Category Archives: Books I Received From The Publisher

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.

The Book Of Kindly Deaths (An Interview)

As you know, I recently read (and loved) The Book of Kindly Deaths by Eldritch Black.

As a disclaimer, I work for this publishing company, although I had no connection to this book.

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WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF THE MONSTERS IN A BOOK BECAME REAL?

When twelve-year old Eliza Winter finds a secret room in her missing grandfather’s sprawling, Gothic house, her safe, sheltered life is blown apart. Inside, below a stained glass window where moonlight shines no matter the time of day, sits The Book of Kindly Deaths.

In defiance of her controlling mother, who has always forbidden her to read anything strange or imaginary, Eliza takes the book. As night sets in, Eliza reads one haunting story after another. And the further she journeys inside the book, the more the boundaries between our world and a shadowy land of monsters and forbidden places begin to blur.

When the strange, crooked man from the book arrives on the doorstep claiming to be a rare book collector and demanding entry into the house, Eliza’s world is turned upside down. To escape him she must dive all the way into the spine-tingling world of The Book of Kindly Deaths to save her grandfather-and write an end to the nightmare she’s caught inside.

GoodReads † Amazon † B&N

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Click here for the chance to win a copy of the book and a necklace.

AND NOW THE INTERVIEW:
1) What was the inspiration for this novel?
I’ve wondered where monsters go when they’re not lurking under beds, ever since childhood. Or where they slither off to after the sun comes up.
This thought was going round and round in my mind whilst sitting on a train when I lived in England. As the train shunted through a tunnel, I noticed an old door in the murk. This inspired a short story that ended up becoming a part of The Book of Kindly Deaths. I also wanted to write a book that incorporated short stories that were all interlinked, in order to build a whole world out of them.
2) Which book would you most like to become real? And least?
I’d love “Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell” to become real, to be transported into the faerie realms. As terrifying and as strange as they are.
The book I’d least like to become real is probably “The Stand” by Stephen King, or perhaps for the hotel in The Shining to open up for business. That would definitely be a place I’d avoid.
3) What are you reading now?
I’m working my way through the series “A Song of Fire and Ice” at a fittingly glacial pace. In-between I’m reading short stories and a lot of non-fiction, including books on writing craft and a fascinating book about England’s myths and legends.
4) if you could make one book mandatory, which would it be and why?
Would it be wrong to say The Book of Kindly Deaths? I imagine it would, so how about Alice’s adventures in Wonderland. Because despite being well over a hundred years old, it still holds plenty of magic, imagination and scares.
5) What are your five favorite books? You can do authors, if that’s easier.
It would be hard to choose only five books, so I’ll go with authors, which is a little bit easier. My top five authors are below, but this could change on an almost weekly basis. So for now, in no particular order:
1. Susanna Clarke
2. Lewis Caroll
3. Roald Dahl
4. Neil Gaiman
5. The Brothers Grimm
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Eldritch Black was born in London, England and now lives in the middle of a forest on a small island in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. Eldritch writes books for children, young adults, and adults with childlike hearts.

When he isn’t writing, Eldritch likes to collect shadows and discarded dreams.

AND FINALLY, AN EXCERPT:

On a desk in the room with the stained glass window sat a book.

It was a thick volume with a worn and cracked black cover showing a gold symbol, a rectangle within two circles that sparkled and flickered as if teased by ghostly fingers. Voices whispered from inside the book, growing in volume, a few human, a few not. As their distant howls and cries grew, the book rocked with such force that it flew into the air and hovered.

When it thumped back onto the desk, the thick fountain pen next to it leapt into the air like a small brass salmon. As it clattered down upon the desk, a spark shot from the pen’s nib, playing over the book and sending its pages flying open.

One by one, the pages flipped, faster and faster, an animated blur of neat blue writing seeming to jump with the book as its dusty pages turned.

Beyond the room with the book and the stained glass window, the room that had no business being there, the dark, sprawling house was silent.

Like a cat, tensed and still and waiting for its prey to make a move.

Belzhar

Finished Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

If life were fair, Jam Gallahue would still be  at home in New Jersey with her sweet British  boyfriend, Reeve Maxfield. She’d be watching  old comedy sketches with him. She’d be kissing  him in the library stacks.

She certainly wouldn’t be at The Wooden Barn, a therapeutic boarding school in rural Vermont, living with a weird roommate, and signed up for an exclusive, mysterious class called Special Topics in English.

But life isn’t fair, and Reeve Maxfield is dead.

Until a journal-writing assignment leads Jam to Belzhar, where the untainted past is restored, and Jam can feel Reeve’s arms around her once again. But there are hidden truths on Jam’s path to reclaim her loss.

From New York Times bestselling author Meg Wolitzer comes a breathtaking and surprising story about first love, deep sorrow, and the power of acceptance.”

Oh, you guys, this book.

Obviously it’s an homage to The Bell Jar, and there’s a lot of The Bell Jar  in here—but it also reminded me a bit of Bridge to Terabithia.  (Belzhar is similar to Terabithia, and not just because both are fun to say.)

And like Bridge to Terabithia, this book is completely unexpected and magical.

There’s also a small touch of Pet Sematary in it, in terms of what would you do if it meant that you could get back to your old life? (Note: there is nothing scary about Belzhar.)

I know the reviews for this book have been fairly lackluster, but I completely adored it.  I tend to be a magnet for books about grief (and these stories have grief written all over them because, even though not everyone in the Special Topics class have lost people, they’re grieving for the lives they had before the events that sent them to the special school) and I am so glad that I found this book.

I absolutely love this book.  Highly, highly recommended.

 

Mahalas Lane

Finished Mahalas Lane by Marianne Cushing. I received a copy from the author for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Exhausted and dismayed, Madi Lyons arrives on the rocky shores of Maine, hoping for a relaxing respite from Madison Avenue’s relentless grind. Twelve-hour days and the sudden news of her best friend’s engagement have the aspiring creative director’s head spinning. Shortly after settling in at the quaint rental cottage, she is awoken by the local sheriff with startling news: A woman has been murdered on her private beach. A violent encounter next door and an elusive stranger draw Madi deeper into Mahalas Lane’s mysterious past, while a magnetic attraction propels her into the sheriff ’s welcoming arms. Will she find the solace she seeks, or will a small town’s dark secrets cost her the ultimate sacrifice—the love of her life?

This book is incredibly fun and I had a hard time putting it down.  The first half of the book focused more on the burgeoning relationship between Madi and Josh; the second half is when the murder mystery comes into play.  (And I don’t think it’s a spoiler to point out that Josh—as the sheriff—and Madi are incredibly involved in that investigation.)

I did very much enjoy that relationship, incidentally.  It felt a bit like insta-love, but it was more like insta-attraction and there were mentions of several dates and conversations.  I do also think that intense situations tend to make things move faster than they otherwise would.  (Wasn’t there a mention of that at the end of Speed?)

Parts of the book felt a little bit rushed (mostly the last 50 pages or so, which makes sense for reasons I can’t really discuss, because spoilers, but I wish that the book were a bit longer than its 221 pages because I feel like those events could have been fleshed out a little).

Even so, this book was a complete delight to read and I am very excited to see what Marianne Cushing writes next.

Recommended.

Blind Spot For Boys

Finished Blind Spot For Boys by Justina Chen. I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Shana has always had a blind spot for boys. Can she trust the one who’s right in front of her?

Sixteen-year-old Shana Wilde is officially on a Boy Moratorium. After a devastating breakup, she decides it’s time to end the plague of Mr. Wrong, Wrong, and More Wrong.

Enter Quattro, the undeniably cute lacrosse player who slams into Shana one morning in Seattle. Sparks don’t just fly; they ignite. And so does Shana’s interest. Right as she’s about to rethink her ban on boys, she receives crushing news: Her dad is going blind. Quattro is quickly forgotten, and Shana and her parents vow to make the most of the time her father has left to see. So they travel to Machu Picchu, and as they begin their trek, they run into none other than Quattro himself. But even as the trip unites them, Quattro pulls away mysteriously… Love and loss, humor and heartbreak collide in this new novel from acclaimed author Justina Chen.”

I am a huge fan of Justina Chen and if you haven’t read her yet, you should.

This is not my favorite of hers, but even her worst book is still completely amazing and wonderful.

I love that this book focuses just as much—if not more—on Shana’s family and friends as it does on Quattro (hereafter referred to as The Boy).  I feel like a lot of times in YA, it tends to be about the romantic relationship and every other relationship is mentioned either barely or not at all.  Justina Chen doesn’t do that.

And I love that Justina Chen’s books feel like an adventure.  My favorite (North of Beautiful) deals with geocacheing and this one deals with hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu (which sounds amazing but frankly kind of awful, at least for someone who enjoys things like comfortable temperatures and indoor plumbing and comfortable places to sit and sleep).

Also, as an added bonus? REB IS BACK! Shana is her best friend. :)  That made my reading experience.

Highly recommended.