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 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️!
Thanks to NetGalley and Tanglewood Publishing for the opportunity to read and review Chester Raccoon and the Almost Perfect Sleepover by Audrey Penn. Chester spends the day with a group of friends. When it’s time for bed, Chester can’t sleep. He ends up going home and falls asleep contentedly. The story is cute and happy with some humor also. 4 stars for this addition to the story of Chester Raccoon.
Thanks to NetGalley and Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers for the opportunity to read and review The Fourth Ruby by James R. Hannibal! This sequel to The Lost Property Office finds the Buckles siblings, Jack and Sadie, relaxing by the fireplace. The siblings begin another quest with Gwen while they search for a thief together and the item the thief is after, the fourth ruby. The Mongolian history was interesting to read about and I liked how the author tied it into the Buckles’ lives. Jack continues and is determined to help his father throughout this new adventure even though many dangers are lurking. Fun steampunk mystery! 4 stars.
Sea of Strangers, the sequel to Island of Exiles. I don’t understand the different use of pronouns and it’s distracting but the author’s descriptive details make a scenic world once again. On their journey, the travelers encounter magic, other cultures, dangerous terrain and poisonous birds. They become a strong team and learn to work together and Khya learns that she’s capable of so much more than she ever could have believed. The ending is interesting and intense and my favorite part! 4 stars for a sequel with as much spirit as the first book of the Ryogan Chronicles!
Thanks to NetGalley and Entangled Publishing for the opportunity to read and review Where I Found You by Heidi R. Kling. Sienna is still reeling from her mother’s disappearance that occurred five years ago. Her father is trying to move forward, but still honor his lost wife at the same time. It’s assumed that she went down in a plane crash over the Indian Ocean. Sienna reluctantly agrees to go with her father to a community across the world in Indonesia that has been struck by a Tsunami which caused disaster. While there, Sienna’s eyes are opened and her empathy for those who have suffered through the Tsunami and lost so much overcomes her own feelings of loss. She meets and helps several people and gains a close, wonderful relationship with a young man named Reni. She discovers that Reni is searching for his father and she does everything she can to help him. This touching, beautiful realistic fiction story opened my eyes to the horrible tragedy and suffering of the Tsunami victims, many things I had never thought about or heard of. I enjoyed learning about another culture also. I’m anxiously awaiting the sequel!!! 5 stars.
The Sweetheart Sham by Danielle Ellison. I’m immediately drawn into the story because of the lovable two main characters, best friends Will and Georgie. Georgie is protecting Will’s secret. She will do anything to help him and when an old beau returns to town, the secret and Georgie’s loyalty are challenged. I love how the author approaches Will’s secret and the different points of view in the small southern town. This realistic situation with all of the stresses and anxiety rings true. One of my favorite scenes of the book is the escape of Georgie from Beau when they run into each other in Charleston while she’s supposedly on a date with Will; classic fun! The author brings a poignant story into our hearts and gives readers food for thought with the friendship, loyalty and honesty of wonderful and complicated characters. Young adult romance worth 5 stars!
Thanks to NetGalley and Philomel Books for the opportunity to read and review Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao. Xifeng lives with and under the control of her Aunt Guma in a poverty-stricken kingdom where the king forces young women to be his concubines. Guma uses magic that makes others suspicious and cautious. She’s reading cards for Xifeng’s future and the cards state that Xifeng is going to be Empress someday. Xifeng and her boyfriend Wei leave the village for their freedom and their futures. They each discover something new about themselves and each other. This debut novel contains unique elements. The protagonist also seems to be the antagonist and as the story unfolds the theme seems to change. I’m fascinated with Xifeng and her reasoning with all of her actions as well as the beautiful relationship she has with Wei. An impressive, entertaining first novel by Julie C. Dao! 5 stars!
*I received a complimentary copy of this book for voluntary consideration.
Beyond the darkened sky by Dana Alexander begins as Sara awakens in a forest alone, but she feels like someone is watching her. They show themselves and partially explain who they are. She’s confused and lost as they explain to her who she is and why she’s there. Once again, science fiction is not my favorite genre and the story elements were confusing, even though the descriptions were well done, they were too deep for me. 3.5 stars.
Thanks to NetGalley and Disney-Hyperion for the opportunity to read and review Rosemarked by Livia Blackburne! Zivah has been an apprentice for years and now she’s a healer because she has passed the required test. Rose plague has broken out and Zivah is helping the other healers take care of the ailing patients. Dineas has suffered through the rose plague, healed, recovered and developed brown splotches and has been labeled as umbertouched. They meet under wary circumstances but become allies. The storyline becomes complicated but the author describes everything perfectly, which erases all confusion. I enjoy Dineas’ humor and personality and Zivah’s perseverance and outlook on life. Wonderful characters and an ending that leaves me anticipating the sequel make a 5-star fantasy adventure!
*I received a complimentary copy of this book for voluntary consideration.
Thanks to NetGalley and Disney Book Groups for the opportunity to read and review Follow Me by Sara Shepard! The story begins with Brett and his prospects and then alternates with each of the main characters from the first book, Amateurs. Seneca is an intern handing out parking tickets, Maddox is still working on his running and wants to go to the Olympics, Aerin took a vacation and Madison is enjoying life, as she always does. Madison brings a letter to Maddox at the gym and they’re floored when they find out who it’s from and what it’s about. The Case Not Closed group is back again! The mystery, suspense and thrills are back in this sequel and so are the twists! 5 stars for another great mystery by Sara Shepard!