pub where a storyteller is narrating a story about her father, King Leck. She observes several villagers and one, in particular, catches her attention but he disappears before she walks out of the pub after him. Bitterblue manages to keep sneaking out at night and listening to different storytellers. She finally meets the villager that caught her eye earlier, Saf, and his friend Teddy. She keeps her identity from them and pretends to be a bread baker in the castle. Eventually, her true identity is discovered when she’s attacked. Bitterblue has to rely on everyone she trusts to get to the bottom of the attack, the truth seeker killings, destruction of her kingdom and the past when King Leck ruled. Bitterblue is a wonderful story with a variety of strong characters who are interesting and keep the queen on her toes. I’m excited to read the next book in the Graceling realm, Winterkeep! A fantastical and intriguing world, 5 stars!

The Deep by Alma Katsu

Titanic horror/historical fiction

This story jumps back and forth in several different ways, mostly from 1912 to 1916 when the main characters are on the fateful journey of the Titanic in 1912 and four years later on the Brittanic. Desperation, sadness and selfishness turn anger into an invitation to the supernatural that becomes a possession causing chaos, confusion and harm. I truly didn’t see the possession coming but it all made sense in the end. I also didn’t realize that the Britannic also sunk which just added more tragedy to the story. Some of the storyline felt choppy, 3.5 stars.

They Wish They Were Us by Jessica Goodman

They Wish They Were Us by Jessica Goodman, tells the story of Jill and the other members of the Players, who attend an elite school where inclusion is limited and exclusion is the norm. Hazing at its finest and worst is what makes the school run from year to year. The students who are picked to become Players get privileges that no other students receive but they get these privileges at a price. Jill and her group are seniors looking forward to college and their bright futures since they’ve put the death of their friend behind them until new evidence enlightens the police that they may have arrested the wrong person. Amidst the elite and their plans, and their ongoing school expectations, the students are derailed and need to help find the true killer. Strong characters in a fascinating political mess tell this story of discrimination, manipulation, and abuse. The protagonist, Jill, brings brains, strength, and empathy to this unique book, 5 stars!

House of Dragons by Jessica Cluess

I was so excited about House of Dragons by Jessica Cluess. I enjoyed her debut series and was anxious to read her new book!
First of all, cover love! The intriguing synopsis made me want to dive right into the story. Five contestants are called to compete for the throne. Emilia has concealed her deadly, powerful magic her entire life. Lucian destroys the family sword, vowing to never use the weapon again. He’s had enough of killing. Vespir is a dragon caretaker who is chosen over the Lord’s daughter, Antonia. Vespir and Antonia also happen to love each other. Ajax is a fifteen year old younger brother in a house full of almost thirty sons. He is chosen over his father’s two true heirs. Hyperia is the eldest royal daughter and when her younger sister is chosen, Hyperia promptly slits her sister’s throat. The author handles the five characters well by transitioning in the same order to help the reader get familiar with each of them. Each of the five are sent to an island to hunt a basilisk. The hunt is the first task of four (the tasks are The Hunt, The Game, The Race and The Truth) the chosen will need to compete in. The five chosen are not expected and, in the past, the first born heirs were always chosen and groomed for the competition. These contenders are all ill-prepared except for one, Hyperia, because she’s the first born heir of her family. I enjoyed the touch of humor throughout the intensity of the story, as well as the character development. The story starts off simply and grows into a complex tale of a huge array of characters with diverse personalities and strengths. 5 stars for this fantasy adventure!

The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu

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The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu tells the story of Mozart and his older sister Nannerl when they were children and the fantastical world they discover together through their musical talent. I absolutely love how Marie Lu based this story on sources she found while reading about Mozart. She discovered that he did have a sister and they shared compositions along with their love of music, as well as their co-created stories of the Kingdom of Back. The historical based story fascinates me and I enjoyed every minute reading this fantasy. The struggles Nannerl dealt with because of the day and age she was born in were unfair but she persevered as much as she could. I love this story and give it a full 5 stars!

Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte!

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Fantastic debt novel by Astrid Scholte!
Thanks to NetGalley, Edelweiss and Penguin Random House for the opportunity to read and review Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte!
Quadara is a nation divided into quadrants. Each quadrant plays a part in the nation’s economy. Archia provides crops and natural resources;Eonia develops medicine and technology; Ludia provides art, fashion and entertainment; Toria arranges imports and exports. The story is told in alternating points of view between the queens and Keralie, Kera for short. When Iris, an 18-year-old Queen is murdered in the Palace Garden, the mystery begins. Kera is a thief working for Mackiel. He’s sent her to steal a comm case containing memory chips. The messenger she steals from is smart and ends up tracking her down at the auction house. Mackiel becomes cruel and Kera escapes with the messenger, Varin, after dissolving the chips in her mouth, watching and absorbing the memories. She sees a palace full of blood and murdered queens. Varin and Kera go to the palace to help find the assassin and share the chips as evidence. They realize that they’re ahead of the assassin when they reach the palace and they try to warn the queens of the danger they’re in. The mystery builds as the queens are murdered, one at a time. The twists are enjoyable and I love Kera and Varin. Unique world building and storyline filled with dynamic characters, 4 stars!

Wicked Fox by Kat Cho

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Korean folklore!
Thanks to Bookish First for the ARC of Wicked Fox by Kat Cho!
The two main characters meet when Miyoung saves Jihoon’s life from a goblin and Jihoon sees Miyoung’s true form. The next day, Miyoung shows up at Jihoon’s school as a transfer student and, little by little, she reluctantly becomes his friend and then their relationship turns into something more. Yena, Miyoung’s mother seems cruel and uncaring to her and she forces her to move often so they don’t make ties with anyone. The self-denigrating behavior from Jihoon and Miyoung became a little tiresome. I was also confused by the many different names that the characters were each called. The differences became cumbersome to remember. I’m sure if I was better acquainted with Korean culture and folklore, it would be easier for me. There’s a good deal of character development in a few of the characters and we learn some secrets about Yena’s background which are very interesting. 4 stars for this first book in the Gumiho series!

 

The Last Voyage of Poe Blythe by Ally Condie

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Philosophical dystopian by the author of the Matched series!
I received The Last Voyage of Poe Blythe by Ally Condie as a Bookish First Winner!
Poe hides out on a ship with Call, the young man that she loves. They’ve made plans to run away together and they feel like the world is at their fingertips until the ship is attacked by raiders. In that moment, everything is taken away from Poe. The story jumps to two years later when Poe becomes Captain of the ship or dredge that she’s spent the past two years designing protective armor for. She’s all alone in the world and trusts no one. The dredge is built to mine the river and gather gold. Poe designed the armor to protect the ship and shipmates from raiders, the same group of people that attacked the ship she was on two years before. The character range is limited to the people that Poe is in the most contact with. The story is philosophical in its own way as Poe ponders her experiences and the people she truly cares for. Poe grows and matures as the story unfolds, while other things remain mysterious. 4 stars for this dystopian adventure.