Rated 4 stars **** ARC. Published June 7, 2017. Little Brown Books for Young Readers. 343 p.
Maddie’s rich and eccentric grandmother is dying of cancer, and has planned out a bucket list of how she wants to live her last days. So, instead of spending the final summer before college hanging out with her best friends, seventeen-year-old Maggie finds herself on a cruise where everyone is dying and wanting to end their lives with dignity.
Maddie hates the thought of death and of losing her beloved grandmother, expecting the cruise to be the worst time of her life. Instead she finds herself learning to look beyond debilitating diseases to see the person behind the sickness, and finding a strength of character within herself she’d never known existed.
The right for the terminally ill to die with dignity, is a theme that’s brought to the forefront in this book. It will leave readers thinking long after they’ve turned the last page.
Recommended for ages 18 and older.
Rated 2 stars ** 2016. Candlewick Press. 300 p. Includes “Author’s note.”
During 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 The book had many historical references to the period.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.
Rated 2 stars ** 2016. Waterfall Press. 324 p.
Set in 1901 New York, “Journey’s end” is the story of Caroline St. James, a young woman who grew up poor and hungry on the streets of London. After her mother died, Caroline gambled to get the money to come to America where she planned to confront her wealthy grandfather to find out why he allowed her mother to die in poverty. Her plan takes on a different twist when she meets Jackson Montgomery, a very handsome man who also seems to be hiding something from his past.
I was annoyed at the number of ways the author found to call Jackson “masculine,” as well as the constant references to him as “the man.” The way Caroline responded to him, one would have thought that men existed just so all women could feel happy and secure. I also felt the constant references to sundry Bible verses didn’t belong in the storyline because, from the beginning, Caroline admitted to not having any interest in God. All of a sudden she becomes religious, seeking wisdom from above for every move. It doesn’t feel believable.
The book ended abruptly without revealing why Lucian had left town unexpectedly, why Sally left her past employer, and why Elizabeth and Lucian seemed to be interested in each other. Is a sequel planned? I hope not, because I won’t be reading it.
I wasn’t a fan, but will leave it up to you to decide if you want to read it or not.
Rated 3 stars *** 2015. Hyperion. 298 p.
Forced to work for Bones at the age of 5, an evil thief who forced children to steal for him, Arista and her best friend Nic grew up on the seedy streets of 1700’s London picking pockets and struggling to stay alive. Twelve years later, Arista has become Lady A – blackmailer of London high society. She and Nic roam masked balls trading secrets for money, which they hand over to Bones.
Trying to escape Bones’ evil clutches Arista decides to work for Wild, a more powerful thief, with promises that she will be able to live out her dream of moving to India and living a normal life with her best friend Becky. When she meets Grae, the handsome son of a ship merchant, she feels as if her dreams for normalcy are finally coming true. However, Wild has no intention of ever letting her go. Will love be enough to help Arista escape the plans Wild has for her, or will she be forced to forever be a thief?
Some of the exploits of the real life Jonathan Wild are explored, and the early life led by Nic and Arista is very similar to that of Fagin’s boys in Dickens’ “Oliver Twist.” If you want a quick, light read, a sort-of love triangle, and a boy/girl romance that develops within 2 minutes, then “Tangled webs” is the book for you.
Recommended for ages 14 and older.
Rated 2 stars ** Hyperion. 2015. 345 p. (Includes “Author’s Note.”)
Emilia and Teo grew up on the road with their stunt pilot mothers in the early 1920’s. Frustrated at the lack of job equality for women, and especially upset with the laws against blacks, Teo’s mother Delia dreamed of freedom in Ethiopia. When she was killed in a freak accident, Emilia’s mother decides to raise Teo as her own and leaves for Ethiopia to fulfill her best friend’s wishes for him to have a better life. For a number of years they all enjoyed their time in Ethiopia until Mussolini’s army invaded in 1935. “Black Dove, White Raven” is Teo and Emilia’s, as well as Ethiopia’s story, during that timeframe.
I had a hard time making it through this book, as I found it to be too slow moving and it really didn’t capture my interest. Writing about Ethiopia was important to Wein, but the enormous amount of material put into the 345 pages was a bit much for me. However I will leave it up to those of you ages 14 and older to decide if you want to read it or not.
Rated 4 stars **** 2015. Sky Pony Press. 306 p.
RJ, Queen Bee and Mean Girl at her high school, never expected life to end at the age of 17. However, the Grim Reaper accidentally takes her soul when a fortuneteller uses her as a shield against him. Highly upset at the consequences of his mistake, RJ refuses to be processed in the afterlife. Instead she insists her soul be returned to her body, and creates a stink about being wrongfully taken to anyone who’ll listen.
A Tribunal of angels is convened to rule on her case, and she is given a task to return to three important occasions in her life that could alter her destiny. IF she manages to change the course of her life, and influence others for the good, they will grant her request. If not, she will be shut away for years until her real death date occurs somewhere in the future.
RJ is determined to ace her tests though the Tribunal doesn’t seem to want her to succeed. Changing the pattern of the selfish life she’d led on Earth is not going to be easy, but if she wants to live in her own body again she’ll have to figure out a way.
Schmitt has a very active imagination, describing Saint Peter, life after death, heaven, hell, and even angels in ways that would never be found in any religious book. Though some conservative types might find her descriptions of RJ’s experiences in the afterlife to be sacrilegious, I found them to be original, highly imaginative and quite humorous.
Recommended for ages 14 and older.
Rated 2 stars ** 2015. Soho Teen. 291 p.
Sixteen-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.