Lale is transported to an Auschwitz concentration camp in a rail car with many other men. He arrives and is requested to help the camp tattoist because of his fluency in several languages. On his first days of tattooing prisoners, Lale tattoos a woman that he immediately feels a strong connection with. Her name is Gita and their relationship continues to grow. As the tattooist, Lale gets extra food rations and he befriends the camp residents that take the prisoners clothes and belongings to sort them out. They find many valuables and share with Lale so he can get supplies, such as food and medicine for needy prisoners. He comes face to face with Mengele, the infamous and horrible doctor that experiments on prisoners. His assistant is castrated by Mengele and I had no idea that he performed terrible acts like castration, which was probably tame compared to his other experiments. Years go by as prisoners, and eventually the camp, is liberated. Lale searches for Gita as soon as he possibly can. This is a true story that’s heartbreaking and heartwarming. It’s full of historical information that the world needs to remember, 4 stars!
Gutter Girl by Lynn Rush and Kelly Anne Blount
McKenna is known as Goth Girl at her high school. She hasn’t always worn black or been so antisocial and grouchy but when her Dad left after her mom was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, she became the parent. McKenna keeps her distance because she doesn’t want anyone to know about her mom and how chaotic her life has become. Jace is known as a great football player in the same school as McKenna. One morning, when they drop their backpacks and inadvertently grab each other’s notebook, McKenna discovers that Jace is a famous online writer. When others find out the famous author attends their school, McKenna steps up to keep Jace’s secret. The relationship they start with that moment gets messy, crazy and sweet. A little cheesy, a little predictable, and a lot of fun to read, 4 stars!
A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson
Pip is doing her Capstone Project on a five-year-old disappearance case that took place in her town. She isn’t sure that the case was truly solved. She introduces herself to everyone that she thinks was involved in Andie Bell’s disappearance and ruffles lots of feathers as she continues her investigation. Pip and Ravi become friends as they work on solving the mystery. Ravi’s older brother was accused of killing Andie and then committing suicide afterward. The amateur sleuths dive into the case and unravel a complicated weave of problems. Soon, Pip is receiving threats to stay away from the case and it seems that every time she finds a piece of evidence to someone’s guilt, she inevitably discovers more to the story. An enjoyable and intricate mystery, 5 stars!
The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah
Elsinore has grown up feeling ugly, unloved, and like she’s a burden to her family. They tell her she’s too tall, not pretty, and sickly. It’s the 1920’s and women tend to be married and have children by the time they’re twenty years old and Elsinore is twenty-five. She wants a change and wants to enjoy life so she cuts her waist-length hair to her chin and buys red silk and creates a flapper dress. She sneaks out one night to go to the speakeasy in town but they won’t let her in and tell her to go home when they realize it’s her. She walks down the street and meets an eighteen-year-old Italian man who wants to have fun. They both admit they’re lonely and see each other a few times to have sex. Rafe calls Elsinore “Els”; she likes the nickname and feels wanted when she’s with him. She ends up with morning sickness and her parents disown her and her father takes her and one packed suitcase to Rafe’s family farm. Elsinore’s father tells Rafe’s parents what’s going on and leaves her there, stating that their family is done with her. Rafe’s parents have saved for him to go to college for a better life but he seems happy to stay on the farm with Els and says that he doesn’t want to go to college anyway. Elsa and Rafe have a girl then a boy. His parents are grateful for Elsa because she’s strong, brave, a hard worker, and a good wife and mother. When the Great Depression hits, Rafe leaves his family behind because he can’t stand staying on the farm anymore. His parents help Elsa raise their grandchildren and they all take care of the farm together. When the land turns into a dust bowl, life gets even worse! The people and animals struggle to survive the heat, the powerful winds, and the extreme dust everywhere. Ant, the youngest grandchild, becomes deathly sick with dust pneumonia and that’s when they decide it’s time to leave the Great Plains behind. When Elsa leaves for California with her children, she’s terrified but sees no other solution. They make it to California but find discrimination and harsh prejudice, horrible working and living conditions, and struggle to survive because of little and sometimes no income. The three do discover strength and loyalty and what they are truly capable of. A story of great strength, determination, and unbelievable perseverance, 5 stars!
Sunkissed by Kasie West
Avery is heading to a family camp in the woods and that means no internet. Her sister Lauren has a social media channel that she’s planning to share their summer vacation on until she discovers the lack of WiFi. The two sisters plan non-internet activities combined with watching the camp band (comprised of young men) without their parents’ knowledge. Lauren decides to create a video documentary of the band so the sisters spend more time with them without their parents knowing. They become friends with many of the camp employees, which is forbidden by the camp manager. Avery and the band’s guitarist, Brooks, work together to create song lyrics and really start to like each other. They both struggle with personal troubles and find common ground. This is the first Kasie West book I’ve read and I can understand why her books are popular with my high school library students. The values and integrity are a breath of fresh air. I enjoyed the characters, the humor, and the feeling of hope in this story, 5 stars!
Incognito by Katie Delahanty
Ellie is deep into the Keystone Academy curriculum and the story opens with her on a mission to steal a voice recording from the Andy Warhol Museum collection. The famous artist was known for saving everything. While completing her goal, a colleague arrives and sneakily steals the cassette from her. So, she fails the mission. She moves on with other students to go undercover and learn as much as they can about a new program that’s based on whether free will is real or not. The group gets brain scans and disguises and they discover who’s trustworthy and who isn’t. This new program is a little too close to Ellie’s past and her old journal becomes a topic of interest and the story ends with a twist that leaves the opening for a third book in the Keystone series. Riddles and intrigue, 4 stars!
A Deal with the Elf King by Elise Kova
Luella is content as a healer for her community. Luke wants to marry her and run away but she believes she’s needed to stay so she can help others. The traditional visit of the elves to find a new wife for the elf king is happening and the king believes that Luella has been hidden from him. Once her gift of jewelry has been removed, her eyes are opened and she realizes that she truly has magic. Luke is the one who gave her the jewelry and he knew it would hide her magic. Luke seems to be the only one that ever knew that Luella had magic. Luella begs the elf king not to kill Luke but only imprison him. Eldas, the elf king, seems cold and aloof and Luella thinks he’s lived for centuries. She’s surprised when Eldas tells her differently and that he’s not much older than her. She travels to Midscape with the king and her magic is pulled from her by the queen’s throne. It takes her strength away to help the kingdom survive. Luella feels trapped and she wants to get back home to her job as a healer. Willow shows her journals of the past queens and gives her a space to work where she can continue with healing and experimenting. Eldas slowly and reluctantly opens up to Luella and she actually begins to enjoy spending time with him. He starts reading the journals also and the two of them search for information that can help save the kingdom for good. I enjoyed seeing Eldas’ character grow and the relationship that he and Luella built together. I always enjoy reading Elise Kova’s books because I fall into the world she’s created; 5 stars for this story full of bravery, selflessness and love!
The Prison Healer by Lynette Noni
A young woman who has been without her family for ten years, is a prisoner in a camp that sounds similar to the concentration camps of World War II. She’s responsible for carving a z into the prisoners’ hands. The z represents the prison’s name and it reminds me of The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris, except this is a fantasy story. She’s also the prison healer in charge of treating prisoners. A well-known rebel arrives at the prison and she’s known as the Rebel Queen. She’s supposed to be put through the Trials as punishment. Kiva receives a message from her family that states they’re coming to rescue her and implores her to keep the Rebel Queen alive. She’s also threatened by another prisoner to keep the Rebel Queen alive or her younger assistant, Tipp, will be killed. Kiva sacrifices herself to the Trials hoping that she’s going to be rescued before they’re over, since no one ever survives them without magic. A new prisoner arrives, Jaren, and he befriends Tipp and Kiva because she healed his wounds. The Trials consist of four Ordeals that are insanely dangerous and fatal. Kiva doesn’t know what any of the Ordeals are before she’s thrown into each one. During the time of the Trials, a stomach sickness is ravaging the prison and Kiva and Tipp work endlessly to find a cure. This is a unique story and that ending was awesome, 4 stars!