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!

Where Secrets Lie by Eva V. Gibson

A wonderful friendship has been injured and the three friends are holding grudges against each other. The grudges are put on hold when Nat, Teddy’s younger sister, comes up missing. I love the character development! The author does a great job bringing her characters to life. Ben’s colorful personality has grown from his dysfunctional family life full of contradictions and hypocrisy, but he’s loyal to his best friends, who are his cousin Amy and their mutual friend Teddy. Nat is precious and precocious and adorable. Amy is hounded by her mother and her extreme expectations and Teddy and Nat live with their single mother in a trailer on Ben and Amy’s grandparents’ property. The three friends work together to try to figure out what happened to Nat. The timeline alternates between two summers and the changes that occurred in their relationships. The police believe that Nat drowned but the three friends know she would have never gone into the water alone. Nat was terrified of swimming after she almost drowned years earlier. As Ben, Teddy and Amy search for clues, they stumble across a trophy box from a possible serial killer. Intensity and suspense amid a large amount of dysfunction kept me reading into the wee hours of the night, 5 stars!

The Sound of Drowning by Katherine Fleet

Amazing writing and storytelling!
Mer loves Ben and they’ve been best friends forever. She’s never felt confident in herself but Ben makes her feel loved and perfect. Mer keeps referring to a lie that hurt her family and Ben and his family, so I was left wondering about that for a while. A new guy, Wyatt, moves to town and Mer saves him from the cold and wet weather when he desperately needs a ride. They strike up a friendship with boundaries and sarcastic wit and honesty. They are good for each other. The story unfolds through Mer’s memories and the present happenings in Mer’s life. Katherine Fleet has proven herself as an author and I’m impressed with the way she has woven everything together seamlessly in this book that took me on an emotional roller coaster, 5 solid stars!

All This Time by Mikki Daughtry and Rachael Lippincott

Thanks to Simon & Schuster and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review All This Time by Rachel Lippincott!
A long-lasting relationship broken. A conversation harshly interrupted. A devastating reality. Those are the beginnings of this story. Kyle and Kim have broken up seven times over the course of their relationship. Now Kyle wishes he could go back and let her go and give her the freedom to be happy. He realizes how self-absorbed he’s been since his football accident and his relationships suffered because of it. He moves on and feels accomplished after his loss until he receives another eye-opener! Great writing and a unique storyline and if I give details, I will spoil it for future readers. Fantastic book full of hope, perseverance and love, 5 stars!

  • I received an arc in exchange for voluntary review consideration and all opinions and thoughts are my own.

Everything I Thought I Knew by Shannon Takaoka

Thanks to NetGalley and Candlewick Press for the opportunity to read and review Everything I Thought I Knew by Shannon Takaoka!
Damn good book! Mind-blowing, thought-provoking, and beautiful.
Chloe has cardiac arrest while running during cross country practice. She’s always been healthy but the doctor found her heart defect after her heart attack. She’s placed on the transplant list and receives a heart on December 18th. Chloe’s life changed dramatically after her heart defect was found. She had good grades, college goals, and future plans. Now she has to attend summer school to catch up and, for some reason, she craves surfing. She buys a board and gets the phone number of a young man who gives lessons. His name is Kia. Chloe learns to surf and the two of them build a relationship together. She hunts down the donor of her heart and she questions everything she’s ever known. A magnificent story, 5 stars!

When the Stars Lead to You by Ronni Davis

When the Stars Lead to You by Ronni Davis tells a beautiful love story alongside a fight against depression.
Thanks to NetGalley and Little Brown for the opportunity to read and review this book!
Devon meets Ashton and they hit it off immediately. They enjoy each other’s company so much that they don’t really want to spend time with anyone else. Devon notices that Ashton’s mind drifts away sometimes but it’s nothing that he talks about. On their last summer day together, Ashton doesn’t show up and he never answers any of Devon’s texts. A year later and on the first day of school, a new student sits by her in the school assembly audience. When she turns to see who it is, it’s Ashton. They don’t take the time to talk about things until they end up volunteering at a pet shelter all day. Ashton takes Devon to eat and then to his house to talk privately since his parents are away. He tells Devon that his parents expect him to be with an all-white descendant girl and won’t allow him to date her because she’s Black/Irish. Ashton takes things into his own hands and Devon discovers how much stress and pressure he’s dealing with. As they build their relationship, they both expand on who they are. This book has such an eye-opening story about depression and how it can be debilitating. It creates empathy for anyone dealing with depression and the people who love them. 5 stars for a beautiful love story that’s full of reality!

A Many Feathered Thing by Lisa Gerlits

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Heartwarming!
Thanks to NetGalley and Capstone for the opportunity to read and review A Many Feathered Thing by Lisa Gerlits!
This book tells a story about Clara and how she found her “voice”, gained confidence and built her self esteem. Clara continued to have ear infections when she was a baby and a toddler. When she was two, her parents realized she was having hearing problems, surgery helped with her hearing but she struggled to learn speech and lost confidence because of teasing from others and the frustration of trying to get the sounds right. Clara is reading The Diary of Anne Frank with her class at school. As she learns about Anne and her life, Clara sees parallels of Anne’s experiences and feelings in people she knows and associates with. This healing story inspired me to sketch again and that’s something I love to do but haven’t done for decades. Clara grows tremendously within the confines of this story, all because her self awareness grows and her confidence builds, thanks to the realization that she can do things, she can be brave and the faith that others have in her. Sometimes, all we need to grow is to have a chance to see outside ourselves and get a different perspective on life’s situations. A truly heartwarming story, 5 stars!