Lane dresses and acts like a boy because women aren’t allowed to live or work on ships as they might be mistaken for pirates. A woman pirate killed the queen and since then, women are forbidden to be onboard. Lane’s father is worried about her safety and her secret being revealed so he wants her to live with the mother she hasn’t seen for many years but Lane is determined to stay on the ship. Aden barters a hiding spot on Lane’s ship. He’s running away and he’s the prince. Kemp is second in command under the captain, Lane’s father. He’s the gun master and horrible. He’s constantly causing rifts between crew members and he’s undermining the captain every chance he gets. Kemp accuses Aden of pouring water into the barrels of gunpowder. Aden isn’t guilty because he was with Lane the entire time but neither of them admits that, so Aden accepts the duel proposed by Kemp. Lane discovers a missive that Aden’s been carrying telling him to get help from a neighboring ruler and that’s where he’s trying to go. Mutiny, secrets, backstabbing and survival are themes of this story but the main themes are self discovery, following your dreams and love. An adventure worth reading, 4 stars!
Missing Clarissa by Ripley Jones
A school assignment turns deadly!
Best friends, Cam and Blair, are making a podcast about the twenty-year-old cold case of Clarissa Campbell, who’s been missing since the night of a senior graduation party in the local woods of Oreville, Washington in 1999. Clarissa was a popular cheerleader dating a popular football player and her life seemed perfect to outsiders. Mr. Park, journalism teacher, has assigned a project to his students and that’s why Cam came up with the cold case podcast idea. Blair and Cam are dealing with their own personal struggles but become devoted to figuring out Clarissa’s story. They soon realize they’re in over their heads and that they’re in danger themselves.
Likes/dislikes: The story is so interesting that I didn’t want to put the book down. Overly political statements are a bit confusing when Cam’s friend Sophie blurts them out. I enjoyed the character development throughout the story.
Mature Content: PG-13 for mention of sexual assault on a high school student by the teacher, off page sex, nondescript brief kissing, underage drinking and underage drinking and driving undescribed.
Language: R for 51 swears and 4 f-bombs.
Violence: PG-13 for bloody gunshot wound, and purposely run off the road by another vehicle.
Ethnicity: mixed and includes Black, Mexican American, Korean American, white, and Filipino.
We Are All So Good At Smiling by Amber McBride
Metaphorically beautiful verse!
Metaphorically beautiful verse!
Two depressed teens, Whimsy and Faerry, meet at a mental hospital and then become neighbors and attend high school together. They’re both suffering from depression and memory loss from when they were young children. They’re not sure what they’re not remembering but it’s bothering both of them to the point of despair. They become friends that want to help each other and understand each other’s problems. They need each other to process the trauma they’ve been through and to help the lost information resurface.
Likes/dislikes: The writing is metaphorical and beautiful. I was intrigued by the mystery surrounding the story. I like Whimsy and Faerry, the two main characters.
Language: G for no swears and no f-bombs.
Mature Content: PG for suicidal thoughts (nondescriptive) and clinical depression.
Violence: PG for talk of cutting, undescribed.
Ethnicity: The two main characters are black and they attend a predominantly white school.
Promise Boys by Nick Brooks
At Urban Promise Prep school, strict rules keep the students in line, even to the point of harassment. Donations are given to the boys’ school in large amounts but students are told no when they ask for help with extracurricular activity funding. On a day when Principal Moore sent three teens to detention, he ends up being fatally shot and those three young men are blamed. Trey, J.B., and Ramon have to work together to clear their names. They also need help from others to get to the bottom of the mystery.
Likes/dislikes: I liked the mystery and the story behind it. I enjoyed how the suspense built throughout the story. The alternating narrative made the book more interesting.
Mature content: PG-13 for implied sex
Language: R for 110 swears and 12 f-bombs.
Violence: PG-13 for fatal shooting with description of blood when finding the victim.
Ethnicity: mixed-white, Black, Mexican-American
The Island by Natasha Preston
A deceptive invitation!
Teen influencers arrive on an island after being invited for a fun-filled weekend to post online reviews and build excitement for the upcoming opening. The island is an amusement park and resort all in one. The six influencers have a variety of online posts and followers. Before they can enjoy much of the island, the killing starts. One by one, people are being chased and killed. Those who remain must work together to outsmart the killer and survive until help arrives.
Likes/dislikes: I enjoyed the premise of inviting influencers to review and build hype about a new place. The mystery was fun and suspenseful. I liked learning about each character’s background.
Language: R for 121 swears, no f-bombs.
Mature Content: none other than the violence.
Violence: R for bloody deaths.
The Headmaster’s List by Melissa de la Cruz
Fast-paced mystery with a slow burn romance!
Spencer wakes up in the hospital after being injured in a car crash that involved her and three other students from Armstrong but she only remembers a few details. One of the students, Chris, died in the crash and another passenger, Tabby, won’t talk to Spencer but only glares at her. Ethan was driving and speeding and says he tried to brake but the car wouldn’t stop and they hit a tree. Ethan is on house arrest, Tabby seems fine but angry, Chris died and Spencer has broken some bones and has stitches from her jaw to her cheekbone. Jackson, Ethan’s best friend, helps Spencer get around and with her schoolwork, as well as helping her piece the details from the night of the accident together because she’s extremely frustrated that she can’t remember. The more she digs into the details, the more in danger she becomes.
Fast-paced mystery with a slow burn romance, 5 stars!
Likes/dislikes: I like the intense, poetic opening that reveals the story. I like Spencer’s strength and integrity and Jackson’s personality. I enjoyed figuring out the mystery and how a mental health therapy dog helped a trauma victim.
Matue content: PG-13 for prescription drug addiction, drinking, vaping
Language: PG-13 for 24 swears and 5 f-bombs
Violence: PG for brakes being cut to cause an accident, hit and run, being held at gunpoint and being hit in the head with a gun.
Stardust in Their Veins by Laura Sebastian
The intrigue twists,turns and never stops!
Daphne and Beatriz both receive confirmation of Sophronia’s death. Violie, Sophronia’s maid and unbeknownst spy of Empress Margareaux, helps Leopold escape to safety as she promised Sophronia she would. They meet up with Ambrose and Lord Savelle, who Beatriz freed from prison and Ambrose took on his boat to safety. At the wedding ceremony for Daphne and Bairre, an explosion occurs that kills the Empyria helping the king and now Bairre’s mother becomes the new Empyria. Beatriz and Pasquale end up in Empress Margareaux’s palace while Violie and Leopold are spying on Daphne in Bairre’s kingdom. The four work together to stop the Empress from taking over the continent and killing them all. Beatriz is convinced that their mother, Empress Margareaux, planned to kill all three of her daughters the minute she secured the kingdoms they infiltrated and now she’s trying to convince Daphne of their mother’s betrayal. The intrigue twists, turns and never stops, 5 stars!
Likes/dislikes: I enjoyed the intensity which is stronger than in the first book of this series. The intrigue never ends and it twists and turns as characters change their planned actions. The character variety is entertaining.
Ethnicity: predominantly white
Language: PG-13 for 10 swears, no f-bombs
Mature content: PG for kissing, lgbtq side character
Vilence: PG-13 for bloody stabbings, imprisonment, death by an arrow to the neck, poisoning
Castles in Their Bones
Interesting premise of deception!
In the imaginary continent of Vesteria, three princesses celebrate their sixteenth birthday together and mourn their time together. They will be sent off to other kingdoms to marry princes. Each princess will go to a different kingdom and marry the ruler; Sophronia is marrying King Leopold, who treats her kindly along with his family and court; Beatriz is marrying Prince Pasquale and seems unwanted by him but she’s meant to sway Lord Savelle, as her mother instructed; Daphne is marrying Cillian, who dies before she arrives, so the second heir, Bairre, takes his place in marriage. Each princess struggles with who to trust and in completing their set missions for their mother and her ultimate goals. They’re in more danger than they realize and start to see that they can’t rely on their mother for help or love.
Likes/dislikes: I had a difficult time keeping the three princesses and their corresponding kingdoms straight. I like the premise of villainous deception and seeing the changes that took place within the princesses. I enjoyed the side characters of each prince and the diversity amongst the kingdoms.
Mature Content: PG-13 for kissing and drinking wine.
Language: PG-13 for 19 swears and no f-bombs.
Violence: PG-13 for a beheading.
Ethnicity: predominantly white.
Stars and Smoke by Marie Lu
Exciting new book from Marie Lu!
Present time in America, Winter is a famous performer who is being recruited by the Panacea Agency to help take down a dangerous criminal, Eli Morrison. Eli has invited Winter to perform at his daughter Penelope’s birthday celebration in London. This is why Panacea wants Winter’s help, because he can infiltrate Eli’s life with little suspicion.
Sydney Cosette works for Panacea and poses as Winter’s bodyguard. The two seem to come from very different backgrounds but they discover they have commonalities. Winter and Sydney get hit with a few surprises on their mission and they’ll have to rely on their wits and trust each other to make it through alive.
Likes/dislikes: Winter and Sydney are interesting characters with unspoken depth. I like the mystery, action and setting of the story. I love the ending.
Mature Content: PG-13 for bisexual relationships mentioned, off-page kissing; sex alluded to by stating, “ended up in bed together”; drinking, transporting drugs, kissing.
Language: R for 49 swears and no f-bombs.
Violence: PG for kidnapping, killing mentioned, death by choking on a chemical weapon, hand to hand combat, shot in the chest. Sydney’s mother Killed by father in domestic abuse rage.
Ethnicity: The ethnicity of the main character is Chinese American, other characters are Black, white, brown-skinned, mixed.
The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller
Full of schemes and intrigue!
Alessandra is allowed to attend social parties now that her older sister is betrothed. She’s cunning and deceptive and, unbeknownst to her father, has already dated several young men. They keep their flings with her secret because she blackmails them. If people knew she wasn’t purely innocent, she would be shunned from high society and no Royal member would want to marry her. She tells her father the truth after he lets her know it’s time for her to find someone to marry. He wants her to marry someone rich because he’s becoming poor and in danger of losing his lands. Alessandra and her father attend the Royal Ball. The Shadow King seems interested in Alessandra and makes a deal with her to be friends so he can look like he’s wed and so can she, then they’ll both be happy. Alessandra is thrilled with this proposition and she works on her plan to poison him once they’re wed. Instead of continuing with her plan, Alessandra starts to truly care for Kallias, the Shadow King. He develops feelings for her too, which surprises them both. Attempts have been taken to kill the king and he ends up unsure who he can trust and when poison is found in Alessandra’s room, everything falls apart. The selfish intentions of the main characters make this a unique story that’s refreshing because it’s out of the norm, 4 stars!