We Were Kings by Court Stevens

Nyla and her mom have struggled her entire life because it is just the two of them and they did not have much money. Her mother’s best friend, Frankie Quick, was convicted 20 years ago for murdering Cora King, the daughter of the well known King family in their small town. Since that time, Nyla’s mother has spent every waking moment trying to prove Frankie’s innocence, but time has run out. They recently passed a new law that will expedite the death penalty for anyone in Frankie’s situation. Frankie now has 30 days before her execution and Nyla’s mom is not handling the news well. For the first time, Nyla starts to put together some inconsistencies in the murder investigation and begins to suspect Frankie is indeed innocent. Along with her friend, Sam, who actually gives tours on the island of the now notorious Cora King murder, Nyla begins a new YouTube Channel called Death Daze and tries to get to the truth of what happened to Cora King. Along the way, Nyla uncovers some truly surprising twists in this case as she meets all the suspects, including the King family. Can she prove Frankie is innocent? Can she do it in time to save her? Is it possible Frankie really is a murderer? If not Frankie, who could’ve done such a heinous crime?

This mystery pulls you in right from the beginning as you follow Nyla along on her journey to discovering the truth. There are numerous surprises and exciting events as people try to keep Nyla from discovering the truth. Each time she hits a roadblock, though, she actually takes that as a sign that she is in fact going in the right direction. Frankie, whom she has known about her entire life, but only recently met, has become very important to her and she feels it is highly unlikely she is a murderer. Fans of mysteries who want a truly captivating and unique store will enjoy this title.

Family of Liars by E. Lockhart

In this prequel to We Were Liars, Carrie narrates the story of the first summer on the Sinclair island after they lost their beloved sister, Rosemary. Carrie, Penny, and Bess, the three remaining Sinclair sisters, are all doing their best to cope with the loss of their baby sister and each doing it in their own way. Carrie seems to be struggling the most as she had to undergo painful jaw surgery during the school year that has led to a pill addiction now. She is very much looking forward to her cousin coming to join her for the summer, but when Yardley finally comes she is joined by her boyfriend and two other boys. That greatly changes things as Carrie has never before had a boyfriend of any kind. As they frolic on the small island, she begins to form a relationship with Pfeff, but every time she gets her hopes up he always manages to disappoint her until they reach a breaking point. Will she look back on this summer with affection or not? Will she come to regret some of the things said and done during that fateful summer? Will she ever make peace with losing her baby sister?

Fans of the original story will enjoy learning more about the famous Sinclair family and how things got to be so difficult. There are a lot of twists in the plot of this story and the writing style is very descriptive and rich, but sometimes can be a little hard for struggling readers. It is refreshing to meet the sisters at such a young age and learn about some of the things they struggled with before they became adults. There is definitely a lot of pressure on them to be perfect in every way to the outside world. The characters in this story will leave readers thinking about them long after the book is finished. Recommended.

Mere Mortals by Erin Jade Lange

Genre: Fantasy

Charlotte (Charlie) and her brother Reg have been immortal vampires for over 100 years, but a recent unfortunate incident has led to them being severely punished… by becoming human again. They have no memories of their lives before they became vampires, so life as a human teenager is all new to them. They are taken to live with a former slayer who agrees to watch over them as they get acclimated to life as a high school student, but they are not interested in staying human. They desperately want to think of a way to get their status reversed, but in the meantime they are forced to attend school in Nowhere, Iowa. Charlie feels like Reg is adjusting easier than her because he has joined clubs and made friends, but he never wavers whenever she voices her desire to return to the vampire life. She worries that when or if they get that chance that he might choose to stay human. Meanwhile, she’s slowly adjusting as well. She’s on the Halloween Hoopla committee and enjoying time with new friends as well, but she believes that if given the chance she would do anything to become a vampire again…but that choice might be harder than she thinks. Can Charlie and Reg really leave their new life as humans and all the human memories behind? Will they ever adjust to life in Nowhere, Iowa or is it just not the life for them?

This fun fantasy starts a little slow with the pair adjusting to life as humans after a 100 years as vampires, but soon the characters develop and it’s easy to get pulled into their lives. The ending in particular is fun and exciting as several questions are answered regarding the vampire life and how it coexists with the humans. It is not predictable and the end will leave you wanting to know more about all of the characters in this climactic ending. Recommended for fantasy fans who do want too much suspense or gore.

Pride and Premeditation by Tirzah Price

Genre: Historical Mystery

In this fun retelling of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Lizzie is desperate to work for her father’s law firm, but he has kept her to the side working small office jobs because he doesn’t think it’s proper for a young lady to aspire to become a lawyer. Meanwhile, the heir to his estate, a dour Mr. Collins, is working at the firm and frequently takes credit for Lizzie’s work as he seems to have very little work ethic himself. Lizzie’s mom would love to see one of their five daughters marry Mr. Collins so that they will not be turned out of their house when Lizzie’s dad eventually dies. Lizzie has made it clear she has no interest in Mr. Collins and finds him rather repulsive. When Lizzie learns that there has been a murder and a Mr. Bingley has been accused of the crime, she immediately feels this is her shot to prove to her father that she can be a valuable asset to the firm. She goes to the jail to meet Mr. Bingley, but is not there very long before a Mr. Darcy arrives to post bail for his client and good friend. Mr. Darcy is not amused that Lizzie is inserting herself into this case, but Mr. Bingley is desperate for anyone to help him out of this predicament. The man who was murdered was Mr. Bingley’s brother-in-law and it was well known that the two were not getting on very well at the moment and that Mr. Bingley’s sister was planning to leave him. Lizzie decides she needs to prove her ability to solve a case by continuing to investigate and comes across a young man working as a runner named Mr. Wickham who seems very eager to help her. Meanwhile, Mr. Darcy has made it very clear that he doesn’t want her meddling in his case. Who can Lizzie trust to help her get to the truth? What secrets are the Bingley’s hiding? Can Lizzie every prove to her father that she is more valuable than Mr. Collins?

This fun retelling will interest anyone who enjoys historical mysteries. Fans of the original will have fun seeing how each character fits into this version. The mystery itself is very engaging and has some serious twists and turns leading up to its big finale. Mystery fans will not be disappointed by the resolution of the mystery. Lizzie’s character is true to her original nature, but pushes her to be even more forceful in her wish to find the truth for Mr. Bingley. There are several characters who do not play as big of a part as they did in the original, but that doesn’t detract from the interesting plot of the mystery. It was thoroughly entertaining throughout and it will be fun to see more in this series in the future.

My Sister’s Big Fat Indian Wedding by Sajni Patel

Genre: Romance/Realistic fiction

Zurika Damani is nervously awaiting her college acceptance letters to see if she can go to school for music (her passion is the violin) or if her parents will force her to go into pre-law as they do not believe music can be a viable career. There is a huge music competition coming up that she very much wants to go to because several elite college scouts will be there, but it during her sister’s weeklong wedding celebration. In the Indian culture there are many events around a wedding and Zuri’s family has made it very clear they expect her to be present at each and every wedding event. She must also rehearse several choreographed dance numbers and it is no secret that everyone thinks she and her partner would make a wonderful couple down the road. When she finally meets Naveen she realizes that he is not only charming, but a very talented singer who is also planning to go to the music competition. Zuri loves her family and wants to make them proud, but she can’t deny her natural inclination to pursue music as a career. Can she find a way to go to the competition without her family knowing? Is there any way her family would support her pursuing music in college? Does she think there could be a future for her and Naveen?

This story nicely depicts an American Indian family trying to incorporate all of their traditions into a wedding. There are not a lot of books about the American Indian culture and this is a good book to help normalize how students view the Indian culture around them. In many ways, Zuri’s family is like any other American family, but it is easy to see how even between generations there is a difference in how wedding traditions are viewed, which is something many families can relate to. Zuri is a very sympathetic character because she wants to be supportive of her family whom she loves, but she desperately wants some of that support for herself and her academic pursuits as well. Many students, regardless of culture, will be able to identify with feeling like you are an outsider in your own family. The relationships between the sisters and cousins are well developed and it’s easy to feel connected to this family and their story. Recommended for those who enjoy romances or books celebrating other cultures.

That Weekend by Kara Thomas

Genre: Mystery/Suspense

Claire wakes up alone and covered in blood on a hiking trail with no memory of the previous 24 hours. She remembers going to her best friend Kat’s cabin with Kat and Kat’s boyfriend, Jesse, on Friday, but it is now Sunday and she can’t remember anything that happened on Saturday. What’s worse is that Kat and Jesse are nowhere to be found and everyone is looking to her for answers. Claire is badly injured and must spend some time in the hospital while others comb the mountain looking for Kat and Jesse and Claire feels utterly helpless in every way. Meanwhile, she can’t decide if the police working the case believe that she has lost her memory or if they consider her a suspect in their disappearance. As a few days go by, Claire and her parents begin to feel like there is no one around they can trust and they decide to go home, but the chaos follows them and Claire begins to feel anxious all the time. Will she ever know what happened to her friends? Will she ever be able to accept that she might not get her memory back and move on?

This story moves between the past and present and allows the reader to follow Claire on her journey as she tries to make sense of what has happened. Kat’s parents are justifiably upset and worried, but it’s easy to see how their behavior starts to make Claire uncomfortable after awhile as if they blame her for being found while Kat was not. Kat definitely feels guilt that she is safe while they are not and struggles to make sense of this tragedy. There are several dramatic twists in the story that will keep readers wanting more. Fans of suspenseful mysteries with very surprising endings will thoroughly enjoy this title.

Sense and Second Degree Murder by Tirzah Price

Genre: Historical Fiction Mystery

Elinor Dashwood is greatly saddened when her father suddenly dies working at his desk one night. She has to break the news to her younger sisters, Marianne and Margaret, and their mother. To make matters worse, everything their father owned legally now belongs to his son from his first marriage, and his wife makes it very clear that they want them out of the house. With very little to their names, they must rely on the kindness of a distant relative who offers to rent them a tiny apartment in a bustling part of the city. Marianne, the middle sister, had previously worked with their father in his detective business and very much wants to keep it going, but is denied by her brother and his wife who now legally own the business and have chosen to close it. Before they move out of their home, Marianne notices that the teacup their father was drinking from the night he died contains an unusual substance. Elinor likes studying chemistry and immediately tries to find out what the substance is, but it does not appear to be a commonly known one. As they settle into their new life, they find that many of their old friends have forsaken them now that they are no longer a part of high society and they quickly learn who they can really rely on. Can they trust Edward Farrell, their brother’s brother-in-law, who seems to be eager to help the Dashwoods? Who is this mysterious man Mr. Willoughby who has begun to show a romantic interest in Marianne? Is it possible someone intentionally hurt their father and if so, why?

Fans of Jane Austen will enjoy this fun updated mystery version. All of the main elements are there from the original story, but the sisters seem more modern and savvy in their quest for truth and wisdom. The mystery itself holds up very well considering the characters are already set from the original version. Somehow the personalities of the characters remained in tact even as their role in the story changed to fit the mystery of how Mr. Dashwood died. There are many satisfying twists to the mystery and the resolution seemed fitting for the time period the story is set in. Highly recommended for Jane Austen fans and those looking for a fun historical fiction mystery.

I Am Margaret Moore by Hannah Capin

Genre: Fantasy/Realistic Fiction

Margaret Moore and her friends all go to Marshall Naval School every summer and proudly represent Deck Five. The previous summer, however, things were cut short because sometime bad happened. Margaret and her three best friends are determined to make up for it this year by showing everyone how strong Deck Five is in all of their competitions. Margaret notices that several girls failed to return this year, however, and she doesn’t know why. She also knows that something happened to one of the boy campers as well, but she doesn’t understand why the gossip mill keeps blaming her for every bad thing that happened. She does know that if she had been honest with her friends about what was going on with her the previous summer then some of this drama may have been avoided. Is it too late to tell them everything? Will they be able to help her or is it too late?

This story is told through chapters that alternate between the two important summers. The language used is very flowery and poetic, which helps to tell the story in a very unique way, but may be difficult for some readers to follow. The major revelations of the story come out slowly and not always in order, forcing readers to pay attention and put the pieces together, but the payout is worth it as the ending of the story is powerful and satisfying. Fans of We Were Liars will enjoy this title. Recommended for higher level readers looking for something that will challenge them.

All of Us Villains by Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman

Genre: Fantasy

Seven families in Ilvernath fight every generation for access to the high magick. Each family puts forth a competitor and they fight until the death and the winner/survivor’s family gets to control the high magick until the next Blood Moon determines it’s time for a new battle. Up until now this has been a secret arrangement, but an anonymous author recently wrote a tell-all book telling the world all about the bloody battle and suddenly the small town of Ilvernath has been flooded with reporters and tourists trying to see who will be chosen to represent the seven families. Each candidate has their reasons for wanting to represent their family and many have plans for how to outmaneuver the other contestants, but at what cost? What are they willing to sacrifice in order to secure that power for their families? Is there any way to bring this terrible curse to an end?

Each chapter focuses on a different candidate so that you can really see each of their perspectives. Alastair is a Lowe and they have historically won the most times and therefore he feels like he is expected to bring home that win even though he does not feel like his family is particularly supportive of him. Isobel was thrust into the spotlight first and as such seems to have a target on her back from everyone else. Gavin is from the Grieve family who not only rarely wins, but is believed to be the family behind the infamous book. Each character can agree that he or she does not want to die, but in the end they know that some must in order for them to survive. This is a dark tale with a new spin on magical abilities. Fans of Three Dark Crowns and other darker fantasy stories will be eager to see the second installment of this tale.

Nothing More To Tell by Karen M. McManus

Genre: Mystery

Brynn Gallagher vividly remembers when her favorite teacher was murdered on school grounds four years ago. The three students, one of whom was her good friend at the time, who found the body all had the same story and none were ever suspected of having anything to do with the murder. Brynn moved away shortly after, but has returned to the school for her senior year and, as an aspiring reporter, managed to get an internship with a true crime podcast and she’s hoping they’ll cover the mysterious death of Mr. Larkin. As she begins to look into the crime with fresh eyes, it’s apparent that many people, including the three students who found the body, all appear to be hiding something and she knows there is more to it than anyone knows. Can she get to the bottom of who killed Mr. Larkin? Can she ever find a way to fit into a school that prides itself on its social hierarchy?

Fans of McManus’s other titles will not be disappointed. The story twists and turns, but ultimately has a satisfying and surprising ending that explains all the questionable choices made surrounding this case. There are so many revealing facts that readers will be left guessing all the way until the end. The character development was pretty good, so it’s easy to see why everyone reacted as they did to this tragedy. Fans would welcome another novel set in this same illustrious school. Recommended for mystery readers.

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.


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