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Don’t Believe It
by Charlie Donlea
There is so much to recommend in Don’t Believe It by Charlie Donlea. The initial setting is exotic: Sugar Beach in St. Lucia in the Eastern Caribbean. This mystery begins immediately with action and suspense. The main character, Sidney Ryan, is a smart, talented, ethical filmmaker. The documentary she is producing is presented almost in real time: the audience gets to learn the results of Sidney’s investigations and interviews in the same week they occur. Out of appeals, an old friend who has been incarcerated for murder for ten years in St. Lucia asks for Sidney’s help in drawing attention to her case as Sidney has done in three prior films that resulted in each instance in freeing the accused.
The story effectively jumps around to various locations and times and uses a variety of styles to convey the events. Designations for places and times are clearly and helpfully added to the first of each chapter. The inclusion of documentary episodes based on interviews is very effective as a storytelling tool.
Don’t Believe It is fast-paced, and the author knows just where to break the chapters so the reader wants more. The mystery is engaging and suspenseful, and the various threads all come together in the end. There were a lot of plot inversions and surprises. I would rate this mystery highly until the end when the crime puzzle is solved, but there is no closure to two major threads. What is the point? Is the author being artsy by leaving the reader dangling? Perhaps he is letting the reader mentally finish the book according to the way the reader wants it to end. Maybe this open-endedness is preparation for a series. Whatever the reason, I was a happy reader for most of the book, disconcerted by but accepting of a sudden change in direction, and then unsettled by the ending. Charlie Donlea proved he has good skills as a mystery writer, and I would like to read more of his work to get a comprehensive feel for his talents.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: Some swearing
Publication: May 29, 2018—Kensington Books
The detectives did exactly what they’re trained not to do. They picked a suspect first, and then looked for evidence that supported their theory. And the problem with investigating a crime in that manner is that any evidence they came across that didn’t support their theory was ignored or discarded.
But she had found over the years that inmates, deprived of just about every luxury in life, possessed a great deal of patience. They never expected anything to happen quickly, and took news of delays in much the same fashion as finding the bathroom stall occupied. They simply took a breath and waited.
If I could start my career over and take a path that more closely represented my interests, I’d do it in a second.
Ebb and Flow
by Heather T. Smith
Ebb and Flow is a sad, emotionally laden story of sins, redemption and forgiveness. It is written in free verse and as such leads to tremendous teaching opportunities. Because rhyming poetry is so easily identifiable for children, it can be difficult to explain the difference between poetry and prose when the poetry does not rhyme. Ebb and Flow is a whole book of examples to demonstrate the concept. It also is an excellent exemplar of poetry as a form of storytelling. The poems in this book demonstrate the effectiveness of well-chosen words. All of these ideas are appropriate to the intended age range of eight to twelve years (grades four to seven).
As an adult I was moved by the book which lets Jett tell his own story of a father in jail, a move to a new town intended to provide a fresh start, and a disastrous year in the new surroundings. There is hope for Jett in a summer visit to a think-outside-the-box grandmother who sees the good in Jett and provides opportunities for him to work through his issues. Although the problems addressed in the book are a reality to be endured for some children, in general they are above the maturity level of most eight year olds: child abuse, spousal abuse, incarceration, homelessness, and the maturity level of some special needs adults. While it could be helpful to some children, it could be frightening to others. Some parents would also object to the expletives found in two places in the book; personally I didn’t understand their inclusion as they did not add to the book in any way.
Thus I recommend the book with the reservation of parental guidance needed for language and content. There is little that is graphic but the overtone is emotionally charged despite the hopeful ending.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kids Can Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Children’s Fiction, Poetry
Notes: 1. warnings for domestic violence and swearing
2. Age Range: 8-12 years
3. Grade Level: 4-7
Publication: April 3, 2018—Kids Can Press
I just wanted to say
I’m glad you are here.
And all of a sudden,
I was more than just air.
when I grow up,
I can be someone?
Grandma’s face went soft.
You ARE someone, dear.
You’re my Jett.
She gave me the room in the attic,
the one with the view of the sea.
Of all the rooms
in all the world
it was the awesomest room
of them all.
It made me feel cozy
like a light had turned on
in my heart.