These Hollow Vows by Lexi Ryan

A fantasy full of conflict!

A thief, Abriella, breaks into the vault of a man who became rich from selling females into prostitution. She only steals enough to carry so he won’t notice it’s missing. On her way home, Brie (Abriella) stops at a friend’s home to pay for the contract her daughter has just signed with the rich man. She did this to get medicine for her mother. Now Brie doesn’t have enough money to pay her rent to Madam V., her greedy, horrible aunt who makes Brie and her younger sister Jas live in a basement storage room. Brie and Jas also have to slave away taking care of the house and two spoiled cousins. When Jas is sold to the Fae King, Brie travels through a portal pretending to be one of the many human women wanting to marry the Fae Prince Ronan. She meets an intriguing Fae male that keeps showing up wherever she goes but then she’s caught by the king and finds out he took Jas as bait to get Brie’s help. The king wants Brie to steal artifacts from Prince Ronan’s court. She sees Sebastian where she never thought she would and runs from him because she’s surprised and angry. Once she comes to terms with who Sebastian really is, Brie realizes that she can use it to her advantage in finding the relics and getting Jas back. She does care for Sebastian and feels guilty for using him. The intriguing Fae male is Finn and she works with his group to stop the king. They help her with the shadow magic she has. Brie feels trapped and alone throughout the story because she doesn’t know if she can trust anyone but she perseveres to get Jas safe again.
I enjoyed reading this book because of Brie, the main character. She’s strong, resilient and will do anything to save her sister. The conflicting two main male characters make the story interesting, especially since they’re both vying for Brie’s attention. 5 stars for this fantasy full of conflict!

Hotel Magnifique by Emily J. Taylor

Family and friends above all!

The prologue pulled me right in! Two sisters are trying to get an interview for jobs at the Hotel Magnifique. Jani watches over her younger sister Zosa, since she’s the only family she has left. Their mother died several years ago. Jani wants to go back to their homeland and they need money to travel there. Hotel Magnifique is stopping close by and Jani talks Zosa into interviewing for a job. Secrets surround the hotel and once they’re part of the workforce, they’re separated. Jani is desperate to find her sister and when she does, she’s horrified at how Zosa is being treated. Jani also digs for the truth about how the hotel is run and who’s in charge. Alistair is the lead magician but he’s hiding much and will do anything to protect what he’s gained. Danger builds and mysteries are cracked wide open as Jani tries to save her sister and eventually everyone that’s been used by Alistair for his greedy goals. Family and friends above all, 4 stars!

Blood Scion by Deborah Falaye

Jam-packed with action!

A young woman is searching for evidence of her mother in unmarked graves. Sloane knows that the Nightwalkers are responsible for her mother’s disappearance and she wants the proof. She’s caught by a Nightwalker and attacked. She unleashes her Scion power to save herself and burns him to ash in the process. Her identity as a Scion has to be kept secret or the rulers will kill her. She runs home to her grandfather, Baba. He has news that one of her friends ran from the draft and was killed because of it. Now three more people will be sent draft letters. She’s one of them, along with her best friend Teo. Teo has saved money and planned for the two of them to run if they are drafted. He shows Sloane his plan but she knows he’ll get killed if they run. To get him to drop his plans, Sloane threatens to turn him in. He walks off. Sloane is drafted, along with her bully Malachi. Malachi hates Sloane and wants revenge on her because she accidentally killed his family in a fire that she started. As the story continues, Sloane discovers secrets about her mother, finds possible allies and learns that not everyone is as they seem or appear to be. She also has to lose some of her humanity and empathy to sacrifice and do her part in becoming a hardened soldier. So many surprises and twists pop up in this book, making it a fast-paced read that’s also jam-packed with action and acts of violence. Sloane’s world is brutal and she makes some horrible choices to stay alive. 4 stars!

The Rumor Game by Dhonielle Clayton and Sona Charaipotra

A cautionary tale!

A prime, fictional example of the harm rumors can do.
Bryn caused an accident out of anger and jealousy. The high school students have treated her harshly in person and online. She’s relieved when rumors start online about other students and their lives because it takes the attention off of her. She wants to use this chance to make things better. The story has much to learn from, such as never accepting food or drinks from anyone at a party because others might not be trustworthy; stay aware and alert at a party so you know what’s happening; photos can be taken out of context just like words, so don’t trust everything you see online; and there’s more than one side to every story. Full of diverse characters and very realistic, The Rumor Game is a cautionary tale. 4 stars!

Stand Your Ground by Mia Reyes

Another helpful guide by Mia Reyes!

Stand Your Ground: Build Ace Confidence and Self-Esteem, Survive Peer Pressure and Bullying While Staying True to Yourself by Mia Reyes is another wonderful, helpful guide to building confidence and self-esteem, understanding avoidance behaviors, dealing with bullying and myths about bullying, and cyberbullying. Inspiring stories are included and guidance to building boundaries, confidence and a positive future forward are a large part of this book. The author has a gentle way of relating to the reader and builds a mutual respectful relationship with you as you read. I purchased this book to include in the school library collection where I am the librarian and also include it in the Meditation Station that I have set up in the same library.

Pony by R.J. Palacio

A western adventure full of action and mystery!

Pony tells the story of a young boy who takes refuge in a tree during a violent storm and when the tree is struck by lightning, receives a burn on his back in the shape of that same tree. The burn heals into a very unique scar. His father revives the boy by using a fireplace bellows. This man is interested in photography but turned to boot making to support his family but the lightning incident stokes his love of art and photos. The young boy, Silas, was born the same day his mother died. So, Silas and his father are without her. Pa is kindhearted and loving and cares deeply about Silas. One night, three riders with pistols drawn, arrive at their home demanding that Pa and Silas go with them. They won’t say why other than their boss wants Pa to work for a week and then he’ll let him return to his home. The riders brought an extra horse and a white-faced pony with them so Pa and Silas could ride along. Pa makes Silas stay behind. The pony shows up soon after the riders leave with Pa. Silas is worried that Pa has been hurt so he rides Pony (Silas’ name for the small horse) and goes after Pa’s trail. He finds so much more than he expected and meets several different allies along the way. Pony is a western adventure full of action and mystery, told with a continuous sense of awe; I loved reading it, 5 stars!

Escaping Eleven by Jerri Chisholm

Entertaining dystopian for young adults!

Eve is a fighter looking forward to when she can reach the upper level and Earth to see if her younger brother Jack somehow survived being banished nine years ago for being the unlawful second child of the family. He was sent out to the unprotected air and land on his own. Eve meets Wren in a scheduled fight that entertains the crowds. They despise each other at first but soon become allies. While Eve’s friends continue to participate in job tours to help decide their future, she hunts for a way to escape Compound Eleven. Wren is from the upper level so he has access to more and also has a better lifestyle than Eve and her friends in the lower level. He teaches her to shoot a gun and she introduces her to the lowest level of the compound where she helps ration food to the people. They both grow and learn about what they truly want in their futures. Eve is stubborn but loyal and Wren is smart, brave and has integrity. Interesting world building and strong characters add life to this dystopian story, 4 stars!

When All the Girls Are Sleeping by Emily Arsenault

A wonderfully spooky read!

The spookiness starts immediately with the opening of the book. The font in chapter one is perfectly ghostly! Haley’s best friend, Taylor, fell to her death last year. Haley receives an email with an attached video from Taylor’s oldest sibling. He asks Haley if she knows anything about the video and as she starts to watch it, she realizes she doesn’t know what’s happening in it and she’s never seen it before. It gives her the creeps. Haley wants to figure out the truth of what really happened to Taylor and she begins researching hauntings and school history to see if there’s anything that will help her. A paranormal investigator is mentioned in an alumni Facebook group and Haley finds his picture as a dorm supervisor from years earlier. Haley keeps reaching out to alumni and searching the school archives in hopes of digging up more information. She finds letters and interviews from decades ago describing the same thing Taylor experienced in the video. What Haley discovers is so unpredictable and complex that I would have never figured it out on my own and the answer is unexpected! A wonderfully spooky read, 5 stars!

Cupcake by Cookie O’Gorman

Deliciously cute and innocently romantic!

Cupcake by Cookie O’ Gorman is a deliciously cute and innocently romantic read for young adults!
Ariel is a full bodied young woman and she’s proud of who she is even when others are unkind. Her best friend, Toni, nominates her for the Homecoming royalty without Ariel knowing. Ariel may like herself but she’s been bullied about her size and that makes her wary of gaining attention or being in any spotlight. Being part of the homecoming royalty stresses her out. Ariel has many talents and friends. She’s kind and caring and loves to bake amazing treats for sharing and posting on her vlog. Rhys is her designated homecoming prince for all of the activities and he’s also the star quarterback. She’s a bit intimidated by him and the other royalty. As she gets to know the other royalty better and they get to know her, friendships begin. Cupcake is an adorable story of growth, confidence and loving yourself!

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!