The Seclusion by Jaqui Castle

Genre: Futuristic Fiction

While out on a routine task for their jobs, Patricia “Patch” and her friend Rexx come across a van with contraband from before the seclusion, such as printed books and empty pop cans. Ever since the seclusion the U.S. has been separated from all other countries and every aspect of their lives is controlled by The Board, including where they live and what they do for a living. Patch has always found happiness in the fact that she enjoys her job at a laboratory as well as her first floor apartment that allows her a small garden. The only information they are given is routinely provided from The Board in mandatory news reports that everyone must stop and watch no matter where they are. There are also cameras in every place imaginable, even bathrooms, so privacy is something no one expects to have. When they find this mysterious van that is clearly from the “before” time, both Patch and Rexx find themselves very curious about what kinds of things were available in the old U.S. That curiosity gets them into trouble, however, and they must decide if they will just bow down to the Board who controls everything or if they will fight for answers.

This futuristic book combines similar aspects as books such as Matched, The Hunger Games, and The Testing. The main characters are struggling to learn what is real and what they have been taught is real. Every time they think they are getting ahead of the Board they are slapped back into reality and learn just how controlling the Board really is. This is the first in a two book series. Fans of futuristic stories will get pulled into this adventure as Patch tries to help her country who doesn’t even know they need help.

Dead Girls Can’t Tell Secrets by Chelsea Ichaso

Genre: Mystery

Savannah’s sister, Piper, was in a mysterious hiking accident that left her in a coma. Everyone thought it was a tragic accident, but Savannah is taking it particularly hard since she always felt like she was in Piper’s shadow. Piper seemed to just excel at everything she did and often Savannah felt resentful, which feels really wrong now that there’s a good possibility she won’t wake up. In order to try and connect with her sister a little, Savannah takes up one of Piper’s activities, which was the winderness club. In fact, they give her Piper’s backpack filled with wilderness essentials and it’s there that she finds a note telling Piper that there will be a wilderness meeting at the same time and place where she had her tragic fall. However, everyone in the group assures Savannah that there was no such meeting. Was someone with Piper when she fell? Did someone lure her there on purpose? Can Savannah find out what really happened to her sister?

This mystery presents several different characters who all seem to be involved in the story in some way, which makes it fun for the reader to follow along and find out who really knows what happened to Piper. It’s also easy to understand why Savannah has such mixed feelings toward her sister as you see how everyone continues to treat her even now that Piper’s not around. The mystery itself is fun and the ending is satisfying. It’s a fun read for those looking for something quick and light.

The Ivies by Alexa Donne

Genre: Mystery

Olivia Winters goes to Claflin Academy, a fancy prep school, for her senior year and is somehow befriended by the elite clique known as the Ivies. The Ivies are all from wealthy families and their goal is to all get into Ivy League Schools. They actively sabotage classmates in order to increase their own chances of getting in where they want to go. The only hitch is that they believe only two people are usually accepted into any Ivy League from a particular school. So, because queen bee Avery wants to go to Harvard, Olivia is instructed to choose another school. She secretly applies anyway and is unsure how to feel when she gets in. She’s thrilled to have gotten in, but worries how her friends will react and how she will pay for it. When Avery finds out she didn’t get accepted she goes ballistic and demands the other Ivies find out who did get in so she can “kill them.” When a murder does indeed occur Olivia is more terrified than ever to announce her new accepted status and for the first time realizes how under handed some of their schemes have been this year in order to keep others down. Are her friends really looking out for her or were they using her to get what they wanted? What would they do if someone got in their way?

This mystery story is unique in that it dives deep into the college application process for elite schools. The pressure to succeed and be the best is so prevalent in this school that you can almost see how these girls got to be so cutthroat in their path to success. Olivia is a sympathetic character who really seems to want to get the truth and due to her financial status is one of the few characters who truly has a lot to lose. The ending is satisfying and exciting. Recommended for mystery fans!

You’ll Be the Death of Me by Karen M. McManus

Genre: Mystery/Suspense

Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

Genre: Romance

Lina is spending the summer in Italy with the father she’s never known after the tragic death of her mom. Howard, her father, seems eager to please and although he wants to explain why he hasn’t been a part of her life Lina puts him off because she’s not ready to hear it just yet. Meanwhile, she receives the diary her mother kept the year she went to art school in Italy and she slowly begins learning what happened to her mother the year before she got pregnant. Lina also meets a local boy named Ren who agrees to show her around Florence and introduce her to other students of the American high school, a place Lina still isn’t sure she wants to go in the fall. As Ren and Lina become friends she allows him to read her mother’s journal and the two of them decide to start retracing her mother’s footsteps. Can they get to the bottom of why Lina’s mom left Italy and Lina’s father behind when she clearly loved it there? Will she ever learn why Howard was never a part of her life? Will Lina and Ren become more than friends?

This romance story has a beautiful setting in Italy and Lina does visit everything from famous landmarks to local restaurants, which makes for a fun journey. Lina’s grief for her mother is very clearly illustrated with her words and actions, but it is still frustrating to watch her struggle to find the truth when it could have been so much easier if she had trusted those around her. At times, both Lina and Ren act in ways that don’t seem to fit with their character up to that point, but as everyone knows, sometimes you can’t help how you feel. Recommended for audiences that enjoy romances.

Remember Me Gone by Stacy Stokes

Genre: Mystery/Fantasy

Lucy was born and raised in Tumble Tree Texas where her father has continued his family legacy of being able to take people’s sad memories away from them. People come from all over to have their memories taken and put into jars so that they can feel unburdened and Lucy was raised to believe this was a good thing her father does. Lucy has always harbored a desire to travel like her mother, but ever since her mother died those plans have been put on pause. It’s only when Lucy runs into the mayor’s nephew that she begins to realize that she thinks her memories of him are mysteriously gone. Something about him is familiar, but she can’t put her finger on it like the memory has been wiped away. Is it possible that her father would take her memories without her permission? Why would he want her to forget a classmate? Or were they more than that? Also, why does her father sneak out at night to go to the nearby mines? What is the mayor hiding about the mines that employ most of the town and how is her father involved? Can she ever recover what she lost? Will she ever really leave this town or is she trapped?

This unique story follows a girl who is trying to decide who she is and what her family does. The idea of memories is especially interesting because there are so many things tied up in memories that even though it might sound like a good idea to have things that are painful removed, it is never really that easy. It also does a nice job of showing how people with too much power and ulterior motives can absolutely influence a large number of people into doing their bidding. The story starts slow as it sets the scene, but is well worth the intricate plot and surprising twists as the story really takes off. The ending is very satisfying and believable, which is impressive with so much to resolve.

For Your Own Good by Samantha Downing

Teddy Crutcher is an English teacher at an elite prep school where money talks and appearances definitely matter. Whenever he feels a student is spoiled or entitled he often tries to find a way to take him or her down a peg and in his mind he is actually helping the student to learn that not everything in life can be bought. Enter Zach Ward, a rich and entitled student with very demanding parents who cannot handle their son not getting straight As in order to set up his entire future. Zach isn’t as worried about his grades as his parents are, but he definitely isn’t used to teachers not liking him and believing every word he says so he starts to keep a closer eye on Mr. Crutcher. Then, during a party at the school a very overbearing mom suddenly drops dead during the speeches. Everyone is shocked to learn that she was actually poisoned, but was it murder or an accident? Was she even the intended target? Soon, everyone at school is alarmed and the growing chaos leads to more gossip and false leads. Sadly, it also leads to more unfortunate incidents at the school that leaves everyone, including police, reeling and struggling to make sense of it. Who is trying to hurt people at this school and is it random or calculated?

In a place where everyone has secrets it can be hard to expose others without your own getting revealed. This story follows several different characters who all have connections to the Belmont Academy and their motivations are quickly revealed, as well as how far they will go to get what they want. The students and staff all feel superior to others in their own way and believe they deserve everything they want. Many are truly surprised when things do not work out as planned. The set up of this school is incredibly believable as students are more competitive than ever to get into prestigious colleges so they can enter enviable careers. It’s not hard to imagine how much tension there can be in an environment where everyone has such lofty goals. Teddy’s motivations are revealed quickly, but several other characters are concealing shady secrets of their own to the point that it’s hard to know who to root for. Fans of crime fiction and true crime podcasts will enjoy this title as it creates an eerie but realistic vibe.

I Must Betray You by Ruta Sepetys

Genre: Historical Fiction

Cristian is a seventeen-year-old boy living in Communist Romania with his entire family, including his elderly grandpa, in a tiny apartment. His Grandpa Bunu is very vocal about his displeasure for the Communist leader and how Bucharest has changed in recent years and Cristian’s mother is worried his opinions will get them all in trouble. Cristian goes to school 6 days a week while the rest of his family works ridiculous hours, and they still do not have the essentials they need such as proper food or clothing. They take turns waiting for hours in lines to get rations that still do not keep them nourished, and they know that there are spies and listening devices all over so they never feel they can speak freely. Cristian is shocked when he is approached at school to become an informer on an American diplomat’s son he recently met through his mother’s employment. He refuses at first, but then it becomes apparent they have been watching him and know exactly how to make him do exactly what they want. He hates himself for agreeing to spy, but it also makes him realize that if he can be blackmailed who knows who else around him is spying for the government as well. At one time or another he suspects most of those around him. Slowly they start to hear rumblings about a revolution and despite his mother’s warnings to keep his head down and stay safe, Cristian knows that if given the chance he would fight for a better Romania for its citizens. Will Cristian be able to outwit his handler or will he always be a step ahead? Will Cristian ever find out who he can trust among his family and friends? Will Cristian live long enough to see real change in his country?

Once again, Sepetys has highlighted a time in history that many people know very little, if anything about. The life Cristian, his family, and his school mates lead is unbelievably bleak, especially when you consider the final insult that they all suspect there are listening devices planted in their homes. The way the story is written it becomes easy for the reader to truly feel what it would be like to live this type of restricted, depraved existence, which is terrifying. Cristian is easy to identify with, but it still feels like he’s living in a no-win situation that can only end horribly. Recommended.

Castles In Their Bones by Laura Sebastian

Genre: Fantasy/Romance

Beatriz, Sophronia, and Daphne are princesses and triplets who were raised for the sole purpose of marrying the three nearby princes so that their mother could secretly find weaknesses that would allow her to invade and someday rule all of the land. They understood their purpose and endured a lifetime of training in poisons, code breaking, fighting, seductions, and so much more. Yet, once they are all sent to their new kingdoms things are not as simple as they first appeared and they start to realize there is more at play than they originally thought. Daphne arrives to find that her situation has changed irrevocably just prior to her arrival and is scrambling to re-strategize. Beatriz really likes her prince, but there is a problem that neither of them can ignore regarding their relationship. Sophronia, considered by their mother to be the weakest, starts to notice discrepancies in the way the kingdom collects and spends taxpayer dollars and starts to believe her and her new husband could potentially be really good rulers…if she doesn’t let her mother’s plotting get in the way. Can the three sisters who are so far from each other work together to untangle all the betrayals and secrets? How will they know who they can truly trust?

This exciting plot twists and turns from the beginning right up to the end. Fans of Grace and Fury and The Ash Princess series will devour this book and clamor for more. The three main characters are all placed in very different yet equally precarious situations that they must figure out largely on their own. All of them uncover betrayals and secrets that leave them shocked, which is saying something considering they were all raised with the sole purpose of overthrowing kingdoms. Their mother, while not a big character, is felt throughout the story and clearly has more power than even they could have predicted. The ending reveals some answers, but there are still many more to be had. Recommended.

Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon

Genre: Romance

Yvette’s world shatters when her parents announce they are getting divorced and her belief is true love is put to the test. She does not react well to the news that her mother, her sister, and her must move out of their family home and into a smaller apartment and decides it is time to downsize her belongings as well. She takes all of her favorite romance books to donate to a free library. When she is there a mysterious woman convinces her to take a book in return for her donation and she grabs the book titled Instructions for Dancing. After receiving this book, Yvette notices that every time she sees a couple kiss she see flashes of their entire relationship from beginning to end, and they always end. This only cements her belief that love never lasts and she decides if she gets rid of the book she might not see these premonitions anymore. She notices that there is an address inside for a local dance studio and goes to return the book, but the instructor sees something in her and convinces her to practice for a big ballroom dancing competition. Yvette does not know why, but she feels drawn to the dance floor and her magnaminous partner, X. Can she really get involved with someone when she is so down on romance at the moment? Will she ever be able to reconcile with her father after he tore their family apart?

Fans of Nicola Yoon will not be disappointed with this story about two very thought out characters and their struggle to find their way in a complicated world. There are also many interesting side characters that prove nothing is ever as cut and dried as it first appears. Not all young adult readers enjoy reading romances, but this one truly has something for everyone if they are willing to give it a chance. The characters are all going through very relatable issues and most everyone can find something they can identify with. Highly recommended.

The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave

Genre: Mystery

Hannah has been married for over a year and it has been going relatively well except for the fact that her husband’s teenage daughter does not care for her. She’s still hoping that things will get better when she receives a note from her husband, delivered by a stranger, asking Hannah to protect his daughter. That is the moment that Hannah learns her husband has gone on the run and she has no idea why. His daughter, Bailey, is equally confused and hurt once she discovers that he left her a bag full of cash and no further instructions. Hannah and Bailey reluctantly work together to find out the truth about Owen, but the more they learn the more they discover they didn’t know about him. First of all, his name was not actually Owen and he is not from New England like he had said. It’s not a coincidence that Owen went on the run after his company was highly publicized for fraud and other charges, but Hannah isn’t convinced that is the issue he’s running from. She thinks there’s something from his past that he is terrified will find his daughter, but the question is what and will they ever see him again? Can Bailey ever trust her enough to find out the truth together?

Fans of The Woman in Cabin 10 and the Woman in the Window will enjoy this title, but it is not as dark as those. As Hannah begins to find answers, the reader will most likely be surprised at why Owen ran and the difficult choices Hannah feels she needs to make going forward. Recommended for readers looking for a fun, fast paced mystery or for a book club looking for an engaging mystery.

Vinyl Moon by Mahogany L. Browne

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Angel was forced by her mother to move across the country to live in New York with her Uncle and start a new life. She misses her siblings terribly, but if she’s honest with herself she doesn’t blame her mother for trying to get her out of a challenging situation. Her Uncle is very kind to her and tries to help her get settled at her new school. She has a seminar class called H.E.R. which stands for Her Excellence in Resilience and Honoring Everyone’s Roots where she and her classmates are free to share and learn about each other. Angel becomes immersed in her lit. class where she has access to all kinds of amazing authors she previously never had time for since she was helping to raise her younger siblings. Reading these stories by authors such as Toni Morrison and Zora Neale Hurston gives her some time to reflect on her own situation and the choices she had made at her old school. Can she overcome her past to heal both inside and out? Can she focus on herself instead of worrying about everyone around her? Can she make new, authentic friends and find a way to shine at this new school?

This book is hard to put down until the very end. Angel is such a dynamic character and even though readers do not know for awhile what situation she is running from, it is obvious she is trying to heal in multiple ways from some terrible event. The way the author weaves in her poetry is also really engaging because it helps shine a light on Angel’s feelings in a way that prose can’t. The characters are all really interesting too, considering many of them only appear a handful of times yet are so memorable the reader welcomes them back each time. Recommended for readers looking for something that will make them think, because this book will lead readers to thinking about a variety of things long after the last page has been read.

You’ll Be the Death of Me by Karen M. McManus

Genre: Mystery/Suspense

Ivy, Cal, and Mateo used to be close in junior high after they all skipped school one day and had “the best day ever” and were never caught. They have drifted apart in high school, but one day fate brings them together and they all decide to skip again in the hopes of rekindling that magical day. Unfortunately, things do not go as planned and they end up witnessing the aftermath of the murder of a classmate. They know they had no business being there and it looks very bad so they run. As they try to figure out what happened on their own, it becomes clear they are all dealing with some pretty difficult secrets that they must trust each other with in order to be able to move on. Can they clear their names even as rumors start swirling that they know what happened to their classmate and could have been involved? Will they ever be as close as they once were? Is there anyone out there they can trust?

This story engages readers right from the beginning, because you naturally feel for all of them in one way or another. It is really easy to identify with all of their struggles and yet you can see how they all came to make the choices that they did. Without giving too much away, the ending is very exciting and dramatic and leaves room for more in a potential sequel. Readers who enjoyed One of Us is Lying will enjoy this title.

The End of Her by Shari Lapena

Genre: Mystery

Stephanie and Patrick are struggling to care for their new twins who have colic and never stop crying for hours on end. Stephanie is exhausted and barely keeping it together, while Patrick has been reprimanded at work for his work product lately due in part to his exhuastion. They are still relatively happy, though, until someone from Patrick’s past begins coming around and alleging that he killed his first wife. Stephanie knew his first wife had died, but she didn’t know the specifics. At first, she is skeptical of Erica and a little afraid of what she might do if they don’t pay her the money she wants, but ultimately Stephanie refuses to give some of the trust she got from her parents to pay a blackmailer. Now Erica is threatening to go to the police and Patrick is scared they will reopen the case. Could he be hiding something? Should Stephanie be afraid of the father of her children?

This suspenseful novel takes you on an adventure from the beginning. It is difficult to know the truth when everyone seems to be telling a different story. The characters are all well developed and it’s easy to see why they act the way they do. The ending is very exciting and readers will be both stunned and surprised. Fans of books such as the Girl on the Train and the Woman in the Window will enjoy this.

Love is a Revolution by Renee Watson

Genre: Romane/Realistic Fiction

Nala Robertson is a very typical teenager who enjoys relaxing and having fun, so when she has go to an open mic night for an activist group for her cousin’s birthday she isn’t too excited. However, the emcee for the event, Tye, immediately catches Nala’s eye and she finds a way to talk to him after the show. He is funny, charismatic, and passionate, which Nala loves, but he is also a very serious activist for causes he cares about. Nala is worried he won’t like her since she doesn’t have any strong causes that she supports, so she lies and tells him she volunteers at her grandmother’s assisted living home, amongst other things. She knows she will be in trouble if Tye or anyone else finds out about her lies, but she’s so afraid he won’t like her if he knew the real Nala. Can she ever face the truth of who she is and will that be enough for Tye? Will she begin to change like those around her to find things she cares about and is willing to dedicate all her time and energy to?

This engaging story tackles serious issues such as finding ways to love yourself and mother/daughter issues, but does so in a way that feels light and fun. Many readers will be able to identify with Nala and her fear of not being accepted, sometimes even by herself, for who she truly is. At the same time, she must realize that people are constantly changing and growing and it’s absolutely possible to change yourself at any stage of life. Several of the supporting characters are fun, such as Nala’s grandmother and all of her friends at the assisted living home. There are many examples of love in this story and it’s through all these different relationships that Nala begins to understand how love is present in her life and how she contributes love to those around her. Recommended for fans of romances, but also for people who enjoy real stories about unique people.


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