Reason to Breathe by Rebecca Donovan

Synopsis: Emma has everything going for her–success in the classroom and on the soccer field–but her home life is a nightmare of epic proportions, and she’s just trying to get by until she meets Evan and decides she deserves more out of life. Review: The love story in Reason to Breathe just blew me away. I really felt like I was falling in love myself–and I never get that feeling when I’m reading books. Romance just doesn’t do it for me in general–I’m not inclined…

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Bitter End by Jennifer Brown

Synopsis: A teen girl’s new boyfriend isn’t the gentleman he seems to be, but she alienates her two best friends when they try to intervene, with violent results. Review: Bitter End is an insightful look at the psychology of a teen girl in love with an abusive boy. I thought that Jennifer Brown‘s execution was perceptive, risky, and emotionally honest. It was hard to watch Alex push her friends away, hard to see her put up with excuses and apologies, but I understood every choice…

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Hate List by Jennifer Brown

Synopsis: Her boyfriend shot up the school then shot himself, and now Val has to make it through senior year. Review: Wow. I am so impressed with the execution in Hate List, a book that could’ve gone wrong in so many ways, but ended up getting everything right. Val’s predicament as the girlfriend of a school shooter tore me to pieces. I could see her point of view and wished I could send her in a better direction, even though I knew she had to…

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Leftovers by Laura Wiess

Synopsis: The daughter of an aspiring judge and her best friend, a loner whose parents and brother party all the time, find themselves contemplating a devastating and dangerous course of action when confronted with a very personal injustice. Review: The friendship between Ardith and Blair in Leftovers is somewhat reminiscent of the movie Heavenly Creatures, one of my all-time favorites. Alienated from their parents and desperate for a connection, the relationship between the girls blurs boundaries and takes on life-saving properties for both of them.…

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Spoiler Edition: A Dance with Dragons by George RR Martin (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 5)

Synopsis: Tyrion becomes a slave, Dany pines for Daario while marrying someone else, her dragons eat children and incinerate a prince, Jon Snow upends 8000 years of tradition, a couple of no-goodniks get baked into a pie, Stannis can haz teh dumb, Theon Greyjoy lives the worst version of a Lifetime movie thanks to the Bastard of Bolton, Arya kills time, Ser Barristan the Bold displays mad skillz, Davos is not dead, Victarion rows his boat, Asha picks the wrong fort to defend, Cersei and…

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All Her Father’s Guns by James Warner

Synopsis: A right-wing gun lover falls for a Lacanian psychoanalyst/Romanian emigrĂ© while trying to bring down his pharmaceutical-abusing ex-wife’s run for office, even as their daughter makes a decision that could destroy all of them. Review: “He had five sons by about nine different women” was the phrase that made me fall in love with the satire and humor of All Her Father’s Guns. James Warner’s ability to spin a sentence in an unexpected direction would make this book a crazy wild ride even if…

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Mudbound by Hillary Jordan

Synopsis: When a reluctant farmer’s wife moves to a tin-roof shack in postwar rural Mississippi, her passion for her husband’s war hero brother becomes part of a web of tension that engulfs the town in hatred and violence. Review: Mudbound took me by surprise. Told from multiple points of view, the story manages to be inevitable without being predictable, with characters who all have very distinct voices. The casual, every day racism of even the most sympathetic characters is shocking to this 21st century Yankee…

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11/22/63 by Stephen King

Synopsis: A schoolteacher travels through a wormhole to stop Lee Harvey Oswald from assassinating JFK. Review: 11/22/63 started out really strong. I loved the premise and knew that Stephen King would do a lot more than just tell the A-story of Jake Epping, time traveler and would-be history changer. The historical aspects were really well done, particularly through the life Jake builds in small town Jodie, Texas, and the love story is poignant. However, I felt like the ending was a foregone conclusion, and I…

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