Category Archives: Books I Received From The Publisher

Vision

Finished Vision by Lisa Amowitz.  I received a copy for review from the publisher.  (Note: I work for this company, but have not worked on this book.)

Summary (from Goodreads):

The light is darker than you think…

High school student Bobby Pendell already has his hands full—he works almost every night to support his disabled-vet father and gifted little brother. Then he meets the beautiful new girl in town, who just happens to be his boss’s daughter. Bobby has rules about that kind of thing. Nothing matters more than keeping his job.

When Bobby starts to get blinding migraines that come with scary, violent hallucinations, his livelihood is on the line. Soon, he must face the stunning possibility that the visions of murder are actually real. With his world going dark, Bobby is set on the trail of the serial killer terrorizing his small town. With everyone else convinced he’s the prime suspect, Bobby realizes that he, or the girl he loves, might be killer’s next victim.”

Oh, you guys, this book.

It grabbed me right away with the synopsis: how creepy does that sound? You get these horrible headaches and, as a fun bonus, you temporarily go blind AND see these horrific things? So you know you’re either going crazy or something literally insane is going on.

And then—THEN—as a bonus, his visions start happening.  But you can’t really talk about it because if you do, you get locked  up—either in jail or in an asylum.

I immediately liked Bobby and was very nervous for him.  (I mean, what if the killer can sense him, too?)  And I loved his friends (potential love interest Gabe and his best friend Coco) and his little brother, Aaron.  Even before this, Bobby had to deal with things teens shouldn’t have to, and he handled his responsibilities like a grownup.

But best of all, this book is actually creepier than the synopsis would have you believe.  It’s absolutely perfect for Halloween.  I was in the mood for scary and this book more than delivered.

Well, no.  Best of all is that there’s the possibility of a sequel.  (Yes, please.)

Highly recommended.

The Zodiac Collector

Finished The Zodiac Collector by Laura Diamond.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

For almost-16 year-old Anne Devans, the annual Renaissance Faire means three  things—her dad spending weeks in the smithy, her bipolar mom doing some manic costume making, and another ruined birthday for her and her twin sister, Mary.

This year, Anne wants things to be different, and she’s going to do things her way.

On the eve of the Faire, Anne (along with a reluctant Mary) conjures up a spell that will  make their 16th birthday party a whirlwind event.Little do they know that it’s a literal request.

After the mini tornado in their room subsides, the girls realize they’ve invoked the power of the Gemini Twins, Castor and Pollux. That’s the good news. The bad news is they also caught the attention of a sorceress named Zeena who has been collecting children born under each Zodiac Sign to enhance her power. Once she captures Anne and Mary, Gemini twins, the entire Zodiac—and the world—will be hers.

Anne leads the fight against Zeena, but her one-sided decisions could throw them into a world so far from home, even the Renaissance Faire would seem like a brilliant vacation. Between managing their new Zodiac powers, dodging their manic mother and trying to stop Zeena, they’ll get a 16th birthday they’ll never forget.”

This book is incredibly fun and fairly creepy for something that’s not meant to be horror.

I think the biggest strength of this novel is the way that Laura Diamond writes sympathetic characters.  Even though Anne makes the worst possible decision every single time, I still liked her and wanted her to be able to defeat Zeena.

Also, I absolutely loved Mary (Anne’s twin).  I think she’s an incredibly good balance for Anne (and vice versa) and the two together are just almost impossible to beat.

This is just a delightful novel.  Recommended.

Girl Defective

Finished Girl Defective by Simmone Howell.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

We, the Martin family, were like inverse superheroes, marked by our defects. Dad was addicted to beer and bootlegs. Gully had “social difficulties” that manifested in his wearing a pig snout mask 24-7. I was surface clean but underneath a weird hormonal stew was simmering…

It’s summer in St Kilda. Fifteen-year-old Sky is looking forward to great records and nefarious activities with Nancy, her older, wilder friend. Her brother – Super Agent Gully – is on a mission to unmask the degenerate who bricked the shop window. Bill the Patriarch seems content to drink while the shop slides into bankruptcy. A poster of a mysterious girl and her connection to Luke, the tragi-hot new employee sends Sky on an exploration into the dark heart of the suburb. Love is strange. Family Rules. In between there are teenage messes, rock star spawn, violent fangirls, creepy old guys and accidents waiting to happen. If the world truly is going to hell in a hand-basket then at least the soundtrack is kicking. Sky Martin is Girl Defective: funny, real and dark at the edges.”

I wanted to read this because I absolutely loved her book Everything Beautiful.  This book is almost completely different but I enjoyed it too.  (I feel like it’s a testament to Simmone Howell that she’s written two books that are almost exact opposites in terms of tone but that both are amazing, fun books.  I think Lionel Shriver is the only other author I can think of who almost completely reinvents herself with every book.)

In its synopsis, this book is compared to High Fidelity and Empire Records but it reminded me more of Blake Nelson’s book Girl.  It had that same kind of feel in terms of a girl sort of coming of age by way of more experienced friends.

I liked Sky but I loved her brother, Gully.  I can imagine that I’d feel differently if he were my brother, but he was a complete delight to read.  (Gully is a detective.)

This book is an absolute delight.  Recommended.

Poisoned Apples

Finished Poisoned Apples by Christine Heppermann.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Every little girl goes through her princess phase, whether she wants to be Snow White or Cinderella, Belle or Ariel. But then we grow up. And life is not a fairy tale.

Christine Heppermann’s collection of fifty poems puts the ideals of fairy tales right beside the life of the modern teenage girl. With piercing truths reminiscent of Laurie Halse Anderson and Ellen Hopkins, this is a powerful and provocative book for every young woman. E. Lockhart, author of We Were Liars, calls it “a bloody poetic attack on the beauty myth that’s caustic, funny, and heartbreaking.”

Cruelties come not just from wicked stepmothers, but also from ourselves. There are expectations, pressures, judgment, and criticism. Self-doubt and self-confidence. But there are also friends, and sisters, and a whole hell of a lot of power there for the taking. In fifty poems, Christine Heppermann confronts society head on. Using fairy tale characters and tropes, Poisoned Apples explores how girls are taught to think about themselves, their bodies, and their friends. The poems range from contemporary retellings to first-person accounts set within the original tales, and from deadly funny to deadly serious. Complemented throughout with black-and-white photographs from up-and-coming artists, this is a stunning and sophisticated book to be treasured, shared, and paged through again and again.”

This is an incredibly unique book.  It’s a series of poems all connected to fairy tales (some loosely; some incredibly obviously).  There are also photographs interspersed among the poems.

I can see how it could be off-putting (both the poems and photographs can be creepy or unsettling) but it also deals with things that should be discussed more (eating disorders, for example).

We’re all conditioned to want a fairy tale, but most of the time, we never really think about what that means.  We never think about how, for example, Ariel lost her family and all her friends to gain Prince Eric.

This book will make you think.  Recommended.

Little Mercies

Finished Little Mercies by Heather Gudenkauf.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Veteran social worker Ellen Moore has seen the worst side of humanity; the vilest acts one person can commit against another. She is a fiercely dedicated children’s advocate and a devoted mother and wife. But one blistering summer day, a simple moment of distraction will have repercussions that Ellen could never have imagined, threatening to shatter everything she holds dear, and trapping her between the gears of the system she works for.

Meanwhile, ten-year-old Jenny Briard has been living with her well-meaning but irresponsible father since her mother left them, sleeping on friends’ couches and moving in and out of cheap motels. When Jenny suddenly finds herself on her own, she is forced to survive with nothing but a few dollars and her street smarts. The last thing she wants is a social worker, but when Ellen’s and Jenny’s lives collide, little do they know just how much they can help one another.

A powerful and emotionally charged tale about motherhood and justice, Little Mercies is a searing portrait of the tenuous grasp we have on the things we love the most, and of the ties that unexpectedly bring us together.”

This is the third of Heather Gudenkauf’s books I’ve read and, while I’ve loved them all, this is my new favorite.

It continues her tendency to explore issues that are seemingly ripped from the headlines and to force the reader to examine them in a new way.

I know it’s a typical thing to blame the mom whenever something goes wrong in the family—and I’m being intentionally vague, because I don’t want to spoil anything for people who haven’t read this book—but it’s not always a fair thing to do.  Many times blame can be shared, or isn’t appropriate because it really is just a freak accident.

I loved both Ellen and Jenny’s stories and while I was definitely more interested in Ellen’s (who was facing legal problems, among other things), I was invested in both.

I still haven’t read her first book, but I hope to fix that soon.

I absolutely loved this thought-provoking book and I hope you guys read it soon so we can discuss.

Highly recommended.

Famous Last Words

Finished Famous Last Words by Katie Alender.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Hollywood history, mystery, murder, mayhem, and delicious romance collide in this unputdownable thriller from master storyteller Katie Alender.

Willa is freaking out. It seems like she’s seeing things. Like a dead body in her swimming pool. Frantic messages on her walls. A reflection that is not her own. It’s almost as if someone — or something — is trying to send her a message.

Meanwhile, a killer is stalking Los Angeles — a killer who reenacts famous movie murder scenes. Could Willa’s strange visions have to do with these unsolved murders? Or is she going crazy? And who can she confide in? There’s Marnie, her new friend who may not be totally trustworthy. And there’s Reed, who’s ridiculously handsome and seems to get Willa. There’s also Wyatt, who’s super smart but unhealthily obsessed with the Hollywood Killer.

All Willa knows is, she has to confront the possible-ghost in her house, or she just might lose her mind . . . or her life.

Acclaimed author Katie Alender puts an unforgettable twist on this spine-chilling tale of murder, mystery, mayhem — and the movies.”

I absolutely loved the concept for this: a serial killer who staged scenes from famous movies!  How awesome is that?! (Note: obviously not awesome if this really happened, but since it’s in a book, it’s fine.)

I really liked Willa, who is doing very well considering all the weird things that are happening to her and around her.  (She’s getting these creepy visions that seem to be connected to the murders.  And she doesn’t really tell people, because that’s the best way to get put away someplace, right?)

The book is unsettling throughout but the last 50 pages are almost unbearably tense.

Recommended.

Falling Into Place

Finished Falling Into Place by Amy Zhang.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

On the day Liz Emerson tries to die, they had reviewed Newton’s laws of motion in physics class. Then, after school, she put them into practice by running her Mercedes off the road.

Why? Why did Liz Emerson decide that the world would be better off without her? Why did she give up? Vividly told by an unexpected and surprising narrator, this heartbreaking and nonlinear novel pieces together the short and devastating life of Meridian High’s most popular junior girl. Mass, acceleration, momentum, force—Liz didn’t understand it in physics, and even as her Mercedes hurtles toward the tree, she doesn’t understand it now. How do we impact one another? How do our actions reverberate? What does it mean to be a friend? To love someone? To be a daughter? Or a mother? Is life truly more than cause and effect? Amy Zhang’s haunting and universal story will appeal to fans of Lauren Oliver, Gayle Forman, and Jay Asher.”

This book absolutely blew me away.  It’s an incredible achievement of a debut novel but even more of one when you consider the fact that Amy Zhang is in high school.

I point that out because if her debut novel is this good, I cannot wait to see what her future offerings are like.

At first, it seemed like this would be very similar to Lauren Oliver’s Before I Fall, but this book is its own thing.  It was sometimes hard for me to like Liz, but it was easy to see how she had gone from being the sweet girl that everyone likes to someone who’s only a shade nicer than Heather Chandler.  (Maybe a half-shade.)

The comparisons to Gayle Forman, Jay Asher and Lauren Oliver are incredibly apt.  This is an author to watch.

Highly recommended.

Anatomy of a Misfit

Finished Anatomy of a Misfit by Andrea Portes.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

This emotional, hilarious, devastating, and ultimately triumphant YA debut, based on actual events, recounts one girl’s rejection of her high school’s hierarchy—and her discovery of her true self in the face of tragedy.

Fall’s buzzed-about, in-house favorite.

Outside, Anika Dragomir is all lip gloss and blond hair—the third most popular girl in school. Inside, she’s a freak: a mix of dark thoughts, diabolical plots, and, if local chatter is to be believed, vampire DNA (after all, her father is Romanian). But she keeps it under wraps to maintain her social position. One step out of line and Becky Vilhauer, first most popular girl in school, will make her life hell. So when former loner Logan McDonough shows up one September hotter, smarter, and more mysterious than ever, Anika knows she can’t get involved. It would be insane to throw away her social safety for a nerd. So what if that nerd is now a black-leather-jacket-wearing dreamboat, and his loner status is clearly the result of his troubled home life? Who cares if the right girl could help him with all that, maybe even save him from it? Who needs him when Jared Kline, the bad boy every girl dreams of, is asking her on dates? Who?

Anatomy of a Misfit is Mean Girls meets The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and Anika’s hilariously deadpan delivery will appeal to readers for its honesty and depth. The so-sad-it’s-funny high school setting will pull readers in, but when the story’s dark foreboding gradually takes over, the devastating penultimate tragedy hits like a punch to the gut. Readers will ride the highs and lows alongside funny, flawed Anika — from laughter to tears, and everything in between.”

The first thing you should probably know about this is that it’s based on a true story.  For more on that (although there are spoilers for the end of this novel), click here.

It seems pretty obvious that this is a very personal book for Andrea because it’s semi-autobiographical.  Unfortunately, I felt like the only person I got to know in the story is her stand-in, Anika.  We’re in her head, so I feel like I got to understand her pretty well, but I never really understood who Logan was or who Jared was, or why she’d be interested in either of them.  (Well, I understood that Logan was social suicide and that Jared was the Most Acceptable Boy at her school.  I got that far, but I didn’t get the reasons why she’d risk the potential ostracism if she kept seeing Logan.

I have many thoughts about the ending of this novel, none of which I can share with you because spoilers.

So I guess I’ll just say this: this is a funny, sweet, sad novel.  The ending affected me but not as much as it could have.

Andrea Portes is undeniably a talented writer and I look forward to reading another book of hers.

Recommended.

 

Tell Me

Finished Tell Me by Joan Bauer.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

The unofficial town motto is “Nothing bad ever happens in Rosemont” where  twelve-year-old Anna has come to stay with her grandmother, Mim, hoping to forget her worries about her parents’ troubled marriage.  She’ll be busy with the town’s annual Flower Festival, a celebration with floats and bands that requires weeks of preparations.

But before long, Anna finds herself involved in a very big problem. When she observes a girl her own age who seems to be being held against her will, Anna can’t forget the girl’s frightened eyes and she is determined to investigate. “When you see something, say something” she’s been told—but what good does it do to speak if no one will listen? Luckily, a take-charge girl like Anna is not going to give up.

Told with Joan Bauer’s trademark mixture of humor and heart, Tell Me will enthrall her many fans and win her new ones.”

Fun fact: this was one of the first books I got at ALA.  I was running around and was in the Penguin booth when I saw my friend Hannah, who was in line for this.  I was all, “What’s the book?” and Hannah demanded that I also get in line.  Moral of the story: listen to Hannah.

As an FYI, this is middlegrade.  I point that out to say this: while this book deals with human trafficking, it’s a really good introduction to it in terms of explaining what it is without scarring young readers for life.

I love the message of this book, which is that anyone can do something to make the world a better place.  Anna is a girl who pays attention and so she notices something that maybe not many people would. And even more importantly, she gets involved.  She doesn’t just shrug and say “Not my business” and go on about her day.  When the police don’t pay enough attention, she keeps going until she finds someone who will listen and help.

(Yes, I love Anna.  We need more Annas.)

Recommended.

Survival Colony 9

Finished Survival Colony 9 by Joshua David Bellin.  I received a copy for review.

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Summary (from Goodreads):

“In a futuristic landscape ravaged by war, a colony’s hopes for survival hinge on one teenage boy in this fast-paced, action-packed story.

Querry Genn is in trouble. He can’t remember anything before the last six months. And Querry needs to remember. Otherwise he is dead weight to the other members of Survival Colony 9, one of the groups formed after a brutal war ravaged the earth. And now the Skaldi have come to scavenge what is left of humanity. No one knows what the Skaldi are, or why they are here, just that they impersonate humans, taking their form before shedding the corpse like a skin.

Desperate to prove himself after the accident that stole his memory, Querry is both protected and tormented by the colony’s authoritarian commander, his father. The only person he can talk to is the beautiful Korah, but even with her, he can’t shake the feeling that something is desperately wrong. Whatever is going on, Querry is at the center of it, for a secret in his past not only makes him a target of the Skald’s wrath, but the key to the colony’s future.”

This book was ridiculously fun to read.  I’m not sure what that says about me, because it’s actually both bleak (dystopian is an understatement) and scary (the Skaldi are terrifying), but I had the best time with this book.

Because Querry has memory issues, we are able to learn about this world a little at a time in a way that feels organic and not annoying (no huge information dumps here).  Even with his problems—and the scorn of not a few of his fellow colony members—he’s a hero we can root for.  Even so, he’s not perfect.  He’s pretty easily fooled (being a near-lifelong horror movie fan, I think I’d deal with the Skaldi pretty well), which could be a major problem later on.

And yeah, can we discuss the Skaldi really fast? They’re sort of like cannibalistic pod people and it’s apparently nearly impossible to know if someone’s a Skaldi before they let you know.  And of course they let you know about two seconds before they kill you and then become you.

Apparently there will be a sequel, which is excellent news.  Highly recommended.