Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. To be published September 15, 2016. Philomel Books (Penguin.)
Twelve-year-old Tommy Gallagher and his father Patrick have a very special relationship. His love of football came from his dad, and they bonded over practices, games and watching the Patriots. Dad has always been around for him and his little sister Em, explaining the importance of being a leader on and off the field, helping her become a soccer star, and just being there for them.
When his firefighter father never makes it out of a fire at the beginning of Tommy’s football season, he feels as if all his hopes and dreams died with his dad. Despite their mother’s attempts to keep things normal, Tommy believes things will never again be normal. With football no longer having the thrill it used to have for him, Tommy seeks alternate thrills, which don’t always lead to correct decisions. Em rebels by walking away from her soccer team right in the middle of their championship season.
As Tommy and Em struggle to reinvent themselves after the loss of their beloved father, they also strive to remain true to what he taught them while he was alive. In “Last man out” Lupica, once again, has brought heart, soul and sports together in a way that will leave his young readers engrossed, involved and thoughtful.
Highly recommended for ages 11-15.
Rated 3 stars *** 2014. Back Bay Books (Little, Brown & Company). 345 pp. Includes “Bibliography,” and a “Reading Group Guide.”
“The Visionist,” set in New England in the 1840’s, introduces readers to Shaker life. Abandoned as a baby, the strict life of a Shaker is the only life Sister Charity has ever known. Trying to please her spiritual leader “Mother Ann,” her benefactress Elder Sister Agnes, and the other members of the society leave Sister Charity feeling doomed to perdition because of her unworthiness.
Polly Kimball, her brother Ben, and mother May suffered for years under the brutal hands of her father Silas. When a fire Polly accidentally set helped them flee, May leaves them at a nearby Shaker community and disappears. In her sadness Polly has a vision, which the community believes comes from their beloved Mother Ann. Elder Sister Agnes is suspicious of Polly’s “vision” and wonders about her past, while Simon Pryor, fire inspector, has questions of his own.
As the girls’ friendship grows, the fear that Charity will find out everything about her is built on lies weighs heavily on Polly’s mind. Soon the struggle between right and wrong will consume both girls, as each attempt to figure out their role in the community.
Urquhart’s well researched portrayal of Shaker life in the 1840’s, as well as descriptions of clothing and customs of the time, does much to make “The Visionist” realistic. I would have preferred May telling her own story of how she got tangled up with Silas, and then explaining what she did to survive after dropping off Ben and Polly at the Shaker community. Since I only got dribs and drabs of her story, I gave it 3 stars instead of 4.
Recommended for Adults.
Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Published October 27, 2015. Little, Brown & Company. (Includes “Cast of Characters,” “Notes,” “Selected Bibliography,” and an “Index.”)
The Salem witch trials are looked at through their historical time and place with the lives of the accused and accusers, as well as that of ministers and judges, held to a magnifying glass. Readers are taken through the years before the trials began to set the stage for why they occurred, and are led beyond 1692 to the present time to show the influence they had on America’s overall history. Schiff’s extensive research is carefully documented in the Notes section, as well as through footnotes, while her Cast of Characters helps readers better understand the almost 100 people who played key roles in this tragedy.
“The Witches: Salem 1692” is heavy, historical reading. The real Puritans, not the Thanksgiving Day Pilgrims of our history books, will appall readers. Prepare to be enlightened, shocked and saddened as Schiff carefully peels away layers of history and lays bare the souls of those who played a part in sending 19 innocent people to their deaths.
Highly recommended for Adults.
Rated 5 stars ***** ebook. ARC. To be published December, 9, 2014 by Scribner. (Simon & Schuster.)
Born in 1900 readers are introduced to feisty Addie Baum when she is 85 years old. At that time, her granddaughter asked her to explain how she got to be the woman she is today so Addie obliges and begins her interview with the year 1915. At that time, she lived on the North End of Boston with her Jewish immigrant parents and two older sisters.
Never able to please her mother, who always managed to find fault, Addie managed to stay sane through her love for reading, wanting to gain knowledge, the friends she made at weekly meetings of the Saturday Club, and the time she spent at the Rockport Lodge. Addie wanted to go to high school, but the times called for her to go to work to support the family.
As the years passed Addie shared her heartaches and fears, as well as the hopes and dreams she held for her future. Various female role models, who ignored the boundaries placed upon them by society, impressed upon her young mind the importance of achieving more than what was expected of females by society. All of her experiences combined to make Addie the woman she is today, and helped her raise a generation of females who had the freedom to make something of themselves that would lie outside the boundaries of what women could (or should) do.
Diamant’s well-researched, historical novel is a great read, and is highly recommended for Adult readers.
Rated 4 stars **** 2014. Createspace. 236 pp.
Mary McManus incorporates memories, as well as present-time events, to tell the story of her life after contracting polio at the age of five. Despite recovering from this disease she faced years of physical, mental and emotional abuse from her parents and grandmother.
Over the years the stresses brought on by these abuses accumulated in her body causing severe physical problems, and resulting in a diagnosis of post-polio syndrome when Mary was just a few years away from retirement. Physicians and therapists at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, as well as other health caregivers, worked together to give Mary the spiritual, physical and emotional strength she needed to heal her body from its trauma.
Determined to do something meaningful with her newfound feeling of mental and physical strength, Mary decided to run the 2009 Boston Marathon to raise money for Spaulding Rehab. Triumphantly crossing the finish line of the marathon was just one of Mary’s many accomplishments described in “Coming Home,” as she valiantly worked to regain the person she had lost at the age of five and rewrite her past.
Mary is a fellow member of my running club, the L Street Running Club in South Boston. After reading her self-published life story, I have to salute the courage and strength she displayed in working through extreme trials which a young girl should have never had to endure, and which led to the beautiful and generous person she has become today. Mary, you are a survivor and I salute you!
Those of you who are regular readers of my blog know I try not to read self-published books because of the amount of grammatical errors usually contained within them. However, since Mary was generous enough to donate part of the proceeds of her book to a reputable charity, and is a fellow club member, I felt I should read her book and learn about her story. I was able to put aside my editing hat and read Mary’s story for its rawness and truthfulness. I gave it a 4 star rating for its content, and trust you will agree when you read it.
Recommended for Adult readers.
Rated 4 stars **** 2013. Arthur A. Levine Books (Scholastic.) 320 pp.
Rafe came out of the closet when he was in 8th grade. It was surprisingly easy, as Boulder Colorado accepted everyone for everything. His hippie parents had no problem with it and neither did his best friend Claire Olivia, his neighbors, friends, schoolmates or teachers.
By his junior year of high school Rafe began to feel like no one saw the real him because they only saw him as being “the gay guy.” Wanting to live a label free life, Rafe decided to attend an all boys’ school in Natick, Massachusetts and act straight so he could live without a label.
In Natick Rafe guarded his secret, became a jock, and hid his true self. Within a few months, his carefully built house of cards began to crumble when he fell in love with Ben, a jock. Rafe was now faced with a dilemma. If he told Ben his secret, he’d lose him. However, if he didn’t tell would he still lose?
In this humorous look at a serious subject, Konigsberg brings readers into Rafe’s mindset helping them to understand why he would undertake a new life in Natick, the importance of not assigning labels to others, and how to understand if you are running away from yourself to find yourself.
Recommended for readers aged 14 and older.
Listed on the ALA (American Library Association’s) Best Fiction for Young Adults list (compiled by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA)
Rated 5 stars ***** ebook. ARC. Published May 13, 2014. Simon Pulse (Simon & Schuster).
Seventeen-year-old Ren didn’t know the first thing about how to be a nanny when she applied for the nanny job on Nantucket Island. She wants to be a music journalist at University if her A level results allow, but now has to get as far away from her ex-boyfriend in London as soon as possible so she won’t have to see him with his new girlfriend.
Life as a nanny seemed easy as Ren was soon befriended by a group of rich teens and began getting invitations to their fancy parties. Despite wondering about secrets they seemed to have with each other, Ren felt Jeremy stood out as the nicest and the handsomest. As they found themselves drawn to each other, Ren wondered if he was The One.
When she met Jesse, the local bad boy, it didn’t take long to question her feelings for Jeremy. As a guitar player for a local band, Jesse’s hotness level rises. Despite knowing of his violent nature, and that he’d just gotten out of jail for assault, he and Ren seem to have a strange attraction for each other.
As if relationships weren’t confusing enough, someone on the Island is murdering foreign nannies. When a second nanny turns up dead, Ren is fearful she will be next. After all, she’s a nanny and is also foreign. Little does she know that life on Nantucket Island will soon take a turn for the worse.
Recommended for teens 14 and older.