The Realm Breaker by Victoria Aveyard

Fantastic world building and strong character development, 5 stars for this series opener!

Different lives become connected through unpleasant events. Andry witnesses the horrible deaths of a group of knights that he was traveling with. One brother killed another and set loose a horde of violent corpses that kills everyone in its path. Reminiscent of the Lord of the Rings, this updated epic fantasy brings action and a gathering of many to fight a common enemy that wants to take over the world. The group of forsaken allies grows stronger after being betrayed by someone they thought was one of their own. This group is made up of a young woman with a special family line, a large and powerful Elder, an honorable squire, a young assassin and more continue to join as the story unfolds. They face dangerous creatures and powerful foes in this high, epic fantasy that opens a series bound to be a story for the ages! Fantastic world building and strong character development, 5 stars for this series opener!

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

Remember history!

Lale is transported to an Auschwitz concentration camp in a rail car with many other men. He arrives and is requested to help the camp tattoist because of his fluency in several languages. On his first days of tattooing prisoners, Lale tattoos a woman that he immediately feels a strong connection with. Her name is Gita and their relationship continues to grow. As the tattooist, Lale gets extra food rations and he befriends the camp residents that take the prisoners clothes and belongings to sort them out. They find many valuables and share with Lale so he can get supplies, such as food and medicine for needy prisoners. He comes face to face with Mengele, the infamous and horrible doctor that experiments on prisoners. His assistant is castrated by Mengele and I had no idea that he performed terrible acts like castration, which was probably tame compared to his other experiments. Years go by as prisoners, and eventually the camp, is liberated. Lale searches for Gita as soon as he possibly can. This is a true story that’s heartbreaking and heartwarming. It’s full of historical information that the world needs to remember, 4 stars!

Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys

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The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys is a novel masterpiece!
Poverty and suppression hidden under sunshine and kindness describes the picture painted of Spain as the rest of the world sees the land and its people. The story tells itself with alternating points of view and the author’s writing draws the reader into the characters’ lives, so I was pulled quickly into caring for them. Ana lives with her siblings and each of them works as many jobs as possible since their parents are no longer with them. Daniel traveled to Spain from Texas with his parents, his mother of Spanish descent and oil-rich father. Daniel meets Ana at the hotel where she works as a maid. Daniel loves photography and Ana helps him as much as she dares. Daniel starts noticing that Ana keeps her distance like she’s afraid. Another revelation occurs when Ana’s brother Rafe and his coworker realize that the baby coffins being sent to the cemetery for them to bury are actually empty. More injustice is revealed as we learn that Ana’s parents were killed because they wanted to start a school and their ideas went against the beliefs of the leader of Spain, Francisco Franco. The snippets taken from primary sources bring this story to a deeper level and helped me to understand how the rest of the world perceived Spain during this time frame.
The characters and their lives all connect in one way or another and those relationships show how truly complicated and complex Spain’s history is. My heart goes out to the people who suffered in silence for decades and for those still affected by the repercussions. Ruta Sepetys amazes me with every book she writes. Her dedication stands above and beyond what is required because she pours her heart and soul into the stories she creates. I’m grateful that she shares them with the world because, with each book, I gain more knowledge of cultures and history across the globe.
Fountains of Silence, a true work of art! 5 stars!

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

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As a reread, this book is just as amazing the second time around!

An Ember in the Ashes, by Sabaa Tahir, opens as Laia witnesses the killings of her grandparents and the capture of her brother Darin as soldiers attack their home, accusing Darin of being a part of the Resistance. Laia’s story alternates with Elias, a soldier training most of his life to serve the Empire. Laia finds the Resistance to try and save Darin while Elias debates desertion or staying and serving the Empire. Laia is bought as the Commandant’s new slave girl, a Resistance idea to find out information about Darin so they can plan how to help him. Laia discovers life as a slave is horrible and she’s having a very difficult time getting information for the Resistance. Four Masks are sent into nightmarish trials, Elias and Helene are two of the soldiers, and they must overcome their worst fears to survive as their love, loyalty and hearts are strained through horrific events. Throughout the story, Elias and Laia unexpectedly run into each other and they unwillingly get to know each other. Each chapter ends with intensity, so it’s a difficult book to put down. Dynamic, complex characters to love and hate make this story suspenseful, exciting and interesting, 5 stars!

The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

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Friendship, loyalty and danger sum up The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken. The story dives right in to the intensity with action and mystery. Many children die while some live. Ruby and several other children are shipped off to Thurmond, a guarded facility meant to contain the children that survived. These children are dangerous and, in bits, we learn why. Ruby is rescued by a league that supposedly helps these children but when Ruby sees the memories of one of the rescuers, she realizes that he’s a killer. She runs and ends up with a small group on the run also-Liam, Chubs and Suzume. They’re trying to find someone known as the Slip Kid, a supposedly great and elusive leader who helps get kids back with their families. The small group finally finds Slip Kid and becomes part of his group. Little do they know what lies ahead for them. Friendship and loyalty are both strong components in Darkest Minds. This sci-fi dystopian is filled with danger, action and suspense, 5 stars!

The Iron Flower by Laurie Forest

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A solid 5 stars for the wonderful, complex world of the Black Witch!
Thanks to NetGalley and Harlequin Teen for the opportunity to read and review The Iron Flower by Laurie Forest!
The story picks up right where The Black Witch left off. The Resistance works together trying to figure out how to keep their ‘unsavory’ friends safe. The prose flows smoothly and focuses on characters’ situations. An all-encompassing fantasy with a mystery that is foreshadowed throughout the series but left hidden from its readers, keeps the suspense going. Elloren and her friends are fighting for freedoms that are being taken away piece by piece. Fierce loyalty and friendship bond many different types of people and bring them together to fight against genocide and towards freedom. The Iron Flower adds much to this fantasy series and I’m looking forward to reading the next installment already; a solid 5 stars for the wonderful, complex world of the Black Witch!

The Black Witch by Laurie Forest

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Full of magic!
Thanks to NetGalley and Harlequin Teen for the opportunity to read and review The Black Witch by Laurie Forest!
Elloren and her brothers, Rafe and Trystan, have lived with their Uncle Edwin since a Keltic attack killed their parents years ago. He treats them well. Uncle Edwin is also very protective of Elloren and wants her to have every advantage in life that her brothers have, but he’s also hiding information about Elloren’s abilities. A missing girl calls for Elloren through a Watcher, a perceptive white bird, and gives her the mythical White Wand. Sage, the missing young woman, fears for her baby’s safety and she claims that the Council is coming for him because they believe he’s evil, then she disappears into the forest once again. Elloren visits Aunt Vyvian, keeping the White Wand a secret. Aunt Vyvian wants to use Elloren for her own political goals while she attends University and she wants Elloren to be wandfasted (engaged) immediately to the young man of Aunt Vyvian’s choosing. Elloren is in danger everywhere she goes and suffers several attacks her first day at University. It seems that she’s assumed by everyone to be prejudice just like her famous grandmother, the Black Witch, who Elloren resembles completely. Elloren’s eyes are opened to the prejudices and violence in her world and Aunt Vyvian is at the top of the worst of it. The dynamics of the characters build the story line into intrigue and complexity. Genocide is threatening on the horizon and Elloren forms loyal relationships with many people who she’s been taught not to trust. I’ve grown to care about these characters and I’m anxious to read the sequel, The Iron Flower. 5 stars for this fantasy full of magic!

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

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Thanks to NetGalley and MacMillan Children’s Publishing Group for the opportunity to read and review Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi! Females, young and old, train together to learn to be strong, independent and to gain self-defense skills. This training is hidden from the rest of the kingdom because they would be in trouble and danger if anyone else found out they are more than timid servants. These women lost loved ones in a horrific act of violence against their community and have been training ever since. Zelie is a part of this group and when she was five she watched her mother being dragged away and then hung. Amari is an unhappy princess who escapes and inadvertently ends up with Zelie and her family. They run from Prince Inan, Amari’s brother, as he struggles with his internal conflict of whether or not magic is good or evil. During this time, Zelie’s magic grows and she works at controlling her powers. As Zelie, her brother Tzain and Amari learn to trust each other and work together, they encounter horrific dangers as they continue their quest for the artifacts-the scroll, sunstone and the bone dagger. With these artifacts, magic can be restored. Some romance and humor lighten the dark world that Zelie lives in and both of these help her conquer the evil and pain that drags her under. The impressive storyline, immaculate world building and strong, dynamic characters make Children of Blood and Bone an intense fantasy read worth 5 stars!

 

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

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An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir introduces Laia and her brother Darin, who both live with their grandparents. When the Empire raids their home, Darin runs and instructs Laia to hide his sketchbook. They’re both caught and taken back inside to watch their grandparents lose their lives. Elias is introduced next. He’s a soldier of the Empire, known as a Mask. Masks are skilled soldiers and trained killers. Elias watches with the rest of the Masks as a deserter is whipped to death by the Commandant. This sickens him because he’s planning on deserting also and he thinks that he will be the next to die at the hands of the Commandant. The Commandant is Elias’ mother and she holds nothing but hatred for her son. The story alternates between Laia and Elias and suspense flows throughout the entire book, each section ending on a cliffhanger. Laia enters the Empire as the Commandant’s slave and as a spy for the resistance, in exchange for helping Darin. A new era is upon the Empire and The Trials have been set and will challenge four Masks, only two will survive and one of them will be the new Emperor. Relationships grow more complicated for both Laia and Elias and the struggle for their lives becomes more desperate. This rollercoaster of a story keeps the suspense heightened to the very last page! 5 well-deserved stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️!

Berserker by Emmy Laybourne

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Thanks to NetGalley and Feiwel & Friends for the opportunity to read Berserker by Emmy Laybourne! Hanne has inherited Norwegian Berserker powers and supposedly this is what drove her mother away. Hanne lives with her drinking father, two brothers and a younger sister. Her eldest brother Steig wants to move to America, get a teaching job and bring his siblings to America when he has enough money. Hanne’s story alternates with Owen Bennett’s, who’s treated badly by his family because he’s the product of Mr. Bennett’s past affair. Hanne is overtaken by the Berserker powers when she senses that her family is in danger and she kills the three men that mean to cause harm to her family and her father ends up dying also. The four siblings run away from their home. Meanwhile, two men, Rolf and Ketil, are sent by a Baron, their employer, to hunt down any Nytte, anyone with Norwegian descent that has inherited Viking strengths. They all travel to America. Owen meets the siblings when he saves Sissel from a moving train so she can be with her family. Owen becomes the family’s guide. Along the way to their uncle’s home in Montana, the group braves many setbacks and they also meet Ketil and Rolf. The story comes full circle with much action and adventure involved and the loyalty of friends and family is what I enjoyed the most in this book. 4 stars for a suspense filled mythological adventure!
*I received a complimentary copy of this book for voluntary consideration.