Category Archives: Staff Recommends

It’s Not Me, It’s You REVIEW

It’s Not Me, It’s You by Stephanie Kate Strohm

Available in Print & eAudio.

What a fun story. The premise is one used before – a person tracks down ex’s to find out what went wrong. In this case, the person is Avery Dennis. Just before prom, she is dumped by Luke Murphy. Even though she is the head of the senior prom committee, Avery decides she will go without a date; in fact, she is done with dating.

In her history class, Avery is assigned to do an oral history project about a historic event. What could be a better subject than her own dating experiences? Her teacher thinks there are many, but Avery is persistent.

Avery’s story is told through her assignment using the input of her, her best friend Coco, other students (like that annoying Bizzy Stanhope), teachers, coaches, and, of course, the former boyfriends. Avery also enlists Hutch, her lab partner since freshman year, to help analyze the findings.

Avery starts with her first boyfriend from kindergarten and works her way through summer camp romances, vacation flings, and more than a few boyfriends outside her social circle. Avery is smart and funny and obviously not a stuck up stereotypical popular girl. She is willing to see her flaws and defends herself when needed. Can she really discover why she can’t keep a boyfriend? With Avery’s determination, anything’s possible.

This is Our Story REVIEW (Second Opinion!)

This Is Our Story by Ashley Elston

Available in Print.

Five young men, close friends, enter the woods after a night of partying to go hunting, but only four come out alive. Grant, the prankster, is left lying on the ground with a gunshot wound. Which one of the four took the shot? None will admit to it. Grant was killed with his own Remington rifle, the only one in the group. Who grabbed the rifle that morning?  While standing over Grant’s body, they all agree not to say anything.

While the five River Point Boys go to an expensive private school, Kate Marino attends the public school. As a senior, she has a paid internship at the district attorney’s office. Her job is mostly filing for Mr. Stone, a lawyer who is close to retiring. Bowing to the pressure of the boys’ fathers (who are highly influential in the community), the DA assigns the River Point Boys case to Stone with instructions to go easy with it. Mr. Stone and Kate agree that determining the shooter should be a priority.

Under normal circumstances, Kate would have no involvement with a case. Mr. Stone’s vision is deteriorating and Kate is a photographer with a keen eye for detail, so he asks Kate to help him interpret evidence. She watches taped interviews, examines photographs and even visits the crime scene.

Things get complicated when the four accused boys are expelled from school and start attending Kate’s school. She is told not to interact with them. Although Kate knows the importance of the case and her potential conflicts due to working for the prosecuting attorney, she can’t completely avoid the boys. Of course, she never told Mr. Stone or her mom (who works in the same office) that she had been texting Grant in the weeks leading up to his death – including the night before he was shot.

It is a compelling story with enough nail biting moments to keep you guessing to the end.

What We Saw REVIEW

What We Saw
By Aaron Hartzler

Available in Print & eBook.

Trigger Words: sexual assault, rape

This story—inspired by real events—from debut novelist Aaron Hartzler takes an unflinching look at silence as a form of complicity. It’s a book about the high stakes of speaking up, and the razor thin line between guilt and innocence that so often gets blurred, one hundred and forty characters at a time.

I had picked this book up from the library shelf eons ago. I finally grabbed it from my toppling pile of books and read it almost straight through in two days. The story resonated with me for many reasons. It’s a story about sexual assault on a minor that’s witnessed by many classmates at a party. The volatile world of rape culture has been at the foremost of people’s news lately. Last summer, the shocking lenient sentence was issued to the Stanford swimmer who dragged an unconscious woman behind a dumpster and raped her. Our own elected leader has claims against him for sexual assault, which he paid to have ‘go away’. Every time I turn around, I feel like I’m hearing another story of a poor victim trying to fight the system to gain themselves some justice. And so many times, the system lets them down.

Hartzler dives right into the main issue with rape culture, the sense of compliance. Too often, people dismiss the abusive and degrading things men say and do as ‘boys will be boys’ and that’s at the heart of ‘What We Saw’. Kate, the protagonist, grapples with uncertainty about the events of what happened the night it all went down. She wasn’t there when it happened but she knew everyone that was. She struggles with understanding how her school, the administration and fellow peers could so easily accept that the boys in question are innocent and the girl is lying. We see that too often in the world today. Ultimately, Kate can not stand aside and just ‘be alright’ with everything. She seeks out the truth, knowing full well that she might not like what she finds.

It’s a difficult subject to read about and you know in the end, relationships will be tested, trust will be lost and hearts will be broken. But it’s an important topic that needs to stay in the light and be talked about. Hartzler’s writing makes the story flow along well. Even though I was going to end the story with a heavy heart, I was still caught up in the feelings and thoughts of the characters. Bravo to Aaron Hartzler for tackling a tough subject.

Happy reading!
Warren Branch

This Is Our Story REVIEW

This Is Our Story
By Ashley Elston

Available in Print.

No one knows what happened that morning at River Point. Five boys went hunting. Four came back. The boys won’t say who fired the shot that killed their friend; the evidence shows it could have been any one of them.

This book is an excellent murder mystery! I was hooked from the first page. The story is primarily told from Kate’s perspective but also has alternating point of view from one of the unnamed boys and the police interview transcripts of the suspects.

Without giving too much away, the mystery revolved around more than just the murder of one of the five River Point Boys. It also dabbles in political corruption, mistaken identity, illegal betting, drugs and blackmail. There’s plenty to grab your attention in this story.

Kate finds herself in the middle of the investigation to find the murder suspect due to her relationship with one of the boys and her work with the DA’s office. As the story unfolds, more and more comes to light about the five boys and their various activities. I loved this story for all its twists and turns. It keeps you on your toes until the very end. It even concludes with a primetime legal drama courtroom style ending!

This was an excellent read that I couldn’t put down. For fans of mysteries and thrillers, definitely pick up this book!

Happy reading!
Warren Branch

Nightfall REVIEW

By Jake Halpern & Peter Kujawinski

Available in Print & eBook.

‘Nightfall’ immediately reminded me of ‘The Forgetting’. Set in a remote fantasy world, the residents of Bliss spend 14 years enjoying day. After 14 years, the sun sets and the island experiences 14 years of night. And you don’t want to stick around for that.

As the sun starts to set, the residents of Bliss start to make their way to shores to depart for the desert land where they will stay until Night is over. But for Marin, Line and Kana, things don’t go according to plan. When Line goes missing, Marin and Kana go in search of him but they return to the shore too late. In their attempts to figure out how to leave the island, they discover that they are not alone.

The story follows their mad dash to escape the island and reveals the past that the adults have kept hidden. It’s told in alternating viewpoints from the three teens which would be fine except the narrative will switch multiple times in one chapter which at first threw me for a loop. Overall, the story is fast paced and full of action and surprises. When I finished the story, I wanted to know about the mysteries of the island and of the desert land that the people of Bliss travel to but I was content with what the authors provided in the story line.

For fantasy  and action fans, this is a quick and interesting read for a lovely rainy day.

Happy reading!
Warren Branch