All of the reviews below are for Advance Reader Copies of books that are not yet published. These titles are provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
The reviews below will help the library staff determine if we wish to purchase these books for our collection.

Shadowscent: The Darkest Bloom
by P.M. Freestone

3 stars
Maddie, 18.

Shadowscent is a novel set entirely in a new and fantasy world, where scents and perfumes hold more power and sway than gold. The main character, Rakel, lives with her retired father, who was a general in the military. He now suffers from an illness called the Rot, for which there is seemingly no cure. The only way to slow it is buying expensive flowers and incense, but they don't have enough to continually buy what they need. Rakel, in a desperate bid for money, decides to take the Master Perfumer test, which would allow her the money and supplies needed to keep her father alive.
On the opposite side of the spectrum lies the second protagonist, whose name is Ashridinoran, who goes by Ash. He serves as the personal bodyguard to the First Prince of the Emperor, Nisai.
Both Ash and Rakel have never met, nor do they seem to have anything in common--but when an accident occurs and the Prince falls dangerously ill, both Rakel and Ash are blamed for poisoning the prince and must flee the city. In order to save the prince and clear their names, they will have to delve deep into the lore of an ancient poison, navigate treacherous terrain, and avoid the people hunting them down. I really enjoyed this book, it kept me hooked since the beginning and up until the end. The entirely new world created by the author was great to enjoy, and the dialogue and word choice created for such a world is great. You can especially tell the effort put into a novel given the creative new language that the author had to create for the world.
I really loved Rakel, who had just enough spunk and moxy to never let anyone tell her what she should do. She was a strong, independent character who was motivated by family, by keeping her father safe. I also enjoyed the other side of the coin. Ash was also a great character, and I especially loved the character interactions between him and the prince. The dialogue between those two were great.
If I had anything to critique, it would be this: there aren't enough details. The author labels and describes the land as to being divided into different provinces, each one with their own people and environment. However, there was no further detail. The author would just give the name of the city the duo traveled to, describe two buildings, then move on to whatever Rakel and Ash were talking about. Even the characters went undescribed. I didn't even know what the main characters looked like until they were described about half-way through the book. I would also say that the author needs a glossary, because they mention these gods that the people worship, and even though they are frequently brought up, no one goes into what they are the gods of. Only one god is really described in full detail.
I would also say that the action and tension didn't come across as well as it should have. The main pair of the book are being hunted by the Empire's Rangers, elite soldiers who do best at stealth and tracking. However, the times that they are almost caught? They are so briefly glossed over before the main characters are throwing themselves into the next clue of the puzzle. It didn't reel me in, I couldn't quite feel the tension that was supposed to be there. Not to mention that the main characters are on a time limit to save the prince but it just....never seems to come up. At all. They have to collect the ingredients for the cure that will heal the prince, but they never seem to be harried as they are under a time limit.
Another thing? The supposed twists at the very end, the realization that Rakel comes to about what Ash is--it doesn't pack any punches. Good plot twists are supposed to catch you by surprise, they are supposed to make you gasp aloud at the sheer drama and shock; however, the supposed plot twist in this book, about Ash being a shadow warrior, just....left me more confused than shocked. What are shadow warriors? Why are they only mentioned at the end? What is the Lost God and why was he lost? What is considered heresy in this world? It's mentioned a lot but never given any background as to how one becomes a heretic.
In the end, the book left me with more questions than answers, and not in a good way.
It is still a good book however, I just feel that it needs much more polishing of the plot and descriptions. Add in a few maps and a glossary and all will be good.


Good Luck Girls
by Charlotte Davis

5 stars
Marie, 18.

Holy cow, this book was amazing! The world building was done so well. Information about the world was revealed only when necessary without any info dumps. And wow. What a world! The dead linger, and if you die angry, you become something known as a vengeance. And that’s not even the worst of the worst! The real bad guys are the rich men who run the world’s economy, who control the wealth in a manner similar to the way they always have in our world. This book tackles hard topics like slavery, sex trafficking, poverty, indentured servitude, systematic racism, regular old racism, etc. Oh, and there are gay characters who don’t die! Please read this book! It’s become a quick favorite.





Reverie
by Ryan la sala

3 stars
Maddie, 18.

Reverie is a novel about dreams becoming reality--albeit in a strange and dangerous way. The main character, Kane Montgomery, wakes up in a river with no clue as to how he got there or why. He later learns that according to the police, he stole his parents' car, crashed into a government building which then caught fire, and was caught in the ensuing accident. Kane has no memory of anything leading up to the accident, or even of the accident, and struggles to reconcile without any of his previous memories. That's when he finds out that more than just that memory is gone. . .he runs into a group of people who call themselves the Others, and he used to be a part of their group as the leader. As Kane struggles to recall his missing memories, he also has to face the mysterious psychologist Dr. Poesy who claims they know all about Kane and the accident, as well as the elusive Dean Flores, the new transfer student who acts as if they once were close friends.
This was a good book, it had me hooked from the beginning after I read the summary for it. I read the first chapter and before I knew it I was tearing through the pages. The delicious mystery that was Kane and his missing memories, and people who claimed to be his friends before the accident but he doesn't know for sure if he can trust them? That was really intriguing, I also had no idea if the friends were untrustworthy or whether it was the Dr. Poesy. I also loved how the fantasy aspects of it, the very first time Kane finds himself in a reverie, someone's dream come to life--that was fun. He had to fight off a glowing lobster, and the character interactions were also great. The author also had a love for similes, but they were certainly ones I had never heard before. Overall the author had a whimsical way of writing that had me reading from beginning to end to find out where exactly the story was going to take me.
There were quite a few grammatical errors, errors that for sure should have been caught before being published. It interrupted the flow of the story and made it jarring and brought me back to the real world. There were also quite a few pacing errors, and the plot twist didn't feel as gut-twisting as it should have been because throughout the whole novel the author was throwing new things left and right that you had to adjust to quickly before encountering the next strange thing.
I will admit I loved the author's imagination and style that was prevalent throughout the novel. Overall, the name Reverie was a great title choice and really tied together the whimsical feeling the novel gave me.
A great novel I would recommend, but I also wouldn't mind if the author and editor went over it one last time to polish up a few things.


The Nameless Queen
by Rebecca McLaughlin

4 stars
Maddie, 18.

The Nameless Queen is a tale about Coin, the main female protagonist who lives in the kingdom of Seriden, and is considered a Nameless, a lower class of citizens that are regarded as so low they are born without names. The kingdom's royal throne is ruled not by those of bloodlines, but instead by a magical tattoo that appears on the person whose name has been spoken by the previous ruler as their dying breath. Coin, as one of the Nameless, continues living on the streets only to one day wake up and realize that the magical tattoo is now on her shoulder, naming her the next Queen of Seriden. But how can she be the heir, when she doesn't have a name for the king to say? I really enjoyed this book, and would recommend it to any avid readers of fantasy novels. I was intrigued by the title of the book, but the cover also helped (which just goes to say that you should never judge a book by its cover, but it also doesn't help if the cover art is gorgeous). I really loved reading from the point of view of Coin, who presents herself as a tough and smart protagonist, as she has had to survive on the streets for years and years. I absolutely loved the snark and sass, and the conversations Coin has with everyone she meets. The dialogue between characters was amazing and I applaud the author for a great sense of humor.
Although this is just personal opinion, I always tend to avoid any young adult novel that places entirely too much emphasis on romance and the relationships between the female and male protagonists. It just turns the book into a huge cliche and basically rehashes everything you've read previously, no matter what the plot twists may be. In this book, however, there was little to no emphasis on making sure that Coin finds a love interest, but instead focuses on her survival in the Royal Court, and trying to avoid assassination attempts. The only relationship it truly emphasizes, and the author turns into a moral lesson, is that blood may tie you to people, but it doesn't make them family. Coin makes herself a family, but it is a gradual realization as she has to realize that she doesn't have to fight for her life every day. That she can come to rely on the people she trusts, and build a family of her own (not by having children or marrying a man).
Although the main plot twist seemed to be placed on the mystery that was how the King named Coin heir (which I had suspicions on), it actually caught me by surprise when the plot twist actually revealed the antagonist of the novel. Especially concerning the mystery from early on as to where the Nameless have been disappearing to. . .if you want to learn, read it! It's a great book, would recommend the read.
To counteract, I do believe there are times where the pacing is off, and seems to skip very important points to Coin's timeline. We are told by Coin herself that she met with the Royal Council, and other Royals, but those parts seem to be skipped over. Also, the riots that occured in the street? There seemed to be only one incident that Coin was apart of, but no other mentions of the Legals fighting the Nameless in the streets. Also, the aftermath of the Assassin's Festival was not cleared up. Clearly, some time had passed, but the author did not explicitly state that any time had passed, and we only learn later when a character mentions it. This also may be a bit nitpick-y, but the Doctor Rhana? She turns out to have known the Royal Family's secrets this entire time and she only mentions this at the end? There's either not enough characterization by the author or she was meant to be set up later as a future threat.
Either way, the Nameless Queen was a great read, and I found myself enjoying every second I spent reading it. I would buy this book to put it on my own bookshelf for a later re-read.


Cursed
by  THOMAS WHEELER ; ILLUSTRATED BY FRANK MILLER 

2 stars
Maddie, 18.

Cursed is a tale based on the Arthurian legends, with several old familiar characters. There is Arthur, Merlin, Morgan (otherwise known as Morgana), King Uther, Percival, Lancelot, and Nimue, Lady of the Lake, the main character. In this story, Arthur is in fact not the king or even the crown prince, but a sword for hire, which is of course interesting choice to place him, as normally he would be the one to draw the sword from the stone. Nimue? She starts out as a very interesting character, and easily able to follow along as her life in a small Fey village, but otherwise very flat character. Yes, she goes on a Hero's Journey that every other adventure book seems to follow, with Nimue being the main character, but all similarities end there. Yes, I was rooting for her--the entire premise of the book was that the Lady of the Lake was the one true queen meant to lead all of Albion--or in this case, lead her people (the Fey) to a greater future. Despite the great synopsis, it wasn't that great of a story. Nimue never seems to change or even grow as a character, as the author seems solely focused on Arthur and his 'change of heart' as he seeks to find a way to defend his own honor. And the romance drawn between Nimue and Arthur? It was extremely FORCED. It was as if the entire basis of their relationship was that Arthur was a man, Nimue was a woman, and that was that. There's no build up in their relationship, it's as if immediately upon meeting she falls in love. And? The author seems to be trying to show that Nimue is a strong female character who doesn't need a man, yet has her fall in love with Arthur? It was extremely disappointing. 

The entire book I was waiting for the scene where Nimue becomes Queen, and takes the throne of Camelot from King Uther, but that never happens. The closest we come to having her declared Queen is 'Queen of the Fey' and that's only when she takes over one village! They immediately declare her queen, with no prior scenes to showcase her ability as a leader, and no challenges from the other Fey, especially the elders. That scene was extremely forced--it felt as though the author had intended for a powerful scene that showed Nimue as a powerful female, especially with the Sword of Power, but in reality it left the me, the reader, disappointed. The only other female character is Morgan, who has little to no character change and is almost added as an afterthought. She is still the half-sister of Arthur, but that seems to be it. She helps out the Fey to escape from the bad guys, the Red Paladins, but that seems to be it. She lectures Nimue about never giving up the sword, and especially not letting her give the sword up to a man. That seems to be the only reason she was brought in--to act as female support to Nimue. For all that the author seems to portray a Female Empowerment book, it falls flat. I have no idea what Wheeler was thinking, but I know for sure he did not consult any females for it.
The entirety of this book seems to be fluff, some story aimed at young adults as a filler, something to read that doesn't impact in any way. At least, to me. There were scenes in the book that were definitely not intended to be read by a younger audience, and yes it does set a darker tone for the book. However, the darker tones are not explored! The Fey people are being hunted down, killed, exploited, treated as less than human, and there's nothing to show for it! You cannot tell me that someone would suffer the persecution of their people and not be furious. Nimue, herself, suffers a personal loss at seeing her village burned down, but never reflects on it. *spoiler* She loses her mother, but never seems to take a moment to grieve. At all. She seems to be pushed forward only for plot purposes. There's no deep exploration of her feelings that normally would be given to a traumatized character. It's another point in the negative category for me.
More than once I have read parts of the book that seemed to me to be rushed. Many times I read a section and thought, 'Wait, what just happened?' before it moved on completely and the issue never resolved. The Red Paladins, for example, are set up as the terrible bad guys that are persecuting the Fey and doing absolutely horrific things--torturing the victims that they capture all in the name of 'purifying' them. It calls back to actual real-time events when Hitler persecuted the Jewish people. The only retribution reaped upon these Paladins are by Nimue's hand. But the Fey are described as a magical people with abilities that no man can hope to overcome? Abilities that they never use to defend themselves? That seemed like a plot-hole to me--that the Fey never tried to defend themselves beforehand. Nimue's mother is described in her final moments to fight to the death with only a dagger--so where were the other moments just like this? The mothers and fathers fighting tooth and nail to defend their children? It could have been saved if the Red Paladins were said to have had Iron, or some other weapon that hurt the Fey and left them defenseless, rather than have them killed when they are clearly a superior magical race that seemed to give up without a fight until Nimue shows up.
Also, another negative: the supposed plot twist in the middle of the book? With Nimue's father? Didn't elicit gasps of surprise or even shock. I read the sentence and thought 'huh' before moving on. That's it. The author did not do a good job of garnering my attention and holding it.
Overall, it was an average book, and interesting to read. I really liked the Arthurian tale twists that the author added, but I definitely felt that it should have been worked on more, to make it better. I felt that it had potential, but at the moment it's not that good of a book.


AstroNuts Mission One: The Plant Planet
by  Jon Scieszka 

4.5 stars
Solomon, 15.

An action (and science) packed story with a variety of carefree characters and an alarming wake-up call to Earth's failing state. Join Alpha Wolf, Smarthawk, Lasersark, and Stinkbug on the start of a funny adventure to find the next "Goldilocks" planet!



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Spin the Dawn
by  Elizabeth Lim 

4 stars
Ms. Yvonne, 25.

"Mulan meets Project Runway" is probably the greatest combination I never thought I needed, until I read about it and knew I needed nothing else. Maia is a great character. She is strong, willing to do anything she can for her survival, and she is courageous. In Mulan-like fashion, she cuts off her hair and pretends to be her brother so she can exceed in her craft and save her father from soiling the family name. I loved the idea of a competition to be the Imperial Tailor. In all of the competition stories I have read, this one intrigued me the absolute most. My only qualm, which I had to knock of a star for, is that I feel like this would have been so much better if it were split into two novels. I'm usually the one to say "these could have been one long novel," but no. This one has two solid plots with a lull in the middle, and I would have loved if they were split and each part was fleshed out. But I still loved it and I cannot wait for the next part of the adventure.

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