Lane dresses and acts like a boy because women aren’t allowed to live or work on ships as they might be mistaken for pirates. A woman pirate killed the queen and since then, women are forbidden to be onboard. Lane’s father is worried about her safety and her secret being revealed so he wants her to live with the mother she hasn’t seen for many years but Lane is determined to stay on the ship. Aden barters a hiding spot on Lane’s ship. He’s running away and he’s the prince. Kemp is second in command under the captain, Lane’s father. He’s the gun master and horrible. He’s constantly causing rifts between crew members and he’s undermining the captain every chance he gets. Kemp accuses Aden of pouring water into the barrels of gunpowder. Aden isn’t guilty because he was with Lane the entire time but neither of them admits that, so Aden accepts the duel proposed by Kemp. Lane discovers a missive that Aden’s been carrying telling him to get help from a neighboring ruler and that’s where he’s trying to go. Mutiny, secrets, backstabbing and survival are themes of this story but the main themes are self discovery, following your dreams and love. An adventure worth reading, 4 stars!
Missing Clarissa by Ripley Jones
A school assignment turns deadly!
Best friends, Cam and Blair, are making a podcast about the twenty-year-old cold case of Clarissa Campbell, who’s been missing since the night of a senior graduation party in the local woods of Oreville, Washington in 1999. Clarissa was a popular cheerleader dating a popular football player and her life seemed perfect to outsiders. Mr. Park, journalism teacher, has assigned a project to his students and that’s why Cam came up with the cold case podcast idea. Blair and Cam are dealing with their own personal struggles but become devoted to figuring out Clarissa’s story. They soon realize they’re in over their heads and that they’re in danger themselves.
Likes/dislikes: The story is so interesting that I didn’t want to put the book down. Overly political statements are a bit confusing when Cam’s friend Sophie blurts them out. I enjoyed the character development throughout the story.
Mature Content: PG-13 for mention of sexual assault on a high school student by the teacher, off page sex, nondescript brief kissing, underage drinking and underage drinking and driving undescribed.
Language: R for 51 swears and 4 f-bombs.
Violence: PG-13 for bloody gunshot wound, and purposely run off the road by another vehicle.
Ethnicity: mixed and includes Black, Mexican American, Korean American, white, and Filipino.
Poison Ivy: Thorns by Kody Keplinger, Illustrated by Sara Kipin
Poison Ivy: Thorns is the story of Pamela’s transition into Poison Ivy. Ivy’s origin story is heartbreaking but shows her perseverance. This graphic novel is vividly illustrated and fun to read. 5 stars!
We Are All So Good At Smiling by Amber McBride
Metaphorically beautiful verse!
Metaphorically beautiful verse!
Two depressed teens, Whimsy and Faerry, meet at a mental hospital and then become neighbors and attend high school together. They’re both suffering from depression and memory loss from when they were young children. They’re not sure what they’re not remembering but it’s bothering both of them to the point of despair. They become friends that want to help each other and understand each other’s problems. They need each other to process the trauma they’ve been through and to help the lost information resurface.
Likes/dislikes: The writing is metaphorical and beautiful. I was intrigued by the mystery surrounding the story. I like Whimsy and Faerry, the two main characters.
Language: G for no swears and no f-bombs.
Mature Content: PG for suicidal thoughts (nondescriptive) and clinical depression.
Violence: PG for talk of cutting, undescribed.
Ethnicity: The two main characters are black and they attend a predominantly white school.
The Do-Over by Lynn Painter
Em wakes up on Valentine’s Day excited to celebrate with her boyfriend Josh. Her day goes horribly in so many ways that she’s relieved to have it end but she wakes up the next morning and it’s Valentine’s Day all over again. This happens several times and she finally decides to not care about anything and has a great day doing whatever she feels like. She pulls her chemistry lab partner along for the day and they have such a great time that she doesn’t want this Valentine’s Day to end. When she wakes up the next morning expecting to have to relive another Valentine’s Day, she has a lot of repercussions to deal with! 5 stars for a thoroughly entertaining story!
The Headmaster’s List by Melissa de la Cruz
Fast-paced mystery with a slow burn romance!
Spencer wakes up in the hospital after being injured in a car crash that involved her and three other students from Armstrong but she only remembers a few details. One of the students, Chris, died in the crash and another passenger, Tabby, won’t talk to Spencer but only glares at her. Ethan was driving and speeding and says he tried to brake but the car wouldn’t stop and they hit a tree. Ethan is on house arrest, Tabby seems fine but angry, Chris died and Spencer has broken some bones and has stitches from her jaw to her cheekbone. Jackson, Ethan’s best friend, helps Spencer get around and with her schoolwork, as well as helping her piece the details from the night of the accident together because she’s extremely frustrated that she can’t remember. The more she digs into the details, the more in danger she becomes.
Fast-paced mystery with a slow burn romance, 5 stars!
Likes/dislikes: I like the intense, poetic opening that reveals the story. I like Spencer’s strength and integrity and Jackson’s personality. I enjoyed figuring out the mystery and how a mental health therapy dog helped a trauma victim.
Matue content: PG-13 for prescription drug addiction, drinking, vaping
Language: PG-13 for 24 swears and 5 f-bombs
Violence: PG for brakes being cut to cause an accident, hit and run, being held at gunpoint and being hit in the head with a gun.
Delicious Monsters by Liselle Sambury
Strange, eerie and twisted!
Told in two separate timelines that are ten years apart. Daisy moves to a mansion property that her mother inherits from her deceased brother-in-law. Ten years later, Brittney cohosts a show with Jayden and they’re focusing on this same mansion property and the story of Daisy. Brittney’s mom gives credit to the mansion for helping her turn her life around and others attribute positive changes to it, dubbing it the Miracle Mansion. This mansion is also known because of its dark history shrouded in secrecy and quiet scandals. Daisy and Brittney have a lot in common in dealing with their seemingly selfish mothers. Jayden and Brittney get more than a documentary when they visit the mansion and conduct their interviews. Strange, eerie and twisted, 4 stars!
Likes/dislikes: I appreciate the content warning at the beginning of the book. Too many swear words even though some helped convey the message of abuse. The mystery kept spiraling and kept me interested. King is my favorite character because of his calmness and integrity.
Mature Content: PG-13 for underage drinking, implied sex, off page sex, being choked while having sex, mention of vaping, gay side character, implied sexual abuse of minors.
Language: R for 168 swears and 106 f-bombs.
Violence: PG-13 for goat being killed by getting throat slashed, mentioning of deaths in mansion.
Stars and Smoke by Marie Lu
Exciting new book from Marie Lu!
Present time in America, Winter is a famous performer who is being recruited by the Panacea Agency to help take down a dangerous criminal, Eli Morrison. Eli has invited Winter to perform at his daughter Penelope’s birthday celebration in London. This is why Panacea wants Winter’s help, because he can infiltrate Eli’s life with little suspicion.
Sydney Cosette works for Panacea and poses as Winter’s bodyguard. The two seem to come from very different backgrounds but they discover they have commonalities. Winter and Sydney get hit with a few surprises on their mission and they’ll have to rely on their wits and trust each other to make it through alive.
Likes/dislikes: Winter and Sydney are interesting characters with unspoken depth. I like the mystery, action and setting of the story. I love the ending.
Mature Content: PG-13 for bisexual relationships mentioned, off-page kissing; sex alluded to by stating, “ended up in bed together”; drinking, transporting drugs, kissing.
Language: R for 49 swears and no f-bombs.
Violence: PG for kidnapping, killing mentioned, death by choking on a chemical weapon, hand to hand combat, shot in the chest. Sydney’s mother Killed by father in domestic abuse rage.
Ethnicity: The ethnicity of the main character is Chinese American, other characters are Black, white, brown-skinned, mixed.
The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller
Full of schemes and intrigue!
Alessandra is allowed to attend social parties now that her older sister is betrothed. She’s cunning and deceptive and, unbeknownst to her father, has already dated several young men. They keep their flings with her secret because she blackmails them. If people knew she wasn’t purely innocent, she would be shunned from high society and no Royal member would want to marry her. She tells her father the truth after he lets her know it’s time for her to find someone to marry. He wants her to marry someone rich because he’s becoming poor and in danger of losing his lands. Alessandra and her father attend the Royal Ball. The Shadow King seems interested in Alessandra and makes a deal with her to be friends so he can look like he’s wed and so can she, then they’ll both be happy. Alessandra is thrilled with this proposition and she works on her plan to poison him once they’re wed. Instead of continuing with her plan, Alessandra starts to truly care for Kallias, the Shadow King. He develops feelings for her too, which surprises them both. Attempts have been taken to kill the king and he ends up unsure who he can trust and when poison is found in Alessandra’s room, everything falls apart. The selfish intentions of the main characters make this a unique story that’s refreshing because it’s out of the norm, 4 stars!
Small Favors by Erin A. Craig
Unique spin on the Rumpelstiltskin tale!
Ellerie lives on a farm in a small remote village with her family. Her father keeps bees and her mother takes great care of everyone. Ellerie’s twin, Sam, has been distant so she’s helping their father more often. Merry and Sadie are the younger siblings and now their mother is pregnant again. The crew that left for a supply run never made it far. They were killed and no one knows what happened. The village believes that huge wolves with silver eyes are to blame. Ellerie meets a young man that she describes as having a vulpine face, supposedly he’s a trapper, wandering by the creek edge as she’s washing laundry. He says his name is Price but she doesn’t think he’s telling the truth. She decides to call him Whitaker Price. Sam is accused of getting Rebecca pregnant and Sam insists she’s sleeping around with others. Rebecca’s father is accused of starting a fire in Ellerie’s family’s fields and might hang for it. Weird things keep happening to the villagers; small acts of violence that they’re blaming each other for. One night, Ellerie wakes to the farm ablaze. Their mother is caught in the fire and has to be taken to town for medical treatment. The unusual young trapper that Ellerie has gotten to know, takes Mama and Papa into town and returns to let the rest of the family know they made it safely. Whitaker, the mysterious trapper, suspiciously won’t answer any personal questions that Ellerie asks him. Ellerie finds this strange but enjoys his company and wants to spend more time with him. Mind tricks seem to be working on the citizens. The villagers spiral out of control and Ellerie does everything in her power to save her beloved town. Unique spin on the tale of Rumpelstiltskin, 5 stars!
Likes/dislikes: An absolutely perfect book! Beautiful writing, vivid imagery, strong characters and amazing world building. Great character development.
Mature content: PG-13 for drinking, kissing, premarital sex mentioned but not described.
Language: PG-13 for 22 swears, no f-bombs.
Violence: PG-13 for bloody deaths by monsters, shootings between villagers, fighting.