“Every falling star: The true story of how I survived and escaped North Korea” Sungju Lee & Susan McClelland

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Published September 13, 2016. Abrams. 316 p. (Includes Glossary as well as a list of Places and proper names.)

everyfallingstarSungju lived with his father and mother in a fine apartment in Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea. His father held a high office in the army and, as devout followers of esteemed leader Kim Il-sung, Sungju and his parents had a happy, easy life. Expected to follow in his father’s footsteps, Sungju went to a very good school and studied tae kwon do with other future leaders of the military.

In 1997, his father was kicked out of the army for unknown reasons. Forced to move to the slums of the town of Gyeong-Seong, life rapidly deteriorated. With hunger as their constant enemy, his father, soon followed by his mother, left in search of food. At the age of twelve, Sungju was left to fend for himself.

In his own words, Sungju tells how he learned to survive on the streets of various cities for four years with his gang of street “brothers,” despite starvation, beatings, and imprisonment. The story of their friendship and love, along with Sungju’s musings on governmental policy, hope, and Korean legends are woven together to create a powerful story of survival that will tug at reader’s heartstrings.

Highly recommended for ages 14 and older.

“The alienation of Courtney Hoffman” Brady Stefani

Rated 1 star * ARC. Published June 7, 2016. SparkPress.

TheAlienationOfCourtneyHoffmanCourtney used to love being with her grandfather, listening to his strange stories about aliens visiting Earth, until he tried to drown her when she was just a little girl. Now that she’s 15 years old, she still hasn’t come to grips with the traumatic events of that day.

When her childhood imaginary friend reappears in her mind, and aliens begin to constantly attempt to communicate, Courtney is sure she’s going insane. A new friend convinces her to visit a doctor who understands aliens and who will solve her problems. Before she knows it, Courtney is involved in a race to help the aliens save the world from destroying itself.

Courtney was so immature. I lost count of how many times she pulled her hair in frustration, and I don’t know any 15 year olds who pull their hair. Her friend Agatha was 19 years old and her vocabulary, which consisted of saying the word “dude” in every sentence, was grating and just as bad.

Courtney is 15, has a 19-year-old friend, says bad words, and has a mother who doesn’t listen to anything she says. That means it has to be a YA book. Right? Wrong! The storyline was boring and not believable, the characters were flat and immature, and it could have easily passed for a lower middle grade book. I was looking for an interesting YA book, but this was not that book. A sequel is planned, but I won’t be reading it. I’m sorry I read this one.

I didn’t like it, but will leave it up to you to decide if you want to read it or not.

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

 

“Crossing into Brooklyn” Mary Ann McGuigan

Rated 2 stars ** Ebook. Published June 1, 2015. Merit Press.

CrossingIntoBrooklynRich and pampered sixteen-year-old Morgan Lindstrum is upset because her mother and father aren’t talking to each other, and not spending time at their beautiful home in Princeton, New Jersey. She is also confused about feelings she’s been having for her best friend Ansel and, on top of everything, her beloved Grandfather passed away.

While trying to make her way through the minefield that has become her life, Morgan discovers her mother has a secret centered in Brooklyn. Her curiosity about her mother’s past leads her to discover poor Irish relations, which include her real grandfather Terence Mulvaney. Her mother is reluctant to forgive her father for past wrongs, but Morgan is determined to bring the family back together.

While seeking a bridge of reconciliation she soon discovers her newfound relatives may soon become part of Brooklyn’s homeless population. Morgan must call on all of her resources to try and reconcile her family, but it may come at a price she cannot pay.

Though “Crossing into Brooklyn” realistically described the city’s homeless population, contrasting its poverty with Princeton’s upper class, fake exterior, I thought Morgan’s constant references to what happened in Chicago did not lend merit to the storyline and were a distraction. In addition, though she came across as a heroine, there were aspects of her story that did not come across as believable. Her encounter with Carlos, as well as the fact that she managed to come and go many times through a very poor, rough area of Brooklyn without once being challenged by area residents for being a richly dressed girl in a poor neighborhood did not ring true to this Brooklynite.

I have mixed feelings about this book, so will leave it up to you to decide if you want to read it or not.

 

“Finding the music: En pos de la música” Jennifer Torres

Rated 4 stars **** Children’s Book Press (Lee & Low Books). 2015. (Includes a Glossary and Pronunciation Guide as well as an Author’s Note.)

FindingTheMusicEnPosDeLaMusicaReyna is upset because her mother’s restaurant is too noisy and, while expressing her exasperation, accidentally breaks her grandfather’s vihuela (a guitar used to play mariachi music.) While trying to get it fixed she discovers various aspects of her grandfather’s musical career, which had not previously been of interest. Reyna’s journey to fix the vihuela leads to a journey of her own roots, leaving her with a greater appreciation of her grandfather’s accomplishments.

This well written bilingual picture book is a fun way to introduce young children to vihuelas and mariachi music, while Alarcao’s realistic drawings help Reyna’s story come to life.

Recommended for ages 7-10.

“One Lavender Ribbon” Heather Burch

Rated 2 stars ** ebook. 2014. Montlake Romance.

OneLavenderRibbonAfter a bad divorce Adrienne Carter used her settlement money to buy a rundown Victorian home in Florida she planned to renovate. One evening she came across a stack of love letters from William, a World War II soldier, addressed to someone named Grace. After spending time reading them, Adrienne became intrigued and decided to see if she could find William.

When Adrienne located William “Pop” Bryant, his irascible grandson Will didn’t take kindly to her because he thought she wanted to take advantage of his grandfather. It didn’t take long for his irritability to change to affection. For her part Adrienne kept her emotions in check, not wanting to fall for a man who reminded her too much of her first husband.

Soon more secrets began to be revealed. Knowing her involvement in solving them would arouse Will’s wrath, Adrienne forged ahead and soon found herself debating whether or not she should have let the past interfere with her present.

“One Lavender Ribbon” created likable characters like Pops and Sara, but Adrienne’s solving of so many secrets in such a short time gave it an unrealistic feeling. It was published by an Amazon imprint and needed editorial help with “taught” being used instead of “taut,” comma overuse and other errors.

Despite these problems it did have my interest, as I liked William and Sara. Perhaps if the author had told their story, and set it during World War II, I might have liked it better.

I’ll leave it up to you Adult readers to decide if you want to Read it or Not.