“Give it back” Danielle Esplin

Rated 2 stars ** ebook. 2017. Black Rose Writing.

Three women. Two sisters. Three stories. Two disappearances. Many suspects. One truth.

Give it backThrough flashbacks and the present time, Ella, her sister Lorraine, and Lorraine’s au pair Lexy tell their stories. Ella must come to grips with the fact that Lorraine has brain cancer, and that she’s been too busy with her job to concern herself with anyone or anything. Lorraine has been fixated for years on getting her long divorced husband to love her again, and has no intention of letting go of that bone. Meanwhile Lexy successfully hides the fact that she knows nothing about taking care of children, and came from London to Seattle to stalk an ex boyfriend. When Lexy and Logan (Lorraine’s 16-year-old son) disappear, and Lorraine’s cancer worsens, it’s up to Ella to make sense of differing accounts to figure out what happened.

I wasn’t a fan of this book, as I disliked how the women were portrayed. They were all either unloved by “the one” on whom they’d hung their hearts, so life was ruined, or were rendered unlovable because they worked too much. Other choices were to make them either ugly or insane. Compared to all of the women Ella was the strongest, but it wasn’t enough for me.

Though I didn’t like it, I will leave it up to you Adults to decide if you want to read it or not.

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

“Only love can break your heart” by Ed Tarkington

Rated 3 stars *** Algonquin Books. 2016. 307 p.

Only love can break your heartSet in a small Virginia town in 1977 Richard, called Rocky by his beloved sixteen-year-old big brother Paul, was almost eight years old. Paul was everything Rocky wished he could be – though he was always in trouble, and not a favorite of his mom. He was a girl charmer, and owned a great collection of records he often invited Rocky to hear in his room. Paul was always there until, one day, he wasn’t. He disappeared with Leigh, his long-time girlfriend.

Rocky missed his brother, but was distracted by his neighbor’s daughter Patricia who he met when he was almost 15 years old. Though she was almost 10 years older, for several months she schooled him in the art of sex in the hayloft of her family’s stable. Rocky was content to spend time with her, and was bereft when she broke up with him after Leigh returned and figured out their relationship.

Many years later Paul returned. Leigh’s time away had badly scarred her, leaving her mentally unstable, for which Paul blamed himself. Though Rocky and the Old Man were thrilled to have him back, Richard’s mom felt he was still the bane of her existence. When their next-door neighbor and wife were found murdered, Paul and Leigh quickly became the main suspects. Were the police overlooking the real killers in their eagerness to solve the crime, or was it true that Rocky’s idol and his girlfriend were murderers?

Rocky, as narrator, told his story as an adult sharing his memories. Though there was lots of rambling as he described his feelings and thoughts during the various events that transpired over the years, what I got out of it was that small town life in the late 70’s meant no one suspected what Patricia was doing to him, that an older father loved both his sons equally, that Rocky’s mom needed to get over herself for disliking her stepson so much, and that Rocky and Paul loved each other very much. That’s what I got out of it, and I’m sticking to it.

Though I wasn’t a huge fan, I’ll leave it up to you Adults to decide if you want to read it or not.

 

 

“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.

 

“An American princess: The many lives of Allene Tew” by Annejet van de Zijl

An American Princess5 stars ***** ebook. 2015. AmazonCrossing. (Includes “Author’s Note,” “Sources,” “Notes,” and an “Index.”)

Allene Tew was born in 1872, and her family came from Jamestown N.Y. Previously I had only heard of Jamestown because of Lucille Ball, of “I love Lucy” fame. Who knew that two women, both famous in their own rights, would be associated with such a small town?

Many years ago during my undergrad years, my Related Arts professor was a huge advocate of  “putting history into its time and place.” She advocated for the importance of knowing what was going on in the world of an artist, a musician, an architect, etc., as the events in their world explained how their work was a byproduct of that world.

Knowing someone’s time and place in history is so important, and is very informative. I love how Van de Zijl puts readers into Allene’s “time and place.” I had never heard of Allene before reading this book, but knew many historical figures with whom she associated and also knew about the many historical events that are discussed (the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, the Wall Street Crash of 1929, World Wars I and II, to name a few.) To know Allene was part of those times made her that much more real.

Van de Zijl’s describes how Jamestown, her marriages, and the current events of her time affected Allene, while her contemporaries were also part of the path she wove in life. Knowing what was happening to Allene, the people she interacted with, and why she acted the way she did in various circumstances are all-important to understanding her as a real person.

The title tells readers that Allene Tew was an American princess. I wondered what series of events, life decisions, happenings in the world, etc. led to her becoming a princess. Van de Zijl’s detailed, and heavily researched portrayal of Allene’s life and marriages, answering the reader’s question of why her future royal husband would accept an American without a title to become his wife (and how someone from the rugged town of Jamestown could aspire to royalty) are more examples of putting a character into their correct time and place. Van de Zijl did not disappoint.

This book is for readers who like to know history, both European and American, and how history’s events relate to the people of its time. It’s for readers who want to know about someone who found a way to be successful, despite the odds. It’s for those who enjoy going back in time, and feeling characters in a book “come to life.”

Highly recommended for Adults.

“From where I watch you” Shannon Grogan

Rated 2 stars ** 2015. Soho Teen. 291 p.

FromWhereIWatchYouSixteen-year-old Kara is angry with her dead sister and with her mother. When Kellen died, her father left home and her mother retreated into a shell until she found religion. Her newfound faith changed her into a Holy Roller, offering advice and words of hope to strangers in her new cafe, while ignoring her own daughter. Kara doesn’t mourn Kellen because she hated her, hinting at something Kellen did which was unforgivable.

Kara bakes all sorts of baked goods to forget her problems, spending time alternately hurting and loving Charlie, the only boy who’s ever been nice to her, and trying to ignore scary notes randomly left on a daily basis by a stalker. Despite numerous opportunities to take others into her confidence, she continually assures herself she could handle the situation. By the time she realizes she’s in over her head, it’s almost too late.

In alternating chapters readers take a very slow ride through Kara’s memories growing up with Kellen, leading up to the unveiling of her stalker. However, I was not impressed. I found Kara to be annoying because of the countless excuses she gave for not seeking help as the notes got progressively worse. Always second-guessing herself, she also didn’t have any self-confidence. The most interesting character in the book was Charlie.

Thus I will leave it up to you readers ages 14 and older to decide if you want to read it or not. I seem to be on a bad roll, as this is the fourth book in a row that didn’t thrill me.

“Bang” Barry Lyga

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. To be published April 18, 2017. Little Brown. 295 p.

BangFourteen-year-old Sebastian has never forgotten that, when he was four years old, he accidentally shot and killed his four-month-old baby sister. Everyone knows he’s a murderer, and have judged him for it. His best friend’s parents look at him funny, people whisper behind his back, and his father walked out because of what he did. He and his mother can’t seem to talk about it, and part of him is glad they don’t.

Despite what his therapist has said, Sebastian knows it was entirely his fault, but has plans to make it right. When he’s gone his mother can be normal again, and everyone will be happy. He’s been planning this for awhile so, with his best friend away for the summer, the time is ripe – until he meets Aneesa.

Aneesa is a distraction, helping him become a YouTube cook, and allowing him to think of something other than his guilt. However, despite everything, Sebastian knows it’s only a matter of time before he answers the voice that’s always there to remind him he doesn’t deserve to be happy. He knows the voice speaks the truth.

Sebastian’s struggles, along with those of Aneesa, are heart rending and real. Both experience things no one should have to struggle through but which, unfortunately, occur and need to be discussed. This is Lyga at his most brilliant.

At the recent American Library Association (ALA) conference, I refused to pick up any ARC’s (Advance Reading Copies) because I had too many to plow through from past conferences. However the cover and summary caught my eye, and “Bang” became my only ARC from that conference. I’m so glad I picked it up because I could not put this book down. Neither will you.

Highly recommended for ages 14 and older.

“Die for you” Amy Fellner Dominy

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Published November 8, 2016. Delacorte Press (Random House). 292 p. (Includes “Author’s Note” and “Resources.”)

dieforyouAfter Emma’s mother leaves her father for another man, Emma moves across town to be with her dad and help pick up the pieces of his life. Starting her senior year at a new school is rough, but meeting Dillon helped erase the darkness of hating her mom and seeing her dad’s pain. With Dillon she is able to love and be loved.

Emma and Dillon are so happy. They’ve promised to always be there for each other, to take care of each other, and to be together forever. However, it doesn’t take long before Emma finds that “forever” is more than just a word to Dillon. He always follows through on his promises. Always.

Dominy’s fast paced novel about what happens when relationships turn bad is sure to be an eye opener for many readers. The Author’s Note and Resources sections hold information that could unlock the cages of many relationships, making “Die for you” a book that needs to be on the shelves of every high school and public library.

Highly recommended for ages 14 and older.