“All of us” A.F. Carter

Rated 4 stars **** ARC. ebook. Mysterious Press. To be published June 2, 2020.

All of usCarolyn Grand’s father was a monster. For years he abused her physically, mentally, sexually and emotionally. When she was finally put into foster care, her foster parents continued the sexual abuse. For years Carolyn’s body was not her own, forcing her mind to find a way to protect itself. The end result was that Carolyn’s mind split her into different people. Each of her personalities had their own unique way of dressing, talking, and acting to help her get through particular situations.

The comfortable life Carolyn and her personalities built for themselves for ten years began to unravel when Eleni, the promiscuous one, propositioned a cop. Now they had to attend mandated counseling sessions with a therapist who had no interest in helping them. Then Carolyn’s father was released from prison and, though ordered to stay away, he began stalking them. When he showed up dead, Carolyn became the prime suspect, and only a friendly detective keeps them from total despair.

Told through the voices of Carolyn’s six personalities (Eleni, Martha, Victoria, Tina, Kirk and Serena) readers are given flashbacks of what Carolyn endured at the hands of her father. We see the inner workings of a splintered mind that found a way to survive horrible abuse. As the narrative continues, and no one admits to the murder, this whodunit keeps you wondering.

Recommended for Adults.

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

 

 

“The Nickel Boys” Colson Whitehead

Rated 5 stars ***** Doubleday. 2019. 210 p.

The Nickel BoysElwood Curtis lived in segregated Tallahassee Florida with his grandmother. He was studious, obedient, and a deep thinker with the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. resounding in his head. In 1963, when he was a high school senior, his love for learning made him a candidate for free college classes. On his first day he had to hitchhike, and the car he rode in turned out to be stolen. Elwood’s innocence didn’t mean anything to the arresting officer, and he was sentenced to time at the Nickel Academy for juvenile offenders.

The segregated prison presented itself as a comfortable looking place, but hid a long, twisted history of student beatings, sexual abuse, starvation, and murder. With a cruel, sadistic staff it wasn’t long before Elwood was beaten so badly it took the doctor 2 hours with tweezers to remove pants fibers from his legs. Though he eventually recuperated, his soul was broken.

How could Dr. King expect him to love the people who daily tortured him and his fellow captives? Would they all be rescued if he wrote down what he knew of the school’s inner wrongdoings and gave it to state inspectors? Would there finally be justice for the boys of the Nickel Academy? Could he survive his time there?

Whitehead uses events from a real Florida reform school to supplement Elwood’s story, leaving readers fully engaged. It’s hard to believe this evil school, with its atrocities, was allowed to operate for so many years without state interference. After reading Elwood’s partly fictional story I was inspired to find out more information about the school on which this book was based. Colson inspired me, so my next book will be “The Dozier school for boys: Forensics, survivors and a painful past” by Elizabeth A. Murray, PhD. Stay tuned to this blog for its review.

I highly recommend “The Nickel Boys” for mature teens, ages 16-18, and for Adult readers.

 

“I am watching you” by Teresa Driscoll

Rated 5 stars ***** ebook. Thomas & Mercer. 2017.

I am watching youSixteen-year-old Anna Ballard and her best friend Sarah were at a party when Anna wanted to leave. She was very drunk, but Sarah had her eye on a guy and didn’t want to leave. Anna decided to go outside to find a taxi, and was never heard from again.

As the police do everything they can to investigate her disappearance, those who had some involvement with Anna tell their stories in alternating chapters. Ella saw Anna and Sarah on a train hanging out with two men who’d just gotten released from prison. Could they have had something to do with Anna’s disappearance? Maybe one of them is sending her threatening postcards.

Sarah feels guilty over what happened the last time she saw Anna, but doesn’t dare tell the police about what happened before the party. Anna’s father is heartbroken over her disappearance, and keeps repeating her last words to him “you disgust me dad.” Will he ever get the chance to make it up to her?

With each chapter readers gain clues into what may have led to Anna’s disappearance, but the shocking conclusion telling us what really happened came as a huge surprise. It was such a surprise that I immediately began rereading the book to find out what I had missed. It was just as good, and still just as shocking, the second time around.

Highly recommended for Adults.

 

 

“Darling Rose Gold” by Stephanie Wrobel

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. To be published March 17, 2020. Berkley (Penguin Random House).

Darling Rose GoldRose Gold had been a sickly child. Patty, her mother, took very, very good care of her. She made sure to get her to all the best doctors, and sacrificed her whole life to make sure Rose Gold had the best care. After almost 18 years of severe illnesses, her online boyfriend helped her realize Patty had been poisoning her over the years. With her mother in prison for 5 years, Rose Gold struggled to find a purpose for her life. Everyone saw her as a victim, but she wanted to be something more in their eyes.

When Patty was released from prison she had nowhere to turn, so Rose Gold made herself available. She needed to make sure her dear mother knows how much she loves and trusts her, because Rose Gold has a plan. It might not seem like anyone understands why she wants to be with the woman who ruined her life, but hadn’t she learned how to lie from the greatest liar in the world?

In alternate voices Patty and Rose Gold tell their complicated stories of revenge, love and hate going from past to present to fill in the missing gaps in the story. The author had me on the edge of my seat as I tried to suss out who was lying, who was telling the truth, and who was planning what to whom. I’ll have to admit she totally blindsided me, as I never saw Rose Gold’s plan coming AT ALL!

Highly recommended for Adults.

“This does not leave this house” by Julie Coons

Rated 1 star * ebook. 2017. Amazon Digital Services LLC.

This does not leave this houseA girl hates herself because her mom hates her. She feels ignored by her father, alternately hated and loved by her brother, and hated by her abusive husband. She’s raped in college, so loses her dream of becoming a doctor when she drops out, and develops terrible illnesses – all while seeing spirits from the spirit world and still desperately wanting to be loved by the very hated mom.

The author said she put herself “out there” in this tell-all book about her horrible childhood and equally horrible adulthood, but her rollercoaster emotions towards herself and others, her constant repetitions and rehashing of the same stories, and her lack of chronology as she jumped all over the place in the book quickly got tiresome.

I didn’t like it at all, but will leave it up to you Adult readers to decide if you want to read it or not. I wish I had not.

 

“Trapeze” by Leigh Ansell

Rated 3 stars *** ebook. ARC. To be published September 10, 2019. Wattpad Books.

TrapezeCorey was 2 years old when she went to live with her aunt. For fifteen years she trained as a trapeze artist, traveling around the country with her circus family. When the circus reached a small town in California, someone set fire to their tent during a performance and, just like that, her circus family was forced apart.

With nowhere to turn Corey was forced to live with her mom, who she hadn’t seen in 15 years. Now that she wasn’t constantly moving around the country, she had to attend high school for the first time in her life. Knowing that the townspeople hated circus people, she vowed to keep her life as a trapeze artist a secret. The only one who knew her secret was Luke, a very handsome junior she’d briefly met at a diner the night of the fire.

As their romance began to take shape she began to notice things about him that didn’t seem right, almost as if he was hiding things. Her relationship with her mother was frosty, while she was hiding her past life in the circus, so who was she to judge? Though they both worked hard to keep their secrets, eventually, secrets have a way of being found out. When their secrets are finally revealed, it will change everything forever.

I commiserated with Corey and the decisions she had to make throughout the book, but I had a few problems with it. I wasn’t a fan of the ending, and thought the character of Landon was very stereotypical. Also, the whole premise of why everyone hated the circus was never addressed. Who caused the vandalism? However I will leave it up to you to decide if you want to read it or not.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

“Holding smoke” Elle Cosimano

Rated 5 stars ***** 2016. Hyperion. 322 p. (Includes Author’s Note.)

HoldingSmokeWhile going to school, John “Smoke” Conlan worked hard to pay bills his meth addicted father left unpaid. When his father attacked him with a wrench in a drug influenced rage, he floated above his dead, battered body before returning to life after 6 minutes. While recuperating in the hospital he realized his spirit could leave his body at will. Soon after, John is accused of brutally killing his favorite teacher as well as a student who witnessed the crime. He knows a hooded man killed her, and that he killed in self-defense, but is unable to tell the court that he had been floating outside of his body when the murder occurred.

Convicted and sentenced to a juvenile prison filled with dangerous young offenders, Smoke leaves his body behind to ghostly wander the city and fulfill requests from fellow inmates. With each trip the threads that hold him to his body get thinner, but he doesn’t care as he’s ready to leave his scarred life behind. On one trip he meets Pink a tough young waitress who, unlike others, can actually see him. He soon realizes someone wants them both dead and, with time running out, will have to find the strength to hang on to make sure they both survive.

Smoke and Pink remind me of Patrick Swayze and Whoopi Goldberg in the 1990 movie “Ghost.” Cosimano’s very believable characters, which stem from life as the daughter of a Warden and research, combine to open eyes to what goes on in many juvenile detention facilities across the country.

Highly recommended for ages 14 and older.