Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Ebook. Published December 1, 2015. Poppy.
Parker’s dad taught her to run and to be independent. She embraced her blindness with funky looking blindfolds, a quick-as-a-whip attitude, a fierce protectiveness of her friends, and a list of rules for how to be treated.
When her forever enemy, Scott Kilpatrick, comes back into her life Parker is livid. She has never forgiven him for what he did to her, and plans to ignore him forever. However as events in her life begin to boil over, Parker will have to find a way to let go of the past and, in so doing, find her true self.
I LOVED this book, and was SO disappointed when it ended. I really, REALLY wanted it to continue. It was THAT good!! Lindstrom has created a believable cast of characters who will live on in our memories, long past the final chapter.
Highly recommended for ages 14 and older.
Rated 5 stars ***** 2015. Kensington. 340 pp. (Includes “Author’s Note,” “Q & A with Kristina McMorris,” and “A reading group guide.”)
The year is 1919. Twelve-year-old orphan Shan Keagan from Dublin, Ireland is living a hard knock life with his Uncle Will, trying to earn money and meals as a singer, dancer and impressionist in local bars. When the two of them decide to immigrate to America his uncle dies onboard, leaving Shan to figure out how he will enter the country of his dreams and find his real father.
Befriended by an Italian-American family who had just lost their younger son, Shan began his new life in Brooklyn, New York as Tommy Capello. As Shan adjusts to his new life with the Capellos, he hopes for a chance to find his father and finally find happiness with a real family. Despite his best efforts, life doesn’t turn out as he’d hoped, and Shan finds himself on the short end of the stick of life once more.
McMorris’ keen attention to detail brings Prohibition, Vaudeville, and Alcatraz, among other happenings of the 1920’s and 30’s, to life. These historical events, along with Shan’s struggles to find happiness while still keeping his own heart pure, will keep readers wishing for more even when the last page has been turned.
Highly recommended for Adult readers.
Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Published October 27, 2015. Little, Brown & Company. (Includes “Cast of Characters,” “Notes,” “Selected Bibliography,” and an “Index.”)
The Salem witch trials are looked at through their historical time and place with the lives of the accused and accusers, as well as that of ministers and judges, held to a magnifying glass. Readers are taken through the years before the trials began to set the stage for why they occurred, and are led beyond 1692 to the present time to show the influence they had on America’s overall history. Schiff’s extensive research is carefully documented in the Notes section, as well as through footnotes, while her Cast of Characters helps readers better understand the almost 100 people who played key roles in this tragedy.
“The Witches: Salem 1692” is heavy, historical reading. The real Puritans, not the Thanksgiving Day Pilgrims of our history books, will appall readers. Prepare to be enlightened, shocked and saddened as Schiff carefully peels away layers of history and lays bare the souls of those who played a part in sending 19 innocent people to their deaths.
Highly recommended for Adults.
Rated 3 stars *** ARC. Published October 6, 2015. Little, Brown & Company. 358 pp. (Includes “The House of Ptolemy” family tree, “Classical Citations,” “Sources,” Sections with Author information on her research and inspiration for the book, Discussion Questions, and a Q & A with the author).
In alternating chapters Berenice (King Ptolemy’s daughter from his sister wife Tryphaena) and Arsinoe (her young half-sister by his concubine) tell their stories.
Berenice has harbored an intense hatred and thirst for revenge on her father for turning his back on her mother, siring children with his concubine, and forgetting all about her. With the help of her mother she orchestrates a coup, wresting the Alexandrian throne from the King, forcing him to flee with his favorite daughter Cleopatra.
Arsinoe was a young girl of 8, very close with her older sister Cleopatra and extremely naive. When her deposed father and sister sailed away and left her behind she was forced to grow up, depending on her own strengths for the first time in her life.
Both Berenice and Arsinoe face many difficulties in the changed world in which they find themselves. Both have eunuchs who rule their lives, both dislike their mothers, both feel alone and abandoned, and both find hidden strengths which help them combat the disorder of a changed kingdom while growing up without a parental hand.
“Cleopatra’s Shadows” is supposed to be based on Arsinoe, someone the historical record has largely ignored. However, despite strengths she sometimes showed, most of the book was filled with depictions of her strange dreams, which could easily have been left out of the narrative. I found them to be superfluous, and wish it had focused more on her and Cleopatra as the title intimates. I actually found myself drawn more to Berenice and her lonely search for love, which is pretty much why I gave this book three stars instead of two stars.
Recommended for Adults.
Rated 2 stars ** ARC. Published October 13, 2015. Catapult.
Using her droll sense of Irish humor, Lizzie Burns tells of her life as a poor mill worker in Manchester, England along with the trials and tribulations of living with her sister Mary. Included in the telling is a relationship she had with Moss, a former Irish lover, which vies with the love she feels for Frederick Engles, her current lover, and Karl Marx’s secretary.
Though illiterate, Lizzie is a wise, straight talking, take-no-prisoners kind of woman who takes her chances on having a better life in London with Frederick, cohabiting without the blessings of a marriage vow. The struggle to bring early forms of Communism to the populace pepper the pages along with Moss’ struggles for a free Ireland. As Lizzie ponders thoughts of falling back into her former life and escaping the corner into which she felt she’d painted herself with Frederick, readers are led through the past and present as she recounts her life with Mary.
Though I found Lizzie’s Irish humor and talk to be interesting, Marx and Engles bored me. In truth, the book bored me so I will leave it up to you to decide if you want to read it or not.
Rated 4 stars **** ARC. Published July 28, 2015. MIRA.
Heidi and Chris Wood had a good marriage until cancer and the loss of her future family took away her dreams. She immersed herself in caring for others through charitable work, longing for the closeness she used to have with her only daughter Zoe who was now a teenager and confided only in her best friend Taylor.
Chris and Zoe were used to Heidi’s many lost causes, but were still shocked when she invited Willow, a homeless teenager, and her baby Ruby to live with them. Willow is very secretive about her past, and the Woods don’t press her, but are sure she is hiding something. However they soon find out the biggest secrets may be those you tell yourself.
“Pretty Baby” was definitely a page-turner as Chris, Heidi and Willow told their stories, but I felt the author did an injustice to Zoe. She picked at her food, barely ate, and was always cold, all signs of anorexia. I thought Heidi’s best friend Jennifer might have noticed something and was trying to talk to Heidi about it, but Heidi was in her own world. Zoe was left to drift at the edges of Chris and Heidi’s worlds; while I felt her obvious need to be noticed should have been one of the stories explored in the book.
Despite this observation, I highly recommended this book for Adults.
Rated 2 stars ** ARC. Published August 4, 2015. Little, Brown & Company. 412 pp. (Includes “Author’s Note.”)
Gerald and Sara Murphy came of age in the 1920’s, hosting extravagant parties in their Villa America estate on the French Riviera with family friends like Ernest Hemingway, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, and many others. After spending their youth as outsiders laced into a form of conventionality by their parents and society, their new way of living freely was a way to recoup those lost years.
Despite outward appearances, all is not as it seems in the Murphy household as secrets are eating away at their foundation. Scott and Ernest create dramas of their own while Owen Chambers, a handsome American pilot with a tragic story, is soon irretrievably mixed in with Gerald and Sara’s confusing lives with unfortunate results.
I found Villa America to be as long on the discussions and short on the action as Owen described it to Gerald. Before I was halfway through reading it I was as tired of the Murphy way of living as was Owen.
The book had its moments but, in general, I wasn’t a fan. Therefore I will leave it up to you to decide if you want to read it or not.