“Amid the shadows” Michael C. Grumley

Rated 2 stars ** Ebook. 2013.

AmidTheShadowsA six-year-old who sees people’s souls is chased by “bad men” after they murder her mother. Churches are blown up across the country. A teen hacker plans the release of a virus so powerful it will bring China to its knees and cause the release of nuclear warheads from the United States and Russia. Police are kidnapped and murdered. Someone plots the demise of the planet through nuclear warfare – but only on the Northern Hemisphere. Through it all, faith in God will pull you through.

Yes, ALL of these play out on the pages of this book. Though filled with too many details about things not relevant to the plot, the book shows some promise and managed to keep my interest for a little while. It was frustrating that Grumley left so many unanswered questions. Some of my questions for him are: If Zahn was Ryan’s guardian, why did he act so menacing towards him and his father? Who was bleeding in the hallway when Sarah’s mother was killed? Will the detectives ever be found? Why did Rand have a black shadow? Why did it consume Zahn? How did Sarah know about Zahn’s history and how God felt about him? I have many more, but these are a start.

Normally I don’t review self-published books, as too many authors don’t use the basics of spell check, and have bad writing skills. However this book had some promise. I suggest Grumley get a good editor who can help him whittle through his ideas and decide on a main theme. This will allow him to focus on fleshing out specific ideas so as not to get caught up in too many plot twists that will cause the main storyline to get lost. Ultimately readers will not be left scratching their heads wondering what just happened.

Not recommended due to many unanswered questions.

“Girl on a plane” Miriam Moss

Rated 4 stars **** ARC. Published September 13, 2016. Houghton Mifflin. 277 p. (Includes a Postscript and a Q & A with the author).

girlonaplaneAnna’s father works for the Army, and has been stationed all over the world. Since she had to move all the time, schoolwork and making friends became challenging. So, 4 years ago, she began going to boarding school in England. That fateful September day in 1970 started out like any other trip to school. Her parents drove her to the airport, she kissed them and her little brothers goodbye, and boarded the plane thinking about how much she would be missing their stay in Bahrain.

Unfortunately, it didn’t take longer before her plane was hijacked by the PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine). Seeking public support for their cause, they had been regularly hijacking planes, but Anna never thought her plane would be on their list. “Girl on a plane” is Anna’s story of the four harrowing days spent with the hijackers, without much food or water, not knowing if she and the other passengers would get blown up with the plane in the middle of the desert.

“Girl on a Plane” is a fictional story, based on a real life hijacking experienced by the author when she was 15 years old. During the Postscript and Q & A, readers learn of many similarities between Anna’s story and Miriam’s real life story.

I never knew there were so many hijackings in 1970, which made me very upset that the United States never thought to secure their own planes from hijackers. If they had done so back in 1970, 9/11 would never have happened. Yes these hijackings took place outside of the U.S. while we were busy in Vietnam, but one would think that we would’ve thought about securing our planes. Hindsight is 20/20, but knowing what I now know about these hijackings doesn’t make our inaction any easier to stomach.

Recommended for 14 and older.

“Half Lives” Sara Grant

ARC (Advance Reading Copy). Published July 9, 2013. Little, Brown and Company. 392 pp. Includes “Author’s Note.”

HalfLives17-year-old Icie’s parents worked for the government, and had advance knowledge of a terrorist threat to unleash a deadly virus on the world. They make plans to send Icie to a nuclear waste bunker in Vegas so she can survive. Unfortunately her parents are arrested, so Icie is left on her own. On the plane she meets Marissa, a perky cheerleader, who becomes her sole companion. As they trudge through the desert they find Tate, a young boy who wants to be a rock star but was abandoned and left for dead. Finally, they meet Chaske a very handsome Native American teen who has deep secrets he won’t divulge. They seal themselves inside the bunker to avoid contamination…

Generations pass. A small group of survivors from Before have survived in the village of Forreal. Terrified that Terrorists will find their hiding place, the group of Cheerleaders and Rock Stars are determined to protect their mountain and way of life. As they and their leader Beckett look out at Vega, they are reminded that their god, the Great I AM, will protect them from the dangers that lie Out There. Greta, a Survivor, finds her way to the mountain from Vega. Could she be a sign from the Great I AM? Is she a Terrorist? Only time will tell…

In alternate chapters, Grant tells Beckett’s and Icie’s stories. I understood the author’s mindset of using words from popular culture to make her point of showing how people in a cult blindly follow what they don’t understand, but I did mind that she’d used “I Am,” an actual Biblical name, for the cult’s god. Surely she had to know it’s the real name used for God in the Christian Bible. Every time I read it I was reminded that this is America and everyone has free speech, but I know if she had used a certain Muslim god’s name for the book’s god instead of a Christian god’s name then all h**l would have broken loose. Ah America!

Students aged 14 and older will have some deep thinking to do as they read, especially in the area of learning about nuclear waste and its longterm repercussions on the world.

“Black Helicopters” Blythe Woolston

ARC (Advance Reading Copy). Published March 26, 2013. Candlewick Press. 166 p.

BlackHelicoptersFifteen-year-old Valkyrie tells her story through flashbacks, going back to when she was just 4 years old. At that time her mother was killed by black helicopters, so her father turns her and her brother Bo’s lives into some sort of living clandestine guerilla warfare operation. They are taught to fear and hate black helicopters, to stay out of sight at all times, and to learn battle, bomb making and survival tactics. Their goal is to get revenge on black helicopters and a mysterious group of individuals known as “Those People.”

Though the chapters are short and flash back and forth through time, readers are able to piece together a strange existence that Valkyrie, her father and brother believe to be perfectly normal. “Black Helicopters” allows readers to see into the mind and actions of a group of terrorists, and individuals within that group, but also gives a small glimpse into why they are set on their goals of terror. It is not for the fainthearted, and should be read by mature readers aged 14 and older.

After finishing “Black Helicopters,” I wasn’t sure if I wanted to throw it at the wall in frustration, disbelief or disgust. Throwing it was definitely an option. I’ll leave it up to you to decide it that’s your course of action when you’re done reading it.

“My sister lives on the mantelpiece” Annabel Pitcher

ARC (Advanced Reading Copy). This U.S. version will be published August 14, 2012. (UK version published March 2011.) Little, Brown and Company. (Hachette Book Group). 211 pp.

Jamie is 10 years old and wonders why his life can’t be normal. His 15 year old sister Jas tries to take care of him as best she can since their mom abandoned the family for another man. Their lives didn’t used to be this way but, ever since Jas’ twin sister Rose was killed in a London terrorist bombing 5 years ago, everything changed. His dad had her cremated and has her ashes on their mantelpiece. He has forgotten his living children in favor of mourning over a dead one, and blames all Muslims for the bombing. He forbids his children from associating with them, not knowing that Sunya, a young Muslim girl at Jamie’s school, is his only friend.

Constantly bullied at school, missing his mother, confused about his feelings for Sunya, and not understanding his dad’s behavior or Jas’ rebellious ways, Jamie retreats into fantasies of living his life as Spider Man. Wishing for bravery, and for the family to be reunited, his only bright spots are the times he spends with Sunya. Through pain comes growth and, as time passes and life settles into a not-so-pleasant routine, Jamie realizes there are things that can be changed and things that can’t.

Readers aged 9-12 will learn with him that if one feels strongly enough about something, sometimes it’s possible to make the changes one needs but to do so they may need to be braver than they ever thought they could be.