All posts by Kelly

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.

Vanishing Girls

Finished Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver.  I received a copy for review from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Dara and Nick used to be inseparable, but that was before the accident that left Dara’s beautiful face scarred and the two sisters totally estranged. When Dara vanishes on her birthday, Nick thinks Dara is just playing around. But another girl, nine-year-old Madeline Snow, has vanished, too, and Nick becomes increasingly convinced that the two disappearances are linked. Now Nick has to find her sister, before it’s too late.

In this edgy and compelling novel, Lauren Oliver creates a world of intrigue, loss, and suspicion as two sisters search to find themselves, and each other.”

I’ve loved the Lauren Oliver books I’ve read, but I’ve also managed to miss quite a few.  I’m hoping to catch up on the other two soon.

I was immediately captivated by this story and its subplots.  Obviously I wanted to know if Dara and Nick would be able to overcome their estrangement and be sisters again, but I also wanted to know if we would find out what happened to the little girl, and whether she was alive or dead.  (I also was curious about whether the two stories really were linked, because sometimes a lot of bad things just happen in a row and for no good reason.)

This is the kind of book that you should read immediately.  There are two reasons for this.  First, the book is amazing and why would you want to hold off on reading an amazing book?

And the second is that people are going to be talking about this book and you don’t want any of the chatter to affect your enjoyment of this book.

Highly recommneded.

Duplicity

Finished Duplicity by N.K. Traver.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

A computer-hacking teen. The girl who wants to save him. And a rogue mirror reflection that might be the death of them both.

In private, seventeen-year-old Brandon hacks bank accounts just for the thrill of it. In public, he looks like any other tattooed bad boy with a fast car and devil-may-care attitude. He should know: he’s worked hard to maintain that façade. With inattentive parents who move constantly from city to city, he’s learned not to get tangled up in things like friends and relationships. So he’ll just keep living like a machine, all gears and wires.Then two things shatter his carefully-built image: Emma, the kind, stubborn girl who insists on looking beneath the surface – and the small matter of a mirror reflection that starts moving by itself. Not only does Brandon’s reflection have a mind of its own, but it seems to be grooming him for something—washing the dye from his hair, yanking out his piercings, swapping his black shirts for … pastels. Then it tells him: it thinks it can live his life better, and it’s preparing to trade places.

And when it pulls Brandon through the looking-glass, not only will he need all his ill-gotten hacking skills to escape, but he’s going to have to face some hard truths about who he’s become. Otherwise he’ll be stuck in a digital hell until he’s old and gray, and no one will even know he’s gone.”

I absolutely love the  premise of this book.  It’s incredibly unique and I love that this urban legend the hackers have turn out to be true.  (Can you imagine if other urban legends turn out to be true and there’s this guy who keeps losing his hook in car doors?)
I liked Brandon, too, although he’s one of those people who doesn’t seem to accept responsibility for his actions.  (For example, he has a horrible relationship with his parents, but he’s pretty rude to them and he keeps getting all these tattoos and piercings, which might have something to do with the relationship not being awesome all the time.)
But even though he can be a bit of a brat at times, he’s also incredibly loyal and really, really smart.  I tend to root for really, really smart people.
I’m pretty sure this is going to have a sequel.  At least, I hope it will.  I’m excited to know what comes next.