Category Archives: Books I Received From The Publisher

An Italian Wife

Finished An Italian Wife by Ann Hood.  I received a copy for review from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

From the best-selling author of The Obituary Writer, the stirring multigenerational story of an Italian-American family.

An Italian Wife is the extraordinary story of Josephine Rimaldi—her joys, sorrows, and passions, spanning more than seven decades. The novel begins in turn-of-the-century Italy, when fourteen-year-old Josephine, sheltered and naive, is forced into an arranged marriage to a man she doesn’t know or love who is about to depart for America, where she later joins him. Bound by tradition, Josephine gives birth to seven children. The last, Valentina, is conceived in passion, born in secret, and given up for adoption.

Josephine spends the rest of her life searching for her lost child, keeping her secret even as her other children go off to war, get married, and make their own mistakes. Her son suffers in World War I. One daughter struggles to assimilate in the new world of the 1950s American suburbs, while another, stranded in England, grieves for a lover lost in World War II. Her granddaughters experiment with the sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll in the 1970s. Poignant, sensual, and deeply felt, An Italian Wife is a sweeping and evocative portrait of a family bound by love and heartbreak.”

I’m a huge Ann Hood fan and have been since I read The Knitting Circle.  All of her books are far deeper than they appear to be at first glance and this one is no exception.

While the synopsis implies that the whole book is from Josephine’s perspective, each chapter tells a different character’s story.  While I missed Josephine at first, I ended up liking all of the characters and the pieces they told of the family’s history.

It’s fascinating to see how the world changes and to have it told from one family’s perspective (and one person at a time).  The things that would be pretty much literally unheard of in Josephine’s chapter because not only no big deal but actually commonplace in her granddaughter’s chapter.

I loved this story and can’t wait to read whatever Ann Hood does next.

Highly recommended.

Atlantia

Finished Atlantia by Ally Condie.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from publisher):

Can you hear Atlantia breathing?

For as long as she can remember, Rio has dreamt of the sand and sky Above—of life beyond her underwater city of Atlantia. But in a single moment, all her plans for the future are thwarted when her twin sister, Bay, makes an unexpected decision, stranding Rio Below. Alone, ripped away from the last person who knew Rio’s true self—and the powerful siren voice she has long hidden—she has nothing left to lose.

Guided by a dangerous and unlikely mentor, Rio formulates a plan that leads to increasingly treacherous questions about her mother’s death, her own destiny, and the complex system constructed to govern the divide between land and sea. Her life and her city depend on Rio to listen to the voices of the past and to speak long-hidden truths.”

I’ve read Ally Condie’s Matched trilogy (and really enjoyed it) and while this is completely different, it’s still incredibly good.

I wasn’t sure if this is supposed to be our world (think Planet of the Apes) or if it’s completely different.  I’m still not sure (although I don’t think so) but I just went with it.

I loved the idea of people living underwater (and I love the fact that the community is called Atlantia) and that some of them have evolved into sirens.  This is an excellent world Ally Condie built.

And oh, I loved Rio.  She’s smart and determined to get what she wants, and she never gives up.  And I loved Bay, although we didn’t spend that much time with her.

I enjoyed this book tremendously.

I’m not sure if this is a standalone or the start of a series.  I hope it’s the start of a series because I miss Ally Condie’s books.

Recommended.

Leaving Time

Finished Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult.  I received a copy from the publisher at BEA.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Throughout her blockbuster career, #1 New York Times bestselling author Jodi Picoult has seamlessly blended nuanced characters, riveting plots, and rich prose, brilliantly creating stories that “not only provoke the mind but touch the flawed souls in all of us” (The Boston Globe). Now, in her highly anticipated new book, she has delivered her most affecting novel yet—and one unlike anything she’s written before.

For more than a decade, Jenna Metcalf has never stopped thinking about her mother, Alice, who mysteriously disappeared in the wake of a tragic accident. Refusing to believe that she would be abandoned as a young child, Jenna searches for her mother regularly online and pores over the pages of Alice’s old journals. A scientist who studied grief among elephants, Alice wrote mostly of her research among the animals she loved, yet Jenna hopes the entries will provide a clue to her mother’s whereabouts.

Desperate to find the truth, Jenna enlists two unlikely allies in her quest. The first is Serenity Jones, a psychic who rose to fame finding missing persons—only to later doubt her gifts. The second is Virgil Stanhope, a jaded private detective who originally investigated Alice’s case along with the strange, possibly linked death of one of her colleagues. As the three work together to uncover what happened to Alice, they realize that in asking hard questions, they’ll have to face even harder answers.

As Jenna’s memories dovetail with the events in her mother’s journals, the story races to a mesmerizing finish. A deeply moving, gripping, and intelligent page-turner, Leaving Time is Jodi Picoult at the height of her powers.”

I was talking to a coworker about this book and I said that I think it reminds me most of Jodi Picoult’s book Lone Wolf.  It’s different from most of her other books (although I still haven’t read The Storyteller, which I’m guessing is also different) and it deals as much with animals as  it does people.

I absolutely adored this book and its central mystery.  I felt for Jenna, who has no idea what happened to her mom, and whether she’s alive or dead.  (And really, which of those is the better scenario? If Alice is alive, then she chose to leave Jenna…but at least they could have a relationship, possibly, if Jenna could find her.  If she’s dead, then at least she loved Jenna and would’ve stayed if she could.)

Jodi Picoult’s biggest strength is writing characters.  I immediately knew who these people were, and so seeing things happen to them was upsetting.  (Yes, I treat fictional characters like they’re real. Shut up.)

Highly recommended.

Famous in Love

Finished Famous in Love by Rebecca Serle.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

The romantic story of a girl who gets plucked from obscurity to star in the next major feature film franchise based on a book and the ensuing love triangles she gets entangled in on—-and off screen.

Meet Paige Townsen, Rainer Devon, and Jordan Wilder…

When Paige Townsen, a young unknown, gets cast in the movie adaptation of a blockbuster book series, her life changes practically overnight. Within a month, Paige has traded the quiet streets of her hometown for a crowded movie set on the shores of Maui, and is spending quality time with her co-star Rainer Devon, one of People’s Sexiest Men Alive. But when troubled star Jordan Wilder lands the role of the other point in the movie’s famous love triangle, Paige’s crazy new life gets even crazier.

In this coming-of-age romance inspired by the kind of celeb hookups that get clever nicknames and a million page views, Paige must figure out who she is – and who she wants – while the whole world watches.”

I absolutely loved this book.  It’s incredibly fun but it’s also got a lot going on under the surface.

I think most people have had little daydreams about becoming famous and this book addresses that somewhat—the idea that, while it seems incredibly fun at first glance, there are a lot of other things to consider.  You’ll earn a lot of money, of course, but you’ll also have to give a lot of things up: privacy, obviously, but also a lot of your relationships will change.  It will be hard to relate to your friends who have minimum wage retail jobs when you can match their weekly salary in probably, what, half an hour of work? This was touched on in this book, but I think it will come into play in the next two books, as well.  (YES, this will be a trilogy and that makes me ridiculously happy.)

I feel like this contemp is breaking all the contemp rules (trilogy, not standalone; love triangle where both boys are actually good people, not the obvious choice and the distraction) and I love it.

And yes, while we’re here, let’s talk about the boys.  I love Rainer and Jordan but my choice is clear: I am SO Team Rainer.  And again, it’s not that Jordan is a bad choice.  He isn’t.  I just feel like we got to know Rainer more in this book and I like him as a person and as the “leading guy” for Paige.

Bottom line, this book is an absolute delight and I can’t wait for everyone to read it and talk about it.

Highly recommended.

The Monogram Murders

Finished The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah (writing as Agatha Christie).  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

The bestselling novelist of all time.

The world’s most famous detective.

The literary event of the year—an all-new mystery featuring
Agatha Christie’s legendary hero Hercule Poirot.

Since the publication of her first novel in 1920, more than two billion copies of Agatha Christie’s books have been sold around the globe. Now, for the first time ever, the guardians of her legacy have approved a brand new novel featuring Dame Agatha’s most beloved creation, Hercule Poirot.

‘I’m a dead woman, or I shall be soon…’

Hercule Poirot’s quiet supper in a London coffeehouse is interrupted when a young woman confides to him that she is about to be murdered.  She is terrified – but begs Poirot not to find and punish her killer. Once she is dead, she insists, justice will have been done.

Later that night, Poirot learns that three guests at a fashionable London Hotel have been murdered, and a cufflink has been placed in each one’s mouth. Could there be a connection with the frightened woman? While Poirot struggles to put together the bizarre pieces of the puzzle, the murderer prepares another hotel bedroom for a fourth victim …”

I absolutely loved the concept (as well as getting to read—sort of—a new Agatha Christie novel).  This is an incredibly interesting plot.  I definitely want to read more of Sophie Hannah’s books because this one was very fun.

But it didn’t quite read like Agatha Christie (or at least the ones I’ve read).  This isn’t a bad thing; the changes were all good ones.  (Poirot has acquired a Watson of sorts, and most of the book is told from his first person perspective.)  Most of the other aspects of the novel were the same (including the fact that I am apparently never going to be able to guess the killer or reasoning in a Christie [or "Christie"] novel).

My intellectual shortcomings notwithstanding, I think there’s a lot to love here.  Recommended.

 

The Silent Murders

Finished The Silent Murders by Mary Miley.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Vaudeville actress Leah Randall took on her most daring role ever when she impersonated missing heiress Jessie Carr in order to claim Jessie’s inheritance in The Impersonator. Now that the dust has settled around that tumultuous time in her life, Leah has adopted Jessie’s name as her own and moved to Hollywood, where she’s taken a modest but steady job in the silent film industry.

Jessie’s thrilled when Bruno Heilmann, a movie studio bigwig, invites her to a party. She’s even more delighted to run into a face from her past at that party. But the following day, Jessie learns that sometime in the wee hours of the morning both her old friend and Bruno Heilmann were brutally murdered. She’s devastated, but with her skill as an actress, access to the wardrobes and resources of a film studio, and a face not yet famous enough to be recognized, Jessie is uniquely positioned to dig into the circumstances surrounding these deaths. But will doing so put her own life directly in the path of a murderer?

With Silent Murders, MB/MWA First Crime Novel Competition winner Mary Miley has crafted another terrifically fun mystery, this time set in the dizzying, dazzling heart of jazz-age Hollywood.”

Like the first book in the series (The Impersonator), this book is full of little winks at classic Hollywood history.  (Jessie’s really good friends with the person who becomes Myrna Loy, who is friends with the guy who becomes Gary Cooper—fun fact: many people change their names in Hollywood!)

Also like in The Impersonator, Jessie is a fun, easy-to-root-for heroine.  While I preferred the first one, this was very entertaining.

It centered around  a slew of murders that are seemingly centered around guests and workers at a big Hollywood party.  Not surprisingly, Jessie finds herself right in the middle of it and realizes that she is taking certain clues far more seriously than the police are.

This series is incredibly fun and I’m excited to see where they go next.

Naliyah

Finished Naliyah by Shauna E. Kelley.  I received a copy for review.

Summary (from author’s blog):

Naliyah is Lenora’s story.

Lenora is different, and though her tight-lipped father Gabriel refuses to tell her much about what she is, she knows that she is not a vampire… not exactly. She can eat human food, survive the daylight, and is not quite immortal. Nonetheless, she and her father carry an ancient disease and need human blood to survive. They travel the world to battles and scenes of all manner of depravity feeding on the dying. They bring mercy and release to men in their final moments.

From 19th century Baltimore, across the Boxer Rebellion in China, and into the jungles of Vietnam, Lenora follows her father from each scene of brutality to the next, comforted only by her recurring dreams of a blue-eyed man.

Lenora’s life, surrounded by carnage and atrocity, weighs on her and she begins to question how long she can go on… until the blue-eyed man from her dreams becomes reality.”

I signed on to be a beta reader for this because the author is friends with my college friend Matt.  That’s the extent of me knowing Shauna, so me liking this book is not because we are friends once removed (although now we are getting to be actual friends).

And you guys, I absolutely adored this book.  I will admit that I absolutely love books set in Baltimore (and this one is, at least partially) and I loved learning exactly what was going on with Lenora.  There are definite parallels to Cassandra Clare in that the world-building in this is absolutely unparalleled.  (And I think that regardless of your feelings about Cassie Clare, you have to give her props for creating amazing worlds.)

I was immediately enthralled in this story and I loved Lenora and was desperate to know what was happening.  The answers come at their own pace but it never feels dragged out.

I’m delighted to know that this is part of a series and cannot wait for the second book.  I hope it comes out soon.

Highly recommended.

Queen of Someday

Finished Queen of Someday by Sherry Ficklin.  I received a copy from the author for review.

QoS Cover

TOUR PIC

Summary (from Goodreads):

ONE GIRL WILL BRING AN EMPIRE TO ITS KNEES…

Before she can become the greatest empress in history, fifteen-year-old Sophie will have to survive her social-climbing mother’s quest to put her on the throne of Russia—at any cost.

Imperial Court holds dangers like nothing Sophie has ever faced before. In the heart of St. Petersburg, surviving means navigating the political, romantic, and religious demands of the bitter Empress Elizabeth and her handsome, but sadistic nephew, Peter. Determined to save her impoverished family—and herself—Sophie vows to do whatever is necessary to thrive in her new surroundings. But an attempt on her life and an unexpected attraction threatens to derail her plans.

Alone in a new and dangerous world, learning who to trust and who to charm may mean the difference between becoming queen and being sent home in shame to marry her lecherous uncle. With traitors and murderers lurking around every corner, her very life hangs in the balance. Betrothed to one man but falling in love with another, Sophie will need to decide how much she’s willing to sacrifice in order to become the empress she is destined to be.

In a battle for the soul of a nation, will love or destiny reign supreme?”

This book is just completely fun.  It’s been compared to the CW show Reign, and I can absolutely see that comparison.  Unlike Reign, though, it held my attention for the entire thing (I watched, I think, two episodes of Reign.  Maybe three.)

I loved Sophie, who is completely pragmatic.  She’s there to marry Peter.  If she does, her family will be safe and she will be comfortable for the rest of her life.  She doesn’t love him and she knows he doesn’t love her, but she knows that love has nothing to do with it.  She has a responsibility to her family and to her own future and she’s going to fulfill it.

Except then she meets Alexander and all of a sudden, things aren’t so clear-cut anymore.  And, not surprisingly, there is also a great deal of court intrigue (not surprising to anyone who’s read Katherine Longshore or Philippa Gregory).

This book is a complete delight and I cannot wait for the sequel.  I can’t wait to see what happens with Sophie and how she lives with the choices she made in this book.

Recommended.

Alice and Freda Forever

Finished Alice and Freda Forever by Alexis Coe.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

In 1892, America was obsessed with a teenage murderess, but it wasn’t her crime that shocked the nation—it was her motivation. Nineteen-year-old Alice Mitchell had planned to pass as a man in order to marry her seventeen-year-old fiancée Freda Ward, but when their love letters were discovered, they were forbidden from ever speaking again.

Freda adjusted to this fate with an ease that stunned a heartbroken Alice. Her desperation grew with each unanswered letter—and her father’s razor soon went missing. On January 25, Alice publicly slashed her ex-fiancée’s throat. Her same-sex love was deemed insane by her father that very night, and medical experts agreed: This was a dangerous and incurable perversion. As the courtroom was expanded to accommodate national interest, Alice spent months in jail—including the night that three of her fellow prisoners were lynched (an event which captured the attention of journalist and civil rights activist Ida B. Wells). After a jury of “the finest men in Memphis” declared Alice insane, she was remanded to an asylum, where she died under mysterious circumstances just a few years later.

Alice + Freda Forever recounts this tragic, real-life love story with over 100 illustrated love letters, maps, artifacts, historical documents, newspaper articles, courtroom proceedings, and intimate, domestic scenes—painting a vivid picture of a sadly familiar world.”

This book is absolutely heartbreaking.  It’s based on a true story, but one that I had never heard.

In the late 1800s, two women were in love.  Or at least one of them was.  And they were engaged to be married.  Except it was the late 1800s and they were two women.  So things didn’t go well when their families found out and they stopped talking, as their families demanded.  And then one of them ended up dead by the other one’s hand.

There are about a billion different ways this all could have been prevented, not the least of which is by one person (really, almost anyone who knew them) being aware of just how deep their friendship was and how unhinged Alice was at being denied access to Freda and stepping in to keep them separated.

While Alice’s story breaks my heart, she is not the hero of this story.  This story doesn’t have a hero but it has a ton of victims.

This book is so compelling and, while it’s incredibly short, it made me feel like I knew Alice and Freda.  A lot of research was obviously done, and it helps that things were included (love letters, court documents, etc).

This is an amazing book.  Highly recommended.

Ben Fox: Zombie Squirrel Specialist At Your Service

Finished Ben Fox: Zombie Squirrel Specialist At Your Service by Daisy Whitney.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Ten-year-old Ben Fox has good friends, a great dog, and a lightning-fast little sister who drives him a bit batty. The only thing in the fifth grader’s life that’s truly annoying–well, besides having to wear braces on his feet every day–is the family’s wily Siamese cat, Percy.

Ben has always suspected something was off about Percy, who has never shown him or his beloved dog, Captain Sparkles, much affection. But now he’s sure something is off–Percy has raised an army of squirrel zombies in the backyard and they’re ready to take on the dog.

It’ll be up to Ben to figure out how to stop the dastardly cat before the dog falls prey to the feline’s nefarious plans, especially since Percy and his newly reanimated squirrel friends are gunning for nothing less than a full-scale Animal Zombie Apocalypse–when all the dogs start to behave like cats.

If only Ben could enlist his mom’s help in the undead animal war. But his mom is petrified of things that go bump in the night, so Ben’s only hope is to team up with his little sister. The battle won’t be easy though, because squirrel zombies are the most dangerous of all…”

This book is adorable and absolutely perfect for middlegrade audiences (especially so close to Halloween)!

It’s no secret that I’m a huge Daisy Whitney fan, and this book didn’t disappoint.  I love the idea (and I have to admit that I find doggy doors a little suspect so this definitely played into my paranoia there).  This is her first middlegrade, and I hope there will be more.

One of the things I love most about her books is that the pets have really fun names and that’s true in this one: the dog’s name is Captain Sparkles.

I liked Ben and his sister Macy (and their mom, whose “punishments” are that Ben has to play nicely with Macy, who’s his little sister).  And how awesome is the fact that the cat (Percy) can literally summon up zombie squirrels?  (And that this is apparently a thing that animals can do, although it’s mostly kept very secret.)

Highly recommended.