She Loves You (Yeah Yeah Yeah)

Finished She Loves You (Yeah Yeah Yeah) by Ann Hood. I received a copy for review at ALA.

Summary (from Goodreads):

The story of a girl swept up in the heart of 1960s Beatlemania.

The year is 1966. The Vietnam War rages overseas, the Beatles have catapulted into stardom, and twelve-year-old Rhode Island native Trudy Mixer is not thrilled with life. Her best friend, Michelle, has decided to become a cheerleader, everyone at school is now calling her Gertrude (her hated real name), and the gem of her middle school career, the Beatles fan club, has dwindled down to only three other members–the least popular kids at school. And at home, her workaholic father has become even more distant.

Determined to regain her social status and prove herself to her father, Trudy looks toward the biggest thing happening worldwide: the Beatles. She is set on seeing their final world tour in Boston at the end of the summer–and meeting her beloved Paul McCartney. So on a hot August day, unknown to their families, Trudy and crew set off on their journey, each of them with soaring hopes for what lies ahead.”

I am currently enjoying quite a slew of great books. This one is no surprise because everything I’ve read by Ann Hood has been completely amazing.  This is middlegrade, though (everything else I’ve read by her has been adult fiction or nonfiction) and I know that’s a different skill set.

Can I just say that this book is complete magic? I’m too young to have experienced the Beatles live, but this book was so evocative, I actually felt like I was there. (Should it ever come up on Jeopardy!, John is my favorite Beatle.)

There are a lot of other things going on here. Trudy feels like she’s losing her best friend (to popular girls) and her father (because she’s not interesting enough) and so the quest to see the Beatles in concert and to meet Paul McCartney becomes a bit of magical thinking (if she can make this happen, her life will go back to what she wants it to be—especially where her dad is concerned because this really is the one thing they have in common). Her fellow fan club members have similar hopes.

You don’t have to know who the Beatles are to love this book, but I’d be willing to bet that this book will get the Fab Four some new fans.

Highly recommended.


Hope Never Dies

Finished Hope Never Dies by Andrew Shaffer. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

This mystery thriller reunites Vice President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama for a political mashup full of suspense, intrigue, and laugh out loud bromance.

Vice President Joe Biden is fresh out of the Obama White House and feeling adrift when his favorite railroad conductor dies in a suspicious accident, leaving behind an ailing wife and a trail of clues. To unravel the mystery, “Amtrak Joe” re-teams with the only man he’s ever fully trusted—the 44th president of the United States. Together they’ll plumb the darkest corners of Delaware, traveling from cheap motels to biker bars and beyond, as they uncover the sinister forces advancing America’s opioid epidemic.

Part noir thriller and part bromance novel, Hope Never Dies is essentially the first published work of Obama/Biden fanfiction—and a cathartic read for anyone distressed by the current state of affairs.”

This is not the best book you’ll read this year, but there’s a really good chance it’ll be the most fun. It’s a complete delight and I’m pretty sure I had a goofy grin on my face the whole time I read it.

This book is incredibly campy (as naturally it would be) and I can almost guarantee you’ll laugh out loud multiple times.

I hope this becomes a series. I would love to spend more time with Amtrak Joe. (NOTE: We spend a lot more time with him than we do with Barack Obama. He’s definitely in there a not-small chunk of time, but Joe Biden is the narrator. So if you actively dislike Joe Biden—which I don’t see how, but whatever—be aware that he is in 100% of this book.)


The Summer Wives

Finished The Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

New York Times bestselling author Beatriz Williams brings us the blockbuster novel of the season—a spellbinding novel of romance, murder, class, power, and dark secrets set in the 1950s and ’60s among the rarified world of a resort island in the Long Island Sound . . .

In the summer of 1951, Miranda Schuyler arrives on elite, secretive Winthrop Island in Long Island Sound as a naive eighteen year old, still reeling from the loss of her father in the Second World War. Although a graduate of the exclusive Foxcroft Academy in Virginia, Miranda has always lived on the margins of high society. When her beautiful mother marries Hugh Fisher, whose summer house on Winthrop overlooks the famous lighthouse, Miranda is catapulted into a heady new world of pedigrees and cocktails, status and swimming pools. Isobel Fisher, Miranda’s new stepsister—all long legs and world-weary bravado, engaged to a wealthy Island scion—is eager to draw Miranda into the arcane customs of Winthrop society.

But beneath the Island’s patrician surface, there are really two clans–the summer families with their steadfast ways and quiet obsessions, and the working class of Portuguese fishermen and domestic workers who earn their living on the water and in the laundries of the summer houses. Uneasy among Isobel’s privileged friends, Miranda finds herself drawn to Joseph Vargas, whose father keeps the lighthouse with his mysterious wife. In summer, Joseph helps his father in the lobster boats, but in the autumn he returns to Brown University, where he’s determined to make something of himself. Since childhood, Joseph has enjoyed an intense, complex friendship with Isobel Fisher, and has a catastrophe that will shatter Winthrop’s hard-won tranquility and banish Miranda from the Island for nearly two decades.

Now, in the summer of 1969, Miranda returns at last, as a renowned Shakespearean actress hiding a terrible heartbreak. On its surface, the Island remains the same–determined to keep the outside world from its shores, fiercely loyal to those who belong. But the formerly powerful Fisher family is a shadow of itself, and Joseph Vargas has recently escaped the prison where he was incarcerated for the murder of Miranda’s stepfather eighteen years earlier. What’s more, Miranda herself is no longer a naive teenager, and she begins a fierce, inexorable quest for justice to the man she once loved . . . even if it means uncovering every last one of the secrets that bind together the families of Winthrop Island.”

I’m not entirely sure how I felt about this book. Like all of Beatriz Williams’ novels, this is a compelling read that’s hard to put down. At the same time, though, I didn’t care about any of the characters. I didn’t like them but I also didn’t dislike them. Even though there are a lot of my favorite things (starcrossed lovers, family secrets, a character who’s a movie star), this book left me completely cold.

That said—I’m sure this book is going to be incredibly popular and I think a lot of people will absolutely love it. I’m just not one of them.

The Perfect Couple

Finished The Perfect Couple by Elin Hilderbrand. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“From New York Times bestselling author Elin Hilderbrand, comes a novel about the many ways family can fill our lives with love…if they don’t kill us first.

It’s wedding season on Nantucket. The beautiful island is overrun with summer people–an annual source of aggravation for year-round residents. And that’s not the only tension brewing offshore. When one lavish wedding ends in disaster before it can even begin everyone in the wedding party is suddenly a suspect. As Chief of Police Ed Kapenash digs into the best man, the maid of honor, the groom’s famous mystery novelist mother, and even a member of his own family, the chief discovers that every wedding is a minefield–and no couple is perfect. Featuring beloved characters from THE CASTAWAYS and A SUMMER AFFAIR, THE PERFECT COUPLE proves once again that Elin Hilderbrand is the queen of the summer beach read.”

I will preface this by saying that I have only read a handful of Elin Hilderbrand’s novels but this one is my favorite by quite a lot. Picture the readability and gorgeous setting of her novels but add a Liane Moriarty-style plot. (So yes, you absolutely need this for your summer vacation.)

I had so many theories about how everything was connected and what happened to the maid of honor, but I kept getting proven wrong. This was a story I couldn’t stop reading and I love everything about it.

If you haven’t read her before, this is an excellent book to begin with. (Keep in mind, though, that as Randy said in Scream, “EVERYBODY’S A SUSPECT.” And pay attention to literally everything.) If Elin Hilderbrand is already your favorite part of summer, I’m sure this will become a favorite of yours, too.

Highly recommended.

Where the Watermelons Grow

Finished Where the Watermelons Grow by Cindy Baldwin. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Twelve-year-old Della Kelly has lived her whole life in Maryville, North Carolina. She knows how to pick the softest butter beans and sweetest watermelons on her daddy’s farm. She knows ways to keep her spitfire baby sister out of trouble (most of the time). She knows everyone in Maryville, from her best friend Arden to kind newcomer Miss Lorena to the mysterious Bee Lady.

And Della knows what to do when the sickness that landed her mama in the hospital four years ago spirals out of control again, and Mama starts hearing people who aren’t there, scrubbing the kitchen floor until her hands are raw, and waking up at night to cut the black seeds from all the watermelons in the house. With Daddy struggling to save the farm from a record-breaking drought, Della decides it’s up to her to heal Mama for good. And she knows just how she’ll do it: with a jar of the Bee Lady’s magic honey, which has mended the wounds and woes of Maryville for generations.

She doesn’t want to hear the Bee Lady’s truth: that the solution might have less to do with fixing Mama’s brain than with healing Della’s own heart. But as the sweltering summer stretches on, Della must learn—with the help of her family and friends, plus a fingerful of watermelon honey—that love means accepting her mama just as she is.”

My heart absolutely broke for Della while I was reading this. Because her mom was diagnosed with schizophrenia shortly after Della was born, she’s blamed herself for the illness. And because her dad has a strict policy of “family problems are not to be discussed with outsiders,” no one ever said “Oh, honey, no, it’s not your fault.”

I also take issue with the synopsis. It’s more that Della learned to let go of (a) her feelings of guilt and (b) her idea that she’s the only one who can help fix her mama. The synopsis makes it sound like she’s embarrassed and feels like her mom could be better if she’d only try harder.

Della is really wise for someone who’s only 12. A large chunk of that is because she’s had to do a lot around the house and she does the lion’s share of raising her little sister. But she’s also still 12 and because her mom was diagnosed after she was born, she interprets it as happening BECAUSE she was born, which means that it was her fault. Even so, she does her part (and then some) and isn’t ever all that resentful about it.

This is such a fantastic story and will absolutely break your heart (and also really make you crave watermelon). Recommended.

Marriage Vacation

Finished Marriage Vacation by Pauline Turner Brooks. I received a copy through a contest.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“In season four of Darren Star’s hit TV Land series Younger, the editors at Empirical Press are shocked and deeply moved when they read Marriage Vacation, an autobiographical novel by the publisher’s estranged wife, Pauline Turner Brooks. Knowing the book will cause a sensation, they decide they must publish it. Now you can read what the hype is about.

To find herself…she might lose everything.

By all appearances, Kate Carmichael had the perfect life: two adorable daughters, a pre-war town house on the Upper East Side, and a husband who ran one of the most successful publishing companies in New York. But when Kate attends the wedding of two of her oldest friends and reconnects with successful classmates from graduate school, she suddenly sees her life in a different light: the career she didn’t pursue, the dreams she’s locked away, the empty veneer of her privilege.

When the wedding weekend ends, instead of heading home to her husband and family, Kate gets on a plane and flies halfway around the world. She claims it’s just going to be for a week—two max—so she can clear her head, make headway with her writing, and shake free of the feeling that time is passing her by.

But just like Kate’s life, the adventure doesn’t go quite as planned. When it’s time to return, she finds herself trapped between wanting to be a good mother and partner and needing to find herself again.

This provocative and gripping novel asks: is a wife and mother allowed to have a midlife crisis? And, if she does, can she ever be forgiven? Marriage Vacation is for anyone who has ever fantasized about what it would be like to run away from it all.”

As you may know, I am a huge fan of the show Younger. When I found out that Marriage Vacation was going to become a real book, I was excited and nervous. I know in general that when books are tie-ins for TV, they aren’t always very good.

This book is actually surprisingly good. It’s a book I would’ve enjoyed if I had just encountered it randomly, with no idea it came from a TV show. It’s really fun. I also like the way it gave us more insight into Pauline. (As backstory, if you watch the show, you know Charles’ wife left him and their girls and was gone for a year. If you read the book, you see that there’s a little more to it than that. She was constantly talking to the girls and Facetiming; she planned to be gone for a couple weeks, a month at most, and it just kept getting pushed back. And she was doing good things in the world. She wasn’t just doing spa days and exotic travel.)

Pauline is a really polarizing character, but I always liked her. (Part of it is definitely because I’m a huge fan of Jennifer Westfeldt; I’m pretty sure it’s literally impossible to dislike any character she plays.) This book really cemented that.

Even if you don’t watch Younger, this is a super fun book. Grab some wine or a daiquiri and read it by the pool. You’ll have the best time.


The Unfortunates

Finished The Unfortunates by Kim Liggett. I received a copy for review at ALA.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“When seventeen-year-old senator’s son Grant Tavish is involved in a fatal accident, all he wants to do is face the consequences of what he’s done, but the consequences never come, even if headlines of “affluenza” do. The truth soon becomes clear: Due to his father’s connections, not only will Grant not be held accountable for his actions, he’s going to get away with murder.

When a long Tavish tradition approaches, a cave excursion on the Appalachian trail, Grant seizes the opportunity to take justice into his own hands by staging an accident and never coming back. But before he has a chance to enact his plans, the cave system collapses, trapping him miles beneath the surface with four other teens from much less fortunate circumstances. As they struggle to survive, they share their innermost secrets and fears, and just when it seems they might be on track to finding a way out, they realize there’s something else down there.

And it’s hunting them.”

I am not a fan of nature and I’m very claustrophobic. I’m also not huge on heights and being in the dark in unfamiliar places. I mention that to say that The Unfortunates is basically every nightmare I have in one 220 page piece of absolute Kelly-hell.

Obviously I loved it.

(When I wasn’t completely freaking out and being terrified for Grant and the four teens he’s stuck in the cave with. Because guys, I didn’t know what was happening but I knew that I wanted no part of it and that I wanted all of them to survive.)

If every horror novel could be as intense as this one, I’d be a really happy Kelly. Highly recommended.

Blood Will Tell

Finished Blood Will Tell by April Henry. I received a copy for review at ALA.

Summary (from Goodreads):

What happens when someone who’s only ever wanted to be a hero becomes a suspect?

When a woman’s body is found in a Portland park, suspicion falls on an awkward teen who lives only a few blocks away, owns several knives, loves first-person shooter video games, and doodles violent scenes in his school notebooks. Nick Walker goes from being a member of a Search and Rescue team to the prime suspect in a murder, his very interest in SAR seen as proof of his fascination with violence. How is this even possible? And can Alexis and Ruby find a way to help clear Nick’s name before it’s too late?”

This is technically the second book in a series, but it definitely works as a standalone. (I didn’t read the first book and I was fine reading this.)

This story is one of my worst nightmares. As someone who is a huge fan of horror movies and suspense novels, I get that I would look completely suspicious if people near me started ending up dead. (Maybe only mildly suspicious since women generally aren’t serial killers, but that isn’t very comforting.) The police shouldn’t take hobbies into account but I’m sure they do. They DEFINITELY did in Nick’s case. (And isn’t everyone who likes video games fond of the first person shooter ones? I mean, they’re really popular, aren’t they? [Genuine question. I don’t really do video games myself.])

At any rate, this book is completely engrossing. The reader knows almost immediately that Nick had nothing to do with it, but the real suspense comes from seeing if he’ll continue to be a suspect and just how far the police will go to prove that he did it.

I also want to go back and read the first one. All three main characters (Nick, Ruby and Alexis) are fantastic but I definitely want to spend more time with Ruby. She reminds me of a teenage version of Holly in Mr. Mercedes and its sequels. Ruby knows SO MUCH and is able to put things together so quickly.

If you’re in the mood for a fun thriller that won’t creep you out when it’s time to go to sleep, this is for you.

What Momma Left Me

Finished What Momma Left Me by Renee Watson. I received a copy for review at ALA.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“How is it that unsavory raw ingredients come together to form a delicious cake? What is it about life that when you take all the hard stuff and rough stuff and add in a lot of love, you still just might have a wonderful life? For Serenity, these questions rise up early when her father kills her mother, and leaves her and her brother Danny to live with their kind but strict grandparents. Despite the difficulties of a new school, a new church, and a new neighborhood, Serenity gains strength from the family around her, the new friends she finds, and her own careful optimism. Debut author Renée Watson’s talent shines in this powerful and ultimately uplifting novel.”

(NOTE: This will be re-released next year, but you can also buy it now. Don’t feel you have to wait; this is an amazing book.)

I think this book falls between middlegrade and YA. Serenity is in middle school (and so is her brother) but she is dealing with a lot of stuff. Her mom is dead (we don’t learn what happened until a little later in the novel, although you can definitely piece things together. Even if you don’t read the synopsis, it’s not exactly a surprise when we’re told).

I absolutely loved this book, even though it made me cry on the lightrail. Serenity is a fantastic heroine. She has a hard time with a lot of things, but she never breaks (even when she thinks she will). She’s got resolve for days, and I admire that. There are a lot of hard things in this novel, but there’s also a lot of hope. (This is a recurring theme in the novel and also in life, obviously.)

Highly recommended. I can’t say enough great things about this book. You need to read it and you need to make everyone you know read it.

Dating Disasters of Emma Nash

Finished Dating Disasters of Emma Nash by Chloe Seager. I received a copy for review at ALA.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Don’t miss the laugh-out-loud novel of the year!

Online, you can choose who you want to be. If only real life were so easy…

Emma Nash may be down, but after months of wallowing, stalking her ex online and avoiding showering—because, really, who’s going to care?—Emma’s ready to own her newly single status, get out with her friends and chronicle her dating adventures on her private blog.

But life online doesn’t always run smoothly. Stumbling upon her mother’s Tinder dating profile, getting catfished and accidentally telling the entire world why her ex-boyfriend Leon’s not worth any girl’s…um…time… Okay, those were disasters.

But surely nothing else can go wrong?

Filled with fun, flirty encounters and heartwarming friendships, Dating Disasters of Emma Nash will shock and delight scores of readers looking for something fresh.”

This book is basically Bridget Jones for teenagers and in the era of social media. That probably tells you whether or not you want to read it, right?

I’m also not sure you can read it without laughing out loud (literally) multiple times. Yes, Emma is an emotional idiot, but she’s also really relatable. She makes horrible decisions, but so do most of us. And I think we’ve all been careless with other people before, right? So while Emma is maybe not the best reflection of us, she IS us.

Also, I love that this is a super sex-positive book. (Or at least masturbation-positive.) Emma is unapologetic about masturbating and about being horny. I think we need more books like this.

This book is a total delight and I’m looking forward to the sequel. (I hope Emma makes better choices, but I’m not holding my breath.)