Bang

Finished Bang by Barry Lyga. I received a copy for review. 

Sebastian is basically known for one thing in his tiny Maryland town: when he was four, he shot and killed his four-month-old sister. It tore his family apart and ever since he was old enough, he’s planned to commit suicide. It’s never been quite the right time, but now it is. This is the summer he’ll die. 

This book is so intense. You can feel his mother’s grief and Sebastian’s pain (and shame) and you can see just how hard they’re fighting to keep moving forward and how tenuous that forward motion is. And there are small pieces of hope, glimmers that say maybe they can keep going after all. 

This is a hard book to read; I cried more than once. But it’s also so important and so necessary. 

Highly recommended. 

The Unprotected

Finished The Unprotected by Kelly Sokol. I received a copy for review. 

Lara never wanted children…until she did. She conceived easily but lost the baby. That began four years of trying—tracking ovulation up through and including IVF. She and her husband FINALLY have a baby but now Lara may be suffering from post-partum depression. 

This has been compared to Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin, and that is certainly apt. Both books lull you in; you know something bad will happen but you don’t know what or when. And you don’t know how bad it will be. 

It’s hard not to feel empathy for Lara, even as I also wanted to shake her and yell that she needs to TELL SOMEONE. We all know about postpartum now; it’s not a shameful secret. 

This book is intense but so good. Recommended. 

Fireworks

Finished Fireworks by Katie Cotugno. I received a copy for review. 

Dana and Olivia have been best friends since forever, basically. And for all that time, Olivia’s wanted to be a singer. She finally gets a chance to audition to become part of a Spice Girls-type girl band, and she gets in—but so does Dana, who tries out as sort of last minute goof. She’s not as talented (or as trained) as Olivia but after a super rough start, she gets better. Except what will that mean for their friendship?

I love this book! I love the girls’ friendship, which is such a teenage girl friendship. (And I love Alex-the-love-interest, who I didn’t even mention.) And I definitely love the feeling of needing to get out of your small hometown. 

One thing: this is set in the 90s, but it didn’t feel very 90s (except for the lack of cell phones and internet, I guess). I wish that had been played up more. 

Still, this is a crazy fun story. Recommended. 

Dangerous Ends

Finished Dangerous Ends by Alex Segura. I received a copy from the publisher for review. 

Pete and his friend/partner Kathy have been hired to investigate a murder case. A cop was convicted of brutally murdering his wife–but their daughter is convinced he didn’t do it. That’s about as much as I can tell you without ruining anything. 

This book is INSANE. There is danger everywhere and people keep turning up dead and everything seems so random until it all clicks into place. Alex Segura is an evil genius. 

It’s the third in a series but this functions as a standalone (I do want to get to his backlist though, and SOON).

Be warned: if you’re squeamish, this book is most emphatically not for you. Otherwise? Highly recommended. 

The Perfect Stranger

Finished The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda. I received a copy from the publisher. 

Leah’s roommate is missing and she’s not sure how long she’s been gone, because they are on opposite schedules. And even worse, someone who looks like Leah was attacked and seriously injured. Things couldn’t get worse—until the police start to think maybe the roommate isn’t actually real. 

This is a complicated book and hopefully readers will have the patience to go with it. I spent a goodly chunk of the book unsure about what was going on. So if you need a straightforward narrative, this is not your huckleberry. 

I loved her first mystery and this didn’t quite measure up. (It may be that the gimmick of telling the story in reverse was awesome and there was no gimmick here.) 

I did enjoy this but it wasn’t the must-read that her first one was. 

Apartment 1986

Finished Apartment 1986 by Lisa Papademetriou. I received a copy for review. 

Callie has been taking time off from school. She’s been racking up tardies and if she gets one nore, her parents will be notified. So she skips and goes to the museum. She has such a great time that she does it the next day, too. And the next. (To be fair, she lives in Manhattan and there are a lot of great museums.) And she even has a friend: Cassius. He’s unschooled and is her new museum-buddy. Obviously she’ll have to head back to school eventually…but maybe tomorrow. 

My synopsis has left a lot of stuff out. There are a lot of subplots (all handled well) and if I started on them, I’d never stop. 

So here’s what else you need to know: Callie’s family is awesome. And I love that she’s doing great things while skipping school. She’s not hanging out at a mall (or the Manhattan equivalent) or watching daytime TV. She’s spending time in a museum, looking at art. I want to do that! And I like Cassius, and I especially like the fact that they are so clearly just friends. 

I need a sequel/companion novel from her little brother Desmond’s perspective. Like, NOW PLEASE. 

Literally

Finished Literally by Lucy Keating. I received a copy for review. 

Annabelle has just learned she’s not real. Instead, she’s actually a character in YA author Lucy Keating’s newest novel. On the plus side, she writes love stories. On the downside, SHE ISN’T REAL; SHE IS ACTUALLY A FICTIONAL CHARACTER. 

This is such a fun concept. I love the Stranger Than Fiction-esque idea and Annabelle is incredibly fun. (I also love that she’s good at a lot of things but actually awful at creative writing; I feel like a lot of times YA characters are almost ridiculously good at school.)

I do wish this had been longer–it’s not even 300 pages! But I love Annabelle and both her potential love interests. :) 

One Hundred Spaghetti Strings

Finished One Hundred Spaghetti Strings by Jen Nails. I received a copy for review. 

Steffy and her older sister Nina live with their Auntie Gina. (Her dad isn’t around and her mom has had a traumatic brain injury and she’s in a nice assisted living-type place.) She’s focusing on her cooking (which she’s incredibly good at) and school when suddenly her life is turned upside down: her dad is back and he’s going to live with them. 

I loved this sweet middlegrade. And I love Steffy. Adult readers will pick up on things younger readers may not (or may just register faster) but nothing in this novel is gratuitous or inappropriate. (My example is that Steffy’s dad keeps a ton of beer in the fridge and drinks a lot of it. Then the beer disappears and he starts to spend a lot of time in their church’s basement. Adult readers may not only clue in to “drinking problem” almost immediately but will also think “AA meeting.”)

Warning: food descriptions will make you hungry. Recommended. 

The Day I Died 

Finished The Day I Died by Lori Rader-Day. I received a copy for review. 

Anna is a handwriting expert. If she looks at something you’ve written, she can understand virtually anything about your personality. She’s currently helping police try and find a missing toddler; his mom allegedly killed the babysitter, took him and ran. What most people don’t know is that Anna and her own son, Joshua, are also on the run. She didn’t kill anyone but she did escape an abusive relationship when she learned she was pregnant with Joshua. Now (13 years later), she’s going to have to deal with Joshua’s ever-increasing questions. 

I really enjoyed this book. It’s not really a thriller but it’s still incredibly suspenseful. 

Even though a little boy is missing, you could make the case that this is more character-driven than plot-driven. If you don’t love the characters, this is going to be a hard read. (I loved the characters.)

Recommended. 

The Takedown

Finished The Takedown by Corrie Wang. I received a copy for review. 

Kylie’s life is mostly perfect. She’s one of the popular kids at school and she has a pretty swoon-worthy relationship with Mac. They’re just friends but it’s clear that things are about to move past platonic. And then a video of her having sex with her English teacher goes viral. 

Except it’s not Kylie. So…how to prove it?

This book is insanely fun. It’s set in the future, where technology and social media have progressed far beyond what they are now. And the way things have gone are both interesting and plausible. 

Watching Kylie try and figure out how to stop the damage and figure out who set her up and why (and how) is really interesting. I had my suspicions (no telling how accurate they are). 

If you like hacking or social media stories or things like Pretty Little Liars, you will adore this book. I certainly did. 

Recommended.