Kingdom of the Cursed by Kerri Maniscalco

The intensity multiplies in the second book of the Kingdom of the Wicked series!

Emilia finds herself in the Seven Circles of Hell with Wrath by her side. He’s guiding her to Pride and she’s reminded of the temptations surrounding her in Hell. Wrath keeps reminding her that what she’s seeing isn’t real but a test.
They eventually get to Wrath’s elaborate home and Emilia senses and eventually knows that he’s continuing to have secrets that either he won’t or can’t share. This is a story of intensities, secrets, curses, deception, bonds, passion, and twists. I could not put this book down and the ending is perfect for continuing the story into the third and final book! Wrath and Emilia have an intriguing relationship and they’re both stuck in a kind of limbo. Emilia has been kept in the dark and Wrath isn’t allowed to divulge information. I’m anticipating the third and final book. This series reminds me of Sarah J. Maas’ writing in the ACOTR series because they’re both awesome! 5 stars!

Cupcake by Cookie O’Gorman

Deliciously cute and innocently romantic!

Cupcake by Cookie O’ Gorman is a deliciously cute and innocently romantic read for young adults!
Ariel is a full bodied young woman and she’s proud of who she is even when others are unkind. Her best friend, Toni, nominates her for the Homecoming royalty without Ariel knowing. Ariel may like herself but she’s been bullied about her size and that makes her wary of gaining attention or being in any spotlight. Being part of the homecoming royalty stresses her out. Ariel has many talents and friends. She’s kind and caring and loves to bake amazing treats for sharing and posting on her vlog. Rhys is her designated homecoming prince for all of the activities and he’s also the star quarterback. She’s a bit intimidated by him and the other royalty. As she gets to know the other royalty better and they get to know her, friendships begin. Cupcake is an adorable story of growth, confidence and loving yourself!

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

Unique story of freedom, love and sacrifice!

Addie was going to be forced to marry a widower with young children, so she prayed and sacrificed to any God that would listen. Darkness appeared and made a deal to give her freedom for her soul. Years, decades, then three centuries go by while Darkness visits Addie sporadically. No one remembers her after she leaves their sight. If she sees them again, they reintroduce themselves as if they’ve never seen her before. She’s truly lonely. She also can’t keep possessions or stay in one place long. Every one of her possessions disappears except for a carved wooden ring. She wanders the world for three hundred years, experiencing famine, poverty, cruelty and love. Addie shows great strength as her character grows through her many experiences. A truly unique story of freedom, love and sacrifice, 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!

The Love Song of Ivy K. Harlowe by Hannah Moskowitz

Food for thought!

I begin reading with an open mind and a few pages in there’s a comment about people knowing the narrator is gay because of piercings and colorful tattoos. I don’t believe that everyone that fits in that category is gay; that’s just stereotypical annoyance. The book has more new adult than young adult content since the characters are college age, and content contains sexual innuendos and swearing. I actually grew to enjoy the variety of characters and appreciate the topics that the author approached tastefully. Mental and physical health, drugs, overdoses and the universal question of what to do with your life are brought up and dealt with well. I do worry about STDs and the nonchalant sex life of Ivy. I wish something about protection during sexual activity was mentioned, especially since the main character’s mother is a nurse. I enjoyed the story and couldn’t put it down after a while. Interesting with food for thought, 4 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!

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!

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!