The Tragedy of Dane Riley by Kat Spears

Every adult and young adult should read this book!

Dane Riley is an interesting character. He needs purpose but has extreme difficulty finding any. His self esteem is rock bottom and he’s grieving the loss of his dad. Dane is a senior on the verge of graduating high school yet he has no idea what he wants for his future. He has a few good friends that don’t attend the same high school and he has a deep crush on Ophelia, his classmate that also happens to be his next door neighbor. This story gave me food for thought and some good advice along the way. I especially appreciate the statement that Dane’s English teacher told him:

“During high school, it seems like nothing that you’re doing is important, but if you want to eventually have an interesting job, to have some reason to look forward to getting up in the morning, the course you set for yourself really does matter.”

This is also a well-advised quote:

“Life is just what you make it. Nothing more. Nothing less.”

Every young adult and adult should read this book. It might build connections between parents and children, teachers and students and a greater understanding of the lives and perspectives of others. Am enjoyable and valuable read, 5 stars!

Breathless by Jennifer Niven

Encompasses everything wonderful, stressful and everything in between of falling in love for the first time.

Coming of age story about Claudine, aka Claude. Contains explicit sexual content, heads up to readers that may be bothered.
Breathless encompasses everything wonderful, stressful and everything in between and around falling in love for the first time. Claude and her mother travel to an island where they have family roots. They plan on staying for the summer to give Claude’s father a break after he decided he wants a divorce. Angry and annoyed, Claude and her mother arrive on the secluded island with very little internet service. She has to adjust to not being able to text her friends and father back home. She meets the summer young-adult workers and becomes friends with most of them. One in particular catches her eye, Jeremiah Crew (Miah). They hang out and eventually become more than friends. During this summer, Claude and Miah mature, and together they help each other deal with their personal lives and the problems they’re both dealing with. Miah teaches Claude how to ride a bike and shares his island adventures with her. Claude helps Miah talk about his personal life. They have a great and memorable summer together but dread the day they have to say goodbye when it ends. A beautiful story with unique characters that grow in depth and maturity together. A perfect romance for a summer read, 5 stars!

House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherland

Infamous sisters, gruesome discoveries!

The Hollow sisters are infamous for disappearing for 31 days when they were children. There’s a big mystery surrounding their disappearance and Iris and Vivi don’t remember anything that happened to them or their whereabouts when they were gone but Grey seems to know more than she lets on. Ten years later and Grey is missing again, so Vivi and Iris go on a search for her. Along the way, they’re joined by Tyler, Grey’s boyfriend. Grey is a famous fashion designer and Tyler is a famous model. Vivi is a traveling musician and Iris is a seventeen year old in high school. During the search, Vivi and Iris make gruesome discoveries and a terrifying man wearing a bull skull chases them, trying to kill them. Once Tyler joins them, his life becomes endangered too. The mystery surrounding the sisters and their disappearance kept me interested and the more I read, the more I wanted to know. Tyler adds flair and humor and Vivi adds wild behavior while Grey adds darkness. I enjoyed every page of this supernatural fantasy, 5 stars!

Good Girl, Bad Blood by Holly Jackson

Twisty mystery!

Pip is determined to never investigate another mystery until her friend’s brother ends up missing. Connor and his mom, Joanne, convince Pip that they need her help to find Jamie and the more she investigates, the more questions pop up. It’s a tangled web of people, clues and history. Ravi is with her completely, once again and Pip realizes that she’s lying to her parents more and more so they don’t get upset about her over-involvement in the investigation. This is a twisty mystery that kept me guessing, 5 stars! I’m completely looking forward to the third book of this series!

The Realm Breaker by Victoria Aveyard

Fantastic world building and strong character development, 5 stars for this series opener!

Different lives become connected through unpleasant events. Andry witnesses the horrible deaths of a group of knights that he was traveling with. One brother killed another and set loose a horde of violent corpses that kills everyone in its path. Reminiscent of the Lord of the Rings, this updated epic fantasy brings action and a gathering of many to fight a common enemy that wants to take over the world. The group of forsaken allies grows stronger after being betrayed by someone they thought was one of their own. This group is made up of a young woman with a special family line, a large and powerful Elder, an honorable squire, a young assassin and more continue to join as the story unfolds. They face dangerous creatures and powerful foes in this high, epic fantasy that opens a series bound to be a story for the ages! Fantastic world building and strong character development, 5 stars for this series opener!

The Love Song of Ivy K. Harlowe by Hannah Moskowitz

Food for thought!

I begin reading with an open mind and a few pages in there’s a comment about people knowing the narrator is gay because of piercings and colorful tattoos. I don’t believe that everyone that fits in that category is gay; that’s just stereotypical annoyance. The book has more new adult than young adult content since the characters are college age, and content contains sexual innuendos and swearing. I actually grew to enjoy the variety of characters and appreciate the topics that the author approached tastefully. Mental and physical health, drugs, overdoses and the universal question of what to do with your life are brought up and dealt with well. I do worry about STDs and the nonchalant sex life of Ivy. I wish something about protection during sexual activity was mentioned, especially since the main character’s mother is a nurse. I enjoyed the story and couldn’t put it down after a while. Interesting with food for thought, 4 stars!

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

Remember history!

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

A fun and enjoyable read!

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

Intricate, enjoyable mystery!

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

A story of great strength, determination, and unbelievable perseverance!

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!