Rated 4 stars **** To be published June 26, 2014. ebook. ARC. Penguin Press.
It is 1977 in a small town in Ohio, and the Lee family is about to get the greatest shock of their lives. Sixteen-year-old Lydia’s body is found at the bottom of a lake, and no one knows what happened to her.
Through flashbacks, readers learn of the difficulties faced by each member of this interracial Chinese American family even before James married Marilyn. Over the years Lydia and her older brother Nath grew very close helping each other through the Chinese jokes and shunning that emanated towards them from their peers.
James Lee hated being left out of all the social activities he was excluded from as a teenager and is sure Lydia will be the social climber of the family. Marilyn dreamed of being a doctor, escaping the housewife life of her mom and the female stereotypes of her time, but she became pregnant. After she and James married she is eager to live her failed dream through Lydia, forcing her to want to become a doctor.
Little Hannah is the ghost child, ignored by everyone but seeing everything. Lydia herself feels stifled by the many expectations placed upon her by her parents, and is worried about Nath leaving her alone to go to college. She is helpless to do anything about her problems until she meets Jack, her next-door neighbor and Nath’s enemy.
When Lydia’s body is found each family member feels the guilt of her death like an anchor, wondering what part they could have played in keeping her alive. Nath is sure Jack caused her death, and won’t rest until he convinces the police of his theory. James is consumed by guilt and tries to assuage himself by running away emotionally, while Marilyn is convinced a murderer is loose and will do anything to find him. Only Hannah knows the truth but, as the ghost child, no one will ever listen to her.
Despite its uninteresting cover “Everything I never told you” rings true in its reality of failed hopes and dreams. Unfortunately, the prejudice experienced by children of an interracial marriage in the 1970′s still ring true in today’s world. I feel sure it will be in the running for the Asian American Award for Literature (APAAL), and wish Ng and her publishers the very best of luck if they decide to enter it into this literary contest sponsored by the Asian Pacific American Librarian’s Association.
Recommended for adult readers.
Rated 3 stars *** Published February 11, 2014. ebook. ARC. Elliott Books. (Includes “Resources for Dyslexics.”)
Samantha’s can’t read. Up to this point her two best friends helped her get through school. Her dyslexia has stayed a hidden secret for years, as her mathematical genius skills and audiographic memory has placed her in all AP courses. She is happy with her life until her mother moves her cross country from San Diego to Oregon.
Sam is terrified her new classmates will find out she is not a genius, but a sham. However, as a sophomore taking senior level courses, she gains points with the local brainiacs giving her an “in” to their “we are better and smarter than everyone else” club aka the Brain Trust. There she meets Nate, who takes her under his wing.
Within a short time, Sam has fit into her new group and gained several new friends but her dyslexia is threatening to make itself known. Desperate to hide who she really is Sam denies part of herself in favor of popularity. It takes strong friendships and a completely different mindset for her to finally come to terms with dyslexia and what it means to her life.
I found “Counting to D” to be very informative, as it explained myths and truths about dyslexia in a clear manner. It also gave a positive spin to mathematics, with clearly broken down algebraic equations, which might give hope to those struggling with math.
Despite these positive points, I thought Sam’s personal story was contrived. Her doubts, troubles and fears about dyslexia felt very realistic but her high school popularity seemed to be unrealistic. In just a few short months she manages to date a senior, become good friends with the school’s basketball star, crack into the elite senior Brain Trust, make lots of new friends, and have other “wow!” moments. Perhaps this could all have been accomplished in 4 years of high school but, in my opinion, seemed a bit much for just a few short months of life in a brand new high school. Thus I’ll leave it up to you, when you read it, to decide if her social life felt contrived or not.
NOTE: I’m pretty sure “Counting to D” will be in the running for a 2014 Schneider Family Book Award, given out at the annual ALA Youth Media Awards, because of its great emphasis and explanations about dyslexia. I wish Kate Scott and her publishers the very best of luck.
Recommended for ages 14 and older.
Rated 4 stars **** To be published April 1, 2014. ebook. ARC. Atheneum Books for Young Readers.
Seventeen-year-old Clare has a terrible secret. Her family skeleton is so bad; he haunts her every waking moment because he knows everything about Luke, her drug addicted older brother who has been in and out of prison his whole life. Unfortunately, so does everyone in her small town.
As the years go by, her brother Peter seems to always be angry at her, while she and her parents continue to believe Luke can do no wrong. It takes years for Clare to realize her family has problems.
Despite what she wants to believe, Luke has some very serious issues. If she wants to help her family, Clare will have to make decisions that will not be popular but will help her not to drown in the uncertainty of her life.
“Learning not to Drown” is a very powerful read. It will go a long way towards helping readers understand how one person’s behavior affects another for many years.
Recommended for readers 18 years old and older.
Rated 4 stars **** 2014. Skyhorse Publishing. ebook. ARC. To be published March 4, 2014. (Includes “Reader’s Guide: A Conversation with the Author,” and “Book Club Questions.”)
Readers are introduced to Professor Ellie McKay when she walks into a New Mexico bar seeking a drink to help her forget. Through flashbacks, we learn of her cross-country dash across the country from Pennsylvania, seeking distance from a psychopath who sexually abused her then killed her boyfriend. The burn marks and welts all over her body, as well as the mental and emotional damage she suffered at his hands, is enough to drive her back to the bottle.
A seemingly unrelated series of clues baffles Detectives assigned to the case, especially Detective Hansen. He has feelings for Ellie and is determined to solve the case, but the killer is very good at hiding his trail. Ellie is desperate for safety so marries a widowed rancher she met at a bar in New Mexico, hoping he can protect her from the past.
Unfortunately for Ellie the killer knows exactly where she has fled, and doesn’t plan to let her get away again. With Hansen halfway across the country, it is only a matter of time before Ellie will face her worse nightmare once again.
“Fog of Dead Souls” lived up to its name as a thriller, keeping me avidly turning pages to find out what would happen next to Ellie. I will say I was not very happy with the ending. Kelly did such a good job with details throughout the story, so why couldn’t she have done the same at the end? It was a huge disappointment.
Recommended for adult readers.
Rated 2 stars ** 2014. Delacorte Press. ebook. ARC. To be published March 11, 2014.
A group of high school students get the flu shot at school. Within a short time, they all become telepathic – able to read every one’s thoughts. Some are quite excited at the prospect, while others are nervous. The group of them (readers never know who’s talking) decides to tell us their story.
As time goes on, they realize being able to read people’s minds is not as exciting as they thought it would be because being bombarded with everyone’s thoughts, getting splitting headaches and purple eyes is just half the problem. The other half is finding out things like your best friend thinks you’re fat, your crush likes someone else, your parents have sex while you’re sleeping (ewww!) and your dad is having an affair.
This fluffy, chick lit book has some laughs and will probably be enjoyed by the 14 and older set, especially those who have ever wished they could read minds. I’ll leave it up to you to decide if You Want to Read It or Not.
Rated 4 stars **** 2014. Sky Pony Press. ebook. ARC. To be published May 6, 2014. (Includes Resources and Acknowledgements).
No one knows the truth about what happened to Lilianna that day except for her parents, her two best friends, the police and her counselor. With her former life now dead, Lil dresses in black and shuts herself off from anything she used to do in the past. To cope she obsesses over real and imagined disasters, stocking up on food and supplies for a catastrophe she knows will come since her life is all about calamities.
With both her parents out of town for the weekend, tragedy strikes in the form of a deadly flu. Within days, thousands in her town and throughout the country have fallen ill and died. With looters ransacking empty houses, neighbors dying, food supplies running low, and no family to help, Lil’s worse nightmare has come true.
To keep her head above water Lil tries to avoid her fear of contagion, agreeing to spend time with Jay, the handsome new student, and other survivors from her high school to help those less fortunate. Unfortunately the continued death of loved ones, and the reappearance of the person who caused her every nightmare, leaves Lil feeling her life should be about more than surviving the pandemic. However, does she have the strength to face her fears head on?
This interesting take on what could happen should the United States be hit with a modern day version of the Spanish influenza of 1918 will leave readers on the edges of their seats. After reading it, I felt like I should stock up on food, water and medicine. Just in case, of course…
Recommended for ages 14 and older.