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!

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!

Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis

Sarcastic and tough, Lola has developed these survival skills since she’s pretty much left on her own all of the time. Her mother left when she was five and her father is a busy film director. When she finds her father stabbed during an attack, she’s sent to stay with her maternal grandmother in Harrow Lake; the remote town that was made famous by her father’s movie, Nightjar. Nightjar is a horror movie that gave Harrow Lake fame and Lola’s mother was the main character. Lola has never known her grandmother and when she meets her it’s weird, awkward, and unwelcoming. Her suitcase disappears and the more she explores the town, the stranger it seems. Lola begins to hear chattering sounds and sees and carries on conversations with her long-ago imaginary friend from her childhood. She has vivid dreams and starts to question the fact that maybe Harrow Lake is making her crazy. Secrets unraveled and revealed bring resolution to this unique horror mystery, 5 stars!

Where Secrets Lie by Eva V. Gibson

A wonderful friendship has been injured and the three friends are holding grudges against each other. The grudges are put on hold when Nat, Teddy’s younger sister, comes up missing. I love the character development! The author does a great job bringing her characters to life. Ben’s colorful personality has grown from his dysfunctional family life full of contradictions and hypocrisy, but he’s loyal to his best friends, who are his cousin Amy and their mutual friend Teddy. Nat is precious and precocious and adorable. Amy is hounded by her mother and her extreme expectations and Teddy and Nat live with their single mother in a trailer on Ben and Amy’s grandparents’ property. The three friends work together to try to figure out what happened to Nat. The timeline alternates between two summers and the changes that occurred in their relationships. The police believe that Nat drowned but the three friends know she would have never gone into the water alone. Nat was terrified of swimming after she almost drowned years earlier. As Ben, Teddy and Amy search for clues, they stumble across a trophy box from a possible serial killer. Intensity and suspense amid a large amount of dysfunction kept me reading into the wee hours of the night, 5 stars!

Come Find Me by Megan Miranda

Kennedy has lost her family in a shooting so she’s currently living with her uncle. Nolan’s brother, Liam, has been missing for two years and there doesn’t seem to be any clues to help find him. Kennedy and Nolan meet unexpectedly because of a weird radio signal that shows up while Kennedy is looking at her brother Elliott’s satellite equipment and while Nolan is reading an EMF monitor. The two of them work to figure out what has happened to their loved ones. Nolan is hoping to find Liam and Kennedy is hoping to find information that will clear Elliott’s supposed guilt of shooting their mother and her boyfriend Will. Nolan and Kennedy figure out connections that no one, not even police or detectives have been able to find. Eerie mystery that I couldn’t put down, 5 stars!

Thriving After Sexual Abuse by Denise Bossarte

True help for the healing process!

The author bravely shares what happened to her. She then details her healing journey.
I appreciate the honesty of her past therapy experiences. It’s good to have permission to find a therapist that you’re personally comfortable with. The definition of incest from SIA (Survivors of Incest Group) was an eye-opener because it includes more than just blood relatives. It’s anyone who betrays the child’s innocence or trust. When she mentions that it was difficult for her to understand other kids growing up and how they felt and lived emotionally, that rang a bell with me. I remember thinking that what I was going through must be normal until my friends were complaining about their lives and I realized that I couldn’t relate to their experiences at all.
This book is chock-full of helpful resources, from meditation to art therapy. The explanation of forgiveness states to forgive yourself for any misplaced beliefs that you are to blame for any abuse that has happened to you. I appreciate this explanation which clarifies that you’re not forgiving the abuser. The resources shared in the book are listed at the end and include even more! True help for the healing! You don’t have to deal with it on your own. 5 stars!

Working with Worry by Melissa Kilbride, LISCW and Samantha Sweeney, PhD

Working with Worry by Melissa Kilbride and Samantha Sweeney.
I wish I would have had this book when my kids were little. It’s a therapeutic workbook for the parent, as well as the children. Self-reflection for the parent is one of the first sections in this book. Anxiety basics are covered. We all worry sometimes but when that worrying takes over every part of our day or thoughts, it’s good to get some help from a professional. The KYST method of Keep Your Stuff Together helps parents be the example of how to deal with anxiety in healthy ways. Pages of activities offer something for everyone. Relaxation Haven and the Coping Skills Toolbox are wonderful ideas for dealing with anxiety. A useful guide to help with handling life’s stresses, 5 stars!

Agnes at the End of the World by Kelly McWilliams

Completely Riveting!

Agnes resides within a cult at Red Creek but she doesn’t realize that she’s part of a cult. She’s the eldest of several siblings and is responsible for taking care of their family because their mother is severely depressed. Agnes sneaks to the Outside once a month to retrieve insulin for her younger brother Ezekiel, even though she knows it’s against the rules. Her sister Beth, the next eldest sibling, is a rebel and doesn’t like the rules. When Beth is caught kissing a boy, she’s disgraced by their father and the community. Agnes has been betrothed as a sixth wife to a middle-aged man and before she gets married, she has to teach Beth everything so she can then become the family caretaker. The middle-aged man decides to marry Beth instead of Agnes to straighten Beth out. In the meantime, a ferocious virus is spreading throughout the world and eventually arrives at Red Creek. The Prophet releases an infected dog during a church meeting and, after a few people are bitten, he tells them about his revelation; the Rapture has arrived and everyone must move into the underground bunker. Agnes escapes with Ezekiel and is heartbroken that she’s left the rest of her siblings behind. She knows that the bunker would be a death sentence for Ezekiel because there’s no insulin for him. This is a riveting story about cults, self-worth, self-importance, bravery, love, loyalty, and sacrifice. The author’s note explains the cult background information being from a nonfiction book of a survivor who escaped a true cult. A wonderfully written and all-encompassing story about love, sacrifice, and different faiths, 5 stars!

Namesake by Adrienne Young

Namesake opens with Fable kidnapped and trapped on Zola’s ship, the Luna. Fable is unsure of why she was captured until Zola tells her it’s because he knows who her parents are. She’s forced to harvest gemstones with other dredgers so Zola can use them for payment for something. She soon finds out what the payment is for, to Zola’s detriment. Fable discovers more than she ever could have imagined about her family and her relationship with West worries her. She goes in search of the elusive gemstone, midnight, that her mother supposedly found before her death. This sequel to Fable is exciting, action-packed, dangerous and full of great character development. The series is so good that I want to read it again, 5 stars!