All of This is True

Finished All of This is True by Lygia Day Penaflor. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Miri Tan loved the book Undertow like it was a living being. So when she and her friends went to a book signing to meet the author, Fatima Ro, they concocted a plan to get close to her, even if her friends won’t admit it now. As for Jonah, well—Miri knows none of that was Fatima’s fault.

Soleil Johnston wanted to be a writer herself one day. When she and her friends started hanging out with her favorite author, Fatima Ro, she couldn’t believe their luck—especially when Jonah Nicholls started hanging out with them, too. Now, looking back, Soleil can’t believe she let Fatima manipulate her and Jonah like that. She can’t believe that she got used for a book.

Penny Panzarella was more than the materialistic party girl everyone at the Graham School thought she was. She desperately wanted Fatima Ro to see that, and she saw her chance when Fatima asked the girls to be transparent with her. If only she’d known what would happen when Fatima learned Jonah’s secret. If only she’d known that the line between fiction and truth was more complicated than any of them imagined. . . .”

I was going to say that this is one of those books that you’ll either love or hate, but I don’t think that’s true. You could definitely hate it, but I haven’t seen any “OMG I loved this so much!” reviews.

I enjoyed it, but I can’t say I loved it. The format made it really easy to keep reading (texts and interviews, with the occasional excerpt from Fatima’s book about the girls’ lives), but the only mystery for me was whether or not Jonah would survive. The twist about Jonah’s past seemed pretty obviously telegraphed, and so the reveal was more like, “Well, OBVIOUSLY.”

This isn’t a bad book, and I’m not saying “Don’t read it.” The idea behind it is fantastic; wouldn’t we all want to become friends with our favorite author? Even if our lives became book fodder? (Honestly, I would not mind seeing myself as a character in a book; I don’t have super dark secrets and I know my flaws.*) The execution was a little lacking but not to the point where I’m sorry I spent the few hours reading it.

* = So if you see a hermit book nerd who laughs at her own jokes, it’s me. It’s totally me.

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The Outsider

Finished The Outsider by Stephen King. (This is technically part of his Mr. Mercedes universe but can definitely be read as a standalone novel.)

Summary (from Goodreads):

From #1 New York Times bestseller Stephen King, whose brand has never been stronger, comes one of his most propulsive and unsettling stories ever.

An eleven-year-old boy is found in a town park, hideously assaulted and murdered. The fingerprints (and later DNA) are unmistakably those of the town’s most popular baseball coach, Terry Maitland, a man of impeccable reputation, with a wife and two daughters. Detective Ralph Anderson, whose son Maitland coached, orders an immediate and public arrest. Maitland is taken to jail, his claim to innocence scorned. Maitland has a foolproof alibi, with footage to prove that he was in another city when the crime was committed. But that doesn’t save him either.

King constructs a propulsive plot, and a race against time to uncover the identity of a terrifying and diabolical killer who has left victims—and “perpetrators”—across the country, and who is on his way to his next horrific act.

King’s psychological suspense is at its most riveting in this extraordinarily dramatic and eerie story. He is devastatingly vivid on the experience of being falsely blamed—the effect on the accused, the spouse, the children; the suspicion of friends, even the most loyal; the impossibility of ever being innocent again (if you are lucky enough to live). He is also masterful at showing us that supernatural monsters are startlingly like human beings who do monstrous things.”

This book is so creepy. Like, relentlessly creepy. And if you thought (like I did) that he couldn’t top Brady from the Mr. Mercedes series…well, we both had no idea this was coming down the pike.

On a related note, I was happy to see the connections to Mr. Mercedes (yes, I’m keeping this vague, because we learn some things and I don’t want to spoil anything) but I also very much enjoyed all the new characters. I hope we spend more time in this universe.

This is honestly one of the most disturbing books I’ve read in ages. It’s deeply unsettling and got under my skin in a way that doesn’t happen that often. I’m not sure how parents would do (a lot of bad things happen to children) but it was hard enough for me.  Be aware of that going in. (And consider for a second how bad a content warning in front of a Stephen King novel would be, because generally speaking, it’d be understood, right?)

At any rate, if you can brave it, this is an incredibly enjoyable (and scary) experience. Highly recommended.

 

How I Resist

Finished How I Resist, which is edited by Maureen Johnson and Tim Federle. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“An all-star collection of essays about activism and hope, edited by bestselling YA author Maureen Johnson.

Now, more than ever, young people are motivated to make a difference in a world they’re bound to inherit. They’re ready to stand up and be heard – but with much to shout about, where they do they begin? What can I do? How can I help?

How I Resist is the response, and a way to start the conversation. To show readers that they are not helpless, and that anyone can be the change. A collection of essays, songs, illustrations, and interviews about activism and hope, How I Resist features an all-star group of contributors, including, John Paul Brammer, Libba Bray, Lauren Duca, Modern Family’s Jesse Tyler Ferguson and his husband Justin Mikita, Alex Gino, Hebh Jamal, Malinda Lo, Dylan Marron, Hamilton star Javier Muñoz, Rosie O’Donnell, Junauda Petrus, Jodi Picoult, Jason Reynolds, Karuna Riazi, Maya Rupert, Dana Schwartz, Dan Sinker, Ali Stroker, Jonny Sun (aka @jonnysun), Sabaa Tahir, Daniel Watts, Jennifer Weiner, Jacqueline Woodson, and more, all edited and compiled by New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson.

In How I Resist, readers will find hope and support through voices that are at turns personal, funny, irreverent, and instructive. Not just for a young adult audience, this incredibly impactful collection will appeal to readers of all ages who are feeling adrift and looking for guidance.

How I Resist is the kind of book people will be discussing for years to come and a staple on bookshelves for generations.”

It is so easy to lose hope and feel overwhelmed. Things are scary and it seems like a lot of people are either ignoring it or actively celebrating it.

And it can be hard to keep resisting when it seems like it’s not doing very much good. You no sooner get your elected officials to stop doing one thing when they start doing something else.

This book is so needed because it (a) gives me inspiration to keep going and (b) reminds me that there are all kinds of different ways to resist. While voting, marching and calling elected officials are great and important, even taking a few minutes to post something on Facebook about the upcoming midterm elections counts.

This isn’t a normal time and we can’t pretend it is. All we can do is keep going and persist and resist. I am so thankful for this book. Highly recommended.

How it Happened

Finished How it Happened by Michael Koryta. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“And that is how it happened. Can we stop now?”

Kimberly Crepeaux is no good, a notorious jailhouse snitch, teen mother, and heroin addict whose petty crimes are well-known to the rural Maine community where she lives. So when she confesses to her role in the brutal murders of Jackie Pelletier and Ian Kelly, the daughter of a well-known local family and her sweetheart, the locals have little reason to believe her story.

Not Rob Barrett, the FBI investigator and interrogator specializing in telling a true confession from a falsehood. He’s been circling Kimberly and her conspirators for months, waiting for the right avenue to the truth, and has finally found it. He knows, as strongly as he’s known anything, that Kimberly’s story — a grisly, harrowing story of a hit and run fueled by dope and cheap beer that becomes a brutal stabbing in cold blood — is how it happened. But one thing remains elusive: where are Jackie and Ian’s bodies?

After Barrett stakes his name and reputation on the truth of Kimberly’s confession, only to have the bodies turn up 200 miles from where she said they’d be, shot in the back and covered in a different suspect’s DNA, the case is quickly closed and Barrett forcibly reassigned. But for Howard Pelletier, the tragedy of his daughter’s murder cannot be so tidily swept away. And for Barrett, whose career may already be over, the chance to help a grieving father may be the only one he has left.

HOW IT HAPPENED is a frightening, tension-filled ride into the dark heart of rural American from a writer Stephen King has called “a master” and the New York Times has deemed “impossible to resist.””

Michael Koryta has been one of my favorite authors since I read So Cold the Water probably eight years ago. Every book since then has completely captivated me and been one of my favorites in their respective release years. This one is no different.

What IS different is that this is based on a true story (learn more here) and while this is not at all Jill Behrman’s story, it’s still very much a part of How it Happened. But so are two more universal things: the importance of journalism and the absolute horror of the drug epidemic (specifically opioids).

There are a lot of moving parts to this story, but it all seems absolutely seamless and effortless. (I’m guessing that’s the mark of a great author, right? It all seems easy?)

Highly recommended.

Weekend Recap

WHAT I’M READING: The new Michael Koryta (How it Happened) and it is AMAZING. It’s also available now and I highly recommend it. I’m hoping the review will be up tomorrow. I’m also really excited because the new Stephen King (The Outsider) is out Tuesday and I cannot wait.

WHAT I’M WATCHING: I’m just starting to watch Brooklyn Nine-Nine and, after a slow start,  I think I’m starting to get into it.

Movie-wise, I saw Breaking In (very fun) and Book Club. I was very nervous about Book Club because, while the cast is perfection, the trailer made it look like it was nothing but jokes about women’s sexuality (especially the older women that are featured here). That does the movie a real disservice. I mean, yes, it’s definitely super fluffy but there’s some depth here, too. It’s really nice to see Candice Bergen, especially, and Alicia Silverstone is in it. It’s really nice to see her, too. (Also, Candice Bergen has a bobblehead of Ruth Bader Ginsberg AND her cat is named Ginsberg. I would like a spinoff focused on her character, please and thank you.)

We’ll Fly Away

Finished We’ll Fly Away by Bryan Bliss. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Uniquely told through letters from death row and third-person narrative, Bryan Bliss’s hard-hitting third novel expertly unravels the string of events that landed a teenager in jail. Luke feels like he’s been looking after Toby his entire life. He patches Toby up when Toby’s father, a drunk and a petty criminal, beats on him, he gives him a place to stay, and he diffuses the situation at school when wise-cracking Toby inevitably gets into fights. Someday, Luke and Toby will leave this small town, riding the tails of Luke’s wrestling scholarship, and never look back.

But during their senior year, they begin to drift apart. Luke is dealing with his unreliable mother and her new boyfriend. And Toby unwittingly begins to get drawn into his father’s world, and falls for an older woman. All their long-held dreams seem to be unraveling. Tense and emotional, this heartbreaking novel explores family, abuse, sex, love, friendship, and the lengths a person will go to protect the people they love. For fans of NPR’s Serial podcast, Jason Reynolds, and Matt de la Peña.”

Oh, guys. Guys. This book absolutely broke me. We know from the beginning that something bad happened. We don’t know what or why, but we know that Luke is writing letters from prison (and, even more than that, from Death Row) and we know he’s guilty of whatever sent him there.

The bulk of the book is a slow buildup of dread. The big reveal isn’t a surprise, per se, but it’s still absolutely heartbreaking. And even though we know what’s going to happen, I still spent the book hoping that maybe there’d be a different, happier ending.

This is definitely not for anyone.  There are happy moments, but the book is characterized by abuse (Toby’s life) and neglect (Luke’s). They plan to escape for college, but they’ve still got quite a ways to go before that happens. And then, of course, they each meet girls. It’s an inexorable march to the end and both are trapped in their own circumstances.

Still, this is an amazing and powerful story. I hope you read it.

Summer Reading List!

Here are the books I’m super psyched to read this summer. (This isn’t everything I’m reading, but it’s what I’m most psyched for.) They’re in no particular order.

End of May:

1) The Outsider by Stephen King (!!!!!)

2) Always Never Yours by Emily Wibberly

3) How it Happened by Michael Koryta

4) Legendary by Stephanie Garber

5) Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro

6) From Twinkle With Love by Sandhya Menon

7) Listen to Your Heart by Kasie West

June:

1) Breakout by Kate Messner

2) Not the Girls You’re Looking For by Aminah Mae Safi

3) Inspired by Rachel Held Evans

4) Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl

5) The Merciless IV by Danielle Vega

6) See You on a Starry Night by Lisa Schroeder (SO PSYCHED FOR THIS)

7) Before and Again by Barbara Delinsky

8) Save the Date by Morgan Matson (SO PSYCHED FOR THIS, TOO)

9) Still Lives by Maria Hummel

10) The Art of French Kissing by Brianna Shrum

11) Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson

12) Providence by Caroline Kepnes

13) The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay

14) Any Man by Amber Tamblyn

July:

1) The Intermission by Elyssa Friedland

2) Ghosted by Rosie Walsh

3) Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce

4) Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage

5) You May Now Kill the Bride by RL Stine

6) Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win by Jo Piazza

August:

1) #Murdertrending by Gretchen McNeil

2) Heretics Anonymous by Katie Henry

3) Smothered by Autumn Chiklis

4) Hidden Pieces by Paula Stokes

5) The Other Side of Lost by Jessi Kirby

6) The Truth Lies Here by Lindsey Klingele

That Kind of Mother

Finished That Kind of Mother by Rumaan Alam. I received a copy for review.

 

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Like many first-time mothers, Rebecca Stone finds herself both deeply in love with her newborn son and deeply overwhelmed. Struggling to juggle the demands of motherhood with her own aspirations and feeling utterly alone in the process, she reaches out to the only person at the hospital who offers her any real help—Priscilla Johnson—and begs her to come home with them as her son’s nanny.

Priscilla’s presence quickly does as much to shake up Rebecca’s perception of the world as it does to stabilize her life. Rebecca is white, and Priscilla is black, and through their relationship, Rebecca finds herself confronting, for the first time, the blind spots of her own privilege. She feels profoundly connected to the woman who essentially taught her what it means to be a mother. When Priscilla dies unexpectedly in childbirth, Rebecca steps forward to adopt the baby. But she is unprepared for what it means to be a white mother with a black son. As she soon learns, navigating motherhood for her is a matter of learning how to raise two children whom she loves with equal ferocity, but whom the world is determined to treat differently.

Written with the warmth and psychological acuity that defined his debut, Rumaan Alam has crafted a remarkable novel about the lives we choose, and the lives that are chosen for us.”

This is an astounding book. It’s perfect for book clubs, because there’s so much to unpack. The biggest conversation, of course, is exactly what makes a family. It’s been explored multiple times but it’s always an interesting discussion.

More than that, though, is the question of whether white people should raise children of color. It’s clear that Rebecca and Christopher love Priscilla’s son, Andrew. But her older daughter Cheryl will occasionally broach subjects that they should know, and they (Rebecca especially) will completely gloss it over. And yes, Andrew is now THEIR SON. But Cheryl brings things up to keep him safe (skin care, which is relatively minor, but also the fact that they should have The Talk with Andrew about how to behave with police). And she’s very kind about the fact that these are things that Rebecca and Christopher have never had to think about, but the fact remains that Andrew will have to think about them.

There’s also the question of identity. Christopher has the luxury of never having to balance work and family, but it’s something Rebecca struggles with. I’m sure a lot of women can relate.

This is such a phenomenal book and I couldn’t stop reading it. Be aware going in that it’s a quieter story (definitely more character-driven than plot-driven) but there is so much to enjoy here.

Children of Blood and Bone

Finished Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zelie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now, Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers—and her growing feelings for the enemy.”

As a rule, I am not a huge fan of fantasy. I like things that are real and situations that could really happen. But more than that? I like great stories. And because of that, I am a huge, HUGE fan of this book.

And yes, obviously this is rooted in social justice. In the author’s note, Tomi Adeyemi asks us to care as much about Philando Castile’s death as we do about fictional characters’. This story is incredibly plausible because, while majii aren’t real, we see people killed by a system that’s theoretically in place to protect them on a regular basis. We don’t see discrimination rooted in hair color, but we see police called because “the wrong people” were barbecuing in a park.

This book is fantasy but it’s also a reality we see every day.

An Entertainment Weekly article said this is Black Panther with magic and compared Tomi Adeyemi to JK Rowling. These are bold statements, but they’re deserved. This is the kind of book that can shake the world.

I am in love with it and I cannot wait for the sequel. (Out just before my birthday next year.) You need this book; we all need this book.

Highly recommended.

How to Walk Away

Finished How to Walk Away by Katherine Center. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

From the author of Happiness for Beginners comes an unforgettable love story about finding joy even in the darkest of circumstances. 

Margaret Jacobsen has a bright future ahead of her: a fiancé she adores, her dream job, and the promise of a picture-perfect life just around the corner. Then, suddenly, on what should have been one of the happiest days of her life, everything she worked for is taken away in one tumultuous moment.

In the hospital and forced to face the possibility that nothing will ever be the same again, Margaret must figure out how to move forward on her own terms while facing long-held family secrets, devastating heartbreak, and the idea that love might find her in the last place she would ever expect.

How to Walk Away is Katherine Center at her very best: an utterly charming, hopeful, and romantic novel that will capture reader’s hearts with every page.”

Happiness for Beginners was one of my favorite books the year it came out and so this one was highly, HIGHLY anticipated. My expectations were beyond sky high and this book completely shattered them all.

This book is a complete marvel. It made me smile and cry and laugh. I love every single thing about it, and I definitely want to read her entire backlist immediately.

Margaret is wonderful. She’s completely realistic and while she ends up okay, she definitely is not there the whole time. And all I want is a companion novel about Kit. (Please?)

This is going to be one of my favorites of the year, and ever. Highly recommended.