One of Us is Next by Karen McManus

I went into One of Us is Next with high hopes, but still, I didn’t expect to like it as much as I liked One of Us is Lying (book one). In the end, I think that I liked the sequel even better thanthe debut hit. With a caveat. If you are looking for a fast paced thriller, then this isn’t for you. However, if like me you enjoy a slower, more introspective story that tends toward looking at motives and relationships rather mostly clues, this is the book for you. This is not to say that it is devpid of suspense— simply that it is not a major element of the book untilt he final third.

In book one we followed the Bayview Four, as they came to be called, but  One of Us is Next revolves around an almost entirely new set of characters. Almost, because one third of the trio that make up our POV characters is Maeve, Bronwyn’s little sister who was instrumental to the wrapup of the first book. The other two are Knox, Maeve’s former boyfriend and current best friend, and another girl, Phoebe. Still, McManus manages to create a new cast of characters, that intersects with our old ones (who have matured off page, but still feel organic and right).

Ever since the exoneration of the Bayview Four, copycat gossip blogs and apps have been popping up at Bayview high, although none have managed to get a foothold. Until now. But when the students of Bayview get a collective text, it isn’t a juicy piece of gossip— it’s a game. Here’s how it works: one student gets a text, and they have twenty-four hours to choose, Truth or Dare. Pick dare and you get a task and fourty-eight hours to complete it (and document it), pick Truth— or don’t pick at all, and you get one of your secrets revealed to the entire school. Phoebe is first, and she elects to ignore it. After all, the only secret that could hurt her— well, no one could know that. Except, somebody does. And they tell the entire school. With one text, Phoebe’s life (already half in ruins after the death of her father) is upeneded, and she is just the opening act. After Phoebe’s worst secret is revealed, and her life upended, everyone knows to choose Dare. Except Maeve, who wants no part of it. But when Maeve refuses to choose, she’s not the one who pays the price.

After two terrible truths, who wouldn’t pick dare? But after Bayview is shaken by a second death, the game stops. But the question remains, who was playing that terrible game with them? And was the death of that student just a tragic accident, or is there something else going on? Pairing her excellent character building with a captivating new mystery and a powerful critisism of gendered roles and sexual pressures on teens, McManus has written a sequel that more than lives up to its predecessor.

 

Rules for Vanishing by Kate Alice Marshall


Sara finds herself alone and stricken with grief after after her older sister and favorite person, Becca, runs away from home with her boyfriend. Sara knows she is never coming back, and some people doubt if she’s still even alive. After a year of feeling helpless, Sara soon starts dreaming about a girl. A girl named Lucy Gallows, said to have disappeared in Sara’s town years before by escaping down a road in the middle of the forest. Sara knows she has to follow the road and get to Lucy in order to save her sister.
Kate Alice Marshall writes an incredible story about the road and its games, bringing in sacrifice, love, loss, and truth. The relationships between the characters mend and break, never failing to stay interesting. The road itself is scary and unpredictable, forcing the things on it to make impossible decisions. Marshall’s writing brings this fictitious legend alive and allows her readers to truly be present on the road with the characters. The detective-case setup of the story and frequent plot twists create a book that is very difficult to put down.
Rules For Vanishing is a riveting story perfect for anyone who wants a bit of horror mixed with suspense and thrill. Great for anyone interested in small-town myths come to life, and mystical worlds with dangers lurking beneath.

When We Were Lost by Kevin Wignall

When We Were Lost, by Kevin Wignall, tells the story of a group of high schoolers going on a trip to Costa Rica. The main character, Tom, is a bit of an outsider. He doesn’t have any friends and prefers to be by himself, but he was persuaded to go on the school trip by his teachers and guardian who were concerned about him not being social enough. He set off on the trip not planning on making any new friends, just trying to explore and get it over with. But when the plane crashes in an unknown thicket of wilderness, he is forced to collaborate with his classmates in a duel with the jungle for life or death. He surprisingly comes out of his shell and sees people in a new light. He and his classmates stumble blindly through the dangerous wilderness, just trying to survive, whether it be the breaks in the relationships of the survivors, or the physical challenges within the jungle.
Wignall writes a meaningful story with characters finding themselves in the deep danger but peacefulness of the jungle. Secret talents are showcased, friendships are made, and lives are lost. Tom and his newfound friends discover how truly grateful they are for being alive, and that every little detail matters when it comes to an environment like this. An adventurous journey built for fans of Lord of the Flies, survival stories, and adrenaline-rushing thrills.

Winterwood by Shea Ernshaw


Winterwood by Shea Ernshaw is a blizzard of cold magic and wicked woods. Secrets fill the air, suffocating every breath. Lies and betrayal run deep into the bottomless lake. One boy is missing. One boy is dead.
Nora Walker has lived her whole life in the town of Fir Haven. It is where she was born, it is where she will die. Just like every other Walker before, she was born with nightshade in her blood and shares a strong connection with the woods surrounding her little town. Woods that some say are magical. Cursed, even. Rumored to be a witch and feared by many around her, she finds solace in the woods and the teachings of her ancestors.
During one of her ventures through the woods, she comes upon Oliver Huntsman, the boy who disappeared from the Camp for Wayward Boys weeks ago – and in the middle of the worst snowstorm in years. He should be dead, but he’s alive with no memory of the time he’s been missing. But something’s not right, and Nora knows it. Oliver is hiding something, something that could eventually destroy the feelings she’s come to develop for this mysterious boy. And why is there an uneasy shift in the woods at his presence?
When she discovers that a boy died the same night Oliver went missing, Nora realizes she has no choice but to unearth the truth behind what happened that unfaithful night. With every person
holding secrets of their own, she doesn’t know if anyone is worth trusting. And just how far will someone go to keep their secrets buried…
Ernshaw’s personification of the woods is possibly the best character in the book, the true villain of the story. This book is truly an atmospheric novel. From the spooky forest to the ominous snowstorms – no amount of closing the book will make you feel safe. Readers, be ready to be frightened and try to unravel this mystery that will leave you second-guessing till the very last chapter!

The Guinevere Deception by Kierstan White

Kierstan White has done it again. She never fails to write a book that doesn’t have you completely indulged. Her usage of old myths and folktales with a twist, has readers diving into a world that is all too familiar, yet refreshing as well. The Guinevere Deception is nothing less, being a continuation of the Arthurian legends after King Arthur defeats the Dark Queen.
Princess Guinevere has come to marry the charismatic, savior of Camelot, King Arthur. However, she’s not there to play wife, but protect him from the dark magic clawing at the kingdom’s borders, and from those who want to see his idyllic city fail – a plan conjured by the great wizard Merlin, who has been banished from Camelot.
However, Guinevere isn’t who everyone thinks of her to be. She’s a changeling, a girl/ witch who has given up everything – even her name, her true identity – to protect Camelot. She has to play the role of Queen, navigating her way through court, and be the woman everyone expects her to be – look pretty and gossip around with all the other ladies. While that sounds fun, she has some bigger problems – such as “how do you use magic to protect the King?” in a city that has banished and eradicated any form of magic. The only other person who knows her true identity and the reason for her arrival is her husband, King Arthur. Throughout her stay in the castle, and everyday a step closer to figuring out who the enemy is, Guinevere ends up forming allies, allies that steer the plot forward. Each character we are introduced to have secrets of their own, intensifying the suspense and the plot.
Filled with magic – good and evil; strong females – who’ve got the beauty and the brains; kings and knights – who are all loyally swoon-worthy; and a battle in which the enemy is the person you’d least expect. This book doesn’t leave any stone unturned, leaving you feeling restless for the next book, and asking one question…When is the next book going to be published???

 

Crown of Feathers by Nicki Paupreto

Crown of Feathers by Nicki Paupreto is perfect for those who love fantasy and mystery and suspense. About how even those closest to you might not have the best intentions, and how secrets are sometimes better left untold. Fans of Embers in the Ashes and Three Dark Crowns will love it. A rare fantasy book without romance. In this dystopian world exists people with the power to control and communicate with animals. When two sisters are separated, not just by distance but by emotional connections. When the two sisters find a pair of phoenix eggs and nurse them. But, when it comes time for them to hatch, only one survives and in her anger the older sister kill the phoenix. The younger sister distraught with grief runs away to the resistance. A group of phoenix riders. She disguises herself as a boy and becomes a servant. All while more and more people attempt to overthrow the corrupt government.

The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones

Walking Dead meets The Black Cauldron in this epic fantasy novel, involving a grave-digger with an ax, a map-maker with no family name, and lots of dead people. The perfect mix to brew a troublesome adventure.
Colbren is a small town on the outskirts of a mysteriously enchanted forest that is home to magical creatures and a cauldron that holds the power of bringing the dead back to life. But those are all just stories. One that only the older generations of the village believe in – guarding their village and houses with iron fences and knowing not to go into the forest of sundown. Granted that no creature of any sort has treaded past the forest edge (or that anyone’s seen) in a long time. But that slowly starts to change…
Adryn a.k.a Ryn is a grave-digger like her father, who lives with her younger siblings – Gareth and Cerridwen. Their parents are both dead but have an uncle, their caretaker, who is mysteriously missing. Ryn’s never been afraid of the forest, believing the folktales, and having encountered her first bone house (the animated dead) at the age of six – she knows what resides in it and that they never leave the forest, only awakening after dark. However, she starts to grow anxious when they start venturing closer and closer to the edge – until one day, they cross it. Vowing to protect her family from danger, she decides to destroy the very root of all these problems – the cauldron, even if it means going beyond the forest.
Meanwhile, Ellis, a mapmaker, has traveled to the village, aiming to draw a map, detailing all that is beyond the forest, where many few (actually none) dare to venture. But there’s
something else – he’s hiding something, something he doesn’t want anyone to know about. And what is with the excruciatingly chronic pain in his left arm? While camping in the forest, a bone house attacks him, and Ryn ends up saving his life.
Needing Ryn’s help on his journey, the pair form an unusual alliance – both having ulterior motives, with wanting to find the legendary castle that houses the magical cauldron.
Told in alternating narratives, the book immediately dives into a world of death, family, love and magic from the very first page. What I loved about the characters is that there is no character development. It’s more of Ryn and Ellis coming to understand and respect each other’s characteristics, admiring traits of one another they (and often others) consider a flaw. There’s a sweet slow-burning romance, but it all comes together in the end.
The lush and gorgeous, fast-paced writing with a fun, humorous, folklore vibe will have you finishing the book in one sitting. Anyone who likes strong female fantasy characters and Welsh settings should pick up THE BONE HOUSES when it comes out

A Never Tilting World by Rin Chupeco

Haidee and Arjun live in a land of perpetual light. Haidee, daughter of the goddess-queen of the golden city, is expected to take her mother’s place when she is old enough. She is expected to wed and have daughters and rule and, in the meantime, obey. But Haidee knows there is a better way to rule than her mother’s method of shutting out everyone but their own and hoarding their world’s swiftly dwindling resources for their city alone. She also knows that the answers to her questions about what happened to her world and how she can fix it, lie in her family’s past. But her mother is cagey about her past, and refuses to tell Haidee what happened the day the world split in half, much less what befell the sister and father she never knew. So, Haidee does the responsible, sensible thing: runs off on her own, without telling anyone, looking for the end of the world.
Arjun belongs to one of the nomadic groups that sprung up in the wake of the world’s Breaking, salvaging and scavenging what they can to survive. He has no love of the goddesses who tore their world apart, but when he meets Haidee, things get a bit more complicated. It’s easy to hate a goddess responsible for his family’s struggle. It is less easy to hate a rainbow-haired girl who makes friends with dolugongs, and who is terrible at making sensible plans but incredible with machinery. She is smart and strange and he has no idea how she is still alive, but they are traveling together now and are, if only grudgingly, friends. So as near as he can figure out, it is more or less his duty to keep her that way.
Odessa and Tianlan live shrouded in shadow, their dying city caught between the danger of the icy sea and the ravenous creatures within on one side, and the treacherous and uncharted wildlands on the other. Tianlan of the Catseye, former ranger of the wildlands, never wants to return to the place that killed her friends. Unfortunately, when monsters not seen in decades appear at the shore and speak to the Princess Odessa, Asteria, the queen, sends Lan and a ship full of other powerful spellcasters to find the Rift where the world broke— and find a way to fix it. Unbeknownst to everyone else, Odessa, intent on following the monsters who spoke to her of powers beyond imagining and the trials she must face to gain them, sneaks aboard.
As the four teens draw closer to each other and the Rift, danger grows. Dark things lurk in the past of Odessa and Haidee’s family, and soon both princesses will need to take terrible steps to protect those they love.
I went into this book with high expectations. I have read Rin Chupeco’s other books and loved all of them. A Never Tilting World did not disappoint me. Chupeco is an expert at the first person narrative, which can too easily become tiresome to read, and all four characters have a distinct voice and personality that work well with the story. The world is stark and colorful and unique, while still managing to invoke farmiliar fears of dwindling resources and uninhabitable homelands that are all too real in our world. I highly recommend A Never Tilting World to anyone who loves fantasy with vast magical powers, monsters, dystopias and grand romances.

Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim

Spin the Dawn, by Elizabeth Lim, is an extraordinary fantasy novel about defeating gender stereotypes, the importance of your craft, and the power of love. Lim tells a beautiful story about Maia, the only daughter of a previously esteemed tailor now living in a small town, who disguises herself
as a boy to compete in a trial to become the next tailor for the emperor.

It is the opportunity of a lifetime, and she attends in disguise, knowing the lethal consequences if her secret gets out. The final challenge is the hardest one, sewing the three gowns made for the goddess Amana: one from the laughter of the sun, one from the tears of the moon, and one from the blood of the stars. Maia always thought these dresses were just a myth, but when she meets some mysterious new characters throughout the trial, her
mind changes. Can she succeed in sewing the three magical dresses and achieve her dream of becoming the best tailor in the land?

Lim crafts a truly amazing story, filled with every element needed for captivating interest throughout the whole thing. With strong themes of magic, adventure, and love, Spin the Dawn is incredibly difficult to put down. Interesting characters, impossible tasks, and blooming romances litter the magical pages. Recommended for anyone who loves sewing, magic, or an amazing story to get attached to. Lim’s sequel to Spin the Dawn will be highly awaited.

Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin


“A witch and a witch hunter bound by holy matrimony. There was only one way such a story would end — a stake and a match.”
The land of Belterra is plagued by fear of magic and witches. With the citizens wanting nothing more than the witches to be eradicated and burned at the stake, they walk the streets in disguise, hiding the smell that emits from their magic – that is until they themselves can destroy the humans, especially the royal lineage.
Two years ago, Lou left her coven to save her life. Being forced to suppress her magic and live life as a normal citizen – she subjects to lying, stealing, and killing (if necessary) to survive in the city of Cesarin, where life is hard, especially for women. She manages to fare undetected, being extra careful every step of the way…until one burglary – probably her most important one – goes wrong, setting the wheels in motion.
With the chasseurs — ruthless witch hunters affiliated with the church — and enemies of her past hot on her trail, Lou ends up in a compromising position with the Captain of the Chasseurs, Reid Diggory, a very detrimental position for the both of them. To avert any unnecessary situations, the Archbishop – leader of the Chasseurs, who is just as cold-hearted – comes up with a solution: Lou can either go to jail for her thefts or marry Reid and save his virtuous reputation.
Lou, being the smart girl she is, obviously agrees for the marriage as a means to protect herself from her enemies, as does Reid to salvage his repute. But they both could not be any more different from each other.
Lou is a strong, independent badass witch, with a high dosage of spunk and sass. Loves breaking rules, hates following orders. She is a feminist through and through, fully capable of saving herself, knowing when and where to put the men in their places.
Reid is a hard-core disciplined soldier, who blindly believes in the rules and regulations set by the church and Archbishop – a man he sees as his father. He will follow orders, even if his conscience says otherwise. He has a sweet soul that’s been tainted by the blood and cruelty of the Chasseurs.
Their arguments will leave you in hysterics. Their attempt at trying to be civil to each other will have you second-guessing their emotions. But their differences and learning from and accepting one another is what progresses the plot into creating a perfect atmosphere for a slow-burning romance that will keep you on your toes.
Besides the protagonists, the side leads are a complete entertainment package. There’s: bitchy, but loyal Coco – a blood witch and probably the best girlfriend Lou can ever have; sweet and adorable Ansel – the teenage soldier who is basically the-boy-next-door; And lovely, but stubborn Beau – the Prince. It’s a dream team, I tell you. And let’s not forget Lou’s enemies from her past – who exactly are they and why are they after her life? Adding in a few other black and white characters. It’s a puzzle figuring out if anyone is a villain in this story or if everyone’s just a hero of their own story…
With her fast-paced writing and plot twists at every corner, Shelby Mahurin has done a marvelous job at creating a world that you will dive right into and characters you’d want to befriend. Perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas.