Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett

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Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett addresses several difficult topics with boldness and knowledge.  Simone was born HIV positive and she lives with her loving, adoptive parents, Dave and Paul, who she calls Dad and Pops. Simone recently moved to the school she’s now attending, after being tormented and shunned at her previous school when her best friend told everyone that Simone has HIV.  She wants a fresh start and her junior year is going well, at first.  She’s been assigned as the high school musical director for the school production of “Rent” because Broadway is one of her passions and her teacher believes she has what it takes to follow her dreams and make a career out of directing.  Simone meets this amazing guy, Miles, and they form a healthy relationship and she shares her secret with him.  Miles handles it kindly and with empathy and treats Simone the same as before.  Someone starts leaving threatening notes for Simone, warning her to break up with Miles or else.  Everything escalates after that and blow up.  Simone finds out who her true friends are and she has to decide whether to hold her head up high and persevere or run away from the same problem all over again.

 Be aware that Full Disclosure freely talks about sexual issues and questions, so not for sexually squeamish readers.
Impressive and bold young adult debut!

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

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Based on the true events of Florida’s infamous reform school!
Thanks to NetGalley and Doubleday for the opportunity to read and review The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead!
Historical fiction novel based on the real reform school that horribly mistreated the boys who resided there. Traumatized young men were left to deal with the abuse on their own. The story focuses on Elwood and we learn about other boys’ stories through his eyes as he witnesses them. The prevalent racism harbored hatred to the point of punishing innocent people and sending them to this terrible reform school where even harsher acts of racism occurred. The abuse went on for decades and through several headmasters. After reading this novel, I felt compelled to research the truth behind the story and was sickened at the amount of violence and abuse that young boys had to live through. Some didn’t survive. I truly don’t understand how the adults took part in or witnessed and kept quiet about any of the abuse. What’s their excuse? The Nickel Boys is tremendously powerful, enlightening and tragic, 4 stars!

Body Swap by Sylvia McNicoll

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Fun with a twist!
Thanks to NetGalley and Dundurn Press for the opportunity to read and review Body Swap by Sylvia McNicoll!
Hallie, a teenager, focuses on her cell phone so much that she walks in front of a car and gets hit. An elderly woman, Susan, was driving the car and she blames the car’s mechanical problems for the accident. Both of them are badly injured and unconscious and while they’re in that state, they involuntarily switch places. This story reminds me of Freaky Friday except the switchers aren’t family members and ageism is prevalent. Hallie is a spunky, self-absorbed teenage girl that’s slightly boy crazy and Susan is an octogenarian that’s feeling smothered by her son and daughter-in-law. They want to take away her independence, her car and her condo and make her move into a retirement home. When Hallie and Susan trade places, they gradually grow to truly care for each other and gain a great deal of compassion. I like how the author brought ageism to light and built empathy towards both young and old. Endearing realistic fiction with a twist, 4 stars!

The Unbinding of Mary Reade by Miriam McNamara

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Thanks to Edelweiss and Sky Pony Press for the opportunity to read and review The Unbinding of Mary Reade! Mary hides on the ship when Pirates attack and she unexpectedly kills the Captain and swears allegiance to the Pirate Captain. The next chapter goes back in time and tells us how Mary disguised herself, as her dead brother Mark, to please her mother and to receive money from her grandmother. Her mother calls her a bastard girl and tells her that she’s unacceptable in society or in the family. From then on Mary stays disguised as a boy everywhere except when she’s alone with her mother, who’s drunk most of the time. The story moves back and forth between the past and the present and eventually they catch up to each other, with Mary trying to figure out and understand her place in the world. Action and a delicate, tactful handling of Mary’s relationships and how she finally decides what suits her true-self best. A 4 star adventure!

 

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!

Seventh Born by Monica Sanz

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Fantasy with a touch of romance!
Thanks to NetGalley and Entangled Teen for the opportunity to read and review Seventh Born by Monica Sanz!
Seraphina lives in a society that’s prejudice against her because she’s a seventh born. She’s not allowed to have any friends, not even other seventh borns, and she’s forced to grovel to authority. Sera does have one forbidden friend that’s helpful and kind to her, Mary. As Mary and Sera are gathering books to give themselves a chance to talk to each other, a teen boy “accidentally” knocks books down on top of them. Sera is so angry that she causes his clothes to smolder without using a wand, so he can’t prove her fault without calling her powerful and without getting himself in trouble for dropping the books. A professor gets her out of the situation and later invites her to see him privately. Sera cautiously visits Professor Barrington and is relieved and surprised when he offers her a referral letter if she’ll help him investigate murders and be his investigative assistant. A new world is opened up to Sera as she learns spells, the history and reality of the seventh born persecution and her own abilities. A fantasy with a touch of romance and some twists, 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!

Bring Me Their Hearts by Sara Wolf

A reading delicacy!
Thanks to NetGalley and Entangled Teen for the opportunity to read and review Bring Me Their Hearts by Sara Wolf!
The story opens with three damsels meeting the King, Queen and Prince Lucien as they are tested to become a possible new addition to the royal palace in the form of a bride for Prince Lucien. Zera is one of these supposed damsels, but she’s actually indebted to the witch, Nightsinger, who took her heart in exchange for saving her life three years ago from the murderers who killed Zera’s family. Nightsinger has two others indebted to her,Peligli , a four year old girl and Crav, a boy younger than Zera. The three of them are Nightsinger’s Heartless and they do her bidding. She keeps their hearts until she wants to free them herself. If she dies, they will be free then too. Zera is supposed to be winning the Prince over so she can take his heart and make him a Heartless also. I love Zera with her coping skills and sense of humor and Prince Lucien is interesting too. I enjoy Sara Wolf’s writing style, with the clever wit that keeps me entertained and the complexity of her characters that always make her stories hard to put down. This is the first fantasy from Sara Wolf that I’ve read and I’m greatly impressed. Just as the author dreamed of writing a grand, sweeping and unforgettable fantasy trilogy, I have thoroughly enjoyed reading the beginning of it. The action, adventure and dynamic characters make a must-read fantasy, 5 stars!

 

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!