Pony by R.J. Palacio

A western adventure full of action and mystery!

Pony tells the story of a young boy who takes refuge in a tree during a violent storm and when the tree is struck by lightning, receives a burn on his back in the shape of that same tree. The burn heals into a very unique scar. His father revives the boy by using a fireplace bellows. This man is interested in photography but turned to boot making to support his family but the lightning incident stokes his love of art and photos. The young boy, Silas, was born the same day his mother died. So, Silas and his father are without her. Pa is kindhearted and loving and cares deeply about Silas. One night, three riders with pistols drawn, arrive at their home demanding that Pa and Silas go with them. They won’t say why other than their boss wants Pa to work for a week and then he’ll let him return to his home. The riders brought an extra horse and a white-faced pony with them so Pa and Silas could ride along. Pa makes Silas stay behind. The pony shows up soon after the riders leave with Pa. Silas is worried that Pa has been hurt so he rides Pony (Silas’ name for the small horse) and goes after Pa’s trail. He finds so much more than he expected and meets several different allies along the way. Pony is a western adventure full of action and mystery, told with a continuous sense of awe; I loved reading it, 5 stars!

Escaping Eleven by Jerri Chisholm

Entertaining dystopian for young adults!

Eve is a fighter looking forward to when she can reach the upper level and Earth to see if her younger brother Jack somehow survived being banished nine years ago for being the unlawful second child of the family. He was sent out to the unprotected air and land on his own. Eve meets Wren in a scheduled fight that entertains the crowds. They despise each other at first but soon become allies. While Eve’s friends continue to participate in job tours to help decide their future, she hunts for a way to escape Compound Eleven. Wren is from the upper level so he has access to more and also has a better lifestyle than Eve and her friends in the lower level. He teaches her to shoot a gun and she introduces her to the lowest level of the compound where she helps ration food to the people. They both grow and learn about what they truly want in their futures. Eve is stubborn but loyal and Wren is smart, brave and has integrity. Interesting world building and strong characters add life to this dystopian story, 4 stars!

When All the Girls Are Sleeping by Emily Arsenault

A wonderfully spooky read!

The spookiness starts immediately with the opening of the book. The font in chapter one is perfectly ghostly! Haley’s best friend, Taylor, fell to her death last year. Haley receives an email with an attached video from Taylor’s oldest sibling. He asks Haley if she knows anything about the video and as she starts to watch it, she realizes she doesn’t know what’s happening in it and she’s never seen it before. It gives her the creeps. Haley wants to figure out the truth of what really happened to Taylor and she begins researching hauntings and school history to see if there’s anything that will help her. A paranormal investigator is mentioned in an alumni Facebook group and Haley finds his picture as a dorm supervisor from years earlier. Haley keeps reaching out to alumni and searching the school archives in hopes of digging up more information. She finds letters and interviews from decades ago describing the same thing Taylor experienced in the video. What Haley discovers is so unpredictable and complex that I would have never figured it out on my own and the answer is unexpected! A wonderfully spooky read, 5 stars!

Cupcake by Cookie O’Gorman

Deliciously cute and innocently romantic!

Cupcake by Cookie O’ Gorman is a deliciously cute and innocently romantic read for young adults!
Ariel is a full bodied young woman and she’s proud of who she is even when others are unkind. Her best friend, Toni, nominates her for the Homecoming royalty without Ariel knowing. Ariel may like herself but she’s been bullied about her size and that makes her wary of gaining attention or being in any spotlight. Being part of the homecoming royalty stresses her out. Ariel has many talents and friends. She’s kind and caring and loves to bake amazing treats for sharing and posting on her vlog. Rhys is her designated homecoming prince for all of the activities and he’s also the star quarterback. She’s a bit intimidated by him and the other royalty. As she gets to know the other royalty better and they get to know her, friendships begin. Cupcake is an adorable story of growth, confidence and loving yourself!

Gutter Girl by Lynn Rush and Kelly Anne Blount

A fun and enjoyable read!

McKenna is known as Goth Girl at her high school. She hasn’t always worn black or been so antisocial and grouchy but when her Dad left after her mom was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, she became the parent. McKenna keeps her distance because she doesn’t want anyone to know about her mom and how chaotic her life has become. Jace is known as a great football player in the same school as McKenna. One morning, when they drop their backpacks and inadvertently grab each other’s notebook, McKenna discovers that Jace is a famous online writer. When others find out the famous author attends their school, McKenna steps up to keep Jace’s secret. The relationship they start with that moment gets messy, crazy and sweet. A little cheesy, a little predictable, and a lot of fun to read, 4 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!

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

A story of great strength, determination, and unbelievable perseverance!

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!

All These Monsters by Amy Tintera

In a world being endangered by scrabs (human killing creatures), Clara is ready to do anything to get away from her abusive father, so she decides to join a scrab fighting army. The privately funded army has recruits across the globe. Clara goes to Paris and London with her team. She trains, battles scrabs and builds relationships. One of her relationships turns out toxic while others feel like she belongs to a good family. Dynamics between characters and the world-building create a mix of intrigue, danger and suspense. The ending is a bit of a cliffhanger so I’m struggling to wait for the second book of this duology. 5 stars for a dangerous adventure ride!

They Wish They Were Us by Jessica Goodman

They Wish They Were Us by Jessica Goodman, tells the story of Jill and the other members of the Players, who attend an elite school where inclusion is limited and exclusion is the norm. Hazing at its finest and worst is what makes the school run from year to year. The students who are picked to become Players get privileges that no other students receive but they get these privileges at a price. Jill and her group are seniors looking forward to college and their bright futures since they’ve put the death of their friend behind them until new evidence enlightens the police that they may have arrested the wrong person. Amidst the elite and their plans, and their ongoing school expectations, the students are derailed and need to help find the true killer. Strong characters in a fascinating political mess tell this story of discrimination, manipulation, and abuse. The protagonist, Jill, brings brains, strength, and empathy to this unique book, 5 stars!

Malice by Pintip Dunn

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I enjoyed this book more than any other Pintip Dunn book (that I have read). The concept is unique and the character growth and depth is profound.
Thanks to NetGalley and Entangled Teen for the opportunity to read and review Malice by Pintip Dunn!
Alice begins to hear a voice that’s telling her what to do. She soon realizes that the voice belongs to her future self, and is warning present time Alice, about a future virus that is going to destroy the world. Future Alice wants her to kill the virus maker. As the story unfolds, I kept thinking that I had figured out who the virus maker was, but I just kept getting hit with one surprise after another! The story concept is interesting and I especially like the mystery surrounding the virus maker. Bandit is intriguing but I want to know more about Zeke. Alice goes through a whirlwind of back and forth time travel, possible futures and the shocks and surprises that are thrown at her. This is the absolute best Pintip Dunn book I’ve read! 4 stars!