“The Warrior” Joyce Swann

Rated 3 stars *** Ebook. 2013. Frontier 2000 Media Group.

TheWarriorElizabeth is a prayer warrior, praying for anyone for whom God has called her to pray, though no one in her family or church feels the same way. After dreaming of a young stranger’s terrible motorcycle accident, she feels as if she must pray. Over the next 10 years she prays for him, recording each prayer encounter in notebooks.

Her daughter Molly, though lovingly raised in a Christian home and given everything money can buy, feels as if all Christians are hypocrites. Choosing to rebel against her upbringing, she leaves home to pursue her own life, which involves breaking all her parent’s rules. Over the years she will have to learn if the happiness she seeks can be found in her newfound freedom.

James grew up in a family who went to church because it was expected, not because they believed. As he grew older, the lure of drugs drew him further away from his parent’s ordinary life. When a judge shows him mercy and he winds up in a Christian support group, James decides to fool them into thinking he’s changed.

As Molly and James struggle through temptations brought on by their own actions, the power of prayer and God’s love are shown as constants. In this overtly Christian novel, Bible verses and sermons give food for thought to those walking the same paths as James and Molly while giving hope to readers who are also prayer warriors.

Recommended for Adults.

“Burn baby burn” Meg Medina

Rated 2 stars ** 2016. Candlewick Press. 300 p. Includes “Author’s note.”

BurnBabyBurnDuring the summer of 1977 New York City experienced worsening poverty and crime, a massive blackout in all 5 boroughs, a stifling heat wave, and unrelenting fear brought on by the Son of Sam murders. Against this tumultuous background, Medina places the story of seventeen-year-old Nora Lopez.

Her father lives comfortably with his new wife and son in a well-furnished apartment in the City, forgetting about Nora, her mother, and younger brother Hector in their rundown Queens neighborhood where Hector has become a thief and drug addict. Often violent towards his sister and mother, neither wants to admit he’s out of control. On top of everything else her mother lost her job, putting them in danger of eviction. Nora suffers through the lack of food and money, as well as Hector’s abuse and crimes, in silence. Desperate to turn eighteen so she could leave it all behind, she turns a blind eye to everything. However will running away solve her problems or make them worse?

I had a hard time getting through this book, as the plot seemed to drag. I also kept getting annoyed at the poor decisions Nora and her mom continued to make regarding Hector. The book had many historical references to the period. Though some were interesting, it seemed to have too many. In general, “Burn baby burn” failed to ignite a bigger spark of interest in me.

I will leave it up to you to decide if you want to read it or not.

“Girl in Pieces” Kathleen Glasgow

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Published August 30, 2016. Delacorte Press.

GirlInPiecesWho are cutters? Why do they cut? What can be done to get them to stop? Do they want to stop? Can they ever live a “normal” life? Will anyone ever love them? Can they ever love themselves? Can “regular” people learn to see beyond their scars? Can THEY learn to see themselves beyond their scars?

Seventeen-year-old Charlotte Davis answers these questions and more as she narrates her personal story of abuse, neglect, fear, despair and homelessness in short, revealing chapters. Charlotte’s narrative is a small window into the souls of the millions of teens who feel the only way they can release their personal pain is through self-mutilation.

“Girl in Pieces” is raw, truthful, despairing and inspirational. It will stay with you long after the last page is turned. Several copies should be in every public and high school library to show these teens they are not alone, and that they are loved.

Highly recommended for ages 16 and older.

“Dangerous Lies” Becca Fitzpatrick

Rated 3 stars *** ARC. Ebook. Simon & Schuster. 2015.

DangerousLiesEstella Goodwinn returns home late one night to find her mother in a drugged stupor alongside a dead body. She accuses Danny Balando, her mother’s dealer and leader of a local Philadelphia drug cartel, of the murder. With her life threatened, she is forced to leave behind her boyfriend Reed, given a new identity, and sent to live in Nebraska under the Witness Protection Program.

Now known as Stella, she angrily refuses to settle into her strange new life in Thunder Basin. Knowing she only has to wait a few months until she turns 18 and can leave, she spends days plotting her escape. Carmina, the long suffering retired cop who took her in, and Chet Falconer, the good looking neighbor boy, begin to whittle away at the bricks of pain, loneliness and confusion she’d built around her heart. As Stella begins to feel a pull towards Chet and life in Thunder Basin, she gets a reminder from her old life that will forever shake up her life.

Fitzgerald did a good job describing the witness protection program, but Stella’s bratty behavior towards Carmina, and her constant neediness for Reed was a little over the top. Her up and down emotions towards her mother and Chet was another downer, which is why I only gave it 3 stars.

Despite these bad spots, “Dangerous Lies” is a good read, and I will recommend it for ages 16 and older.

I received an electronic copy of this book from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

“Finding Hope” Colleen Nelson

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Ebook. To be published April 12, 2016. Dundurn.

FindingHopeFifteen-year-old Hope can’t express herself except through poems she scrawls on her body, the wall, scraps of paper or any handy surface.

Something awful happened to Eric so, from anger, sadness and frustration, he turned to the sweet release of meth. Now an addict, cast out from his family and adrift on the sea of despair, he nurses revenge along with his broken dreams.

By transferring to a boarding school, Hope is sure she can transform herself and forget about Eric and his problems. Instead she gets involved with The Ravens, a popular group of girls who have their own plans for her. Their constant belittling and bullying soon leaves Hope drowning in her own sea of regret and loneliness, ready to throw away everything good in her life.

In alternate voices brother and sister tell their individual stories of loss, loneliness, despair and fear. Nelson’s short, cliffhanger chapters will keep teens reading until its very satisfying conclusion.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

“Tunnel Vision” Aric Davis

Rated 5 stars ***** ebook. 2014. Thomas & Mercer (Amazon).

TunnelVision

Betty Martinez is bored with her high school life. Despite being a junior, her two moms have grounded her for sending a bikini photo to Jake, a boy she doesn’t even really like. Betty just wanted some excitement when she sent the photo, but her moms don’t understand.

Betty and her best friend June love listening to Indie bands, and plan to have a great time sneaking out to attend a concert. However everything goes onto the back burner the day she learns June’s aunt Mandy, a prostitute and heroin addict, had been murdered fifteen years ago by her former boyfriend, Duke Barnes, who has been incarcerated for her murder.

Neither girl had ever been aware of the crime and, with the moms and June’s mom doing everything they could to keep it quiet, Betty and June decide to do the opposite. With their teacher’s help, they arrange to do a research project on the murder and search for clues, which will prove whether or not Duke is innocent or guilty. Knowing the crime is a cold case makes it more exciting, but meeting a strange new boy named Nickel who makes Betty’s pulse race is even more fun. Nickel appears to be very hardened, but neither girl questions his sincerity in also wanting this crime to be solved.

Little do they know that the further into the case they get, the more tangled will be the web of deceit that has been woven around Mandy’s death. As they get closer to finding out what happened to Mandy fifteen years ago, none of their lives will ever be the same. Betty will soon see that excitement is overrated.

With multiple suspects to keep Betty, June and Nickel’s heads spinning, Davis brings readers onto a roller coaster ride which will leave them gasping with incredulity when the mystery of Mandy’s murder is finally solved. Despite having a very boring cover which doesn’t do justice to the action in the story, and having Nickel managing to accomplish many acts which will leave readers scratching their heads since he’s just a teenager, “Tunnel Vision” is an excellent read.

This is only his second book, but Aric Davis is an up and coming author. Keep your eye on him! I look forward to reading an earlier book with more information about Nickel titled “Nickel Plated,” as well as any further offerings along this same genre.

Recommended for readers aged 16 and older.

“Coming Home: A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility” Mary McManus

Rated 4 stars **** 2014. Createspace. 236 pp.

ComingHomeMary McManus incorporates memories, as well as present-time events, to tell the story of her life after contracting polio at the age of five. Despite recovering from this disease she faced years of physical, mental and emotional abuse from her parents and grandmother.

Over the years the stresses brought on by these abuses accumulated in her body causing severe physical problems, and resulting in a diagnosis of post-polio syndrome when Mary was just a few years away from retirement. Physicians and therapists at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, as well as other health caregivers, worked together to give Mary the spiritual, physical and emotional strength she needed to heal her body from its trauma.

Determined to do something meaningful with her newfound feeling of mental and physical strength, Mary decided to run the 2009 Boston Marathon to raise money for Spaulding Rehab. Triumphantly crossing the finish line of the marathon was just one of Mary’s many accomplishments described in “Coming Home,” as she valiantly worked to regain the person she had lost at the age of five and rewrite her past.

Mary is a fellow member of my running club, the L Street Running Club in South Boston. After reading her self-published life story, I have to salute the courage and strength she displayed in working through extreme trials which a young girl should have never had to endure, and which led to the beautiful and generous person she has become today. Mary, you are a survivor and I salute you!

Those of you who are regular readers of my blog know I try not to read self-published books because of the amount of grammatical errors usually contained within them. However, since Mary was generous enough to donate part of the proceeds of her book to a reputable charity, and is a fellow club member, I felt I should read her book and learn about her story. I was able to put aside my editing hat and read Mary’s story for its rawness and truthfulness. I gave it a 4 star rating for its content, and trust you will agree when you read it.

Recommended for Adult readers.