“Suspect” Kristin Wolden Nitz

Rated 3 stars ***** 2010. Peachtree. 199 p.

SuspectWhat could have happened to her mother, and why did she leave? That’s the conversation seventeen-year-old Jen had been having with herself ever since her mom disappeared fourteen years ago. For a few years she received untraceable letters and gifts but, when that stopped, she managed to put her mother into a locked section of her brain.

Now working as a helper for the summer at her grandmother’s bed and breakfast, Jen finds herself immersed in her grandmother’s annual mystery weekend. This year the mystery revolves around the idea that someone killed her mother, which is shocking to Jen. Was her mom murdered or did she choose to leave? Before the weekend is over, Jen will have an answer that will forever change her life.

There were good clues in this whodunit mystery, but I had a hard time getting into the storyline and the various relationships. It felt more middle schoolish than high school.

Despite this I’ll recommend it for ages 12-16, leaving it up to you to decide if you want to read it or not.

 

“What she knew” Gilly Macmillan

Rated 5 stars ***** 2015. HarperCollins. 467 p. (Also includes a Bibliography, Reading Group Discussion Questions, and an Author Q & A.)

WhatSheKnewRachel had never gotten over her husband leaving her for another woman and their subsequent divorce. Their son had been seven years old at the time, and she tried to focus her energies on him but there were days when it was too hard to function. Sweet, gentle Ben knew how to tell when Mummy was having a hard day, and they had bonded over little things that made them their own family.

Now that he was a little older Rachel felt it important to teach him a little more independence so, when he asked to run ahead on one of their daily walks in the woods, she allowed him to do so. Within a few minutes he was out of sight and, by the time she arrived at their meeting place, he was gone.

After a half hour of hysterically searching, she called the police. Her life became a living nightmare as they pulled out all the stops in their investigation to figure out what happened to eight-year-old Ben, while the public reached their own conclusions about her incompetency as a mother on social media, television and in newspapers. Though vilified, misunderstood, abused and harassed, Rachel stood firm on one thing. She would not rest until Ben was back in her arms, and would do whatever it took to find him.

The story of a young child’s kidnapping is told through the alternating voices of his grieving mother, as well as the main detective on the case and his psychologist. Readers will find themselves riveted, alternately rooting for Rachel who is experiencing every parent’s nightmare while wondering what happened to Ben. The answer is a shocker.

Highly recommended for Adults.

“The door that led to where” Sally Gardner

 Rated 3 stars *** ARC. Published November 8, 2016. Delacorte Press. 277 p.

thedoorthatledtowhereA.J. has grown up with a missing father and an angry mother. With no future in England’s post secondary education due to failing exams, he takes on work as a clerk at a local law firm. There he discovers a strange key with his name on it and, through a series of circumstances, finds it belongs to a door that takes him into the past.

London of 1830 gets much getting used to, with A.J. soon involved in a series of mysterious deaths – including that of his own father. Discovering his father was also a time traveler leads to more mysteries that set the course for A.J.’s past, present and future.

I enjoyed seeing 1830’s London brought to detailed life, and also liked the title. It’s word play for a door that goes “where” rather than “nowhere” is quite clever.

I was not fond of the open ending which usually leads to a series, as I am not fond of books in a series. I also think the author should have had a glossary. Slang British words were used throughout the book, and a glossary would have been very helpful.

I also thought A.J. and his friends were more like 16 going on 26, instead of “normal” 16 year olds. All of these issues, combined with spoiler complaints listed below, is why  I gave “The door that led to where” 3 instead of 4 stars.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

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Mrs. Meacock was the picture of health, ready to institutionalize Esme. Yet, two days later, she was rendered practically unrecognizable, just a few short steps from death. I find it hard to believe she had become crazy so quickly after being relatively sane for so many years.

I also thought the author should have unveiled the professor’s identity in a little more detail. I know he was a time traveler, but he knew a lot about A.J.’s history. Why did he know so much?

“One was lost” Natalie D. Richards

Rated 3 stars *** ARC. Published October 4, 2016. Sourcebooks Fire. 304 p.

It was supposed to be a simple three-day senior camping wilderness trip and hike for Jude, Emily, Lonewaslostucas, Sera, Haley, Madison, and their teachers Mr. Walker and Ms. Brighton. After a day spent slogging through rain and mud, the group is separated by a torrential downpour taking out the only bridge across a raging river.

The next morning Sera, Lucas, Emily and Jude groggily awake to find descriptive words inked onto their wrists, camping supplies and phones destroyed, and their teacher too drugged to communicate. When they set out to find the others, Haley, Madison and Ms. Brighton are missing, leaving the remainder to wonder how to complete a three day journey without supplies. With dehydration, hunger and despair setting in, the clock starts ticking down the days set by a mysterious stalker. With no help in sight, the start to turn on one another but will have to learn to band together to find safety before the stalker finds them.

I took away 2 stars because the author had members of the group constantly refer to a time when they listened to stories of a missing girl and a ghost around a campfire, but failed to actually write about this event. She had them circle back to these stories many times, making it feel as if part of the book was missing since I was left to guess at the details. I also didn’t like how Sera always compared herself to her mother, ad nauseam, and was not happy with how the author handled Emily’s story – especially at the end.

However I did like the suspense and cliffhanger endings, which is the only reason I gave it 3 stars.

Recommended, with reservations, for ages 14 and older.

“The perfect stranger” Megan Miranda

Rated 2 stars ** ARC. Ebook. To be published May 16, 2017. Simon & Schuster.
Forced to resign from her reporter job in Boston, Leah theperfectstrangerreacquaints herself with Emmy, an old friend. Both women need a new beginning, so decide to rent a home in a small Pennsylvania town. Now a high school teacher, Leah struggles to come to grips with what happened in Boston while trying to figure out how to start her life anew.

One day, Leah realizes she hasn’t seen Emmy in almost 5 days. When a young woman is found bludgeoned almost to death, Leah fears the worst and asks Kyle, a local detective, for help finding Emmy. When Emmy’s boyfriend is found murdered, clues seem to point towards Leah because no one can locate any evidence that Emmy actually existed. Each day that passes brings new fears to Leah’s life, and she will have to use every reporter skill she’s ever learned to get herself out of the hole into which someone seems to have wanted her to fall.

Billed as a sequel to “All the missing girls,” Miranda’s “The perfect stranger” seemed more as a standalone read to me. I didn’t find it to be as exciting, and it definitely wasn’t as suspenseful as “All the missing girls.”

I wasn’t a big fan, so will leave it up to you Adult readers to decide if you want to read it or not.

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

“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.

“The Memory of Things” Gae Polisner

Rated 4 stars **** ARC. Published September 6, 2016. St. Martin’s Press (Macmillan.) 275 pp. (Includes Author’s Note.)

thememoryofthingsTerror and helplessness followed the events of 9/11, felt throughout the United States and, especially, in New York City. “The Memory of Things,” released for the 15th anniversary of that tragic day, tells the story of 16-year-old Kyle and the mysterious girl he found cowering on the Brooklyn Bridge as he and others fled the horror of downtown Manhattan. In alternate voices the teens recount their stories and memories, gradually turning their terror, pain and sorrow into a sense of hopefulness and determination while falling in love.

I lived through those days as a teacher in N.Y.C., and managed to spend the past 15 years avoiding graphically descriptive yearly television documentaries or photographs of the time. It took several years before I could listen, or look at, a low flying plane without my eyes filling with tears. Even now, 15 years later, it’s still painful.

Knowing 9/11 hit me stronger than others, I was a bit leery about reviewing a book about 9/11. However, since it was a young adult book, I was hopeful it wouldn’t be too graphic. Polisner covered the feelings of loss and bewilderment that filled the days after this terror attack, while also infusing a sense of hope that radiated through Kyle’s generous nature. As she described New Yorkers’ reactions towards the events that shook us to the core, along with Kyle’s sense of duty and protectiveness towards a complete stranger, readers will get the sense that there will always be a shoulder to lean on when it’s needed to help us through the roughest of storms.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.