“The Cresswell Plot” Eliza Wass

April 27, 2016 Leave a comment

Rated 3 stars *** ARC. Ebook. To be published June 7, 2016. Disney-Hyperion.

TheCresswellPlotCastley Cresswell and her 5 brothers and sisters live with their father and invalid mother in a rundown shack in the middle of the woods. Their father is convinced he is a prophet of God, and that his children need to marry each other because they are the only ones who will make it to heaven. Everyone has spent their lives praying, reading Father’s religious writings, shunning everything from “the outside,” and allowing him to punish them in ways that redeem their souls.

Now a junior, Castley is looking forward to taking Advanced Drama with her sister which is a release from her life. When their schedules clash her teacher partners her with George, a local boy. Knowing Father has expressly forbidden her to be with boys, Castley decides to overlook the rule so she can enjoy class.

Over time Castley begins to enjoy normalcy, as George helps her see she could be more than a Cresswell. She begins to question her life, but her brothers and sisters believe she is the devil. They don’t want to leave their Father’s grip, even when he announces they have to go to Heaven. With time running out Castley will have to put on the biggest performance of her life to save her family from the man she once loved.

“The Cresswell Plot” is an interesting read, but started out very slowly. It took me a little while to get “into it” but, when I did, it sucked me in.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

I received a digital copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

“Remember to Forget” Ashley Royer

April 24, 2016 Leave a comment

Rated 5 stars ***** Ebook. 2016. Blink.

RememberToForgetSeventeen-year-old Levi has not spoken a word for months. Ever since Delia, his girlfriend of almost a year tragically died in a car accident he has frequent panic attacks, has fallen into a deep depression, and is heavily medicated. Levi feels he doesn’t deserve help, and believes life without Delia is meaningless.

Desperate to save her son’s sanity, Levi’s mother arranges for him to move from Australia to Maine. She is sure a change of scenery will help him cope, but Levi is furious. He is sure that having to live with a father who abandoned him 3 years ago, and starting his life all over again in a completely new setting will not help.

From the moment he lands in Maine, Levi does everything he can to get his father and everyone else he meets to hate him especially Delilah and Aidan, his neighbors. It takes some time, but eventually he finds that love can break your heart but can also help it to heal.

Royer takes readers through Levi’s roller coaster of emotions in a very realistic way as she tells his story and Delilah’s. From the moment I began to read I couldn’t put the book down, finishing it in one sitting. Her true-to-life characters, filled with their own hopes, dreams and fears, are a perfect complement to Levi. I especially loved Aidan, as his antics made me laugh out loud. I was surprised to read the author is just 17 years old, which explains her understanding of the teen experience. This is her first book, and I look forward to reading more of them.

Highly recommended for ages 15 and older.

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

“Cinderland: A Memoir” Amy Jo Burns

April 23, 2016 Leave a comment

Rated 2 stars ** 2014. Beacon Press. 208 pp.

CinderlandAmy Jo grew up in the sleepy town of Mercury, Pennsylvania, which flourished when steel was king but was now a shadow of itself. With mills shuttered, the close-knit town’s many traditions kept it going while its young people secretly dreamed of ways to get out of town. This is the story of a small town that survived the mill closures, yet allowed its own soul to die by not supporting a group of young girls who were sexually abused by one of its own.

Through flashbacks, Amy Jo tells her story of sexual abuse along with the history of Mercury and its people. I wasn’t a fan of her wandering narrative, and found myself wanting to put the book down instead of reading it because it wasn’t holding my interest. I managed to finish, but only did so because I had to write a review for it.

Perhaps other readers will be interested in reading Amy Jo’s story, which is why I will leave it up to you to decide if you want to read it or not.

“The Visionist” Rachel Urquhart

April 10, 2016 Leave a comment

Rated 3 stars *** 2014. Back Bay Books (Little, Brown & Company). 345 pp. Includes “Bibliography,” and a “Reading Group Guide.”

TheVisionist“The Visionist,” set in New England in the 1840’s, introduces readers to Shaker life. Abandoned as a baby, the strict life of a Shaker is the only life Sister Charity has ever known. Trying to please her spiritual leader “Mother Ann,” her benefactress Elder Sister Agnes, and the other members of the society leave Sister Charity feeling doomed to perdition because of her unworthiness.

Polly Kimball, her brother Ben, and mother May suffered for years under the brutal hands of her father Silas. When a fire Polly accidentally set helped them flee, May leaves them at a nearby Shaker community and disappears. In her sadness Polly has a vision, which the community believes comes from their beloved Mother Ann. Elder Sister Agnes is suspicious of Polly’s “vision” and wonders about her past, while Simon Pryor, fire inspector, has questions of his own.

As the girls’ friendship grows, the fear that Charity will find out everything about her is built on lies weighs heavily on Polly’s mind. Soon the struggle between right and wrong will consume both girls, as each attempt to figure out their role in the community.

Urquhart’s well researched portrayal of Shaker life in the 1840’s, as well as descriptions of clothing and customs of the time, does much to make “The Visionist” realistic. I would have preferred May telling her own story of how she got tangled up with Silas, and then explaining what she did to survive after dropping off Ben and Polly at the Shaker community. Since I only got dribs and drabs of her story, I gave it 3 stars instead of 4.

Recommended for Adults.

“The Curse of Crow Hollow” Billy Coffey

April 3, 2016 Leave a comment

Rated 3 stars *** 2015. Thomas Nelson. 406 pp. (Includes “Discussion Questions.”)

TheCurseOfCrowHollowSomething strange is going on in Crow Hollow. People say a witch on the mountain cursed the town many years ago, so have stayed away from her mountain out of fear. The day Cordelia and her friends decided to trespass on the witch’s mountain was the day something caused the girls in town to be stricken with a mysterious illness. As town residents try to find out why the witch has stricken them and how to rid themselves of her reach, they end up turning against each other in ways no one had ever thought could be possible.

A mysterious narrator takes readers through chaos of their own making in a supposedly religious town. Once actually face-to-face with the “evil” they heard about every Sunday morning from their Reverend, they forget what they’ve been taught. Casting suspicious eyes outward rather than inward serves only to fuel the fires of distrust. While echoing some events from the Salem Witch Trials, “The Curse of Crow Hollow” works to show readers what can happen when religion combines with hysteria rather than common sense.

Recommended for Adult readers.

“Mercy’s Rain: An Appalachian Novel” Cindy K. Sproles

March 26, 2016 Leave a comment

Rated 3 stars *** 2015. Kregel Publications. 263 pp.

MercysRainMercy lives on the side of a mountain in rural Tennessee with her father, the local Pastor, and mother. She and her mother have spent their lives being physically, mentally and emotionally abused by her father. Demons reside in his soul, which encourage him to kill, torture, and beat anyone who crosses his will without a morsel of regret.

Mercy is 19 years old when she witnesses her father kill an innocent man, and participates in his death through the mountain’s code of justice. After her mother sends her away, Mercy wanders the mountain in search of redemption and finding a purpose for her life. As she struggles to understand her role in God’s plan, Mercy continually hardens her heart as she seeks forgiveness for her role in her father’s death.

As I read, I was aghast at the many awful ways the Pastor abused his wife and daughter in the name of God and religion. It is with deep shame that I note this type of behavior is probably happening all over the world. I found it quite unfortunate that Pastor’s flock allowed his spiritual leadership over them to close their eyes to his behavior, leaving Mercy and her mother completely under his thumb of control.

What really annoyed me about “Mercy’s Rain” was Mercy. It seemed as if every single chapter she begged the Lord to show her what to do or how to act, filling the pages with a litany of complaints and questions. When God answered, Mercy spent time thanking him for helping her to “get it” then spent the next chapter complaining about the exact same thing she’d been thanking Him for doing for her in the last chapter. She was a ridiculous merry-go-round of grievances, and quickly grew tiresome. I think Sproles could have gotten her point across about Mercy needing mercy and forgiveness in half of the 263 pages it took to drag us through her whining.

Despite Mercy’s inability to make a decision with her life, I will recommend “Mercy’s Rain” only because it shows the importance of knowing you are not alone when facing trials and tribulations, and that abused women need to seek help immediately.

Recommended for Adults.

I received a complimentary copy of “Mercy’s Rain” from LibraryThing.com in exchange for an honest review.

“Best friends through eternity” Sylvia McNicoll

March 22, 2016 Leave a comment

Rated 3 stars *** 2015. Tundra Books. Hardcover. 182 pp.

BestFriendsThroughEternityPaige is fourteen, adopted by Canadian parents shortly after she was abandoned at an orphanage in China. As a result she feels as if something is missing from her life, coping with her insecurities by shunning affection and anything Chinese.

One snowy Monday the girl’s volleyball team decides to beat her and her best friend Jasmine up in retaliation for something they believe Jasmine did to a teammate. In order to avoid the route where she knows they’ll be waiting, Paige takes a shortcut along the train tracks – even though it means Jasmine will be left alone with them. Oblivious to the world around her due to the loud music on her iPod Paige doesn’t hear the train’s warning horn and is hit, leaving her in an irreversible coma.

From there Paige is given the gift of a week to return to her old life and right the wrong she did to Jasmine, with the caveat being she can’t let anyone know she will die. Paige’s new life takes many twists and turns as she desperately tries to help Jasmine, finding unexpected results from her last, fate filled week.

I was very upset the volleyball team got away with very serious bullying, as some of their antics could have gotten the girls killed yet no adult noticed. On the other hand I was pleased to see Paige’s transformation, as it could encourage some readers to rethink their own lives in a positive manner. I also liked the cover.

Recommended for ages 11-14.

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