“Harbored secrets: A psychological mystery” Marie F. Martin

Rated 3 stars *** Ebook. 4D Publishing. 2013.

HarboredSecretsThe Montana prairie had always held a fascination for Blinny Platt. She’d worked almost her whole life on her father’s ranch, as the farm was part of her soul. After buying land several miles away in 1982 Blinny began building her own home, where she soon found herself engrossed in memories that had taken place in 1935 when she was 8 years old. At that time her baby brother was killed in a house fire, causing her mother to die of grief. Shortly thereafter, her father sent her and her 3-year-old sister Odette away to live with uncles she’d never met.

After 5 years he remarried and sent for them, but their relationship had suffered irreparable harm. Over the ensuing years Blinny blamed him for her mother’s death, and herself for causing the fire, wondering why he wasn’t there when she needed him. As Odette got older, she turned spiteful and rebellious, blaming Blinny for all of her issues. As the sisters try to piece together their pasts they find that hidden secrets, though painful, will finally set them free.

Told through flashbacks and the present time, this tragic story of loss and betrayal will leave readers aching. Secrets revealed threaten to crush, but the sisters prove to be survivors. Though Blinny’s memories seem to be awkwardly added into the narrative as she builds her new home, the story she tells helps readers forgive the occasional stiffness of the author’s transitions.

Recommended for Adults.

 

 

“Cold black earth” Sam Reaves

Rated 5 stars ***** Ebook. Thomas & Mercer. 2015.

ColdBlackEarthAfter a failed marriage and 20 years of working overseas, Rachel returned to her childhood home hoping that farm life would release pent up stress and allow her to reunite with her brother and nephew. Expecting serenity she is, instead, entangled in a murder mystery. As killings begin to randomly occur, she notices her nephew acting very strangely. When he asks her to help him out of a difficult situation, Rachel finds herself in the murderer’s crosshairs with nowhere to turn.

Reaves had me eagerly turning pages to find out whodunit, while the surprise ending left me reeling.

Highly recommended for adults.

 

“Bone Gap” Laura Ruby

Rated 1 star * 2015. Baltzer + Bray (HarperCollins). 345 p.

BoneGapTheir mother abandoned Finn and his big brother Sean when she fell in love and moved out of state after their father’s death. In the two years since she left, Sean gave up his dream of becoming a doctor so he could take care of Finn. Everyone in the town of Bone Gap loves Sean and his quiet ways of doctoring as an EMT, while Finn suffers name-calling and abuse because of being unable to look anyone in the eye. He’s different, and the town doesn’t like someone to be different.

Beautiful Roza left Poland to study in America, never expecting to find herself kidnapped by an insane stranger on her final day of classes. She managed to escape and find a good home with Sean and Finn, but it didn’t take long for the stranger to find her. The only witness to her abduction was Finn but, because he didn’t get a clear view of her abductor, no one believes him. Finn and Sean feel abandoned once again.

Through alternating chapters from Roza, Finn, Sean and others in the small town of Bone Gap, Ruby weaves a tale of love, intrigue, fantasy and magic. Her meandering tale reveals that sometimes what we see with our eyes isn’t really there, while what we don’t see with our eyes is really there – or something like that.

Though this book won the 2016 YALSA Printz Award, I couldn’t get into it. I was confused half the time, as I prefer books to be more realistic than magical. I will leave it up to you to decide if you want to read it or not.

 

“Scowler” Daniel Kraus

Rated 3 stars *** 2013. Delacorte Press (Random House). 288 pp.

ScowlerIt is 1981 and, through flashbacks, nineteen-year old Ry Burke tells the story of his twisted home life. His father Walter was a mean and abusive man, not allowing Ry to play with toys and beating him if the farm wasn’t run the way he liked. He regularly beat his wife, and the horror he inflicted on her when Ry was ten years old was something he’d never forgotten. That was the day his mom gathered her courage and tried to escape with Ry and his little sister Sarah, but Walter came home early.

Ry tried to hit Walter with a bat, but his father smashed it into Ry’s forehead then chased him through the wintry woods for hours – intent on killing him. Ry survived the hours in the forest, along with the pain in his forehead and broken leg, by depending on three toys he’d managed to hide in his pockets. Mr. Furrington, a turquoise teddy bear; Jesus Christ, an eight-inch bendy toy from Sunday School; and Scowler, an ugly four inch toy made up of a cone-shaped head, sharp teeth and a metal skeleton. Each of these toys imparts wisdom to help Ry survive, but Scowler gave Ry the strength to attack his father. Ry didn’t want to finish the job, leaving Scowler very angry.

Ten years have passed since that awful night, and the family has survived despite the farm falling into disrepair. Sarah knows a meteorite is going to fall that day, but what she doesn’t know is one has already fallen allowing Walter to escape from prison. When he arrives wanting revenge a meteorite falls on the farm and, what follows, is an uncanny look into the past and present when a fresh evil is released into the world. As Ry’s tortured mind melds into the various personalities that helped him survive the cold winter of 1971, this time, Scowler will not be denied.

Through flashbacks “Scowler” tells the long-term affects of emotional and physical abuse, taking readers on a white knuckled ride and leaving them hoping that the good guy will finally be able to overcome the bad guy.

Recommended for readers aged 14 and older.

Listed on the ALA (American Library Association’s) Best Fiction for Young Adults list (compiled by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA).

“The Sin-Eater’s Confession” Ilsa J. Bick

Rated 5 stars ***** 2013. Carolrhoda Lab (Lerner Publishing Group). 287 pp.

TheSinEater'sConfessionStationed with his Marines unit in Afghanistan, Ben plans to volunteer to infiltrate a Taliban-filled unit in the morning. Knowing that those who volunteer for these assignments usually don’t survive, he has decided to unburden his soul from a deep, dark secret he’s carried for 3 years.

Ben spends all night penning a “To All Whom This Might Concern” letter in which he recounts what happened in his Wisconsin hometown three years ago the summer he was seventeen. Up to that point he’d been living a robot-like life going to school, taking classes at the university, getting high grades and working two jobs trying to please his mother by getting into the college of her dreams. When Del, a classmate, was killed in an accident Ben volunteered to mentor his younger brother Jimmy.

Through a series of events, Jimmy was murdered. Ben was a witness to the events of that fateful night, yet couldn’t be sure of what he’d seen. Through fear he stayed silent but through his letters he questions himself, his actions, and everyone who played a part in Jimmy’s murder. As he struggles to figure out why Jimmy was killed and who did it, he rails against rumors, his cowardice, his inability to make decisions, his parents and life in general.

“The Sin-Eater’s Confession” is full of questions, innuendoes, and half-truths leaving readers scratching their heads while feeling strong empathy towards Ben and Jimmy.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

Listed on the ALA (American Library Association’s) Best Fiction for Young Adults list (compiled by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA).

“Steering toward Normal” Rebecca Petruck

Rated 3 stars *** To be published May 13, 2014. ARC. Amulet Books.

SteeringTowardNormalDiggy was left on his father’s doorstep when he was born, then his mom left town on a tractor. Over the years, he has managed to hide the hurt of being abandoned (and many tractor jokes) while establishing a great relationship with his dad who everyone calls Pops. Diggy and Pops prank each other with tricks and jokes in preparation for their yearly April Fool’s Day assaults, and enjoy their time together.

As a member of 4-H he takes pride in training steers and competing with them at various county fairs, pretending his sudden interest in steers and 4-H had nothing to do with the beautiful (but older) July Johnston. Now that July has moved on to a greater leadership role in the organization, Diggy has been picked as her successor to win the purple ribbon and the $12,000 prize at the upcoming Minnesota State Fair with his steer, Joker, and he will do everything in his power to make her proud.

Everything is going great for Diggy until Wayne Graf gets dumped in his driveway by his drunken dad. Fourteen-year-old Wayne’s mom has just died so his father dumped him because he is angry that Pops is his real dad. Diggy is incensed to learn he has a half brother but soon gets even more upset when Wayne decides he wants to also compete against Diggy in the upcoming fair with a steer of his own. On top of that he insists Diggy should find his real mother who dumped him 13 years ago, starts looking up information about her without Diggy’s permission, starts hogging up Diggy’s personal time with Pops, and horns in on Diggy’s time with July.

With all of these issues piling up Diggy and Wayne quickly become enemies, trying to outdo the other and win the State Fair with their steers. What follows are hilarious pranks, fights, arguments and general mayhem as they set about learning what it really means to be brothers and what it means to be a family.

“Steering toward Normal” is a good read for boys, especially boys interested in learning about country life, how to train steers, and learning more about 4-H.

Recommended for ages 11-14.

 

“Prairie Evers” Ellen Airgood

ARC (Advance Reading Copy). Published May 2012. Nancy Paulsen Books (Penguin Group Inc.) 215 pp.

Prairie has always been a free child, growing up with her beloved Grammy and parents in the North Carolina mountains while being homeschooled. When her parents relocate to a farm in New Paltz, N.Y., Grammy returns to North Carolina and 10-year-old Prairie enters school for the first time. Life in 5th grade is very hard, especially for someone who’s never been to school before but, when she becomes best friends with Ivy, things become bearable.

Prairie loves sharing the raising of her chickens and farm life with Ivy, and can’t understand her sadness. When she realizes Ivy comes from a bad home life, Prairie is determined to change things to help her become happy once more.

“Prairie Evers” is a story about change and growth in a young girl’s life, and will be enjoyed by students aged 9-12.