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!

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!

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!

Lovely War by Julie Berry

Two beautiful people open the story with their jaw-dropping presence. They turn out to be the god of war, Ares, and the goddess of love, Aphrodite. Aphrodite describes how she feels no passion or love and this is because she’s bound to give love to others but never be able to feel it in return, for all of eternity. She tells the story of James and Hazel; when they first met one week before he was heading into the Great War. Their story continues through letters after he’s sent to war, at least during his training. Hazel becomes a relief volunteer and heads to France. Aubrey, a pianist from Harlem, is in France with his unit heading to the war. Colette has lost her loved ones during the German attack on Belgium. The story floats around the interactions and experiences of these four, Hazel, James, Aubrey, and Colette. World War I history has been unclear to me but this book helped my understanding of this horrible war known as the Great War. I adore the four main characters and my heart soared and broke right alongside theirs. Based on historical facts and people, Lovely War tells a powerful tale, 5 stars!

Nameless Queen by Rebecca McLaughlin

Coin is homeless and alone. She picks pockets to survive. The homeless people are called Nameless and are ignored and treated horribly by everyone else and have no legal rights. The king passes away and the kingdom is awaiting news of who the heir is. The heir is chosen as the king speaks his last words, mentioning a name. Then a tattoo magically appears on the shoulder of the person named. Coin happens to be that person, therefore the heir. She’s with her friend Hat when she gets a stinging pain on her shoulder and the two of them see her tattoo. She’s arrested for forging the tattoo and escapes only to be tested by the king’s daughter. Danger, intrigue, and a new world surround Coin as she adjusts to royal etiquette, duties, and the constant threat to her life. Self-worth, loyalty and friendship bind this unique story together, 4 stars!

Good Girls Die First by Kathryn Foxfield

Love the creepy cover!

Content warning for depictions of eating disorders, suicide, drunk-driving, date rape and drug and alcohol misuse.
The creepy cover promises something foreboding ahead. Several teens are mailed a note to meet at the old, abandoned pier where a carnival was burned down decades ago. The notes all ask the same question, “Can you keep a secret?” As they wander around the area, more teens appear, all with a similar note. As one of them walks on the pier, it collapses, trapping them away from the mainland. One of them dies, then another and the rest are scrambling to figure out how to get off of the island. Mysterious, suspenseful, and creepy! The cliffhanger at the end of chapter 17, when the group follows a trail of blood and ends up at the maze of mirrors, is deliciously ominous! This book is on the same line as It by Stephen King, but for young adults. Guilt feeds the dark entity and only one can survive. Creepy fun, 4 stars!

What Big Teeth by Rose Szabo

Good writing, weird story.
Eleanor has been away at boarding school for years until she attacks a student that’s been bullying her. She returns home, unsure if she’s wanted or welcome. Her family lives apart from the village and they’re shunned because they’re all part-creatures that kill people. Grandma Persephone soon passes away but tells Eleanor to take care of the family before she stops breathing. Eleanor soon becomes completely overwhelmed so she contacts her mother’s mother by writing a letter to her. Grandmere writes back promising help and quickly arrives. At first, everything seems to be going well and manners and respect show up for the first time in the house. Soon it becomes apparent that Grandmere is more than just a nice, elderly lady with good manners and etiquette. Grandpa Miklos is afraid of her and tries to kill her because he knows she’s a creature that almost killed him when he was young. Eleanor sees what’s happening and does her best to make things better for her family. Perfect for fans of Wilder Girls and Rules for Vanishing, 4 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!

Daughters of Jubilation by Kara Lee Corthron

Evvie is a teenager helping her younger siblings to lighten the load of her single mother. Their father is in prison. Jubilation runs in the family and Evvie’s magic is coming on strong. She causes odd behavior in others and can change the world around her, usually unintentionally. She’s falling for Clay, her longtime crush that’s very interested in her too. A creepy stranger keeps showing up, scaring Evvie and her mother tells her the past experiences with him. Virgil Hampton is not a good man and he hurt Evvie when she was little. Her mother lost her job over it because she was angry that he hurt Evvie and she was fired because her family is black and Virgil’s family is white and rich. This is a beautiful story of hardship and perseverance which brought me to tears many times while reading it. I cried for the touching and sweet moments, for the fear and loss and for the bravery, kindness, love and hope. Highly recommended and an emotional journey, 5 stars!

The Poet by Lisa Renee Jones

Detective Jazz is assigned a case of a missing detective. The case belonged to Roberts and he investigated for two days then supposedly left town for a different job. There’s no way to get a hold of him. The murderer is leaving poems on paper inside the victims’ mouths and Detective Jazz thinks he has a god complex. Many investigators are helping with the case, from tracking cyanide purchases to surveillance. Jazz believes she has it narrowed down to a man she refers to as The Poet. I enjoyed the book until the ending. The mystery has an interesting base but feels rushed in the end. I would have liked a little more length added to the chase. The ending felt anticlimactic. 3 stars!