“Ghosts of Harvard” Francesca Serritella

Rated 3 stars *** ARC. ebook. Random House. To be published May 5, 2020.

Ghosts of HarvardSeventeen-year-old Cady is determined to attend Harvard because it was where her older brother Eric committed suicide. Since she blames herself, she is determined to figure out why he killed himself.  While at school her studies take a back burner to the nagging questions that arise about Eric’s schizophrenia.

As memories of good and bad times with Eric fill her mind, Cady begins to hear voices and music from a bygone era. Afraid she is heading towards the same path of mental illness, she has a small measure of relief when she figures out the voices are the ghosts of a former Harvard slave and two students who attended the school many years ago.

She enjoys having them as company, learning historical aspects about the school that she’d never known. However, as she uncovers more about Eric’s last days, she soon figures out he was hiding something. When his secret is finally revealed, her life is forever changed in even more ways than she’d thought possible.

I enjoyed the historical aspect of “Ghosts of Harvard,” especially since I once worked on campus, and didn’t know about many of the hidden gems revealed in the book. I now want to travel back to Massachusetts to take a leisurely stroll and go to the places mentioned in the book. The storyline about Eric, his secret, and the ghosts seemed a bit farfetched, but the troubling aspects of suicide, mental illness and its weight on families were truthfully articulated.

Recommended 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 lions of Fifth Avenue” Fiona Davis

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. Penguin Random House. To be published July 21, 2020.

The lions of fifth avenueIn 1913 Laura Lyons struggles during a time in history when women were expected to be complacent with their roles as wife and mother.

In 1993 Sadie Donovan hasn’t gotten over her long ago divorce and is insecure about everything in her life. She has sealed herself off from getting hurt again, so the only thing that gives her joy is answering reference questions and working with rare books at her NYPL job.

Laura lived with her superintendent husband Jack and two children in an apartment hidden away in the recently built New York Public Library. Her dream was to go to school to become a reporter, but she soon learned that women who dreamed faced uphill battles. The more she got involved with free thinking women in the Heterodoxy Club, the more she realized it would take great courage to risk everything she held dear to be truly happy.

Sadie’s career and job is in danger when rare books continue to be stolen from under her nose and she becomes a suspect. It doesn’t help matters when her research into her grandmother’s life discovers that her grandfather was accused of stealing rare books from the same library in 1913. Sadie will have to learn to work with others who share similar goals if she wants to clear her name and, in the process, unveils 80-year-old secrets about her own family.

I enjoyed the dual voice narratives of Laura and Sadie, and how Davis tied the stolen books to both of their stories. I also enjoyed learning about the history of the NYPL, its collections, immigrant babies, and free thinking women of the early 20th century. This is a great book for those who enjoy historical fiction, and who want to learn more about what it was like to be a woman who had dreams in 1913.

Highly recommended for Adults.

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

 

 

 

“Dead to you” Lisa McMann

Rated 2 stars ** Simon Pulse. 2012. 243 p.

Dead to youEthan was seven when he was kidnapped, and is reunited with his family nine years later. At first things are strange between him, his parents, younger brother Blake, and little sister Gracie. He’s upset he can’t remember old family photos, relatives or neighbors, but is sure his memories will resurface. Ethan also has to deal with Blake’s jealousy and increasing anger at his presence. After a few months things start to settle, but a ringing doorbell forever changes life for Ethan.

I absolutely DESPISED the ending, and thought it was a complete copout on the author’s part. Why couldn’t she have given a real ending instead of those final three words? I feel like she sold Ethan out, as well as her readers. I was definitely not a happy camper, and took off one star because of the very bad ending.

Though I was EXTREMELY upset with the way the book ended, I will leave it up to you readers, ages 14 and older, to decide if you want to read it or not.

 

“May the road rise up to meet you” by Peter Troy

Rated 5 stars ***** Doubleday. 2012. 386 p.

May the road rise up to meet youMary Wilkens and Micah are southern slaves in 1853; Ethan McOwen survived the great famine of Ireland in 1847, while Marcella Arroyo (Abolitionist and feminist) is a Spanish immigrant living with her rich family in 1860 New York. Spanning the years from 1847 until 1867 the evils of slavery, along with the horrors of the Civil War, are described for readers. All have roles to play in the stories of these four characters as, with losses to endure and tears to cry, their stories eventually intertwine. Readers learn that there are good people in an evil world, and that good can come from bad – especially when you can’t see the whole picture of what’s happening.

This novel is reminiscent of great, sweeping historical dramas like “Roots” and “Gone with the wind.” The storyline jumps from person to person, so can become confusing. For example I’ll read about Ethan for a while then the storyline goes to Marcella for a few chapters. Afterwards I’ll read about Mary for a bit, then it meanders to Micah’s story. By the time the story returns to Ethan I forgot what he was doing.

However the book is interesting, emotional, and has great plot twists. I love historical fiction, so was willing to overlook the back and forth dilemma to give it 5 stars.

Recommended for Adults.

“Edwards eyes” by Patricia MacLachlan

Rated 3 stars *** Atheneum Books for Young Readers. 2007. 116 p.

Edward's eyesAt the tender age of three, Jake’s baby brother Edward was placed in his arms. He was mesmerized by Edward’s eyes, which represented the overwhelming love he felt for his new brother. As Edward grew older he loved playing baseball with his neighborhood friends, while Jake enjoyed watching him play. One afternoon a sudden and unexpected surprise forever changes Jake’s life, causing him to see Edward’s eyes in a completely new way.

Though tackling difficult subjects, MacLachlan’s simple style of writing helps readers understand the love and pain felt by this young family. I’m not sure why she inserted all sorts of song lyrics into the book. Perhaps it was to show how music was one of the many ways the family had fun and grew more united. That’s my guess. Would one of my readers care to give a response here on the blog? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Recommended for ages 9-12.

 

“Trees make perfect pets” by Paul Czajak; pictures by Cathy Gendron

Trees make perfect pets

Rated 4 stars **** ARC. Sourcebooks. To be published March 2020.

On Abigail’s birthday she announced that she wanted a pet. Agreeably her family came up with different types of pets for her to get, but Abigail wanted a tree. Despite their arguments that trees can’t be pets, she reminds them that trees help us breathe and insists on getting a dogwood tree.

Abigail carts the tree around the neighborhood, listening to others talk about its unsuitability as a pet. Despite the naysayers Abigail loves her tree, and is reluctant to give it an outdoor home until it grows too big. Once its planted all sorts of animals make it their friend, prompting Abigail to say, “A tree is everyone’s best friend!”

Full-page colorful illustrations describe Abigail’s quest to make the tree her pet, and remind readers of why trees are important to everyone.

Recommended for ages 5 to 10.

I received an advance copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

“Mirror me” by Rachel Sanderson

Rated 5 stars ***** ebook. 2018. Amazon Digital Services, LLC.

Mirror meWhat do you do when your mother forces you to leave your best friend behind in the big city to move hours away to a broken down hovel in the middle of a forest – far away from wifi and civilization? How do you act when everyone at your new school avoids you like the plague – except for one douchebag? Who can you talk to when you feel so alone?

How do you act when you find out you look exactly like Becky, a girl killed a year ago in this same small town? When you start receiving notes telling you to get out of town, what should you do? Where do you go and what do you do when you find yourself dreaming about Becky’s murder, and feel as if you HAVE to find out more about her and why she died?

These questions and more plague sixteen-year-old Abbie as her life is suddenly meshed with Becky’s life. Though her obsessiveness with finding out more about her is driving everyone crazy, Abbie feels as if something HAS to become clear. However as the truth about Becky’s last night on earth is revealed, it’s done in a way that’s more terrifying than anything Abbie had ever experienced. It seems as if the killer hasn’t finished his job…

I absolutely LOVED this book. The author did a great job stringing me along, with clues placed deliciously about, waiting to be chewed and digested. I had my ideas as to who did what, and was glad to have my suspicions verified.

I don’t want to reveal any more of the exciting plot, so will end this review by saying you need to read “Mirror me” ASAP. You’ll love it just as much as I did.

Highly recommended for ages 16 and older.