“The door that led to where” Sally Gardner

 Rated 3 stars *** ARC. Published November 8, 2016. Delacorte Press. 277 p.

thedoorthatledtowhereA.J. has grown up with a missing father and an angry mother. With no future in England’s post secondary education due to failing exams, he takes on work as a clerk at a local law firm. There he discovers a strange key with his name on it and, through a series of circumstances, finds it belongs to a door that takes him into the past.

London of 1830 gets much getting used to, with A.J. soon involved in a series of mysterious deaths – including that of his own father. Discovering his father was also a time traveler leads to more mysteries that set the course for A.J.’s past, present and future.

I enjoyed seeing 1830’s London brought to detailed life, and also liked the title. It’s word play for a door that goes “where” rather than “nowhere” is quite clever.

I was not fond of the open ending which usually leads to a series, as I am not fond of books in a series. I also think the author should have had a glossary. Slang British words were used throughout the book, and a glossary would have been very helpful.

I also thought A.J. and his friends were more like 16 going on 26, instead of “normal” 16 year olds. All of these issues, combined with spoiler complaints listed below, is why  I gave “The door that led to where” 3 instead of 4 stars.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

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Mrs. Meacock was the picture of health, ready to institutionalize Esme. Yet, two days later, she was rendered practically unrecognizable, just a few short steps from death. I find it hard to believe she had become crazy so quickly after being relatively sane for so many years.

I also thought the author should have unveiled the professor’s identity in a little more detail. I know he was a time traveler, but he knew a lot about A.J.’s history. Why did he know so much?

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“Stranded” Melinda Braun

Rated 5 stars ***** Ebook. ARC. 2015. Simon Pulse.

StrandedEmma is a champion swimmer, but that didn’t help when her car flipped into a body of water trapping herself and her younger sister Lucy. Unable to deal with her guilt at not saving Lucy’s life, Emma has given up on her own life, going through each day like a zombie.

Hoping to avoid the upcoming anniversary of Lucy’s death, Emma signs up to join a weeklong remote wilderness camp for teens. After a freak of nature kills three of the group, Emma finds herself as one of a group of four struggling to find their way in a vast forest with only a few supplies and a little water. They need to work together but, with each passing day, the threat of wolves and an impending snowstorm, along with infighting, distrust, hunger, and thirst begin to wear them down. With the hope of rescue becoming slimmer each passing day, Emma finds an inner strength she never knew she possessed.

“Stranded” ranks right up with Gary Paulsen’s classic book “Hatchet.” Readers will not only learn important wilderness survival skills, but will also learn what “survival” really means.

Highly recommended for ages 14 and older.

“Lavina” Mary Marcus

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. 2015. The Story Plant.

LavinaMary Jacob barely remembers her life before she was 13, growing up in Murpheysfield, Louisiana. She is shocked when her older sister calls to say her dad is dying and wants to see her, as she hasn’t spoken to either of them in years. Despite her misgivings she decides to return home, where she is soon forced to face memories she has tried so hard to forget.

Billy Ray, singer and harmonica player, left his hometown of Murpheysfield, Louisiana in 1963 when he was 15 years old and his mother, Lavina, was killed. Thirty years later he reluctantly returns for a gig and finds out Mary Jacob is in town. He knows she is the only one who knows what really happened the day his mother died, and he is determined to finally get the truth out of her.

In alternate voices Mary Jacob, Lavina and Billy Ray talk about life during Jim Crow. As their connections to each other are revealed, the past begins to blend into the present as the events that changed their lives forever are finally revealed.

“Lavina” reveals the endurance of an oppressed race as well as the complex world that existed between black and white. It will stay with you long after the last page is turned.

Highly recommended for Adults.

 

“The Passenger” Lisa Lutz

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Ebook. Published March 1, 2016. Simon & Schuster.

ThePassengerWhen Tanya Dubois finds her husband’s body at the foot of the stairs, she is sure no one will believe it was an accident. Even though she didn’t kill him she’s afraid of what prying policemen will find hidden in her own life. Without a second thought she assumes a disguise and flees the scene. With this impetuous decision, Tanya reverts to life on the lam.

As Tanya crisscrosses the country, she manages to assume multiple identities, so many that I lost count and had to look at the table of contents to reorient myself. Her efforts to stay off the grid for 10 years involved ingenious types of survival tactics, several of which had me raising my eyebrows in disbelief. When she meets Blue, a fellow fugitive, their adventures become even more hair raising with some interesting similarities to Thelma & Louise.

As I tried to figure out who were Jo and Ryan and why they were emailing each other throughout the story, I was also trying to figure out Tanya’s identities, her back-story, and Blue’s motives. Though the storyline gets a bit confusing, the fast paced action will keep readers glued to their seats. The ending left me gasping out loud in disbelief, as Lutz was very sneaky. I never saw it coming.

Recommended for Adults.

I received this Advanced Reading Copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

“Legend: A Harrowing Story from the Vietnam War of One Green Beret’s Heroic Mission to Rescue a Special Forces Team Caught Behind Enemy Lines” Eric Blehm

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Crown (Penguin Random House.) Published April 28, 2015. (Includes “List of Characters,”Military Terms, Acronyms, and Abbreviations,” an “Index,” and various maps.)

LegendOn May 2, 1968 Roy Benavidez, then a Staff Sergeant with the Army’s Green Beret Special Forces unit stationed in Vietnam, willingly jumped onto a helicopter to enter no-man’s-land in Cambodia where 12 men from his team were pinned down by enemy fire, sustaining heavy loss. Without thinking of his own safety, Benavidez jumped from the helicopter and into Special Forces history with his daring rescue of the surviving 8 men despite suffering devastating wounds. “Legend” tells his story, along with the years long battle to award him the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Using eyewitness accounts, archival and military records, among other sources, Blehm gives readers insight into Benavidez’s home life and what led him to become a member of the Green Berets, along with minute-by-minute accounts of the events leading up to the Special Forces unit’s foray into the supposedly neutral country of Cambodia which had been giving support to the North Vietnamese. At times the narrative becomes bogged down with technical lingo, but the urgency of battle and the story of the heroic men who suffered that day, shines through the technicalities.

Highly recommended for Adult readers.

“Secret of the Sevens” Lynn Lindquist

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. EBook. Flux. Published June 2015.

SecretOfTheSevensEighteen-year-old Talan Michaels is about to graduate from the Singer School for poor, unwanted and troubled children. Having been there since he was 7 years old, his housemates, house parents and friends are the only family he’s ever known. Upon graduation he will face a future of homelessness and uncertainty, which fills him with fear. Thus when an invitation comes to join the Sevens, a secret society at the school, Talan is ecstatic. He is sure the Sevens’ promise of riches will be his ticket to freedom after graduating.

Talan knew that William Singer’s wife, founder of the school, had died under mysterious circumstances. He also knew that William Singer and five of the original Sevens had also died, with the Sevens accused of his murder. He and his house sister Laney embark on a series of secret missions destined to save the school from someone who knows what really happened to William Singer, his wife and the original Sevens. Talan and Laney will have to be careful, or they will share the same fate. With time running out, the two will have to pull out all the stops to save their school before it’s too late for everyone.

The plot twists and mysteries hidden in “Secret of the Sevens” had me mesmerized. I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next to the new group of Sevens. Lindquist will keep readers on the edges of their seats.

Highly recommended for ages 14 and older.

“If I Fall, If I Die” Michael Christie

Rated 3 stars *** Ebook. ARC. Published January 20, 2015. Hogarth.

IfIFallIfIDieInside has always been part of Will’s life. His mother Diane is afraid of everything, including Outside. When the fear is strongest she disappears into her own darkness, which he nicknamed the Black Lagoon. Extremely possessive and paranoid, she makes him take every precaution to avoid the same fate which befell her brother and father.

Schooling consists of listening to his mother read books, painting his masterpieces, listening to music and watching videos. Everything they need comes straight from deliverymen, courtesy of Diane’s credit card or checkbook. Life on the Inside has always been satisfying to Will, until the day he decides to investigate a strange Outside noise where he meets Marcus.

Soon Marcus is reported missing. Unable to bear the thought of his very first friend being lost, Will braves the Outside to attend school for the first time to find him. There he meets Jonah, who has been written off by the town because he’s Indian. Their friendship bonds around their mutual love for drawing and skateboarding, and the boys are soon inseparable. However as their search for Marcus intensifies, they realize there is something dark and dangerous happening in their town. Someone is not happy with his investigation and, if Will and Jonah continue to uncover secrets from the past, it may cost them their lives.

“If I Fall, If I Die,” is a rather unusual novel in that the main characters are both children and adults. Through flashbacks readers learn of Diane’s early life and her struggles against mental illness, while most of the book is centered around Will, Jonah and their friendship. It will give reader’s much to think about.

Recommended for High schoolers and Adults.