All posts by Kelly

Between the World and Me

Finished Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“This is your country, this is your world, this is your body, and you must find some way to live within the all of it.”
 
In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis. Americans have built an empire on the idea of “race,” a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men—bodies exploited through slavery and segregation, and, today, threatened, locked up, and murdered out of all proportion. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can we all honestly reckon with this fraught history and free ourselves from its burden?

Between the World and Me is Ta-Nehisi Coates’s attempt to answer these questions in a letter to his adolescent son. Coates shares with his son—and readers—the story of his awakening to the truth about his place in the world through a series of revelatory experiences, from Howard University to Civil War battlefields, from the South Side of Chicago to Paris, from his childhood home to the living rooms of mothers whose children’s lives were taken as American plunder. Beautifully woven from personal narrative, reimagined history, and fresh, emotionally charged reportage, Between the World and Me clearly illuminates the past, bracingly confronts our present, and offers a transcendent vision for a way forward.”

I read this for book club, and found out about it because people were discussing it while I was reading Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee.  Some blogger friends of mine were saying that their experience reading this was going to make it much harder for them to read that book.

This is such an incredibly powerful book but as a warning, there were times for me reading this that I became really defensive.  (At every time that happened, I was able to remind myself that my job as a white person and an ally—or aspiring ally; based on my occasional reactions to this, I’m not 100% there yet—is to shut up and bear witness and that every instance where my reaction is to be, “But wait, not everyone…!” proves that we all still have a long way to go.)

Ta-Nehisi Coates is clearly brilliant, and his arguments are reasoned out.  This is such an important book, and I hope everyone will read it.

Highly recommended.

Under the Lights

Finished Under the Lights by Dahlia Adler.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.  (Note: This is the publishing company I work for but this is not one of my books.)

Summary (from Goodreads):

Josh Chester loves being a Hollywood bad boy, coasting on his good looks, his parties, his parents’ wealth, and the occasional modeling gig. But his laid-back lifestyle is about to change. To help out his best friend, Liam, he joins his hit teen TV show, Daylight Falls … opposite Vanessa Park, the one actor immune to his charms. (Not that he’s trying to charm her, of course.) Meanwhile, his drama-queen mother blackmails him into a new family reality TV show, with Josh in the starring role. Now that he’s in the spotlight—on everyone’s terms but his own—Josh has to decide whether a life as a superstar is the one he really wants.

Vanessa Park has always been certain about her path as an actor, despite her parents’ disapproval. But with all her relationships currently in upheaval, she’s painfully uncertain about everything else. When she meets her new career handler, Brianna, Van is relieved to have found someone she can rely on, now that her BFF, Ally, is at college across the country. But as feelings unexpectedly evolve beyond friendship, Van’s life reaches a whole new level of confusing. And she’ll have to choose between the one thing she’s always loved … and the person she never imagined she could.”

This is my first Dahlia Adler book (I KNOW) and as someone who’s a huge fan of contemp YA, that’s kind of an embarrassing admission.  This one is right on the line between YA and NA (okay, granted, definitely more NA than YA), and is also all kinds of awesome.

I was reading this and it’s weird how nice it was to see myself (gay) reflected in a love story.  And I’m 35.  So I can’t imagine how nice it is for people who are 19 or 20 to see themselves reflected.  And it’s weird; it’s not something I really think about that often.  It’s something that really only comes up when I DO read f/f love stories.  And it’s like, oh yeah, this is actually awesome.  (When I first came out, I went through a year or two where the vast majority of what I read was gay fiction but it stopped pretty quickly because, as nice as it was to see me in a novel, it was also less than fun because the writing and editing tended to be not great.)

Fortunately now even major publishing houses are releasing diverse books, and the writing is definitely much better.  (Kids today, man.  THEY HAVE IT SO EASY.)

I absolutely love Vanessa and her love story with Bri.  And I love the way that Dahlia Adler didn’t take the obvious story (Vanessa and Josh hate each other.  UNTIL THEY DON’T AND NOW THEY ARE IN LOVE).

Highly recommended.

Never Never

Finished Never Never by Brianna Shrum.  I received a copy from the publisher for review. (Note: this is a Spencer Hill book, but not one of mine.)

Summary (from Goodreads):

James Hook is a child who only wants to grow up.

When he meets Peter Pan, a boy who loves to pretend and is intent on never becoming a man, James decides he could try being a child—at least briefly. James joins Peter Pan on a holiday to Neverland, a place of adventure created by children’s dreams, but Neverland is not for the faint of heart. Soon James finds himself longing for home, determined that he is destined to be a man. But Peter refuses to take him back, leaving James trapped in a world just beyond the one he loves. A world where children are to never grow up.

But grow up he does.

And thus begins the epic adventure of a Lost Boy and a Pirate.

This story isn’t about Peter Pan; it’s about the boy whose life he stole. It’s about a man in a world that hates men. It’s about the feared Captain James Hook and his passionate quest to kill the Pan, an impossible feat in a magical land where everyone loves Peter Pan.

Except one.”

From the second I heard about it, I was excited to read this.  While I’m not huge on Peter Pan like my friends Kathy and Hannah are, I like stories told from a new perspective.  And Neverland as explained by Captain Hook? YES AND YES.

And from the first sentence, this book completely had me.  I loved James Hook, and the way that, even as a little boy, he couldn’t wait to grow up and be a man.   Obviously he and Peter Pan are going to have major problems, right? Because how can you possibly get along with someone who never wants to grow up when that’s all you want to do?

And oh, James and Tiger Lily.  I am generally not a shipper but I loved them (together and separately) so, so much.

This is a fantastic book, one of my favorites of the year.

Highly recommended.

The One Thing

Finished The One Thing by Marci Lyn Curtis.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Maggie Sanders might be blind, but she won’t invite anyone to her pity party. Ever since losing her sight six months ago, Maggie’s rebellious streak has taken on a life of its own, culminating with an elaborate school prank. Maggie called it genius. The judge called it illegal.

Now Maggie has a probation officer. But she isn’t interested in rehabilitation, not when she’s still mourning the loss of her professional-soccer dreams, and furious at her so-called friends, who lost interest in her as soon as she could no longer lead the team to victory.

Then Maggie’s whole world is turned upside down. Somehow, incredibly, she can see again. But only one person: Ben, a precocious ten-year-old unlike anyone she’s ever met.Ben’s life isn’t easy, but he doesn’t see limits, only possibilities. After awhile, Maggie starts to realize that losing her sight doesn’t have to mean losing everything she dreamed of. Even if what she’s currently dreaming of is Mason Milton, the infuriatingly attractive lead singer of Maggie’s new favorite band, who just happens to be Ben’s brother.

But when she learns the real reason she can see Ben, Maggie must find the courage to face a once-unimaginable future…before she loses everything she has grown to love.”

I absolutely mainlined this novel before work one day. I had a couple hours to read and figured I’d probably read 150 pages, tops.  (I generally read a few chapters, check email, a few more, check Facebook…)

Instead, I read all but the last 50 pages of this book before having to get ready for work.  I didn’t check email or the internet at all; I just read.  And then after showering and brushing my teeth, I realized I could probably read another 10 pages and get to work on time.  (I read 20 and then went a little over the speed limit.)  And then I read the last 30 pages on my phone under the desk.  (There wasn’t actual work to do.  I maintain this is fine.)

So why am I telling you this?

Because The One Thing is awesome.  Everything about it is awesome.

I especially love Maggie.  She’s prickly and honestly, a bit of a jerk.  She doesn’t really spend time with people since she lost her eyesight (meningitis) and she wasn’t much of a people person before that.  And now she just wants to be left alone.

And then she meets Ben.  I LOVE BEN.  He’s this sweet, smart kid and while yes, he’s little (10), he’s also very wise.  In his own way.

There’s a lot going on in this story but it’s basically summed up as: the story of how Maggie learned how to be okay with herself and also with other people.

Highly recommended.

Monsters on the Run

Finished Monsters on the Run by Kevin Sherry.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Blizz Richards and his band of wacky cryptids are back for another illustrated adventure!

Everyone thinks the Loch Ness monster is one-of-a-kind. But that just means Nessie’s lonely. And only yeti Blizz Richards and his team of cryptozoologists can help her find a friend just like her. With a little help from a time-traveling leprechaun, the gang travels back 65 million years to the age of dinosaurs to begin the search.

But they aren’t ready for the dangers that wait for them: monstrously mean dinos. Giants with razor-sharp teeth. Terrifyingly cute little kitties. Can Blizz keep his team safe, or will they have to sacrifice everything to help Nessie find a friend?”

This book randomly showed up in my house one day, and seemed like a perfect early chapters read (I’m sure there’s a term for this, the books that are probably one step below middlegrade?) for me, the kind of book I would’ve loved when I was little.

Blizz and his friends seem to help out mythical creatures (I haven’t read the first book, but now I want to) and their new project is to help Vanessa (the Loch Ness Monster) find her family.  (ADORABLE RIGHT?)  They find a way to go back in time, because they believe that she must be a dinosaur or dinosaur descendent that didn’t die off when everyone else did.

So now they’re back with the dinosaurs and—as anyone who has ever seen Jurassic Park can tell you—it’s not fun like you’d think.  Nessie gets to find relatives and they’re nice but a lot of the other dinosaurs are mean. Also, hungry.

The best part of the book, though? A shoutout to Chessie, the Chesapeake Bay version of the Loch Ness Monster!

Recommended for new readers.

The Accident Season

Finished The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

It’s the accident season, the same time every year. Bones break, skin tears, bruises bloom.

The accident season has been part of seventeen-year-old Cara’s life for as long as she can remember. Towards the end of October, foreshadowed by the deaths of many relatives before them, Cara’s family becomes inexplicably accident-prone. They banish knives to locked drawers, cover sharp table edges with padding, switch off electrical items – but injuries follow wherever they go, and the accident season becomes an ever-growing obsession and fear.

But why are they so cursed? And how can they break free?”

I was happy to see this book at BEA; I was really intrigued by the concept—an entire family that has catastrophic bad luck for a few weeks?  And this could reveal itself in several different ways.  “Good” accident seasons have nothing worse than bruises and broken bones.  “Bad” accident seasons?  Well, let’s just say the accident season has a body count.

And it’s probably not surprising that there’s a lot more going on with this book than that.  There are family secrets and things that not everyone knows—which I imagine is true in every family.

And while I didn’t love the book the way I expected to, I was completely fascinated the entire time. I didn’t know what was real and what wasn’t.  The book felt like a fever dream and I couldn’t even trust my own perceptions.

I liked the characters but didn’t trust any of them.  This is one of those books I’m going to be thinking about for a while.

Trust No One

Finished Trust No One by Paul Cleave.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

In the exciting new psychological thriller by the Edgar-nominated author of Joe Victim, a famous crime writer struggles to differentiate between his own reality and the frightening plot lines he’s created for the page.

Jerry Grey is known to most of the world by his crime writing pseudonym, Henry Cutter-a name that has been keeping readers at the edge of their seats for more than a decade. Recently diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s at the age of forty-nine, Jerry’s crime writing days are coming to an end. His twelve books tell stories of brutal murders committed by bad men, of a world out of balance, of victims finding the darkest forms of justice. As his dementia begins to break down the wall between his life and the lives of the characters he has created, Jerry confesses his worst secret: The stories are real. He knows this because he committed the crimes. Those close to him, including the nurses at the care home where he now lives, insist that it is all in his head, that his memory is being toyed with and manipulated by his unfortunate disease. But if that were true, then why are so many bad things happening? Why are people dying?”

First, a disclaimer.  You should know that this book is going to keep you guessing.  I didn’t spend any part of this book 100% convinced of what was going on.

(What an amazing concept, right? The ultimate unreliable narrator.)

I felt horrible for Jerry—he’s clearly a decent guy, but someone who has no idea of what’s going on or how best to handle his suspicions.  It’s also never entirely sure whether he’s correct in those suspicions or if he’s just become incredibly paranoid as a result of his declining mental faculties.

It’s also worth noting that these are not mutually exclusive things: he could easily be both correct in some and paranoid about others.

It was nearly impossible for me to stop reading; I was up until 1 a.m. because I couldn’t sleep until I knew the ending.

Recommended.

Of Dreams and Rust

Finished Of Dreams and Rust by Sarah Fine.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

War erupts in this bittersweet sequel to “Of Metal and Wishes”, inspired by The Phantom of the Opera and called “relentlessly engrossing” by The Romantic Times.

In the year since the collapse of the slaughterhouse where Wen worked as her father’s medical assistant, she’s held all her secrets close. She works in the clinic at the weapons factory and sneaks away to nurse Bo, once the Ghost, now a boy determined to transform himself into a living machine. Their strange, fragile friendship soothes some of the ache of missing Melik, the strong-willed Noor who walked away from Wen all those months ago—but it can’t quell her fears for him.

The Noor are waging a rebellion in the west. When she overhears plans to crush Melik’s people with the powerful war machines created at the factory, Wen makes the painful decision to leave behind all she has known—including Bo—to warn them. But the farther she journeys into the warzone, the more confusing things become. A year of brutality seems to have changed Melik, and Wen has a decision to make about him and his people: How much is she willing to sacrifice to save them from complete annihilation?”

I was so obsessed with the first book in this series (Of Metal and Wishes) and I was beyond delighted when this came in my mailbox.

This is a reimagining of the Phantom of the Opera story and with Phantom, I am totally Team Phantom but with this, I love the Raoul character (or Melik, as he’s known here).  But I also love Bo (the Phantom).

And I love Wen, who is a total badass and is willing to put herself at risk to save the people she loves.

Like Of Metal and Wishes, this is amazing. And it made me cry a little bit.

Recommended.

 

George

Finished George by Alex Gino.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

BE WHO YOU ARE.

When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she’s not a boy. She knows she’s a girl.

George thinks she’ll have to keep this a secret forever. Then her teacher announces that their class play is going to be Charlotte’s Web. George really, really, REALLY wants to play Charlotte. But the teacher says she can’t even try out for the part . . . because she’s a boy.

With the help of her best friend, Kelly, George comes up with a plan. Not just so she can be Charlotte — but so everyone can know who she is, once and for all.”

This was one of my “must gets” at BEA and it taunted me as I tried to read everything in release order.

I love this new trend of diverse books exploring non-hetero sexuality and transgender people.  I love how these books are educating people in very subtle, non-preachy ways.

George is one of those characters that will stick with you.  She knows she’s a girl, but isn’t sure how to explain it to her best friend or to her mom and brother.  They think she’s a boy, but she has never felt like one.

This book was so hard to read in parts, because the mom is trying so hard to be a good parent and her ways of reassuring George really don’t help.  (She doesn’t know what’s going on, so she tells George, “No matter what, I’ll always love you; you’ll always be my baby boy.”  Which is super sweet, of course, but it also breaks George’s heart because she knows she’s actually not her mom’s baby boy.)

George is such a sweetheart and all I wanted was to make her life easier.  Of course that can’t happen; the world is how it is.  But I love how fiercely she clung to the fact that she was a girl, even though no one else knew or would believe it.

Highly recommended.

 

A Little In Love

Finished A Little in Love by Susan Fletcher.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

As a young child Eponine never knew kindness, except once from her family’s kitchen slave, Cosette. When at sixteen the girls’ paths cross again and their circumstances are reversed, Eponine must decide what that friendship is worth, even though they’ve both fallen for the same boy. In the end, Eponine will sacrifice everything to keep true love alive.

I was desperate to read this from the second I heard about it.  I love Les Miserables and Eponine is my favorite character.  (By a LOT.)  So a book that’s all about Eponine? YES PLEASE.

And A Little in Love did not disappoint.  The book takes us from her childhood (shortly before Cosette joins the family) through her time on the barricade and gives us a better picture of Eponine.  (Because let’s face it, we don’t see that much of her in the play or movie musical of Les Miserables, and that was much bigger than her part in the book.)

I first saw Les Miserables when I was little, probably eight or nine.  And while I have always been Team Eponine, it took me a few viewings to get just how bad her parents were.  I thought their song was super funny (and most things in that play are not only unfunny, they will actively break your heart) and so it wasn’t until I was older that I was like, “Wait, they’re not only robbing their guests at the inn, but they’re stealing from DEAD PEOPLE? And almost dead people?”  Poor Eponine never had a chance, guys.  :(  And her parents in this aren’t at all funny.  They’re straight up vicious.

Eponine’s ending hasn’t changed but there’s a lot about her story that has.  So even if you’re not a huge fan of hers (and honestly, I judge you a little if you’re Team Cosette), check this one out.  It’s awesome.

Recommended.