Category Archives: Books I Received From The Publisher

The Barter

Finished The Barter by Siobhan Adcock.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

A heart-stopping tale as provocative as is suspenseful, about two conflicted women, separated by one hundred years, and bound by an unthinkable sacrifice.

The Barter is a ghost story and a love story, a riveting emotional tale that also explores motherhood and work and feminism. Set in Texas, in present day, and at the turn of the twentieth century, the novel follows two young mothers at the turning point of their lives.

Bridget has given up her career as an attorney to raise her daughter, joining a cadre of stay-at-home mothers seeking fulfillment in a quiet suburb. But for Bridget, some crucial part of the exchange is absent: Something she loves and needs. And now a terrifying presence has entered her home; only nobody but Bridget can feel it.

On a farm in 1902, a young city bride takes a farmer husband. The marriage bed will become both crucible and anvil as Rebecca first allows, then negates, the powerful erotic connection between them. She turns her back on John to give all her love to their child. Much will occur in this cold house, none of it good.

As Siobhan Adcock crosscuts these stories with mounting tension, each woman arrives at a terrible ordeal of her own making, tinged with love and fear and dread. What will they sacrifice to save their families—and themselves? Readers will slow down to enjoy the gorgeous language, then speed up to see what happens next in a plot that thrums with the weight of decision—and its explosive consequences.”

This is a ghost story that isn’t at all scary.  (So basically it’s a ghost story for people who are pretty sure they don’t actually want to read a ghost story.)

It’s told from altering perspectives (Bridget in present day; Rebecca in the early 1900s) and each are women who are married with young children.  Bridget’s marriage is happy; Rebecca’s much less so.  The story deals with the sacrifices the women are (and are not) making for their families.

I think there’s a lot here to discuss and I would especially be interested in how people view Rebecca.  She’s not a very sympathetic character (at all) but I found myself liking her almost against my will.

I enjoyed this book but at the same time, it was very much a middle of the road read.  It’s not something I NEEDED to read, the kind of book where I had to keep going (instead of stopping to eat or sleep) but at the same time, I very much enjoyed the characters and my time with them. Does that make sense? I’m interested to see what Siobhan Adcock does next; I have a feeling she’s going to become a must-read author of mine but she’s not there yet.

The Secret Place

Finished The Secret Place by Tana French.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

The photo on the card shows a boy who was found murdered, a year ago, on the grounds of a girls’ boarding school in the leafy suburbs of Dublin. The caption says, I KNOW WHO KILLED HIM.

Detective Stephen Moran has been waiting for his chance to get a foot in the door of Dublin’s Murder Squad—and one morning, sixteen-year-old Holly Mackey brings him this photo. The Secret Place, a board where the girls at St. Kilda’s School can pin up their secrets anonymously, is normally a mishmash of gossip and covert cruelty, but today someone has used it to reignite the stalled investigation into the murder of handsome, popular Chris Harper. Stephen joins forces with the abrasive Detective Antoinette Conway to find out who and why.

But everything they discover leads them back to Holly’s close-knit group of friends and their fierce enemies, a rival clique—and to the tangled web of relationships that bound all the girls to Chris Harper. Every step in their direction turns up the pressure. Antoinette Conway is already suspicious of Stephen’s links to the Mackey family. St. Kilda’s will go a long way to keep murder outside their walls. Holly’s father, Detective Frank Mackey, is circling, ready to pounce if any of the new evidence points toward his daughter. And the private underworld of teenage girls can be more mysterious and more dangerous than either of the detectives imagined.

The Secret Place is a powerful, haunting exploration of friendship and loyalty, and a gripping addition to the Dublin Murder Squad series.”

This is my first Tana French novel and I’ve heard amazing things about her and her books.  It seems like pretty much every single person I know is absolutely in love with them.  (So I was very excited to get a copy at ALA and, after that mysteriously disappeared, to get a copy through Penguin’s First to Read program.)

I was instantly drawn into this book, which goes back and forth in time and has two viewpoints (Holly and her friends in the past and Stephen in the present)…and then I hit a subplot that kind of ruined the book for me.  (SPOILER: Holly and her friends seem to all develop some kind of psychic ability.  I can deal with one Carrie but not with four of them.  Obviously I can’t share if/how that subplot was resolved.)

After that, the book lost of a lot of credibility with me and even though that’s a very minor part of the book, I was like, “WHAT?!” and it affected everything else.

I would definitely read another book of hers but this one was a bit of a letdown.

Dangerous Boys

Finished Dangerous Boys by Abigail Haas.  I received a copy for review from the author.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Three teens venture into the abandoned Monroe estate one night; hours later, only two emerge from the burning wreckage. Chloe drags one Reznick brother to safety, unconscious and bleeding; the other is left to burn, dead in the fire. But which brother survives? And is his death a tragic accident? Desperate self-defense? Or murder?
Chloe is the only one with the answers. As the fire rages, and police and parents demand the truth, she struggles to piece together the story of how they got there-a story of jealousy, twisted passion, and the darkness that lurks behind even the most beautiful of faces…

I’m going to be honest, I have no idea how to do this review.  For most of the book, we don’t know (a) how we got to the events where one brother is dead, (b) whether the other brother will survive or (c) which brother is definitely dead and which is likely to die.  I’m afraid to say anything that will ruin those reveals for you.

So here’s what I WILL say: last year, Abigail Haas wrote Dangerous Girls (the two books are unrelated) which is also a compelling, impossible-to-put-down read.  I’m not sure if she has any plans to write another book like this, but I sincerely hope she does.  This seems to be her absolute sweet spot as a novelist and this book absolutely blew my mind.

This book is currently only available in e-book format and if you’ve ever taken my advice on anything, read this book.  It’s fun and creepy and just brilliant.

Highly recommended.

Brutal Youth

Finished Brutal Youth by Anthony Breznican.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Three freshmen must join forces to survive at a troubled, working-class Catholic high school with a student body full of bullies and zealots, and a faculty that’s even worse in Anthony Breznican’s Brutal Youth

With a plunging reputation and enrollment rate, Saint Michael’s has become a crumbling dumping ground for expelled delinquents and a haven for the stridently religious when incoming freshman Peter Davidek signs up. On his first day, tensions are clearly on the rise as a picked-upon upperclassmen finally snaps, unleashing a violent attack on both the students who tormented him for so long, and the corrupt, petty faculty that let it happen. But within this desperate place, Peter befriends fellow freshmen Noah Stein, a volatile classmate whose face bears the scars of a hard-fighting past, and the beautiful but lonely Lorelei Paskal —so eager to become popular, she makes only enemies.

To even stand a chance at surviving their freshmen year, the trio must join forces as they navigate a bullying culture dominated by administrators like the once popular Ms. Bromine, their embittered guidance counselor, and Father Mercedes, the parish priest who plans to scapegoat the students as he makes off with church finances. A coming-of-age tale reversed, Brutal Youth follows these students as they discover that instead of growing older and wiser, going bad may be the only way to survive.”

The blurb list for this book reads like a who’s who of authors I love: Stephen King, Gillian Flynn, Stephen Chbosky.  I’d probably read it based on one of their recommendations, but with all three? OBVIOUSLY.

This book made me so happy that I’m not in high school anymore but I also love that it doesn’t paint a rosy picture of those four years. I always feel sorry for people who say that high school are the best four years of their life.  (Why in the world would you feel like your best years ended at around the time you’d be able to vote? And even if you felt that way, why would you tell people?)

My own high school years weren’t as bad as theirs, but I think most people will be able to recognize parts of their teenage years in this even if they will then think, “Thank God it didn’t go that far.”

This book absolutely redefines bleak.  Davidek, Stein, Lorelai and Hannah are all completely damaged in varying ways, and obviously the school is to blame for most (but not all) of it.  This book is set before the rise of cell phones and pre-internet, which is also a huge saving grace for them.  (I don’t even want to imagine how bad the hazing would become with texting and social media.)

Highly recommended.

Amity

Finished Amity by Micol Ostow.  I received a copy for review from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

For fans of Stephen King and American Horror Story, a gruesome thriller suggested by the events of the Amityville Horror.

Connor’s family moves to Amity to escape shady business deals. Ten years later, Gwen’s family moves to Amity for a fresh start after she’s recovered from a psychotic break.

But something is not right about this secluded house. Connor’s nights are plagued with gore-filled dreams of demons and destruction. Dreams he kind of likes. Gwen has lurid visions of corpses that aren’t there and bleeding blisters that disappear in the blink of an eye. She knows Amity is evil and she must get her family out, but who would ever believe her?

Amity isn’t just a house. She is a living force, bent on manipulating her inhabitants to her twisted will. She will use Connor and Gwen to bring about a bloody end as she’s done before. As she’ll do again.

Alternating between parallel narratives, Amity is a tense and terrifying tale suggested by true-crime events that will satisfy even the most demanding horror fan.”

I read a review that slammed this book partially because it wasn’t based on the THE Amityville house (you know the one).  I’m not sure where that came from because while there were some differences, this book clearly owes a major debt to those stories.  (The best example I can give that isn’t a spoiler is the fact that the house has those windows.  You know the ones.  The other example is the fact that one family only lasts 28 days, which is as long as the Lutz family made it in the Amityville house.)

But there are also a lot of differences, which is where this book absolutely shone.  I’ve read Micol Ostow’s other book (a novel in verse about a cult similar to the Manson family) and this one is a million times better (no offense to that book, which I also enjoyed).

Through the alternating narratives, we see two different families who live in that house a decade apart.  We’re not entirely sure what’s wrong with the house (which has been named Amity) but it’s clear that something is.  The house is almost a sentient being and it seems to bring disaster to it.

This is an unsettling read, but even as my sense of dread grew, I HAD TO KNOW what was going to end up happening.  (I was pretty sure that things weren’t going to end well but I wanted to know exactly how “unwell” things were going to get.)

I’m very excited to see where Micol Ostow’s next book comes from.

Charm and Strange

Finished Charm and Strange by Stephanie Kuehn.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

When you’ve been kept caged in the dark, it’s impossible to see the forest for the trees. It’s impossible to see anything, really. Not without bars . . .

Andrew Winston Winters is at war with himself.

He’s part Win, the lonely teenager exiled to a remote Vermont boarding school in the wake of a family tragedy. The guy who shuts all his classmates out, no matter the cost.

He’s part Drew, the angry young boy with violent impulses that control him. The boy who spent a fateful, long-ago summer with his brother and teenage cousins, only to endure a secret so monstrous it led three children to do the unthinkable.

Over the course of one night, while stuck at a party deep in the New England woods, Andrew battles both the pain of his past and the isolation of his present.

Before the sun rises, he’ll either surrender his sanity to the wild darkness inside his mind or make peace with the most elemental of truths—that choosing to live can mean so much more than not dying. “

This is one of those books that will require patience because if you’re anything like me, you will spend most of the book not entirely sure of what’s going on.  (And when I say that, I mean I literally spent most of the book completely confused.)  Ultimately, though, everything clicked and made sense and then I was broken.

Win/Drew is a hard person to like.  He’s determined to keep people at arm’s length (or, preferably, even farther away) for reasons unknown.  Not surprisingly, the most effective way to do this is to be a complete jerk to everyone.  (You would be amazed at how well that works.)

But, as you might imagine, there are two people who refused to be shoved away and ultimately they realize exactly what’s going on with Win/Drew and it’s at that point where the book clicks.

This is a unique book and it’s hard to read (both for the confusion and for the revelation), but it’s also amazing.  Highly recommended.

One Kick

Finished One Kick by Chelsea Cain.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Kick Lannigan, 21, is a survivor. Abducted at age six in broad daylight, the police, the public, perhaps even her family assumed the worst had occurred. And then Kathleen Lannigan was found, alive, six years later. In the early months following her freedom, as Kick struggled with PTSD, her parents put her through a litany of therapies, but nothing helped until the detective who rescued her suggested Kick learn to fight. Before she was thirteen, Kick learned marksmanship, martial arts, boxing, archery, and knife throwing. She excelled at every one, vowing she would never be victimized again. But when two children in the Portland area go missing in the same month, Kick goes into a tailspin. Then an enigmatic man Bishop approaches her with a proposition: he is convinced Kick’s experiences and expertise can be used to help rescue the abductees. Little does Kick know the case will lead directly into her terrifying past…

I’ve read a few of her Gretchen Lowell books and, while I very much enjoyed this book, it didn’t have the visceral reaction for me that those books did.  (That is not a complaint.)

I have this weird fascination with abduction books (fiction ones; I don’t read the nonfiction ones because it feels a little too much like voyeurism) and this is one of my favorites.  The main reason for that is because it deals more with the aftermath than with Kick’s time with her pseudo-parents.  How in the world would you readjust back to normal life?  (If Kick is any indication, the answer is “not well.”)

This is an incredibly fun book and I’m so happy that it’s the first book in a series.  I can’t wait to see what Kick does next.

Recommended.

Desire Lines

Finished Desire Lines by Christina Baker Kline.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Desire Lines is a taut, penetrating new novel filled with psychological suspense, sensitivity, and emotional complexity by the critically acclaimed author of Sweet Water.

On the night of her high school graduation in 1986, Kathryn Campbell’s best friend, Jennifer, vanished without a trace. It’s been ten years since then, but Kathryn still feels the conspicuous void in her life – and the nagging, guilty sense that she has failed her friend.

When a divorce sends Kathryn reeling back to the Maine town where she grew up, the young journalist finds herself face-to-face with her past. At twenty-eight, she’s been living for far too long on memories and questions; now she needs to take a hard look at her own life at the same time that she is delving into the mystery of what happened to her friend.

As she explores the seemingly random series of events that led up to Jennifer’s disappearance, a pattern slowly begins to take shape. All the puzzle pieces are at her fingertips – it’s a matter of whether Kathryn can put them together in a way that makes sense. As she faces her own fear and grief, she is finally able to come to terms with the ways in which the loss of her friend has shaped her life and the lives of those who knew her. In the process, Kathryn realizes that if she is ever going to understand the circumstances of Jennifer’s disappearance, she is going to have to expose herself to the same risks and dangers. Ultimately, Kathryn’s quest to find out the truth becomes a quest to save her own life as she races against time to keep Jennifer’s fate from becoming hers.

I absolutely loved Christina Baker Kline’s most recent release, Orphan Train, so I was incredibly excited to read this book.  (This is an earlier novel that’s been re-released with a book club guide in the back.)

This is an incredibly hard book to describe.  On the one hand, there’s a mystery at the center of it, but on the other, there’s just as much to do with your life after college and how, for the most part, the life you expect to have is nowhere near the life you end up actually having.  (An excellent example of this is the movie The Big Chill.)

I love the idea that this one event has clearly shaped the lives of the rest of Jennifer’s group of friends—which makes sense, because you figure this is probably the worst thing that’s ever happened to any of them (Jennifer disappearing) and which is the better outcome? Either your friend is dead—and probably in a horrible way, given that the body was never found—or she deliberately chose to run away and literally couldn’t care less about the impact that said disappearance had on her family and friends.

It’s not as good as Orphan Train, but this is an incredibly fun read.

Recommended.

Can’t Look Away

Finished Can’t Look Away by Donna Cooner.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Donna Cooner establishes herself as our own Jodi Picoult in this timely tale of sisters, loss, and redemption.

Torrey Grey is famous. At least, on the internet. Thousands of people watch her popular videos on fashion and beauty. But when Torrey’s sister is killed in an accident — maybe because of Torrey and her videos — Torrey’s perfect world implodes.

Now, strangers online are bashing Torrey. And at her new school, she doesn’t know who to trust. Is queen bee Blair only being sweet because of Torrey’s internet infamy? What about Raylene, who is decidedly unpopular, but seems accepts Torrey for who she is? And then there’s Luis, with his brooding dark eyes, whose family runs the local funeral home. Torrey finds herself drawn to Luis, and his fascinating stories about El dio de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead.

As the Day of the Dead draws near, Torrey will have to really look at her own feelings about death, and life, and everything in between. Can she learn to mourn her sister out of the public eye?”

I absolutely loved Donna Cooner’s first book, Skinny.  This book is completely different but still has much to enjoy.  (If that’s the right word for a book that deals with incredibly difficult topics.)

Torrey is a hard person to like, especially at first.  She’s a little selfish and consumed with herself and how things impact her.  (This is a little understandable as she’s a teenage girl and I remember how that felt.)

Her younger sister Miranda died after being hit by a car and the last conversation she had with Torrey was an argument.  That haunts Torrey, understandably, but she’s a little more upset because it turns out the conversation was filmed and then released online.  Not surprisingly, she gets a lot of grief from internet comments for that, but I was pretty inclined to let that slide—everyone has arguments and everyone says things they don’t mean.  It doesn’t make you a bad person, only an unlucky one because most of the time, we get to take those things back.

I absolutely adored this book and can’t wait for her third book.

Recommended.

Of Metal and Wishes

Finished Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

There are whispers of a ghost in the slaughterhouse where sixteen-year-old Wen assists her father in his medical clinic—a ghost who grants wishes to those who need them most. When one of the Noor, men hired as cheap factory labor, humiliates Wen, she makes an impulsive wish of her own, and the Ghost grants it. Brutally.

Guilt-ridden, Wen befriends the Noor, including their outspoken leader, a young man named Melik. At the same time, she is lured by the mystery of the Ghost and learns he has been watching her … for a very long time.

As deadly accidents fuel tensions within the factory, Wen must confront her growing feelings for Melik, who is enraged at the sadistic factory bosses and the prejudice faced by his people at the hand of Wen’s, and her need to appease the Ghost, who is determined to protect her against any threat—real or imagined. She must decide whom she can trust, because as her heart is torn, the factory is exploding around her … and she might go down with it.”

I knew I wanted to read this book when I found out that it was a reimagining of The Phantom of the Opera.  (Fun fact: that is my favorite musical.)  It’s easy to see the similarities between the two, but you don’t have to love Phantom to love this book.

I was immediately sucked into the world that Wen lived in, and it’s a horrible and scary place.  (Especially for women, because they had no power.  Wen, in particular, is in a precarious situation.  The underboss has his eye on her, and so it’s really only a matter of time before he manages to catch her alone. And once he does, she’ll be ruined and any man will be able to assume that he can have sex with her.  This isn’t really a spoiler because it’s a small part of the book’s plot, but it’s the thing that sticks with me the most, because how scary is that? Wen has absolutely no power over her own body.)

Meanwhile, my favorite difference between this and Phantom is Melik.  I have always been Team Phantom (or Team Ghost, in this case) but in the musical, I find Raoul to be incredibly boring. (You have to admit it’s true.)  Melik is not at ALL boring.  I could absolutely understand why Wen would be drawn to him.  He’s a safer choice than Ghost, but he’s not a safe choice.

I absolutely adore this book and cannot wait for the sequel.

Highly recommended.