“Spirit run: A 6,000-mile marathon through North America’s stolen land” by Noé Álvarez

Rated 3 stars *** ARC. Catapult. To be published March 3, 2020. 213 p.

Spirit runMigrants, and the hard labor of low paying jobs in fruit factories, abound in the lush apple country of Selah Washington, near the author’s childhood home of Yakima. Noé is a smart student, and wants to make life different for his family. He has dreams of going to college and earning enough money to free his mother from her monotonous, back breaking job at the apple factory. He wants to make a difference.

When his dreams get tangled up in the stress of reality, Noé  likes to run. He dreams of the day he can escape Yakima yet, when he gets a full scholarship, dreams turn to nightmares. He believes his insecurities that say he’s not good enough and, soon, can’t keep up with the workload. When he finds out about a run from Alaska to Argentina for Indigenous Indians Noé decides to drop out of college to participate. In the process he discovers the good and bad of human nature. His journey of self discovery, as well as his foray into understanding his parents, is chronicled in this book.

The problems he encountered, as well as the agonies of running an ultra marathon, are interspersed with reflections of his place in the world. The open ending, the seeming lack of a concrete plan for his life, along with continued disappointment that he’s working class made the book a bit of a disappointment. There will always be those of us who will never get to live a life of leisure without having to work, and I hope Noé can come to peace with that reality.

Despite my misgivings I will recommend this book to Adult readers as there are lessons to be learned, and experiences to be hashed through, which would make for good discussions in book groups.

“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.

 

“Die for you” Amy Fellner Dominy

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Published November 8, 2016. Delacorte Press (Random House). 292 p. (Includes “Author’s Note” and “Resources.”)

dieforyouAfter Emma’s mother leaves her father for another man, Emma moves across town to be with her dad and help pick up the pieces of his life. Starting her senior year at a new school is rough, but meeting Dillon helped erase the darkness of hating her mom and seeing her dad’s pain. With Dillon she is able to love and be loved.

Emma and Dillon are so happy. They’ve promised to always be there for each other, to take care of each other, and to be together forever. However, it doesn’t take long before Emma finds that “forever” is more than just a word to Dillon. He always follows through on his promises. Always.

Dominy’s fast paced novel about what happens when relationships turn bad is sure to be an eye opener for many readers. The Author’s Note and Resources sections hold information that could unlock the cages of many relationships, making “Die for you” a book that needs to be on the shelves of every high school and public library.

Highly recommended for ages 14 and older.

“Not if I see you first” Eric Lindstrom

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Ebook. Published December 1, 2015. Poppy.

NotIfISeeYouFirstParker’s dad taught her to run and to be independent. She embraced her blindness with funky looking blindfolds, a quick-as-a-whip attitude, a fierce protectiveness of her friends, and a list of rules for how to be treated.

When her forever enemy, Scott Kilpatrick, comes back into her life Parker is livid. She has never forgiven him for what he did to her, and plans to ignore him forever. However as events in her life begin to boil over, Parker will have to find a way to let go of the past and, in so doing, find her true self.

I LOVED this book, and was SO disappointed when it ended. I really, REALLY wanted it to continue. It was THAT good!! Lindstrom has created a believable cast of characters who will live on in our memories, long past the final chapter.

Highly recommended for ages 14 and older.

“Black-eyed Susans” Julia Heaerlin

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Ebook. Ballantine Books (Penguin). Published August 11, 2015.

BlackEyedSusansSixteen-year-old Tessa was lucky to be alive, as a serial killer had left her in a grave with several other bodies and bones for over 32 hours. Because of the flowers scattered around the area the dead girls were nicknamed “Susans,” with Tessa the only survivor.

Now grown with a teenaged daughter of her own, Tessa is unable to forget the terror and horror she felt in that lonely grave. The Susans haunt her, seeking justice, while she tries to force herself to remember what happened the night she was abducted. The killer was arrested back in 1995, but someone has been planting black-eyed susans everywhere she has lived over the years, leading her to believe the serial killer is still alive and that she helped place an innocent man in jail. Will he succeed in what he had failed to do when she was just 16 years old?

Through flashbacks and the present time, Heaerlin lays down a clever plot of betrayal, terror, and fear as readers pry back the layers of time to find out what really happened to Tessa and the Susans. The truth, when it was finally revealed, made me gasp in surprise and shock. “Black-eyed Susans” is a gut-wrenching story of suspense and horror, highly recommended for Adult readers.

“Luckiest girl alive” Jessica Knoll

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. EBook. Simon & Schuster. Published May 12, 2015.

LuckiestGirlAliveAni FaNelli is a successful writer at the very prestigious The Women’s Magazine in New York City. She is engaged to be married to Luke Harrison, a very rich man from a prestigious family, and has perfected the right way to dress, walk, and talk. Ani has the money and the lifestyle she’s always wanted, but she is not happy.

To explain Ani’s present situation you have to understand her past, so readers are taken back in time to when she was fourteen years old and a new transfer student at the very elite Bradley school. TifAni (as she was known then) came from the wrong side of the tracks and was determined to make her mark at Bradley. Her desire to get “in” with the popular crowd led to a series of unfortunate events which would haunt her for the rest of her life. In her own way Ani has tried to deal with what happened when she was 14 years old but she will soon find out that facing up to her past is the only way that she can have a future.

Through flashbacks and the present day Jessica Knoll peels back the layers of Ani’s life, revealing her vulnerability and endearing her to readers. As life at the Bradley school is mixed with Ani’s NYC life, I was glued to the pages to find out what had happened to Ani and to cheer for her to make the right decisions.

Highly recommended for Adult readers.

“Liar’s Bench” Kim Michele Richardson

Rated 3 stars *** Ebook. ARC. Kensington Publishing. Published April 28, 2015.

Liar'sBenchIt is 1972 in the small Kentucky town of Peckinpaw where, over 100 years ago, a slave was hung for crimes against her owners. Years later, a bench was built from the wood of her gallows and placed in the center of town, gradually earning the name of “Liar’s Bench.” On this bench, Peckinpaw’s citizens shared their stories and lies with each other.

With this background information, Richardson begins her story of seventeen-year-old Muddy Summer, who found out her mother committed suicide by hanging on her birthday. Muddy refuses to believe her mother would take her own life and, along with her boyfriend Bobby, sets out to find out the truth of her death.

Their journey to discover what really happened to Muddy’s mother takes them through the sordid evil found in men’s souls, which clung to the citizens of Peckinpaw. Evils, which included prejudice against Bobby and his kin for the crime of being Black in a White man’s town, murder, Klansmen, betrayal and more follow them through Peckinpaw. Soon they will discover that what happened in the past bears strange similarities to its present, and that these truths will draw them even closer together as Peckinpaw’s citizens try to separate them.

Muddy and Bobby’s Romeo and Juliet type love story is mixed with racial prejudice in the Deep South of 1972, a murder mystery, an historical mystery of an unjustly accused murdered slave, Title IX, and thug like characters committing crimes in town. I felt there was a lot going on in this book, and it could have benefitted from fewer story lines, but I will still recommend it for readers aged 16 and older because some of those story lines need to be remembered so history doesn’t repeat itself.