“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.

“All of us” A.F. Carter

Rated 4 stars **** ARC. ebook. Mysterious Press. To be published June 2, 2020.

All of usCarolyn Grand’s father was a monster. For years he abused her physically, mentally, sexually and emotionally. When she was finally put into foster care, her foster parents continued the sexual abuse. For years Carolyn’s body was not her own, forcing her mind to find a way to protect itself. The end result was that Carolyn’s mind split her into different people. Each of her personalities had their own unique way of dressing, talking, and acting to help her get through particular situations.

The comfortable life Carolyn and her personalities built for themselves for ten years began to unravel when Eleni, the promiscuous one, propositioned a cop. Now they had to attend mandated counseling sessions with a therapist who had no interest in helping them. Then Carolyn’s father was released from prison and, though ordered to stay away, he began stalking them. When he showed up dead, Carolyn became the prime suspect, and only a friendly detective keeps them from total despair.

Told through the voices of Carolyn’s six personalities (Eleni, Martha, Victoria, Tina, Kirk and Serena) readers are given flashbacks of what Carolyn endured at the hands of her father. We see the inner workings of a splintered mind that found a way to survive horrible abuse. As the narrative continues, and no one admits to the murder, this whodunit keeps you wondering.

Recommended for Adults.

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

 

 

“Only love can break your heart” by Ed Tarkington

Rated 3 stars *** Algonquin Books. 2016. 307 p.

Only love can break your heartSet in a small Virginia town in 1977 Richard, called Rocky by his beloved sixteen-year-old big brother Paul, was almost eight years old. Paul was everything Rocky wished he could be – though he was always in trouble, and not a favorite of his mom. He was a girl charmer, and owned a great collection of records he often invited Rocky to hear in his room. Paul was always there until, one day, he wasn’t. He disappeared with Leigh, his long-time girlfriend.

Rocky missed his brother, but was distracted by his neighbor’s daughter Patricia who he met when he was almost 15 years old. Though she was almost 10 years older, for several months she schooled him in the art of sex in the hayloft of her family’s stable. Rocky was content to spend time with her, and was bereft when she broke up with him after Leigh returned and figured out their relationship.

Many years later Paul returned. Leigh’s time away had badly scarred her, leaving her mentally unstable, for which Paul blamed himself. Though Rocky and the Old Man were thrilled to have him back, Richard’s mom felt he was still the bane of her existence. When their next-door neighbor and wife were found murdered, Paul and Leigh quickly became the main suspects. Were the police overlooking the real killers in their eagerness to solve the crime, or was it true that Rocky’s idol and his girlfriend were murderers?

Rocky, as narrator, told his story as an adult sharing his memories. Though there was lots of rambling as he described his feelings and thoughts during the various events that transpired over the years, what I got out of it was that small town life in the late 70’s meant no one suspected what Patricia was doing to him, that an older father loved both his sons equally, that Rocky’s mom needed to get over herself for disliking her stepson so much, and that Rocky and Paul loved each other very much. That’s what I got out of it, and I’m sticking to it.

Though I wasn’t a huge fan, I’ll leave it up to you Adults to decide if you want to read it or not.

 

 

“I am watching you” by Teresa Driscoll

Rated 5 stars ***** ebook. Thomas & Mercer. 2017.

I am watching youSixteen-year-old Anna Ballard and her best friend Sarah were at a party when Anna wanted to leave. She was very drunk, but Sarah had her eye on a guy and didn’t want to leave. Anna decided to go outside to find a taxi, and was never heard from again.

As the police do everything they can to investigate her disappearance, those who had some involvement with Anna tell their stories in alternating chapters. Ella saw Anna and Sarah on a train hanging out with two men who’d just gotten released from prison. Could they have had something to do with Anna’s disappearance? Maybe one of them is sending her threatening postcards.

Sarah feels guilty over what happened the last time she saw Anna, but doesn’t dare tell the police about what happened before the party. Anna’s father is heartbroken over her disappearance, and keeps repeating her last words to him “you disgust me dad.” Will he ever get the chance to make it up to her?

With each chapter readers gain clues into what may have led to Anna’s disappearance, but the shocking conclusion telling us what really happened came as a huge surprise. It was such a surprise that I immediately began rereading the book to find out what I had missed. It was just as good, and still just as shocking, the second time around.

Highly recommended for Adults.

 

 

“Trinity” by Luke Romyn

Rated 3 stars *** ebook. Published by Luke Romyn. 2016.

TrinityChance Ripley can’t recall anything about his past, but dreams about women in the act of being murdered. In his dreams he becomes the women, feeling their pain and seeing their killers, but is unable to stop the crimes. The dreams are extremely realistic but, because he’s a patient in a mental institution, his doctor is convinced he’s psychotic – until he names a victim who really was murdered, which gets a member of the FBI involved in the case.

As the episodes continue they leave Chance straddling the line between reality and fantasy, teetering on the edge of total insanity.  He knows he has to find out why he’s having these visions and suss out the identity of the three murderers before he truly goes insane, but how is he supposed to escape a mental institution for the criminally insane? In time Chance discovers shocking information that will turn his world upside down.

The author had a very good imagination to come up with a storyline about murderers with psychic abilities and their impact on those with similar abilities. Though I wasn’t a fan of the ending, and thought Chance’s constant flitting about was a little too much, I will still recommend this book for its originality.

Recommended for Adults.

 

“Afterlife” by Julia Alvarez

Rated 3 stars *** ARC. ebook. Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill. To be published April 7, 2020.

AfterlifeAlmost a year after the unexpected death of her husband Antonia wanders through life in her small Vermont town, alternately bewildered and angry. Her fog is lifted as she helps a very pregnant undocumented teenager with no place to stay. Antonia feels herself becoming alive through the good deeds she does in Sam’s name.

Contrasted with the uncertainty she feels for life without Sam is the love she holds for her three sisters. Their bond of sisterhood includes watching out for their older sister Izzy, who has been experiencing manic highs and lows. The sisters combine forces to rein her in, though Izzy wants to be wild. Through upheavals and uncertainties Antonia draws wisdom from authors, poets, her ancestors, her sisters, and Sam. They, along with the quote “If I try to be like you, who will be like me?” give her strength to forge a new path in the midst of tragedy.

I know there is some deep literary analysis waiting to be uncovered, but I will leave that to some other reviewer. I read “Afterlife” as a story of a lost and sad Dominicana trying to find her way in a world that, at times, seemed foreign. I was put off by the many quotations from authors and poets in the narrative, not being as well read as Antonia. I also didn’t like the many shifts from past to present and back again that, combined with the endless quotes, made my mind wander. I did enjoy Antonia’s interactions with the sisterhood, feeling they were the strongest part of the book.

Though there is a lot of hype about this book I was not a big fan, so will leave it up to you Adult readers to decide if you want to read it or not.

I received an advance copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

“And then you loved me” by Inglath Cooper

Rated 5 stars ***** 2014. Fence Free Entertainment, LLC.

And then you loved meI read this book in one sitting, losing myself in a beautiful story of loss and heartache, friendship and pain. Seventeen-year-old Becca belongs to a religious group of farmers, similar to the Amish, who shun worldly things, while eighteen-year-old Matt is the popular, handsome baseball star of their small town. Though completely opposite in the ways they’ve been raised, they fall in love.

Unfortunately circumstances drove them apart for eighteen years until Matt returns to town for the funeral of his grandmother. Both are grown and have their own lives, but seeing each other again causes all the feelings they’ve kept bottled up for eighteen years to begin bubbling to the surface.

Becca has spent those eighteen years married to a man she doesn’t love, caring for a young girl and her little sister who has never gotten over the death of her young man when they were just fifteen years old. Meanwhile their mom mourns the only love of her life, and has refused to reconcile with her son because he married someone of the wrong race and religion. It seems as if no one is allowed to be with the one they love because they’re too busy worrying about appearances and what others think.

Tangled thoughts of having loved and lost, and questions of whether or not it’s possible to start fresh from the mistakes of life are brought before readers. At times I found the storyline to be sad because people chose circumstances over their own happiness, but at other times I found it to be hopeful when they chose to give hope a chance.

Highly recommended for Adult readers.