The Reader by Traci Chee

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In Sefia’s world, no one can read. After her parents suffer a violent death, Sefia finds what she learns is a book in the wreckage of their home. Travelling with her aunt Nin, Sefia is forbidden to even look at the book; it’s too dangerous. But, when Nin is kidnapped by the same people Sefia believes killed her family, Sefia somehow knows she must use the book to rescue her aunt. With the help of the book, a mute boy named Archer, and a ship full of pirates, Sefia sets out of a quest to save Nin and learn the truth about her past.

This one is a brilliant start to a new series! If you like The Girl from Everywhere, you’ll love this one. It’s full of adventure, secrets, plot twists, and (of course) romance. Some parts of the story can be confusing, especially when Sefia’s story mixes with the one in her book, but everything comes together toward the end. The characters are AMAZING as well — I would read a book about any one of them. I’ll definitely be reaching for the sequel, and you probably will too! Pro-tip: pay attention to the words by the page numbers and the large lettering throughout the book.

Rating: 4/5

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

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In a time when young women are expected to act like proper ladies and aspire only to an advantageous marriage, Faith wants to be a scientist. Fascinated by the natural world, Faith takes pleasure in accompanying her father to fossil digs, even though she is not taken seriously because of her gender. When a scandal breaks in the scientific world involving Faith’s father, her family flees to a remote island. There, secrets about her father’s past begin to come to light, and Faith discovers that he may have brought an even bigger, more dangerous secret with him to the island. Using her deductive reasoning skills, Faith must uncover the truth of what’s happening on the island — before she gets sucked into its mysteries.

I was surprised at how much I really enjoyed this book. It’s historical fiction, but it’s completely accessible and a super fast paced read. I especially love how this book tackles women’s rights, women in STEM, and fake news — all wrapped up in a murder mystery! You will definitely be eager to find out how the story ends. Characters are entertaining and well-rounded, and I liked that the author gave particular depth to the character of Faith’s mother. If you like historical fiction, mysteries, STEM, or are just looking for a good read, give this one a try. Worth it!

*Costa Book of the Year, 2015

Rating: 4.5/5

 

The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco

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Unaware that she is gifted with magic, Tea raises her brother from the dead during his funeral. Tea discovers that she is a bone witch, one who controls the dark magic. Though they use their abilities to banish monsters, bone witches are often reviled by the kingdoms they protect. Under her new tutor, Tea must learn how to harness and hone her power while playing the political games that come with it. She must learn quickly, though, because dark forces are culminating which will require all the strength she can gather.

This book starts slowly, but really, really picks up. All characters are entertaining and strong, especially the cranky old woman who runs Tea’s boardinghouse. Fox, Tea’s zombie brother, also brings a lot of humor to the story. The structure of the novel is unique; Tea’s story relating to her training is told in flashback form, with a present-tense story-line hinting at what’s to come — and it’s big. The end of the book leaves a TON of questions that I’m desperate to know, so you’ll definitely be reaching for the sequel. Add this to your TBR for an awesome new fantasy/supernatural series.

Rating: 4.5/5

 

Long May She Reign by Rhiannon Thomas

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At twenty-third in line to the throne, Freya may technically be part of the court, but doesn’t feel it worthwhile to invest much energy into her court life. Instead, Freya prefers to conduct science experiments aimed at inventing a device that will make her independently wealthy. When she is invited to the King’s birthday party, Freya reluctantly attends, but ends up sneaking out in order to finish and experiment. In her absence, someone poisons the king’s cake and nearly everyone at the party is killed. So many, in fact, that Freya is next in line to be queen. Completely unprepared to rule, Freya finds herself the center of a decimated court, surrounded by those who suspect her of the murder. Freya must find the true murderer before she loses her new throne and her life.

Wow! This is one of the best books I’ve read in a while. The premise itself is fascinating — basically an entire court dies leaving one obscure relation as queen? Yes, please. I also loved how much Freya was obsessed with science and finding her own way in the world. So many female heroines (even when they’re strong!) stand around waiting for a prince, convinced they’re not worth anything. Not Freya! The story also features excellent female friendships and a healthy romantic relationship. If you’re looking for a fantasy standalone (rare, I know), don’t miss this!

Rating: 5/5

The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel

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Will’s family rockets from poverty to first class when his father is promoted in the rail business. But Will’s new wealth isn’t all he dreamed it would be. He misses the adventure of his old life, and feels trapped in his family’s new expectations. When will reunites with a circus performer, Maren, he becomes wrapped up in a mystery related to a valuable key. The key unlocks a car on the new Goliath train, The Boundless, and may lead to untold riches. Will and Maren must solve the mystery, or they may lose their lives on the train.

This one is definitely a great read! The plot is a little predictable, but it’s packed with action, adventure, and intrigue, so it moves very quickly. I also like that this is technically a historical fiction piece, but it is NOT boring at all. All the characters are very well done, and I especially enjoyed reading about the circus performers. If you are looking for your next mystery/thriller with a touch of history, Boundless is it!

*Texas Lonestar List, 2016

Rating: 4/5

 

The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

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Nix and her father are sailors.But not typical sailors. Nix’s father is gifted with the ability to Navigate. Using a map, he can sail his ship across time , and that’s exactly what he and his crew do. But Nix’s father isn’t just sailing through time for fun. He’s looking for a way to save Nix’s mom, who died in 1886. Nix is torn between wanting to help her father and preventing a reality in which she might not even exist. In their quest, a series of adventures ensues, including pirating, waking an army of stone soldiers, and picking up new, fanciful crew members along the way.

Wow! I LOVED this book! The plot is a unique one; I was fascinated with the idea that Nix’ dad could sail off the edge of one map and into another. I also appreciated the way the author mixed elements of reality and magic into the story. The characters are funny, well thought out, and nearly every one is lovable in their own way. I’m sad that I can’t go and join this crew myself! Definitely give this one a try if you’re looking for a new fantasy/supernatural/time travel read.

*YALSA Best Books for Young Adults, 2017

Rating: 5/5

 

The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle by Janet Fox

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In the days of the deadly Blitz on London, Kat and her younger siblings are sent to a country boarding school to escape the danger. Housed in an ancient and mysterious castle, the school is unconventional to say the least, and the children immediately begin to notice inexplicable happenings. Strange noises haunt the nights, and the children are locked in their rooms at night to keep them “safe”. What’s more, Kat finds evidence that the school may be housing a German spy. Though completely unconvinced of the ghost story theories put forth by the other children, Kat has trouble explaining much of what happens at Rookskill. Working together, the children will have to solve the complex mystery of the castle, before it’s too late.

This one is a mix of historical fiction, supernatural fiction, and sci-fi, and it’s amazing! I’ll take a story about a haunted castle any day, so I was more than excited to read of the children’s adventures in the spooky hidden rooms. The book also does a nice job with the historical fiction aspect. It isn’t difficult to understand what is going on with the history, and it certainly isn’t boring. I can’t say too much without spoiling the plot, but suffice it to say that if you’re looking for a ghost story with a bit of unexpected sci-fi mixed in, look no further. My one complaint about the book was that the author arguably had too many plot twists going on, but that also made for an exciting read!

Rating: 4.5/5