Five Survive by Holly Jackson

The intensity builds to the extreme!

Red is traveling in an RV to Florida with her friends to spend a week celebrating spring break together. They lose cell service and GPS capabilities then end up down a dead end road getting a flat tire. After replacing the flat tire with the spare, Red sees a red dot hovering around the RV and yells at the others to notice. They ignore her until they hear the gunshots that take out all four tires. The group runs into the RV for protection. The shooter leaves a walkie talkie for communication and tells them that one of them has a secret they need to share. The secret is going to be revealed, one way or another!

Likes/dislikes:
Oliver is annoying because he’s a know-it-all with a superiority complex. The mystery is interesting to try to unravel when a few characters allude to having secrets. The suspense builds intensely, which makes a riveting read.

Mature Content:
PG-13 for drinking

Language:
R for 20 swears and 105 f-bombs.

Violence:
PG-13 for Someone shoots at the RV and holds the travelers hostage inside. The sniper fatally shoots an elderly couple that stop to help. Bloody shootings. Attack with a knife.

Ethnicity:
Mixed, Korean, Mexican, white, African American

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

A powerful, authentic read!

Starr lives in a rough part of town and after one of her best friends gets shot in a drive by shooting when they’re ten, Starr’s parents have her attend a private school that’s safer. Now Starr is sixteen and she witnesses her other childhood friend getting fatally shot by a police officer. Her friend did nothing to provoke the shooting. This is a powerful novel about much more than racism. It’s also about choices, bravery, integrity and helping others. This book has a lot of swearing which is authentic to the lifestyle of the character’s surroundings but the message of empowerment makes it a must read. 5 stars for a novel that will stick with me.

Likes/dislikes:
I liked how the author shows reality and brings her characters to life to make the readers care about them. I like that two different worlds are brought together by two teens living in both and experiencing the stark differences in each. Character development is abundant and bravery and integrity are a huge factor in the main character’s life and family. I love how the main character’s family is open to discussing everything instead of keeping secrets from each other.
Mature content: PG-13
Underage drinking, marijuana use
Page 81 foreplay (boyfriend touching of girlfriend’s pubic region)
Page 376 arousal (the boyfriend had a bulge in his pants when he kissed his girlfriend)
Violence: PG-13
Fatal Shooting at a party. Police brutality and fatal shooting of a teen male. Riots, gang beatings, starting fires.
Language: R for 100+ swears and 54 f-bombs

https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/the-hate-u-give

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

A perfect mystery thriller!

Emma remembers summer camp fifteen years ago when her three cabin mates disappeared. She’s now an artist and the three missing girls disappearing into the forest are the subject of most of her paintings. At her art show, the camp owner shows up, purchases one of her paintings and asks her to lunch. At lunch the next day, Emma is asked to be an art teacher to camp residents when it reopens. When she arrives she’s told the counselors are to pick a cabin to stay in with the campers, so Emma requests Dogwood, her old cabin. She’ll be the only adult in the cabin with three teens, Miranda, Krystal and Sasha. Emma is anxious about being back at the camp and every sight, sound and scent reminds her of fifteen years ago. When Miranda, Krystal and Sasha go missing, chaos erupts throughout the camp, accusations fly and the danger has just begun. A perfect mystery thriller, 5 stars!

Family of Liars by E. Lockhart

Heads up, Family of Liars is a prequel but also a spoiler to We Were Liars!

Carrie is the oldest of three sisters. When the youngest sister Rosemary drowns, the three remaining sisters must follow the family motto and not show any grief. Carrie becomes addicted to painkillers after jaw surgery that her father insists she needed to give her a stronger looking jaw. The summer after Rosemary drowns, their cousin Yardley brings her boyfriend and his two best friends to the island. They’re funny and help lighten the mood on the island. Carrie and Pfeff are interested in each other but he keeps being inconsiderate and annoys Carrie. She discovers a secret that her mother’s been keeping and it’s consuming Carrie. Pfeff also turns out to be self-centered and when the cousins see him kissing Carrie’s sister Penny, things become precarious. I enjoyed Pfeff’s humor and the writing is exemplary. I felt firsthand what the characters were going through because of the details. Humorous parts with Pfeff changing lyrics of Mary poppins song, Step In Time:
Take no prisoners, do some crimes
Know your math facts! Step in time.
Every time he would sing this, it made me chuckle!
Heads up, Family of Liars is a prequel but also a spoiler to We Were Liars! It’s an enjoyable read full of teen angst, 5 stars!

Ethnicity is predominantly white.
Mature content is PG-13, underage drinking and smoking, attempted rape
Violence is PG-13

Summer’s Edge by Dana Mele

Eerie, odd and interesting!

Emily died last summer in the lake house fire. Emily’s group of friends has spent each summer at the lake house since they were in elementary school. Kennedy and her family owns the lake house. Emily, Ryan, Chase and Chelsea are always invited. This summer, they’re all invited back and Chelsea thinks that Emily is haunting them. Eventually, Ryan shows his dark side and halfway through the book, the point of view changes to Kennedy. She talks about “others”, presences that reside in and around the lake house and they get angry. Next, it changes to Emily’s point of view. Then to Chelsea’s.

This book is eerie and creepy until the point of view change’s midway through the book then it’s odd and I was grasping for understanding of what I was reading. It threw me off but the interesting ending brought it all back together, 4 stars!

The Hacienda by Isabel Canas

I did not want this book to end!

Beatriz marries Rodolfo. He’s a businessman and owns a large estate. He leaves to do business so Beatriz runs the estate in his absence. Juana, Rodolfo’s sister, believes she’s the one in charge and she treats everyone gruffly. Beatriz starts to feel like she’s being watched and things get creepier from there, to the point that she’s afraid for her life. She asks the local priests for help and all but one shun her. Padre Andres helps her under the guise of being a priest to help the estate workers. He has knowledge from his ancestors that can help exorcise evil. The house has an extremely powerful, angry spirit and it’s harmful. This is an elaborate and beautifully written horror story that I didn’t ever want to put down. I also didn’t want it to end. 5 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!

Anatomy: A Love Story by Dana Schwartz

A great mix of mystery and historical fiction!

The setting is early 1800’s. Hazel is fascinated with science and specifically medical applications. She sneaks in to watch a medical lecture because women aren’t allowed to attend. Jack scrapes by with odd jobs, such as digging up recently buried bodies to sell for medical studies. Hazel and Jack meet when he helps her sneak into a medical presentation. Hazel later disguises herself as a young gentleman so she can attend classes to become a physician. She’s found out but the professor makes a deal with her and gives her some help to prepare for the physician’s exam. Her family is away so she can study as much as she wants. She also begins treating people that aren’t taken care of by the hospital. She ends up treating patients with Roman Fever; a plague that seems to be appearing again. Jack brings exhumed bodies to Hazel for studying and live patients for her to treat. Jack and Hazel become close, even though she’s been betrothed to a viscount’s son since she was a child. Jack and Hazel get involved in the horrible experimentation of an eccentric doctor and everything gets turned upside down for both of them. I love Jack and Hazel. They’re both strong and selfless and they have an adorable relationship. I would love a sequel to be written to continue the story but at this point, I can’t see any sign of that happening. A mix of mystery and historical fiction to be enjoyed, 5 stars!

Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Story by Caren Stelson

Perseverance and Strength Shine Through Sachiko’s Story!

This nonfiction book takes us back in time to show us what life was like for Sachiko and other Japanese families during World War II. The historical facts include racism in America, Japan and Germany, information on Japanese Internment Camps, the treatment of prisoners of war by Japan’s soldiers, the reason for the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and the dropping of atomic bombs in Japan. I could only read this in bits because of the horrific results of the bombs on the citizens. Sachiko was at the site of the Nagasaki atomic bomb explosion and her family died one by one because of the short term and long term effects of the bombing. After Japan’s surrender, American soldiers became a large presence in the Japanese communities. I learned quite a lot from this book that’s just a little over one hundred pages; the stifling of information concerning the atomic bombs, propaganda after WWII, the research coalition set up to gather information about but not help the bomb survivors and the statistics of long lasting radiation sickness. Perseverance and strength shine through Sachiko’s story and I’m grateful to have read this inspiring book that teaches us to strive for peace. 5 stars!

Burden Falls by Kat Ellis

Creepy fun!

Ava lives with her Uncle Ty and his wife Carolyn. They became her guardians after her parents were killed in a car accident not long ago. They’re now moving into a cottage and out of the family ancestral manor to save money. Uncle Ty is a teacher at her school and that’s good and not so good, depending on the situation. Ava loves art and drawing and has applied to an art program that will only accept one student from her school. Freya happens to be another applicant and Ava and Freya aren’t kind to each other. Freya is a Miller and Ava is a Thorn. The two families have a long-standing feud and no one is sure what exactly started it. Freya’s father ran into the car that Ava’s parents and Ava were in when they died. Ava blames him for her parents’ deaths. A girl is found dead and soon more deaths follow. The supernatural legends run deep in this story and Ava is right in the middle of it all. One of my favorite frightening reads to date and a deliciously creepy read for young adults, 5 stars!