“Pandemic” Yvonne Ventresca

Rated 4 stars **** 2014. Sky Pony Press. ebook. ARC. To be published May 6, 2014. (Includes Resources and Acknowledgements).

PandemicNo one knows the truth about what happened to Lilianna that day except for her parents, her two best friends, the police and her counselor. With her former life now dead, Lil dresses in black and shuts herself off from anything she used to do in the past. To cope she obsesses over real and imagined disasters, stocking up on food and supplies for a catastrophe she knows will come since her life is all about calamities.

With both her parents out of town for the weekend, tragedy strikes in the form of a deadly flu. Within days, thousands in her town and throughout the country have fallen ill and died. With looters ransacking empty houses, neighbors dying, food supplies running low, and no family to help, Lil’s worse nightmare has come true.

To keep her head above water Lil tries to avoid her fear of contagion, agreeing to spend time with Jay, the handsome new student, and other survivors from her high school to help those less fortunate. Unfortunately the continued death of loved ones, and the reappearance of the person who caused her every nightmare, leaves Lil feeling her life should be about more than surviving the pandemic. However, does she have the strength to face her fears head on?

This interesting take on what could happen should the United States be hit with a modern day version of the Spanish influenza of 1918 will leave readers on the edges of their seats. After reading it, I felt like I should stock up on food, water and medicine. Just in case, of course…

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

 

“Deep Winter: A Novel” Samuel W. Gailey

Rated 5 stars *****2014. Penguin Group. ebook. ARC. To be published February 20, 2014.

DeepWinterANovelWhen Danny was 5 years old, he fell through thin ice and was submerged for more than 10 minutes. His parents drowned trying to rescue him, and he sustained severe brain damage. Bullied by all the children, Danny was left to fend for himself. Mindy came to his aid when he was 8 years old, keeping him from getting beat up by the town bully, and becoming his only friend.

Now all grown up, not much has changed in his little backwoods Pennsylvania town. Still shunned and ridiculed, Mindy remained his only friend. However, Danny’s life takes a turn for the worse when Mindy is found brutally murdered and he is accused of the crime.

Mindy’s murder triggers a series of more murders will all evidence pointing back to him, but Danny knows who killed her. Unfortunately the killer knows too. He has gotten away with a lot over the years, and will make sure Danny doesn’t ruin the plans he has carved out for himself. Will Danny get a chance to talk, or will his still, small voice be silenced forever?

Gailey has woven a well-written tale of intrigue, sadness, suspense and mystery that will draw in his readers, with all demanding justice be served. Danny’s character reminded me of Lennie in Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men,” and I cringed as I read hoping he wouldn’t encounter a similar fate. Readers will be just as involved in Danny’s fate, with the non-stop action keeping them turning pages until the very surprising ending.

Highly recommended for Adult readers.

“Radiant” Cynthia Hand

Rated 2 stars ** Unearthly, book #2.5. 2012. HarperCollins. ebook.

RadiantCarla and Angela are spending the summer in Rome, before they head off to college at Stanford. Carla remembers Angela had hinted once at a relationship with someone in Rome, but is mum about it until she and Carla run into Phen on the train. In alternate voices, Angela tells of how she met Phen, an ambivalent angel, and what led to her falling in love with him while Carla tries her best, rather unsuccessfully, to convince Angela to dump him.

At #2.5 in the series, “Radiant” should be read before “Boundless” even though, ideally, authors shouldn’t make novellas become mandatory reading in a series. I had read “Boundless,” before “Radiant,” and was quite puzzled in various places when Carla referred to meeting Phen over the summer and thought about various things that had happened in Rome. Rome? What happened in Rome?

It felt like I was missing something as I continued reading, and now I know I had been missing the events in “Radiant.” I take the author and the publisher to task for this, as novellas are supposed to be some sort of back story about some of the characters in a book, and should not contain important plot which would be missed in an actual sequel. That is my opinion, and I’m sticking to it.

I wish I could tell Hand’s 14 years old and older readers that it isn’t necessary to read this novella before reading  “Boundless,” but it wouldn’t be true. Even though I see it as a money making marketing ploy to get readers to spend more money, reading it helps clear up some of the deliberate fogginess about what happened in Rome when you’re reading “Boundless.”

“Call Me By My Name” John Ed Bradley

Rated ***** stars. ARC ebook. To be published May 6, 2014. Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

CallMeByMyNameFootball, friendship, love, hate, prejudice and the world of the Deep South in the 60’s to early 70’s are introduced to readers through the lives of Tater Henry and Rodney Boulet. Tater and Rodney met on a summer day in 1965 when Tater came to the white park to try out for baseball. Uneducated about the invisible racial line separating the two parts of town, Rodney saved him from further harm from the white players who wished to educate him about it.

It took 4 more years until their paths crossed permanently, and they soon became inseparable friends. Angie, Rodney’s twin sister, accepted Tater unconditionally while Rodney had to work to keep his racist father’s thoughts and behavior from becoming his own. Football unified them even more, as the two became almost as close as brothers.

With Tater blazing new paths as the school’s first black quarterback, and Rodney his protective lineman, college scouts lined up for them. However, as Tater and Angie’s feelings for each other began to grow to more than friendship, Rodney’s flare-ups of racism seemed to increase. Can two boys of different races and backgrounds overcome years of hatred sown deeply through generations to have a time enduring friendship, or will society’s pressures doom them to failure?

“Call Me By My Name” bears some similarities to the story of 1960’s football players Brian Piccolo and Gale Sayer (whose friendship was portrayed in the movie “Brian’s Song.”) It will remain with its readers long after the last page is turned. Recommended for readers 14 and older.

SPOILER ALERT BELOW

Be sure to have a box of tissues ready.

“Projection” Risa Green

Rated 3 stars *** 2013. Soho Press. 282 pp.

ProjectionGretchen’s life changes forever when her mother is killed at her 8th grade graduation party. There are no suspects but Gretchen suspects Ariel, her loser arch enemy. In an effort to find out information, she and her best friend Jessica engage in the ancient Plotinus ritual which involves breathing into each other’s mouths to exchange souls. Her mother had been involved in a Secret Society charged with protecting this secret, and they are sure she was murdered because of it. The ritual worked, but their happiness is short lived when they find out Ariel had videotaped them “kissing” for revenge and posted it on YouTube. With their social life in shambles, the girls leave town for two years.

When they return they are more determined than ever to find out who killed Gretchen’s mother and stole the anklet which is supposed to trigger the Plotinus ability. Hiding the secret that they can project without it, they invite Ariel into their inner circle (since Gretchen secretly still suspects her) and begin projecting into each other’s lives. What they find out will leave the town, and their lives, upside down forever.

Green’s premise of being able to project into someone else’s life will be readily accepted by her readers who, I’m sure, have entertained the thought of wishing they could be someone else. Recommended for ages 12-16.

“The Incredible Charlotte Sycamore” Kate Maddison

TheIncredibleCharlotteSycamoreAfter sneaking out of Queen Victoria’s palace to meet her best friends Peter and Jillian for some fencing practice, they and Charlotte were attacked by rabid mechanical dogs. Rabid dogs had been attacking others throughout London, and they were its latest victims.

With Peter and Jillian under medical confinement, Charlotte enlisted the help of her friend Benjamin to help find clues about the dogs. With rabies coursing through her own system, she only has a short time to find out who created the dogs, why they would do such a thing, and search for an antidote.

Despite herself, Charlotte finds herself dreaming romantic thoughts about both Benjamin and Peter, knowing they are in a lower class of palace workers and that she is engaged to be married to someone she’d never met. In the midst of trying to solve this mystery, she manages to find time to become the Robin Hood of medicine for the city’s poor.

Maddison does a somewhat credible job in her first novel but, by putting Charlotte in a higher social position than Peter, Jillian and Benjamin in 1854 London, she creates a huge gap between them and nullifies much of Charlotte’s feelings. I was not pleased with her open ending, so will leave it up to you to decide if you want to Read it or Not.

“The Mind Readers” Lori Brighton

Rated 1 star * Mind Readers #1. ebook. Published 2010.

TheMindReadersI will start out this review by saying I was tricked into reading this book.

I downloaded it for my kindle because it was free, and the summary sounded interesting. I didn’t know it was self published, and didn’t know it was part of a series. Those of you who follow my blog know I loathe self published books because of their numerous errors, and dislike books that go on and on in a series. I will only read a series if all the books are available NOW.

Anyway, since I didn’t know it was self published and part of a series, I started to read. I soon noticed grammatical errors, misspelled words, missing commas, misplaced commas, and “double” words. The storyline of Cameron, a young 17 year old girl being pursued by two opposing groups because she can read minds, carried me through the errors, which weren’t as numerous as they normally are in self published books but were still grating on my nerves.

Cameron trusts handsome Lewis, who assures her he can take her to a safe house where her abilities won’t matter and she can be trained to use them. Tired of hiding behind the facade of “acting normal” insisted upon by her grandmother, Cameron leaves with Lewis only to find that the safe house he promised her is really a house of horrors. Similar to the Eagles’ “Hotel California” song, she can check out any time she likes, but she can never leave.

Since the book ended on a cliff hanger, I ordered the next two books in the series and THEN realized it had been self published – just as I’d thought. Since I was already hooked, and hate leaving a book with a cliff hanger, I am now reluctantly committed to reading the other books in the series.

However, I am offering free advice to those wanting to self publish a book: give your manuscript to at least 10-15 other people to read BEFORE you publish it so they catch errors you don’t catch. It is very easy to miss grammatical errors, misspelled words, etc. when only one or two people are reading a manuscript. Thus when a group reads it SOMEONE will catch the mistakes.

I will leave it up to you to decide if you want to Read It Or Not.