“Vagabond wind” Amanda Hughes

Rated 3 stars *****  Ebook. 2015. Amazon Digital Services.

VagabondWindZya spent almost her whole life with Romani gypsies, traveling with them all over the new state of West Virginia before the Civil War. Married at a young age, life seemed grand until her husband and father were killed. Falling in with a group of Confederate Rangers, she helped guide them through the wilderness as they worked to thwart the Yankees at every turn through sneak attacks.

She found herself blossoming as she worked with Davis Wyndham, their leader, to wreck trains, rob provisions for Confederate troops, and pass on secret information from the Yankees. As the years passed she and Davis became romantically involved while the group worked to hold the head of the Confederacy above the waters. However, with the war drawing to a close and the threat of capture looming ever closer, Zya and Davis will have to face their greatest threat yet – that of never seeing each other ever again.

Told from the Confederate point of view, “Vagabond Wind” seems to draw from the real life activities of John Singleton Mosby, who spent the War running sneak attacks against the Union. I find it interesting Hughes chose to call these guerrillas Wyndham’s Rangers, the name of a real Union Colonel. I’m thinking it was for irony’s sake that she did so.

I felt Hughes took too much time describing specific events/scenery, dragged out the storyline on many occasions, and had a tremendous overuse of commas. I also didn’t like Zya’s flakiness, fancying herself in love one moment, torturing herself with self-doubts the next, deciding one lifestyle that she was living was wonderful, then deciding that was no good too. She was a human seesaw that made my head spin.

I did enjoy getting sneak peeks into bits of Civil War history (like why West Virginia was formed.) I think it would have been nice if Hughes had added end notes giving a bit of history about the research she did on the era as well as background information on important characters like Wyndham as well as the Swamp Fox, who inspired Mosby.

Thus, due to the pros and cons mentioned above, I’ll recommend the book for Adults but will do so with reservations.


“How it ends” Catherine Lo

Rated 4 stars **** Ebook. ARC. 2016. HMH Books for Young Readers.


Now 15, Jessie has been bullied since 7th grade by her former best friends. They have helped convince her that she’s a loser and will forever remain friendless. Her mother constantly gets on her case about her anxiety attacks, while she keeps all her feelings bottled up inside herself. When Annie befriends her Jessie can’t understand why a popular girl, who has her act all together, would want to be friends.

Annie was popular in her former school, and is not looking forward to being in a much smaller school. Her mother died when she was young, and her father married an evil stepmother. With her home life in turmoil she is thrilled to hang out with Jessie and her wonderful mom. She is sure Jessie is confident and the kind of girl she wants to be. Together the girls conquer the world, until they allow the influence of others to ruin their friendship.

In alternating voices, Jessie and Annie tell their stories. On their tumultuous ride from besties to enemies and back again, both ultimately learn the value of honesty and true friendship.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.


“Harbored secrets: A psychological mystery” Marie F. Martin

Rated 3 stars *** Ebook. 4D Publishing. 2013.

HarboredSecretsThe Montana prairie had always held a fascination for Blinny Platt. She’d worked almost her whole life on her father’s ranch, as the farm was part of her soul. After buying land several miles away in 1982 Blinny began building her own home, where she soon found herself engrossed in memories that had taken place in 1935 when she was 8 years old. At that time her baby brother was killed in a house fire, causing her mother to die of grief. Shortly thereafter, her father sent her and her 3-year-old sister Odette away to live with uncles she’d never met.

After 5 years he remarried and sent for them, but their relationship had suffered irreparable harm. Over the ensuing years Blinny blamed him for her mother’s death, and herself for causing the fire, wondering why he wasn’t there when she needed him. As Odette got older, she turned spiteful and rebellious, blaming Blinny for all of her issues. As the sisters try to piece together their pasts they find that hidden secrets, though painful, will finally set them free.

Told through flashbacks and the present time, this tragic story of loss and betrayal will leave readers aching. Secrets revealed threaten to crush, but the sisters prove to be survivors. Though Blinny’s memories seem to be awkwardly added into the narrative as she builds her new home, the story she tells helps readers forgive the occasional stiffness of the author’s transitions.

Recommended for Adults.



“Girl in snow” Danya Kukafka

Rated 3 stars *** ARC. Ebook. Simon & Schuster. To be published August 22, 2017.

GirlInSnowFifteen-year-old Lucinda Hayes is found murdered on a snowy carousel in the park. The police have a list of suspects, but no firm leads. In alternating chapters, three people who are close to the case tell their stories. As they talk readers learn more details about their lives, as well as Lucinda’s life.

Jade hated Lucinda and wanted her gone because her boyfriend was Jade’s former best friend and only true love. To make sure Lucinda disappeared she performed a witch’s spell, and it worked. Did she kill Lucinda with her spell? Cameron loved Lucinda but, though they went to school together, Lucinda never noticed him. He liked spying on her at night but, sometimes, things went fuzzy and he didn’t always remember. He loved her, but did he kill her?

Russ is one of the detectives assigned to the case, even though he’d been partners with Cameron’s father and knows the family. As he tells his story, readers soon realize he is hiding a secret of his own. Each of these three talk about other suspects so, when the killer is finally revealed, readers will be in for a huge shock. Kukafka definitely fooled me.

Though the book has teenage protagonists, there are many themes which tilt the book more towards adult readers. Thus I will recommend it for readers eighteen and older.

Recommended for Adults.


“Breaking Dawn: Twilight #4” Stephenie Meyer

Rated 5 stars ***** 2008. Little, Brown and Company. 756 p.

BreakingDawnThis last book in the incredibly successful “Twilight” series is so much better than the others. Of course everyone knows Bella and Edward get married, as that was so inevitable. What wasn’t expected is her sudden pregnancy, and what happens because of that pregnancy, which is the reason for the book. Her entrance into the world of vampires has been expected since “Twilight,” but new things about this world are revealed to readers, which are very unexpected.

“Breaking dawn” breaks new ground in that Bella is much more self-assured and, though she does have a few insecurities, I think she’s finally grown up. There is a lot more laugh out loud humor, especially from Jacob, that will keep readers chuckling. The love between her and Edward is so much more pronounced, which shows me that I was right in choosing him over Jacob.

It’s interesting Meyer left the ending a little open ended, as if she expected to continue the not-quite-over conflict in another book. However, it’s been 9 years and nothing else has been written, so I guess she left it to the reader’s imagination to come up with our own sequel. That’s too bad. I would’ve liked the series to continue, and to have had some unanswered questions be answered. Goodbye Edward. I’ll miss you.

Now that I’ve reread the entire book series, I’m off to watch the movie series again. Can’t get enough of Robert Pattison aka Edward.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

“Eclipse: Twilight #3” Stephenie Meyer

Rated 5 stars ***** 2007. Little, Brown and Company. 629 p.

Eclipse“Eclipse” continues the exciting story of Bella Swan and Edward Cullen by adding Jacob Black as a love interest, with both vying for her attention. Despite her feelings towards Edward, Jacob is sure she’ll choose him while Edward is determined to step away if that is her desire. Bella is unable to make a decision, as she loves both of them, but will have to make a choice whether she likes it or not. In the meantime, the Cullens and werewolves from La Push are forced to team up to try and stop an army of newborns who have one goal in mind – to kill Bella.

It’s easy for readers to split into Jacob vs. Edward camps, as each have redeeming factors. On the plus side Jacob is tall, dark haired, muscled, handsome, very fast, generates extremely warm body heat, understands Bella, and would do anything for her. On the negative side he’s at least 2 years younger, is a bit immature, and can change too quickly into a werewolf (especially when angry), which could be dangerous to Bella.

Edward’s positives points are that he’s tall, lighter haired than Jacob, chiseled and incredibly handsome, has mesmerizing eyes and breath, is very fast, has a velvety speaking voice, understands Bella, and would do anything for her. On the negative side he’s extremely cold, as hard as marble, is so strong he could accidentally crush Bella if he’s not careful, and regularly needs to hunt for blood since he is a vampire.

There are many instances where Jacob and Edward clash, including some humorous ones and, when you’re done, you’ll have to decide. Who would you choose? I like Jacob, but find myself in the Edward camp. His gentleness, protectiveness and incredible love for Bella are too hard to resist.

Meanwhile I’m still annoyed at Bella, as she continues to find too many ridiculous reasons to be insecure around Edward, keeps getting in his way, and generally gets on my nerves.

Recommended for 14 and older.

“New Moon: Twilight #2” Stephenie Meyer

Rated 5 stars ***** EBook. 2006. Little, Brown and Company.

NewMoonIn this second book of the wildly successful “Twilight” series, Bella is heartbroken because Edward broke up with her. He told her he didn’t love her anymore, and felt it would be best if he and his family went away forever so she could move on with her life as if he’d never existed. True to his word, he disappeared – taking her heart and sanity with him.

Without Edward, Bella falls into a deep depression, which goes on for seven months. Her only escape from the unbearably lonely days and nights without Edward is time spent with Jacob Black, a young Native American from the nearby reservation who is an old family friend. As her friendship with Jacob intensifies, she learns of how he and others from his tribe turn into werewolves to protect their land from vampires – their natural enemies. As she continues spending time with him, she wonders if he can be enough to help her forget Edward. Could the love of a younger, but handsome and strong teen werewolf, help her forget the unforgettable and breathtakingly handsome vampire who broke her heart?

Bella is at her worst in “New Moon,” as she goes on and on about the hole in her body Edward left when he disappeared. She refuses to try to heal herself, and wallows constantly in self-pity. Readers will quickly get annoyed with her. The very bright spot in the book is the character of Jacob Black who, though briefly mentioned in “Twilight,” gets full billing in “New Moon.” Again make sure to read the book before you see the movie, as Taylor Lautner’s handsome face will forever be associated with Jacob.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.