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 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 Patron Thief of Bread by Lindsay Eagar

A clean read for upper elementary and middle school readers!

I love the cover because two images can be seen when you change your perspective, black outline of a girl tossing coins and black print of a gargoyle on a cathedral wall.
The opening is told in the gargoyle’s point of view and the statue sees a young woman carrying her baby while running from men. As they almost capture her, she jumps into the river while holding onto her baby. Eight years later, Duck is a young girl within a group of traveling thieves. She’s trying to prove that she’s helpful and ends up as a baker’s apprentice to infiltrate the bakery and steal from inside. She continues to give bread to her thief group, the Crowns, but doubts more and more that she’s doing the right thing because she’s feeling loved by the baker. As the stakes rise, Duck will have to make some tough choices and decide who her family is and who she’s loyal to. 4 stars for this sweet tale of finding your true self.

Ethnicity is predominantly white; it is a historical fiction fantasy.
Language content: no swears
Violence content: PG – men chasing woman and baby and she’s running for their safety.
Mature content: PG – thievery, grooming for a gang
Likes/dislikes: I like the baker. She’s tremendously generous and kind. I appreciate the author’s writing of Duck’s conflicts between right and wrong and in finding her sense of belonging. This is a clean read with a good message. Alternating timelines with a unique gargoyle and a young girl named Duck.

These Twisted Bonds by Lexi Ryan

Romance, adventure and fantasy all wrapped up in one, 5 stars!

Brie is trying to get Sebastian and Finn to form an alliance to stop the queen who wants to imprison and enslave Unseelie Fae. The queen is Sebastian’s mother and he has gone behind her back to free as many as he can. Brie doesn’t trust anyone and doesn’t believe that she belongs in the Fae or in the mortal realm. She tries to learn to trust those around her and when she discovers her lineage, she finds her place. She has to complete a task to save herself and everyone in the Fae realm. Brie and Finn learn they’re tethered, meaning they draw power from each other and give each other strength. The long sleep, where children sleep and never wake up, is affecting the Unseelie children because their kingdom is dying. Finn is willing to sacrifice everything for his kingdom and Brie is willing to do the same. If the two of them can get Sebastian to help then they just might save everything. Romance, adventure and fantasy all wrapped up in one, 5 stars!

Mature content: sex but vaguely detailed, naked aroused breasts
Violence: blood and guts
Swearing: 15 swears and two f-bombs
Ethnicity: mortal mix and Fae

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!

The Hacienda by Isabel Canas

I did not want this book to end!

Beatriz marries Rodolfo. He’s a businessman and owns a large estate. He leaves to do business so Beatriz runs the estate in his absence. Juana, Rodolfo’s sister, believes she’s the one in charge and she treats everyone gruffly. Beatriz starts to feel like she’s being watched and things get creepier from there, to the point that she’s afraid for her life. She asks the local priests for help and all but one shun her. Padre Andres helps her under the guise of being a priest to help the estate workers. He has knowledge from his ancestors that can help exorcise evil. The house has an extremely powerful, angry spirit and it’s harmful. This is an elaborate and beautifully written horror story that I didn’t ever want to put down. I also didn’t want it to end. 5 stars!

Gilded by Marissa Meyer

Suspenseful, dangerous and interesting fairytale retelling!

Serilda enjoys creating stories to tell and embellishing the tales every time she retells them. One snowy night, she hears noises outside her house. She dares to go outside and she sees two moss maidens trying to hide from hunters. Serilda helps them hide but lies to the Erlking to keep them safe. He’s intrigued by her story of being able to spin straw into gold so he sends for her to come to his castle. After that, she’s bound to keep going back to the castle because the Erlking won’t let her go. She meets Gild, who the Erlking classifies as a poltergeist. Gild has the gift of magic that allows him to spin straw into gold. He helps Serilda but requires payment in return each time he helps her. The first two times, Serilda gives him the gifts the moss maidens gave her when she saved them from the Erlking. The third time, she offers her future firstborn child as payment. That is the only thing she has to offer. Gild accepts this offer, so his magic will work. Everything grows more complicated and the people Serilda love become endangered. The Erlking is heartless, cold and brutal. He will do whatever it takes to get what he wants.
Gilded is one of the best fairytale retellings I’ve read because Marissa Meyer adds twists and brings original characters to the story. Suspenseful, dangerous and interesting fairytale retelling, 5 stars!

The Fire Keeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley

Strong characters!

Daunis is looking forward to college and her future. She’s attending with her best friend Lily. They’re both descendants of members of the Tribe Council who are Native American. She befriends a new hockey player that just moved to town. His name is Jamie and he’s good at avoiding answering questions about his personal life. When a murder-suicide affects Daunis, she’s asked to help the undercover investigation to catch and stop the drug dealing happening in their community. She reluctantly and cautiously becomes an FBI informant. Daunis worries that she’ll betray her people by not helping the FBI see the good in her community, only the drug issues. A wonderful glimpse of a piece of Native American life, language and culture. Strong characters, true character development and the surrounding mystery pulled me deep into the story and it’s still sticking with me days later. Betrayal, deception, mistrust, broken family, violence, loyalty (sometimes misplaced), and manipulative behavior are all parts of this book. 4 stars!

As Good As Dead by Holly Jackson

Intense to the very end!

This is the best book of the series! Action packed and suspenseful enough to keep the stress level high! The author made me feel everything that Pip went through, physically and emotionally. Pip’s stubbornness exasperated me at times but her intelligence knows no bounds and makes her stubborn because she can analyze situations and outcomes that others might not see. The mysteries come full circle with intensity and full force. I don’t want to spoil the story but if you like mysteries then this series is a must-read, 5 stars!