ARC Review: Doctored- Polly A. Magena

Title: Doctored

Author: Polly A. Magena

Publisher: Matador

Pages: 496

Rating: 4/5

Doctored is a true story.
Please be warned there’s a lot of strong content here so read at your own risk.
It’s always hard to write a review up on someone’s personal experience…especially of this caliber.
The story starts off with Polly describing her life as an adoptive child. She faced emotional neglect, verbal abuse, and a lot of rejection from her adoptive mother. She coped with it by immersing herself in drama and music at her school. She played piano often times composing music. She also loved riding her bike in the countryside. Often fantasizing about a great family that would love her. 

The bad things didn’t stop there, she got involved with a man whom also abused her physically. On top of that he took both of their children away from her. Scared and traumatized, she turned to her doctor, he promised to help her to get her kids back from their father, but he lied. Instead he ended up raping her multiple times. It’s horrible all the trauma that polly endured in her life. I felt so bad for her and angry at the same time. Despite the content in this book, I would definitely recommend it. Thank you to NetGalley and Matador for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

ARC Review: Hunting Charles Manson- Lis Wiehl

Title: Hunting Charles Manson

Author: Lis Wiehl

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Pages: 336

Rating: 2/5

When I saw this book on NetGalley, I was so stoked because I’m a huge true crime buff and I figured it would shed some new light into the Charles Manson and the family case, but it was all the same information that has been put out in numerous other books and interviews. 

One of the things that tuned me off was the author and her author’s note about how she was part of the “Christian Tradition” when it comes to the justice, that right there is a biased view and really it wasn’t necessary to put your religious beliefs out there. It made me skeptical to even continue reading. As I continued reading I became more angrier. She decided to not name the victims as they have been everywhere else when she was describing them. And what in the blue is with the censoring of the curse words. I’d like to think we’re all adults here and we can see curse words without having some asterisk being put in place. I just saw that to be childish and unnecessary. 

I wanted to like this book, I really did but, It just didn’t do it for me. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

ARC Review: How to Build a Heart- Maria Padian

Title: How to Build a Heart

Author: Maria Padian

Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers

Pages: 352

Rating: 5/5

“You understand that no one is just a color, like crayon”
-Maria Padian, How to Build a Heart

Nice the passing of her father who was a Marine 6 years ago, Izzy and her family have been moving constantly. Each place being smaller than the last.

Things seem to be going okay. She’s going to a good school, she’s part of a popular cappella group, and most of all her family has been selected by “Habitat for Humanity” for a new home. They’re super excited. Being in the cappella group also comes with some extra perks. She becomes friends with Aubrey, whom is a new recruit. Aubrey is also the sister of the super hunk from school, Sam. The boy Roz, Izzy’s friend, has had a total crush on for the longest.

Even though she starts feeling comfy and at home, she doesn’t want her friends, school peers, and even Sam to know that she’s low incomes and needs a scholarship to continue her studies. And most of all, she doesn’t understand why her extended family wants nothing to do with them. Of course, those secrets come out into the light. Follow Izzy on her journey through secrets, jealousy, and friendships. I really enjoyed Maria Padian’s writing. Thank you to NetGalley and Algonquin Young Readers for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

ARC Review: The Undertaker’s Assistant- Amanda Skenandore

Title: The Undertaker’s Assistant

Author: Amanda Skenandore

Publisher: Kensington Publishing

Pages: 336

Rating: 5/5

Set during the reconstruction era in New Orleans
Effie Jones is an escaped slave who made it to the union. She was raised by a army surgeon and his wife. She learned to read and write and other skills.

When she returns to New Orleans, she comes across a undertaker wise looking for help. Effie is looking for work as a embalmer. Her main purpose is to be able to trace back to her family roots and reconnect with them. Effie is great at her job. She’s quiet but she pays great attention to detail. She has vast knowledge of science and anatomy, but the color of her skin makes people not take her serious. She still did her job with love and care. Always very professional with the deceased. Not only that, but she always seemed to come to her employers’s aide when he couldn’t do his part.

Eventually Effie started to involve herself with political and racial activism and started to fall in love with a legislator by the name of Samson Greene. Follow Effie’s adventures as she deals with her job,employer, the boarding house, activist groups and more. I must say this book started very slow for me and I had to put it down many times, but it finally picked up and I was able to get back into it. Thanks to NetGalley and Kensington Publishing for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

ARC Review: An American Summer- Alex Kotlowitz

Title: An American Summer

Author: Alex Kotolowitz

Publisher: Nan A. Tales

Pages: 282

Rating: 5/5

An American Summer is a riveting inside look in to the lives of those living in the rough areas of Chicago. Stories of young men who grew up surrounded by the ever growing violence in chicago. Chicago is known for related violence, low income, and segregated neighborhoods. Most of the violence being tied into gang violence.
The author interviewed social workers, police officers, convicted killers, politicians etc. The young men being interviewed basically were forced to join these violent gangs to protect either themselves or their families. They believe in the “No Snitching” rule and frown upon law enforcement.

This book gives you an insightful look at how terrifying it is just to walk down the street with a fear of possibly getting shot or being a victim of some type of violent crime. One young man in particular talks about being a kid and killing a gang rival and 20 years later still thinking about it. Things like that just mess with your mental stability. It’s so heartbreaking seeing what these young men are going through. What could have been done to prevent all this? I think every school, including colleges and universities that deal with Criminal justice need to have this book in their curriculum. It’s definitely one of those eye opening books. I’m so glad I had a chance to read this. This is one of those books that sticks with you forever. Thank You to NetGalley and Nan A. Talese for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

ARC Review: Color Me In- Natasha Diaz

Title: Color Me In

Author: Natasha Diaz

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Pages: 373

Rating: 5/5

Naveah Levitz is trapped in two different worlds. Her parents recently split up and she has to travel and stay in between two places. Her grandfather’s home in Harlem and her childhood home in White Plains with her dad. For a while Naveah has felt she didn’t belong anywhere. As a bi-racial kid it’s hard to feel any level of acceptance anywhere…including within her own family. Naveah has only been exposed to her white side (she’s half black and half white). Her cousins and her aunt are trying to connect her with her black heritage, while her bone head father tries to to show her her Jewish roots. Evening going as far as preparing her for Hebrew school and throw a bat Mitzvah (3 years too late). His purpose for it….so she doesn’t lose her head and act too “black”. It’s even worse because her cousin Jordan is consistently reminding her she isn’t welcomed into the black community. Especially since Naveah is too blinded about what’s going on within the black community. Things start to get even more tense between her and Jordan when Jesus, Jordan’s long time crush starts to fall for Naveah. With all this plus all the problems at her white preppy school, Naveah finds comfort in her poetry and her mother’s diary that she happens to find in her grandfather’s attic.

I want to thank the author for sharing her experiences a multi-racial individual through this book. She even explains it at the end of the book. It was really though provoking and insightful. There were numerous characters mentioned in the book. But it was easy to keep up with them and I didn’t feel feel overwhelmed by them.

*Stevie- Naveah’s best friend whose also bi-racial (White and Chinese). A talented dancer and performer. He’s an amazing friend overall.
*Abby- I hated this girl with everything in my soul. The things that she would say were disgusting and I often wanted to jump through my phone and wanting to punch her in the throat. I’ve dealt with a Abby at my previous job and let me tell you…I’m really starting to hate the name Abby.
*Jesus- Towards the beginning of the book I wasn’t really feeling Jesus. I thought he was going to be one of those guys and honestly I was anticipating him turning into a dog. I think I started to partially warm up to him towards the end of the book.
*Rabbi Sarah: At first she was annoying to me, but I warmed up to her once I saw that she was down to earth.

There were other characters in the novel. I think the two characters that I hated the most were Navaho’s dad and his new stupid girlfriend Ashleigh. Holy crap what a bunch of turds. I will warn you some of the content in the book will anger you. So be on the lookout for racism, name calling, and sexual assault. It was frustrating enough reading about, I can’t imagine someone going through it. The a book makes you feel all the feelings I did while reading it…you know you have a banger.

Overall the book was fantastic and I really enjoyed it. I devoured it in two days. A story that deals with the true meaning of friendship, love, and dealing with with a difficult family….and of course learning how to accept the true you. 5/5 for me. Thank you to NetGalley and Delacorte Press for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

ARC Review: Nanaville- Anna Quindlen

Title: Nanaville

Author: Anna Quindlen

Publisher: Random House

Pages: 162

Rating: 5/5

“Where I once led, I have learn to follow”
-Anna Quindlen

I’ve always loved Anna Quindlen’s writing. Always full of spunk and quirkiness. This memoir speaks about Quindlen’s experience of being a grandma. It’s so refreshing to see her take this role and transition from mom mode. One of my favorite chapters would have to be the “No’s” chapter. I’m sure that’s one of the most hardest parts of being a grandmother. Knowing you no longer have that control, or can create the rules. It’s a bitter pill to swallow but, most have gone through it or will eventually go through it.
I picked up this book because I was raised by my grandmother, sadly she passed away in 2017 and have been pretty out without her. I wanted to read something heartfelt about the love of a grandmother. I really enjoyed it and I recommend it to anyone whose a soon to be grandmother or who already is. Thanks to NetGalley and Radon house for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.