Rated 3 stars *** Ebook. ARC. Published March 3, 2015. Little, Brown & Company.
Seventeen-year-old Lulu tells her story through a letter to the boy she met and fell in love with during the summer she graduated from high school. Falling in love was not part of her plan, as she was supposed to leave Virginia in just a few months. She planned to say goodbye to her best friend Roni and to her backwoods town of Dale so she could start a new life at the University of San Diego. For her part Roni is certain her future lies in marrying her boyfriend Bucky and living in Dale forever. Neither of them can understand why Lulu is so anxious to leave, but Lulu is undeterred. She will leave Dale.
Unfortunately all of Lulu’s plans come to a screeching halt when her father loses her college money in a poor financial move. She is devastated, but is determined that she will get out of Dale no matter the cost. When a moonshine still is delivered to the junkyard where she works with Roni, Lulu is sure selling moonshine will be the answer to her problems. Bucky’s friend Mason has been in the moonshine business with his cousin Seth, and offers to help with their endeavor.
As Lulu, Roni, Bucky and Mason work together to secretly make and sell their illegal moonshine, Lulu again finds her life turned upside down. Her need to leave Dale has compromised everything she has ever believed in, as she finds herself turning into someone she doesn’t recognize. Confused over her feelings for Mason, and now questioning her desire to leave Dale, Lulu’s summer turns into a bubbling mess that will rival any moonshine in her secret still.
Determination, strength of will, and stubbornness are just a few of the adjectives that describe some of the characters in “My best everything.” Though I don’t agree with the way Lulu decided to try and solve her problems, I admire the way she owned up to her mistakes.
Recommended for ages 14 and older.
Rated 4 stars **** 2014. Arte Público Press. 227 pp.
Thirteen-year-old Lon Chaney Rodriguez was named for an old horror movie actor, as he and his dad shared a love for horror movies his mother didn’t understand. His dad drank a few too many beers after he lost his trucking job, which really bothered his mom as she had to work extra hard as a security guard to make up the difference in their income. Things were a little rough at home, and Lon wasn’t doing too well at school, but everything seemed okay until the night his mother was killed at work. Suddenly Lon’s life was a mess.
With his dad refusing help from family members, and drinking heavily every day, Lon was at his wit’s end. His biggest fear was that they would become homeless, which seemed to be next on the horizon if his dad didn’t get his act together.
Villareal takes a typical seventh grade boy and thrusts him into an arena of responsibility, which should never be the lot of a child. As he tells Lon’s story readers are educated about poverty, homelessness and the ability to make a difference in someone else’s life.
Recommended for ages 11-14.
Rated 4 stars **** 2008. Irish Century Novels #5. Tom Doherty Associates. 399 pp. (Includes alphabetical list of Historical Characters,Source Notes and a Bibliography.)
Barry Halloran’s personal fight as a photojournalist against Ireland’s occupation by the British continues in the last book of The Irish Century series. In “1999” readers are infused with information about the various IRA Republican factions which continued their battles for a united Ireland, contrasted with crimes committed against Catholics by British and Protestant organizations aided and abetted by local police.
As usual, Llywelyn summarizes information covered in previous books to bring the reader “up to speed.” However I found a glaring error in “1999,” which disappointed me since the author has always been very good at seamlessly joining all her books.
The error was a complete changing of an event that happened in “1972” in which Barry woke Barbara Kavanagh from a deep sleep and proposed to her. Afterwards they both woke up his best friend Séamus to ask him to be the best man.
I was very dismayed to have the marriage proposal be completely changed in “1999”, as the proposal now occurs while Barbara is having an argument with her mother over the telephone. Later that evening, Séamus returns home and is asked to be Barry’s best man.
I am at a loss as to why Barry’s proposal was changed from one book to the other. Did an editor not catch the change? If Morgan Llywelyn were to read this review I would ask why she changed such a romantic proposal from “1972” into this “ho hum” proposal in “1999.” In my opinion, a change was not necessary.
Other than having a problem with this change, I enjoyed “1999.”
Recommended for Adult readers.
Rated 5 stars ***** 2005. Irish Century Novels #4. Tom Doherty Associates. 365 pp. (Includes alphabetical list of Historical Characters, the Bipartisan Declaration from 1949, Source Notes and a Bibliography.)
Eager to fight for his country Barry joins the IRA as a foot soldier, and is soon enamored with the feeling of camaraderie amongst the men in the army. He has hope for his country’s future but, when he actually killed someone, Barry decided there had to be a way to make a difference without killing. In time he became a demolition expert for the IRA, but insisted his targets be places where lives would not be lost. Soon, he became the best demolition expert in the army.
With Northern Catholics experiencing severe civil rights violations, various political factions within the country sought to copy the nonviolent civil rights movement undertaken in America in an effort to reunite the country. Now an experienced photojournalist, Barry is in the midst of the action as Northern extremists clash with Catholics. Ireland and Barry’s coming of age story are uniquely joined, culminating in the terrible events known to history as Bloody Sunday.
Recommended for Adults.
Rated 5 stars ***** 2003. Irish Century Novels #3. Tom Doherty Associates. 485 pp. (Includes alphabetical list of Historical Characters, the Ireland Act from 1949, Source Notes and a Bibliography.)
With Ned off fighting for the Republic and Henry living in America, it is up to Ursula Halloran to take up the story of Ireland and her struggles for freedom in this newest edition to the Irish Century series.
After two years at a Swiss finishing school, Ursula arrives back at the home of Louise Hamilton determined to get a job at a radio station and become more heavily involved in Ireland’s quest to become a Republic. Determined not to marry and to remain independent, contrary to what the Catholic Church has instilled into the consciousness of her countrywomen, she forges a strong path for herself.
Ursula’s strong willed tendencies make her extremely attractive to two men. With each determined to win her love Ursula refuses to give in to her feelings, even when she becomes pregnant. Without telling the father of her child, she travels to Switzerland to work for the League of Nations and to give birth as a single mother outside of the condemnation of the Church. Unfortunately Adolf Hitler and the rise of Fascism have led to a thirst for power and land among various leaders. With almost all of Europe falling to his army, she and little Barry are no longer safe.
Ireland’s role during the war, along with its own internal battles for freedom, form a background to Ursula’s story, the rise of Hitler and the horrors of World War II. Readers will learn of important historical events while continuing to follow the highs and lows of the Halloran clan who we have grown to love.
Recommended for Adult readers.
Rated 5 stars ***** 2001. Irish Century Novels #2. Tom Doherty Associates. 445 pp. (Includes Irish Declaration of Independence, alphabetical list of Historical Characters, Source Notes and a Bibliography.)
The story of Ireland’s struggle for Independence from Great Britain is continued through the eyes of Ned’s friend Henry Mooney. As a well-respected reporter Henry travels the countryside to recount the many battles and political maneuverings which took place in the attempt to free Ireland from the clutches of the United Kingdom.
Through a series of unfortunate events, a treaty was signed making Ireland a Free State but angering those who had fought for her to become a Republic. Unwilling to agree to the partitioning of the Northern counties, and continued allegiance to the Crown, those who had fought together in the Easter uprising of 1916 broke ranks. Insisting on full Republic status, and a completely united Ireland, the Irish Republican Army and the new Free State Irish government became sworn enemies.
“1921” is the great and sorrowful story of Ireland’s civil war against her own people, leaving cities, families and friendships shattered and destroyed. Against this background of horror and confusion Henry struggles to maintain a neutral stance while reporting on both sides of the devastation for posterity’s sake.
Recommended for Adult readers.