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.

Tiger Lily

Finished Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Before Peter Pan belonged to Wendy, he belonged to the girl with the crow feather in her hair. . . .

Fifteen-year-old Tiger Lily doesn’t believe in love stories or happy endings. Then she meets the alluring teenage Peter Pan in the forbidden woods of Neverland and immediately falls under his spell.

Peter is unlike anyone she’s ever known. Impetuous and brave, he both scares and enthralls her. As the leader of the Lost Boys, the most fearsome of Neverland’s inhabitants, Peter is an unthinkable match for Tiger Lily. Soon, she is risking everything—her family, her future—to be with him. When she is faced with marriage to a terrible man in her own tribe, she must choose between the life she’s always known and running away to an uncertain future with Peter.

With enemies threatening to tear them apart, the lovers seem doomed. But it’s the arrival of Wendy Darling, an English girl who’s everything Tiger Lily is not, that leads Tiger Lily to discover that the most dangerous enemies can live inside even the most loyal and loving heart.

From the New York Times bestselling author of Peaches comes a magical and bewitching story of the romance between a fearless heroine and the boy who wouldn’t grow up.”

Before I started reading this, several people warned me that this book would break my heart, especially the ending.  That didn’t happen.

I think this is how I now know that I’m a grownup.  (There are spoilers below, although even the prologue and first paragraph of chapter one will tell the reader that this is not a story that ends happily.)

I loved Tiger Lily but was not a huge fan of Peter Pan for most of the book (his letter at the end made me like him the most).  But ultimately what I loved about the book is the ending.

Have you seen Up in the Air? You know the part where Vera Farmiga’s character is talking about how when you’re young, you have all these requirements for who you want to marry and then as you grow up, they start to melt away and then ultimately you just want someone who’s kind? That’s what I thought about the ending.  (Tiger Lily ends up with Pine Sap, who is probably not as big a love as Peter is but who is kind and reliable and just a good person.  And honestly, I think that’s a happy ending.)

Also, HOLY CRAP the writing is gorgeous.   I haven’t read any of Jodi Lynn Anderson’s other books but I am definitely seeking them out.

Recommended.

Gone Girl

Finished Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.  This is a re-read for book club.

Summary (from Goodreads):

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

I’ve read this before, so this isn’t going to be a straight review.  (To read my review, which is also not really a review, click here.)

In many ways, the book was even better the second time around.  Because I know everything that happens, I was able to savor it more (as opposed to the first time, when I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough).

Also because of this, I’m even more convinced that the book had the perfect ending.

(Spoilers)

Obviously the satisfying ending would be if Nick has been able to kill Amy.  OBVIOUSLY.  But it’s not an honest ending. The whole point of the book is that Amy is an evil genius.  I’m not saying that Nick’s dumb, but he’s definitely not smarter than Amy.  I’m incredibly happy that Gillian Flynn gave us an honest ending.

So if you’re one of the few people who have yet to read this book, you need to fix that.  NOW.

Highly recommended.

The Fever

Finished The Fever by Megan Abbott.

Summary (from Goodreads):

The panic unleashed by a mysterious contagion threatens the bonds of family and community in a seemingly idyllic suburban community.

The Nash family is close-knit. Tom is a popular teacher, father of two teens: Eli, a hockey star and girl magnet, and his sister Deenie, a diligent student. Their seeming stability, however, is thrown into chaos when Deenie’s best friend is struck by a terrifying, unexplained seizure in class. Rumors of a hazardous outbreak spread through the family, school and community.

As hysteria and contagion swell, a series of tightly held secrets emerges, threatening to unravel friendships, families and the town’s fragile idea of security.

A chilling story about guilt, family secrets and the lethal power of desire, The Fever affirms Megan Abbot’s reputation as “one of the most exciting and original voices of her generation” (Laura Lippman).”

I absolutely adored this book.  It’s similar thematically to Katherine Howe’s Conversion but they handle it absolutely differently.  Unlike Conversion, this is very straight-forward (no flashbacks to Salem) and also it seems like the mysterious illness takes a backseat at times as we learn about what ELSE is happening in the town.

I loved everything about this book.  The illness was incredibly creepy (moreso because we didn’t know what was going on or why) but even more than that, I love the fact that the story had just as much to do with other things.  This book is amazing.

This is my second Megan Abbott book and I really need to start reading more of hers because I’ve been incredibly impressed both times.

Highly recommended.

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.

Isla and the Happily Ever After

Finished Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins.

Summary (from Goodreads):

From the glittering streets of Manhattan to the moonlit rooftops of Paris, falling in love is easy for hopeless dreamer Isla and introspective artist Josh. But as they begin their senior year in France, Isla and Josh are quickly forced to confront the heartbreaking reality that happily-ever-afters aren’t always forever.

Their romantic journey is skillfully intertwined with those of beloved couples Anna and Étienne and Lola and Cricket, whose paths are destined to collide in a sweeping finale certain to please fans old and new.”

Oh, you guys, this book.

I’ve been waiting for it for years, since my friend Daisy sent me the first book, since I randomly was able to snag a copy at BEA the following year—I feel like I’ve been waiting for this book my whole life.

And it is perfect.

I feel like there’s really nothing I need to say, because you already know whether you’re reading it or not and because by the time you read this review, you’ll probably have already read it anyway.  (Yes, it just came out yesterday, but even so.)

So here’s what I can tell you.

It’s a billion times better than Lola and the Boy Next Door.  And it’s even better than Anna and the French Kiss.  (Paris trumps San Francisco; Paris and New York trumps everything.)

It’s about flawed characters who grow (separately and together) and, as Rainbow Rowell said in the blurb, it’s about the kind of love we all wish we had.  (I’m paraphrasing.)

I absolutely adore this book (and her others) and I hope I don’t have to wait as long for the next one.

Highly recommended.

 

Dangerous Boys Release Day

Out Now!

August 14th, 2014

Dangerous Boys by Abigail Haas

dangerous boys

Three teens venture in to the abandoned lake house 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…

Purchase Now!

Amazon: amzn.to/1wrph3u

iBooks: bit.ly/1mS0PXB

Add to Goodreads: http://bit.ly/1AYM77B

 Early Praise

“Dangerous Boys is a taut, compelling thriller balanced on the razor’s edge of suspense. I could not put it down, and could not stop grinning wickedly as I raced through the pages.”

Leah Raeder, USA Today bestselling author of Unteachable

“Abigail Hass is a master at her craft! This is a special book and a special author.
This is the kind of storytelling and writing that sticks with you no matter how much time passes.” — The Book Geek Blog

“As with Dangerous Girls, the closing left me with a huge, admittedly rather twisted
smile on my face
. I don’t know how Haas manages to turn me into such a gleefully evil
creature.” — Dahlia Adler, blogger.

“Dangerous Boys was an intense, psychological read which was full of suspense and drama,…Abigail Haas has a way of writing books which reel you in a nd keep you there, hooked and addicted until the very last page.” — Goodreads.com

About Abigail Haas

Abigail Haas has written two adult novels and four young adult contemporary novels under the name Abby McDonald. Dangerous Girls is her first young adult thriller. She grew up in Sussex, England, and studied Politics, Philosophy & Economics at Oxford University. She lives in Los Angeles.

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