“The edge of lost” Kristina McMorris

Rated 5 stars ***** 2015. Kensington. 340 pp. (Includes “Author’s Note,” “Q & A with Kristina McMorris,” and “A reading group guide.”)

TheEdgeOfLostThe year is 1919. Twelve-year-old orphan Shan Keagan from Dublin, Ireland is living a hard knock life with his Uncle Will, trying to earn money and meals as a singer, dancer and impressionist in local bars. When the two of them decide to immigrate to America his uncle dies onboard, leaving Shan to figure out how he will enter the country of his dreams and find his real father.

Befriended by an Italian-American family who had just lost their younger son, Shan began his new life in Brooklyn, New York as Tommy Capello. As Shan adjusts to his new life with the Capellos, he hopes for a chance to find his father and finally find happiness with a real family. Despite his best efforts, life doesn’t turn out as he’d hoped, and Shan finds himself on the short end of the stick of life once more.

McMorris’ keen attention to detail brings Prohibition, Vaudeville, and Alcatraz, among other happenings of the 1920’s and 30’s, to life. These historical events, along with Shan’s struggles to find happiness while still keeping his own heart pure, will keep readers wishing for more even when the last page has been turned.

Highly recommended for Adult readers.

“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.

 

“Awake” Natasha Preston

Rated 3 stars *** ARC. Ebook. Sourcebooks Fire. Published August 4, 2015.

AwakeWhen sixteen-year-old Scarlett met handsome Noah she had no idea how her life would change. Within a week they were in love and, after a month, they were inseparable. He wanted to know everything about her life, and she loved showing him new things. When she mentioned being unable to remember anything that happened before she was 4 years old, he encouraged her to try and recover those lost memories.

As Scarlett’s not-so-pleasant memories began to surface she discovered her normal life was just a sham, because her parents had stolen her away from a cult called Eternal Light. The cult leaders were her real parents. They had never given up looking for her as they had specific plans, which had been waiting for her for 12 years.

Unfortunately it doesn’t take long before Scarlett allows herself to fall right into their hands. With time running out, she will have to face the biggest challenge of her young life while Noah will have to make a decision, which may cost more than he’s prepared to pay.

I enjoyed the thrill and mysterious feelings in “Awake,” but felt cheated at the end when the author made it very obvious there would be a part two to the book with her open ending. I don’t like that “Awake” wasn’t advertised as being part of a series, as I wouldn’t have read it since I don’t like to wait years for book sequels. Without giving away too much I was also annoyed with Scarlett for being so head over heels in love with Noah that within a week she was willing to take his word for everything – something she would live to regret. Why is it that teenagers in books are always walking around with their eyes open but don’t see anything of substance?

I will recommend “Awake” for readers ages 14 and older because it was an okay read, but I’m disappointed it didn’t end with a bow around the present instead of with the wrapping paper still having to be bought at the store, among other issues.

I received this ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

“1999: A novel of the Celtic Tiger and the search for peace” Morgan Llywelyn

Rated 4 stars **** 2008. Irish Century Novels #5. Tom Doherty Associates. 399 pp. (Includes alphabetical list of Historical Characters,Source Notes and a Bibliography.)

1999 AnoveloftheCelticTigerandthe searchforpeaceBarry Halloran’s personal fight as a photojournalist against Ireland’s occupation by the British continues in the last book of The Irish Century series. In “1999” readers are infused with information about the various IRA Republican factions which continued their battles for a united Ireland, contrasted with crimes committed against Catholics by British and Protestant organizations aided and abetted by local police.

As usual, Llywelyn summarizes information covered in previous books to bring the reader “up to speed.” However I found a glaring error in “1999,” which disappointed me since the author has always been very good at seamlessly joining all her books.

The error was a complete changing of an event that happened in “1972” in which Barry woke Barbara Kavanagh from a deep sleep and proposed to her. Afterwards they both woke up his best friend Séamus to ask him to be the best man.

I was very dismayed to have the marriage proposal be completely changed in “1999”, as the proposal now occurs while Barbara is having an argument with her mother over the telephone. Later that evening, Séamus returns home and is asked to be Barry’s best man.

I am at a loss as to why Barry’s proposal was changed from one book to the other. Did an editor not catch the change? If Morgan Llywelyn were to read this review I would ask why she changed such a romantic proposal from “1972” into this “ho hum” proposal in “1999.” In my opinion, a change was not necessary.

Other than having a problem with this change, I enjoyed “1999.”

Recommended for Adult readers.

“1972: A novel of Ireland’s unfinished revolution” Morgan Llywelyn

Rated 5 stars ***** 2005. Irish Century Novels #4. Tom Doherty Associates. 365 pp. (Includes alphabetical list of Historical Characters, the Bipartisan Declaration from 1949, Source Notes and a Bibliography.)

1972Barry Halloran, Ursula’s son and Ned’s grandson, now takes up the centuries long fight for Ireland’s independence in Llywelyn’s latest book.

Eager to fight for his country Barry joins the IRA as a foot soldier, and is soon enamored with the feeling of camaraderie amongst the men in the army. He has hope for his country’s future but, when he actually killed someone, Barry decided there had to be a way to make a difference without killing. In time he became a demolition expert for the IRA, but insisted his targets be places where lives would not be lost. Soon, he became the best demolition expert in the army.

With Northern Catholics experiencing severe civil rights violations, various political factions within the country sought to copy the nonviolent civil rights movement undertaken in America in an effort to reunite the country. Now an experienced photojournalist, Barry is in the midst of the action as Northern extremists clash with Catholics. Ireland and Barry’s coming of age story are uniquely joined, culminating in the terrible events known to history as Bloody Sunday.

Recommended for Adults.

“1949: A novel of the Irish Free State” Morgan Llywelyn

Rated 5 stars ***** 2003. Irish Century Novels #3. Tom Doherty Associates. 485 pp. (Includes alphabetical list of Historical Characters, the Ireland Act from 1949, Source Notes and a Bibliography.)

1949With Ned off fighting for the Republic and Henry living in America, it is up to Ursula Halloran to take up the story of Ireland and her struggles for freedom in this newest edition to the Irish Century series.

After two years at a Swiss finishing school, Ursula arrives back at the home of Louise Hamilton determined to get a job at a radio station and become more heavily involved in Ireland’s quest to become a Republic. Determined not to marry and to remain independent, contrary to what the Catholic Church has instilled into the consciousness of her countrywomen, she forges a strong path for herself.

Ursula’s strong willed tendencies make her extremely attractive to two men. With each determined to win her love Ursula refuses to give in to her feelings, even when she becomes pregnant. Without telling the father of her child, she travels to Switzerland to work for the League of Nations and to give birth as a single mother outside of the condemnation of the Church. Unfortunately Adolf Hitler and the rise of Fascism have led to a thirst for power and land among various leaders. With almost all of Europe falling to his army, she and little Barry are no longer safe.

Ireland’s role during the war, along with its own internal battles for freedom, form a background to Ursula’s story, the rise of Hitler and the horrors of World War II. Readers will learn of important historical events while continuing to follow the highs and lows of the Halloran clan who we have grown to love.

Recommended for Adult readers.

“1921: The great novel of the Irish Civil War” Morgan LLywelyn

Rated 5 stars ***** 2001. Irish Century Novels #2. Tom Doherty Associates. 445 pp. (Includes Irish Declaration of Independence, alphabetical list of Historical Characters, Source Notes and a Bibliography.)

1921The story of Ireland’s struggle for Independence from Great Britain is continued through the eyes of Ned’s friend Henry Mooney. As a well-respected reporter Henry travels the countryside to recount the many battles and political maneuverings which took place in the attempt to free Ireland from the clutches of the United Kingdom.

Through a series of unfortunate events, a treaty was signed making Ireland a Free State but angering those who had fought for her to become a Republic. Unwilling to agree to the partitioning of the Northern counties, and continued allegiance to the Crown, those who had fought together in the Easter uprising of 1916 broke ranks. Insisting on full Republic status, and a completely united Ireland, the Irish Republican Army and the new Free State Irish government became sworn enemies.

“1921” is the great and sorrowful story of Ireland’s civil war against her own people, leaving cities, families and friendships shattered and destroyed. Against this background of horror and confusion Henry struggles to maintain a neutral stance while reporting on both sides of the devastation for posterity’s sake.

Recommended for Adult readers.