The Summer of Broken Rules by K.L. Walther

A cute romance!

Meredith heads to Martha’s Vineyard for a family wedding. She’s with her mother and father and they’re all missing Claire, Meredith’s deceased sister. Meredith’s boyfriend Ben was planning on being her plus one until he broke up with her. Then she refused to let him be there with her. On the ferry ride to the vineyard, Mer accidentally kicks a guy in the face when she’s climbing down. Later, she’s going to talk to her grandparents at the farm on the vineyard when she sees that same guy already talking to them, his name is Wit. He’s the stepbrother of the groom. The wedding couple want to remember and honor Claire so they’ve planned a game of Assassin and everyone will fight to win with water guns. Mer and Wit decide to help each other with info as needed during the game. As Mer learns to deal with her grief, she’s able to repair relationships and build new ones.
4 stars for a cute romance growing in spite of overwhelming grief.

Ethnicity: predominantly white
Mature content: PG-13 – sex but the word isn’t mentioned and no details. “Our bodies tangled together”; underage drinking
Violence: drunk driver hitting sister in car
Language Content: R due to 7 f-bombs

Family of Liars by E. Lockhart

Heads up, Family of Liars is a prequel but also a spoiler to We Were Liars!

Carrie is the oldest of three sisters. When the youngest sister Rosemary drowns, the three remaining sisters must follow the family motto and not show any grief. Carrie becomes addicted to painkillers after jaw surgery that her father insists she needed to give her a stronger looking jaw. The summer after Rosemary drowns, their cousin Yardley brings her boyfriend and his two best friends to the island. They’re funny and help lighten the mood on the island. Carrie and Pfeff are interested in each other but he keeps being inconsiderate and annoys Carrie. She discovers a secret that her mother’s been keeping and it’s consuming Carrie. Pfeff also turns out to be self-centered and when the cousins see him kissing Carrie’s sister Penny, things become precarious. I enjoyed Pfeff’s humor and the writing is exemplary. I felt firsthand what the characters were going through because of the details. Humorous parts with Pfeff changing lyrics of Mary poppins song, Step In Time:
Take no prisoners, do some crimes
Know your math facts! Step in time.
Every time he would sing this, it made me chuckle!
Heads up, Family of Liars is a prequel but also a spoiler to We Were Liars! It’s an enjoyable read full of teen angst, 5 stars!

Ethnicity is predominantly white.
Mature content is PG-13, underage drinking and smoking, attempted rape
Violence is PG-13

These Hollow Vows by Lexi Ryan

A fantasy full of conflict!

A thief, Abriella, breaks into the vault of a man who became rich from selling females into prostitution. She only steals enough to carry so he won’t notice it’s missing. On her way home, Brie (Abriella) stops at a friend’s home to pay for the contract her daughter has just signed with the rich man. She did this to get medicine for her mother. Now Brie doesn’t have enough money to pay her rent to Madam V., her greedy, horrible aunt who makes Brie and her younger sister Jas live in a basement storage room. Brie and Jas also have to slave away taking care of the house and two spoiled cousins. When Jas is sold to the Fae King, Brie travels through a portal pretending to be one of the many human women wanting to marry the Fae Prince Ronan. She meets an intriguing Fae male that keeps showing up wherever she goes but then she’s caught by the king and finds out he took Jas as bait to get Brie’s help. The king wants Brie to steal artifacts from Prince Ronan’s court. She sees Sebastian where she never thought she would and runs from him because she’s surprised and angry. Once she comes to terms with who Sebastian really is, Brie realizes that she can use it to her advantage in finding the relics and getting Jas back. She does care for Sebastian and feels guilty for using him. The intriguing Fae male is Finn and she works with his group to stop the king. They help her with the shadow magic she has. Brie feels trapped and alone throughout the story because she doesn’t know if she can trust anyone but she perseveres to get Jas safe again.
I enjoyed reading this book because of Brie, the main character. She’s strong, resilient and will do anything to save her sister. The conflicting two main male characters make the story interesting, especially since they’re both vying for Brie’s attention. 5 stars for this fantasy full of conflict!

A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas

Nesta’s story!

SPOILER ALERT…
Nesta is falling off the edge so the Night Court members stage an intervention and give her an ultimatum, live at the House of Wind, train with Cassian two hours each morning then help the priestesses in the library every afternoon or be taken to and left in the human world. She grumbles and gripes but goes to the House of Wind. Eventually her walls begin to break down and Cassian is there to catch her if she falls or falters. Nesta makes friends with Emerie, an Illyrian shop owner, and Gwyn, a priestess in the library. Together they train and more priestesses join them, so Cassian enlists Azriel to help with the training. Nesta confides in Cassian about all the things that are breaking her spirit and making her feel as though she doesn’t deserve to live. She feels guilty about how she treated her father and Feyre, and all the hurt she’s caused by being snippy to Cassian and others. The Night Court members have discussed the Dread Trove, three items of great magical value.With the help of Azriel and Cassian, and an unlucky kelpie, Nesta retrieves the Mask and wakes the dead in the black lake when the kelpie threatens her life. She attends priestess services and listens to Gwyn’s beautiful voice amongst the congregation. While being swept away in the music, Nesta is transported to a chamber under the prison to where the Harp is hidden. She and Cassian go to the prison to retrieve the Harp and accidentally release Lanthys. The Harp and the sword Nesta accidentally magicked help her and Cassian slay Lanthys and escape the prison. The Harp transports them to Feyre’s front yard. Cassian is healed and takes Nesta in a hike to help her heal from her inner struggles. They become more than acquaintances with benefits and vow to be with each other forever. During the ball, Nesta dances with Eris to bring him to their side as a solid ally. She’s an amazing dancer and he’s taken with her and later sends a proposal offer to her through Rhysand.Nesta, Emerie and Gwyn are kidnapped and dropped off at the Blood Rite.
Nesta fights off the last of the competition during the Blood Rite while Emerie carries Gwyn to the top of Ramiel to touch the stone as the winners. The two are transported to Feyre’s home and their injuries immediately healed after touching the stone. Meanwhile, Cassian drops down by Nesta but he’s under the human crone queen’s control. She orders him to kill Nesta. Nesta calls to her powers and unmakes the queen so she ages backwards into nothing but ash. Cassian wakes up and is back to himself and flies them to Feyre’s home. They see that Feyre is dying from loss of blood as she’s trying to deliver her baby. Nesta makes a bargain with the Cauldron to give back what she took when she was made Fae if Feyre, the baby and Rhys could live. It works and most of Nesta’s power is taken but a small amount is left for her. Cassian and Nesta have an ornate mating ceremony, given to them by a very grateful Rhys. 5 stars! Wonderful writing, strong characters, amazing character development, suspenseful but a bit more vulgar than the previous books in the series.

These Fleeting Shadows by Kate Alice Marshall

An unusual story with twisted ideals!

Helen travels with her mom and stepdad Simon to Harrow; the place where her maternal family has resided for decades. Her grandfather has died and left Harrow and the responsibility of being the master of the manor and the family to Helen. If she doesn’t agree to stay, everyone in the family will lose their entire inheritance. Mystery surrounds the manor and the family. Several girls have disappeared through the years and it seems that Harrow is in the middle of the suspicion. An old journal is found describing the founder of Harrow, Nicholas Vaughn. In the journal are descriptions of poison and separating body parts of victims to control a being known as the Other. Nicholas wanted power and control and he found both by sacrificing girls to this being. Things have gotten out of control and the power is loose. Helen discovers more than she’s ready for and she wants to stop the violence but she’s going to need help. An unusual story about greed and twisted ideals, 4 stars!

Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

The perfect spooky thriller!

As a child, Maggie lived at Baneberry Hall with her parents for twenty days before leaving for good under the claim that the house is haunted. Her father wrote a book about their experiences and Maggie is still recognized for the book, even though she’s now an adult. Her father left her the house in his will and he recently passed away. Her parents never would talk about the house or book even though Maggie had many questions. Her parents divorced soon after the book was written. Now that she’s inherited the house, she’s planning on restoring it to sell because that’s what she does for a living. Maggie has no idea what’s in store for her once she returns to Baneberry Hall. She finds old Polaroid pictures and hears odd noises. A record player randomly plays a song from The Sound of Music and then skeletal remains fall from the kitchen ceiling. Maggie talks to town residents, reads articles about the house’s past and even talks to Marta Carver who lost her husband and daughter in Baneberry Hall when they were living there as a family. Every time I thought I had it all figured out, something else happened to reveal more secrets. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book!
A perfect spooky thriller, 5 stars!

Lakesedge by Lyndall Clipstone

Interesting, unique world!

Violeta is fierce about protecting her brother Arien. Sometimes when he sleeps, dark shadows surround him. When he has an episode in the village during the day; he runs into the woods. He hides because he knows people will be afraid of him. Lord Sylvanan rules the village and he finds Violeta and Arien in the woods and promises that he can help with the shadows. They travel together to Lord Sylvanan’s grounds and discover that he also deals with darkness and guilt. His first name is Rowan but Violeta doesn’t trust him to not harm Arien. They see Rowan’s shadows and how he has to make sacrifices to the Corruption so it won’t take over their world. Slowly, she begins to trust him and tries to help stop the Corruption. Arien is taught to use his magic by Clover, the alchemist who resides in Rowan’s home. The housekeeper Florence takes good care of all of them. Arien grows stronger and believes in himself as Clover helps him grow and direct the shadows. Lord Under appears to Violeta, Leta for short, and she recognizes him from when she made a sacrifice to keep Arien safe when they were younger. She trusts him but she shouldn’t trust him completely. Lord Under watches over the souls of people that have passed on. Their hearts live on in trees within Lord Under’s world. His domain is falling apart too and he’ll do anything to save it. Interesting, unique world. 4 stars!

It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover

A truly touching story with many life lessons!

Lily finds a random rooftop in Boston so she can reflect on the eulogy she gave at her father’s funeral. She misses solitude since she has moved to Boston and has a not quiet roommate. While on this rooftop, she meets Ryle, a neurosurgeon resident. Ryle is adamantly against relationships in his life but he enjoys flirting with Lily. Through coincidental circumstances, Lily sees Ryle here and there throughout the next year. They eventually become involved in a relationship and his family absolutely loves her. She doesn’t about his temper until he hurts her and then she’s left wondering if it was accidental. In the meantime, Lily grows closer to her mother and she runs into Atlas, her first boyfriend. We learn about her past with Atlas and how much they both helped each other when they were teenagers. I read this book quickly because it’s completely engrossing and I fell right into the story! The characters are authentic and I grew to love them, with their humor and quirks and through their struggles. The author’s notes share the author’s perspective as she created this story and I admire how well she dealt with the delicate issues and the choices of the main characters. A truly touching story with several life lessons, 5 stars!

Blood Scion by Deborah Falaye

Jam-packed with action!

A young woman is searching for evidence of her mother in unmarked graves. Sloane knows that the Nightwalkers are responsible for her mother’s disappearance and she wants the proof. She’s caught by a Nightwalker and attacked. She unleashes her Scion power to save herself and burns him to ash in the process. Her identity as a Scion has to be kept secret or the rulers will kill her. She runs home to her grandfather, Baba. He has news that one of her friends ran from the draft and was killed because of it. Now three more people will be sent draft letters. She’s one of them, along with her best friend Teo. Teo has saved money and planned for the two of them to run if they are drafted. He shows Sloane his plan but she knows he’ll get killed if they run. To get him to drop his plans, Sloane threatens to turn him in. He walks off. Sloane is drafted, along with her bully Malachi. Malachi hates Sloane and wants revenge on her because she accidentally killed his family in a fire that she started. As the story continues, Sloane discovers secrets about her mother, finds possible allies and learns that not everyone is as they seem or appear to be. She also has to lose some of her humanity and empathy to sacrifice and do her part in becoming a hardened soldier. So many surprises and twists pop up in this book, making it a fast-paced read that’s also jam-packed with action and acts of violence. Sloane’s world is brutal and she makes some horrible choices to stay alive. 4 stars!

Pretend She’s Here by Luanne Rice

Suspenseful, crazy, thought provoking;
5 stars!

Emily lost her best friend Lizzie and now she’s been kidnapped by Lizzie’s family to be her replacement. Lizzie’s mother has gone insane with grief. She’s tried to turn their younger daughter Chloe into Lizzie but that didn’t work because they’re still missing a child and have an empty seat at the kitchen table. Chloe is used as bait to get Emily to the van and convince her to go for a ride. They drug her and kidnap her. Emily is taken from everything she knows and loves and she sees that Lizzie’s mom is twisted in justifying the kidnapping. Emily’s hair is dyed black and she’s forced to wear contacts the colors of Lizzie’s eyes. Little by little, Emily is allowed tiny freedoms and eventually can attend school, if she agrees to send an email to her parents telling them that she ran away. She only agrees to send the email because her mother’s life is threatened if she doesn’t. Trauma, abuse and manipulation are parts of Emily’s daily life now and to keep her family safe, she agrees to be Lizzie.
Suspenseful, crazy, thought provoking; 5 stars!