Rated 3 stars *** 2015. Hyperion. 298 p.
Forced to work for Bones at the age of 5, an evil thief who forced children to steal for him, Arista and her best friend Nic grew up on the seedy streets of 1700’s London picking pockets and struggling to stay alive. Twelve years later, Arista has become Lady A – blackmailer of London high society. She and Nic roam masked balls trading secrets for money, which they hand over to Bones.
Trying to escape Bones’ evil clutches Arista decides to work for Wild, a more powerful thief, with promises that she will be able to live out her dream of moving to India and living a normal life with her best friend Becky. When she meets Grae, the handsome son of a ship merchant, she feels as if her dreams for normalcy are finally coming true. However, Wild has no intention of ever letting her go. Will love be enough to help Arista escape the plans Wild has for her, or will she be forced to forever be a thief?
Some of the exploits of the real life Jonathan Wild are explored, and the early life led by Nic and Arista is very similar to that of Fagin’s boys in Dickens’ “Oliver Twist.” If you want a quick, light read, a sort-of love triangle, and a boy/girl romance that develops within 2 minutes, then “Tangled webs” is the book for you.
Recommended for ages 14 and older.
Rated 4 stars **** 2016. Ember. 246 p. (Includes an interview with Michaela DePrince).
Her parents in her Sierra Leone village loved their daughter Mabinty Bangura but, because of her leopard-like spots from vitiligo, she was shunned and despised by the villagers. Her parents could read, and defied tradition by educating her. They were a happy family until rebels killed her father. Without his support, she and her mother were forced to move into her despotic uncle’s house where they were starved. Within a short time her mother died, and she was abandoned at an orphanage.
Mabinty recounts her hard life in the orphanage, her adoption by an American family at the age of four, and her rebirth under the new name of Michaela. Inspired by a magazine picture, she was determined to become a ballerina. “Taking flight” is Michaela’s story of how she soared past the pain of her early life and into the world of ballet.
Michaela does an excellent job recounting her many trials and tribulations, the love she has for her parents and family members, as well as her successes. However the technical ballerina jargon used to describe various dance moves in several different chapters was very confusing. It would have been helpful to have a glossary, with photographs, of these dance terms at the end of the book.
Recommended for ages 12-18, due to the graphic nature of some of the war crimes described.
Rated 2 stars ** Hyperion. 2015. 345 p. (Includes “Author’s Note.”)
Emilia and Teo grew up on the road with their stunt pilot mothers in the early 1920’s. Frustrated at the lack of job equality for women, and especially upset with the laws against blacks, Teo’s mother Delia dreamed of freedom in Ethiopia. When she was killed in a freak accident, Emilia’s mother decides to raise Teo as her own and leaves for Ethiopia to fulfill her best friend’s wishes for him to have a better life. For a number of years they all enjoyed their time in Ethiopia until Mussolini’s army invaded in 1935. “Black Dove, White Raven” is Teo and Emilia’s, as well as Ethiopia’s story, during that timeframe.
I had a hard time making it through this book, as I found it to be too slow moving and it really didn’t capture my interest. Writing about Ethiopia was important to Wein, but the enormous amount of material put into the 345 pages was a bit much for me. However I will leave it up to those of you ages 14 and older to decide if you want to read it or not.
Rated 4 stars **** 2015. Sky Pony Press. 306 p.
RJ, Queen Bee and Mean Girl at her high school, never expected life to end at the age of 17. However, the Grim Reaper accidentally takes her soul when a fortuneteller uses her as a shield against him. Highly upset at the consequences of his mistake, RJ refuses to be processed in the afterlife. Instead she insists her soul be returned to her body, and creates a stink about being wrongfully taken to anyone who’ll listen.
A Tribunal of angels is convened to rule on her case, and she is given a task to return to three important occasions in her life that could alter her destiny. IF she manages to change the course of her life, and influence others for the good, they will grant her request. If not, she will be shut away for years until her real death date occurs somewhere in the future.
RJ is determined to ace her tests though the Tribunal doesn’t seem to want her to succeed. Changing the pattern of the selfish life she’d led on Earth is not going to be easy, but if she wants to live in her own body again she’ll have to figure out a way.
Schmitt has a very active imagination, describing Saint Peter, life after death, heaven, hell, and even angels in ways that would never be found in any religious book. Though some conservative types might find her descriptions of RJ’s experiences in the afterlife to be sacrilegious, I found them to be original, highly imaginative and quite humorous.
Recommended for ages 14 and older.
Rated 2 stars ** 2015. Soho Teen. 291 p.
Sixteen-year-old Kara is angry with her dead sister and with her mother. When Kellen died, her father left home and her mother retreated into a shell until she found religion. Her newfound faith changed her into a Holy Roller, offering advice and words of hope to strangers in her new cafe, while ignoring her own daughter. Kara doesn’t mourn Kellen because she hated her, hinting at something Kellen did which was unforgivable.
Kara bakes all sorts of baked goods to forget her problems, spending time alternately hurting and loving Charlie, the only boy who’s ever been nice to her, and trying to ignore scary notes randomly left on a daily basis by a stalker. Despite numerous opportunities to take others into her confidence, she continually assures herself she could handle the situation. By the time she realizes she’s in over her head, it’s almost too late.
In alternating chapters readers take a very slow ride through Kara’s memories growing up with Kellen, leading up to the unveiling of her stalker. However, I was not impressed. I found Kara to be annoying because of the countless excuses she gave for not seeking help as the notes got progressively worse. Always second-guessing herself, she also didn’t have any self-confidence. The most interesting character in the book was Charlie.
Thus I will leave it up to you readers ages 14 and older to decide if you want to read it or not. I seem to be on a bad roll, as this is the fourth book in a row that didn’t thrill me.
Rated 2 stars ** 2015. Thomas Dunne (St. Martin’s Press). 308 p.
Dark magic and superstition rule the world of the Palomas and Corbeaus, reminding readers of the long-standing Montague-Capulet and Hatfield-McCoy feuds. In McLemore’s fantastical version the Palomas and Corbeaus planted seeds of anger and mistrust amongst themselves 20 years ago, which grew into the current tangled web of superstition and hatred.
The Palomas have always travelled the countryside entertaining audiences with their life-like mermaid shows, while the Corbeaus did the same as fearless, feathered birds in trees. Born into this world of distrust, Lace Paloma and Cluck Corbeau learned to carry on the mantle of animosity that has long defined their families. In alternate chapters they tell their stories of anger, suspicion, loneliness and love.
I wasn’t a fan of this book as I found the action to be slow moving, which made me take longer than usual to read since I wasn’t “feeling it.” In addition many French and Spanish phrases and words scattered throughout should have been translated in a Glossary. Some were easily figured out using the context, but the meaning of many remained hidden as I didn’t have time to look them up while trying to read.
Thus, I will leave it up to readers 14 and older to decide if you want to read it or not.
Rated 2 stars ** 2015. HarperTeen. 360 p.
Max grew up on the streets and in various foster homes, which made it hard to get to know people. Now a senior in high school, Max still feels on the edge of life as he struggles to make ends meet at a surfing job while his girlfriend Parvati and best friend Preston, who are both rich, glide through life without any worries.
Parvati’s father forbade their relationship, so Max plans to get detention to spend time with her. His taking the blame for someone else’s infraction creates the opportunity to do so for other students, and lays the groundwork for “Liars, Inc,” which Parvati and Preston decide would be the name of their new venture of creating excuses for money.
Max fabricates a lie that allows Preston to escape to Vegas for a weekend rendezvous with someone he met online. When he disappears, Max and Parvati team up to try and figure out what happened. Things become complicated when Preston’s blood is found in Max’s car, along with his missing cell phone. When Preston is found dead, Max becomes the main suspect and is soon on the run from FBI agents. As he and Parvati piece together clues, it becomes obvious that he is being framed. The question is who would do so, and why?
I wasn’t a fan of this book as I found the plot to be far-fetched and unrealistic. Thus I will leave it up to readers 14 and older to decide if you want to read it or not.