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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.

The Last Beautiful Girl by Nina Laurin

Genre: Fantasy/Suspense

When Isabella Brixton is forced to move away from her home, friends, and starring role in her school play she is sure her life is ruined. Her parents have been offered jobs they simply cannot turn down, but the university they work for is going to allow them to stay in a gorgeous mansion that used to be owned by a famous artistic muse who died many years ago. When Isa starts at her new school she meets Alexa, a talented photographer who wants to photograph Isa inside the famous mansion wearing the clothes the former occupant left behind. At first, they have a lot of fun with this because the pictures turn out absolutely stunning every single time. They create an Instagram account to share with the world and they soon go viral. Eventually, Isa and everyone who comes in contact with this house begins to change, however, and not for the better. Isa begins acting strangely and even sleepwalks where she finds hidden things in the mansion she shouldn’t know about. She’s also pretty sure there’s an unnatural spirit in the house that has startled her on occasion. Her mother starts to become obsessed with cleaning and often acts out of character, such as forgetting to pick up Isa from school and then claiming she did. Things that used to matter to Isa no longer do as her hunger for power and fame grows. Can Isa get out of this house before it’s too late? Will others get hurt along the way? What is causing the bizarre phenomena in this house?

This story definitely has some suspenseful and frightening scenes as people try to help Isa escape this house, so it is not for those looking for a light-hearted read. The transition that occurs as more people enter the house and interact within it is gradual and very believable as the overall atmosphere begins to change. The characters themselves are affected in believable ways, but it is unclear why some are changed more than others. Overall, a very unique story that will hook readers from early on as it becomes clear that there is something amiss with this house. It also offers an interesting commentary on the dangers of social media and fame. Recommended for those who enjoy suspense mixed with fantasy.

All This Time by Mikki Daughtry and Rachael Lippincott

Genre: Romance

From the same authors as Five Feet Apart, this romance story begins with Kyle learning that his longtime girlfriend is actually not going to go to the same college as he is on their graduation night. There is a terrible storm and as they fight about their future together they get into a terrible accident where Kyle is seriously injured and Kimberly dies. He struggles for months to heal and get up every morning knowing that Kimberly is gone. He shuts out friends, puts college on hold, and generally fails to progress in any way. Then, he meets Marley and everything starts to change. Marley has also lost someone close to her and the two of them begin to work through their grief together, but as they begin to find happiness they feel overwhelming guilt that they are here and those they lost are not. Both of them harbor guilt about how their loved one died as well. Kyle can’t help shake the feeling that something will come along to disrupt his happiness because he doesn’t think he deserves it, and something definitely does but it’s something you won’t see coming. Can he fight for what he had with Marley or is it just not the right time?

This story definitely keeps the reader guessing as the plot takes some serious twists. Kyle’s relationship with Kimberly has kept him from truly living his best life and he’s starting to realize that, but also feels terrible about the fact that Kimberly is not there anymore. Marley, meanwhile, has faced some terrible things as well and because of that struggles to truly open up and believe in happy endings and forgiveness. Recommended for fans who enjoy unique romance stories such as The Fault in Our Stars and Eleanor and Park.

The Buried by Melissa Grey

Adventure/Survival/Realistic Fiction

Sash and her family have lived in an underground bunker for 10 years, along with a few other families, after tragedy struck and the sunlight on the surface became toxic to them. They have been forced to abide by the very strict rules of Dr. Moran, who claims to know a lot about this above ground phenomena that has struck their town. She has requested they never touch, including family, and must always do as she says or else they could be placed in isolation as punishment. They are starting to run out of food and the bunker is starting to fall apart, which has Sash and her two friends, Gabe and Yuna, very worried. They end up finding a secret entrance to the bunker and want to go up to see for themselves what the world above is really like after ten long years, but if they are caught or if they stumble into an aboveground apocalypse they are not sure they can handle the repercussions. On the other hand, can they afford not to try?

Fans of survival stories will enjoy this title as the three teens struggle to find their place in this very small world that has been created for them in this underground bunker. It does not have the hope that some survival stories have, but at the same time does truly help the reader to feel what it would really be like to be in this position. There are some surprising plot twists as the three debate on what to do about their current situation and readers should be impressed with the attention to detail as they start to put the pieces together near the end.

Open Mic Night At Westminster Cemetary by Mary Amato

Genre: Fantasy

Sixteen-year-old Lacy Brink is shocked and disheartened to find herself buried in Westminster Cemetary with no memory of how she died. Things quickly get worse when she meets Mrs. Steele, who is set on enforcing all the archaic graveside rules from many years ago. These rules include no cursing, no staying out past sunrise, and performing the job assigned to you without complaint. After a rocky start, Lacy learns that if you break the rules you get a strike and once you have three strikes you are no longer allowed to get out of your graves at night, which sounds terrible. Everyone is very eager to meet Lacy because there haven’t been any new residents in many years. Sam, for example, was buried a hundred years earlier and immediately feels a connection with Lacy, but he doesn’t know if she feels the same. Edgar Allan Poe is buried in this cemetary as well, but apparently he earned his strikes pretty quickly and is no longer allowed out of his grave. Lacy’s job is the entertainment director and she announces she would like to have an open mic night. This is a new concept to the ghosts, but many are eager for something new to happen. In order for it to be successful, Lacy feels she needs to get Mrs. Steele out of the picture so everyone will feel comfortable performing. Also, it would give her a chance to open up the event to all people, even those who have earned 3 strikes. To add to her stress, Lacy’s sister has begun coming to the cemetary to try and deal with her guilt over Lacy’s death. How did Lacy die and will she be able to survive in this bizarre cemetary with its very strict rules? Will the other ghosts perform at the open mic night? Even after all this time, what have the ghosts not shared with each other about how they lived?

This unique story is set in the cemetary where Edgar Allan Poe is buried and so there are some fun interactions with him, his wife, and his mother. It becomes obvious that many of the people in this cemetary have no concept of what modern times are like and are very intrigued by this new resident. It is written using stage directions, which definitely sets the scene for this story, but may be difficult for some reluctant readers. Once the rules of the cemetary are established, the story really takes off as Lacy struggles to find her way in a place that hasn’t changed much in decades. Fans of light fantasy will enjoy this clever tale.

This is Why We Lie by Gabriella Lapore

Genre: Mystery

Jenna likes to take photos at sunrise and usually finds the beach peaceful and quiet, but on this particular morning she sees Adam, a boy from the local reform school, struggling to get a body out of the water. Soon, she discovers that the body belongs to a girl she goes to school with. Both Adam and Jenna are pretty shaken that someone their age could be murdered in their sleepy little town. Jenna lives with her aunt, who is a police detective, and even though she never shares details of the case Jenna can definitely tell they are struggling to find who did this. Meanwhile, Jenna’s friends are pretty upset by the loss of their friend. Adam, on the other hand, finds that he and his friends are being questioned over and over again because they are seen as troublemakers due to their pasts. Jenna and Adam decide to start investigating on their own to not only clear their own names, but to save those around them from a similar fate. However, they quickly learn that everyone is hiding something and nothing anyone says can be trusted. Can they get to the truth without finding their way in the crosshairs of the killer?

This fast paced mystery thrilled will be popular with readers who like the April Henry books. There are many characters, which adds a layer of mystery as there are many red herrings, but there aren’t so many characters that it’s impossible to keep them all straight. The conclusion of the story is both exciting and satisfying and there are many plot twists along the way that will keep readers guessing until the end. Recommended for mystery fans.

Don’t Let Go by Harlan Coben

Genre: Mystery

Napoleon “Nap” Dumas has never gotten over the fact that his twin brother, Leo, and Leo’s girlfriend, Diana, were found dead after apparently getting hit by a train their senior year. It was ruled an accident, but it never sat right with Nap and he’s never been able to move on. The same night his brother died his girlfriend, Maura, ran away and was never heard from again. Nap grew up to become a detective after Diana’s dad, Augie, the police chief took him under his wing and became his mentor. He also became very close to a classmate named Ellie after the deaths and she’s still his best friend to this day. He has tried to move on, but there’s always a part of him that will wonder what happened that night. Then, Maura’s prints turn up at a crime scene where another classmate of theirs is mysteriously gunned down. Nap can’t help but wonder if it’s connected. How many of their classmates are going to die under strange circumstances? Why did Maura show up again after all of these years? Is it possible to really find out the truth about what happened that night? Does he really want to know?

Fans of Harlan Coben will enjoy this suspense mystery. There are many layers to the mystery as Nap is trying to find out how his brother and his brother’s girlfriend died all those years ago as well as finding out why friends of theirs seem to be targeted now all these years later. There are many supporting characters who contribute to the story, but not so many that you can’t keep them straight. The ending will satisfy those who love an exciting resolution.

Rainbow in the Dark by Sean McGinty

Genre: Fantasy

Rainbow wakes up in a place she doesn’t recognize with no knowledge of who she is or where she’s from. There is a mysterious box that gives her memories when she presses a button, but she still has a lot of questions. Then, a boy named Chad01 comes along and says he was sent to journey with her on a quest to help them get out of this place. He’s been doing this a long time so he knows how to survive and play the game. He is a little frustrated that he’s been paired with a “nobody” or beginner player. Soon they meet up with a set of twins, Lark, and Owlsy, who are also supposed to complete the quest with them. If they succeed they believe they will be able to go home. There are many dangerous obstacles in their way, however, and Rainbow worries they might not make it. Plus, the more memories she is given the more she starts to realize that her home life was far from perfect. She was struggling in school, her brother was shutting her out, and her mom was struggling after the divorce. Is there a life to return to? Can she contribute to the group to help them find a way out? How did she get in this place to begin with?

This book has a similar feel to The Eye of Minds or Otherworld. The characters are not inside a videogame, but it works very similarly. They have to gather items, follow clues, and complete challenges in order to get rewarded. It starts to become apparent what is actually going on with Rainbow, but the journey will definitely keep the reader engaged. Recommended for struggling or reluctant readers because the set up and action will keep them engaged through to the end.

The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys

Genre: Historical Fiction and 495 pages

Set in 1957 Madrid, Ana is working at the newly opened American hotel and Daniel has traveled to Madrid with his parents from Texas. Daniel’s mother is Spanish and always wanted to travel there with him, but under Francisco Franco’s rule Americans were not welcome for many years and tourism has only recently opened up. Ana’s family is struggling to pay bills and she is very grateful for the job she has at the hotel, but her and Daniel immediately feel a connection and begin spending time together despite everyone telling them it can only end badly. Daniel aspires to be a photojournalist and takes his fancy camera everywhere, even though the Italian soldiers have tried to intimidate him into not taking any photos of the “real Madrid.” Daniel feels fairly confident that nothing bad will happen to him since he is an American with a powerful father, but Ana knows that the Italian police can make her and her family’s life very hard so she tries to keep her head down and do what is expected of her. Meanwhile, Ana’s cousin and brother have noticed some unusual occurrences at their places of work. Puri, Ana’s cousin, works at an orphanage and begins to suspect that not all of the babies brought to her are actually orphans. Rafa, Ana’s brother, works as a grave digger and he begins to notice that many of the infant coffins that arrive from the local hospital are actually empty. What is happening to the babies in Italy and why is their reported infant mortality rate so high? Is it something Daniel could investigate on his road to hopefully becoming a photojournalist or is it too dangerous? Is there any way for Daniel and Ana to be together or do they just come from too many different backgrounds to make it work?

Once again, Ruta Sepetys has highlighted a time and a place in history that many people do not know much about and put a human face on it. Many aspects of this time period in Madrid are discussed and readers will want to know more about all of the characters. Even some of the less likable characters have understandable reasons for why they act the way they do. The environment has bred fear and want among the Italians and they aren’t sure if it will ever get any better since it’s already pretty far after the war. The characters are all so engaging that readers will find they simply do not want to stop reading about them, but the setting is also unique and thought provoking on its own. Recommended for fans of historical fiction.

The Cost of Knowing by Brittney Morris

Genre: Realistic Fiction and 327 pages

Alex Rufus has had the ability to see into the future ever since his parents died. Every time he touches any item or person he sees what will happen to that person or thing in the near or distant future. For example, he knows the ice cream shop he works at will one day be owned by someone else because he can see it when he touches the ice cream scoop at work. He learned long ago that there is no changing the future he sees, no matter what he does, so he tries to avoid touching anything he doesn’t want to know the future to. Having this ability has made him more closed off with his girlfriend and his brother, Isaiah, but he doesn’t know how to change it since so much of his time is spent dealing with the many visions he sees. Then, one day he sees a vision of himself at Isaiah’s funeral in the not so distant future and he knows he needs to act fast. He needs to reconnect with Isaiah and see if there is any way to change this terrible vision he sees. Is there a way to save Isaiah? Is there a way to ever rid himself of this terrible condition so he can truly just enjoy life as it comes at him? Will the community he lives ever see him as anything but a young, black man?

This story really paints of picture of not only how terrible having the ability to see the future would be, but also how difficult growing up black in America can truly be (even in affluent neighborhoods). Alex struggles to communicate with those around him because he fears no one will be able to understand what he is going through, but along the way they show him that they are there for him no matter what. He also learns that by not sharing his thoughts and feelings with others he has also been missing out on what is going on with them. He and his brother have drifted since their parents’ untimely death and while he understands how it happened he also realizes how precious life really is. The ending is satisfying, but does give the reader a lot to think about long after the book is over. Recommended.

The Project by Courtney Summers

Genre: Realistic Fiction

After a terrible accident kills her parents, Bea is willing to do anything to save her sister, Lo. When Lev Warren approaches her in the hospital he claims he can save Lo as long as Bea commits to his religious community, The Unity Project. Bea agrees, but doesn’t know exactly what that means until she’s expected to give up her sister and everything else she’s ever known and move to the Unity Project. Lo, meanwhile, grows up and believes the Unity Project is a cult who stole her sister. Every time she’s tried to reach out to her, she is blocked by members who claim Bea wants nothing to do with her. Now, as an adult, Lo works for a news publication and longs for the day she can write an article herself. When the opportunity presents itself to investigate the Unity Project she jumps at the chance to expose them, but is it what she thinks it is? Lo finds there are many surprises in store for her at the Unity Project, but can she get to the truth and not just what everyone wants her to see? Can Lo find a way to reunite with Bea or is it too late for them?

This book is for those looking for a more serious read. Bea and Lo both struggle with the loss of their parents and the fact that Lo almost died as well. It has changed the way they see the world, but in different ways. In trying to find truth, both have taken very different paths in life, but Lo very much wants to find a way to have a sister again and she’s willing to do almost anything to get it. The characters are very well developed and it’s easy for the reader to see how everyone came to make the decisions they did. This book has action, suspense, and so much more, but it does tackle some serious topics, such as death and abuse so anyone looking for a light read will want to pass on this one.

Game Change by Joseph Monninger

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Zeb Holloway is the backup quarterback for a team who has never needed him due to the fact that they have an amazing quarterback who is destined for bigger things. To everyone’s surprise, the star quarterback breaks his leg in the game just before the state championship. Now Zeb has seven days to come to terms with the fact that he will be leading the team in the state championship. He knows he has a good arm, but he’s not had that much experience and he knows many around him doubt his ability to pull this off. He lives in a trailer with his mom who works as many hours waitressing as she can. They live on his uncle’s property ever since his dad walked out. His life has never been easy, but he’s always been content and knew that he would be able to get by if he just worked hard and didn’t expect too much. Now, he’s beginning to wonder if there is a life for him outside of this small town.

The book is set over seven days as Zeb prepares for the big game, but you also get to see who he is through the characters around him. He knows the town is hoping for a big victory, but he’s realistic enough to know that it will be a challenge after the star who led them to this moment is whisked away without so much as a goodbye. Athletes will be able to identify with both the fame and the pressure that come from playing sports and the different degrees to how much people in the community care about the outcome. Sports fans will enjoy this title, but there is more to Zeb Holloway than just football.

Kisses and Croissants by Anne-Sophie Jouhanneau

Genre: Romance and # of Pages: 313

Mia was accepted into an elite ballet program in Paris for the summer and she very much wants to make the most of this opportunity, but along the way she really wants to immerse herself in the culture as well. Unfortunately, shortly after she arrives she learns that her rival back home was also accepted to the program and she must face her ridicule all summer. She also meets a very cute boy on the steps of her dorm and he helps her out of a tough situation early on which endears him to her all the more. Mia’s also curious about a family legend in which it is believed her ancestor was a famous ballerina. Some believe the legend wholeheartedly while others claim it is a myth. Her new Parisian friend offers to help her find out if the story is true. As they spend more time together she begins to wish she never had to go back home, but then her romance is exposed and she is shamed for having a summer romance when her focus should be entirely on ballet. She is heartbroken and embarrassed, but she can’t help but wonder how her romance was exposed. Was it her ballet rival? Was it someone else who wanted her spot in the final showcase? Is it possible to work hard and still have a little fun this summer?

This fun romance offers quite a setting with both the ballet school and Paris and readers will want to know as much as possible about Mia’s amazing opportunity, both inside and outside the classroom. Mia is thrilled to be in Paris and truly wants to enjoy the food, sights, museums, and friendships along the way. The ballet school is depicted as being difficult, but she seems to manage the stress with ease as she balances work and fun. She also easily makes friends with the other ballerinas and there isn’t a huge sense of competition among them. Still, the story is fun and you can’t help but pull for her to get everything she wants. This story has a little bit of everything to impress fans of romance novels.

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

Genre: Realistic Fiction and # of Pages: 288

Nora has grown so unhappy with her life that she has decided that if she ended it no one would miss her. One night she decides to take a lot of pills to end it all and instead of dying she goes to the Midnight Library, which is a place in between life and death. The Midnight Library has infinite books that all depict her life had she made different decisions. She is able to go into each life to see which one would have made her the happiest. In one life, she goes through with her engagement and finds herself married and owning a bar in a small town. In another life she is an Olympic swimmer who now gives motivational speeches. There are many choices she has made throughout her life, some big and some small, so there are many possible outcomes she can now experience to see which one leads her to the most fulfillment. In each life once she feels a sense of disappointment she leaves that life and returns to the Midnight Library. Can she find a life where she is happy before it’s too late? Will she ever find what she’s looking for?

Anyone can relate to Nora in this story as she struggles to find out where she belongs and what she should do with her life. Everyone has decisions in which they ask “what if” and in this book Nora is able to truly see what her life would be like if she had made different choices. The changes in each life chosen are often staggering and affect everyone else around her as well. Sometimes even if her life appears to be better she finds herself wishing for more. This story gives readers a lot to think about regarding how best to make the most of the life we are given and not focus on what we wish were different.


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