It Ends In Fire by Andrew Shvarts

4 stars for the writing and intensity of the story!

Sixteen-year-old Alka tricks a group of thieves into stopping a wagon for her. They think the wagon holds treasure but it holds a Wizard that is the senator’s powerful daughter. Alka wants revenge on the Wizards for killing her parents ten years ago and Lady Alayne is the key. After dueling with Alayne, Alka retrieves Alayne’s invitation to Blackwater Academy of Magic so she can go in her place and infiltrate the Wizard power. The next chapter explains what happened to Alka’s parents. Wizards arrive at their home so seven-year-old Alka and her six-year-old sister Sera hide under the floorboards like their parents told them to. Their father, Petyr, admits he’s a rebel to save his wife but the Enforcers kill them both. But before Petyr dies, he tells his daughters to run and then he sets off an explosion to kill the Wizards. Alka’s childhood ended that day. Her world completely changed. Now, she travels to Blackwater Academy to take Alayne’s place and exact her revenge. Fylmonela Potts befriends Alka and the two form an alliance preparing for the intense competitive Blackwater Academy where one third of the students will drop out or die instead of graduating. At the opening ceremony, Alka sees the man who killed her parents, Magnus Aberdeen, headmaster of Blackwater Academy. After a failed attempt to get close to Aberdeen, Alka meets the exchange student Prince Talyn Ravensgale IV. The story continues to alternate between young Alka and the present Alka, when she’s at Blackwater. She pretends to mess up a Glyph that distracts Aberdeen and the entire class so she can steal the last four Glyph pages from the master codex of the wizard spells to keep and learn on her own. She wants to be the most powerful so she can take down the wizards. When she was being trained by rebels, she was told not to feel remorse for killing wizards or others who stand in the way of her mission. Despite that, Alka gains allies and friends and when their order competes in a school challenge, they try a daring stunt to beat the competition. This makes the ruling order angry but the rest of the school feels empowered. The second challenge doesn’t go down as planned and when a friend dies, Alka knows the end is coming. She’s got to make a plan that will take the biggest toll of all. 4 stars for the writing and the intensity. Similar to a Harry Potter outline.

Final Girls by Riley Sager

I was glued to the pages of this book!

Quincy is the lone survivor of a serial killing spree, therefore she’s a final girl. She knows two other final girls from completely different murder scenes, Lisa and Samantha. Lisa wrote a book about her experience and went on to become a psychologist to help others cope and overcome trauma. When Quincy hears that Lisa committed suicide, she has a hard time understanding or believing it. Samantha has disappeared or at least kept herself hidden from the public until she arrives to visit Quincy with concerns of her own. The lives of the three final girls become intertwined and complicated beyond what should be a logical possibility. Final Girls kept me glued to the pages and it didn’t disappoint! A mystery thriller worth every moment spent reading it, 5 stars!

Near the Bone by Christina Henry

Horror adventure thriller!

Mattie is about twenty and lives with her much older husband, William, in the mountains in solitude. William is abusive in all ways. He treats her like a possession, not a person, and keeps her hidden on the mountain in a cabin. She’s not allowed to leave the area around the cabin. Mattie is having flashbacks and bits of her past are returning to her as memories despite William lying to her for so long. A strange, unknown creature has shown up on the mountain near the cabin and it’s killing animals and sorting their bones and organs into distinct piles inside its cave. When Mattie and William discover the cave, he believes it’s the work of a demon and that he’s destined by God to get rid of it. Hikers are searching for new animals when William threatens them to leave his mountain. They see Mattie’s injured face and one of the hikers recognizes her from news reports. She’s unsure of what he’s talking about and William denies anything about the reports and restates that Mattie is his wife and the hikers need to leave or he will harm them. Mattie continues to recall bits of her past and when William leaves for town, the strangers approach the cabin to talk to her, filling her in on who she really is. The mystery and danger are suspenseful and Mattie has great strength despite her confusion. Horror adventure thriller worth 4 stars!

*Information on book content:
language content: 23 swear words and 3 f-words
mature content: PG-13, mentions wifely duties and drugs are found and mentioned a small amount
violence: PG-13, bloody animal found dead, gore, abuse to main character with blood involved.

These Hollow Vows by Lexi Ryan

A fantasy full of conflict!

A thief, Abriella, breaks into the vault of a man who became rich from selling females into prostitution. She only steals enough to carry so he won’t notice it’s missing. On her way home, Brie (Abriella) stops at a friend’s home to pay for the contract her daughter has just signed with the rich man. She did this to get medicine for her mother. Now Brie doesn’t have enough money to pay her rent to Madam V., her greedy, horrible aunt who makes Brie and her younger sister Jas live in a basement storage room. Brie and Jas also have to slave away taking care of the house and two spoiled cousins. When Jas is sold to the Fae King, Brie travels through a portal pretending to be one of the many human women wanting to marry the Fae Prince Ronan. She meets an intriguing Fae male that keeps showing up wherever she goes but then she’s caught by the king and finds out he took Jas as bait to get Brie’s help. The king wants Brie to steal artifacts from Prince Ronan’s court. She sees Sebastian where she never thought she would and runs from him because she’s surprised and angry. Once she comes to terms with who Sebastian really is, Brie realizes that she can use it to her advantage in finding the relics and getting Jas back. She does care for Sebastian and feels guilty for using him. The intriguing Fae male is Finn and she works with his group to stop the king. They help her with the shadow magic she has. Brie feels trapped and alone throughout the story because she doesn’t know if she can trust anyone but she perseveres to get Jas safe again.
I enjoyed reading this book because of Brie, the main character. She’s strong, resilient and will do anything to save her sister. The conflicting two main male characters make the story interesting, especially since they’re both vying for Brie’s attention. 5 stars for this fantasy full of conflict!

Survive the Night by Riley Sager

Unexpected turns!

Charlie wants to leave college and go home. She hasn’t been able to focus since her dorm mate was murdered and she just needs to get away. Her boyfriend Robbie wants her to return for spring semester but he understands that she needs a change of perspective. He’s busy and can’t change his schedule to take her home so she gets a ride from Josh, someone offering a ride on the rider board. They head off for the six hour drive and Charlie can’t help but think of all the ways she’s just put herself in danger by riding with a stranger. Josh is heading to Ohio, the same direction as Charlie. At first, it’s an uncomfortable silence and then they play twenty questions and Charlie discovers something she wishes she hadn’t. Now she’s sure she’s in danger. Most of the story is from Charlie’s point of view but there are small snippets from a few other characters. I was riveted as soon as I started reading but then there was a lull when the suspense slowed down. Soon the intensity built back up. This book has unexpected turns and developments and I enjoyed reading it! 4 stars!

The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel

Inspiring!

Eva is Jewish and lives with her parents in Paris during World War II. Her father is captured and sent to a prison camp while Eva and her mother are away from home helping a neighbor. Eva’s father made her promise earlier that she would leave Paris and travel to Switzerland if he was ever captured. Eva convinces her mother to go. They stop in a town close to the border and meet people that are very interested in the documents Eva made for her and her mother so they could get out of Paris. She discovers they’re forgers and resistance helping Jewish children by creating false documents to help them get to Switzerland. The resistance members are impressed with her work and ask for her help. Eva meets another forger, Remy, who is French. He’s not Jewish but he wants to do everything he can to help stop the Germans and their genocide. Eva and Remy improve their techniques and create better documents faster. They help save many children until the group is betrayed by one of their own. Everything is looted or destroyed by German soldiers and most of the resistance members are captured and killed. This is an inspiring story that gives readers perspective to our times and struggles. I enjoyed reading the author’s notes and her acknowledgments and discovering the research she conducted and the nonfiction books she based her characters and their actions on. I’m interested in reading the author’s other books that also deal with World War II and the resistance groups. 5 heartfelt stars!

The House Across the Lake by Riley Sager

Blows my mind with the twists!

Blows my mind with the twists!
Casey finds a person drowning in the lake. It turns out to be her new neighbor, Katherine Joyce. Casey saves Katherine and they quickly become friends. Katherine says she hasn’t been feeling herself lately. Casey finds her deceased husband’s binoculars and while she’s doing her daily routine of drinking liquor, she spies on Katherine and her husband Tom. She notices arguing and suspicious behavior between them. Then the next day, Katherine is no where to be found. Casey immediately suspects Tom. The twists kept me guessing and I couldn’t read the book fast enough! I can’t say much more about the characters or storyline without spoilers. Highly recommended for readers that like suspense and twists, 5 stars!

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Tremendously honest, heartbreaking and soul healing!

Kya lives in the marshlands of North Carolina with her poverty stricken family. Her father is abusive and, one by one, her siblings leave and, eventually, so does her mother. Her father stays and he seems better for a time, even kind. Then he falls back into his old ways again and ends up leaving too. Kya tries school for a day but after being bullied, she doesn’t return. She makes it completely on her own and digs mussels to sell to the local store to bring in money for food. Tate, a boy a few years older than Kya, loves to explore the marsh. They become friends and he teaches her to read. With reading, she discovers and teaches herself to be literate and all about the marshlands and its nature. She illustrates and collects samples of everything she finds in her marsh area. Tate leaves to attend college and becomes a biologist and works in the marsh. He submits Kya’s illustrations and notes to a publisher and she becomes a published author several times over. She adds comforts to her house and lives well by her own wealth. She lives simply but she gets electricity and running water and other basic comforts that she’s never had. When Tate went away to college, he realized that his life would be difficult for Kya. So, he doesn’t visit her for years. While he’s away, the local and popular Chase moves in on Kya. He tricks her into thinking he’s going to marry her, all the while dating other women. Kya eventually sees his engagement article in the local newspaper and ends it with him. Later, he attacks her, trying to rape her and he beats her up. She fights back and escapes. His body is found later and it looks like he fell from the fire tower in the marsh. Since he was a local celebrity, the police are pushed to investigate for foul play. Kya is arrested and faced with a murder trial. The whole time I’m reading the part after Chase attacks Kya, I’m hoping she killed him but I also don’t want her to be found guilty. The suspense builds to intensity and I couldn’t put the book down! Tremendously honest, heartbreaking and soul healing! 5 stars!

A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas

Nesta’s story!

SPOILER ALERT…
Nesta is falling off the edge so the Night Court members stage an intervention and give her an ultimatum, live at the House of Wind, train with Cassian two hours each morning then help the priestesses in the library every afternoon or be taken to and left in the human world. She grumbles and gripes but goes to the House of Wind. Eventually her walls begin to break down and Cassian is there to catch her if she falls or falters. Nesta makes friends with Emerie, an Illyrian shop owner, and Gwyn, a priestess in the library. Together they train and more priestesses join them, so Cassian enlists Azriel to help with the training. Nesta confides in Cassian about all the things that are breaking her spirit and making her feel as though she doesn’t deserve to live. She feels guilty about how she treated her father and Feyre, and all the hurt she’s caused by being snippy to Cassian and others. The Night Court members have discussed the Dread Trove, three items of great magical value.With the help of Azriel and Cassian, and an unlucky kelpie, Nesta retrieves the Mask and wakes the dead in the black lake when the kelpie threatens her life. She attends priestess services and listens to Gwyn’s beautiful voice amongst the congregation. While being swept away in the music, Nesta is transported to a chamber under the prison to where the Harp is hidden. She and Cassian go to the prison to retrieve the Harp and accidentally release Lanthys. The Harp and the sword Nesta accidentally magicked help her and Cassian slay Lanthys and escape the prison. The Harp transports them to Feyre’s front yard. Cassian is healed and takes Nesta in a hike to help her heal from her inner struggles. They become more than acquaintances with benefits and vow to be with each other forever. During the ball, Nesta dances with Eris to bring him to their side as a solid ally. She’s an amazing dancer and he’s taken with her and later sends a proposal offer to her through Rhysand.Nesta, Emerie and Gwyn are kidnapped and dropped off at the Blood Rite.
Nesta fights off the last of the competition during the Blood Rite while Emerie carries Gwyn to the top of Ramiel to touch the stone as the winners. The two are transported to Feyre’s home and their injuries immediately healed after touching the stone. Meanwhile, Cassian drops down by Nesta but he’s under the human crone queen’s control. She orders him to kill Nesta. Nesta calls to her powers and unmakes the queen so she ages backwards into nothing but ash. Cassian wakes up and is back to himself and flies them to Feyre’s home. They see that Feyre is dying from loss of blood as she’s trying to deliver her baby. Nesta makes a bargain with the Cauldron to give back what she took when she was made Fae if Feyre, the baby and Rhys could live. It works and most of Nesta’s power is taken but a small amount is left for her. Cassian and Nesta have an ornate mating ceremony, given to them by a very grateful Rhys. 5 stars! Wonderful writing, strong characters, amazing character development, suspenseful but a bit more vulgar than the previous books in the series.

Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

The perfect spooky thriller!

As a child, Maggie lived at Baneberry Hall with her parents for twenty days before leaving for good under the claim that the house is haunted. Her father wrote a book about their experiences and Maggie is still recognized for the book, even though she’s now an adult. Her father left her the house in his will and he recently passed away. Her parents never would talk about the house or book even though Maggie had many questions. Her parents divorced soon after the book was written. Now that she’s inherited the house, she’s planning on restoring it to sell because that’s what she does for a living. Maggie has no idea what’s in store for her once she returns to Baneberry Hall. She finds old Polaroid pictures and hears odd noises. A record player randomly plays a song from The Sound of Music and then skeletal remains fall from the kitchen ceiling. Maggie talks to town residents, reads articles about the house’s past and even talks to Marta Carver who lost her husband and daughter in Baneberry Hall when they were living there as a family. Every time I thought I had it all figured out, something else happened to reveal more secrets. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book!
A perfect spooky thriller, 5 stars!