“Eventide” Sarah Goodman

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. Tor Teen. To be published October 6, 2020.

EventideIn 1907 seventeen-year-old Verity and her little sister Lilah set out from New York City on an orphan train to find a new home. Verity was bitter because she hadn’t been allowed to care for her sister. She was almost eighteen, and had taken care of her ever since their mother died and their father started to go insane. However, she was still underage, so they had been forced to go to an orphanage when their father was taken to an asylum.

When they arrived in the small town of Wheeling Arkansas Miss Maeve, the local schoolteacher, adopted Lilah. Desperate to stay near her sister Verity allowed herself to be indentured to a couple that needed help on their farm. As she struggled through her chores, the thought of being able to leave forever with Lilah in a few months enabled her to get through the days in this little, superstitious town.

Verity couldn’t understand why everyone was afraid of the woods, and why she’d been warned to stay away from it. When she decided to explore it for herself she couldn’t understand why it suddenly became freezing cold and foggy, nor could she explain the presence of a little girl who disappeared when Verity tried to follow her. As Verity learned more about the people in the small town she began to realize that Lilah was in grave danger. Verity will do anything she can to protect her sister – even if it means giving up everything she once held dear.

I loved this book! It was suspenseful, spooky, thrilling and kept me up turning pages until late at night. I did have some questions about the ending that I would love to ask the author but, because they might reveal spoilers, I can’t ask them on this blog. However, I would love it if Sarah Goodman contacted me on the “down low” so I can unburden myself and get the answers I seek.

Despite my questions I highly recommend “Eventide” for ages 16 and older.

I received a digital advance reading copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

“The second home” Christina Clancy

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. St. Martin’s Press. To be published June 2, 2020.

The Second HomeAnn’s parents had recently been killed in an accident and, though it had been in her family for generations, she was desperate to rid herself of her family’s ramshackle summer home in Wellfleet, MA. Her urgency to sell included the fact she didn’t want her estranged brother Michael to know she was selling. They’d lost contact years earlier, after an especially horrific summer, and the anger she felt towards him had worsened over the years.

Michael and Ann had been the same age and were best friends at school so, since he got along well with her family, Ann convinced them to adopt him. The summer of 1999 was his first in Wellfleet, which he spent wrestling with his feelings about Ann. She had taken on a babysitting job with the Shaws, a rich family, contrasting their lives and loving how her boss made her feel. While they spent the summer trying to work through their issues, her younger sister Poppy was getting high after falling in with a rough crowd of surfing locals. That summer forever changed their lives.

Ann, Michael and Poppy’s love for their summer home, and the Wellfleet memories that tied them together, will sink deeply into the reader. I was fully invested in their stories, told through flashbacks and the present, and was eagerly turning pages as I hoped for everything to end on a satisfying note.

Highly recommended for Adults.

I received a digital advance reading copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

“The House of Five Fortunes” Amanda Hughes

Rated 3 stars *** ebook. 2016. Lillis and James. Bold Women of the 20th Century #3. 2016.

The House of Five FortunesXiu’s mother bought an opium den, The House of Five Fortunes, in San Francisco after her husband fell ill and could no longer support the family. When she died Xiu inherited it, but was forced to hide the leadership skills she’d learned due to a possessive and tyrannical husband. Her mother had worked hard to make the business a success, even though there were few women business owners in Chinatown, but Xiu passively allowed her husband to hold the reins of her life and her empire because she loved him.

When he was killed Xiu took control again and, with the help of her friend Nuan and Madison a famous actor, they raised The House of Five Fortunes to greater heights. Though there was a lot of anti-Chinese sentiment, that didn’t stop Madison from falling in love with Xiu but, due to her being Chinese, they were not allowed to marry. When random murders began to be committed, the police and local Whites blamed the Chinese. Madison knew Xiu wasn’t safe but, when a massive race riot began in Chinatown, their lives were soon endangered along with all of the town’s inhabitants.

Though this book is in the Bold Women of the 20th Century series, I didn’t see Xiu as very bold. Her mother was strong, but I saw Xiu as weak and easy to manipulate. I thought her mother, Nuan, and Dandan the cook were strong female characters, not Xiu. In fact the strongest character in the book was Madison, and he was a man!

Descriptions of the United States in the 1870’s, life during the gold rush, and the building of the transcontinental railroad by Chinese immigrants were interesting to read. I was saddened to read of the many ways the Chinese were mistreated – ways that are mirrored in anti-Immigrant policies today. Our country may have travelled far during the past 150 years, but many unpleasant reminders from the past still rear their ugly heads.

Recommended for Adults.

“Summer on the bluffs” Sunny Hostin with Veronica Chambers

Rated 4 stars **** ARC. William Morrow (HarperColllins). Oak Bluffs #1. Coming Summer 2021. 385 p.

Summer on the BluffsAmelia and her husband Omar worked their way up from the bottom to become rich millionaires, and built a beautiful beach house in a historically black section of Oak Bluffs on the island of Martha’s Vineyard. There they relaxed, mingled with other well-heeled neighbors, had parties, and enjoyed the island’s beauty. Midway through their marriage they became godparents to Perry, Olivia and Billie. The young girls spent summers with them on the island, were introduced to cultural activities, travelled widely, and became like sisters to each other. Ama and Omar’s generous monetary gifts enabled them to attend the finest schools, and set them onto high paying career paths.

It’s 2020 and Ama is now alone, as Omar passed away five years earlier. Despite inner reservations she’s decided it was time to tell her girls important secrets she’s kept hidden from them for decades. She invites them to spend one final summer at the Bluffs, but she doesn’t know that Perry, Olivia and Billie are hiding secrets of their own. Can three grown women who have grown apart over the years return to the summers of their youth with a woman they have grown to see as a mother figure?

Each of the women are strong characters, although I think Perry could have been a little less whiny and a better listener. Ama’s character was deep and long-suffering, while the men were well rounded and had their own strengths (except for Jeremy). I enjoyed reading a little about the history of Oak Bluffs, as well as seeing life through the eyes of the “powerfully rich and famous, I can live anywhere” crowd. I spent several summer days there many years ago as part of the “working full time, I can only stay in the cheapest place” crowd, but I’m proud to say my adult self once got the brass ring on the famous Oak Bluffs carousel. I had to return it at the end of my ride, but it was fun to get a free ride!

This is book #1 of a planned series, but it’s unknown as to whether or not the same characters will be in the rest of the series or if the author will introduce another set of characters to spend time on the Bluffs.

Recommended for Adults.

I received an advance reading copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

“First & then” by Emma Mills

Rated 4 stars **** Henry Holt and Company. 2015. 267 p.

First & thenDevon and Cas have been best friends for years and, though she’s secretly in love with him, she keeps that part under wraps. Frustrated at her inability to feel any interest in everything that comes with college plans, she takes it out on Foster, her 14-year-old nerdy cousin, who has just moved in with them.

The worst part about school for Devon is having to take gym with a bunch of freshmen – including Foster. She and Ezra Lynley, the football team’s newest star, are the only seniors in the class but seem to rub each other the wrong way. It seems as if every conversation ends in disaster. When Ezra discovers Foster can kick a football extremely far, he becomes his mentor and helps Foster join the varsity team.

As Foster becomes cool with his fellow freshmen, Devon struggles with her feelings towards Cas, Lindsay and Ezra. Though he annoys her, she likes his protectiveness towards Foster. In time, Devon realizes she needs to look outside of the box she’s placed around herself in order to discover a real life instead of the make-believe one she’s fashioned for herself.

I empathized with Devon in her complicated feelings towards both Lindsay and Cas, and was glad she got her act together in regards to both Ezra and Foster, as they deserved more chances than life had given them. It was a good book and a quick read, though I’m a bit confused as to what the title is supposed to mean.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

 

“The promise” by Michelle Vernal

Rated 4 stars **** ebook. 2018. Amazon Digital Services, LLC.

The promiseAfter Isabel’s boyfriend cheated on her, she took off for Australia to burn off her anger. While on a side trip to New Zealand she came across a car accident and promised a dying old woman she would find someone named Constance on the Island of Wight and apologize. With her promise weighing heavily on her heart, Isabel decided she needed to leave for the Island and begin her search for Constance.

On the Island of Wight Constance was feeling the full weight of her 89 years in the care home where she was now forced to live. It seemed as if the past was becoming her present as she relived the war years of 1944 when she met Henry, the love of her life. Though there were constant bombings, and Henry was recuperating from a war injury, Constance and Henry forgot it all in their world of love.

Eventually Isabel and Constance finally meet, and the result is nothing short of outstanding. I really enjoyed reading their stories, and thought the author did a great job in how she brought them together and in how their stories played out. My biggest criticism was that the author added herbal recipes during the narrative. There they were disruptive and should have been placed in a glossary, along with the rest of the herbal cures mentioned by Delwyn, Isabel, Molly and Constance.

Still, despite these interruptions in the narrative, I definitely enjoyed Isabel and Constance’s story and recommend this book to Adult readers.

“The inexplicable logic of my life” by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Rated 5 stars ***** 2017. Clarion Books (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). 452 p.

The inexplicable logic of my lifeWho am I? The year he turned 17, Salvador’s mind was full of unanswered questions. He had always been able to tell his best friend Samantha anything, as she was like a sister to him, but he felt he couldn’t tell her he didn’t want his wonderful and supportive gay father, who adopted him and who he dearly loved, to know he was thinking of his real father. He’d been getting into lots of fights; leaving him wondering if the anger he felt came from his real dad. Was he an offshoot of his dad? Did he inherit his dad’s anger issues? Who is he really? Sal doesn’t know.

Sal knows he doesn’t want to go to college, doesn’t want to write his admission essay, and doesn’t want his beloved grandmother Mima to leave him. He loves his family but has lots of questions about his place in the world. While Sal tries to figure out some answers to the craziness going on in his head, stuff keeps happening. Death, sadness, grief, anger and sorrow keep entering his life; along with the love that comes from a close knit family and good friends. Why does his life feel so messed up? Who is he really?

Many of Sal’s questions will ring true with teen readers, along with his emotional ups and downs. I was moved to tears by Mima and Sal’s friend Fito’s problems, and loved the strong friendship between Sal and Sammy. The strong and powerful love given to Sal by his dad is an example for all dads to follow. Once again Sáenz pens a winner.

Highly recommended for readers age 14 and older.

“Ghosts of the Shadow Market” by Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan, Maureen Johnson, Kelly Link and Robin Wasserman

Rated 5 stars ***** 2019. Margaret K. McElderry Books. 607 p.

Ghosts of the Shadow MarketSeveral well-known Young Adult authors join with Cassandra Clare to pen 10 stories about Jem, Tessa and other characters from the “Mortal Instruments, “Infernal Devices” and “Dark Artifices” series in Shadow Markets of different locations and time periods.

Unlike “Tales of the Shadowhunter Academy”, “Ghosts of the Shadow Market” doesn’t waste time rehashing characters in each story. By now anyone who’s read the series knows the characters, so constantly describing them in each story is boring and repetitive for those of us who know all about them. Thank you for not taking more than a quick sentence or two to tell us about them in each story.

The stories take place between 1899 (when Matthew Fairchild was parabatai with James Herondale and Jem was still Brother Zacahriah) and 2013 (when Jem and Tessa are married and expecting their first child.) This time period is also when “Queen of Air and Darkness” ended, leading readers into what will definitely be a new series with Jace Herondale’s Thule double preparing to wreck disaster on the characters we’ve grown to know and love.

Highly recommended for ages 14 and older.

 

 

 

 

 

“Maiden Voyage: A Titanic story”

Maiden VoyageARC. 4 stars **** Sarah Jane. Published August 2018. Scholastic. (247 p.)

In April of 1912, three girls board the Titanic for her maiden voyage. Abby is an orphaned maid for Lucy and her ill mother, constantly distracted as she tries to figure out how to hide her stowaway brother and survive alone in New York. Isabella’s poor parents put her onboard with a letter telling her she’s adopted, and to search among the passengers for her really rich parents. Feeling abandoned Isabella knows she faces an impossible task. Lucy wishes her always-angry father would allow the three of them to be a real family and enjoy their time in first class on the Titanic. But, with her mother’s continued illness, she soon finds that his anger is the least of her troubles.

Eventually the three girls find each other and, as their stories are revealed, they realize their lives are forever intersected. However their sense of family and happiness is short lived because the Titanic has just hit an iceberg.

With short chapters and cliffhanger endings, “Maiden Voyage” is a good choice for reluctant readers ages 12 to 15.

 

 

“Taking flight: From war orphan to star ballerina” Michaela DePrince with Elaine DePrince

Rated 4 stars **** 2016. Ember. 246 p. (Includes an interview with Michaela DePrince).

TakingFlightHer 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.