“White Ivy” Susie Yang

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. Simon & Schuster. To be published September 8, 2020.

White IvyIvy was two years old when her parents moved from China to the United States and left her in the care of Meifeng, her grandmother. It took three years for them to save enough money to send for her so, when she arrived, they felt like strangers. Two years later Meifeng joined the family, but Ivy felt caught. In their world she was expected to become a doctor, and to be obedient but she was definitely not obedient and didn’t want to be a doctor. She wanted an exciting life of her own so filled her days reading about beautiful sad heroines.

In 6th grade her father became a technician at a prep school so her tuition was free. By that time she had become a petty thief with her grandmother, and stole the things she needed to fit in at school. Though she worked hard to emulate the lifestyles of the beautiful, rich girls who were now her classmates, and had fallen hard for Gideon Speyer the local heartthrob, she was always on the outskirts of school life.

Through college and beyond Ivy flits from relationship to relationship, refusing any involvements, but is thrilled when she runs into Gideon’s older sister. She makes sure she and Gideon rekindle their acquaintance, and becomes so ruthless and single minded in her pursuit of him that she loses track of the definition of true love.

The author made you really think hard about the characters, and threw in a few twists and turns I didn’t expect. I will highly recommend this book for Adults.

I received a digital advance reading copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

“The second home” Christina Clancy

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. St. Martin’s Press. To be published June 2, 2020.

The Second HomeAnn’s parents had recently been killed in an accident and, though it had been in her family for generations, she was desperate to rid herself of her family’s ramshackle summer home in Wellfleet, MA. Her urgency to sell included the fact she didn’t want her estranged brother Michael to know she was selling. They’d lost contact years earlier, after an especially horrific summer, and the anger she felt towards him had worsened over the years.

Michael and Ann had been the same age and were best friends at school so, since he got along well with her family, Ann convinced them to adopt him. The summer of 1999 was his first in Wellfleet, which he spent wrestling with his feelings about Ann. She had taken on a babysitting job with the Shaws, a rich family, contrasting their lives and loving how her boss made her feel. While they spent the summer trying to work through their issues, her younger sister Poppy was getting high after falling in with a rough crowd of surfing locals. That summer forever changed their lives.

Ann, Michael and Poppy’s love for their summer home, and the Wellfleet memories that tied them together, will sink deeply into the reader. I was fully invested in their stories, told through flashbacks and the present, and was eagerly turning pages as I hoped for everything to end on a satisfying note.

Highly recommended for Adults.

I received a digital advance reading copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

“Ghosts of Harvard” Francesca Serritella

Rated 3 stars *** ARC. ebook. Random House. To be published May 5, 2020.

Ghosts of HarvardSeventeen-year-old Cady is determined to attend Harvard because it was where her older brother Eric committed suicide. Since she blames herself, she is determined to figure out why he killed himself.  While at school her studies take a back burner to the nagging questions that arise about Eric’s schizophrenia.

As memories of good and bad times with Eric fill her mind, Cady begins to hear voices and music from a bygone era. Afraid she is heading towards the same path of mental illness, she has a small measure of relief when she figures out the voices are the ghosts of a former Harvard slave and two students who attended the school many years ago.

She enjoys having them as company, learning historical aspects about the school that she’d never known. However, as she uncovers more about Eric’s last days, she soon figures out he was hiding something. When his secret is finally revealed, her life is forever changed in even more ways than she’d thought possible.

I enjoyed the historical aspect of “Ghosts of Harvard,” especially since I once worked on campus, and didn’t know about many of the hidden gems revealed in the book. I now want to travel back to Massachusetts to take a leisurely stroll and go to the places mentioned in the book. The storyline about Eric, his secret, and the ghosts seemed a bit farfetched, but the troubling aspects of suicide, mental illness and its weight on families were truthfully articulated.

Recommended for ages 16 and older.

I received a digital advance reading copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

“I’ll never tell” by Abigail Haas

Rated 5 stars ***** Simon Pulse. 2019.

I'll never tellAnna hated the rich prep school her father forced her to transfer to in the middle of her junior year. Now that they were rich, he knew any friends she made there could become future clients, so her protests fell on deaf ears. Her time there was every bit as bad as she knew it would be until she met Elise.

Elise was a force of nature, sexily smiling her way into getting free drinks from college boys, while drinking and partying as if there were no tomorrow. She and Anna hit it off from the very beginning, becoming closer than sisters. They spent all their time together, and had their futures all planned out, until the trip they took to Aruba with their friends changed everything forever. There Elise was violently murdered, with suspicion falling solely upon Anna.

As months pass in jail, evidence is piling up against her. The Prosecutor is intent on finding her guilty, and time is ticking away. Anna faces 20 years in prison, but can she prove her innocence or will she spend most of her life imprisoned for a crime she didn’t commit?

Through flashbacks and the present time, readers spend time with Anna and Elise, as we learn the lurid details of their relationship and try to figure out who killed Elise. When the truth was finally revealed, I was SHOCKED! I won’t tell you what happened at the end, as you’ll have to read it for yourself, but I KNOW you’ll be shocked too. Kudos to the author for keeping it a secret for so long.

Recommended for ages 15 and older.

 

“In the country we love: My family divided” Diane Guerrero

Rated 5 stars ***** 2016. Henry Holt and Co. 247 p.

InTheCountryWe LoveWanting a better life for their young son, and unable to make a living in Colombia, Diane’s parents obtained a four-year visitor visa and left for the United States. A few years later, Diane was born. Knowing they’d overstayed their visas her parents worked hard at various menial labor jobs, paying people who promised to help with citizenship papers but who ran off with their hard earned money.

Though Diane’s older brother became increasingly disillusioned at the lack of job prospects due to his immigration status, her parents were hopeful. They were sure that if they didn’t get into trouble, stayed below the radar, and kept paying the “lawyer” who’d promised to help, that they’d become legal citizens.

When Diane was fourteen years old, her parents were arrested by ICE for being in the country illegally and deported to Colombia. Left alone, and forgotten by the government, Diane had to figure out how to live without her family. “In the country we love” is the story of people who helped her survive, and the long road of pain and sorrow she endured on her way to becoming a famous television star.

According to the Migration Policy Institute 2016 study, “5 million children under the age 18 have at least one parent who is in the United States illegally. Out of that number, 79 percent are U.S. citizens.” Guerrero puts a face to one of those children. Her story is a must read.

Highly recommended for Adults.

“Last man out” Mike Lupica

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. To be published September 15, 2016. Philomel Books (Penguin.)

LastManOutTwelve-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.

“The Visionist” Rachel Urquhart

Rated 3 stars *** 2014. Back Bay Books (Little, Brown & Company). 345 pp. Includes “Bibliography,” and a “Reading Group Guide.”

TheVisionist“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.

“The Witches: Salem 1692” Stacy Schiff

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Published October 27, 2015. Little, Brown & Company. (Includes “Cast of Characters,” “Notes,” “Selected Bibliography,” and an “Index.”)

TheWitchesSalem1692The 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.

 

“The Boston Girl” Anita Diamant

Rated 5 stars ***** ebook. ARC. To be published December, 9, 2014 by Scribner. (Simon & Schuster.)

TheBostonGirlBorn 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.

“Coming Home: A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility” Mary McManus

Rated 4 stars **** 2014. Createspace. 236 pp.

ComingHomeMary 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.