Backlash

Finished Backlash by Sarah Darer Littman.  I received a review copy from the author for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

He says: You’re an awful person.

He says: What makes you think I would ever ask you out?

He says: The world would be a better place without you in it.

Lara just got told off on Facebook.

She thought that Christian liked her, that he was finally going to ask her to his school’s homecoming dance. They’ve been talking online for weeks, so what’s with the sudden change? And where does he get off saying horrible things on her wall? Even worse – are they true?

It’s been a long time since Lara’s felt this bad, this depressed, this ugly. She’s worked really hard to become pretty and happy – and make new friends after what happened in middle school.

Bree used to be best friends with overweight, depressed Lara, but constantly listening to Lara’s issues got to be too much. Secretly, Bree’s glad Christian called Lara out. Lara’s not nearly as amazing as people think. But no one realized just how far Christian’s harsh comments would push Lara. Not even Bree.

As online life collides with real life, things spiral out of control, and not just for Lara.

Because when the truth starts to come together, the backlash is even more devastating than anyone could have ever imagined.”

If you read the synopsis for this, you’re probably thinking that it sounds like an After School Special, right?  Or like a cheesy Lifetime movie, one that will probably involve suicide, a trial, a ton of uber-preachy lectures about bullying (both online and in real life) and lots of tears?  Lots and lots of tears?

Here’s the thing about Sarah Darer Littman’s books: she can take a hot button topic and make you feel sympathy for everyone involved.  And she can take what would be a complete train wreck of a topic by anyone else and turn it into something that’s compelling and fresh, and make you absolutely feel every word on the page.

Obviously, you’ll sympathize with Lara.  She’s treated absolutely horribly by Christian and, even worse, by people that she thought were her friends.

And you’ll sympathize with Sydney (Lara’s sister), who’s been living in Lara’s shadow forever and whose entire life, it seems, has to revolve around Lara’s attitudes and whims.  And with Liam, who’s Bree’s brother.  The two of them are also friends, and their relationship is affected by what’s going on between the two families.  They’re collateral damage in this whole fight.

But the impressive achievement is that you’ll also feel sorry for Bree.  This is the story that’s not told in these cyberbullying cases.  While Bree does some horrible things in this book and completely betrays her former best friend (and seemingly takes a complete delight in doing so), she’s also a kid.  And she has to deal with so much because of what was just a really, really bad decision.

And that’s the heartbreaking thing about this book: so many horrible things happened because of a few bad decisions and a few misunderstandings.

This is an amazing achievement and I need to read her backlist.  (So far, the only other one I’ve read is Want to Go Private?, which is another stunning novel and one you won’t soon forget.)

Highly recommended.

 

The Start of Me and You

Finished The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Brimming with heartfelt relationships and authentic high-school dynamics The Start of Me and You proves that it’s never too late for second chances.

It’s been a year since it happened—when Paige Hancock’s first boyfriend died in an accident. After shutting out the world for two years, Paige is finally ready for a second chance at high school . . . and she has a plan. First: Get her old crush, Ryan Chase, to date her—the perfect way to convince everyone she’s back to normal. Next: Join a club—simple, it’s high school after all. But when Ryan’s sweet, nerdy cousin, Max, moves to town and recruits Paige for the Quiz Bowl team (of all things!) her perfect plan is thrown for a serious loop. Will Paige be able to face her fears and finally open herself up to the life she was meant to live?”

You may remember how much I flailed over Open Road Summer when I read that last year.  I knew from the first page that Emery Lord was going to become one of my must-buy authors, and I was so excited to get a chance to read The Start of Me and You early.

I will admit, though, that part of me was a little uneasy.  Could I really love this as much as I did her debut?

The answer was an absolute yes.  I even ended up preferring it.  (Blasphemy, I know.)

I absolutely love Paige and felt so horrible for her initially.  I know the look that people get (That Look, as it is referred to repeatedly throughout the book) and was cheering so hard for her to be able to move on with her life.  And I loved Ryan, the world’s sweetest crush.

But Max.  Oh sweet God, Max.  Perfect, awesome Max.  (Shiny Max who loves Firefly!)

I had the world’s goofiest smile on my face the whole time I was reading this. I absolutely love Emery Lord, and the countdown is on until she releases her third book.  It literally cannot come quickly enough.

Highly recommended.

 

We All Looked Up

Finished We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach.  I received a copy for review from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Four high school seniors put their hopes, hearts, and humanity on the line as an asteroid hurtles toward Earth in this contemporary novel.

They always say that high school is the best time of your life.

Peter, the star basketball player at his school, is worried “they” might actually be right. Meanwhile Eliza can’t wait to escape Seattle—and her reputation—and perfect-on-paper Anita wonders if admission to Princeton is worth the price of abandoning her real dreams. Andy, for his part, doesn’t understand all the fuss about college and career—the future can wait.

Or can it? Because it turns out the future is hurtling through space with the potential to wipe out life on Earth. As these four seniors—along with the rest of the planet—wait to see what damage an asteroid will cause, they must abandon all thoughts of the future and decide how they’re going to spend what remains of the present.”

I had heard a lot of mixed (mostly negative) reviews heading into this book, but I really enjoyed it.

I haven’t seen Melancholia (which has a similar premise) but I love the idea behind both: how do you go on and live your life when you know there’s a reasonably good chance you’re going to be dead soon?  Will it bring out the best in people or the worst?  (Or, most likely, both?)

This book would be excellent for book clubs; there’s a lot of potential for discussion.  I’m not sure what my reaction would be if I would potentially be dead in a few weeks (it’s a 66% chance that the asteroid will hit Earth and if it does, obviously, there will be major loss of life).

Recommended.

 

The Last Time We Say Goodbye

Finished The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

There’s death all around us.
We just don’t pay attention.
Until we do.

The last time Lex was happy, it was before. When she had a family that was whole. A boyfriend she loved. Friends who didn’t look at her like she might break down at any moment.

Now she’s just the girl whose brother killed himself. And it feels like that’s all she’ll ever be.

As Lex starts to put her life back together, she tries to block out what happened the night Tyler died. But there’s a secret she hasn’t told anyone-a text Tyler sent, that could have changed everything.

Lex’s brother is gone. But Lex is about to discover that a ghost doesn’t have to be real to keep you from moving on.

From New York Times bestselling author Cynthia Hand, The Last Time We Say Goodbye is a gorgeous and heart-wrenching story of love, loss, and letting go.”

Oh, you guys, this book.  This book will absolutely crush your heart.  It’s important that you know that going in, because it would be worse if it took you by surprise.  But this book is so amazing and it’s absolutely worth the pain you’ll feel.

Lex is one of those people who absolutely knows who she is.  She’s smart and she doesn’t apologize for it.  And all of her friends are equally smart and unapologetic.  She’s willing to work hard now so that her dreams can come true later.

Except once her brother kills himself, things start to change.  Solid foundations are starting to give way.

I absolutely love Lex.  I love the fact that she’s this teenage girl who, unlike most YA characters (and, um, me) is huge into science and math and whose biggest dream is to get to attend MIT.  These are girls we rarely meet in YA, and I’m so happy that they’ll see themselves in her, because I know how important it is to see characters the feel like they could be you.

Everything about this book is absolutely perfect.  I hope Cynthia Hand writes more contemp YA (and I really should finish her paranormal trilogy).

Highly recommended.

Playlist for the Dead

Finished Playlist for the Dead by Michelle Falkoff.  I received a copy for review from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“A teenage boy tries to understand his best friend’s suicide by listening to the playlist of songs he left behind in this smart, voice-driven debut novel.

Here’s what Sam knows: There was a party. There was a fight. The next morning, his best friend, Hayden, was dead. And all he left Sam was a playlist of songs, and a suicide note: For Sam—listen and you’ll understand.

As he listens to song after song, Sam tries to face up to what happened the night Hayden killed himself. But it’s only by taking out his earbuds and opening his eyes to the people around him that he will finally be able to piece together his best friend’s story. And maybe have a chance to change his own.

Part mystery, part love story, and part coming-of-age tale in the vein of Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Tim Tharp’s The Spectacular Now, Playlist for the Dead is an honest and gut-wrenching first novel about loss, rage, what it feels like to outgrow a friendship that’s always defined you—and the struggle to redefine yourself. But above all, it’s about finding hope when hope seems like the hardest thing to find.“

This is an incredibly fast read, because I was interested to know why Hayden killed himself and what was going on with several different things.
Unfortunately, there were at least two plotlines too many for a novel that isn’t even 300 pages.
At its core, the story worked best (at least for me) when it was about Sam and Hayden.  As you’d expect, Sam is heartbroken and angry at his best friend for committing suicide.  He listens to the playlist obsessively trying to understand why Hayden did it, but the answers aren’t obvious.
And then the rest was introduced.  Hayden may or may not have been dating someone; a girl named Astrid appears who knows more than she’s saying; someone using Hayden’s screen name starts contacting Sam; people who were mean to Hayden start being attacked by a mysterious person or people.
It’s a lot to cram in to one 288 page book.
But, like I said, it definitely held my interest, and I love the concept.  I would absolutely read her again.

Leaving Amarillo

Finished Leaving Amarillo by Caisey Quinn.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Dixie Lark hasn’t had it easy. She lost her parents in an accident when she was young and grew up in a ramshackle house on a dirt road in Amarillo with her ailing grandparents and overprotective older brother. Thanks to her grandfather, Dixie learned to play a mean fiddle, inspired by the sounds of the greats—Johnny and June, Waylon, and Hank. Her grandfather’s fiddle changed Dixie’s life forever, giving her an outlet for the turmoil of her broken heart and inspiring a daring dream.

Ten years later, Dixie and her brother, Dallas, are creating the music they love and chasing fame with their hot band, Leaving Amarillo. But Dixie isn’t enjoying the ride. All she can think about is Gavin, the band’s tattooed, tortured drummer who she’s loved since they were kids. She knows he feels the connection between them, but he refuses see her as more than his best friend’s little sister.

Convinced that one night with Gavin will get him out of her system, Dixie devises a plan. She doesn’t know that her brother has forbidden Gavin from making a move on her-a promise he swore he’d always keep . . . a promise that once broken will unexpectedly change the future for Dixie, Gavin and the band.”

Oh, this book.  It was pitched as a “New Age Nashville” and I was like, “SOLD!”

Dixie is a fantastic heroine.  I love her and her combination of sass and vulnerability, the way that she can ricochet from one to the other almost within the same moment.  And, like pretty much every woman I know, I have my own story of what we will call The Long-Standing Crush.  (In this case, of course, it’s Gavin.)

And oh, Gavin.  He’s hot and wounded and strong and broken.  He so clearly loves Dixie, but he knows that sometimes acting on romantic feelings is the fastest way to ruin relationships (his friendship with Dallas, but also potentially his friendship with Dixie).

Although it’s not a spoiler to say that of COURSE they hook up.  Of course they do.  (And oh WOW were those a hot few scenes.)

This left me desperate for the sequel, which is out this summer.

Recommended.

Dead Wake

Finished Dead Wake by Erik Larson.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

On May 1, 1915, a luxury ocean liner as richly appointed as an English country house sailed out of New York, bound for Liverpool, carrying a record number of children and infants. The passengers were anxious. Germany had declared the seas around Britain to be a war zone, and for months, its U-boats had brought terror to the North Atlantic. But the Lusitania was one of the era’s great transatlantic “Greyhounds” and her captain, William Thomas Turner, placed tremendous faith in the gentlemanly strictures of warfare that for a century had kept civilian ships safe from attack. He knew, moreover, that his ship–the fastest then in service–could outrun any threat.

Germany, however, was determined to change the rules of the game, and Walther Schwieger, the captain of Unterseeboot-20, was happy to oblige. Meanwhile, an ultra-secret British intelligence unit tracked Schwieger’s U-boat, but told no one. As U-20 and the Lusitania made their way toward Liverpool, an array of forces both grand and achingly small–hubris, a chance fog, a closely guarded secret, and more–all converged to produce one of the great disasters of history.

It is a story that many of us think we know but don’t, and Erik Larson tells it thrillingly, switching between hunter and hunted while painting a larger portrait of America at the height of the Progressive Era. Full of glamour, mystery, and real-life suspense, Dead Wake brings to life a cast of evocative characters, from famed Boston bookseller Charles Lauriat to pioneering female architect Theodate Pope Riddle to President Wilson, a man lost to grief, dreading the widening war but also captivated by the prospect of new love. Gripping and important, Dead Wake captures the sheer drama and emotional power of a disaster that helped place America on the road to war.”

As you know, I don’t read very much nonfiction, but I’d heard very good things about Erik Larson and I jumped at the chance to read this book.

As he noted himself in the epilogue, there are a lot of misperceptions about the Lusitania and its deliberate sinking at the hands of the Germans during World War I.  I also thought that it was one of the immediate causes of our entering the war (although it took two more years, in reality).

One of the chilling things I learned while reading this was just how many times this was almost averted.  Depending on your perspective, everything went wrong (or right), and it led to this happening.  If weather conditions earlier had been different, or if a few incredibly small things had happened differently, the Lusitania never would have been torpedoed.

It’s incredibly sad to think about how many things had to come together perfectly to enable this.

I look forward to reading more of his books.

Recommended.

Until Beth Cover Blast

Blurb:

She doesn’t just play, she kills it.

Talented rock guitarist Beth Collins has been barely holding herself together for months, ever since her boyfriend and bandmate became the latest victim in a string of suspicious disappearances. When her brother is injured an accident and she sees something dark billowing around him as he hovers close to death, she’s convinced her sanity is collapsing for good.

Then she’s accepted by a boarding school for the musically gifted. All of her new friends are bursting with talent, but they’re also keeping secrets. Can she trust Vincent, who’s so sweet that his very touch makes her fears melt away? Or Xavier, who’s trying to tell her something but is hiding even more?

And will anyone be safe when her true Talent comes out?

Title: Until Beth

Author: Lisa Amowitz

Publisher: Spencer Hill Press

Expected Publication Date: September 29 2015

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22459608-until-beth?from_search=true

Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/Until-Beth-Lisa-Amowitz/dp/163392033X/ref=sr_1_sc_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1427069942&sr=8-3-spell&keywords=lisa+amowtiz

Lisa’s Bio:

Lisa Amowitz was born in Queens and raised in the wilds of Long Island, New York where she climbed trees, thought small creatures lived under rocks and studied ant hills. And drew. A lot.

Lisa has been a professor of graphic design at  Bronx Community College where she has been tormenting and cajoling students for nearly eighteen years. She started writing eight years ago because she wanted something to illustrate, but somehow, instead ended up writing YA. Probably because her mind is too dark and twisted for small children.

BREAKING GLASS which was released July 9, 2013 from Spencer Hill Press, is her first published work.

VISION, the first book in the Finder Series, released September 9, 2014 and its unnamed sequel will release winter, 2016.

UNTIL BETH, a YA urban fantasy, will release September 2015.

So stay tuned because Lisa is very hyper and has to create stuff to stay alive.

Lisa is represented by Shannon Hassan of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency

 

The Stranger

Finished The Stranger by Harlan Coben.  I received a copy for review from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

The #1 New York Times bestselling master of suspense delivers a shocking thriller that proves that a well-placed lie can help build a comfortable life—and a secret has the same explosive power to destroy it.

Harlan Coben’s seven consecutive #1 New York Times bestsellers feature unrivaled depths of emotion combined with cutting-edge suspense plots that keep millions of readers turning pages deep into the night. In The Stranger, married parents Adam and Hannah confront the shocking secret on which their marriage is built—leaving Adam wondering whether he ever truly knew Hannah at all.”

First a word of warning: do not start this book at night or when you might be starting to get hungry any time soon.  I didn’t heed either of those warnings (a rookie mistake) and by the end of the book was both exhausted and starving.

Even so, completely worth it.

The Stranger is Harlan Coben at his absolute best.  This book starts off fast and never slows down.  Every time I thought I knew what was going on, I quickly learned I really had no idea.  The ending caught me by surprise but at the same time, was so obvious that I was mad at myself for not figuring it out.

(This is why I love Harlan Coben.)

If you haven’t already started reading him, you owe it to yourself to start.  This book has now replaced Tell No One as my absolute favorite of his, but you can’t go wrong with any of them.

Highly recommended.

Seek Me in Shadows Cover Reveal

Seek Me in Shadows is the sequel to Follow Me Through Darkness and is by Danielle Ellison.  It’ll be released in October. (Click here to subscribe to her newsletter.)

SMIS

Jacket copy:

“Neely Ambrose thought she was done with secrets. When she escaped the Compound, she also believed she’d escaped a future built on lies and deceit. She was wrong; the world outside isn’t much better. In fact, it may be worse.

All Neely wants is to safely deliver the people of the Compound into Remnant camps so she can go start a life of her own with Thorne. But that’s before the Remnants start dying around her, before camps are destroyed just after she’s left them, before she notices a strange bird carving at the site of each attack, and before Thorne is taken.

The Mavericks believe Thorne is dead, taken by the Elders who will stop at nothing to find Neely, but she’s determined to prove them wrong.

But the only clue she has to find him is a bird carved into the last place where anyone saw Thorne. As she starts a journey to find him, she learns the birds are a symbol for a secret group that’s made a home in the shadows. A group that even Xenith doesn’t know about, that the Remnants won’t talk about, and that Neely feels may have a plan of their own — and that plan may involve her.”

I’ve read it early and it is AMAZING, guys.  You need this book.