The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

A powerful, authentic read!

Starr lives in a rough part of town and after one of her best friends gets shot in a drive by shooting when they’re ten, Starr’s parents have her attend a private school that’s safer. Now Starr is sixteen and she witnesses her other childhood friend getting fatally shot by a police officer. Her friend did nothing to provoke the shooting. This is a powerful novel about much more than racism. It’s also about choices, bravery, integrity and helping others. This book has a lot of swearing which is authentic to the lifestyle of the character’s surroundings but the message of empowerment makes it a must read. 5 stars for a novel that will stick with me.

Likes/dislikes:
I liked how the author shows reality and brings her characters to life to make the readers care about them. I like that two different worlds are brought together by two teens living in both and experiencing the stark differences in each. Character development is abundant and bravery and integrity are a huge factor in the main character’s life and family. I love how the main character’s family is open to discussing everything instead of keeping secrets from each other.
Mature content: PG-13
Underage drinking, marijuana use
Page 81 foreplay (boyfriend touching of girlfriend’s pubic region)
Page 376 arousal (the boyfriend had a bulge in his pants when he kissed his girlfriend)
Violence: PG-13
Fatal Shooting at a party. Police brutality and fatal shooting of a teen male. Riots, gang beatings, starting fires.
Language: R for 100+ swears and 54 f-bombs

https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/the-hate-u-give

Hearts, Strings, and Other Breakable Things by Jacqueline Firkins

Tugged at my heart!

Edie has been in foster care for three years since her mom passed away. Her mother’s sister, Norah, brings her to their home as her new guardian to improve her. Norah and her daughters, Maria and Julia, make it their mission to improve Edie through makeovers, new clothes and unsolicited advice. Edie doesn’t feel like she belongs or is even wanted other than as a project for them. Her long ago friend, crush and first kiss, Sebastian, lives next door but he has a girlfriend, Claire. Claire’s brother Henry is a player and he’s showing interest in Edie. Edie doesn’t trust him until he shows her that he’s actually a nice, sweet guy that truly cares for her. The relationship they build helps ease crush pains. She learns a lot about herself through her relationship with Henry and grows as a person. This book is more than I expected and it tugged at my heart. 5 stars!

The Girl in the Castle by Emily Raymond & James Patterson

The mystery kept me hooked!

Hannah is brought to the psychiatric hospital after being found screaming and half-dressed on the streets. She says she’s trying to save her family and friends by robbing the castle because the village people are starving. Then the timeline jumps back to the 1300’s, where Hannah is with those starving villagers, family and friends. The story continues to alternate between the present and the 1300’s while Hannah is in the psychiatric ward (present) and with her family in the village (1300’s). An intern, Jordan, finds Hannah fascinating and wants to help her heal after hearing her story and background. While Hannah is in the past, she’s captured along with her friends. Her friends are either hanged, stabbed or badly beaten but Hannah is spared by the Baron who is curious about her. While in the present, Hannah attends group meetings, therapy, meets new roommates, loses a fellow ward resident to suicide and builds a relationship with Jordan. While in the past, she is pampered in the castle, brings food to the villagers and has a relationship with the Baron. Jordan investigates as much as possible to discover Hannah’s past to see if trauma is at the root of her story. The mystery kept me hooked, 4 stars!

Mature content: PG-13 for vaguely detailed sex, mention of drugs, suicide and attempted suicide, self harm with razor blades
Violence: PG-13 for suicide, suggestion of rape, bleeding cuts, cut herself repeatedly with a spoon sharpened against a table leg, stealing and hanging
Language: R for 76 swears, 19 f-bombs
Ethnicities:
1300’s timeline- predominately white, present timeline-mixed ethnicity
Likes/dislikes: I liked the mystery surrounding the main character, Hannah. Was she experiencing time travel, hallucinations or trauma induced schizophrenia? I appreciate the author’s note at the end sharing experiences working at a psychiatric hospital and acknowledging that those experiences helped shape this book.

The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston

Sweet adult romance with a touch of ghostly attention!

Florence Day is a ghostwriter using the pseudonym Ann Nichols. Everyone, except for a select few, thinks Florence is Ann’s assistant since Ann is always “away”. Ann Nichols did her own writing, becoming well-known, until five years ago when Florence took over for her. Florence meets the new publisher, thinking it’ll be another female like the last publisher. She’s surprised when it’s a man instead, a very handsome man named Ben Andor. He’s friendly until Florence tells him Ann doesn’t want to write romance anymore but he insists that she fulfill her contract and complete the manuscript by the next day. Florence’s roommate Rose takes her out for a fun night so she can relax. Florence ends up kissing the new publisher and having a great time until she answers her ringing phone and is told that her father had a heart attack and didn’t make it. She heads home for the reading of the will and funeral. While she’s home with her family, Rose tells her that Ben was hit by incoming traffic and soon Ben appears to Florence as a ghost. Florence and her father have always been able to see and speak with ghosts. Usually the ghosts need help in some way so they can move on. Florence tries to help Ben but neither is sure of what help he needs. They get to know each other and become friends and a bit more. When Ben disappears, Florence grieves his passing and misses him desperately. She finishes her manuscript and tries to move on with her life. This is a sweet adult romance with a touch of ghostly attention. 5 stars!

Beautiful adult romance but suitable for mature young adult readers

Some minimal swearing and a few f-bombs

Mature content, vaguely detailed sex

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

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!

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!

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!

The Storm Crow by Kalyn Josephson

The adventure never ends!

The prologue opens with inspiration and excitement for things to come and then ends with horror and devastation. Anthia’s world falls apart when her homeland, Rhodaire, is attacked by Illucians. Her mother is killed and so are the large, beautiful, magical crows that shared their world. Her land is decimated because without the crows’ help, nothing flourishes or grows. Her sister, Caliza, is now queen and has betrothed Anthia to the Illucian Prince Ericen. Of course, neither sister is happy about the deal but they don’t see any other way to try to mend their broken land. Before Anthia leaves her home, she visits the towers where the crows once lived. She finds and hides an egg then takes it to Illucia with her. She has no idea how to get it to hatch but she’s not leaving it behind. She’s searched everywhere for information on the crows and she’s hoping she’s going to figure it out soon. Ericen is difficult to read and Anthia is unsure about trusting him. He seems very loyal to his mother, Razel, the Illucian Queen. Razel is terrible and loves cruelty. She wants to conquer all of the other countries also and doesn’t care about who she harms in the process. Anthia accidentally meets rebels and inadvertently makes new friends in Illucia. She manages to enjoy some of her time there until she discovers a secret of Razel’s. The action and intrigue continues in the sequel, Crow Rider. I enjoyed several characters, their flaws and quirks: Anthia, Kiva, Ericen, Caylus, and the adventure that never seems to end, 5 stars!

The Companion by Katie Alender

Creepy, suspenseful fun!

Margot is the sole survivor of a tragic family car accident. She ends up at the Palmer orphanage until a rich family chooses her as their ward. When she first arrives at the mansion, Mr. and Mrs. Sutton are kind and treat her as if she’s special. Margot is soon told about their daughter Agatha who doesn’t speak or show emotion. Agatha used to be a normal teenager but then she became angry and eventually shut down. Mrs. Sutton tells Margot that doctors believe a brain infection caused damage to her frontal cortex and changed her personality. Margot meets Agatha’s brother, Barrett. He’s protective of his sister but eventually warms up to Margot. The longer she’s in the Sutton home, the more strange things she discovers and the foreboding keeps growing. I like Margot and rooted for her throughout the book. Creepy, suspenseful fun, 4 stars!