“Fighting words” Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. Dial Books for Young Readers (Penguin Random House). Includes Discussion Questions. To be published August 11, 2020.

Fighting wordsDella is now ten years old, and in the fourth grade. When she was five, and her older sister Suki was eleven, their meth addict mother was sent to prison and her old boyfriend stepped in to claim them. Through the five years they lived with him Suki always took care of Della. She took the lead and made sure they got away when he did something very bad to Della. Now they were living with a foster mother who seemed nice enough, Della was attending a new school, and Suki had a new job.

Soon Suki started to get angry for no reason, making Della feel as if she were a burden. Della was confused because Suki had always been there for her. When Suki tried to commit suicide it took time before Della realized her sister had been carrying a terrible burden for many years. As Della learned to put her rage into words, she became the arm of strength for Suki so that, together, they could forge ahead to reclaim their lives.

This book was very powerful, and a testament to the ravages inflicted upon innocent children caught in the crosshairs of drug addicted parents and sexual predators. It will, hopefully, give encouragement and strength for children who see themselves in the pages to get help if they are suffering the same fates as Della and Suki.

Recommended for ages 11-16.

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

“Behind the red door” Megan Collins

Rated 3 stars *** ARC. ebook. Atria Books. To be published August 4, 2020.

Behind the red doorFern loves her daddy even though he was always distracted with his work. His research dealt with the effects of fear, and she was always part of his Experiments where he terrorized her for years in many ways then interviewed her about her feelings. Though she had always been truly afraid during the Experiments, his care during the follow up interviews made her feel important and loved. As she grew older the years she’d spent being tormented caused her to become anxious and develop nervous habits, but it never diminished her love for him.

When Ted called to ask for help packing for an upcoming move, Fern was thrilled because she believed he needed her. Once she arrived they took a trip to town where she picked up a book about a local woman who was kidnapped 20 years ago and was missing again. As reading about the kidnapping tugged at memories she’d long kept hidden, these remembrances began to turn her life upside down.

This book really bothered me. I can’t reveal what happened, but I can say I was not happy at how that particular situation ended. I also couldn’t understand how, as an educated Social Worker, she was so ignorant about her own father. I liked the suspense, and how she gave Fern a wonderfully loving and supportive husband.

I gave it 3 stars for its twists and turns, and will recommend it to 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.

“The truth about keeping secrets” Savannah Brown

Rated 3 stars. *** ARC. Sourcebooks. To be published April 7, 2020. 307 p. (Includes “A conversation with the author,” and Resources).

The truth about keeping secretsEleventh grader Sydney couldn’t function or sleep because her dad was killed in a horrific car accident, and she was sure someone had killed him. The only thing that kept her sane was beautiful Jane, who appeared out of nowhere to become the friend she needed. Though she started to develop feelings for her, knowing their relationship couldn’t progress further because Jane had a steady boyfriend, she helped Sydney feel more alive than she’d felt in months.

When she began getting threatening texts she was sure her father’s killer was behind it, but no one believed her. Though Sydney was struggling to come out of the hole into which she’d fallen after her dad’s death, and Jane was her lifeline, she began to feel as if Jane was hiding something. Could she trust a girl she barely knew, who had been a psychiatric patient of her father’s? Was Jane hiding something, or was there someone who wanted Sydney dead too?

At first I couldn’t get into the book because it wasn’t holding my interest. It took me a few days to make it through the first few chapters, and it wasn’t until I had plowed through the halfway mark that it finally held my attention long enough to sit still and finish it. I gave it 3 stars instead of 2 because the final few chapters held important points about relationships that all teens need to know.

Recommended for ages 16 and older.

I received an 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.

 

 

“Dead to you” Lisa McMann

Rated 2 stars ** Simon Pulse. 2012. 243 p.

Dead to youEthan was seven when he was kidnapped, and is reunited with his family nine years later. At first things are strange between him, his parents, younger brother Blake, and little sister Gracie. He’s upset he can’t remember old family photos, relatives or neighbors, but is sure his memories will resurface. Ethan also has to deal with Blake’s jealousy and increasing anger at his presence. After a few months things start to settle, but a ringing doorbell forever changes life for Ethan.

I absolutely DESPISED the ending, and thought it was a complete copout on the author’s part. Why couldn’t she have given a real ending instead of those final three words? I feel like she sold Ethan out, as well as her readers. I was definitely not a happy camper, and took off one star because of the very bad ending.

Though I was EXTREMELY upset with the way the book ended, I will leave it up to you readers, ages 14 and older, to decide if you want to read it or not.

 

“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.

 

“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.

 

“The prized girl” by Amy K. Green

Rated 3 stars *** ARC. ebook Dutton Books (Penguin Random House). To be published January 20, 2020.

The prized girlThough Vanessa’s thirteen-year-old sister Jenny was brutally murdered she was unaffected, as she’d distanced herself from her family many years ago. Despite herself, Vanessa found herself working with the lead detective to figure out who killed Jenny. Perhaps it was to feel better for being such an awful sister. Perhaps it was to keep herself from sinking further into depression from the breakup with her teacher eight years ago when she turned 18 years old. They’d been together for the best 4 years of her life, and she couldn’t get over it. In alternating voices Jenny and Vanessa tell their stories, leading me on a whodunit ride, and building to a climax that left me reeling.

I did NOT like the ending, feeling the way I did at the end of “It’s a wonderful life” when Mr. Potter didn’t get his comeuppance. I also didn’t care for Vanessa as she was whiny, needy, and a total backstabber. She desperately needed counseling for the trauma she’d experienced, but no one suggested it. If anything my favorite character was JP. He was fresh, honest and told things “like it is,” not like he wished/hoped they could be.

Despite these objections, I gave it 3 stars and will leave it up to you to decide if you want to read it or not.

Recommended for Adults.

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

“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.