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The Lovely and the Lost by Jennifer Barnes

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Number of pages: 326

Kira was left to fend for herself in the woods as a child until Cady Bennett and one of her search and rescue dogs found her. Cady is well known for being an exceptional search and rescue person and she has trained her two kids, Kira and Jude, and the neighbor, Free. When Cady’s father suddenly turns up and asks for her help in finding a missing girl they all pack up to drive several hours to help locate her. It’s strange for the three teens, however, because up until now they had never seen Cady’s dad. They know there was a falling out, but that is all they know. As they all begin searching for the little girl it becomes obvious that some family secrets will start to spill out, as well as some old memories of living in the woods for Kira. Can they rescue the little girl who they believe might have been taken? Can they reconcile as a family? Can Kira deal with the demons of her past?

Many people do not know much about search and rescue dogs and handler training, which makes this story unique and interesting right from the start. Then, there is the mystery of what happened to the little girl, but as the book goes on there are several other exciting plot twists. The characters all have their own baggage and it takes awhile for all of them to help each other face it. The ending has some dramatic, unexpected surprises that will thrill both mystery fans and fans of survival fiction. Recommended for reluctant readers.

The Hawthorne Legacy by Jennifer Barnes

Genre: Mystery

Number of Pages: 258

In this sequel to the Inheritance Games, Avery is still navigating her new life as an heiress. When rumors begin spreading that Tobias Hawthorne’s son, Toby, is still alive Avery and her cousins begin trying to find out where he is and why he ran away from the family in the first place. Meanwhile, there are definitely people trying to steal Avery’s money and they don’t care who they have to hurt to get it. For example, creepy things have been left in her room despite her having 24/hr security. She’s also noticed that the longtime Hawthorne employees definitely do not feel like she belongs at the manor and go out of their way to treat her as such. Plus, Avery’s long lost father has returned and is threatening to try and get custody of her, and by extension, her billions. Who can Avery really trust? Is Toby really alive and if so why doesn’t he want his inheritance? What are Grayson and Jameson’s intentions toward her?

This book was really a continuation of the first and was just as much fun with several twists and turns along the way. Avery and the Hawthorne’s definitely keep things interesting as they try to find new clues left behind by Tobias, the patriarch. No one living seems to know all of the Hawthorne secrets and even people who think they know everything get surprised at one point or another in this book. Despite the many changes that Avery has experienced in a short amount of time, she is always so curious to find out what happens that she doesn’t seem to worry too much about her own personal safety. She is definitely unsure of how to handle the potential affections of the Hawthorne Brothers. Fans will want to see more from this fun, fast paced mystery story and its lively characters.

The Eyes of the Forest by April Henry

Genre: Mystery/Suspense

Number of Pages: 258

Bridget and her mom were both huge fans of RM Haldon’s fantasy series. They were frequently read it together before her mom died. After her mom’s death, Bridget corrected something Haldon said at a book signing and he asked her to be his assistant to help him keep track of the many details embedded in the books. She created a big database to keep track of characters, weapons, etc. They mostly corresponded through email, but then one day the emails change and become more cryptic. She begins to suspect Haldon is in danger, but no one believes she works for him or even knows him. He is a known recluse and the police think she is just a crazed fan. Can she crack the code of his emails in order to find the truth? Can she find anyone to believe her before it’s too late?

Fans of April Henry and Stephen King will enjoy this title because it brings all the suspense and drama that Henry usually brings with a little bit of Misery for a more modern audience. The story moves quickly between Haldon and Bridget as the story unfolds. The ending is satisfying as there isn’t a quick, neat ending, but instead is messy and believable. Recommended for reluctant readers who want a quick, fast paced mystery.

In the Study with the Wrench by Diana Peterfreund

Genre: Mystery

Number of pages: 327

Still reeling from the murder of their Headmaster in the first book of this series, Orchid, Vaughan, Scarlet, Mustard, Peacock, and Plum have all returned despite the fact that they are now referred to on campus as the “murder crew.” All of them have their own reasons for wanting to return, but are not expecting it when another staff member is murdered. They also start getting mysterious notes that seem to just be targeting the six of them. There is also a new student who has been keeping an annoyingly close eye on the group and some of them don’t believe she’s a regular student. The school administration is trying desperately to keep things afloat after all this tragedy and do not want the students snooping around or making anything worse, but they feel they have a real need to find out what’s going on because they seem to be targets for whomever is behind these terrible events. Can they find out who is behind this new murder without getting hurt themselves? Is this murder unrelated to the murder in the first book? Can they trust each other or will their secrets get in the way?

This sequel to In the Hall with the Knife is a natural continuation of the first story and fans will want to keep going with these characters. In the first book, the reader learned how many secrets each character has and those were fleshed out a bit more in this one. The characters are all interesting and developed and it will be fun to see how they develop even more in the next one. Readers looking for a fun, lighter mystery will enjoy this title.

The Betrayed by Kiera Cass

Genre: Romance

Number of Pages: 292

In this sequel to The Betrothed, Hollis has been forced to flee her home country after her husband and parents were brutally murdered. All she has left is her new mother-in-law and sister-in-law. They have chosen to return to their homeland, but they are unsure if they will be welcome as the Isoltan King has made it clear he does not trust their family. Her husband’s cousin, Etan, has come to help them on the long journey but he has made it very clear that he does not care for Hollis and feels she has put his family in unnecessary danger. Hollis finds that she must prove herself to everyone she meets in this new kingdom because so few people trust Coroans. As she tries time and again to prove her loyalty to the family, Etan begins to come around and eventually the two grow close. They can’t help but feel guilty about their new infatuation after the recent demise of Hollis’s husband, who was Etan’s cousin. When they are summoned for a wedding of the Prince of Isolte, the King is very surprised to hear that Hollis’s husband and his family were brutally murdered. Hollis finds this interesting because she had assumed he was the one who ordered the attack. If the King of Isolte did not order her husband’s death then who did? Is she still in danger from this person? Why would someone want to murder her entire family on her wedding day? Is there any way for her and Etan to be together without feeling terrible guilt?

This book has a lot more action and drama than the first one did. The Betrothed ended in a really exciting way, but The Betrayed has more action and plot twists throughout the entire story. Hollis is a much stronger character than she first appears, but that could be because she finds along the way that there are things she truly cares about. In the beginning she simply went along with whatever people asked her to do, but by the end she is a force and will not be silenced. The ending has a few convenient developments that readers might find to be too easy, but nonetheless they will be satisfied with the ending of the story. The characters grow and develop throughout this series and readers will care what happens to them in the end.

Ever Cursed by Corey Ann Haydu

Genre: Fantasy

Number of Pages: 296

The princesses of Ever were all cursed by a witch, Regan, five years ago. On their 13th birthday, each of them has lost something. Jane, the oldest, lost the ability to eat. Although she has not died she has withered away and become very weak and feeble. Meanwhile, her sisters lost the ability to sleep, love, remember, and hope, respectively. At the same time they were cursed their mother was frozen into a glass box overlooking the kingdom. The witch who cast the curse did so in a fit of rage and didn’t properly think through the repercussions. The king seems unperturbed by his family getting cursed and still seems happy and well adjusted, despite his wife and daughters’ suffering. Also, the princesses must break the curse before the Regan’s 18th birthday…which is in five days. As the princesses and Regan work together to try and break the curse they realize they may not be as different as they previously thought. They also begin to uncover a lot of secrets the kingdom has been hiding. Is it too late to save everyone? Can they bring back happiness to EVERYONE in the kingdom and not just the royalty? Can royalty and witches come together in harmony without fighting for power?

This fantasy story is unique, which fantasy fans will enjoy. The characters are all well developed and the plot has several twists and turns that will surprise the reader, but are completely supported by the set up of the story. The female characters are all strong and brave in their own way and they begin to see they have been deceived by the king, the most powerful man in the kingdom. The ending is very exciting and satisfying, which will leave readers wanting more. Recommended for fantasy fans.

The Secret Recipe for Moving On by Karen Bischer

Genre: Romance

Number of pages: 280

Ellie Agresti was blindsided when her boyfriend of 8 months dumped her on the first day of senior year. Ellie had been a semester transfer the year before and therefore hadn’t made many friends of her own once she met Hunter and she joined his group of friends. Now, she is facing a horrible reality of starting school alone yet again. To make matters worse, she is in Home Ec with Hunter and his new girlfriend, Brynn, and they seem to make it a mission to rub their relationship in her face. She ends up with a bizarre group of students for her home ec group, but as time goes on Ellie begins to realize they all have their strengths. Slowly, her home ec group starts to work together and fight to be the champion group by the end of the semester. One member of the group, Luke, started out really annoying Ellie but she grows to find him funny, smart, and helpful. The only problem is that Luke has been dating a girl for awhile and she is determined to never do to anyone else what happened to her. Can her and Luke find a way to be together where it doesn’t feel like she broke them up? Can her home ec group master the skills required for life and beating the other home ec groups in her class? Can Ellie find a way to be happy in this new school on her own, without the help of a boyfriend to tell her what to do or who to hang out with?

This book is fun and funny as Ellie struggles with very relatable high school issues such as dating and group projects. She definitely has a lot to juggle and often mistakes are made, which many readers will be able to identify with. She is quick to apologize if she is wrong and willing to take responsibility for her actions, even when provoked. The romance between Luke and Ellie is slow building and exciting as they truly get to know each other and find ways to support each other in their own ways. Fans of romances by authors such as Jenny Han and Sarah Dessen will enjoy this title.

Baby and Solo by Lisabeth Posthuma

Genre: Realistic Fiction/Romance

Number of Pages: 406

Joel has had some difficult struggles in his life and he is hoping for a fresh start when he gets a part time job at a video rental place (this book is set in the 90s). Everyone at the store adopts movie names and he becomes Solo. His first day on the job he meets Baby and he is immediately intrigued by her. She asks him to help her with a huge favor, and he realizes that everyone has stuff they are dealing with. As their friendship develops, Baby starts to get frustrated that he knows so much about her and she doesn’t know anything about him, but he is afraid she’ll never look at him the same way again if she knew about his past. He knows, eventually, everyone will find out about “the bad thing that happened” but until that time comes he wants to just be Solo and enjoy having friends and a normal life for once, especially as things at home deteriorate even further than they already had. Can he ever move on from the terrible events in his past? Will his friends stand by him if they knew everything he has been through?

This book has a fun 90s nostalgia being set in a video store. Even readers too young to remember traditional video stores will be able to clearly see why they were so popular and why a group of teenagers would have so much fun working here. Baby and Solo both have some serious issues they are dealing with and often they lash out either verbally or physically as a means to cope with what is happening. The side characters are all well developed too and it’s easy to see why they would both be more comfortable at times with the employees at the video store than with their parents at home. Readers will find themselves drawn in by the characters and trying to find out Solo’s secrets before Baby does. Fans of The Fault in Our Stars and Eleanor and Park will enjoy this story about two people meeting under the wrong circumstances who still manage to be there for each other during tough times.

Night Swim by Megan Goldin

Genre: Mystery

Rachel Krall has a murder podcast that has gained her some notoriety, but she is used to being fairly anonymous which is why she’s so stunned when she starts receiving letters on her car, in her hotel room, and other places that no one should know about. The letters are from the sister of a girl, Jenny Stills, who died 25 years ago under mysterious circumstances. Officially, the death was ruled a drowning, but as Rachel starts investigating it does seem like the facts don’t add up. In the meantime, the reason Rachel is in this small town is to report on a rape trial going on that has divided the town. Everyone has an opinion about the two people involved in this case and feels like they should have a say in what happens. The boy is a promising swimmer and many believe that he shouldn’t have his reputation sullied by a girl they believe simply changed her mind. The girl’s parents, however, say she hasn’t been the same since that fateful day and they know it was indeed rape. Can Rachel report on this case in a way that portrays both sides equally and fairly while holding off the growing hostility of the people in the town? Can she get to the bottom of what happened to Jenny Still all those years ago and bring peace to Jenny’s sister?

This story is engaging from the beginning as both the ongoing trial and the mystery from the past have many twists and turns in them. The fact she runs a podcast is also interesting because more and more people have been enjoying crime podcasts lately. Rachel’s character seems fleshed out and you can definitely see how motivated she is to make her podcast relevant, but also factual. The eventual resolution is satisfying and doesn’t feel too rushed as the pieces start to come together. Fans of The Escape Room, The Woman in Cabin 10, and the Woman in the Window will enjoy this title.

Grown by Tiffany D. Jackson

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Enchanted Jones dreams of one day becoming a professional singer, which is why she sneaks off to an audition she knows her parents would say no to. Even though she is not cast for the role she auditioned for, she is noticed by one of the judges, R&B singer Korey Fields. She is immediately swept up in his attention and believes he really wants to help her make a record and improve her singing talent. Korey even convinces her parents to let her travel with him on tour, but things quickly turn sour when Enchanted realizes Korey is not the man he claims to be. At this point, she isn’t sure how to break away from him, though. She’s given up so much for this life and he has convinced her she deserves to be treated the way he treats her. Is there anyone out there who can help her get away from this terrible situation? Anyone who would believe the truth about Korey Fields?

This powerful, timely story is relatable to so many young girls who have had their dreams cast aside by powerful men who believe they can take what they want in life. This book does not shy away from difficult topics such as abuse and rape, but it is done in a way that seems respectful to the main character being forced to go through this. This is a story that will be hard for some readers, but it’s important to have this kind of book available so students are aware of different ways grown ups can take advantage of kids. Fans of The Hate U Give, or similar titles that delve into tough topical issues, will enjoy this title.

Game Changer by Neal Shusterman

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Number of Pages: 387 p.

Ash is a typical football player in his high school when one day he takes a big hit and wakes up to a changed world. The changes aren’t big at first, stop signs are now blue and no one but him remembers them ever being red, etc. As he tries to make sense of these changes, though, he knows that with each big hit he could potentially see bigger changes, which is exactly what happens. He quickly learns that there are infinite possibilities for what his world could become and in a lot of ways he just wants to go back to where he started, but isn’t sure how to do that. Meanwhile, his best friend suffers some devastating losses in the new realities and he desperately wants to help him. Can he find a way to fix the world that has become so fragmented? Can he find out why this is happening?

Each reality brings major changes to Ash’s world and several big issues are discussed such as wealth, race, gender, and abuse. Ash’s character is remarkably open and mature to the changes he sees every time he takes a big hit and he seems determined to try and make his world a better place. His shock every time someone tries to intimidate him into doing something against his moral compass is not surprising. The ending will satisfy readers and leave them thinking a lot about different realities in their own world.

The Other Side of Perfect by Mariko Turk

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Number of pages: 326

Alina has been studying ballet for 10 years and has plans to make a career out of it when a devastating injury brings her dream crashing down. With therapy, she is able to walk and resume normal functionality, but her dreams of ballet dancing are over. She must learn to engage fully in her high school and begin to heal and make new friends. She quickly learns that many of the high school peers had previously seen her as standoffish as she never spoke to anyone and only focused on ballet. Now, that she is going to school full-time and not splitting her time with ballet she has to find a way to be happy and start to deal with the grief she feels over the loss of ballet. One way her parents convince her to move on is to try out for the school musical and she ends up getting a dancing part. She comes to find that there are several great people who try out for the play, but every time she starts to forget about her past her best friend texts her to see how she’s doing. She knows her best friend is just trying to stay close and has the best intentions, but she finds herself feeling dread every time she gets a text. She does not want to know what is happening at her own studio now that she is not there, but she knows it isn’t her friend’s fault that she got hurt. Can she overcome the sadness of losing ballet in order to appreciate the good things she has in life? Can she make true friends at her school who will support her even when she acts irrationally? Can she stay friends with someone who still does ballet when she can’t?

Alina’s story will resonate with many teenagers simply because many are trying to reach a difficult goal and often face obstacles such as injury that stand in the way. Alina is fortunate to have so many people who want to help and support her, but it’s hard to accept help when you’re not ready for it. The book does touch on some racial biases in the world of ballet as well, which is something readers may not be aware of. Family is another topic that is mentioned as Alina must reconnect with the sister she left behind on her quest to dance. This story emphasizes the importance of family and friends in life to help you get through the tough times, but to be by your side for the good times. Recommended for fans of Jenny Han or Suzanne Colasanti.

The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

Genre: Fantasy

Number of Pages: 418

Deka has been dreading her purity ceremony for her entire life since she has always felt like an outsider. A purity ceremony is when a village tests the blood of all girls who have turned 16 to see what color it is. If a girl’s blood turns red, she is welcomed into the community, but if it doesn’t she is considered unnatural and put to death. On the fateful day, some monsters attack the villagers at the ceremony and Deka steps up to help, but in doing so shows that she has the ability to communicate with them. One of her friends, horrified by what he saw, stabs her to see what color her blood is and it runs gold. She is then tortured for weeks while they figure out what to do with her, but then a mysterious woman comes and offers her the chance to come with her and fight with girls just like her against a powerful foe of the kingdom. This may be her only chance to escape a life of torture and regret. Does she have the strength to fight for a people that would hate her based on the color of her blood? Can she find a way to get to the truth of who she really is?

Deka’s story is engaging from the beginning as it is so easy to identify with a girl who just wants to fit in and make her father proud. Unfortunately, things are not that easy and instead she faces pain, both physical and emotional, as she watches everyone she ever loved turn against her. The history of these magical people, or Alaki, takes awhile to be revealed, but in the process Deka learns a lot about the many girls who came before her and the sacrifices they made. The ending is especially satisfying as it is revealed who she can really trust and who has betrayed her. Fans of Children of Blood and Bone and Grace and Fury will enjoy this title.

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

Genre: Sci/Fi

Number of Pages: 303

Klara is an artificial friend who loves looking out the window at her store hoping that one day she’ll find a family to go home with. Klara is very observant and notices a lot about the people and places around her. This is why she catches the eye of Josie, a young girl who has a stilted walk who comes to the city once in awhile and talks to Josie through the window. She knows she is meant to take Klara home, but it takes her awhile to convince her mother. When Josie finally gets to take Klara home she is blessed to become part of the family, even if Josie does get sick from time to time which causes great stress to the household. Klara feels it is her responsibility to look after everyone and truly wants the best for everyone around her. As Josie’s health deteriorates, Klara feels it is up to her to try and find a way to make her well, but what does she know about such things? Her never-ending hope begins to rub off on those around her and they begin to think that Josie may have a happy ending after all. Can Klara help heal Josie? If Josie grows up what will become of Klara?

This unique story follows an observant, but neutral narrator who truly tells it like she sees it as she doesn’t have any feelings clouding her judgment. It takes awhile to a clear picture to come out about the world this is set in and what tough decisions humans have to face regarding new technology. The characters are all interesting, but the reader only knows as much as Klara can observe so they are not always well developed. Fans of futuristic stories will enjoy this title and find it truly different than other novels.

Sing Me Forgotten by Jessica S. Olson

Genre: Fantasy

Number of Pages: 325

Isda was rescued from a well at birth after being cast aside by her mother for being a gravoir. A gravoir is someone who can maniupulate other people’s memories when they sing and it is illegal to raise a gravoir, which is why her mother tried to kill her. Cyril, the owner of the opera house, kept her in the shadows her entire life so she could manipulate the memories of the opera guests in a way they would remember the shows more fondly and want to buy more tickets. She always felt like Cyril did his best toward her and even cared for her, until she met a new janitor by the name of Emeric. Not only was Emeric’s voice mesmerizing, but when he sang his memories were vibrant and colorful and Isda was immediately drawn to him. She knew he had potential to be an amazing opera star with a little training and she convinces him to let her train him so that she can have a hand at putting someone on the stage, even if it can’t be her. As they grow closer, Isda knows that if Cyril or anyone else finds out her entire existence could be put into jeopardy. Plus, she begins to think there are skills she may have that Cyril has not told her about. Is she capable of more? Who can she really trust: Cyril or Emeric? How much trouble would she really be in if she were discovered?

Fans of musicals and the stage will be captivated by this tale of an outcast simply wanting to fulfill her dreams, including finding a friend. As the story develops, the action really takes off and you can’t help but root for the main characters to find truth and happiness. The rules for this world are fully developed and explained as the story goes on, which is why some aspects of the ending are so powerful. There are many plot twists in this creative setting and fans will want to see more from this world. Highly recommended for fantasy readers.


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