This is Our Story by Ashley Elston

Title: This is Our Story
Author: Ashley Elston

My Rating: 4 Stars

Five boys go hunting in the woods.  Only four come out.  An intern working with the assistant district attorney begins to think it may not have been an accident like the boys are leading everyone to believe. 

This is a well-told mystery, full of secrets and plot twists.  I really enjoyed the writing style, and the build up.  There was however one thing that annoyed me.  The author used a variation or exact phrasing of "framed her face with his hands" over and over, enough that it was very noticeable.  I was also a little underwhelmed by the reveal of who shot Grant, but the book was so well done otherwise, that I am still giving it 4 stars.

The author is actually local to my area, but I did not know much about her going in.  I had not read her work before this, but I would like to read more. 

Honor Among Thieves by Rachel Caine & Ann Aguirre

Title: Honor Among Thieves
Authors: Rachel Caine & Ann Aguirre

My Rating: 3.5-4 stars

Zara is used to living in the outskirts of town, fending for herself, thieving when she has to, to take care of herself.  Then she is chosen as an Honor for the Leviathan program -- the Leviathans are a race of sentient ships that have partnered with humans to explore the expanse of space to learn about other planets.  They have helped humans survive, and have asked humans to help them with this project.  At first Zara is hesitant, but she quickly, though reluctantly, finds herself trusting Nadim, her ship, and Beatriz, her new tour partner. Together they form a cohesive team, ready to face the challenges that come.

I really liked this book, but I was a little unsure about the relationship between Nadim and Zara.  I don't want to go into details because I don't want to spoil anything.  I was just a little unsure about the intimacy between a large ship and a human girl.  I do like the character of Nadim, and I am curious to see how it will turn out.  I look forward to the next book.

Mary's Monster: Love, Madness, and How Mary Shelley created Frankenstein by Lita Judge

Title: Mary's Monster: Love, Madness, and How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein
Author: Lita Judge

My Rating: 4 Stars

This beautiful biography of Mary Shelley is told in first person verse.  The illustrations are haunting, but lovely.  The story of her life is sad, yet told so well.  Mary Godwin was sent away from her family when she was 14, returned when she was 16, only to fall in love with a married man.  Her family shamed her, so she ran away with him, and was soon pregnant with his child.  I won't tell you the rest, because the book tells it so much better.  The back of the book has further notes on her life, as well as a summary of what happened to each of the people mentioned in the book.  It also has a bibliography.

Losing Brave by Bailee Madison & Stefne Miller

Title: Losing Brave
Authors: Bailee Madison (Actress) & Stefne Miller

My Rating: 3 stars

Payton was there a year ago, when her twin, Dylan, was taken, or possibly killed, but she can't remember what happened. She believes Dylan may still be alive, and now more girls, who look somewhat like her, have also gone missing. Payton is determined to find out what happened to all of them.

In the beginning, Payton is pretty unlikeable, but she undergoes some decent character growth that makes her easier to stomach. However, the writing style was hard for me to stomach, especially the first 40 pages or so, but I kept going because I was interested in seeing where the story went. I wasn't exactly surprised by the story, but it did get better.  I think Madison has decent ideas, but if she truly wants to be an author, she needs more practice.

Weave a Circle Round by Kari Maaren

Title: Weave a Circle Round
Author: Kari Maaren

My Rating: 2.5 Stars

I'll be honest -- I struggled to get through this book, and I think I'm going to struggle with this review.

Without giving away the secrets of the plot, I'll just say that Freddy, her little sister Mel, and her step-brother Roland find themselves with strange new neighbors, Josiah and Cuerva Lachance, who have a strange house as well.  There's a strange sequence of time travel plopped into the middle that is far too abrupted.  I think iti's supposed to seem that way, but in my opinion, it is not well done, and makes the story too confusing.

There were interesting bits.  I liked some of the rpg elements that were included.  I liked that there was a deaf character and sign language.  I was intrigued by Josiah, and a little bit of the secretiveness of the characters, but it just didn't play out in a satisfying way.

I thought the descriptions of the three characters, Josiah, Cuerva Lachance, and Three were confusing. It said that Josiah and Cuerva never died, Josiah always look the same, and Three reincarnated and could be male or female. But unless I'm mistaken, Cuerva Lachance was also male and female at different times, and changed appearances.  That was just a little confusing.

As I said, I struggled to get through it.  Every time I picked it up, I considered just bailing on the book, but I wanted to see how it ended.  Once I finished, I really wished I'd just bailed.  It wasn't worth it for me.  That said, don't let that deter you from reading it.  You should judge it for yourself.

The Outcasts of Time by Ian Mortimer

Title: The Outcasts of Time
Author: Ian Mortimer

This was a decent book, but not really for me. Two brothers just infected with the plague in 1348 get the chance to live out their last six days each 99 years further into the future, all while seeking redemption. They do explore a little, and learn a bit about each new era they are in, but I wanted more out of that aspect of the book.  I know they only had a day in each time period, so there wasn't much time to learn about each, but I still wanted more. That was a personal preference though, and I should have read the summary closer.  It was an interesting book though.

Reign of the Fallen by Sarah Glenn Marsh

Title: Reign of the Fallen
Author: Sarah Glenn Marsh

This is a fantasy story of a world where mages exist, their powers determined by the color of their eyes.  This particular book focuses mainly on the necromancers, those who bring the dead back to the living world.  The Dead must remain completely shrouded ; if even the tiniest bit of their flesh is seen by a living person, they turn into a Shade, a monstrous creature that feeds on both the Dead and the living.

The royal family has been using this method of returning to life for centuries ; in fact, the king himself has been ruling for 200 years.  Though he resists change, he is a well-liked king, as is the rest of the royal family.

Our main character is Odessa, nicknamed Sparrow, and she is one of the necromancers.  She is very good at what she does, maybe to the point of being a Mary Sue character, although she does have flaws.

All is going well, until one of the necromancers is killed by a Shade.  Then someone seems to be making Shades by purposefully pulling the shrouds from the Dead. Sparrow and her friends are tasked with finding out who is behind this.

This is also a story of grief.  Sparrow, and the secondary characters, lose someone they are close to, and we see how this affects them.  The main focus of the story of grief is on Sparrow and how she copes, or doesn't cope, but we also see some of how affects others as well.  The grief consumes Sparrow, leading to a story of addiction.  The grief and addiction are an important part of the story, with the grief competing with the fantasy elements to become the main plotline.

This is somewhat a romance story.  The romance angles do not take over the story.  It is not a typical romance novel, but there are relationships there, both seasoned and budding. This is a story of diversity.  There are several LGBTQ relationships in the story.  There are gay, lesbian, and bisexual characters that are important to the story, not just minor characters.

There is even more potential for more books.  This is the first in a series, and I would guess that the series will continue with Sparrow.  However, I could see where the author could pick up with some of the secondary characters, or branch off and explore the other mages.  There are weather mages, beast mages, and healers, and Princess Valoria is an inventor, something that hasn't existed in years.  I think a book from any of the characters points of view would be interesting.

I thought this was a really good book.  I have seen mixed reviews online, but for me, this one held my attention and kept me interested.  There was just one flaw.  I knew who the "bad guy" was from the moment they were introduced to the story.  I just knew they were too good to be true.  Maybe it was from coming off another book I read recently with a similar character type, or maybe it really was obvious, I'm not sure.   If you're reading this, you should read the book and let me know if you thought it was obvious too!

Before I Let Go by Marieke Nijkamp

Title: Before I Let Go
Author: Marieke Nijkamp

I was intrigued by the summary of this book. Two girls, best friends, living in a small town in Alaska. One moves away, and the other says she will wait for her. Just before the girl is supposed to come back and visit, her friend dies. She goes back to the town to try and find out what happened, but she is treated like an outsider.

I was disappointed in the book. It felt like it was missing something. It didn't really feel like it went anywhere. Corey, the girl who moved away, did come back, and she does find out what happened to her friend, but it is rather anticlimactic.

I couldn't suspend my disbelief enough to believe the townspeople, especially Kyra's parents, would be that awful. I know there are bad people in the world, but whole towns of them, like this? I don't know.

I did like the fast pace of the short chapters and the writing style for the most part, though the addition of the scripts in the middle was a bit weird.