“Romancing the dark in the city of light” Ann Jacobus

Rated 2 stars ** 2015. Thomas Dunne. (St. Martin’s Griffin). 276 p. (Also includes Suicide Prevention Resources, and Discussion Questions.)

RomancingTheDarkInTheCityOfLightForced to move to Paris to live with her very rich mother after being kicked out of four high schools, eighteen-year-old Summer is not a happy camper. In order to inherit a lot of money, her grandfather’s will mandates that she graduate from a private high school and finish college by the age of twenty-two, but Summer can’t muster up the interest needed to finish the last five weeks of her senior year. She’d rather spend time drinking, and dreaming of the Parisian boyfriend she absolutely MUST find so she could have a purpose for her life.

After a suicide on the Metro she meets the very handsome Kurt, who she soon decides is going to be the boyfriend she’s been seeking. She also feels the same way about Moony, a fellow student at her high school. As time goes on, Summer spends more time getting drunk and hanging out with Kurt than she does with Moony – even though he’s the one who makes her heart flutter. With just a few weeks left before she’s supposed to graduate, Summer makes a decision that will forever change not only her life, but also Moony’s.

I wasn’t a fan of this book. I knew Summer had big problems, but some of what happened to her seemed a bit far fetched as well as fantastical. I also had a problem with her constant neediness and the way she couldn’t handle rejection – even something as simple as someone saying they had to go to a doctor’s appointment when she’d invited them to coffee.

Though I enjoyed the descriptions of Paris, which reminded me of the time I’d spent there many years ago, Moony was the only one that really grabbed my interest as I found Kurt and Summer to be clichés. It is because of Moony that I gave this book two stars instead of one.

I’ll leave it up to those of you in the 16 and older range to decide if you want to read it or not.


“The weight of Zero” Karen Fortunati

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Published October 11, 2016. Delacorte Press. 375 p. (Includes “Author’s Note,” and a list of Sources.)

theweightofzeroCatherine, a seventeen-year-old high school junior used to be a dancer, used to have two best friends, and used to have a normal life. Everything changed her freshman year when her grandmother died and she was diagnosed as bipolar. Now life revolves around therapy, counseling, medication and loneliness.

After unsuccessfully trying to commit suicide during an especially bad case of depression, Catherine is sure she can never live a normal life. Depression, which she calls “zero,” will always suck her dry so she has decided it would be best to have an escape plan. Her plan consists of stockpiling pills to use when Zero rears its ugly head.

Catherine thinks being bipolar means she can never drive, go to college, have a boyfriend or live the life she was meant to live. As she prepares for Zero and her pills, she begins to live in ways she’d never thought possible. Should she dare to dream of life beyond Zero, or will Zero continue to erase every one of her hopes and dreams?

Fortunati offers hope to teens suffering from bipolar depression. I hope Catherine’s story  will be a beacon to lead them to safer waters.

Recommended for 14 and older.

“What you left behind” Samantha Hayes

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Ebook. DCI Lorraine Fisher #2. 2015. Crown (Random House.)

WhatYouLeftBehindDetective Inspector Lorraine Fisher planned to have a nice vacation with her sister Jo and nephew Freddie in her childhood country home. Though surprised to find Freddie moody and uncommunicative, she brushes off Jo’s concern he might be suicidal because their neighbor Simon and 5 others killed themselves 18 months earlier. Jo is certain the recent suicide of Dean, a homeless teen motorcyclist, would lead to more suicides.

When an autistic neighbor shows her a drawing he made of the accident, showing there had been two people on the motorcycle when Dean died, Lorraine’s interest is piqued. Soon Lenny, another homeless teen, commits suicide and Freddie disappears, leaving Lorraine to find out what happened. What she doesn’t know is that someone has been very clever and will stop at nothing, even murder, to keep secrets hidden that will turn the town upside down.

This whodunit kept me biting my nails and sitting on the edge of my seat in anticipation as Hayes cleverly dropped clues about various key characters. Just when I was convinced I knew what happened, she threw a very clever curveball that left me scratching my head in disbelief. Hayes is an author who does not disappoint, and I look forward to reading more of her books.

Though this book was the second in a series about Detective Lorraine Fisher, it stands alone as each book has its own storyline.

Highly recommended for Adults.


“Coming Home: A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility” Mary McManus

Rated 4 stars **** 2014. Createspace. 236 pp.

ComingHomeMary McManus incorporates memories, as well as present-time events, to tell the story of her life after contracting polio at the age of five. Despite recovering from this disease she faced years of physical, mental and emotional abuse from her parents and grandmother.

Over the years the stresses brought on by these abuses accumulated in her body causing severe physical problems, and resulting in a diagnosis of post-polio syndrome when Mary was just a few years away from retirement. Physicians and therapists at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, as well as other health caregivers, worked together to give Mary the spiritual, physical and emotional strength she needed to heal her body from its trauma.

Determined to do something meaningful with her newfound feeling of mental and physical strength, Mary decided to run the 2009 Boston Marathon to raise money for Spaulding Rehab. Triumphantly crossing the finish line of the marathon was just one of Mary’s many accomplishments described in “Coming Home,” as she valiantly worked to regain the person she had lost at the age of five and rewrite her past.

Mary is a fellow member of my running club, the L Street Running Club in South Boston. After reading her self-published life story, I have to salute the courage and strength she displayed in working through extreme trials which a young girl should have never had to endure, and which led to the beautiful and generous person she has become today. Mary, you are a survivor and I salute you!

Those of you who are regular readers of my blog know I try not to read self-published books because of the amount of grammatical errors usually contained within them. However, since Mary was generous enough to donate part of the proceeds of her book to a reputable charity, and is a fellow club member, I felt I should read her book and learn about her story. I was able to put aside my editing hat and read Mary’s story for its rawness and truthfulness. I gave it a 4 star rating for its content, and trust you will agree when you read it.

Recommended for Adult readers.

“Leaving Time” Jodi Picoult

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Published October 14, 2014. Random House (Ballantine Books.) 407 pp. Includes “Author’s Note.”

LeavingTimeThirteen-year-old Jenna Metcalf has lived with her grandmother since she was 3 years old, when her mother Alice disappeared from the hospital where she was taken after she was found injured at the elephant sanctuary where she worked.

With her father committed to a facility for the insane and her grandmother refusing to reveal any details of Alice’s life, all Jenna has are her brief memories and her mother’s research journals on elephant grief. Knowing that if she wanted to find her mother she would have to suspend her scientific disbelief in the supernatural she decides to hire Serenity Jones, a disgraced psychic, along with Virgil Stanhope, the former detective on her mother’s case, to find her mom.

Serenity has not been able to access the spirit world since she made an incorrect prediction on her former television show, but feels she was meant to help Jenna find her mother. Believing Alice holds the clue to what happened the night they found her, and that she could finally explain why a body was found trampled by an elephant, Virgil decides to help Jenna in order to gain closure. Neither Jenna, Virgil nor Serenity know their search for Alice will take them on a trip through the past that neither of them ever expected.

In alternating voices Jenna, Virgil, Serenity, and Alice tell their stories, allowing readers to gain a complete picture of what actually led to that dark night 10 years ago when Alice disappeared. Picoult has deftly woven together a story of mystery, love and suspense along with beautiful true stories of elephant love and behavior towards one another.

In the Author’s Note, she references The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald Tennessee as the place where she observed the behaviors used for her elephants in “Leaving Time.” The plight of elephants in Africa and zoos across the world will resound with Picoult’s readers, along with Jenna’s story, in her latest blockbuster book. PS – The author asked that I not reveal the ending, so will leave it up to you to discover as you read it for yourself.

Recommended for Adult readers.


“The view from who I was” Heather Seppenfield

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. To be published January 8, 2014. Flux.

TheViewFromWhoIWasOona Antunes hated her mom demanding life be perfect, and missed the father who was always away on business. Fascinated with water, as it reflected her own disappearing and despairing life, she kept a journal detailing water facts.

In the middle of a winter dance Oona split herself into two different people. The new “spirit self” became the narrator and, through her eyes, readers saw Oona leave the dance to freeze to death on a mountain trail.

When Oona awoke in the hospital, it was to the realization she had died for almost 20 minutes and had lost several fingers and toes, as well as part of her nose and cheek, to frostbite. While healing she realized the pain her attempted suicide had cost others, and attempted to set things right with them and with herself by Living with a capital “L.”

Part of her healing came about when she accompanied the school’s guidance counselor to a Native American School where she realized everyone’s sense of family and identity was something she wanted. Oona was sure her distant and unemotional father held the key to her family’s happiness, feeling she could help him to Live, but would soon find she had undertaken a task far greater than she had expected.

Through “The view from who I was” Seppenfield takes a look at suicide and its effects on those left behind. Oona’s raw and honest journey of self-discovery will resound with her readers.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

“Forgive me, Leonard Peacock” Matthew Quick

Rated 4 stars **** 2013. Little, Brown & Company (Hachette Book Group). 273 pp.

ForgiveMeLeonardPeacockLeonard Peacock is very angry because today is his 18th birthday and no one remembered, including his own absentee mother who moved to New York and left him alone in New Jersey. To celebrate he cuts off all his hair, and wraps presents to deliver to four people who made a difference in his life. He plans to end the day by killing his former best friend with his grandfather’s old World War II gun then killing himself.

Through Leonard’s first person accounts, letters written to himself in the future, and copious footnotes, readers see someone who is highly intelligent, misunderstood, hurt and confused. His next-door neighbor Walt, and World War II Holocaust teacher Herr Silverman are the only ones with whom he can be himself. With Walt he can watch Humphrey Bogart movies and disappear into a fantasy life, while Herr Silverman challenges him creatively, making him feel like a real person who matters in life.

Gradually readers come to see why Leonard is so desperate, and gain understanding into the person he was forced to become by those in his life who hurt him. The pain he suffers, and the solutions he chooses to ease that pain, are explored in detail and will give readers food for thought. Hopefully Leonard’s story will enable teens suffering through this kind of pain to realize there is hope, and that suicide isn’t the answer to their problems.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

Listed on the ALA (American Library Association’s) Best Fiction for Young Adults list (compiled by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA).