“Baby Doll” Hollie Overton

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Ebook. To be published July 12, 2016. Redhook Books (Hachette).

BabyDollLily and her twin sister Abby have always been attuned to each other’s feelings and thoughts, sharing unspoken pacts to always be there for each other. When 16-year-old Lily was kidnapped and held as a sex slave for 8 years, their lives were turned upside down. During those 3,110 days of captivity, Lily gave birth, bore numerous beatings, and learned to be a perfect Baby Doll. Despite his attempts to make her forget, she drew strength from memories of her family, and used that strength to escape the night her captor got careless.

Told through the voices of Lily, Abby, her mother, and her kidnapper, “Baby Doll” takes readers on a roller coaster of emotions as we learn what Lily endured during her 8 years of captivity, and the ramifications it had on her family. Lily’s freedom affects each one differently, but the revenge planned for her disobedience by Rick, her captor, brought goose bumps of horror. This psychological thriller kept me on the edge of my seat, and will do the same for you.

Highly recommended for Adults.

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

“Cinderland: A Memoir” Amy Jo Burns

Rated 2 stars ** 2014. Beacon Press. 208 pp.

CinderlandAmy Jo grew up in the sleepy town of Mercury, Pennsylvania, which flourished when steel was king but was now a shadow of itself. With mills shuttered, the close-knit town’s many traditions kept it going while its young people secretly dreamed of ways to get out of town. This is the story of a small town that survived the mill closures, yet allowed its own soul to die by not supporting a group of young girls who were sexually abused by one of its own.

Through flashbacks, Amy Jo tells her story of sexual abuse along with the history of Mercury and its people. I wasn’t a fan of her wandering narrative, and found myself wanting to put the book down instead of reading it because it wasn’t holding my interest. I managed to finish, but only did so because I had to write a review for it.

Perhaps other readers will be interested in reading Amy Jo’s story, which is why I will leave it up to you to decide if you want to read it or not.

“The Visionist” Rachel Urquhart

Rated 3 stars *** 2014. Back Bay Books (Little, Brown & Company). 345 pp. Includes “Bibliography,” and a “Reading Group Guide.”

TheVisionist“The Visionist,” set in New England in the 1840’s, introduces readers to Shaker life. Abandoned as a baby, the strict life of a Shaker is the only life Sister Charity has ever known. Trying to please her spiritual leader “Mother Ann,” her benefactress Elder Sister Agnes, and the other members of the society leave Sister Charity feeling doomed to perdition because of her unworthiness.

Polly Kimball, her brother Ben, and mother May suffered for years under the brutal hands of her father Silas. When a fire Polly accidentally set helped them flee, May leaves them at a nearby Shaker community and disappears. In her sadness Polly has a vision, which the community believes comes from their beloved Mother Ann. Elder Sister Agnes is suspicious of Polly’s “vision” and wonders about her past, while Simon Pryor, fire inspector, has questions of his own.

As the girls’ friendship grows, the fear that Charity will find out everything about her is built on lies weighs heavily on Polly’s mind. Soon the struggle between right and wrong will consume both girls, as each attempt to figure out their role in the community.

Urquhart’s well researched portrayal of Shaker life in the 1840’s, as well as descriptions of clothing and customs of the time, does much to make “The Visionist” realistic. I would have preferred May telling her own story of how she got tangled up with Silas, and then explaining what she did to survive after dropping off Ben and Polly at the Shaker community. Since I only got dribs and drabs of her story, I gave it 3 stars instead of 4.

Recommended for Adults.

“Mercy’s Rain: An Appalachian Novel” Cindy K. Sproles

Rated 3 stars *** 2015. Kregel Publications. 263 pp.

MercysRainMercy lives on the side of a mountain in rural Tennessee with her father, the local Pastor, and mother. She and her mother have spent their lives being physically, mentally and emotionally abused by her father. Demons reside in his soul, which encourage him to kill, torture, and beat anyone who crosses his will without a morsel of regret.

Mercy is 19 years old when she witnesses her father kill an innocent man, and participates in his death through the mountain’s code of justice. After her mother sends her away, Mercy wanders the mountain in search of redemption and finding a purpose for her life. As she struggles to understand her role in God’s plan, Mercy continually hardens her heart as she seeks forgiveness for her role in her father’s death.

As I read, I was aghast at the many awful ways the Pastor abused his wife and daughter in the name of God and religion. It is with deep shame that I note this type of behavior is probably happening all over the world. I found it quite unfortunate that Pastor’s flock allowed his spiritual leadership over them to close their eyes to his behavior, leaving Mercy and her mother completely under his thumb of control.

What really annoyed me about “Mercy’s Rain” was Mercy. It seemed as if every single chapter she begged the Lord to show her what to do or how to act, filling the pages with a litany of complaints and questions. When God answered, Mercy spent time thanking him for helping her to “get it” then spent the next chapter complaining about the exact same thing she’d been thanking Him for doing for her in the last chapter. She was a ridiculous merry-go-round of grievances, and quickly grew tiresome. I think Sproles could have gotten her point across about Mercy needing mercy and forgiveness in half of the 263 pages it took to drag us through her whining.

Despite Mercy’s inability to make a decision with her life, I will recommend “Mercy’s Rain” only because it shows the importance of knowing you are not alone when facing trials and tribulations, and that abused women need to seek help immediately.

Recommended for Adults.

I received a complimentary copy of “Mercy’s Rain” from LibraryThing.com in exchange for an honest review.

“Finding Hope” Colleen Nelson

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Ebook. To be published April 12, 2016. Dundurn.

FindingHopeFifteen-year-old Hope can’t express herself except through poems she scrawls on her body, the wall, scraps of paper or any handy surface.

Something awful happened to Eric so, from anger, sadness and frustration, he turned to the sweet release of meth. Now an addict, cast out from his family and adrift on the sea of despair, he nurses revenge along with his broken dreams.

By transferring to a boarding school, Hope is sure she can transform herself and forget about Eric and his problems. Instead she gets involved with The Ravens, a popular group of girls who have their own plans for her. Their constant belittling and bullying soon leaves Hope drowning in her own sea of regret and loneliness, ready to throw away everything good in her life.

In alternate voices brother and sister tell their individual stories of loss, loneliness, despair and fear. Nelson’s short, cliffhanger chapters will keep teens reading until its very satisfying conclusion.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

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

 

“Pretty Baby” Mary Kubica

Rated 4 stars **** ARC. Published July 28, 2015. MIRA.

PrettyBabyHeidi and Chris Wood had a good marriage until cancer and the loss of her future family took away her dreams. She immersed herself in caring for others through charitable work, longing for the closeness she used to have with her only daughter Zoe who was now a teenager and confided only in her best friend Taylor.

Chris and Zoe were used to Heidi’s many lost causes, but were still shocked when she invited Willow, a homeless teenager, and her baby Ruby to live with them. Willow is very secretive about her past, and the Woods don’t press her, but are sure she is hiding something. However they soon find out the biggest secrets may be those you tell yourself.

“Pretty Baby” was definitely a page-turner as Chris, Heidi and Willow told their stories, but I felt the author did an injustice to Zoe. She picked at her food, barely ate, and was always cold, all signs of anorexia. I thought Heidi’s best friend Jennifer might have noticed something and was trying to talk to Heidi about it, but Heidi was in her own world. Zoe was left to drift at the edges of Chris and Heidi’s worlds; while I felt her obvious need to be noticed should have been one of the stories explored in the book.

Despite this observation, I highly recommended this book for Adults.

“Those girls” Chevy Stevens

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. 2015. Published July 7, 2015. St. Martin’s Press.

ThoseGirlsDanielle, Courtney and Jess had been living hard lives ever since their mother died. Their alcoholic father repeatedly beat them, or left home for long periods of time leaving them to scrounge for food. Despite these hardships, the sisters drew strength from each other and relied on these bonds to get them through their father’s brutality.

The night he tried to kill Courtney, the girls ran away to avoid foster care. While on the road their truck broke down in Cash Creek, a small town, where two boys promised to help. A living nightmare ensued, which would follow them for the rest of their lives.

Eighteen years have passed, and the sisters are living under assumed names. The rhythm of their lives is interrupted when Courtney decides she needs to bring closure to what happened in Cash Creek, and Jess’ daughter Skylar begins asking questions about their past. The house of cards they’ve been living in for 18 years is about to come tumbling down, and the three of them can’t do anything to stop it.

“Those girls” had me on the edge of my seat, alternately wishing for the girl’s safety or for ample revenge. Without giving out a spoiler let me say that even though I knew the author had to end the book the way she did, I still cried.

Highly recommended for Adult readers.