Price of Duty by Todd Strasser

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Heartbreaking, tear-jerking, gut-wrenching reality!
Thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for the opportunity to read and review Price of Duty by Todd Strasser. As the story opens, we’re thrown right into a Humvee being hit by an IED! The main character, Jake, narrates in first person point of view, alternating between the present and his active duty as a U.S. soldier. His life has completely changed since he enlisted in the military and he’s holding onto anger from seeing his comrades harmed and killed, feeling deceived by the recruiter, struggling with his own injuries and having to face being reactivated. He’s hiding his anger from everyone and he’s afraid he’ll let it slip and his family and hometown will think less of him. Price of Duty shows us what war is really about in heartbreaking, tear jerking, gut wrenching reality, 5 stars for a book that I’m definitely buying for the library collection!

Echoes by Alice Reeds

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Twists and a cliffhanger ending = riveting mystery!
Thanks to NetGalley and Entangled for the opportunity to read and review Echoes by Alice Reeds.
The book opens on a flight that goes terribly wrong, landing two known survivors on an island. The story then alternates from the island setting to previous events before the crash. Fiona is on a scholarship while attending a private school, she excels in kickboxing and has dyed blue hair. Miles is a rich kid, attends the same school as Fiona and has a wonderful academic record. The two of them have been invited to Berlin for an internship at Briola Pharmaceutical. When they arrive at the supposed address of the Briola Pharmaceutical Factory, all they find is a rundown warehouse. They also discover, through researching, that there’s no record of who reserved their hotel room or the Briola company website and the company itself doesn’t exist, even though it was all online twenty-four hours ago. Now Miles and Fiona are on their own. I assumed that the island segments happened after the Berlin parts of the story, but that’s supposedly not the case. While on the island, Fiona and Miles find evidence of the two of them being in Berlin, but neither one of them has any memories of it. All they know, in both settings, is that someone means to cause them harm and completely isolate the two of them from everyone and everything else. The danger grows and the mystery continues to the very end of the book, where another twist appears, which isn’t the end of Miles’ and Fiona’s ordeal. The mystery kept me riveted, 5 stars!

In the Afterlight by Alexandra Bracken

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Fast moving and action-packed!
In the Afterlight by Alexandra Bracken intensifies as the danger amps up in this third book of the Darkest Minds series. Liam’s memories are clear once again and his brother Cole continues to hide the fact that he himself is a Red. Cole doesn’t want everyone to be afraid of his powers, shun him and refuse to follow his lead. Liam, Ruby, Chubs and Zu are actually back together but their little group isn’t alone and they have to figure out how to work with the dynamics of a bigger group. The intense plot continues and more characters are introduced and brought into the action. Fast moving and action packed describe this book, 5 stars!

Never Fade by Alexandra Bracken

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Never Fade by Alexandra Bracken opens with Ruby and how she is now with the Children’s League, helping them free someone from prison. That someone turns out to be Liam, or so Ruby thinks. It’s actually Liam’s brother, Cole. The League sends Ruby on a mission to find a flash drive containing information that can help with IAAN, the “disease” that caused death to many children and gave abilities to the survivors. Cole accidentally gave the flash drive to Liam and so they began the hunt for him. When Ruby finds Liam, she’s not alone. She’s with Jude, Vida and Chubs. They make an interesting group with their strong mix of personalities and their banter. When they do find Liam, he’s dying from pneumonia. Liam also feels a strong connection to Ruby that he can’t understand, since she wiped herself from his memories the last time she was with him, thinking that would keep Liam safe. With one surprise after another, this book doesn’t disappoint! Action, adventure, twists, dark humor and a thick plot make this a riveting dystopian! 5 stars!

The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

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Friendship, loyalty and danger sum up The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken. The story dives right in to the intensity with action and mystery. Many children die while some live. Ruby and several other children are shipped off to Thurmond, a guarded facility meant to contain the children that survived. These children are dangerous and, in bits, we learn why. Ruby is rescued by a league that supposedly helps these children but when Ruby sees the memories of one of the rescuers, she realizes that he’s a killer. She runs and ends up with a small group on the run also-Liam, Chubs and Suzume. They’re trying to find someone known as the Slip Kid, a supposedly great and elusive leader who helps get kids back with their families. The small group finally finds Slip Kid and becomes part of his group. Little do they know what lies ahead for them. Friendship and loyalty are both strong components in Darkest Minds. This sci-fi dystopian is filled with danger, action and suspense, 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!

Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young

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Riveting historical fiction!
Thanks to NetGalley, St. Martin’s Press and Wednesday Books for the opportunity to read and review Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young! Eelyn goes to battle with her fellow clansmen and is saved by Iri, her brother that died five years ago. Iri fell in battle and everyone thought he had died. He fell into a ravine that his clan couldn’t get down into, but the Riki clan that they were fighting managed to get to him, save his life and help him heal. Eelyn discovers this after she followed Iri and was captured by Fiske from the Riki clan. Now she’s facing being sold to a different clan because the clan she’s with doesn’t know what to do with her. Fiske ends up buying her so no harm comes to Eelyn. Fiske and his family are the people who saved Iri, who has become part of their family and has vowed himself to the Riki clan. A world opens up to Eelyn as she sees that the two clans are alike and they both have an extremely dangerous, terrorizing common enemy. Sky in the Deep brings the lifestyle of Vikings up close and personal and allows the reader to see and feel their thoughts, reasoning and family bonds that made the Vikings formidable. 5 stars for the insightful story of love, loyalty and beliefs of the Vikings!

Mean Little People by Paige Dearth

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Heartbreaking realistic fiction.
Thanks to NetGalley, Fiction With Meaning LLC and a Goodreads giveaway for the ARC of Mean Little People by Paige Dearth.
The prologue broke my heart with the bullying of a seven-year-old boy. Tony was severely bullied by children and then he went home after being saved by a passerby and was bullied horribly by his father. The story continues on as Tony grows up, makes friends, loses friends and stands up to his father. The story jumps through Tony’s life and is somewhat choppy for a while but then finally settles and flows better. Once Tony becomes a teenager, the jumping stops and the story continues on with the tragically sad, horrifying and heartbreaking events that he’s living through. Tony sees his friend Salvatore harm someone. Vincent and Salvatore run away but Tony stays to help the injured person. A witness sees Tony by the person and tells the police that Tony was the killer when the person dies. Tony ends up in a juvenile detention center where he’s abused beyond comprehension. The only reason he was arrested is because he wouldn’t tell on Salvatore. Salvatore’s father is the mob boss but he’s cold and uncaring so he doesn’t help Tony as much or as quickly as he should. The mob eventually kills the witness and Tony is released. Now he has nowhere to go because his wretched father refuses to let him stay at home because he’s a “criminal”. He’s homeless. Tony finds a friend in a male drug addict and they share a room in an abandoned apartment building. This is the first time that he feels safe and isn’t harmed by someone he’s trusted. He also meets Donata, who owns a bakery that Tony frequently visits on the rare occasion when he has money. Donata and her granddaughter Ruth become family to Tony. His addict friend freezes to death and Tony is left on the streets alone and terrified of freezing to death too. He ends up joining the Slayers, a violent gang, just so he has a warm place to sleep. Through all of this, Salvatore begs his father to help Tony. The mob boss finally gives Tony a job, freeing him from the Slayers. He always tells Tony that he is indebted to him and the mob family and owes them, even though Salvatore continues to remind his father that he’s really indebted to Tony for saving him from the awful detention center in the first place. This story reminds me of the movie “Scarface”, with the hatred, anger and violence. I admire the author for being brutally honest with the details of the harm and violence that is predominantly portrayed throughout the book. Perseverance is strongly represented also. Tony has amazing strength and because we’re given his view of tragedies that he suffered through, his strength and perseverance become even more hard- earned and amazing because he carries on. The choppy grammar is used to make the characters real and it does work. Heartbreaking realistic fiction that’s also very eye-opening, 4 stars.

Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett

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Starry Eyes is a charming, fun, mature realistic fiction for young adults.
Thanks to NetGalley and Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing for the opportunity to read and review Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett!
Zorie and Lennon are neighbors at home and work. They also used to be best friends until family problems and drama got in the way. A teen group camping trip, which is supposed to be fun and not exactly “roughing it “, turns out dangerous with Lennon and Zorie stranded. Luckily, they’re both smart enough to help each other and work together to try to make it back to civilization. The two teenagers finally get the opportunity they need to talk and work out their relationship. Humor lightens the drama and Lennon and Zorie have interesting personalities that make Starry Eyes a charming, fun, mature realistic fiction for young adults. 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!