Long Live the Pumpkin Queen by Shea Ernshaw

A cozy fun read with a nice twist!

Sally is the happiest she’s ever been, now that she’s Jack’s new bride. She is unsure of how well she will do as queen even though Jack reassures her. After their honeymoon travels, Sally ventures into Dream Town and accidentally leaves the door open. A monster travels to the different towns causing everyone to sleep. Even her beloved Jack, the Pumpkin King, won’t wake up. Sally feels guilty for causing this problem, especially because she had wished to be alone since she felt too inadequate to be queen. She goes to Dream Town hoping for the community to help her bring the monster, the Sandman, back but no one wants to talk about him. Then she’s summoned to the Governor’s house and her world changes. The descriptions of other towns are wonderful and fun! Each holiday has a town themed around its holiday. Dream Town is all about cozy sleep with its lavender crops, Dream Sand factory and Lullaby Library. I love the description of Dream Sand: a blend of stardust, moonbeams, and a pinch of yawns. Such a cozy, fun read with a bit of suspense and a nice twist! 4 stars!

No swearing.
Violence: PG- the Sandman ripping apart rag dolls and forcing everyone to sleep.
Mature content: PG- kidnapping Sally out of her window when she was twelve.

Trust Me, I’m Lying by Mary Elizabeth Summer

A fun mystery full of danger and intensity!

Julep is a teen con artist who attends an elite school by earning good money while helping her fellow students get what they want. When she completes a charade for a client, she returns home to find her apartment torn apart and her dad missing. The only clue she finds is an envelope containing a note and a gun. The enigmatic note says, “Beware the field of miracles”. Her best friend and extremely helpful assistant, Sam, helps Julep piece clues together and when someone puts a dead rat in her locker, she gains another ally in the form of a popular schoolmate, Tyler. The search for her father becomes more dangerous by the day. Someone runs her off the road when she’s with Sam, she’s in an explosion and she discovers a human trafficking site. I enjoyed Julep’s intelligence and ability to plan ahead and improvise when needed. I also enjoyed the mysteries surrounding her plans and waiting to discover what those plans were as I read. A fun mystery that’s also full of danger and intensity, 5 stars!

The Patron Thief of Bread by Lindsay Eagar

A clean read for upper elementary and middle school readers!

I love the cover because two images can be seen when you change your perspective, black outline of a girl tossing coins and black print of a gargoyle on a cathedral wall.
The opening is told in the gargoyle’s point of view and the statue sees a young woman carrying her baby while running from men. As they almost capture her, she jumps into the river while holding onto her baby. Eight years later, Duck is a young girl within a group of traveling thieves. She’s trying to prove that she’s helpful and ends up as a baker’s apprentice to infiltrate the bakery and steal from inside. She continues to give bread to her thief group, the Crowns, but doubts more and more that she’s doing the right thing because she’s feeling loved by the baker. As the stakes rise, Duck will have to make some tough choices and decide who her family is and who she’s loyal to. 4 stars for this sweet tale of finding your true self.

Ethnicity is predominantly white; it is a historical fiction fantasy.
Language content: no swears
Violence content: PG – men chasing woman and baby and she’s running for their safety.
Mature content: PG – thievery, grooming for a gang
Likes/dislikes: I like the baker. She’s tremendously generous and kind. I appreciate the author’s writing of Duck’s conflicts between right and wrong and in finding her sense of belonging. This is a clean read with a good message. Alternating timelines with a unique gargoyle and a young girl named Duck.

The Summer of Broken Rules by K.L. Walther

A cute romance!

Meredith heads to Martha’s Vineyard for a family wedding. She’s with her mother and father and they’re all missing Claire, Meredith’s deceased sister. Meredith’s boyfriend Ben was planning on being her plus one until he broke up with her. Then she refused to let him be there with her. On the ferry ride to the vineyard, Mer accidentally kicks a guy in the face when she’s climbing down. Later, she’s going to talk to her grandparents at the farm on the vineyard when she sees that same guy already talking to them, his name is Wit. He’s the stepbrother of the groom. The wedding couple want to remember and honor Claire so they’ve planned a game of Assassin and everyone will fight to win with water guns. Mer and Wit decide to help each other with info as needed during the game. As Mer learns to deal with her grief, she’s able to repair relationships and build new ones.
4 stars for a cute romance growing in spite of overwhelming grief.

Ethnicity: predominantly white
Mature content: PG-13 – sex but the word isn’t mentioned and no details. “Our bodies tangled together”; underage drinking
Violence: drunk driver hitting sister in car
Language Content: R due to 7 f-bombs

I Guess I Live Here Now by Claire Ahn

A well-written and descriptive realistic fiction story that makes me want to visit Korea! 4 stars!

Melody is caught by a police officer smoking her first joint with her friend Sophie. They both managed one cough-inducing puff. The officer takes them both home, giving them a warning to not do it again. The next day she discovers that her parents have decided that they all need to be together so she’s moving with her mom to Korea and away from New York City. The two of them have lived in a tiny New York City apartment for most of Melody’s life while her father has worked in Korea and traveled back and forth to visit them. Melody and her mom have a close relationship but everything in Melody’s life changes once they’re in Korea. Her father is strict and gruff, her grandparents seem cold, distant and uncaring. She does make some friends and her Dad encourages socializing, which helps ease the family tensions and the homework stress. Her relationship with Sophie is strained too and Melody wants to figure out how to pursue her dream of becoming an interior designer while mending relationships with the people she cares about and navigating two countries as her home. A well-written and descriptive realistic fiction story that makes me want to visit Korea! 4 stars!

Language: 24 swears, including 1 f-bomb
Mature content: PG-13-kissing; underage smoking of marijuana
Violence: PG-arguing
Ethnicity: Korean, Ethiopian, American and many languages, such as French, spoken and ethnicities represented in Korea when Melody goes to a nightclub.
Likes/dislikes: I love the descriptions of each setting the main character is in. I also like the relevance of family contention and teen angst that takes place as Melody’s father tries to completely control her and she discovers her mother keeping secrets. She sees her grandfather treat her father the same way her father treats her and she wonders why he does that to her when he seems to dislike being treated like that. Great insight into Korean culture through Melody’s experiences as she visits places and tries new foods.

Go Hunt Me by Kelly deVos

The ending is jaw-dropping!

Alex is in the hospital recovering from injuries. A police inspector wants to know what happened from the beginning of Alex’s trip to Romania until the present time and her reason for traveling there. Alex tells the story starting 153 days prior. She’s making a movie with her friends; a movie she wrote based on Dracula. The story then jumps to 46 days ago. Alex and her sister are helping with the family business while waiting for their Dad to get back to normal after cancer. She and her boyfriend Jax go to dinner and check their film school letters together. Jax has been accepted. Alex has been placed on the waitlist. From there, Alex and her six friends travel to Romania planning on creating a film that will get Alex into her dream school and help her become a movie director. What starts as an exciting adventurous idea quickly turns into a deadly few days as someone hunts them down. The ending is jaw-dropping! 4 stars!

Nonlinear timeline
Ethnicity: doesn’t specify white or otherwise only that the teens are American, European
Mature content: PG, abstinence
Violence: decapitation, bloody stabbing, bloody bashing in of head
Language: R, 24 f-bombs

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

These Twisted Bonds by Lexi Ryan

Romance, adventure and fantasy all wrapped up in one, 5 stars!

Brie is trying to get Sebastian and Finn to form an alliance to stop the queen who wants to imprison and enslave Unseelie Fae. The queen is Sebastian’s mother and he has gone behind her back to free as many as he can. Brie doesn’t trust anyone and doesn’t believe that she belongs in the Fae or in the mortal realm. She tries to learn to trust those around her and when she discovers her lineage, she finds her place. She has to complete a task to save herself and everyone in the Fae realm. Brie and Finn learn they’re tethered, meaning they draw power from each other and give each other strength. The long sleep, where children sleep and never wake up, is affecting the Unseelie children because their kingdom is dying. Finn is willing to sacrifice everything for his kingdom and Brie is willing to do the same. If the two of them can get Sebastian to help then they just might save everything. Romance, adventure and fantasy all wrapped up in one, 5 stars!

Mature content: sex but vaguely detailed, naked aroused breasts
Violence: blood and guts
Swearing: 15 swears and two f-bombs
Ethnicity: mortal mix and Fae

It’s All in How You Fall by Sarah Henning

A very cute YA romance!

Ethnicity- predominantly white with a mix of colored people.
Caroline, a fifteen-year-old gymnast, has to stop competing due to an injury. Her brother’s friend Alex tries to help her find something else that’s active but not harmful to her back and is enjoyable for her, so they try several different sports to see what Caroline likes. Alex has a crush on Caroline’s friend Sunny so she’s trying to set the two up without being obvious. Everything is going fine until she realizes she’s developed a crush on Alex. This is a super cute story that builds on friendship and appreciation and turning into more. A very cute, young adult romance! 4 stars!

Ethnicity- predominantly white with a mix of colored people.
No violence, PG content, two f-bombs and 37 other swears, mostly by Caroline’s brother.

It Ends In Fire by Andrew Shvarts

4 stars for the writing and intensity of the story!

Sixteen-year-old Alka tricks a group of thieves into stopping a wagon for her. They think the wagon holds treasure but it holds a Wizard that is the senator’s powerful daughter. Alka wants revenge on the Wizards for killing her parents ten years ago and Lady Alayne is the key. After dueling with Alayne, Alka retrieves Alayne’s invitation to Blackwater Academy of Magic so she can go in her place and infiltrate the Wizard power. The next chapter explains what happened to Alka’s parents. Wizards arrive at their home so seven-year-old Alka and her six-year-old sister Sera hide under the floorboards like their parents told them to. Their father, Petyr, admits he’s a rebel to save his wife but the Enforcers kill them both. But before Petyr dies, he tells his daughters to run and then he sets off an explosion to kill the Wizards. Alka’s childhood ended that day. Her world completely changed. Now, she travels to Blackwater Academy to take Alayne’s place and exact her revenge. Fylmonela Potts befriends Alka and the two form an alliance preparing for the intense competitive Blackwater Academy where one third of the students will drop out or die instead of graduating. At the opening ceremony, Alka sees the man who killed her parents, Magnus Aberdeen, headmaster of Blackwater Academy. After a failed attempt to get close to Aberdeen, Alka meets the exchange student Prince Talyn Ravensgale IV. The story continues to alternate between young Alka and the present Alka, when she’s at Blackwater. She pretends to mess up a Glyph that distracts Aberdeen and the entire class so she can steal the last four Glyph pages from the master codex of the wizard spells to keep and learn on her own. She wants to be the most powerful so she can take down the wizards. When she was being trained by rebels, she was told not to feel remorse for killing wizards or others who stand in the way of her mission. Despite that, Alka gains allies and friends and when their order competes in a school challenge, they try a daring stunt to beat the competition. This makes the ruling order angry but the rest of the school feels empowered. The second challenge doesn’t go down as planned and when a friend dies, Alka knows the end is coming. She’s got to make a plan that will take the biggest toll of all. 4 stars for the writing and the intensity. Similar to a Harry Potter outline.