“Still life with tornado” A.S. King

Rated 1 star * ARC. Published October 11, 2016. Dutton Books. 295 p.

stilllifewithtornadoI really didn’t like this book. I thought it was very disjointed, and the storyline dragged. Weird and strange, sort of like a modern “Man of La Mancha,” I was left confused rather than enlightened. The tornado on the cover described me before, during and after reading it – because I felt nothing was truly resolved but, instead, shoved aside and (supposedly) forgotten. At the end everything was suddenly tied up in a neat bow, and life was now good. Huh?! Really?!

I will leave it up to you to decide if you want to read it or not. I wish I had been a “not.”

“A List of Cages” Robin Roe

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. 308 pp. To be published January 10, 2017. Disney-Hyperion.

alistofcagesBoth of Julian’s parents died in a car crash when he was just 9 years old. Back then he used to sing, draw, write and act silly knowing his parents loved him no matter what he did. With them gone he now lives with his strict uncle, and has learned to keep all his emotions tucked away where no one could see them. Uncle Russell doesn’t like it when Julian does things he believes he shouldn’t do.

Adam remembers when Julian used to live in his home as a foster child when he was just a little boy. Now that he’s a senior and Julian is a freshman, they see each other often at school. Adam has always been a happy person, and knows Julian has special needs, but is determined to enfold him into his life and win his trust. What he finds out about Julian will forever change the course of their lives.

Through alternating chapters, Julian and Adam tell their stories of love, loss, heartbreak, faith, fear and hope. Theirs is a story of friendship, caring and strength that will wring tears from the hardest of hearts. Roe expertly shows her readers what goes on in the mind of a special needs child, reminding us that everyone deserves the same chances at life.

Highly recommended for ages 14 and older.

“Sugar”Deirdre Riordan Hall

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Published June 1, 2015. Skyscape.

SugarAs a little girl, Mercy’s mother caught her eating sugar out of a bag and nicknamed her “Sugar.” She and her brothers were encouraged to eat more than normal because their mother didn’t want skinny kids. As a result they grew fat, while their morbidly obese mother was confined to bed with various ailments.

Now 17 years old, Sugar cooks, cleans and cares for her mother and younger brother, while enduring cruel verbal and physical abuse from them about her weight. Constant bullying at school makes eating sweets the only thing that appeases the cruelty she experiences daily, trapping her in a vicious cycle of eating to feel better then hating herself for gaining weight.

Sugar’s life changes when she meets Even with an “e” not an “a.” Even is a senior at her high school who sees the person Sugar wishes she could be, and encourages her to come out of the shell she’s been in her whole life. As Mercy begins to blossom under Even’s kindness, the reality of her cruel world soon forces her to a crossroads.

“Sugar” was beautifully written and, at times, brought me to tears. The struggles someone who is overweight goes through are hauntingly brought to the surface, and are eye openers. It will educate readers to their sufferings, and help us see them in a whole new light.

Highly recommended for 16 and older.

“Baby Doll” Hollie Overton

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Ebook. To be published July 12, 2016. Redhook Books (Hachette).

BabyDollLily and her twin sister Abby have always been attuned to each other’s feelings and thoughts, sharing unspoken pacts to always be there for each other. When 16-year-old Lily was kidnapped and held as a sex slave for 8 years, their lives were turned upside down. During those 3,110 days of captivity, Lily gave birth, bore numerous beatings, and learned to be a perfect Baby Doll. Despite his attempts to make her forget, she drew strength from memories of her family, and used that strength to escape the night her captor got careless.

Told through the voices of Lily, Abby, her mother, and her kidnapper, “Baby Doll” takes readers on a roller coaster of emotions as we learn what Lily endured during her 8 years of captivity, and the ramifications it had on her family. Lily’s freedom affects each one differently, but the revenge planned for her disobedience by Rick, her captor, brought goose bumps of horror. This psychological thriller kept me on the edge of my seat, and will do the same for you.

Highly recommended for Adults.

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

“The Cresswell Plot” Eliza Wass

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.

“Cinderland: A Memoir” Amy Jo Burns

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

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.