“The burning” Laura Bates

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Sourcebooks. To be published April 7, 2020. 352 p. (Includes “Author’s note,” and “Discussion questions and Conversation starters.”)

The burningAfter the death of her father, in the middle of the school year, Anna and her mom moved to a 400 year-old house in Scotland to start a new life, where she fervently hopes her old life will recede into the past. After spending time blending in at school she meets new friends, and gets involved in researching a history project about Maggie, a local girl accused of witchcraft in the 1600’s. She finds a silver necklace in her attic and starts to dream Maggie’s memories, learning things about her that aren’t in research books. At first she’s frightened because of the realistic scenes, but soon realizes Maggie’s story has to be told.

While learning more about Maggie fills her free time, the new life she’d started for herself at school starts to unravel when the real reason she left England in the middle of the school year becomes known. Soon constant sexual harassment and cyberbullyingthreaten to put her over the edge. When she learns to draw on her own strength, and that of other strong women like Maggie, Anna is finally able to accept herself, to speak truth about herself, and to know it to be so.

This book was powerful, and had me hooked from the very beginning. At times  teachers not caring to respond to situations right in front of them aggravated me. When that happened I had to put the book down and walk away in frustration, reminding myself that there are good ones mixed with the bad.

“The burning” is the #metoo movement and Laurie Halse Anderson’s “Shout” rolled into one. I believe all teenagers (male and female) and all adults should have this on their “must read” shelves. It would make an excellent book club book to openly discuss sexual harassment and the effects of cyberbullying. A copy should be in every public and high school library.

Highly recommended for ages 16 and older.

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

 

“The here and now” by Ann Brashares

Rated 4 stars **** 2014. Delacourt Press. 242 p.

The here and nowIn 2098, due to global warming, the world was becoming uninhabitable. The intense heat caused mosquitoes infected with a deadly virus to multiply. Their bite caused death across the planet and, with no hope left, Prenna, her mother and a group of others travelled to 2010. There they planned to work to save the future.

Prenna has lived with members of her colony in her new time period for 4 years. Forced to live by a strict set of rules to maintain secrecy, she was mostly obedient. Though handsome Ethan was always trying to talk to her in class, Prenna knew she wasn’t allowed to spend quality time with him. However, things changed the day a strange old man told her she had to keep a murder from happening on May 14th, a few weeks away. He insisted if it happened it would forever change the future.

When the leaders began to suspect Prenna was being disobedient, they kidnapped her. Ethan came to her rescue, and they went on the run as they made plans to stop the upcoming murder. Though Prenna knew May 14th held a big significance to the old man, she didn’t realize it also held the possibility of breaking her heart.

This book about time travel, forbidden love, and pondering the “what if’s?” of the future had many twists and turns. At times very romantic, it also broke my heart. Though written in 2014, it’s scary how global warming has gotten worse in just 5 years. There’s an interesting passage on p. 166 that still holds true today “There is Earth Day and all kinds of green products that make people feel good…. but nobody does the hard things. Not if it costs them anything. Nobody calls for any real sacrifices…. eventually they will demand sacrifices…but by then it will be too late.” We need to make sure it doesn’t become too late.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

“Beyond the moon” by Catherine Taylor

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. Published June 25, 2019. The Cameo Press.

Beyond the moon

Louisa, devastated at her beloved grandmother’s death, was drunk and a little confused at the top of a cliff during a foggy evening. Unsure of her footing, she fell partway down. The doctors were convinced she was suicidal, and admitted her to a psychiatric hospital against her will. A ruthless and uncaring staff ran the hospital, with patients left to fend for themselves.

During a smoke break a friend showed her how to sneak into the abandoned part of the hospital, which dated back to Victorian times. There Louisa discovered Robert, a soldier recovering from World War I injuries. She’s shocked to discover that when she’s with him it’s 1917, but when she leaves his presence she returns to her own time period – one hundred years later. It doesn’t take long before the two of them fall in love but how can their relationship work when they’re separated by time, and only Robert sees her?

After an unpleasant parting back to her own time period, Louisa somehow manages to travel back in time again. Her name is now Rose, a VAD nurse caring for wounded soldiers in France. Her desperate work as a nurse, and her hopes to be reunited with Robert are interspersed with his story as a British Prisoner of War in Germany as the author weaves seamlessly from 2017 to 1917 and back as she tells their wartime love story.

I was absolutely enthralled with this book, and couldn’t put it down. I loved reading about World War I, and was really upset at the way psychiatric patients were treated in 2017. The head nurse Louisa and her friends nicknamed Nurse Enema reminded me of Nurse Ratched from the movie “One flew over the cuckoo’s nest.” If you’re interested in historical fiction, time travel and romance, then this book is for you.

Highly recommended for Adults.

 

“What the wind knows” by Amy Harmon

Rated 5 stars ***** ebook. 2019. Lake Union Publishing.

What the wind knowsWhat would you do if you went out on a lake in 2001 to deposit your grandfather’s ashes and, instead, wound up in 1921 Ireland? That’s exactly what happened to author Anne Gallagher when she came to Ireland to spread her beloved grandfather’s ashes on Lough Gill, where he’d grown up in the small village of Dromahair.

Rescued from the water by the very handsome Doctor Thomas Smith, Anne is nursed back to health at his home. There she’s shocked to meet her six-year-old grandfather Eoin, who believes she’s his mother. His mother, the real Anne Gallagher, disappeared during the 1916 uprising. Since she looks exactly like her, with the same name, everyone assumes she’s their Anne Gallagher. Anne knows she can’t tell them she’s from the future, or explain how she got there.

In time Anne becomes accustomed to her new life, spending time with her beloved grandfather as a child, and falling in love with Thomas. Life with him is appealing, despite his dangerous involvement with Ireland’s struggle for independence. Ireland is ablaze with injustice against the British, demanding its freedom, with iconic leaders such as Michael Collins leading the fray. With civil war in Ireland blooming, Anne finds herself in the midst of tragedies that will lead to more than one heart being broken – especially her own.

I loved this book so much; I immediately read it again as soon as I finished! I loved learning about Ireland’s history, while the romance between Anne and Thomas was incredibly intense. It reminded me of the 1980 Christopher Reeve movie “Somewhere in time,” and I was desperate for the ending not to be the same. You’ll have to read “What the wind knows” yourself to see if you love it, but I’m sure you’ll love it as much as I do.

Highly recommended for Adults.

 

“It’s a wonderful death” Sarah J. Schmitt

Rated 4 stars **** 2015. Sky Pony Press. 306 p.

It'sAWonderfulDeathRJ, Queen Bee and Mean Girl at her high school, never expected life to end at the age of 17. However, the Grim Reaper accidentally takes her soul when a fortuneteller uses her as a shield against him. Highly upset at the consequences of his mistake, RJ refuses to be processed in the afterlife. Instead she insists her soul be returned to her body, and creates a stink about being wrongfully taken to anyone who’ll listen.

A Tribunal of angels is convened to rule on her case, and she is given a task to return to three important occasions in her life that could alter her destiny. IF she manages to change the course of her life, and influence others for the good, they will grant her request. If not, she will be shut away for years until her real death date occurs somewhere in the future.

RJ is determined to ace her tests though the Tribunal doesn’t seem to want her to succeed. Changing the pattern of the selfish life she’d led on Earth is not going to be easy, but if she wants to live in her own body again she’ll have to figure out a way.

Schmitt has a very active imagination, describing Saint Peter, life after death, heaven, hell, and even angels in ways that would never be found in any religious book. Though some conservative types might find her descriptions of RJ’s experiences in the afterlife to be sacrilegious, I found them to be original, highly imaginative and quite humorous.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

 

“The door that led to where” Sally Gardner

 Rated 3 stars *** ARC. Published November 8, 2016. Delacorte Press. 277 p.

thedoorthatledtowhereA.J. has grown up with a missing father and an angry mother. With no future in England’s post secondary education due to failing exams, he takes on work as a clerk at a local law firm. There he discovers a strange key with his name on it and, through a series of circumstances, finds it belongs to a door that takes him into the past.

London of 1830 gets much getting used to, with A.J. soon involved in a series of mysterious deaths – including that of his own father. Discovering his father was also a time traveler leads to more mysteries that set the course for A.J.’s past, present and future.

I enjoyed seeing 1830’s London brought to detailed life, and also liked the title. It’s word play for a door that goes “where” rather than “nowhere” is quite clever.

I was not fond of the open ending which usually leads to a series, as I am not fond of books in a series. I also think the author should have had a glossary. Slang British words were used throughout the book, and a glossary would have been very helpful.

I also thought A.J. and his friends were more like 16 going on 26, instead of “normal” 16 year olds. All of these issues, combined with spoiler complaints listed below, is why  I gave “The door that led to where” 3 instead of 4 stars.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

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Mrs. Meacock was the picture of health, ready to institutionalize Esme. Yet, two days later, she was rendered practically unrecognizable, just a few short steps from death. I find it hard to believe she had become crazy so quickly after being relatively sane for so many years.

I also thought the author should have unveiled the professor’s identity in a little more detail. I know he was a time traveler, but he knew a lot about A.J.’s history. Why did he know so much?

“Bourne & Tributary” Lisa T. Bergren

Rated 2 stars ** River of Time #3.1 and 3.2. ebook. 2012. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. Includes photographs.

Bourne&TributaryThese two novellas, told in alternate voices, continue the Betarrini sisters’ life in medieval times.

In “Bourne,” an elusive band of assassins from Firenze are roaming the countryside seeking the death of the brothers-in-arms that had come to Marcello’s aid in the recent battle. With Luca as one of their targets Lia jumps into She-Wolf mode, with the same devil-may-care attitude for adventure displayed in earlier books by Gabriella.

In “Tributary,” readers are introduced to young and beautiful Alessandra Donatelli, a Fiorentini peasant girl. While out hunting, she is injured and taken to the Castello for healing. Marcello has been charged by her suspicious father to keep her safe until his return in 5 days. Unbeknownst to him, Alessandra is planning on doing some spying while a secret plan is afoot to use her to destroy the Sienese forever. It’s only a matter of time until Gabriella and Lia find themselves in another battle for their lives.

Despite not wanting to read any more of the series, I will have to find out what happens to the sisters in the SUPPOSEDLY final book “Deluge,” due out in late Spring. Hopefully Bergren will fix the grammatical errors encountered in this self-published book, as well as make sure not to mix up her characters as she did with Lord Barbato and Lord Foraboschi in a couple of places.

The adventure for the Betarrini sisters is nonstop in these two novellas, probably thrilling Bergren’s 12-17 year old fans but growing tiresome for me.

 

 

“Torrent” Lisa T. Bergren

Rated 4 stars **** River of Time, book #3. 2011. David C. Cook. ebook. Includes Discussion Questions,  Historical Notes and After Words.

TorrentIn the midst of the battle, the Betarrini women escape to the Etruscan tombs. They plan to negotiate the time warp to allow them to return to the future to save their father from the accident that killed him. Once they’ve managed to convince him they are not crazy, he enters the tomb with them and they are transported back to medieval times.

In the year they’d been gone (despite it only being an hour and a half real time), both Castello Forelli and Paratore have fallen to Firenze. The group ultimately finds Marcello settled in the former Rossi palace in Siena, but Fortino has been imprisoned. The only trade to be considered is Gabriella herself, which Marcello flatly refuses to accept.

True to style, Gabriella convinces him she can be used as bait, and that they could get Fortino released as she will manage to escape. Instead she winds up captured, taken far away, and promised in marriage to Lord Greco. It will be up to Marcello and her family to try to rescue her once again. So begins a series of adventure after adventure that will leave everyone reading the book scratching their heads in bewilderment as to how one character could manage to survive so much.

I was not as happy with “Torrent” as with the other books in the series because Gabriella’s continued devil-may-care “I’m gonna go ahead and rescue everybody cos I’m the only one that can do it” attitude really stared to get on my nerves. She seriously could not seem to get how much danger she was putting herself and others in, as she continually threw herself into harm’s way. It seemed like Bergren went a little overboard in having her get captured more times in this one book than in the other two put together.

Her 12-17 year old fans will probably forgive her, especially with a couple of novellas to continue this SUPPOSEDLY last book in the series. I really, really dislike when authors don’t keep their word and END a series as they’d promised. I liked it since it, supposedly, tied everything up in a final knot but will leave it up to you to decide if You Want to Read it or Not.

“Cascade” Lisa T. Bergren

Rated 5 stars ***** River of Time, book #2. 2011. David C. Cook. ebook. Includes A Chat with Lisa Bergren, Discussion Questions,  Historical and Factual Notes and Acknowledgments.

CascadeThis amazing series, set in Italy in 1342, continues where book #1 stopped. At the end of “Waterfall,” when we last saw Gabriella and Lia, they had been forced to return to modern times due to Gabriella’s poisoning.

“Cascade” opens with the sisters trying to convince their mother of what had happened, while the now healed Gabriella urges her to return with them to the past as she wants to be with Marcello. Mrs. Betarrini decides to trust their judgement and returns to medieval times with them. Once there, the girls are reunited with the very handsome Marcello and Luca.

However things are not well with Marcello and his men. Their Fiorentini enemies are determined to retake Castello Paratore while also overtaking Castello Forelli and overthrowing Siena. Capturing the She-Wolves of Siena (Gabriella and Lia) are also part of their plan, and it is only a matter of time before Gabriella, her mother and Lia will be in the fight of their lives.

“Cascade” is a great, action filled read which will delight Bergren’s 12-17 year old fans, while also bringing in new ones. I look forward to the next book “Torrent,” to find out if Marcello, Gabriella, Luca and Lia get to live happily ever after.

“Waterfall” Lisa T. Bergren

Rated 5 stars ***** River of Time, book #1. 2011. David C. Cook. ebook. Includes Discussion Questions, an Interview with the Author, Acknowledgements, Historical Notes and a Bibliography.

WaterfallFifteen-year-old Lia and seventeen-year-old Gabriella’s mother is an archaeologist of Etruscan tombs in Italy. They’ve been warned to never go into any of her tombs or touch anything but, bored with the lack of interesting things for teenagers to do in the small village, they disobey and sneak into a tomb. While exploring they find a set of mysterious hand prints that, when touched, managed to suddenly transport them back to medieval times.

Rescued from a battle as she emerged from the tomb by the very handsome Lord Marcello, Gabriella seeks refuge in his castle. She doesn’t expect to fall in love with him, as he’s betrothed to another, but fate has a way of stepping in where we least expect it to be.

As Gabriella seeks to find Lia, who had become separated from her on their time travel journey, readers are soon awash in humorous and historical accounts of the lives of lords and ladies along with their knights (and everything associated with the 1300’s) as seen through Gabriella’s modern eyes.

Gabriella discovers many differences between her former life and her current one, managing to overcome difficulty after difficulty in her quest to continue with her charade as the Lady Gabriella Betarrini of Normandy, while seeking Lia and a way back to her own time. Adventures and battles line her path, along with jealousy, fear and love. “Waterfall” is very well researched, quite exciting, and a very interesting read for ages 12-17. I look forward to reading book #2 “Cascade.”