The Tragedy of Dane Riley by Kat Spears

Every adult and young adult should read this book!

Dane Riley is an interesting character. He needs purpose but has extreme difficulty finding any. His self esteem is rock bottom and he’s grieving the loss of his dad. Dane is a senior on the verge of graduating high school yet he has no idea what he wants for his future. He has a few good friends that don’t attend the same high school and he has a deep crush on Ophelia, his classmate that also happens to be his next door neighbor. This story gave me food for thought and some good advice along the way. I especially appreciate the statement that Dane’s English teacher told him:

“During high school, it seems like nothing that you’re doing is important, but if you want to eventually have an interesting job, to have some reason to look forward to getting up in the morning, the course you set for yourself really does matter.”

This is also a well-advised quote:

“Life is just what you make it. Nothing more. Nothing less.”

Every young adult and adult should read this book. It might build connections between parents and children, teachers and students and a greater understanding of the lives and perspectives of others. Am enjoyable and valuable read, 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!

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!

Overcoming Gaslighting by June Presley

When I was first approached about reading and reviewing this book, I didn’t know the term for the actions of manipulative people. Now I know gaslighting means exactly that. This book is a helpful and logical guide to recognizing, dealing with and overcoming the manipulative behavior of gaslighters, those narcissistic people that bring toxicity to everyday life. Examples are given of workplace scenarios and family situations to help identify the behavior.The next section delves into the questions of how and why people become manipulative. Then into the types of gaslighting. Some gaslighting occurs with intent while others can be unintentional. Gaslighting techniques are explored and discussed to help identify this behavior. Common signs of a gaslighting victim’s actions are listed also, to help readers recognize if this is happening to themselves or someone they know. Gaslighting is a “tool” of narcissists, who manipulate those around them. Effects of gaslighting on the victim can alter and inhibit normal life. Loss of self esteem, confidence, friends, emotional expression, feeling anxious and depressed, trust issues and submissive behavior are some of the results or effects of being a gaslighting victim. Being a victim can also take a huge toll on physical well being, since stress can cause health issues. Luckily, we can deal with and overcome gaslighting. First, recognition is the key and trusting yourself will help you gain the confidence needed to put the behavior out of your life. Self-affirmation exercises can help you gain your confidence back and mindfulness and meditation can help you strengthen your resolve and deal with and stop being a victim. Self-help for building awareness and regaining confidence!

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!

The Bookworm Crush by Lisa Brown Roberts

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A lighthearted story that takes on a few serious issues!
Bookworm Crush, by Lisa Brown Roberts and Entangled Teen, opens as Amy is sneaking around town at night. She sneaks out to decorate for a social media challenge so she can win a meeting with her favorite author. The winner also receives a scholarship. Toff happens to drive by as Amy is running scared because she heard a noise and falls. He stops to help Amy, not knowing that he’s Amy’s crush. Since it’s past curfew, a police officer pulls them over to question the reason they aren’t home. They feign a relationship, pretending that they lost track of time. Amy’s terrified of getting in trouble but Toff plays it cool and the police officer lets them go. Toff takes Amy home and her brother notices the two of them as she’s sneaking into the house. Her brother Brayden assumes they’re dating. This is the beginning of Toff having his eyes opened to Amy. He coaches her for the author competition and helps Amy build her “swagger”. His confidence rubs off on her and together they create fun, interesting social media posts. Meanwhile, Toff’s father is remarrying and Amy’s father is looking for a job. This lighthearted story takes on a few serious issues and character growth, 4 stars!

Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett

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Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett addresses several difficult topics with boldness and knowledge.  Simone was born HIV positive and she lives with her loving, adoptive parents, Dave and Paul, who she calls Dad and Pops. Simone recently moved to the school she’s now attending, after being tormented and shunned at her previous school when her best friend told everyone that Simone has HIV.  She wants a fresh start and her junior year is going well, at first.  She’s been assigned as the high school musical director for the school production of “Rent” because Broadway is one of her passions and her teacher believes she has what it takes to follow her dreams and make a career out of directing.  Simone meets this amazing guy, Miles, and they form a healthy relationship and she shares her secret with him.  Miles handles it kindly and with empathy and treats Simone the same as before.  Someone starts leaving threatening notes for Simone, warning her to break up with Miles or else.  Everything escalates after that and blow up.  Simone finds out who her true friends are and she has to decide whether to hold her head up high and persevere or run away from the same problem all over again.

 Be aware that Full Disclosure freely talks about sexual issues and questions, so not for sexually squeamish readers.
Impressive and bold young adult debut!

Tabitha’s Death by Jordan Elizabeth

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Love the cover!
Tabitha’s Death by Jordan Elizabeth. Author request. Tabitha feels like she’s lost everything and has nothing to live for. She slits her wrists after her best friend has died and her boyfriend uses her. She ends up in a sort of limbo, doing the bidding of the Gray Man. His tasks pile up and cause more torment and she begins to realize that she might never be freed from this. Tabitha meets several others who have ended their lives in different ways. They’re doing tasks for the Gray Man and other limbo creatures, trying to die and move on as they’ve been promised will happen when they’re finished with the creatures’ biddings. Tabitha was timid and submissive to everyone around her but she becomes a stronger person through her time in limbo. I enjoyed her character growth and was glad she was able to finally see her own worth. 4 stars!

Lots of Love Little One by Sandra Magsamen

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Precious book that builds self-esteem!
Thanks to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Jabberwocky for the opportunity to read and review Lots of Love Little One by Sandra Magsamen!
Drawn stitching on the illustrations and some of the words adds charm to this book. The illustrations are very cute! Unique ways to say I love you more than… compares how much a dog loves her bone and how much the stars twinkle at night. The language page shows the phrase, “I love you”, in several translated languages. Adorable and sweet, 5 stars!

After the Fire by Will Hill

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Gripping realistic fiction for young adults!
Thanks to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire for the opportunity to read and review After the Fire by Will Hill! The story opens during an attack and the main character, Moonbeam, is running for her life. She’s a resident of a community made up of fellow followers of The Legion and their leader is Father John. The fenced in community is under attack by the Government. Eventually, the attack is over and Moonbeam is at a rehabilitation center for mental and physical healing and also to learn to return to what she knows as the Outside. Moonbeam tells her story and the story of her fellow community members, Legionmates, through her interviews with a therapist and a government agent. The whole time I was reading this book, I kept thinking about the Waco Siege and its similarities to the Legion community. As I read the author’s note at the end of the book, he explains his reasoning for writing about the fictional character of Moonbeam and I was impressed with how delicately and respectfully he dealt with the similarities to Karesh’s religious community near Waco, Texas and how he honors the followers. The idea of one person gripping so many people and convincing them to sacrifice everything for that leader is curious and interesting and very sad. Will Hill handles this content well and breathes life into the characters and the tragic events that they lived or didn’t live through. 5 stars for this gripping realistic fiction story for young adults!