Trigger by N. Griffin

Disturbing fictional neglect and abuse!

Small town, USA is where Didi attends school but she lives with her father in a secluded area. He’s abusive and neglects to give Didi everything she needs. Didi is terrified and on edge always, even when she’s not around her father because she’s worried she’ll do something wrong and he’ll find out somehow. Her father makes her run laps around the property so she can become as quick as possible but she doesn’t know why he cares about that. He also forces her to learn and play chess and compete in tournaments and she has to be the best. Eventually Didi understands the reason her father has made her do these things but it might be too late for her to save herself.

Likes/dislikes:
The story is disturbing because of the neglect and abuse. The effects on the child’s physical and mental well-being are portrayed through the coping skills the main character develops over time to deal with her life; they were heartbreaking at times. The timeline jumps around and that was difficult to follow. The ending was the best part.
Language: R for 67 swears and 22 f-bombs.
Mature Content: R for physical abuse and severe neglect.
Violence: R for child abuse and hunting child with a gun.
Ethnicity: Didi has brown hair but other characters’ ethnicities aren’t described.

The Ones We Burn by Rebecca Mix

Intrigue in a supernatural world!

In an imaginary kingdom full of mixed ethnicities, Ranka is desperate to find Yeva. So desperate that she agrees to the betrothal of the Prince so she can search for her. Soon, Ranka’s companions include Prince Galen, Princess Aramis and the noble young ambassador Percy. After the virus winalin is discovered throughout the kingdom, the four companions want to stop it. Winalin is turning witches into diseased monsters that are intent on killing. While trying to get to the bottom of the mystery, their lives are completely overturned. Ranka, Prince Galen, Princess Aramis and Percy each realize that none of them might survive.

Likes/dislikes:
I like that the story creates empathy and approaches the topic of abusive manipulation. Ranka’s character development is interesting. I like that there’s little swearing.
Mature content: PG-13 for drinking.
Language: PG-13 for 11 swears, no f-bombs.
Violence: PG-13 for non-detailed bloody deaths.

A Consuming Fire by Laura Weymouth

A deadly fantasy!

In an imaginary Britain, Anya sends her sister off to give a sacrifice to the god but when Ilva returns she has sacrificed everything and soon dies. Anya vows to kill the god so no one else will ever have to sacrifice to him again. She travels under the guise of a willing sacrifice while learning everything possible to kill the god. Along the way, she learns a great deal about herself, what it means to be a family, loyalty, dedication and love. She meets wanderers and befriends them as they teach her and protect her. She also meets the mysterious thief Tieran who is an enigma to everyone he spends time with.

Likes/dislikes:
I love Anya and her determination. I enjoyed uncovering Tieran’s mysterious nature while reading the story. I like how the story ended and all that was revealed throughout the book.
Language: G for no swears, bitches is used once to describe female dog.
Mature Content: PG for kissing
Violence: PG for mutilations and death

A Wilderness of Stars by Shea Ernshaw

Sci-fi fantasy!

An ominous prologue piqued my interest. Vega is with her fatally ill mother when she sees twin stars in the sky. Her mother has taught her to watch for these stars that only show up every one hundred years and when they appear, Vega needs to find The Architect for information on how to travel to the sea. Soon after her mother passes away, Pa shows up. He’s not Vega’s father but a family friend. She goes with him when he leaves so she can get started on her journey. They travel to a town and sell Pa’s cure-all tonic as three men watch them from afar. Later, these men and more find Pa and Vega and steal his horse and the supplies he has for making his tonic. Now he has nothing left for the future. They move on, finding a deserted farmhouse set in an orchard. They rest and head to the next town. Vega keeps asking around for The Architect even though her mother warned her to be discreet. That evening, Vega decides to head out on her own, leaving Pa behind. She enters a saloon and soon after four thieves enter also and demand money from the bartender for protection. A fight erupts. Vega gets knocked down and her constellation tattoo is revealed when her hair falls out of the way. Everyone is curious and wants to see her mark when a girl saves her, taking her out of the saloon. This girl, Cricket, takes Vega to The Architect and soon after the group is attacked and he’s killed. Noah then becomes The Architect and vows to help Vega get to the sea. Cricket, Noah and Vega travel together as a team to complete the mission of generations of astronomers and architects. They meet danger and adventure at every turn and have to fight for their lives. Sci-fi fantasy, 4 stars!

Likes/dislikes:
I would have liked to have more insight into Noah’s thoughts and point of view. I enjoyed the mystery surrounding the blackness in the sky and the information passed down through generations of astronomers and architects. The bond between Noah and Vega is endearing.
I enjoyed the Old West setting and the mixed ethnicities.

Language: R for 31 swears and 4 f-bombs
Mature Content: PG-13 for saloon visit and kissing
Violence: PG-13 for Outlaws stealing, bloody stabbing and shooting

The Witch Hunt by Sasha Peyton Smith

Likeable characters!

Frances is now a teacher at Haxahaven. She and Maxine are traveling to Paris and picking up their mutual friend Lena on the way. They travel six days on a fancy ship then stay at Maxine’s family home once they reach Paris. Frances hasn’t told Lena and Maxine that she received a letter from Finn or that she wants to visit her father who abandoned her family when she was young. She meets her father and is underwhelmed with his reaction and his personality. Finn doesn’t evoke trustworthiness but Frances feels that she has to work with him to fix the damage the two of them caused when reaching the veil and speaking to her deceased brother William. Frances and her friends are determined to fix the magic problem caused by the veil breach and they need all the help they can get. Likeable characters! 4 stars!

Mature content: PG-13 for underage drinking, LGBT side characters mentioned
Language: R for 7 swears and 1 f-bomb
Violence: PG-13 for stabbing, shooting and a tied up victim
Mixed Ethnicity and set in 1913 Paris

The Witch Haven by Sasha Peyton Smith

A magical, tragic fantasy!

Frances works in a sewing factory in 1911 America. Working and living conditions aren’t very good. She’s working late one night so she can finish an order that’s scheduled to be delivered the next morning when her boss rushes in to steal money from the till and then notices Frances. He tries to force himself on her and he’s choking her to hold her still. Frances is struggling for air when she suddenly feels an odd sensation in her fingers and hears a whoosh sound. Her boss gasps and lets her go because her scissors have somehow ended up embedded in his neck. It takes Frances a minute to catch her breath and notice that her scissors have killed him. She panics, throws up and decides that the only way to get out of this situation is to stage a crime scene. Her supervisor helps her. She’s picked up by two strangers taking her to a sanitarium but they’re actually witches taking her to a training school. Haxahaven is a school that helps young women use their magical skills to help them become better wives and mothers and conform to the early 1900’s society. Many of these girls also want to learn how to use their magical abilities to protect themselves. Frances and a couple of others sneak out to venture and meet Finn who says he’ll help them train and help Frances figure out what happened to Will, her deceased brother. An entire world opens up to the girls and they get involved in much more than they bargained for. 5 stars for this magical, tragic fantasy!

Three Truths and a Lie by Brent Hartinger

Quick read with a great twist!

Thanks to NetGalley and Simon Pulse for the arc of Three Truths and a Lie by Brent Hartinger! This suspenseful mystery thriller involves four friends who go away for the weekend. Rob, Liam, Galen and Mia all go to Mia’s family cabin in logging territory. They play the game Three Truths and a Lie and after that, strange things start to happen and they wonder if someone wants to cause them harm. The suspense builds and the mystery stays unsolved. The story winds itself around to the beginning of the weekend and all is explained. This book contains some explicit sex, just to be warned, but is psychologically twisted and maddeningly interesting and a wonderful mystery thriller read!

Second reading:
Four friends stay at the lake in Mia’s family cabin when they’re suddenly without a phone or vehicle because someone has tampered with them. They try to figure out who is doing the tampering while trying to protect themselves and stay safe. One by one, they end up dying and the killer is revealed. Quick read with a great twist, 3.5 stars!

Likes/dislikes: I didn’t appreciate the overly detailed sex (this keeps the book our of school libraries.) I liked that it was a quick read. I enjoyed the twist at the end.
Language: R for 17 swears and 16 f-bombs.
Mature content: R for descriptive sex.
Violence: PG-13 for killing by a hard hit to the head, poisoning and strangling.

Foul Lady Fortune by Chloe Gong

Political intrigue in 1930’s Orient with a mix of historical fiction and fantasy!

The prologue tells of a painful scientific experiment on a person that has been strapped down. Then the story starts as Rosalind is trapping a criminal who is a member of the group responsible for the death of her cousin Juliette during a past act gone awry. She’s exacting revenge on those who were part of it. Political intrigue, spies, agents, Communists and Nationalists describe the characters in this book. Her handler pairs her with another agent, Orion, who has family issues as well. The two of them have to pretend to be married so they can infiltrate the newspaper company and try to discover information on the serial killer murdering people with a toxic liquid in syringes. What they discover turns their lives around and, unbeknownst to Orion and Rosalind, the reader is given the true identity of a mysterious agent, Priest. The author’s notes on Oriental history during the 1930’s are fascinating. Well-written, complex, beloved characters build a fun historical fiction fantasy. 5 stars!

Likes/dislikes:
I enjoyed learning about the history of 1930’s Orient. The author’s notes give readers a glimpse into her research and what’s based on facts and what’s completely fiction in this story. Rosalind and Orion are characters with depth and I had fun getting to know them.
Swearing: PG for three swears, no f-bombs
Mature content: PG for lgbtq transgender character mentioned
Violence: PG-13 for killing by poison, shooting, bloody shooting, stabbing, bloody stabbing

Talk Santa To Me by Linda Urban

A cutesy Christmas story!

Francie helps her family with their Christmas business and all of the ups and downs that go with it. She’s trying to overcome her horrible, mistaken kiss and outlive the teasing that’s occurred ever since the boy shared the details with his friends. He told everyone it was like kissing a stick. A few people have offered ways to overcome the bad kissing problem and only one person truly helps her, and helps her without judgment, by kissing her and offering sincere and honest critiques. Once that’s over, Francie gains some confidence and is able to go after her crush. A cutesy Christmas story, 3 stars!

Language Content: PG for three uses of the word dang
Mature Content: PG-13 for underage drinking, kissing
Violence: none
Ethnicity: mixed
Likes/dislikes: I liked the mixed ethnicities, the cute Christmas setting and the light humor. I didn’t like the length of time it took for the romance parts to appear in the book. I enjoy the service that the Christmas interns give by offering to buy books for a girl who only wants to finish reading Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White, since the copy she had didn’t have the ending; it was missing. That’s her request in the letter she wrote to Santa.

Fairy Tale by Stephen King

The best main character!

Charlie Reade lost his mom when he was a young boy and his Dad was so heartbroken that he became an alcoholic and lost his job. Charlie prayed for help and offered to do kind deeds in return for helping his family out. Charlie hears a dog howling and finds the elderly local neighborhood scary guy, Howard Bowditch, hurt. He’s fallen off a ladder and broken his leg. Charlie stays until the ambulance comes and then he promises Mr. Bowditch that he will take care of his dog, Radar, for him. Mr. Bowditch insists that Charlie call him Howard. Before he’s released from the hospital, Howard tells the staff that Charlie is the only person he wants staying at his house while he recovers from surgery. Charlie agrees. Charlie has also fallen in love with Radar and Radar loves him in return and he thinks that’s why Howard trusts him. Charlie helps Howard recover from surgery and gain back the use of his leg. Howard knows that he and Radar are old and their days are numbered. He starts confiding in Charlie, little by little. Charlie takes Howard’s word for it but checks his information out for his own safety and sanity. Howard is healing well until an incident in the shed causes him to overexert his heart. Howard knows he doesn’t have much longer so he records his secrets on a cassette tape for Charlie. What he tells Charlie is unbelievable! Charlie goes on the mission set forth by Howard and he’s tested in every way and learns to believe in magical things. A unique book for Stephen King because it’s more fantasy than horror and it’s written for young adults. I do enjoy his writing! 5 stars for this fairytale with the best main character!

Language: R for 100+ swears and 19+ f-bombs
Violence: PG for shooting, electric shock, a giant killing minor characters
Mature content: none
Likes/dislikes: The writing pulled me in with hints of mystery and foreshadowing.
Kind, brave main character and gruff older man help and care for each other and the dog, Radar, bonds them together. I enjoy the mysterious feel throughout the book and Stephen King wields words to encompass the reader! The illustrations are detailed and help bring the story to life.
Ethnicity: The setting is the present day America and Other realm and the ethnicities are white and Other realm characters.