“The kept” James Scott

Rated 2 stars ** 2014. HarperCollins. 354 p. (Includes “Insights, Interviews & more.”)

The KeptIt’s Elspeth and her twelve-year-old son Caleb against the world of 1897 after three men killed her four children and husband when she was away from home. Only Caleb survived so, bonded by revenge, the two of them struggle through the wilderness seeking the nearest town. There Caleb gets involved with the local gangsters while Elspeth tries to survive the guilt she feels, knowing she was the reason her family was killed. Both she and Caleb have to control their demons if either expects to reach closure.

I was not a fan. The book meandered too much, and many questions weren’t answered. What was Elspeth and Jorah’s relationship in the beginning? Why did her father beat her so terribly if all she said was hello? I especially did NOT like the ending because, after taking readers through a convoluted path to get where Caleb and Elspeth finally arrived, why end the book so openly? These were just a few of my disagreements with “The kept.”

So, though I didn’t like it, I will leave it up to you Adult readers to decide if you want to read it or not.

 

“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.

 

 

“The Nickel Boys” Colson Whitehead

Rated 5 stars ***** Doubleday. 2019. 210 p.

The Nickel BoysElwood Curtis lived in segregated Tallahassee Florida with his grandmother. He was studious, obedient, and a deep thinker with the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. resounding in his head. In 1963, when he was a high school senior, his love for learning made him a candidate for free college classes. On his first day he had to hitchhike, and the car he rode in turned out to be stolen. Elwood’s innocence didn’t mean anything to the arresting officer, and he was sentenced to time at the Nickel Academy for juvenile offenders.

The segregated prison presented itself as a comfortable looking place, but hid a long, twisted history of student beatings, sexual abuse, starvation, and murder. With a cruel, sadistic staff it wasn’t long before Elwood was beaten so badly it took the doctor 2 hours with tweezers to remove pants fibers from his legs. Though he eventually recuperated, his soul was broken.

How could Dr. King expect him to love the people who daily tortured him and his fellow captives? Would they all be rescued if he wrote down what he knew of the school’s inner wrongdoings and gave it to state inspectors? Would there finally be justice for the boys of the Nickel Academy? Could he survive his time there?

Whitehead uses events from a real Florida reform school to supplement Elwood’s story, leaving readers fully engaged. It’s hard to believe this evil school, with its atrocities, was allowed to operate for so many years without state interference. After reading Elwood’s partly fictional story I was inspired to find out more information about the school on which this book was based. Colson inspired me, so my next book will be “The Dozier school for boys: Forensics, survivors and a painful past” by Elizabeth A. Murray, PhD. Stay tuned to this blog for its review.

I highly recommend “The Nickel Boys” for mature teens, ages 16-18, and for Adult readers.

 

“The Underground Railroad” Colson Whitehead

Happy New Year! I’ve been writing on this blog since April of 2012, so happy almost 8 year anniversary to me!

It’s fitting on this first day of 2020 that I’m reviewing a book that will remind readers of our flawed American history. It also serves to remind us that “To be forewarned is to be forearmed,” and “Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.” 

Read on, and remember our past. Read on so that past is not repeated.

Rated 5 stars ***** Doubleday. 2016. 306 p.

The Underground RailroadCora escaped from her Georgia plantation, and is now hunted by Ridgeway, a slave catcher. He has a single-minded devotion towards her, because he was never able to find her mother when she escaped years earlier. Cora and her companion managed to make their way to the Underground Railroad, and travelled to South Carolina. The Underground Railroad once consisted of places, (stations), where black and white citizens (stationmasters) hid fugitives, passing them secretly on to the next station. However, in Whitehead’s novel, the Underground Railroad is an actual locomotive that moves through underground tunnels from station to station.

Despite her belief that South Carolina was safe Cora had to flee again, but was trapped for months in the attic home of the stationmaster in North Carolina because blacks were no longer allowed in the state. It was impossible to get to safety. From her stuffy perch, she watched the weekly lynching of freemen and escaped slaves found by night patrollers as the town celebrated their capture. While recuperating from an illness Cora was captured once again, while her benefactors were stoned to death.

Cora’s desperate runs towards freedom, descriptions of the horrors of slavery, the kindnesses of strangers, and the behavior of slave catchers and night patrollers are detailed in this compelling novel that kept me turning pages until its satisfying conclusion. I highly recommend it.

NOTE: I believe that if our Founding Fathers had freed their slaves when they were “freed” from England’s tyranny, we would now have a very different world. The Declaration of Independence says “all men are created equal,” but those words ring hollow since the definition of “men” didn’t include slaves or women. If they had done so, the writing of this novel would be a moot point. They did not, so Cora’s story needs to be told.

Highly recommended for Adults.

“In a dark, dark wood” Ruth Ware

Rated 3 stars *** Scout Press (Simon & Schuster). 2015. 310 p.

In a dark, dark woodNora got an email that brought forth memories she’d been repressing for 10 years from when she’d been in love with James at the age of 16. Though it had ended badly, she’d never gotten over their relationship. Her ex-best friend Clare was getting married and Flo, her maid of honor, was writing to invite her to Clare’s Hen (bachelorette) party. After debating whether or not to go Nora decided to attend.

Six people showed up to a glass walled house buried deep in the spooky woods, where she finds out Clare is marrying James. With memories overwhelming her, Nora is desperate to leave but stayed to save face though no one has phone reception, the landline goes dead, and Flo is obsessed with pleasing Clare. Getting drunk, playing silly games and passing on snide comments about each other turn to seriousness when a Ouija board spells “murderer”, and the back door opens by itself in the middle of the night.

By this time they are all paranoid so, when someone comes up the stairs and is shot dead, no one remembers who did the actual shooting that killed James. Nora developed amnesia after the shooting but, for James’ sake, is determined to recover her memories and find out what happened that night. Who shot James? Did she do it?

The book started out slow and dragged through a few chapters before it started to pick up steam. I enjoyed the suspense, and whodunit feel. I had my suspicions, but was surprised when the villain was revealed. What I didn’t like were loose ends that weren’t explained, how much Nora reverted to her high school self around Clare, and why she went to the Hen when she wasn’t invited to the wedding.

Though the book had its hiccups I will recommend it to Adult readers who like suspense. It will definitely keep you guessing.

 

“After the woods” Kim Savage

Rated 2 stars ** Farrar Straus Giroux. 2016. 294 p.

After the woodsWhen sixteen-year-old Julia and her best friend Liv went for a run in the woods, a man attacked Liv with a knife. Julia rushed to her rescue and he broke her ankle but, instead of helping her, Liv ran away. That first night, when her captor fell asleep, Julia managed to escape. Despite her broken ankle and bruised, bleeding body she spent two terrified days putting as much distance as she could between them, until she was finally rescued.

Hailed as a hero because she was able to escape and lead police to her captor, Julia instantly became a media darling. However she couldn’t understand why Liv never wanted to talk about it, insisting she needed to move on. Julia wanted to know more about her captor, especially when the body of a young girl was found in the woods. Eventually Julia plows her way through a tangled web of deceit before she finds out the painful truth about her best friend.

I thought the book had potential, given its “I’m captured by a crazy guy and now have a broken ankle” scenario. However readers don’t get a survival story about Julia’s time in the woods dragging herself away from a captor used to hunting game in those same woods. Instead the author flits about from storyline to storyline, doling out dribs and drabs of Julia’s experiences through memories, amounting to about 3 of the novel’s 294 pages.

I got whiplash from the different storylines, and was not a fan of the ending. Though I didn’t like this book I will leave it up to you teen readers to decide if You want to Read it or Not.

 

“Taken” by Norah McClintock

Rated 4 stars **** Orca Book Publishers. 2009. 165 p.

TakenStephanie’s father was killed in a car accident, and she hates that her mother found a boyfriend just a few months after the accident. She hates the new boyfriend, feeling as if he’s mooching off her mom. A serial killer kidnapped two girls who look very similar to her in nearby towns, but she’s sure her town is safe. So, late one evening she declines her best friend’s advice to accompany her home, and sets out on her own. While taking a shortcut across a dark, abandoned field she’s attacked.

When Stephanie wakes she finds herself tied up in an abandoned cabin. She manages to get herself free and sets off into the woods that surround the cabin, desperate to put distance between herself and the serial killer who’d kidnapped her. With no food, water or shelter readily available she dredges up every bit of survival advice she’d learned from her grandfather on past hiking and camping trips. The days pass with no hope of rescue, and Stephanie’s situation is worsened when she steps into a hole and severely twists her ankle.

I liked reading about the things Stephanie learned about survival from her grandfather, and it seemed as if she was an exceptional learner. I also thought the ending was predictable and it felt rushed. Though it felt like I already knew how the story would play out before I even got to the end, I’ll recommend it for reluctant teen readers because it’s interesting and is a quick read.

Recommended for teens ages 13-16, especially reluctant readers.