“Can you see me now?” Estela Bernal

October 29, 2014 Leave a comment

Rated 3 stars *** 2014. Piñata Books (Arte Público Press). 161 pp.

CanYouSeeMeNowAmanda’s life changed forever the day she turned thirteen. On that day, a drunk driver killed her father and her mother decided it was all her fault. Amanda had loved her father, and felt her life crumbling without his gentle, guiding hand, as her mother couldn’t be bothered to spend time with her, sending her to live with her grandmother. Being without her father and mother was hard, but dealing with the bullies at school made everything worse.

After observing the guidance counselor talking with students, Amanda decided she would look for lonely kids to counsel. It didn’t take long to become good friends with Paloma, ridiculed for wearing strange clothes, and Roger, an overweight classmate. Despite missing her father, and resenting her mother’s absence, Amanda learned to draw strength from herself and from her friends, facing life with a new outlook and finding that things aren’t always as bad as they may seem.

“Can you see me now?” shows a young girl’s struggle to reconcile with a loved one’s passing and her mother’s indifference, while trying to empathize with others’ heartaches. Amanda seems to be quite mature for her age, but her real life hopes and dreams will ring true with readers.

Recommended for ages 11-13.

“An Unseemly Wife” E.B. Moore

October 27, 2014 Leave a comment

Rated 3 stars *** ebook. ARC. New American Library (Penguin). 2014. Includes “A Conversation with E.B. Moore,” and “Questions for Discussion.”

TheUnseemlyWifeThe year was 1867, and Ruth was enjoying life on her Pennsylvania farm with her husband Aaron and her children Daniel, Joseph, Matthew and Esther. With a new baby on the way, and tucked deeply into the folds of her Amish life, Ruth felt peaceful and contented. As descendants of a German sect who fled the English who killed them for their religious beliefs, Ruth and her group of black clad Plain folk kept themselves separate from others not of their faith. The nickname “English” remained to describe anyone who was not of their community, and her peace was shattered the day a group of them arrived to buy horses for their trip west.

The English filled Aaron’s mind with thoughts of one thousand acres of land available for the taking in Idaho, and it didn’t take long before he became discontented with life and his farm. He wanted this free land, and Ruth could not change his mind. He began to despise her for trying, and their marriage became strained. Before long, she was forced to leave everything and everyone she’d held dear to board a Conestoga wagon for the trip west to Idaho.

Moore details the difficulties of their journey; along with the problems they faced from the other Pioneers because of their religious beliefs and way of dressing. Through it all Ruth stands tall and proud, showing herself to be a visionary and leader during a time when females were supposed to wait in their husband’s shadows.

“An Unseemly Wife” is a good read, allowing readers to be drawn into Ruth’s agony as she tried to be the wife Aaron demanded while maintaining a modicum of her own individuality. I enjoyed learning more about the Amish way of life but, despite the tragedies Ruth faced, it was hard for me to summon up the historically required “hooray for them” emotions for the “brave” Pioneers heading west. I knew the results of these journeys held even worse tragedies for the American Indians who had been living a peaceful life of their own which would be forever changed by the Pioneers and their demand for more and more land.

Despite my personal feelings I will recommend “An Unseemly Wife” for Adult readers interested in learning about a woman who dared to be different when her time and place required she be ordinary.

“Coming Home: A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility” Mary McManus

October 24, 2014 Leave a comment

Rated 4 stars **** 2014. Createspace. 236 pp.

ComingHomeMary McManus incorporates memories, as well as present-time events, to tell the story of her life after contracting polio at the age of five. Despite recovering from this disease she faced years of physical, mental and emotional abuse from her parents and grandmother.

Over the years the stresses brought on by these abuses accumulated in her body causing severe physical problems, and resulting in a diagnosis of post-polio syndrome when Mary was just a few years away from retirement. Physicians and therapists at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, as well as other health caregivers, worked together to give Mary the spiritual, physical and emotional strength she needed to heal her body from its trauma.

Determined to do something meaningful with her newfound feeling of mental and physical strength, Mary decided to run the 2009 Boston Marathon to raise money for Spaulding Rehab. Triumphantly crossing the finish line of the marathon was just one of Mary’s many accomplishments described in “Coming Home,” as she valiantly worked to regain the person she had lost at the age of five and rewrite her past.

Mary is a fellow member of my running club, the L Street Running Club in South Boston. After reading her self-published life story, I have to salute the courage and strength she displayed in working through extreme trials which a young girl should have never had to endure, and which led to the beautiful and generous person she has become today. Mary, you are a survivor and I salute you!

Those of you who are regular readers of my blog know I try not to read self-published books because of the amount of grammatical errors usually contained within them. However, since Mary was generous enough to donate part of the proceeds of her book to a reputable charity, and is a fellow club member, I felt I should read her book and learn about her story. I was able to put aside my editing hat and read Mary’s story for its rawness and truthfulness. I gave it a 4 star rating for its content, and trust you will agree when you read it.

Recommended for Adult readers.

“Leaving Time” Jodi Picoult

October 22, 2014 2 comments

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Published October 14, 2014. Random House (Ballantine Books.) 407 pp. Includes “Author’s Note.”

LeavingTimeThirteen-year-old Jenna Metcalf has lived with her grandmother since she was 3 years old, when her mother Alice disappeared from the hospital where she was taken after she was found injured at the elephant sanctuary where she worked.

With her father committed to a facility for the insane and her grandmother refusing to reveal any details of Alice’s life, all Jenna has are her brief memories and her mother’s research journals on elephant grief. Knowing that if she wanted to find her mother she would have to suspend her scientific disbelief in the supernatural she decides to hire Serenity Jones, a disgraced psychic, along with Virgil Stanhope, the former detective on her mother’s case, to find her mom.

Serenity has not been able to access the spirit world since she made an incorrect prediction on her former television show, but feels she was meant to help Jenna find her mother. Believing Alice holds the clue to what happened the night they found her, and that she could finally explain why a body was found trampled by an elephant, Virgil decides to help Jenna in order to gain closure. Neither Jenna, Virgil nor Serenity know their search for Alice will take them on a trip through the past that neither of them ever expected.

In alternating voices Jenna, Virgil, Serenity, and Alice tell their stories, allowing readers to gain a complete picture of what actually led to that dark night 10 years ago when Alice disappeared. Picoult has deftly woven together a story of mystery, love and suspense along with beautiful true stories of elephant love and behavior towards one another.

In the Author’s Note, she references The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald Tennessee as the place where she observed the behaviors used for her elephants in “Leaving Time.” The plight of elephants in Africa and zoos across the world will resound with Picoult’s readers, along with Jenna’s story, in her latest blockbuster book. PS – The author asked that I not reveal the ending, so will leave it up to you to discover as you read it for yourself.

Recommended for Adult readers.

 

“The Revenge of Seven” Pittacus Lore

October 12, 2014 Leave a comment

Rated 4 stars **** ebook. 2014. Lorien Legacies, book #5. Harper (Harper Collins). Includes three excerpts from “I Am Number Four: The Lost Files titled “Return to Paradise,” “Five’s Legacy,” and “Five’s Betrayal.”

TheRevengeOfSevenElla has been kidnapped by Setrákus Ra, is a prisoner aboard his spaceship, and finds out she’s actually his granddaughter. Meanwhile John, Sarah, Sam, Malcolm and Adam are holed up trying to plan their next move after the disaster in Chicago while Six, Marina and Nine are trying to find their way out of Florida swampland where they’d been ambushed by Five. Eight has been killed and taken by the Mogs, but Marina is determined to find a way to rescue his body from them.

Despite being separated and facing grim odds, the remaining Loric are desperate to figure out a way to use their legacies to stop the Mogadorians from invading Earth. With each passing day Setrákus Ra’s evil plan gets a step closer to becoming reality, and it will take all of their combined power to stay a step ahead of the Mogs to survive one more day and save Earth.

This latest book in the “I am Number Four” series is full of the usual Mog fights and Loric shows of power. An interesting twist, along with a very frustrating cliffhanger ending, will leave readers eagerly clamoring for Book #6 which won’t be released until 2015 and is portrayed as THE final book in the series. I’ll believe it when I read it.

Recommended for readers aged 14 and older.

“The view from who I was” Heather Seppenfield

October 6, 2014 Leave a comment

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. To be published January 8, 2014. Flux.

TheViewFromWhoIWasOona Antunes hated her mom demanding life be perfect, and missed the father who was always away on business. Fascinated with water, as it reflected her own disappearing and despairing life, she kept a journal detailing water facts.

In the middle of a winter dance Oona split herself into two different people. The new “spirit self” became the narrator and, through her eyes, readers saw Oona leave the dance to freeze to death on a mountain trail.

When Oona awoke in the hospital, it was to the realization she had died for almost 20 minutes and had lost several fingers and toes, as well as part of her nose and cheek, to frostbite. While healing she realized the pain her attempted suicide had cost others, and attempted to set things right with them and with herself by Living with a capital “L.”

Part of her healing came about when she accompanied the school’s guidance counselor to a Native American School where she realized everyone’s sense of family and identity was something she wanted. Oona was sure her distant and unemotional father held the key to her family’s happiness, feeling she could help him to Live, but would soon find she had undertaken a task far greater than she had expected.

Through “The view from who I was” Seppenfield takes a look at suicide and its effects on those left behind. Oona’s raw and honest journey of self-discovery will resound with her readers.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

“The Monmouth Summer” Tim Vicary

October 4, 2014 Leave a comment

Rated 3 stars *** ebook. 2012. White Owl Publications. (Includes “Author’s Note.”)

TheMonmouthSummerIt is 1685 and in the countryside of a small English town Robert Pole, Lord of Shute Manor and soldier in King James II’s army, is romantically pursuing Ann, Puritan daughter of Adam Carter cloth seller. Despite knowing their backgrounds would never allow them to be married, Ann could not stop herself from loving Robert. Being betrothed to her childhood friend Tom only served to make her more fearful of spending her life with someone she did not love.

In the midst of Ann’s confusion the Duke of Monmouth, the King’s illegitimate son, arrived and brought his own upheaval. Knowing many of King James’ subjects objected to his Catholicism, the Duke promised to restore the Kingdom to Protestantism. Under that hope thousands of Puritans joined his army, including Adam and Tom, to try and topple King James from the throne.

In alternating chapters Ann and Adam’s hopes and fears for themselves and those they love are laid bare alongside the battles that raged between the Duke’s army and the King’s. As the war nears its end, Ann and her father find they will have to make unpopular decisions that may cause more harm than originally expected.

“The Duke of Monmouth” was actually a very good read. The number of grammatical errors was much lower than normally seen in self-published books, while the historical storyline was interesting, which allowed me to focus on what I was reading instead of being distracted by errors. Despite taking historical liberties with some facts (the many ways Ann showed her rebellious nature would never have dared to surface in a true Puritan family), Vicary did a fine job describing the tumultuous events of the summer of 1685.

Recommended for Adult readers.

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