“I’ll never tell” by Abigail Haas

Rated 5 stars ***** Simon Pulse. 2019.

I'll never tellAnna hated the rich prep school her father forced her to transfer to in the middle of her junior year. Now that they were rich, he knew any friends she made there could become future clients, so her protests fell on deaf ears. Her time there was every bit as bad as she knew it would be until she met Elise.

Elise was a force of nature, sexily smiling her way into getting free drinks from college boys, while drinking and partying as if there were no tomorrow. She and Anna hit it off from the very beginning, becoming closer than sisters. They spent all their time together, and had their futures all planned out, until the trip they took to Aruba with their friends changed everything forever. There Elise was violently murdered, with suspicion falling solely upon Anna.

As months pass in jail, evidence is piling up against her. The Prosecutor is intent on finding her guilty, and time is ticking away. Anna faces 20 years in prison, but can she prove her innocence or will she spend most of her life imprisoned for a crime she didn’t commit?

Through flashbacks and the present time, readers spend time with Anna and Elise, as we learn the lurid details of their relationship and try to figure out who killed Elise. When the truth was finally revealed, I was SHOCKED! I won’t tell you what happened at the end, as you’ll have to read it for yourself, but I KNOW you’ll be shocked too. Kudos to the author for keeping it a secret for so long.

Recommended for ages 15 and older.

 

“The secrets of lost stones” by Melisa Payne

Rated 5 stars ***** ebook. Lake Union Publishing. 2019.

The secretes of lost stonesA hit-and-run driver killed Chance, Jess’s 8-year-old son eight years ago leaving her devastated and feeling as if life isn’t worth living. When Jess leaves town to start fresh elsewhere, her car breaks down in a small mountainside town. There she’s invited to be a caretaker to an older woman named Lucy who has a way of knowing things that are going to happen. She believes Jess and a ghostly little boy are “loose ends,” something she has to fix.

Fifteen-year-old Star has been living on the streets for months, after running away from a foster home. When a strange older woman calls her a “loose end” and arranges for her to get a bus ticket to a small, out-of-the way town, Star is dumbfounded. When she arrives Lucy convinces her to stay for a little while. Though Star has tough street bravado, she feels herself melting into the kindnesses offered by Lucy.

In alternate voices Jess and Star tell their stories of loss and fear, with a dose of hope. Readers will become invested in their lives, hoping for their “loose ends” to be tied up so they could have hope filled new lives.

Recommended for Adults.

“The rest of the story” by Sarah Dessen

Rated 5 stars ***** 2019. Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins). 440 p.

The rest of the storyEmma Saylor’s mother overdosed when she was just a little girl. Now seventeen, she’s spending three weeks with her mother’s side of the family until her father returns from his honeymoon. Though she hasn’t seen them since she was four, her grandmother, aunt, and assorted cousins love her unconditionally. They’d known her as Saylor – the name only her mom called her, giving her the chance to decide if she wanted to be known as Emma or Saylor.

Living in a motel on a lake with teens who all have jobs felt strange, but she pitches in to help while learning stories about her mom that begin to give her a sense of the person she’d never really known. Emma was cautious, and organized things to stay calm, however, she decides to become Saylor at the lake. There she’s someone who comes alive with the help of her new family and the very handsome Roo, whose memories of her mother intertwines with that of his father in his family photo album.

Just as Saylor begins to feel as if she’s part of lake life, her father returns and insists she leave and become Emma again. How can she make him realize she’s also Saylor, and that she’s changed? Learning her mother’s story helped her see herself in a new way, something Roo and her lake family made happen.

I loved this book so much!! Sarah Dessen always writes great stories, and she did not disappoint me. Reading about Emma Saylor and her family made me feel as if I was out on the lake with them, suffering through their troubles and cheering on their successes. Readers are invested, which is a sign of a great writer.

Highly recommended for ages 15 and older.

“Deliver her” Patricia Perry Donovan

Rated 2 stars ** Ebook. 2016. Lake Union Publishing.

DeliverHerMeg is worried because Alex, her 16-year-old daughter, has been acting strangely since her best friend died in a car accident. Alex lost interest in the things she used to do, has a new set of friends, is extremely moody, sullen and uncommunicative, and seems to be taking a ride on the wild side.

After an unsupervised party that wrecks their home, Meg finds drugs in the house. Believing Alex desperately needs help she decides to hire a stranger (who specializes in transporting troubled teens) to take Alex (against her will) hundreds of miles away to a school that will help her get a fresh start. This decision forever changes the dynamics of the Carmody family because, after a car accident, Alex disappears en route to the school.

Through multiple viewpoints, taking place over the course of several days both in the past and present, Donovan takes readers on a rollercoaster ride of emotions and events guaranteed to leave readers heads spinning. There were too many back and forth discussions and storylines, as well as many unanswered questions at the end. I will have to include a spoiler alert below so you can see what I mean.

I wasn’t a fan of this book so, in light of all of my questions, I will have to leave it up to you to Decide if You want to Read it or Not.

***********SPOILER ALERT ***************

Why didn’t Jacob get his act together? Why is Meg still allowing their strange living arrangement? Why does Carl seem to ogle Iris, a married woman, a little too much on their brief NY visit? When Iris goes on and on about how much she likes NY is she hinting that she and her husband will soon be on the outs?

There were WAY too many unanswered questions for my taste. I hope the author isn’t planning book #2, because I definitely won’t be reading it.

 

“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.

 

“The cholo tree” Daniel Chacón

Rated 3 stars *** 2017. Arte Público Press. 248 pp.

TheCholoTreeFourteen-year-old Victor is an aspiring artist and cook in his low income, gang filled neighborhood and, like most kids his age, doesn’t like school. He was very close to his father who was killed when Victor was very young, and holds his mother at an emotional distance. Though not a cholo (gang member) she believes he is one, and doesn’t trust him.

Victor doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life and is reluctant to choose a path, despite direction from a teacher he trusts and a very smart girlfriend who gives him some inspiration. As he aimlessly wanders through the life he’s chosen for himself, Victor has to sort through layers of experiences to decide if he already is a cholo. Does he want to be a cholo, or does he want to break free of the mold he created for himself in order to live the way he was meant to live?

Don Quixote-type fantasies intermingled with Victor’s hazy memories of his father, along with stories of his life, are pieced together to show four years of his struggles to discover who he is and what he wants to be. Though I wasn’t a big fan of the book, I did enjoy the author’s portrayal of Iliana as a strong, independent woman. She knew what she wanted, and went for it full speed ahead, the complete opposite of Victor. She didn’t let feelings get in the way of her future, and I admire her for having a goal and sticking to it.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

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

“Deep in the shadows: Undercover in the ruthless world of human smuggling” Hipólito Acosta

Rated 3 stars *** 2017. Arte Público Press. 319 p. (Includes photographs and an Appendix).

DeepInTheShadowsHipólito Acosta grew up in a tiny Texas town and, in 1975, was hired by the U.S. Border Patrol. After working locally for a little while he was assigned to Chicago, becoming one of the first Hispanic agents to work undercover for the agency. There, either single handedly or with fellow agents, he infiltrated gangs and cartels to root out drug dealers, human smugglers, and sellers of false identity papers. Later in his career, assigned to work in higher leadership roles in the Philippines and Mexico, he continued to set the bar high in his single-minded pursuit of justice.

In simple, understated narrative Acosta details his innovative, yet very dangerous experiences working to uphold his oath to protect our country’s borders. His memoir is loaded with names, dates, and facts, which can be overwhelming at times. It would have been nice if an alphabetical glossary or timeline, with associated page numbers, was included to help readers better associate the details of his career.

Recommended for Adults.

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