Cakespell by Gaby Triana

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Cakespell by Gaby Triana tells a story about Rose. Rose loves baking and has aspirations of becoming a famous baker and opening her own shop someday. Her mother hates the idea of Rose baking or working and she wants Rose to only focus on her schoolwork so she can eventually support herself, be self-sufficient and independent. Rose decides to spend her time baking at her grandpa’s house and keeps it a secret from her mother. Her grandpa, who she calls Papa, is more than happy to have Rose at his home. Papa gives Rose all of her deceased grandma’s baking utensils and her special apron that Rose has wonderful memories of. Papa believes that Rose has special baking skills like her grandmother and he teaches her a special Cakespell that makes her baked goods help people fall in love. Rose’s creations are delicious and she begins to gain customers by the dozens. Cakespell is a cute, fun story that also deals with the heavier issues of self-image, losing a loved one, friendship struggles, setting and working toward goals, sportsmanship and lack of parental support. An enjoyable young adult read with crushes, humor and love that round out this adorable tale of baking with a bit of mischief, 4 stars!

Sweet Peril by Wendy Higgins

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Sweet Peril by Wendy Higgins opens with a story from Rome in the 1700’s where two Nephilim are punished for loving each other. Six months have passed since book one and since Anna and Kaidan have seen each other. Kaidan and Anna know they need to stay apart for their own safety as well as the safety of the rebelling Nephilim and supporting demons. Anna has been given a mission and she’s going to be working with Kope. Their mission is to save a young woman in a part of the world where women are devalued, degraded and abused. Her name is Zania. Kope and Anna meet with two Nephilim and then their emotions get in the way, so they decide traveling together is too difficult. Anna then travels alone and she is finally able to have a conversation with Kaidan and they are finally honest with each other and learn how to make their relationship work. Unexpectedly, Kope and Kaidan work together, by wearing Arabic disguises and saving Zania by pretending to purchase her for slavery. Blake, Kaidan, Anna, Kope and Zania are forced to hide in the cold ocean water because the Dukes come to the island they are staying on. While shivering in the water, they are witnesses to a Nephilim murder by the Neph’s own father. The group works with Anna’s father, continually strategizing to build the rebellion up. Sweet Peril is just as exciting as the first book, Sweet Evil, in this supernatural series by Wendy Higgins. 5 stars!

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

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Family members left behind after a suicide face deep pain. Resources offering real help are included in this book! Thanks to NetGalley and Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for the opportunity to read and review The Astonishing Color of After! The main character saw her mother’s suicide and believes that her mother has visited her as a bird. No one believes her even though she has physical evidence. Her and her father visit her maternal grandparents in Taiwan and even though they don’t speak much English, they believe that the bird is true. This book is difficult to categorize into a genre, but even though it has supernatural happenings throughout the story, I feel that this is still, above all, a realistic fiction tale. The deep pain that survivors of suicidal family members face is a real problem and an intense struggle that hasn’t been addressed as much as it’s needed. The Astonishing Color of After helps! Resources are included towards the end of the book for various needs of those dealing with depression, loss, suicide and/or suicidal thoughts. The resources are categorized under the following headings: Suicide Prevention, For Suicide Loss Survivors and Understanding Mental Illness. The cultural education and coping skills made the story more interesting and I love Axel and the great friend that he is to Leigh and I appreciate the author’s honesty about her own experiences of being a suicide survivor. 4 stars!

The Fates Divide by Veronica Roth

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The Fates Divide by Veronica Roth opens as the action picks up where it left off in Carve the Mark, reacquainting us with the characters and their situations. Cyra and Akos have formed a strong bond with each other, Ryazek is in prison and Eijah still suffers from loss of his own memories. Death follows and problems grow. The story is told in first person and third person and alternates between four characters. Complicated, but effective, storytelling flows so well that I was pulled right back into Cyra’s world full of rebellion, intrigue and heartache. Cyra and Akos learn a shocking truth that changes the course of their fates. The suspense builds to intense levels and rounds out this amazingly creative science fiction story. The only thing that bothers me is when the author mixes up Cisi as a Noavek while she’s healing and pondering her fate on page 418. 4.5 stars for the imagination that was put into creating the Noavek/Kereseth world!

Bacon Pie by Candace Robinson and Gerardo Delgadillo

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Thanks to Evernight Teen and an author request for the opportunity to read and review Bacon Pie by Candace Robinson and Gerard Odelgadillo. Evernight Teen. Lia and Kiev began a relationship under the strangest of circumstances; Lia punches Kiev in the face! For punishment, they have to perform community service at the local festival that celebrates all things pig. Teen angst, awkward friends, family diversity and family struggles round out this story to make a charming and fun realistic fiction read for young adults. I enjoyed Lia’s and Kiev’s differences in and passion for their hobbies, retro video games and Shakespearean plays, respectively. Tough topics are lightly addressed and added to the depth of the storyline and overall, the cute theme and humor won me over, 4 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!

 

Sweet Evil by Wendy Higgins

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Sweet Evil by Wendy Higgins is an intense ride with demons and angels. The opening reveals Anna’s beginnings as she’s born and blessed with the angelic spirit of her dying mother while her father looks on with a broken heart. Police break in and arrest her father, John LaGray, for international drug trafficking and his only remark to her is, “Just say no to drugs, will ya kid?” Fast forward to teen Anna attending a concert with her best friend, Jay. They’re enjoying the music when Anna notices the drummer. She sees others’ emotions as colors and the drummer hardly is showing any, only a small amount of red. She also notices how attractive he is. Kaidan, the drummer, keeps running into Anna after they meet backstage after the concert. He seems to know what she is and after Kaidan confronts Anna at a party, she talks to her adoptive mother, Patti and learns all the secrets that she knows about Anna’s past. Patti also warns Anna to distance herself, as far as possible, from Kaidan. Anna and Kaidan have difficulty keeping distance from each other and, due to lack of money, Patti is unable to take Anna on the trip to gather more information from her past by speaking to her imprisoned father and to Sister Ruth, the nun who was present at Anna’s birth, Kaidan offers to take Anna there. The meeting with Anna’s father goes well and she gains love and respect for him as he tells the story of his life-from living in Heaven to becoming a fallen angel, to loving Anna’s mother and to his time in prison. He gives her valuable advice and information and she leaves him feeling loved. Anna receives a call from a nun letting her know that Sister Ruth passed away but left all of her belongings to Anna. Kaidan and Anna decide to keep their distance from one another and when they do see each other it causes confusion. Anna’s learning to “work” to keep the demons at bay but she has to deal with the guilt afterward, each time she persuades someone to make an unwise choice. The intensity of Kaidan’s and Anna’s relationship is intoxicating and the pull between them is undeniable. I’m looking forward to the next book in this series, Sweet Peril. Supernatural deception and integrity all in one!

Unraveled by Kate Jarvik Birch

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Thanks to NetGalley and Entangled Publishing for the opportunity to read and review Unraveled by Kate Jarvik Birch, the third installment in her Perfected series! Ella and Penn are on the run for their own freedom and safety and they continue to fight for the freedom of all of the Pets. The group they’re with is bombarded after being deceived into believing they would be rescuing many Pets. No one is truly sure about who can be trusted after that deception. Penn and Ella still have a beautiful relationship, regardless of Penn being the horrible Congressman’s son and Ella still deeply cares for Ruby, Penn’s younger sister. Unraveled shows growth in its characters and the mark that choices leave, decisions always have consequences. Suspense is the overriding emotion throughout the story and the feeling of not knowing who to trust carries on also. I thoroughly enjoyed Unraveled and especially the variety of characters and their dynamics. 5 stars for this dystopian novel!

The Rules of Rebellion by Amity Hope

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Thanks to NetGalley and Entangled Publishing for the opportunity to read and review The Rules of Rebellion by Amity Hope. Kylie gets teased by her younger sister, Allie, because of her complete lack of social fun, so Kylie decides to make a rebellion list of things she can do to expand her high school social experience. Kylie’s rebellion list contains rules also, such as attend a party (without drinking). With Kylie’s list and the help from her friend Leo, the adventures begin. This story turned out to be more complex than I expected and the foreshadowing was subtle and perfect. Kylie’s group of friends are supportive and fun and I enjoyed the prank that Leo planned for her list. Rules of Rebellion is a fun teen romance with the added maturity that makes it a perfect young adult realistic fiction book! Very adorable and worth 5 stars!

Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer

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Thanks to NetGalley and Bloomsbury for the opportunity to read and review Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer! Two teens that have each lost someone they love begin an ongoing anonymous conversation by adding to a letter left and then found next to a cemetery headstone. The conversation moves to email for convenience and these two strangers help each other grieve. Declan has lost his sister and his father is in prison and no longer part of their family. His mother has married Alan, who isn’t the nicest to Declan. Juliet has lost her journalist mother in a hit and run car accident and she lives with her father. Declan has an amazing best friend, Rev, that’s dealing with his own traumatic past and Juliet’s best friend, Rowan, is supportive and caring. The email relationship remains anonymous and grows deeper and more meaningful as their grief is dealt with together. Letters to the Lost melted my heart with the complicated storyline and endearing, real characters. I love everything about this story, from the caring, helpful teachers to the awkward friends to the dysfunctional family members. All of these components create a beautiful realistic fiction novel worth 5 stars!