Heather Brush

Julia knows more than anyone that things don’t always go as planned. She wasn’t supposed to be the one Jessup captured in the woods. When Julia and Liv are attacked, Julia refuses to allow Liv to be abducted. She saves her and unintentionally takes her place.

A year later, when Julia starts having PTSD flashbacks, she logs keywords, thoughts and bits of remembered events in her notebook. Her psychiatrist wants to hypnotize her, but she’s figuring things out herself, with research, investigative journaling and the understanding that only friendship brings. Liv also hasn’t been the same since after the woods, even though Julia was the one held captive.

And then, inconceivably, more tragedy: A dead teenager is discovered in the same wild patch, where locals go to escape reality, the place Julia fears above all else. A TV reporter focuses her coverage on failed police procedure and charges probation officers with accountability for this new body and for Julia’s attack. The town is a circus, yet things get even stranger.

Superbly written for a young adult audience, After the Woods is darkly alluring, a compelling read with mystery, romance, drama and twists. Psychological explorations and questions of motivation drive character growth: Why does an abductor pull a knife, tie hands and refuse to let go? Why does a girl reach out to a complete stranger? What are these compulsions?

This well-paced mystery will compel readers to read hungrily, quickly, in pursuit of answers to these many questions.

Julia knows more than anyone that things don’t always go as planned. She wasn’t supposed to be the one Jessup captured in the woods. When Julia and Liv are attacked, Julia refuses to allow Liv to be abducted. She saves her and unintentionally takes her place.

After her suicide attempt, 16-year-old Vicky Cruz wakes up in the hospital with her stomach pumped. Given the choice to stay for two weeks or go home, she makes her first step toward recovery and tells her father that going home would be a mistake. In group therapy, she meets Mona, E.M. and Gabriel, each with a different mental illness and each possessing the ability to help each other in ways that doctors, family and friends cannot. They help Vicky realize she has clinical depression—as well as the emotional strength to face the life that waits for her, if she wants to live.

Straight-talking but not overbearing, honest but not overly dark, The Memory of Light offers an accurate depiction of depression. Witnessing Vicky’s breakthrough is a powerful experience for readers, and piecing together her progression to the suicide attempt and watching her grow as she begins to comprehend how her depression began is nothing less than a gift from author Francisco X. Stork, who drew from his own experience with depression to write this novel.

Through the group members, Stork touches on other mental illnesses of psychosis, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. This is a well-rounded work of fiction, with the frank and helpful lesson that sometimes we need to pretend in order to survive.

 

This article was originally published in the February 2016 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

After her suicide attempt, 16-year-old Vicky Cruz wakes up in the hospital with her stomach pumped. Given the choice to stay for two weeks or go home, she makes her first step toward recovery and tells her father that going home would be a mistake. In group therapy, she meets Mona, E.M. and Gabriel, each with a different mental illness and each possessing the ability to help each other in ways that doctors, family and friends cannot. They help Vicky realize she has clinical depression—as well as the emotional strength to face the life that waits for her, if she wants to live.

Nearly 25 years after the publication of Shiloh, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor’s beloved trilogy becomes a quartet with this Christmas-themed holiday companion.

Shiloh and his boy, Marty, are inseparable as always—except that Shiloh is afraid to cross over the bridge that leads to Judd Travers’ house. It’s been a year since Marty rescued Shiloh from Judd, and he seems to have found a soft spot in his neighbor’s harsh exterior. Amends have been made, and Marty has been spending time at Judd’s to help with the other dogs. The town even begins to see a very different man as well.

The community has also welcomed a new preacher to town, but soon Marty’s sister, Becky, begins to fear eternal damnation, and the preacher’s daughters, Rachel and Ruthie, seem to be afraid of their father. Marty has a lot of questions about the world but isn’t sure the preacher, who seems better versed in atoning for sins, is the one who can answer them. More questions arise when a fire starts in the neighborhood and accusations fly, blaming Judd for starting it.

The Prestons prepare for Christmas, the community helps those that suffered from the fire, and Marty continues to work in the veterinarian office, thinking he may want to be a vet and help animals. But one day, Ruthie and Rachel are too scared to go home, and Judd helps by sharing the story of his youth and the importance of dreams.

Naylor gently writes of compassion and understanding, the importance of love over fear and the bonds between dogs and their people. A bit of adventure and a few mysteries make A Shiloh Christmas perfect for cozying up in front of the Christmas tree.

Nearly 25 years after the publication of Shiloh, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor’s beloved trilogy becomes a quartet with this Christmas-themed holiday companion.

Before Hitler’s Wehrmacht surrounded Leningrad in September 1941, Stalin was already killing his own people. Foolishly, Stalin allied with Hitler before realizing too late that Russia was another target.

Leningrad was home to composer Dmitri Shostakovich, whose works taunted Stalin but were just shy of rebellion. His peers were murdered for being traitors, and he often feared for his life. But art must be created, if only to show that we are human, and while Leningrad lay under siege and its people nearly starved to death, Shostakovich’s seventh symphony became an obsession. For two and a half years, Leningrad residents ate rancid rations, grass, pets and resorted to cannibalism. They burned books for warmth along with floorboards, walls and other remains of bombarded buildings. More than a million people died. Shostakovich’s Leningrad Symphony told the story of Stalin’s assaults on his own people, of Hitler’s crushing entrapment of the city, and life amid this torture. The symphony captured the story of Leningrad’s people; it rallied them and encouraged them to survive.

M.T. Anderson (The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing) presents a thrilling history of music and the terrible events of World War II. Extensively researched and passionately told, Symphony for the City of the Dead exposes the strengths and weaknesses of humanity through an engrossing tale of war, art and undying creativity.

 

This article was originally published in the October 2015 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

M.T. Anderson (The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing) presents a thrilling history of music and the terrible events of World War II. Extensively researched and passionately told, Symphony for the City of the Dead exposes the strengths and weaknesses of humanity through an engrossing tale of war, art and undying creativity.

George looks and dresses like a boy, but inside, she’s not a boy. Her family doesn’t understand, but George knows that she’s a girl. It’s hard pretending to be a boy, but it’s even harder when the class bully picks on her and starts fights. 

When it’s announced that the fourth-grade classes will put on a production of Charlotte’s Web, George decides to audition for Charlotte, so she can finally play a girl’s role in front of her friends and mother, but mostly so she can feel like her secret self is out in the open. Her best friend helps rehearse, and eventually George confides in her that she’s really a girl. Kelly is supportive and encouraging, but their teacher insists George can’t play a girl’s part. Fortunately, an open-minded principal shows readers that being transgender is just another part of being human, and that there are people who understand.

Debut author Alex Gino beautifully addresses the struggles of being a transgender youth. It’s an intense conflict to be one sort of person on the outside but feel like someone else on the inside, and this book recognizes and straightforwardly discusses LGBTQ issues, including family misunderstandings, peer support and public acceptance. Readers going through a similar experience will feel that they are no longer alone, and cisgender (non-transgender) readers may gain understanding and empathy. 

Positive messages echo throughout George and to the reader: Be you, whoever you are. 

 

This article was originally published in the September 2015 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

George looks and dresses like a boy, but inside, she’s not a boy. Her family doesn’t understand, but George knows that she’s a girl. It’s hard pretending to be a boy, but it’s even harder when the class bully picks on her and starts fights.

More than 100 years ago, there was little understanding of the concept of invisible dangers like germs. The story of Mary Mallon, better known as Typhoid Mary, was passed off as one of intentional harm, when in reality she didn’t believe she was a danger to anyone. 

Mary emigrated from Ireland to New York City, was hired as household staff and found a specialty in cooking. From 1897 to 1907, 24 people in households where she worked developed typhoid fever, and one died. Later, 25 people developed the illness after consuming her cooking. Dr. George Soper, sanitary engineer for the United States Army Sanitary Corps, began investigating the outbreak at Mary’s last house of employment and then Mary herself as a healthy carrier of typhoid. Mary was held against her will at Riverside Hospital on North Brother Island in New York’s East River, and the story only gets darker from there.

Susan Campbell Bartoletti’s extensive research, complete with photographs and illustrations from the early 1900s, brings little-known facts to light and this fascinating tale to life. Terrible Typhoid Mary provides insight and understanding for a woman previously portrayed as a villain.

 

This article was originally published in the August 2015 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

More than 100 years ago, there was little understanding of the concept of invisible dangers like germs. The story of Mary Mallon, better known as Typhoid Mary, was passed off as one of intentional harm, when in reality she didn’t believe she was a danger to anyone.

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