Pretend She’s Here by Luanne Rice

Suspenseful, crazy, thought provoking;
5 stars!

Emily lost her best friend Lizzie and now she’s been kidnapped by Lizzie’s family to be her replacement. Lizzie’s mother has gone insane with grief. She’s tried to turn their younger daughter Chloe into Lizzie but that didn’t work because they’re still missing a child and have an empty seat at the kitchen table. Chloe is used as bait to get Emily to the van and convince her to go for a ride. They drug her and kidnap her. Emily is taken from everything she knows and loves and she sees that Lizzie’s mom is twisted in justifying the kidnapping. Emily’s hair is dyed black and she’s forced to wear contacts the colors of Lizzie’s eyes. Little by little, Emily is allowed tiny freedoms and eventually can attend school, if she agrees to send an email to her parents telling them that she ran away. She only agrees to send the email because her mother’s life is threatened if she doesn’t. Trauma, abuse and manipulation are parts of Emily’s daily life now and to keep her family safe, she agrees to be Lizzie.
Suspenseful, crazy, thought provoking; 5 stars!

The Storm Crow by Kalyn Josephson

The adventure never ends!

The prologue opens with inspiration and excitement for things to come and then ends with horror and devastation. Anthia’s world falls apart when her homeland, Rhodaire, is attacked by Illucians. Her mother is killed and so are the large, beautiful, magical crows that shared their world. Her land is decimated because without the crows’ help, nothing flourishes or grows. Her sister, Caliza, is now queen and has betrothed Anthia to the Illucian Prince Ericen. Of course, neither sister is happy about the deal but they don’t see any other way to try to mend their broken land. Before Anthia leaves her home, she visits the towers where the crows once lived. She finds and hides an egg then takes it to Illucia with her. She has no idea how to get it to hatch but she’s not leaving it behind. She’s searched everywhere for information on the crows and she’s hoping she’s going to figure it out soon. Ericen is difficult to read and Anthia is unsure about trusting him. He seems very loyal to his mother, Razel, the Illucian Queen. Razel is terrible and loves cruelty. She wants to conquer all of the other countries also and doesn’t care about who she harms in the process. Anthia accidentally meets rebels and inadvertently makes new friends in Illucia. She manages to enjoy some of her time there until she discovers a secret of Razel’s. The action and intrigue continues in the sequel, Crow Rider. I enjoyed several characters, their flaws and quirks: Anthia, Kiva, Ericen, Caylus, and the adventure that never seems to end, 5 stars!

The Companion by Katie Alender

Creepy, suspenseful fun!

Margot is the sole survivor of a tragic family car accident. She ends up at the Palmer orphanage until a rich family chooses her as their ward. When she first arrives at the mansion, Mr. and Mrs. Sutton are kind and treat her as if she’s special. Margot is soon told about their daughter Agatha who doesn’t speak or show emotion. Agatha used to be a normal teenager but then she became angry and eventually shut down. Mrs. Sutton tells Margot that doctors believe a brain infection caused damage to her frontal cortex and changed her personality. Margot meets Agatha’s brother, Barrett. He’s protective of his sister but eventually warms up to Margot. The longer she’s in the Sutton home, the more strange things she discovers and the foreboding keeps growing. I like Margot and rooted for her throughout the book. Creepy, suspenseful fun, 4 stars!

It Will End Like This by Kyra Leigh

Disturbing…

It Will End Like This by Kyra Leigh is based on the true story of Lizzie Borden. Disturbing… Charlotte and Maddie miss their mother who died months ago when her heart supposedly stopped. They hate the young woman their father is now engaged too. They despise their father quite a bit also. The two sisters don’t trust anyone and sometimes not even each other. The cover isn’t my favorite and the voices in Charlotte’s mind become repetitive and annoying (which is the point, I’m sure). I found it difficult to care for Charlotte but Maddie felt more relatable. The ending made the reading worthwhile. I appreciate the author’s note which brought sense to it all. I feel like the story drug on with repetition and then the resolution was too quick. Interesting take on a twisted historical event, 3 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!

A Sky Beyond the Storm by Sabaa Tahir

Tumultuous, action-packed, heart wrenching and beautiful series finale, 5 stars!

The fourth and final book of Ember in the Ashes series!
Laia stays allied to the Shrike and their goal is to get Musa’s ex fiancée’s (Princess Nikla) help against Keris, the Commandant. Elias stands between the jinn and the Augur Cain and learns the truth of the Augurs and what they did a thousand years ago. Keris’ story keeps getting hinted about in order to bring her down. Laia’s traveling to talk to the tribal storytellers for information and tries her best to break through to Elias. More battles take place and Helene fights to keep her feelings for Harper low on her list of priorities. This series seems to have an endless amount of surprises which keeps me on my toes! Tumultuous, action-packed, heart wrenching and beautiful series finale, 5 stars! This is a wonderful series and I would read it again!

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!

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!

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson

Intricate, enjoyable mystery!

Pip is doing her Capstone Project on a five-year-old disappearance case that took place in her town. She isn’t sure that the case was truly solved. She introduces herself to everyone that she thinks was involved in Andie Bell’s disappearance and ruffles lots of feathers as she continues her investigation. Pip and Ravi become friends as they work on solving the mystery. Ravi’s older brother was accused of killing Andie and then committing suicide afterward. The amateur sleuths dive into the case and unravel a complicated weave of problems. Soon, Pip is receiving threats to stay away from the case and it seems that every time she finds a piece of evidence to someone’s guilt, she inevitably discovers more to the story. An enjoyable and intricate 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!