The Beautiful by Renee Ahdieh

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Historical New Orleans setting!
The Beautiful by Renee Ahdieh opens as a ship with young women pulls into New Orleans harbor. these women want to start new lives. Celine and Pippa are heading to a convent when they spot an interesting young man, who seems to stop traffic wherever he goes. Some of these young women, Celine, Pippa and Anabel, will work at a convent until they get married. They raise funds for the convent and teach the students. While they’re selling the items they’ve made, they’re approached by Odette, who seems rich and states that she’s willing to pay anything for a good seamstress. Celine sews well and she’s thrilled about the job offer. The only thing holding her back is the curfew she’s supposed to keep. Once she goes with Odette and meets her associates, she’s drawn into another world. Celine meets creatures that she didn’t know existed and her life completely changes. A mysterious fantasy set in New Orleans! 5 stars!

The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco

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Japanese cultures and legends with a spooky aspect kept me glued to the pages of The Girl From the Well by Rin Chupeco!
I bought this book years ago because the synopsis intrigued me, but I hadn’t gotten around to reading it until it was set as the October read for the Dragons & Tea Book Club. The first five chapters introduce us to a ghost that sees murderers and scares them to death. This ghost’s life was ended in murder and she seeks justice and rids the world of killers. She notices a teen boy with strange tattoos that he tries to keep hidden as he moves into a house in Applegate, with his father. The boy, Tarquin (Tark for short) lives alone with his father since his mother seemingly tried to kill him when he was younger. The two visit her in the psychiatric hospital and she is terrified when she sees Tark and she’s threatening harm to whoever she thinks is going to hurt him, and only she can see this being. Tark thinks he freaks her out but his mother sees a dark shadow in him. The ghost sees the shadow too. The suspense heightens immensely in the next few chapters and leaves me rooting for the ghostly woman and her strong intentions. Chapters 6- 10: The action picks up alongside the suspense and I didn’t want to stop reading! 11-14: detailed descriptions of Japanese ghost legends surrounding Okiku in the well explain the ghost’s story and the humor picks up as Tark and Callie exchange emails. 15: A group of high school boys committed horrible and mutilating acts on a young woman and this setting opens a chapter with a new murder and retribution. 16-20: Tark, his father and cousin Callie travel to the shrine where Tark’s mother grew up. They learn about her life and all the things they never knew about her from the people she was raised by and grew up with. They witness a possession and exorcism of a little boy and see the shrine’s powers at work. 20-ending: sacrifices are made, tragedy strikes and parts of the shrine are damaged and destroyed.
I love this book and read through it quickly because it was interesting, suspenseful and I grew to love the characters and wanted to know how everything turned out for them. I enjoyed learning more about Japanese culture and legends, 5 stars!

Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett

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Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett addresses several difficult topics with boldness and knowledge.  Simone was born HIV positive and she lives with her loving, adoptive parents, Dave and Paul, who she calls Dad and Pops. Simone recently moved to the school she’s now attending, after being tormented and shunned at her previous school when her best friend told everyone that Simone has HIV.  She wants a fresh start and her junior year is going well, at first.  She’s been assigned as the high school musical director for the school production of “Rent” because Broadway is one of her passions and her teacher believes she has what it takes to follow her dreams and make a career out of directing.  Simone meets this amazing guy, Miles, and they form a healthy relationship and she shares her secret with him.  Miles handles it kindly and with empathy and treats Simone the same as before.  Someone starts leaving threatening notes for Simone, warning her to break up with Miles or else.  Everything escalates after that and blow up.  Simone finds out who her true friends are and she has to decide whether to hold her head up high and persevere or run away from the same problem all over again.

 Be aware that Full Disclosure freely talks about sexual issues and questions, so not for sexually squeamish readers.
Impressive and bold young adult debut!

Cold as a Marble by Zoe Aarsen

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Sequel to Light as a Feather!
Thanks to NetGalley, Edelweiss and Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing for the opportunity to read and review Cold As a Marble by Zoe Aarssen, the sequel to Light As a Feather.
McKenna and her friends’ lives were completely disrupted in the first book. Two out of their friend group died, Olivia and Candace, and they believe both deaths were caused by Violet, the new girl who insisted they play the game Light As a Feather. During the game, Violet described their deaths and McKenna accused Violet of killing her friends. A restraining order was placed on McKenna and she was sent away to a different school. She’s home for Christmas and more teenage girls are dying. McKenna, her neighbor and boyfriend Trey, and Olivia’s brother Henry diligently work together to stop Violet and the curse she’s helping along. Suspenseful and interesting adventures and actions that the three dive into cause stress and more problems in their personal lives than helping stop the curse. I liked this sequel better than the first book in this series because it was faster paced and had more character development. Spooky, dangerously fun read for young adults! 4 stars!

Dreaming Darkly by Caitlin Kittredge!

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Creepy fun! I thoroughly enjoyed Dreaming Darkly by Caitlin Kittredge!
Ivy’s mother recently committed suicide, so she’s going to live on the island of Darkhaven with her Uncle Simon and his housekeeper. Ivy soon learns about the Bloodgood family curse from the only other people living on the island, the Ramsey family. Veronica, the housekeeper, later explains the curse to Ivy. Uncle Simon also tells Ivy about the murders her great grandfather committed. He killed an entire household leaving only one Ramsey family member alive and then his twelve-year-old daughter walked in and saw him covered in blood. Supposedly this curse makes people crazy. Ivy does make a few friends and school isn’t too bad but living in the manor becomes stranger and scarier. Ivy sees skeletons, ghosts and finds a body covered in blood. She almost falls off the cliff but Doyle Ramsey happens to wake her just in time from her sleep walking. I would have liked a little more information about Ivy’s parents and the relationship they had but Dreaming Darkly is spooky fun with all the suspense and creepiness needed to make an edge-of-your-seat read, 5 stars!

The Escape Room by Megan Goldin

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Intense and clever!
Thanks to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review The Escape Room by Megan Goldin!
The story opens as Miguel walks his night shift rounds in the empty, not-yet-open office building. He hears a scream and gunshots so he calls 9-1-1 and two policemen arrive. The police are skeptical until an elevator door opens and they start shooting. When Miguel finally gets a view of the elevator, he’s disturbed because he’s never seen that much blood before. The story then jumps back to thirty-four hours earlier when four people meet in an empty office building in the South Bronx on a Friday night. Next, Sylvie, Sam, Jules and Vincent are introduced to the story and they’re all on edge since the meeting was set up last minute and is interfering with their personal plans. The meeting appears to be an escape room challenge and as the four coworkers struggle to find clues, the story alternates with Sara as she’s interviewed, hired and works for Stanhope. Fresh out of college, Sara is thrown right into the devious nature of the career path she’s chosen and the financial and investment banker world takes a devastating toll on her entire life. Greed makes people cold and brutal and Sara learns firsthand how cruel people can be. She’s upset over the supposed suicidal death of coworker Lucy and questions Vincent when she feels that Lucy didn’t really commit suicide. She asks him if he thinks that maybe there was foul play. After that discussion, Sara’s berated about her work and her appearance and she eventually loses her job. The story alternates between Sara and her four elevator-confined coworkers. The escape room clues are interesting and we learn the reasoning behind them as the trapped four work them out. A solid suspenseful tale of greed, self-absorption and actions people might take to ensure that they come out on top, 4 stars!

T-Minus by Shannon Greenland

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Thrilling read!
Thanks to NetGalley, Edelweiss and Entangled Teen for the opportunity to read and review T-Minus by Shannon Greenland!
The president’s daughter, Sophie, is awakened during the night when the secret service has discovered a terrorist attack in the making. The story alternates between the present, as the attack progresses, with snippets of past experiences and memories that Sophie has with her family and friends. Her brother Erik is not home and the family believes he’s in danger and they are right. The mystery gradually unravels as to the purpose behind the attack but meanwhile people are dying, being kidnapped or, as in Sophie’s case, being manipulated into doing the terrorists’ bidding. Sophie is part of the TIA, a teenage agency created by the CIA to train and teach survival skills and tactics to teens. She’s made strong friends in the TIA and they help her get to the bottom of what’s going on. Unique characters and the alternating of past and present builds the relationships up and creates empathy for the characters. A suspenseful YA mystery, 4 stars!

Queen of Ruin by Tracy Banghart

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Queen of Ruin by Tracy Banghart! I’ve been looking forward to reading this sequel since I finished Grace and Fury and the synopsis couldn’t be better! One of my favorite lines: With an un-Heir like snort… ! That description of Malachi made me chuckle. A lot takes place in this 325 page book, character development, action, power changing hands, and turns of fate. Nomi and Serina are reunited because Asa sends Nomi to Mount Ruin. Serina and Nomi share their experiences and are both surprised at what’s happened. The women on Mount Ruin are ready for rebellion and Nomi is right there with them. Asa shows his true self and as Malachi comes to terms with his father’s death and his brother’s betrayal, he uses the time to decide his future actions. Relationships grow, are torn apart, and change the future of Viridia. I enjoy the varied relationships and the story’s suspense the most out of everything else that takes place in this book. Dystopian fantasy worth 4.5 stars! I would have enjoyed more details about the relationships between Val and Serina and between Malachi and Nomi.

8 Souls by Rachel Rust

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A haunting that just won’t stop!
Thanks to Entangled Teen and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review 8 Souls by Rachel Rust!
Spooky and ominous from the beginning; I was instantly hooked! Mysterious and recurring dreams about a house haunt Chessie; they have since she was little. These dreams were part of her life, to the point that she drew the house for her elementary teacher after she gave the students the assignment of drawing their dream house. Little does she know that Chessie dreams of a house where murders were committed over a century before. When Chessie draws her dream house scene, the teacher is worried and notifies her parents. She then ends up being sent to a psychiatrist. Ever since then, Chessie keeps her dreams to herself, even when she’s hearing voices. She finally confides in someone else and the two of them share the struggle of solving the haunting. 8 Souls is well-written, contains awesome characters and a haunting that won’t stop until justice is complete; 5 spooky stars!

Tower of Winds Series by Makiia Lucier

 

Must- read series!

Isle of Blood and Stone review:

The prologue tells a tale of young princes, innocent discoveries and a mass poisoning ending in death. Eighteen years later, we meet the brother of the young princes, Ulises, who is now king. We also meet his friends and entourage and the connections to the prologue are interestingly explained in the third chapter. After that point, we follow Elias, one of the young king’s friends, and Mercedes, the king’s cousin, as they follow clues on a map that may or may not lead them to the two lost princes and their unknown fate, as well as the fate of Elias’s father who also disappeared along with the princes eighteen years earlier. Supernatural elements within this fantasy make the story even more interesting and suspenseful. I enjoyed reading every word of this book, with the layers of intrigue and strong characters. I loved unraveling the mystery alongside the characters and I’m going to immediately begin reading the sequel, Song of the Abyss. 5 full and happy stars!

Song of the Abyss review:

Magnificent sequel!
Thanks to NetGalley, Edelweiss, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and a goodreads giveaway for the opportunity to read and review Song of the Abyss by Makiia Lucier!
The story begins eight years after Isle of Blood and Stone. Reyna is now a teenager and struggling to sneak off a ship that’s under attack. She saves herself and her maps because of her logic, swimming abilities and help from sea worms. Reyna ends up in Selene, in the kingdom of Lunes, where the king has just died. She’s the only person that escaped the attack. She accidentally meets Levi, one of the princes, as he’s grieving the loss of his father. He’s Captain of the Royal Guard and tries to detain Reyna so he can question her more but she escapes and finds a ship heading back to her home in Del Mar. Levi and his sister, Queen Vashti, visit Reyna’s kingdom to discuss ships being attacked since both kingdoms have people missing. Reyna helps Levi on the quest to find their loved ones and together they discover a horrible and treacherous deception. Song of the Abyss weaves a tale of differing kingdoms and cultures; one of them backwards and secluded and struggling to survive. A bit of historical fiction is added along with mythological creatures to create a fantasy that I loved; 5 stars for a book I couldn’t put down!