“The two Mrs. Carlyles” Suzanne Rindell

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. G.P. Pubnam’s Sons (Penguin Random House). To be published July 28, 2020.

The two Mrs. CarlylesViolet, Flossie and Cora had grown up in an orphanage and, when it burned down, eked out a living in a boarding house for dancing girls. Violet was shy, Cora was vivacious, while Flossie was the peacemaker. In 1906, when their life got unbearable Violet uncovered something that threatened to rip their lives apart. Soon they were caught up in an earthquake that destroyed San Francisco and hid their secret. Though they profited from it, their knowledge about what had transpired came between them and caused them to go their separate ways.

Violet had never been without Cora and Flossie, and was terrified at the thought of making her own way in the city. Eventually she found a job and settled into a respectable living. One day she attracted the attention of Harry Carlyle, a rich widower. Violet couldn’t believe he was interested in her but, eventually, they married. Upon arrival at his mansion she was met by his dour housekeeper, and a home that was a shrine to his former wife.

It didn’t take long before Violet felt as if the house also hated her presence. At night she heard musical notes, saw open doors, and heard footsteps. Harry thought she was going insane but, as Violet began to lose her grip on reality, something happened that made her realize there was more hatred around her than she’d ever thought possible. Only true love could save her now.

I absolutely LOVED this book! I hung onto every word, turning pages in anticipation of what was going to happen next, while never expecting half of what DID happen. Suzanne Rindell leads her adult readers on a spooky, suspenseful whirlwind ride that ends with a twist. Great job Suzanne!

Highly recommended for Adults.

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

“Accidental” Alex Richards

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. Bloomsbury Publishing. To be published July 7, 2020.

AccidentalJohanna is sixteen-years-old, has two best friends, lives with her strict, old-fashioned grandparents and is drooling over the very handsome new guy at her fancy private school. Though her mother died in a car crash when she was little, she barely remembers her or the father who abandoned her when she was little. She’s always been with her grandparents, and everything was fine until suddenly nothing was fine.

Her estranged father sent her a letter wanting to reunite, so Johanna decided to take him up on it. When they met he told her she’d killed her mother by shooting her with a loaded gun she’d found under the bed. He was remorseful that he’d left his loaded gun in a place where a toddler could reach it, but that didn’t stop Johanna from going into a tailspin. Furious at her grandparents for lying to her for years she cuts off communication, but also can’t forgive herself for killing her own mother. Though everyone tells her it wasn’t her fault she doesn’t believe them, and neither do the students who start bullying her at school and online.

Gun violence, unsecured guns, statistics for family shootings, and gun control are just some of the topics readers will learn about as Johanna fights a battle to heal her damaged soul. Her story may give readers the impetus to think about ways to raise awareness for these societal issues.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

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

 

“The companion” Katie Alender

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. G.P. Putnam’s Sons (Penguin Random House). To be published August 25, 2020.

The CompanionMargot was the only survivor after her parents and sisters were in a car crash and drowned. Sent to live in an orphanage, she was taken in by a rich family to be a companion for their daughter Agatha. At the estate daily nightmares of her family’s watery death subsided, as Agatha’s mother Laura was very kind. But things began to change when Margot found an old diary of Laura’s younger sister who had died years ago. By the time she began to put two and two together, time was up before she could get to four.

This was very creepy, so make sure not to read it at night or you’ll have the same nightmares as Margot. Alender was very clever as she lured readers along on her sinister plot, making us totally despair for Margot and Agatha. Well-done Ms. Alender. Very well done.

PS – not sure why the cover has a spoon with pins in it. I can think of lots of different types of covers to describe this book, but a spoon with pins would not be one of them.

Highly recommended for ages 14 and older.

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

“The only good Indians” Stephen Graham Jones

The only good IndiansRated 5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. Saga Press (Simon & Schuster). To be published July 14, 2020.

Ricky, Gabe, Cass and Lewis were best friends, growing up on the Blackfeet reservation where their families had lived for generations. The Elders tried to teach them about their heritage, but they didn’t feel like traditionalists. The Game Warden was quick with arrests, so meals were poached from the woods. Duck Lake was a hunting area set aside for the Elders, but they knew elk could be found there. Despite grave consequences if caught, they decided to try their luck there but, ten years later, they would forever regret that foolish decision.

“The only good Indians” takes readers through the horrors of being methodically stalked with nowhere to turn but, in between the blood and gore, readers are reminded that reservation life is one of poverty, with tribal members still forced to play cowboys and Indians due to deeply instilled prejudices on the part of the White Man. Though Ricky, Cass, Lewis and Gabe chose different ways to live their lives, on and off the reservation, they were forever drawn together by friendship and a shared heritage that survived before them and would continue long after they were gone.

Recommended for Adults.

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

 

 

“I killed Zoe Spanos” Kit Frick

I killed Zoe SpanosRated 4 stars **** ARC. ebook. Margaret K. McElderry books (Simon & Schuster). To be published June 30, 2020.

Seventeen-year-old Anna is thrilled when she’s offered a job as a nanny in the Hamptons on Long Island. She’d wasted the last few months of her senior year drinking and partying in Brooklyn. She’s ready to save money for college, turn over a new leaf, and spend time hanging out on the beach.

She and her charge hit it off quite well, and she’s prepared to relax and enjoy her summer. However it doesn’t take long before Anna finds out she looks exactly like Zoe Spanos, a girl who went missing months earlier, and hasn’t been heard from since January. As days pass Anna keeps getting feelings of déjà vu, believing she’d spent time in the town and had met Zoe in the past. Things begin to get jumbled in her mind and the more they do, the more she’s convinced she killed Zoe. She confesses to the police, and is sentenced to a juvenile center.

Though Anna believes she’s guilty, one person feels there’s more to her story that needs to be explored. Martina, best friends with Zoe’s little sister, runs a podcast about Zoe that tries to figure out what happened to her. Martina is determined to ferret out the truth but, when it’s finally revealed, it will shock everyone.

Told in flashbacks from when Anna first arrived and her time in juvie, the story seemed a bit disjointed. Anna’s memories seemed out of place, and I couldn’t figure out why she was having them. However as more was disclosed, the more her memories made sense. When all was revealed in this whodunit I was completely shocked. I definitely did NOT see that coming!

I recommend this book 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 nesting” C. J. Cooke

The nestingRated 3 stars *** ARC. ebook. Berkley (Penguin Random House). To be published September 29, 2020.

Lexi had grown up in foster care with a mom who hated her. After a suicide attempt, she lost her job and was dumped by her boyfriend. Helpless and homeless, she spent hours riding commuter rail trains where she overheard a conversation about a nanny job in Norway. Lexi didn’t know anything about being a nanny, but knew she needed this job. She took over the resume and persona of Sophie Hallerton, the commuter who’d been thinking about applying for the job, and sent off her application.

After getting the job Lexi enjoyed her life in Norway with Coco and Gaia, her two young charges. However, Norway had its own secrets. What was the terrifying creature that regularly appeared in the house and grounds? What really happened to Coco and Gaia’s mother? Why did it seem as if the very earth wanted them all gone?

I enjoyed this book, and felt great sympathy for Lexi. HOWEVER I have BIG questions about the ending. For those who are reading my review, if you don’t want to spoil the ending for yourself, please don’t read below the SPOILER ALERT! banner. These questions, and resulting uncertainties, made me drop two stars from my rating.

However, since the storyline is very imaginative, I will recommend it for Adults. I hope the situation I mentioned below gets fixed before the book is published.

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

******SPOILER ALERT! ******* SPOILER ALERT! **********SPOILER ALERT! ********

******SPOILER ALERT! ******* SPOILER ALERT! **********SPOILER ALERT! ********

I am VERY confused over how Aurelia died. In Derry’s version she wades into the fjord, submerges and drowns. However this doesn’t jive with what was written earlier in the book because Aurelia imagined herself wading into the fjord with reindeer and then returned home. She didn’t die during that particular visit to the fjord.

In the Prologue Cooke wrote that Aurelia died when she accidentally fell off a cliff while being chased. Did the author forget what she’d written and decide to make up a completely different death for Aurelia? Did she fall off the cliff OR did she drown while having hallucinations with the reindeer? If she drowned with the invisible reindeer then the Prologue needs to be rewritten.

Also, why did Tom decide to let Lexi stay on after her accident? He didn’t feel bad about her attempted suicide when she told him why she’d impersonated Sophie. He could have insisted she return to London after she got out of the hospital. What changed? I hope the author or publisher have answers for me. Thanks.

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

“Throwaway girls” Andrea Contos

Throwaway girlsRated 4 stars **** ARC. ebook. KCP Loft (Kids Can Press). To be published September 1, 2020.

Caroline was crushed when her girlfriend moved to California and left her behind. Her life was already on the skids because her judgmental mother refused to accept her as she was, and sent her to conversion camp to make her into a more acceptable daughter. Caroline was teetering on the edge, and just needed to hang on to her phony life for three months. Then she’d be 18 years old, and could set out to live her own life.

Her private school, rich girl life was set even more upside down when her best friend Madison disappeared. Caroline was determined to find her, and wound up at a nearby rundown town where she’d set up a secret life for herself with her girlfriend. There Caroline uncovered the names of other girls who had disappeared and had never been found. She wondered why so many girls were disappearing, and why the police weren’t concerned. The closer she got to answers, the harder it became to accept what was staring back at her.

Despite Caroline’s constant bemoaning of her lost love, the plot of lost, unwanted girls kept me hooked. I found the constant back and forth from unnamed characters to be distracting, and thought it would have been better to have had those various conversations in italics. Despite those reservations, I thought it was a good read.

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 snow fell three graves deep: Voices from the Donner Party” Allan Wolf

The snow fellRated 5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. Candlewick Press. To be published September 8, 2020. (Includes Maps and extensive back matter: “Author’s note: Narrative Pointillism,” “Select character biographies,” “Native Americans and the Donner Party,” “The Donner Party by the numbers: A miscellany,” “Time line 1846 and 1847,” “Donner Party members by family,” “The rescuers and the rescued,” “Donner Party deaths,” “Reality checks,” “Murder and the mysterious Mr. Wolfinger,” “About the documents,” “Special terms from this story,” “German words from this story,” and “Read more about the Donner Party.”)

In Markus Zusak’s award-winning book “The book thief,” Death narrates as other characters live the story. Wolf uses a similar approach in “The snow fell.” Here Hunger narrates, while members of the 1846 ill-fated Donner Party tell their poetic verse stories of survival, starvation, and cannibalism during months spent trapped in horrific snowstorms on the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Wolf’s detailed research shows in his descriptions of what led up to their entrapment, who survived (and who didn’t), and how they endured. His extensive back matter gives many opportunities for readers to learn more about the Donner Party before, during and after their horrific ordeal.

The only thing bad I can say about this book is that Candlewick declined to release the ARC in a digital format readable by Kindles. I had to download Adobe Editions to read it on my tablet, which made turning pages and enlarging the print very difficult. It took me twice as long to read this on my tablet with Adobe Editions than it would have taken on my Kindle. As a result, I will never download a non-digital ARC ever again.

Highly recommended for ages 16 and older.

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

 

 

“Ghost boys” by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Rated 5 stars ***** 2018. Little, Brown & Company (Hachette Book Group). 214 p. (Includes Afterword,” “Discussion questions,” and Further resources for parents and educators”

Ghost boysTwelve-year-old Jerome is bullied daily at school because he’s smart. He eats lunch in the bathroom, trying to avoid getting beat up. Carlos, a new kid, comes to school and, though he’s never had a friend, Jerome befriends him. The bullies find them in a bathroom and start beating them but Carlos scares them away with a toy gun, which he gives to Jerome to play with because he’s his new friend.

Jerome doesn’t usually play outside because his neighborhood is dangerous, but is excited to do so with the gun. While playing with it, he’s shot in the back by a White policeman and dies on the street. Now a ghost, Jerome sees his families’ grief and watches the preliminary hearing where a judge decides the officer who shot him shouldn’t be charged with wrongdoing – even though he shot him in the back from inside a moving patrol car without warning, and neither he nor his partner offered any aid while he was lying on the ground still alive.

Sarah, the police officer’s daughter, can see and communicate with him and Emmett Till, another ghost boy. Jerome realizes there are thousands of ghost boys who were also killed early in life, and struggles to understand why they’re still wandering the earth. Emmett tells him the story of how he died; helping Jerome realize they’re still on Earth because they’re all bearing witness to the injustices they suffered due to racism. Though upset at her father, Sarah channels her anger into telling the stories of the ghost boys and also bearing witness for them.

Told through flashbacks and the present time, Jerome’s sad and painful story is very timely for the days in which we currently live. It is excellent for a book club or for a whole class, as it has much material that needs to be discussed.

Highly recommended for ages 12 and older.

“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.