Sunkissed by Kasie West

A fun summer read!

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!

Incognito by Katie Delahanty

Ellie is deep into the Keystone Academy curriculum and the story opens with her on a mission to steal a voice recording from the Andy Warhol Museum collection. The famous artist was known for saving everything. While completing her goal, a colleague arrives and sneakily steals the cassette from her. So, she fails the mission. She moves on with other students to go undercover and learn as much as they can about a new program that’s based on whether free will is real or not. The group gets brain scans and disguises and they discover who’s trustworthy and who isn’t. This new program is a little too close to Ellie’s past and her old journal becomes a topic of interest and the story ends with a twist that leaves the opening for a third book in the Keystone series. Riddles and intrigue, 4 stars!

A Deal with the Elf King by Elise Kova

Another fantastic world created by Elise Kova!

Luella is content as a healer for her community. Luke wants to marry her and run away but she believes she’s needed to stay so she can help others. The traditional visit of the elves to find a new wife for the elf king is happening and the king believes that Luella has been hidden from him. Once her gift of jewelry has been removed, her eyes are opened and she realizes that she truly has magic. Luke is the one who gave her the jewelry and he knew it would hide her magic. Luke seems to be the only one that ever knew that Luella had magic. Luella begs the elf king not to kill Luke but only imprison him. Eldas, the elf king, seems cold and aloof and Luella thinks he’s lived for centuries. She’s surprised when Eldas tells her differently and that he’s not much older than her. She travels to Midscape with the king and her magic is pulled from her by the queen’s throne. It takes her strength away to help the kingdom survive. Luella feels trapped and she wants to get back home to her job as a healer. Willow shows her journals of the past queens and gives her a space to work where she can continue with healing and experimenting. Eldas slowly and reluctantly opens up to Luella and she actually begins to enjoy spending time with him. He starts reading the journals also and the two of them search for information that can help save the kingdom for good. I enjoyed seeing Eldas’ character grow and the relationship that he and Luella built together. I always enjoy reading Elise Kova’s books because I fall into the world she’s created; 5 stars for this story full of bravery, selflessness and love!

The Prison Healer by Lynette Noni

Whoa! That ending!

A young woman who has been without her family for ten years, is a prisoner in a camp that sounds similar to the concentration camps of World War II. She’s responsible for carving a z into the prisoners’ hands. The z represents the prison’s name and it reminds me of The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris, except this is a fantasy story. She’s also the prison healer in charge of treating prisoners. A well-known rebel arrives at the prison and she’s known as the Rebel Queen. She’s supposed to be put through the Trials as punishment. Kiva receives a message from her family that states they’re coming to rescue her and implores her to keep the Rebel Queen alive. She’s also threatened by another prisoner to keep the Rebel Queen alive or her younger assistant, Tipp, will be killed. Kiva sacrifices herself to the Trials hoping that she’s going to be rescued before they’re over, since no one ever survives them without magic. A new prisoner arrives, Jaren, and he befriends Tipp and Kiva because she healed his wounds. The Trials consist of four Ordeals that are insanely dangerous and fatal. Kiva doesn’t know what any of the Ordeals are before she’s thrown into each one. During the time of the Trials, a stomach sickness is ravaging the prison and Kiva and Tipp work endlessly to find a cure. This is a unique story and that ending was awesome, 4 stars!

CRISPR: A Powerful Way to Change DNA by Yolanda Ridge, illustrations by Alex Boersma

CRISPR stands for Clustered Regular Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats. Gene and genetics research are complicated and already have a history of positive and negative results. The decisions of choosing whether or not to modify or enhance genes vary by subject, disease, and creature. Controversial and also exciting, this research and what’s become of it is amazing. I’m not a science buff but I enjoyed reading this informational book because everything is broken down into understandable bits. The illustrations helped immensely also. The big questions of, should we or shouldn’t we? arise with every aspect of gene research. How far should it be taken and what effects will the research, and acting on it, have on the world. Fascinating and frightening all at the same time, 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!

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!

Come Find Me by Megan Miranda

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!

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!

Thriving After Sexual Abuse by Denise Bossarte

True help for the healing process!

The author bravely shares what happened to her. She then details her healing journey.
I appreciate the honesty of her past therapy experiences. It’s good to have permission to find a therapist that you’re personally comfortable with. The definition of incest from SIA (Survivors of Incest Group) was an eye-opener because it includes more than just blood relatives. It’s anyone who betrays the child’s innocence or trust. When she mentions that it was difficult for her to understand other kids growing up and how they felt and lived emotionally, that rang a bell with me. I remember thinking that what I was going through must be normal until my friends were complaining about their lives and I realized that I couldn’t relate to their experiences at all.
This book is chock-full of helpful resources, from meditation to art therapy. The explanation of forgiveness states to forgive yourself for any misplaced beliefs that you are to blame for any abuse that has happened to you. I appreciate this explanation which clarifies that you’re not forgiving the abuser. The resources shared in the book are listed at the end and include even more! True help for the healing! You don’t have to deal with it on your own. 5 stars!