“Always” Sarah Jio

Rated 3 stars *** ARC. Ebook. Ballantine Books. To be published February 7, 2017.

alwaysKailey loved Ryan, her handsome and rich fiancé who she’d been dating for 4 years. Though secretly still in love with a man from her past, they were set to marry. The day she runs into a homeless man she recognizes as Cade, the love of her life who had disappeared years earlier, her life forever changes.

Through flashbacks, readers are shown their love story, setting the stage for Cade’s disappearance and Ryan’s appearance in Kailey’s life. The more she remembers the former life she had with Cade, the more she begins to question her life with Ryan. Should she give up an old love for a new one? Could she learn to live a new life and leave her old one behind?

As Kailey debates what to do, readers easily split into Pro Ryan or Pro Cade camps. The decision is not as hard as Kailey makes it out to be; she’s just too dense to figure it out as fast as I did. In the midst of trying to understand what happened to Cade, I couldn’t figure out the point of all the “cloak and dagger” mysteries around him. “Always” was okay but was a bit too predictable, with a few too many loose ends, for me to rate it higher than three stars.

Recommended for Adults who don’t mind the occasional “huh?” thrown into their reading.

I received an Advance Reading digital copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Advertisements

“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.

“Klickitat” by Peter Rock

Rated 1 star * ARC. Published April 12, 2016. Abrams.

KlickitatVivian was 15 when her 17-year-old sister Audra disappeared. She knew Audra was unhappy with society, technology, school, herself, her parents and life in general but always knew they had a special bond like Beezus and Ramona in Beverly Cleary’s old books. She was sure Audra would come back for her. When Audra finally returned to get her, she had a friend named Henry who knew all about how to forage and live in the woods.

Now a threesome, Vivian has to get used to sharing her sister while also learning Henry’s rules and ways of homeless life. Though she misses her parents, she loves Audra, and will do anything for them to stay together as a family.

I thought this book was very strange. Vivian’s notebook was weird as well as the fact that both she and her sister’s disappearances didn’t merit much police attention. It was also strange that her parents didn’t seem too affected, and that they were able to hide in plain sight and survive as street urchins for so long. As I forced myself to keep reading I kept thinking, “thank goodness I didn’t actually have to pay for this book.”

Though I didn’t care for it, I’ll leave it up to you to decide if you want to read it or not.

“What you left behind” Samantha Hayes

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Ebook. DCI Lorraine Fisher #2. 2015. Crown (Random House.)

WhatYouLeftBehindDetective Inspector Lorraine Fisher planned to have a nice vacation with her sister Jo and nephew Freddie in her childhood country home. Though surprised to find Freddie moody and uncommunicative, she brushes off Jo’s concern he might be suicidal because their neighbor Simon and 5 others killed themselves 18 months earlier. Jo is certain the recent suicide of Dean, a homeless teen motorcyclist, would lead to more suicides.

When an autistic neighbor shows her a drawing he made of the accident, showing there had been two people on the motorcycle when Dean died, Lorraine’s interest is piqued. Soon Lenny, another homeless teen, commits suicide and Freddie disappears, leaving Lorraine to find out what happened. What she doesn’t know is that someone has been very clever and will stop at nothing, even murder, to keep secrets hidden that will turn the town upside down.

This whodunit kept me biting my nails and sitting on the edge of my seat in anticipation as Hayes cleverly dropped clues about various key characters. Just when I was convinced I knew what happened, she threw a very clever curveball that left me scratching my head in disbelief. Hayes is an author who does not disappoint, and I look forward to reading more of her books.

Though this book was the second in a series about Detective Lorraine Fisher, it stands alone as each book has its own storyline.

Highly recommended for Adults.

 

“Pretty Baby” Mary Kubica

Rated 4 stars **** ARC. Published July 28, 2015. MIRA.

PrettyBabyHeidi and Chris Wood had a good marriage until cancer and the loss of her future family took away her dreams. She immersed herself in caring for others through charitable work, longing for the closeness she used to have with her only daughter Zoe who was now a teenager and confided only in her best friend Taylor.

Chris and Zoe were used to Heidi’s many lost causes, but were still shocked when she invited Willow, a homeless teenager, and her baby Ruby to live with them. Willow is very secretive about her past, and the Woods don’t press her, but are sure she is hiding something. However they soon find out the biggest secrets may be those you tell yourself.

“Pretty Baby” was definitely a page-turner as Chris, Heidi and Willow told their stories, but I felt the author did an injustice to Zoe. She picked at her food, barely ate, and was always cold, all signs of anorexia. I thought Heidi’s best friend Jennifer might have noticed something and was trying to talk to Heidi about it, but Heidi was in her own world. Zoe was left to drift at the edges of Chris and Heidi’s worlds; while I felt her obvious need to be noticed should have been one of the stories explored in the book.

Despite this observation, I highly recommended this book for Adults.

“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.

 

“On the other side of the bridge” Ray Villareal

Rated 4 stars **** 2014. Arte Público Press. 227 pp.

OnTheOtherSideOfTheBridgeThirteen-year-old Lon Chaney Rodriguez was named for an old horror movie actor, as he and his dad shared a love for horror movies his mother didn’t understand. His dad drank a few too many beers after he lost his trucking job, which really bothered his mom as she had to work extra hard as a security guard to make up the difference in their income. Things were a little rough at home, and Lon wasn’t doing too well at school, but everything seemed okay until the night his mother was killed at work. Suddenly Lon’s life was a mess.

With his dad refusing help from family members, and drinking heavily every day, Lon was at his wit’s end. His biggest fear was that they would become homeless, which seemed to be next on the horizon if his dad didn’t get his act together.

Villareal takes a typical seventh grade boy and thrusts him into an arena of responsibility, which should never be the lot of a child. As he tells Lon’s story readers are educated about poverty, homelessness and the ability to make a difference in someone else’s life.

Recommended for ages 11-14.