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!

Breathless by Jennifer Niven

Encompasses everything wonderful, stressful and everything in between of falling in love for the first time.

Coming of age story about Claudine, aka Claude. Contains explicit sexual content, heads up to readers that may be bothered.
Breathless encompasses everything wonderful, stressful and everything in between and around falling in love for the first time. Claude and her mother travel to an island where they have family roots. They plan on staying for the summer to give Claude’s father a break after he decided he wants a divorce. Angry and annoyed, Claude and her mother arrive on the secluded island with very little internet service. She has to adjust to not being able to text her friends and father back home. She meets the summer young-adult workers and becomes friends with most of them. One in particular catches her eye, Jeremiah Crew (Miah). They hang out and eventually become more than friends. During this summer, Claude and Miah mature, and together they help each other deal with their personal lives and the problems they’re both dealing with. Miah teaches Claude how to ride a bike and shares his island adventures with her. Claude helps Miah talk about his personal life. They have a great and memorable summer together but dread the day they have to say goodbye when it ends. A beautiful story with unique characters that grow in depth and maturity together. A perfect romance for a summer read, 5 stars!

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!

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!

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!

Good Girls Die First by Kathryn Foxfield

Love the creepy cover!

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!

Namesake by Adrienne Young

Namesake opens with Fable kidnapped and trapped on Zola’s ship, the Luna. Fable is unsure of why she was captured until Zola tells her it’s because he knows who her parents are. She’s forced to harvest gemstones with other dredgers so Zola can use them for payment for something. She soon finds out what the payment is for, to Zola’s detriment. Fable discovers more than she ever could have imagined about her family and her relationship with West worries her. She goes in search of the elusive gemstone, midnight, that her mother supposedly found before her death. This sequel to Fable is exciting, action-packed, dangerous and full of great character development. The series is so good that I want to read it again, 5 stars!

Shatter the Sky by Rebecca Kim Wells

Shatter the Sky Book 1

Shatter the Sky by Rebecca Kim Wells surprised me with its immense world building and strong characters!
Maren and Kaia have a good relationship and Kaia wants to travel and explore when she’s old enough to. Maren plans on traveling with her. Plans change when Kaia is taken as a seer to possibly be a dragon trainer. Maren decides to leave too by telling her parents that she needs to be out on her own and independent. She’s not completely honest with them. She’s planning on rescuing Kaia. She heads to the dragon fortress and asks and then manipulates her estranged uncle for a job. She becomes the new food taster. Maren is noticed by the Aromatory, Neve, who raises baby dragons until they bond with their lords. Neve uses scents to train and appreciates Maren’s ability to pick up scents that most people can’t detect. While working, Maren meets Sev, who seems friendly but with a hidden story of his own. Things progress and Maren and Sev find each other running away to escape capture and probably death. They decide to help each other and end up discovering so much more about the empire than they ever could have guessed! The ending left me worried about the characters and their safety and I’m looking forward to the sequel, Storm the Sky. A fantasy adventure that will take you for a ride, 5 stars!