Ash Princess by Lauren Sebastian

ash princessTheodosia was forced to witness her mother, the queen’s, brutal murder at the hands of the man forcibly taking over their kingdom.  For some reason, the Kaiser who now rules the kingdom has kept her alive all these years, but he has forced her to take on a new name (Thora) and endure countless beatings and ridicule in order to learn her place.  Whenever her people would rebel in any way he would order Theodosia to be publicly beaten so that she could pay for the sins of her people and he would force her to wear an ash crown in order to mock the fact that her mother was the fire queen.  By the time she is 16 he feels confident he has broken her spirit, but he still has three guards watch her 24/7 to make sure she doesn’t get any treasonous thoughts.  Her best friend, Cress, is the daughter of the Kaiser’s right hand man who actually murdered her mother.  She is very friendly, but Theodosia wonders if she can truly trust anyone in this terrible place that used to be her home.  Then, she is made aware of allies in her castle who are willing to give up everything for her and she realizes that she does have the desire to fight for her kingdom and take it back for what remains of her people.  The only question is can her and her meager supporters really defeat a man who has made it his mission in life to destroy kingdoms mercilessly? Can they outsmart a man who always seems to be two steps ahead?

This book captivates the reader right from the beginning and definitely depicts how hopeless Theodosia feels during this terrible ordeal.  Yet as bleak as life is for her she never stops plotting her revenge and jumps at the chance when it is presented to her even though she knows it is risky and dangerous. There are no easy paths for Theodosia and her conspirators, however, and she must live with the consequences.  Fans of the Red Queen and Red Rising will enjoy this title.

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The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

woman in the windowAnna is a trained psychiatrist who hasn’t left her apartment in over a year due to acute agoraphobia.  She spends her days watching old Hitchcock movies, drinking wine, doing things online, and watching her neighbors.  Her ex-husband and young daughter do not see her much, but they talk often.  When she notices a new family move in with a teenage son she begins watching them as she does all the other neighbors, but one day she witnesses something terrible and reports it to the police.  Unfortunately, when they investigate Anna’s life begins to implode as she is forced to face everything in her life that is real and everything she has imagined since she has been trapped inside her house.  No one believes she saw anything sinister since she is a heavy drinker and has anxiety issues, but she is positive she witnessed something.  Did she really see something or is her mind playing tricks on her again?

This thrilling mystery will keep mystery lovers intrigued all the way until the end.  There are many twists and turns in the plot and even seasoned mystery readers will struggle to put all the pieces together.  The main character has many similarities to the Woman on the Train and the Woman in Cabin 10, but each mystery is very different and will satisfy readers independently.  Highly recommended for mystery lovers.

Suitors and Sabotage by Cindy Anstey

suitorsImogene Chively has been raised to find a wealthy husband in 1917 England and her family believes they have done just that when she attracts the interest of Ernest, but unfortunately, Imogene is much more intrigued by his younger brother, Benjamin.  Ernest is perfectly friendly and accommodating but she feels they have very little in common while Benjamin is an architect’s apprentice and desperately needs her help in improving his drawing skills so that he can bring his architectural visions to life.  As the two work together they begin to get closer and closer which makes Imogene wonder if she is brave enough to go against her family’s wishes and reject the heir for the younger working class brother.  Meanwhile, a series of unfortunate accidents leads Imogene to believe that someone is trying to do Benjamin harm and no one believes her.  She grows more frustrated as the incidents escalate and everyone dismisses her warnings since she is a young woman.  Is there someone trying to harm Benjamin and if so why?  Will she find the strength to be with the man of her dreams versus the one who can give her a comfortable life?

This Junior Library Guild selection mixes light romance with a little intrigue in a historical setting.  Imogene is very modern in her thinking for this time, but she is still contained by the expectations of a young lady of her class in 1917.  Her growing aspirations as an artist are also an issue for her and she faces the repercussions when she tries to break free from the constraints set upon her by the times and her family.  Fans of historical fiction romance will enjoy this lighter title.

Grace and Fury by Tracy Banghart

grace and furySerina and her sister, Nomi, live in Veridia where women have no rights and are not allowed to learn how to read.  Serina has been trained her entire life to be beautiful, graceful, and alluring in the hopes of attracting the heir to the throne so that he chooses her to be one of his graces.  Each year the ruler gets to pick three women or “graces” who live with him in the castle and produce heirs, among other things. This year the heir gets to begin choosing graces and Serina’s family is desperately hoping he will choose her and shower them with favor.  Nomi does not believe in this tradition or the fact that women are not allowed an education and has learned how to read secretly.  When Serina is sent to the castle to catch the heir’s attention, it is actually Nomi (who had gone along as a handmaiden) who gets chosen.  Shortly thereafter Serina is accused of a crime she did not commit and is sent to a prison on a volcanic island where women literally have to fight each other to survive.  Each sister must fight for her rights and her voice in their own way.  Can they survive to somehow find their way back together again?

This book seems very timely in an age of the #metoomovement and women trying to take their voices back. Both sisters have a big struggle ahead of them in very different ways and neither knows who, if anyone, she can trust.  The book definitely focuses on female relationships, dynamics, and empowerment but in very different situations between the two sisters.  Fans of futuristic books such as The Hunger Games, The Selection, and The Testing will enjoy this title and look forward to the sequel.

Time Bomb by Joelle Charbonneau

Genre:  Mystery

# of Pages: 340

This book focuses on 6 high school students who all have their stereotypical characteristics.  Diana is the senator’s daughter who always looks and acts perfect.  Frankie is the star football player who goes out of his way to prove there are no rules for him. Tad is another football player who is biracial and has also recently come out as gay and is struggling to get people to see him as he is.  Cas is a lonely, overweight girl who feels like she won’t ever fit in anywhere.  Z recently lost his mother, but all people see in him is a colossal screwup who will never get his life together.  Rashid is a Muslim who struggles to be seen as a person and not as religion by those around him.  They are all at school for different reasons days before the actual start to the school year when a bomb goes off and they are all trapped.  As they try to find a way out more bombs go off and the police are clearly scared to enter to try and find survivors.  Then, they find a radio and learn that the police believe the bomber is one of the students trapped with them in the building.  Could it be one of them??

This one has done very well in my school media center.  Some very avid readers were initially bored by the seemingly stereotypical characters, but quickly became intrigued when their personalities came out and most readers were surprised by the ending which is always a plus with a mystery.  The story itself moves quickly as each character reveals intimate details about what led him or her to be in the school that fateful day.  Recommended for fans of thrilling mysteries.

Not If I Save Your First by Ally Carter

Genre: Realistic Fiction/Survival

293 p.

Maddie used to live in Washington D.C. with her father, who was head of the Secret Service.  Her best friend was the President’s son, Logan.  Everything changed when a group of terrorists infiltrated the White House to try and take the first lady and were gunned down by Secret Service, injuring Maddie’s father and Logan in the process.  After the incident, Maddie’s dad quit his job and moved the two of them to very remote Alaska where there was literally no one else around.  Everyday Maddie wrote Logan letters that were never answered.  Six years later Logan lands in a bit of trouble and his punishment is to get sent to Alaska to be safe with Maddie.  Logan finds a very cold welcome in Alaska as Maddie is very upset with him and there are indeed people out there still trying to hurt him and his family.  Shortly after he arrives he and Maddie are attacked in the woods and kidnapped.  What does this person want and can they manage to get away before the big storm hits?  Can Maddie make peace long enough to try and save Logan?

There are many aspects of survival in this story that Maddie has learned while living in Alaska that come into play.  The book is very fast paced and would appeal to reluctant readers who would like a quick read with many plot twists.  Fans of Carter’s other series’ such as the Gallagher Girls might find this one a little one note by comparison.  The characters do not seem to be as developed as some of Carter’s other series and many plot reveals seem rushed and unsurprising.

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

Genre:  Realistic  Fiction/Romance

# of Pages: 348

Iowa High School Award Winner 2018-19

Natasha is struggling to accept that her family is about to be deported and won’t stop fighting even though it is her last day.  There is a lawyer who is supposed to be very talented at stopping deportations and she has a meeting with him today, but along the way she meets Daniel.  Daniel is an Asian American who has always tried to be a good son, which is why he’s on his way to a college admissions interview for a school he’s not sure he really wants to go to.  After Natasha and Daniel meet by chance they both find themselves drawn to each other and end up spending the day together talking and sharing their life’s ambitions.  They know that today could possibly be their last and they want to make it count.  Is it meant to be?

Nicola Yoon is quickly becoming a favorite young adult author.  This story focuses on some real issues that many teens deal with everyday, but in a way that feels unique and special to this particular couple.  Readers will connect with Natasha and Daniel and will want to know more about them.  Yoon does a great job of helping to show how other characters fit into the story as well by switching to different perspectives throughout the story.  Fans of romance novels such as The Fault in Our Stars and Eleanor and Park will enjoy this title. Recommended.


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