Elsinore has grown up feeling ugly, unloved, and like she’s a burden to her family. They tell her she’s too tall, not pretty, and sickly. It’s the 1920’s and women tend to be married and have children by the time they’re twenty years old and Elsinore is twenty-five. She wants a change and wants to enjoy life so she cuts her waist-length hair to her chin and buys red silk and creates a flapper dress. She sneaks out one night to go to the speakeasy in town but they won’t let her in and tell her to go home when they realize it’s her. She walks down the street and meets an eighteen-year-old Italian man who wants to have fun. They both admit they’re lonely and see each other a few times to have sex. Rafe calls Elsinore “Els”; she likes the nickname and feels wanted when she’s with him. She ends up with morning sickness and her parents disown her and her father takes her and one packed suitcase to Rafe’s family farm. Elsinore’s father tells Rafe’s parents what’s going on and leaves her there, stating that their family is done with her. Rafe’s parents have saved for him to go to college for a better life but he seems happy to stay on the farm with Els and says that he doesn’t want to go to college anyway. Elsa and Rafe have a girl then a boy. His parents are grateful for Elsa because she’s strong, brave, a hard worker, and a good wife and mother. When the Great Depression hits, Rafe leaves his family behind because he can’t stand staying on the farm anymore. His parents help Elsa raise their grandchildren and they all take care of the farm together. When the land turns into a dust bowl, life gets even worse! The people and animals struggle to survive the heat, the powerful winds, and the extreme dust everywhere. Ant, the youngest grandchild, becomes deathly sick with dust pneumonia and that’s when they decide it’s time to leave the Great Plains behind. When Elsa leaves for California with her children, she’s terrified but sees no other solution. They make it to California but find discrimination and harsh prejudice, horrible working and living conditions, and struggle to survive because of little and sometimes no income. The three do discover strength and loyalty and what they are truly capable of. A story of great strength, determination, and unbelievable perseverance, 5 stars!
Avery is heading to a family camp in the woods and that means no internet. Her sister Lauren has a social media channel that she’s planning to share their summer vacation on until she discovers the lack of WiFi. The two sisters plan non-internet activities combined with watching the camp band (comprised of young men) without their parents’ knowledge. Lauren decides to create a video documentary of the band so the sisters spend more time with them without their parents knowing. They become friends with many of the camp employees, which is forbidden by the camp manager. Avery and the band’s guitarist, Brooks, work together to create song lyrics and really start to like each other. They both struggle with personal troubles and find common ground. This is the first Kasie West book I’ve read and I can understand why her books are popular with my high school library students. The values and integrity are a breath of fresh air. I enjoyed the characters, the humor, and the feeling of hope in this story, 5 stars!
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!
Kennedy has lost her family in a shooting so she’s currently living with her uncle. Nolan’s brother, Liam, has been missing for two years and there doesn’t seem to be any clues to help find him. Kennedy and Nolan meet unexpectedly because of a weird radio signal that shows up while Kennedy is looking at her brother Elliott’s satellite equipment and while Nolan is reading an EMF monitor. The two of them work to figure out what has happened to their loved ones. Nolan is hoping to find Liam and Kennedy is hoping to find information that will clear Elliott’s supposed guilt of shooting their mother and her boyfriend Will. Nolan and Kennedy figure out connections that no one, not even police or detectives have been able to find. Eerie mystery that I couldn’t put down, 5 stars!
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!
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!
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!
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 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!
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!