The Girl on the Train

Finished The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

A debut psychological thriller that will forever change the way you look at other people’s lives.

Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

A compulsively readable, emotionally immersive, Hitchcockian thriller that draws comparisons to Gone Girl, The Silent Wife, or Before I Go to Sleep, this is an electrifying debut embraced by readers across markets and categories.”

I’ve heard a lot of complaints around this book, mainly centered around the fact that none of the women in it are particularly likable (especially Rachel, the main narrator).  That’s true (and thus a valid complaint) but since when is it important that a story be full of good and wonderful people to be a story worth reading?

At any rate, if you are thinking of reading this book, do it.  And, if it’s not already too late for you, try and go in as cold as possible, knowing as little as you can.  It’s the best way to go in.

Also important: try and start it when you have a lot of free time.  It’s absolutely impossible to stop reading once you start.  (Fun fact: the letter from the publisher at the beginning of my e-galley said that one of the Penguin staffers was actually reading this under the desk at a meeting because she was close to the end and couldn’t stop.  I completely sympathize—I was five minutes late to work because I was close to the end and couldn’t stop.)

I enjoyed this book a great deal and Paula Hawkins is a new must-buy author for me.  Highly recommended.

The Tragic Age

Finished The Tragic Age by Stephen Metcalfe.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

This is the story of Billy Kinsey, heir to a lottery fortune, part genius, part philosopher and social critic, full time insomniac and closeted rock drummer. Billy has decided that the best way to deal with an absurd world is to stay away from it. Do not volunteer. Do not join in. Billy will be the first to tell you it doesn’t always work— not when your twin sister, Dorie, has died, not when your unhappy parents are at war with one another, not when frazzled soccer moms in two ton SUVs are more dangerous than atom bombs, and not when your guidance counselor keeps asking why you haven’t applied to college. Billy’s life changes when two people enter his life. Twom Twomey is a charismatic renegade who believes that truly living means going a little outlaw. Twom and Billy become one another’s mutual benefactor and friend. At the same time, Billy is reintroduced to Gretchen Quinn, an old and adored friend of Dorie’s. It is Gretchen who suggests to Billy that the world can be transformed by creative acts of the soul. With Twom, Billy visits the dark side. And with Gretchen, Billy experiences possibilities.Billy knows that one path is leading him toward disaster and the other toward happiness. The problem is—Billy doesn’t trust happiness. It’s the age he’s at.  The tragic age.

Stephen Metcalfe’s brilliant, debut coming-of-age novel, The Tragic Age, will teach you to learn to love, trust and truly be alive in an absurd world.”

I know that the comparisons to Catcher in the Rye and The Outsiders are both pretty bold statements.  They’re also both pretty apt.  This book is one I would’ve loved if I had read it in high school (I loved it now, when I am in my mid-30s).  It’s an incredibly caustic book but also one that doesn’t continue on the myth that high school is the best years of your life.

I loved the characters in this, and also the general plot.  This is a story about grief but at the same time, Billy’s grief for his twin sister never overcomes everything else.  It colors his life but it doesn’t really rule it, if that makes sense.

At any rate, this book is relentlessly clever, laugh out loud funny and completely its own thing.  I can’t wait to see what Stephen Metcalfe does next.

Highly recommended.

We Can Work It Out

Finished We Can Work It Out by Elizabeth Eulberg.

Summary (from Goodreads):

When Penny Lane started The Lonely Hearts Club, the goal was simple: to show that girls didn’t need to define themselves by how guys look at them, and didn’t have to value boyfriends over everything else. Penny thought she’d be an outcast for life…but then the club became far more popular than she ever imagined it would be.

But what happens when the girl who never thought she’d date a good guy suddenly finds herself dating a great one? She doesn’t need a boyfriend… but she wants it to work out with this particular boyfriend. And he wants it to work out with her.

Only, things keep getting in the way. Feelings keep getting hurt. Words keep getting misunderstood.

Penny Lane worked hard to declare her independence. Now she needs to figure out what to do with it — and how to balance what she wants with what everyone else wants. In We Can Work It Out, Elizabeth Eulberg returns to the world of her first novel, The Lonely Hearts Club, and gets to the heart of how hard relationships can be… and why they are sometimes worth all the drama and comedy they create.”

This is another sweet, fun read by Elizabeth Eulberg.  I haven’t read all of her other books, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the ones I have read.

I love the idea that this book centers around the fact that you can hurt people by mistake, by trying to do the best thing.  A lot of times, you don’t realize the impact that your actions can have on other people until it’s too late.  In Penny’s case, she’s trying so hard to maintain her individuality and sense of self while being in a relationship that she forgets to act like she’s actually IN a relationship.

I hope there’s another book about Penny Lane.  (Or maybe one about her sisters? I could go for a Rita story.)

The Lonely Hearts Club Band

Finished The Lonely Hearts Club Band by Elizabeth Eulberg.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Love is all you need… or is it? Penny’s about to find out in this wonderful debut.

Penny is sick of boys and sick of dating. So she vows: no more. It’s a personal choice. . .and, of course, soon everyone wants to know about it. And a few other girls are inspired. A movement is born: The Lonely Hearts Club (named after the band from Sgt. Pepper). Penny is suddenly known for her nondating ways . . . which is too bad, because there’s this certain boy she can’t help but like. . . .”

This book is completely adorable.  I love the concept behind it, and I love the fact that Penny is a huge, HUGE fan of the Beatles.  (It really could’ve gone either way, given the fact that her parents loved them so much that her actual name is Penny Lane Bloom, and her parents insist on her being referred to as Penny Lane; her two older sisters are Lucy and Rita.  So it’s pretty fortunate that she loves the Beatles, because otherwise her life would be pretty wretched.)

And I love the fact that this book focuses so much on how important friendship is.  I know a lot of people who ditch their friends when they start dating, so it was good to see friends who put each other first.

I also enjoyed the fact that not all boys are portrayed as being evil (accidentally or on purpose) or in some way horrible.  (Many high school boys are, of course, but not everyone.)  There are a couple boys in here who are pretty fantastic (and a couple girls who are hideous).

If you’re looking for a fun, sweet, fast read that will make you smile, this is the book for you.

When I Was the Greatest

Finished When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds.

Summary (from Goodreads):

In Bed Stuy, New York, a small misunderstanding can escalate into having a price on your head—even if you’re totally clean. This gritty, triumphant debut captures the heart and the hardship of life for an urban teen.

A lot of the stuff that gives my neighborhood a bad name, I don’t really mess with. The guns and drugs and all that, not really my thing.

Nah, not his thing. Ali’s got enough going on, between school and boxing and helping out at home. His best friend Noodles, though. Now there’s a dude looking for trouble—and, somehow, it’s always Ali around to pick up the pieces. But, hey, a guy’s gotta look out for his boys, right? Besides, it’s all small potatoes; it’s not like anyone’s getting hurt.

And then there’s Needles. Needles is Noodles’s brother. He’s got a syndrome, and gets these ticks and blurts out the wildest, craziest things. It’s cool, though: everyone on their street knows he doesn’t mean anything by it.

Yeah, it’s cool…until Ali and Noodles and Needles find themselves somewhere they never expected to be…somewhere they never should’ve been—where the people aren’t so friendly, and even less forgiving.”

I absolutely love this book.   This is an incredibly good book, one that recently won the Coretta Scott King award.  I don’t want to go into too much detail, because going in blind is a great idea.

I loved Ali immediately.  He’s sweet and smart, but he’s also tough.  He understands what he needs to do and how he needs to be in order to survive in the world he lives in.  At the same time, though, he loves his family and he never pretends that he doesn’t in order to fit in.

Over the course of a few months and two books, Jason Reynolds has become one of my absolute favorite authors.  In a perfect world, he would release multiple books a year; unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world.

Highly recommended.

I’ll Meet You There

Finished I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

If seventeen-year-old Skylar Evans were a typical Creek View girl, her future would involve a double-wide trailer, a baby on her hip, and the graveyard shift at Taco Bell. But after graduation, the only thing standing between straightedge Skylar and art school are three minimum-wage months of summer. Skylar can taste the freedom—that is, until her mother loses her job and everything starts coming apart. Torn between her dreams and the people she loves, Skylar realizes everything she’s ever worked for is on the line.

Nineteen-year-old Josh Mitchell had a different ticket out of Creek View: the Marines. But after his leg is blown off in Afghanistan, he returns home, a shell of the cocksure boy he used to be. What brings Skylar and Josh together is working at the Paradise—a quirky motel off California’s dusty Highway 99. Despite their differences, their shared isolation turns into an unexpected friendship and soon, something deeper.”

This book snuck up on me.  While I immediately loved Something Real (and especially Chloe and Benny and Patrick Sheldon), this book took me a while.

A big part of it is the fact that Josh offhandedly used gay slurs a handful of times, and that made it really hard for me to like him or to see him as this big romantic hero.

So yes, it was hard for me to get past that.

And yet, eventually I did.

I did immediately like Skylar.  I come from a small town, too (although not as small as Creek View) and I know how it feels to be desperate to leave the first second you can (and also to be afraid that something will happen, last second, to keep you from going).  And eventually Skylar’s feelings for Josh made me start to see him in a new light.  (Although by the end, he also helped.)

I love Heather Demetrios’ books.  They’re sweet and romantic, but they’re also incredibly real and not always pretty.

Highly recommended.

Falling For Alice Cover Reveal (and Giveaway)

Falling for Alice

So awesome, right?

2015 marks the 150th anniversary of Lewis Carroll’s beloved adventure, Alice in Wonderland—and as you might imagine, a lot of literary peeps are celebrating the occasion.

This story has a special place in millions of young (and old) hearts, including those of the five Young Adult authors in the FALLING FOR ALICE anthology. Today, as we launch the awesome cover for FALLING FOR ALICE, we also celebrate our publisher’s actual birthday (Happy Birthday, Jessica Bell at Vine Leaves Press), and all of YOUR unbirthdays. We hope you get to have your cake and eat it too.

BOOK BLURB

New Alice. New Wonderland. New stories ​to love. 

From ​the modern Alice dumped in the Aquarian ​Age of the late sixties, to the ​present day Alice, tormented by body image and emotional issues, to the Alice of the future, launched forward through time and space, FALLING FOR ALICE offers five fresh takes on ​Lewis​ Carroll’s classic tale. For 150 years, people all over the world have fallen under Alice in Wonderland’s spell. ​Now, follow five Young Adult authors down the rabbit hole to discover Alice like you’ve never seen her before. One thing is certain—this is not your mother’s Alice. (less)

Website: www.fallingforaliceanthology.com

Twitter: @Falling4Alice

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24833107-falling-for-alice?from_search=true

Link to the trailer: http://youtu.be/oxvOr1BXPG4

SALE DATE: April 24, 2015

Publisher: Vine Leaves Press

Click here to enter the giveaway.  There are five prizes:

1 A copy of Falling For Alice (when ready)
2 An e-copy of Denise Jarden’s Foreign Exchange
3 a copy of the Spirted anthology
4 a copy of Killer Instinct by Dawn Dalton and Judith Graves
5 One of Cady Vance’s books in e-book format
We all asked the authors one question.  Here is mine:
Birthdays have cake.  What’s the preferred dessert for unbirthdays?
Denise Jaden:  Sticky Toffee Pudding (I’ve recently introduced some of my co-authors to this decadent treat!)
Dawn Dalton:  Ice cream.  In fact, I’d take ice cream over cake any day of the week.  Bonus points if it’s Italian gelato.
Cady Vance:  A big fat slice of New York cheesecake would do nicely. And some tiramisu. And some dark chocolate chunk cookies. Can I just have every kind of dessert please?
Shari Green:  Blackberry pie! (Homemade, with berries from my secret picking-spot by the beach.)

Kitty Keswick:  A massive tiered cake, each layer a different flavor.  I’d have chocolate filled with cherry cream, chocolate and buttercream, chocolate filled with chocolate…okay, so maybe a chocolate cake with different fillings.

Canary

Finished Canary by Duane Swierczynski.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

It’s dangerous enough when an ordinary college girl turns confidential informant. Even more dangerous when she’s smarter than the killer, kingpins, and cops who control her.

Honors student Sarie Holland is busted by the local police while doing a favor for her boyfriend. Unwilling to betray him but desperate to avoid destroying her future, Sarie has no choice but to become a “CI”–a confidential informant.

Philly narcotics cop Ben Wildey is hungry for a career-making bust. The detective thinks he’s found the key in Sarie: her boyfriend scores from a mid-level dealer with alleged ties to the major drug gangs.

Sarie turns out to be the perfect CI: a quick study with a shockingly keen understanding of the criminal mind. But Wildey, desperate for results, pushes too hard and inadvertently sends the nineteen-year-old into a death trap, leaving Sarie hunted by crooked cops and killers alike with nothing to save her–except what she’s learned during her harrowing weeks as an informant.

Which is bad news for the police and the underworld. Because when it comes to payback, CI #137 turns out to be a very quick study…”

I am a huge fan of Duane Swierczynski (so much so that my phone actually auto-corrected something to his last name, which is pretty awesome) and even so I keep forgetting just how awesome and fun his books are.

This one replaces Severance Package as my new favorite.   A huge part of that is due to Sarie.  When the book begins, she’s basically your average college student whose biggest worry is being able to ace all her exams.  And then she makes a random decision to give a guy a ride…and THEN all hell breaks loose and all of a sudden her worries are much more stressful.  (Like, say, will I go to prison? Will I even still be alive for my last exam? Will I get murdered and dumped in a river?)

I’m hoping for a sequel.  Highly recommended.

Hush Hush

Finished Hush Hush by Laura Lippman.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

The award-winning New York Times bestselling author of After I’m Gone, The Most Dangerous Thing, I’d Know You Anywhere, and What the Dead Know brings back private detective Tess Monaghan, introduced in the classic Baltimore Blues, in an absorbing mystery that plunges the new parent into a disturbing case involving murder and a manipulative mother.

On a searing August day, Melisandre Harris Dawes committed the unthinkable: she left her two-month-old daughter locked in a car while she sat nearby on the shores of the Patapsco River. Melisandre was found not guilty by reason of criminal insanity, although there was much skepticism about her mental state. Freed, she left the country, her husband and her two surviving children, determined to start over.

But now Melisandre has returned Baltimore to meet with her estranged teenage daughters and wants to film the reunion for a documentary. The problem is, she relinquished custody and her ex, now remarried, isn’t sure he approves.

Now that’s she’s a mother herself–short on time, patience–Tess Monaghan wants nothing to do with a woman crazy enough to have killed her own child. But her mentor and close friend Tyner Gray, Melisandre’s lawyer, has asked Tess and her new partner, retired Baltimore P.D. homicide detective Sandy Sanchez, to assess Melisandre’s security needs.

As a former reporter and private investigator, Tess tries to understand why other people break the rules and the law. Yet the imperious Melisandre is something far different from anyone she’s encountered. A decade ago, a judge ruled that Melisandre was beyond rational thought. But was she? Tess tries to ignore the discomfort she feels around the confident, manipulative Melisandre. But that gets tricky after Melisandre becomes a prime suspect in a murder.

Yet as her suspicions deepen, Tess realizes that just as she’s been scrutinizing Melisandre, a judgmental stalker has been watching her every move as well. . . . ”

I’ve loved Laura Lippman’s novels for years, and while I absolutely adore her standalones, I have a major soft spot for her Tess Monaghan novels.  But Tess has been largely absent for years (completely out of most of the books, although she’s had a few cameos).  Now, though, she’s finally back.

It would have been easy to expect her to be gone for good.  Now she and Crow have a young daughter, Carla Scout.  So how can Tess do her PI work with a three-year-old around?  Oh, ye of little faith.

The woman at the center of this novel is Melisandre Dawes, who was found not guilty (by reason of insanity) of killing her baby daughter years ago.  She left the child to die in a hot car (on purpose) and fled the city (and state and country) as soon as she could.  But now she’s back and she wants to have a relationship with her two older girls, who are now in their teens.  There’s a lot more going on, of course, but that would be spoiling things.

Tess Monaghan is one of my favorite characters, someone who is clearly the literary descendent of my beloved VI Warshawski.  Like Vic, Tess fights for the underdog and is much braver than anyone could reasonably expect to be.  And like Vic, the city she lives in plays a major part in the book.  But while VI lives in Chicago, Tess lives in Baltimore.  (And in this book, I was happy to see that I knew where every place mentioned was.  Love this city!)

If you’ve already read Laura Lippman’s books, I don’t need to sell you on them.  If you haven’t, this is an excellent one to start with.

Highly recommended.

Split Second

Finished Split Second by Kasie West.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Life can change in a split second.

Addie hardly recognizes her life since her parents divorced. Her boyfriend used her. Her best friend betrayed her. She can’t believe this is the future she chose. On top of that, her ability is acting up. She’s always been able to Search the future when presented with a choice. Now she can manipulate and slow down time, too . . . but not without a price.

When Addie’s dad invites her to spend her winter break with him, she jumps at the chance to escape into the Norm world of Dallas, Texas. There she meets the handsome and achingly familiar Trevor. He’s a virtual stranger to her, so why does her heart do a funny flip every time she sees him? But after witnessing secrets that were supposed to stay hidden, Trevor quickly seems more suspicious of Addie than interested in her. And she has an inexplicable desire to change that.

Meanwhile, her best friend, Laila, has a secret of her own: she can restore Addie’s memories . . . once she learns how. But there are powerful people who don’t want to see this happen. Desperate, Laila tries to manipulate Connor, a brooding bad boy from school—but he seems to be the only boy in the Compound immune to her charms. And the only one who can help her.

As Addie and Laila frantically attempt to retrieve the lost memories, Addie must piece together a world she thought she knew before she loses the love she nearly forgot . . . and a future that could change everything.”

I really loved Pivot Point, so I have no idea why I waited so long to read this.  (I’m sorry, me!)

This book is so different from Kasie West’s standalone contemps, but I absolutely love both.  This is more of a paranormal novel, although it reads like contemp if that makes sense.

Because I read this so long after I read Pivot Point, I had forgotten a lot of the things that happened in that book.  (I mention that because this book still made perfect sense to me.  So it does function as a standalone, although I think you’d enjoy it more if you read the first one.  Maybe you’ll be smarter than I was and read them back to back, now that you can.)

Even if you think you don’t like paranormals, read this anyway.  It’s amazing.

Recommended.