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!

Nameless Queen by Rebecca McLaughlin

Coin is homeless and alone. She picks pockets to survive. The homeless people are called Nameless and are ignored and treated horribly by everyone else and have no legal rights. The king passes away and the kingdom is awaiting news of who the heir is. The heir is chosen as the king speaks his last words, mentioning a name. Then a tattoo magically appears on the shoulder of the person named. Coin happens to be that person, therefore the heir. She’s with her friend Hat when she gets a stinging pain on her shoulder and the two of them see her tattoo. She’s arrested for forging the tattoo and escapes only to be tested by the king’s daughter. Danger, intrigue, and a new world surround Coin as she adjusts to royal etiquette, duties, and the constant threat to her life. Self-worth, loyalty and friendship bind this unique story together, 4 stars!

Agnes at the End of the World by Kelly McWilliams

Completely Riveting!

Agnes resides within a cult at Red Creek but she doesn’t realize that she’s part of a cult. She’s the eldest of several siblings and is responsible for taking care of their family because their mother is severely depressed. Agnes sneaks to the Outside once a month to retrieve insulin for her younger brother Ezekiel, even though she knows it’s against the rules. Her sister Beth, the next eldest sibling, is a rebel and doesn’t like the rules. When Beth is caught kissing a boy, she’s disgraced by their father and the community. Agnes has been betrothed as a sixth wife to a middle-aged man and before she gets married, she has to teach Beth everything so she can then become the family caretaker. The middle-aged man decides to marry Beth instead of Agnes to straighten Beth out. In the meantime, a ferocious virus is spreading throughout the world and eventually arrives at Red Creek. The Prophet releases an infected dog during a church meeting and, after a few people are bitten, he tells them about his revelation; the Rapture has arrived and everyone must move into the underground bunker. Agnes escapes with Ezekiel and is heartbroken that she’s left the rest of her siblings behind. She knows that the bunker would be a death sentence for Ezekiel because there’s no insulin for him. This is a riveting story about cults, self-worth, self-importance, bravery, love, loyalty, and sacrifice. The author’s note explains the cult background information being from a nonfiction book of a survivor who escaped a true cult. A wonderfully written and all-encompassing story about love, sacrifice, and different faiths, 5 stars!

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

Shanghai ports and a terrible monster in the prologue piqued my curiosity. A retelling of Romeo and Juliet with rival gangsters in Shanghai and a mysterious string of strange deaths. Roma and Juliettte are two nineteen-year-old gangster heirs that love each other but are meant to hate each other. Shanghai is being terrorized by a strange monster that causes madness and death. The two heirs are desperately trying to save their gangs and territories from the madness, communism and other foreigners threatening to take control of Shanghai. They don’t want to cross paths, but Roma and Juliette realize they need each other’s information to solve their problems. Two strong main characters that are conflicted bring angst and empathy to this retelling, 4 stars!

Freheit!: The White Rose Graphic Novel by Andrea Grosso Ciponte

Freheit!: The White Rose Graphic Novel by Andrea Grosso Ciponte
Thanks to Plough Publishing and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this graphic novel.
Based on the actual White Rose group that spread leaflets against Nazi rule and actions during World War II. Several members were arrested and quite a few of them were executed by use of a guillotine. I didn’t realize that anyone in that era was executed by any means other than shooting. A highly impactful graphic novel that sums up the growth and activities of The White Rose and also includes the real writings on the original leaflets. Amazing strength, integrity and bravery sums up The White Rose members! A must for history buffs, 5 stars!

  • I received an advance reader copy of this book for volunteer review consideration and all opinions and thoughts are my own.

Shatter the Sky by Rebecca Kim Wells

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Shatter the Sky by Rebecca Kim Wells surprised me with its immense world building and strong characters!
Maren and Kaia have a good relationship and Kaia wants to travel and explore when she’s old enough to. Maren plans on traveling with her. Plans change when Kaia is taken as a seer to possibly be a dragon trainer. Maren decides to leave too by telling her parents that she needs to be out on her own and independent. She’s not completely honest with them. She’s planning on rescuing Kaia. She heads to the dragon fortress and asks and then manipulates her estranged uncle for a job. She becomes the new food taster. Maren is noticed by the Aromatory, Neve, who raises baby dragons until they bond with their lords. Neve uses scents to train and appreciates Maren’s ability to pick up scents that most people can’t detect. While working, Maren meets Sev, who seems friendly but with a hidden story of his own. Things progress and Maren and Sev find each other running away to escape capture and probably death. They decide to help each other and end up discovering so much more about the empire than they ever could have guessed! The ending left me worried about the characters and their safety and I’m looking forward to the sequel, Storm the Sky. A fantasy adventure that will take you for a ride, 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!

A Heart So Fierce and Broken by Brigid Kemmerer

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Impressive sequel!
A Heart So Fierce and Broken by Brigid Kemmerer
Rumors abound about and rewards are offered for the lost heir of Emberfall. Grey is working as a stable boy and goes by the name of Hawk. He mostly keeps to himself except for his stable companion and coworker, a young boy named Tycho. One night Grey tests out the silver bracelet Lilith gave him for transport into Harper’s world. He didn’t know if it worked anymore but when he touched the bracelet, he left the stables and when he returned, Tycho was staring at him. The ruthless leader that threatened Emberfall before has returned with her daughters to force Rhen into an alliance. The daughter named heir is like her mother while the other cares for people and their well being. Rhen brutalizes Grey and Tycho and the group escapes Emberfall because Grey unintentionally uses his magic. Grey doesn’t trust either kingdom or their rulers but the kind, wise daughter convinces the group to go to her kingdom despite worrying about her mother. A tremendous amount of character development bonded me with this story. I thought A Curse so Dark and Lonely was a wonderful read but this sequel is just as good! 5 stars for this impressive sequel that introduces even more great characters!

This Vicious Cure by Emily Suvada

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A fun sci-fi dystopian story, This Vicious Cure by Emily Suvada, alternates between Cat and Jun Bei, giving insight into each of their thoughts. Cat is inside a simulated environment which is really in Jun Bei’s mind since Jun Bei took over. Both realities are under duress and fighting to fix its own problems. Memories have been wiped, so Cat is new to most, except for feelings of familiarity. Jun Bei wants to fix the Panacea mortality cure and goes to severe lengths to accomplish her goal. For the first time in her life, Jun Bei feels guilty about harming people and regrets the killing she’s been responsible for in the past. Cat can see everything in the environments she’s in and everyone can see her. She looks perfectly real and solid and she’s undetected unless someone tries to touch her because their hands will go right through her image. The science fiction aspect of this series is fascinating. Embryos were created with specific genetic material to make people great coders/hackers. Thirty generations were created, mixed and born within a short period of time. Only two embryos were grown into people who were born and raised to be coding geniuses, Dax and Mato. The Panacea cure/vaccination will make people immortal while the Hydra virus has been mutating people into Lurkers through the tech panels in their arms. The series comes full circle with a satisfying ending, 5 stars!

A Sorrow Fierce and Falling by Jessica Cluess

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Interesting character development!
Thanks to NetGalley and Random House for the opportunity to read and review A Sorrow Fierce and Falling by Jessica Cluess!
Now that Blackwood and Nettie are engaged, they are able to fully work together. They move to Blackwood’s estate, Sorrow Fell, and Nettie discovers the curse that goes along with the stolen Fae dwelling. The Blackwood bride deteriorates for decades. Blackwood becomes Imperator and the power changes him and not in a good way. He craves honor, love and acceptance, which he never received from his parents. He yearns to control everything and this puts a wall between himself and Nettie. As the Ancients get closer, the sorcerers, magicians and witches struggle with leadership and the possibility of working together. This third and last book of the series contains more emotional upheavals and ups and downs, as well as great character development! Jessica Cluess has proven herself as a wonderful fantasy author and I would love to read this series again, 5 stars!