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Review: Precious Bones by Mika Ashley-Hollinger

Prescious Bones book coverWritten in first person, Precious Bones (called Bones) tells her story of growing up in the swamps of Florida in the early 20th century.

Cars, telephones and even electricity are a bit of a luxury in this corner of the world. But that doesn’t bother Bones in the least. She has enough to eat and a loving mama and papa. Her backyard is the Florida Everglades.

Life is far from ideal, but Bones is satisfied with things being just the way they are. The lazy days of summer stretch out in front of her, and for a 10-year old like her, that’s about as perfect as things can get.

Until a real estate developer turns up dead near her father’s land. And if that wasn’t enough, a nasty neighbor is soon to follow, his body is discovered on the railroad tracks. The law accuses her father of committing the murders.

Bones is thrown into confusion and self-doubt. She doesn’t think her father could do such horrible things. Could he?

A historical setting, a cast of characters both good and bad, and a young girl finding out that the world isn’t as simple as she thought set the tone for this murder mystery.

Written for the pre-teen, I recommend this book to just about everyone who likes a good whodunit. Quick and fun read with just enough tension to keep readers on the edge of their seat without being really scary.

Note: I received an ARC of this book for review from NetGalley.

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Review: Dust Girl by Sarah Zettel

Dust Girl book coverDust Girl is set in Depression era Kansas during the height of the Dust Bowl. Callie LeRoux lives in Slow Run with her mother. All her life she’s hidden her heritage. But its even more of a secret than she knows.

Callie’s health is at risk because of the constant dust storms but her mother refuses to leave the hotel she manages with Callie’s help. Callie watches as neighbor after neighbor abandon the town in search of a safer life.

One day her mother disappears during a dust storm. During Callie’s panicked search for her mother she encounters a strange hobo who tells her things about herself and her mysterious father that set her head spinning. He points her in the direction of California as the place to find her parents.

Getting to California with no money and no help is a huge undertaking. Callie won’t give up. She has to find her parents. She meets a hobo her own age named Jack, and together they take on the storm ravage country-side, hunger and prejudice as they head west.

In one town they meet a strange pair of musicians and Callie learns that not only is her mysterious father a dark-skinned singer, he’s also Fae royalty. Which means so is she.

The warring factions of the fairy world all want Callie for their own hidden agendas. It’s up to Callie to figure it all out and keep herself and Jack alive.

The historical setting for this book is quite realistic. Descriptions of dust storm and portals between worlds are so well done, the reader feels as if she’s right there.

This is the first book of a trilogy and while the wrap-up is concise, it leaves the reader wide open to jump on the sequel book as soon as possible. Not all of Callie’s questions are answered, she and Jack have still a long way to go to reach California, and what of Callie’s fairy family? Can she trust any of them?

Good book for pre-teens and teens who like lots of action, magic and evil fairies.

Note: I received an ARC of this book for review from NetGalley.

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Review: Candlewax by C Bailey Sims

Candlewax by C Bailey Sims

Candlewax book cover 9780983987703Candlewax by C Bailey Sims

Princess Catherine of Lackaney, the heroine of this fantasy tale, has a typical dilemma. Her parents have betrothed her to a king of the foreign kingdom, Candlewax, without her consent. So she does what every self-respecting princess in a similar situation does. She runs away from home.

But that’s where the clichéd storyline veers from the tried and true path of runaway princesses.

Catherine meets a beast of myth, a farrier cat named Spelopokos (Pokos for short), who informs her that she is “the Catherine” of legend who will save the kingdom from the evil trodliks, vermin that eat everything in their path.

A necklace she received from her grandmother marks her as the person of prophecy. Pokos is the last farrier cat in Lackaney. The farrier cats are the only thing keeping the trodliks at bay. Pokos needs a mate, and Catherine is drafted to help him find one. They have to leave Lackaney, cross through Candlewax and pass through an enchanted gateway into a forbidden land. Her necklace is really an object of power. Both its value and Catherine’s own true history have been kept from her. She doesn’t know what to believe or who to trust as everything she’s known crashes down around her.

This book has a good dose of magical elements, and for the reader who adores Medieval settings, the world building is top-notch. Good guys turn out to be villainous and the one person she ran away to avoid turns out to be the very person who supports her the most in fulfilling the prophecy and rescue of the kingdom.

But don’t let the idea of a Knight in Shining Armor rear its ugly head. Catherine is the savior in this tale and the knight her trusty sidekick. She does the heavy lifting and in the end its her wits that enable a happy ending.

There were a few places where action was lacking, but for the most part the premise was interesting and original enough to keep me reading. I did have trouble muddling through the first chapters before the originality of the plot had me hooked, but after that, I couldn’t put the book down.

This is a great read for an older teen, especially one interested in strong female characters.

Note: I received an ARC of Candlewax by C Bailey Sims for review from NetGalley.

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Review: Chengli and the Silk Road Caravan

Chengli and the Silk Road Caravan

Chengli and the Silk Road Caravan coverChengli and the Silk Road Caravan by Hildi Kang takes place in ancient China. Historical details add an intriguing layer to this coming of age story of a young orphan boy as he sets out on a dangerous journey to find his roots.

Chengli never knew his father, his mother died when he was very young, leaving him to be raised by a household cook. But Chengli feels pulled by the desert winds to head off to parts unknown in search of the truth about his father, and in a way, himself.

He leaves the safety of his servant life and charms his way into a caravan heading into the desert, hiring on as a camel and donkey drover. A boy his own age befriends him as the caravan makes its way out past the Great Wall into the vast emptiness beyond.

An imperial princess being escorted to her husband by the caravan soon demands Chengli attend her. He does his best, and learns the craft of negotiation from his new friend. But things are not all they seem. Intrigues abound. Chengli must decide between friendship, honor, duty and mere survival along the way.

The story is masterfully written. The plot takes unexpected turns that add to character growth and keep the reader glued to the book. And always in the back of Chengli’s mind (and the reader’s) is finding someone who can tell him about his father.

At the end, Chengli discovers who he really is, and manages to do so with his honor, integrity and limbs intact.

A thrilling read for a pre-teen or young teen.

Note: I received an ARC of this book for review from NetGalley.

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Review: Shadows on the Moon by Zoe Marriott

Shadows on the Moon by Zoe Marriott

Shadows on the Moon by Zoe MarriottShadows on the Moon by Zoe Marriott

Suzume is an innocent, fourteen year-old when her father and beloved cousin are brutally murdered in front of her by government assassins. In spite of everything, she manages to elude the soldiers as they hunt her down.

Her mother, returning from a trip finds Suzume emotionally distraught but refuses to acknowledge the tragedy and trauma of her courageous daughter. She heads to the home of a family friend who she subsequently marries.

Suzume’s grief turns inward as she tries to make sense of her feelings and new status as an unwelcome step-child.

The servant who helped her escape from the soldiers follows her to her step-father’s home and befriends Suzume. He introduces her to the magical skill of shadow-weaving, an innate power she was born with but has no clue how to use.

Things go all wrong after the birth of her mother’s baby boy. Suzume overhears the truth of her father’s demise. She runs and hides to escape only to have things go from bad to worse along the way. Eventually, she ends up with another shadow-weaver who trains her to become the Shadow Bride, the highest honor a non-royal woman can achieve in the Moonlit Land.

Suzume learns to rely on herself, get over the survivor’s guilt at her narrow escape from death, and in the end learns that there is more to life than avenging a past over which she had no control.

The Moonlit Land, though itself fictional, is a vivid depiction of Japanese and Chinese cultural and historical society. The world building immediately draws the reader into Suzume’s life, as a pampered child, a servant and eventually a courtesan’s sister.

There is a love interest with a visiting foreign dignitary’s son, which bumps this book firmly into the young adult classification but the most intimate scene in the book happens “off-stage.” Because of this, I recommend the book for more mature young teen readers.

This is book is a real nail biter, but I was often left wondering if Suzume would ever move along with her life instead of dwelling on the awful experiences of her past. More than once, I thought she was in serious need of psychiatric care.

The story ends in a true fairytale manner when the poor girl is whisked off by her Prince Charming. The twist to this tried and true plot is much deeper though and leaves the reader satisfied even though yearning to read more of the “happily ever after” part alluded to in the last chapter.

Note: I received an ARC of this title from NetGalley for review.