Category Archives: Books I Received From The Publisher

What You Hide

Finished What You Hide by Natalie D. Richards. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Spencer volunteers at the library. Sure, it’s community service, but he likes his work. Especially if it means getting to see Mallory.

Mallory spends a lot of time keeping her head down. When you’re sixteen and homeless, nothing matters more than being anonymous. But Spencer’s charm makes her want to be noticed.

Then sinister things start happening at the library. Mysterious symbols and terrifying warnings begin to appear, and management grows suspicious. Spencer and Mallory know a homeless teenager makes an easy target, and if they can’t find the real culprit soon, they could lose more than just their safe haven…”

I loved this book. The strange happenings at the library is much less central to the plot than the synopsis would have you believe, so be aware of that going in.

What’s actually going on (and what’s far more interesting anyway) are the internal issues with Spencer (what does he want to do with his life?) and the external issues with Mallory (her stepfather is awful and her mom isn’t much better—she’s initially a lovely woman, but she is so cowed by her husband, Charlie, that she becomes a lousy mom).

I was very concerned for Mallory. There’s nothing overtly awful with Charlie. He seems maybe a bit overprotective but there’s nothing he says that seems threatening. It’s more the way he says it and what’s in the pauses between his words. Mallory is so scared and this seems like a very rational response. I was so worried that Charlie would figure out where Mallory was. I didn’t know for sure what he would do, but there’s nothing that’s off the table, really.

I wasn’t worried for Spencer, really, but I hoped that he’d figure out how to be happy.

Everything about this book is completely gripping and even though it’s close to 400 pages, it felt so much shorter. Recommended.

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My Favorite Half-Night Stand

Finished My Favorite Half-Night Stand by Christina Lauren. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Millie Morris has always been one of the guys. A UC Santa Barbara professor, she’s a female-serial-killer expert who’s quick with a deflection joke and terrible at getting personal. And she, just like her four best guy friends and fellow professors, is perma-single.

So when a routine university function turns into a black tie gala, Mille and her circle make a pact that they’ll join an online dating service to find plus-ones for the event. There’s only one hitch: after making the pact, Millie and one of the guys, Reid Campbell, secretly spend the sexiest half-night of their lives together, but mutually decide the friendship would be better off strictly platonic.

But online dating isn’t for the faint of heart. While the guys are inundated with quality matches and potential dates, Millie’s first profile attempt garners nothing but dick pics and creepers. Enter “Catherine”—Millie’s fictional profile persona, in whose make-believe shoes she can be more vulnerable than she’s ever been in person. Soon “Catherine” and Reid strike up a digital pen-pal-ship…but Millie can’t resist temptation in real life, either. Soon, Millie will have to face her worst fear—intimacy—or risk losing her best friend, forever.

Perfect for fans of Roxanne and She’s the Man, Christina Lauren’s latest romantic comedy is full of mistaken identities, hijinks, and a classic love story with a modern twist. Funny and fresh, you’ll want to swipe right on My Favorite Half-Night Stand.”

I completely adored this sweet-and-hot book. It’s my first adult Christina Lauren novel (I also liked Autoboyography), and I definitely want to keep reading their backlist.

When we have the “mistaken identity” trope, it’s usually the Shop Around the Corner/You’ve Got Mail way where the people involved hate each other in real life but are falling in love via letters/email. It’s nice to see it Roxanne-style instead. (NOTE: I will always show up for a You’ve Got Mail-esque story, though. I’m just saying a change of pace is cool.)

I enjoyed both perspectives but I am so in love with Millie. She’s not perfect (there is so much baggage!) but she’s smart and fun and her job is amazing. I would like a spinoff of Millie and true crime, please and thank you.

Recommended.

The Accidental Beauty Queen

Finished The Accidental Beauty Queen by Teri Wilson. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

In this charming romantic comedy perfect for fans of Meg Cabot and Sophie Kinsella, critically acclaimed author Teri Wilson shows us that sometimes being pushed out of your comfort zone leads you to the ultimate prize. 

Charlotte Gorman loves her job as an elementary school librarian, and is content to experience life through the pages of her books. Which couldn’t be more opposite from her identical twin sister. Ginny, an Instagram-famous beauty pageant contestant, has been chasing a crown since she was old enough to enunciate the words world peace, and she’s not giving up until she gets the title of Miss American Treasure. And Ginny’s refusing to do it alone this time.

She drags Charlotte to the pageant as a good luck charm, but the winning plan quickly goes awry when Ginny has a terrible, face-altering allergic reaction the night before the pageant, and Charlotte suddenly finds herself in a switcheroo the twins haven’t successfully pulled off in decades.

Woefully unprepared for the glittery world of hair extensions, false eyelashes, and push-up bras, Charlotte is mortified at every unstable step in her sky-high stilettos. But as she discovers there’s more to her fellow contestants than just wanting a sparkly crown, Charlotte realizes she has a whole new motivation for winning.”

This book is exactly what I needed. Obviously like every actively literate person, I over-identified with Charlotte. I also didn’t understand Ginny and her pageant obsession at all (although I started to get it when it became clear that it was her way to connect with their mom, who died when they were little).

I do wish we had gotten more of Charlotte and Ginny, but I love what we did get. And I also love Charlotte’s thing with Gray, and the way she became more confident. This book is total girl power, and I love how the contestants were friends and not competitors. This book reflects my experience with women, which is that we are awesome and help each other. (I am so tired of books where women do nothing but tear each other down.)

If you are a fan of romantic comedies (or Miss Congeniality!), this is for you. There’s a lot to adore about this book.

The Case of the Golden State Killer

Finished The Case of the Golden State Killer by Michael Morford and Michael Ferguson. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“In 1976, a serial rapist terrorized Sacramento County in California. The masked predator made his way into the homes of his unsuspecting victims, leaving a trail of devastation and destruction behind him. He moved on to other areas in Northern California, and then onward to Southern California where he sank to an all new level of depravity, and his evil urges drove him to murder; again, and again.

In Northern California, he was known as the East Area Rapist. In Southern California, he was called the Original Night Stalker. When his crimes all over California were finally connected, he would become known as the Golden State Killer, and by 1986, he had racked up a staggering tally of over 100 home break-ins or burglaries, 50 or more rapes, and at least 12 murders.

On the heels of their wildly popular 2017 Season One podcast series on the Zodiac killer, veteran podcaster Mike Morford, and true crime research/blogger Mike Ferguson, the hosts of true crime podcast Criminology teamed again in Spring 2018 to unmask this killer in a story that spans more than 40 years. Joined by the investigators who hunted him, the witnesses who saw him, and the survivors who lived to tell their stories, Criminology Season Two: The Case of the Golden State Killer examines the story of the most prolific serial rapist and murderer in American history.”

I wish you could’ve seen my face when I saw this on Netgalley. As you know, I have been…we’ll go with “very interested” in this case since I started listening to My Favorite Murder and then read I’ll Be Gone in the Dark and THEN when he was caught.

I haven’t listened to the Criminology podcast yet, so I don’t know how similar that is to this book. On its own merits, though, this book is definitely a must-read. It’s more detached than I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, and there is new information in this. It also benefits from the fact that we now know who the Golden State Killer is. (Allegedly.)

A lot of the information is the same, granted, but this book has interviews with survivors and investigators (as did I’ll Be Gone in the Dark) but it still is a completely different reading experience.

If you have true crime fans to buy presents for, pick this up. Recommended.

The Poet X

Finished The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“A young girl in Harlem discovers slam poetry as a way to understand her mother’s religion and her own relationship to the world. Debut novel of renowned slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo.

Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.

But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself.

So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out, much less speak her words out loud. But still, she can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.

Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.”

I really enjoyed this story. I’m a fan of people finding their voice, and Xiomara’s arc is fantastic. She’s never felt like she was allowed to be anything other than a sweet, obedient, Christian daughter, and she’s also never felt particularly sweet, obedient or Christian. She’s got a lot of questions about a lot of topics, and they’re not particularly encouraged. More than that, she enjoys writing and her mom is not a fan of that, either. (She’s even less a fan of boys, and Xiomara’s currently in the midst of her first crush.)

This isn’t horrible. She’s got her twin brother and a best friend she loves. They may not 100% understand her (and vice versa, to be fair) but she’s got people on her side. And it doesn’t take long before she realizes that she (a) loves poetry and (b) is good at it. Her fierceness and her inquisitiveness are great assets, not the liability they’ve previously been.

This is a novel in verse, but don’t let that deter you. You don’t want to miss Xiomara. Highly recommended.

The Wedding Date

Finished The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

A groomsman and his last-minute guest are about to discover if a fake date can go the distance in a fun and flirty debut novel.

Agreeing to go to a wedding with a guy she gets stuck with in an elevator is something Alexa Monroe wouldn’t normally do. But there’s something about Drew Nichols that’s too hard to resist.

On the eve of his ex’s wedding festivities, Drew is minus a plus one. Until a power outage strands him with the perfect candidate for a fake girlfriend…

After Alexa and Drew have more fun than they ever thought possible, Drew has to fly back to Los Angeles and his job as a pediatric surgeon, and Alexa heads home to Berkeley, where she’s the mayor’s chief of staff. Too bad they can’t stop thinking about the other…

They’re just two high-powered professionals on a collision course toward the long distance dating disaster of the century–or closing the gap between what they think they need and what they truly want…”

This is my second Jasmine Guillory novel this year and I think I preferred this to The Proposal. (It’s really close, though; it’s like choosing between The Godfather and The Godfather Part II, not like choosing between real food and McDonald’s.)

This book is just a complete delight. On the one hand, I wish I had read it sooner but on the other, I’m really glad I read it when I did. It makes the world seem much less November-gray.

We didn’t spend all that much time with Alexa in The Proposal and that’s too bad because I absolutely fell in love with her in this book. She’s fantastic and her job is in politics, which I am oddly jealous of.

I am ALSO now even more excited about The Wedding Party, which is a companion novel to this and centers around Maddie and Theo. I am all in for that and everything else she writes.

Highly recommended.

A Change of Worlds

Finished A Change of Worlds by Josh Aterovis. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

““Let him be just and deal kindly with my people, for the dead are not powerless. Dead, did I say? There is no death, only a change of worlds.”

When Killian takes on an investigation into a series of thefts from a Native American archaeological site as a favor for an old friend, he never dreamed it would escalate into violence and murder. What started out as a seemingly simple case suddenly has much higher stakes than missing artifacts. One person is dead, one injured, and more lives are on the line…including Killian’s.

Things aren’t exactly smooth sailing in Killian’s private life either. His boyfriend Micah has given him a huge choice, but his ex-boyfriend Asher’s unexpected reappearance has only clouded Killian’s decision. He must decide who he wants to be with, and quickly, before time runs out for all of them.”

I have been waiting so long for this book to come out! It’s the fifth book in Josh’s series about Killian Kendall, and I think the fourth book came out before I moved to Baltimore or maybe right around the time I moved. Either way, it’s definitely been over a decade.

This book made me remember just how much I loved Killian and his family. I love the mysteries in general and I love the paranormal aspect, too. I also love that in this story as well.

I’m not very familiar with indigenous issues, and this was really helpful with that. I want to learn more and that was fascinating. If you are at all into archaeology or supernatural things or indigenous rights, this is absolutely the book for you.

I loved this story and cannot wait to see what happens with Killian next. And who will he end up with?

SO MANY QUESTIONS.

Highly recommended.

That Night

Finished That Night by Amy Giles. I received a copy for review at ALA.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“One night in March, a terrible tragedy shakes the Queens neighborhood where Jessica Nolan and Lucas Rossi live.

The year since the shooting has played out differently for Jess and Lucas, both of whom were affected by that night in eerily similar, and deeply personal, ways. Lucas has taken up boxing and lives under the ever-watchful eye of his overprotective parents, while trying to put good into the world through random acts of kindness — to pay back a debt he feels he owes the universe for taking the wrong brother.

Jess struggles to take care of her depressed mother, with the help of her elderly next-door neighbor, and tries to make ends meet. Without her best friend, who’s across the country at a special post-trauma boarding school, and her brother, who died that night, Jess feels totally alone in the world.

When Jess and Lucas’s paths cross at their shared after-school job, they start to become friends… and then more.

Their community — and their families — were irrevocably changed by a senseless act of violence. But as Jess and Lucas fall in love, they’ll learn to help each other heal and move forward — together.”

I feel like there have been so many books about mass shootings, and it’s probably easy to feel burned out on the topic, especially if you’re someone who reads to escape from the real world. If so, still consider this one.

That Night is different from most other books in that the mass shooting is never really discussed. We know what happened, somewhat (movie theater shooting, 18 people died) but we never see that event occur. Instead, we join Jess and Lucas afterward, after the initial shock of grief is over. They aren’t over it—I don’t think you’re ever over it; they both lost brothers in the shooting—but it’s not an ordeal to get through every single day anymore.

Their new relationship helps (and hurts) and they have other coping mechanisms that help (and hurt).

You may think you know how this book will go; you don’t. It may not be the sweetest love story you’ll ever read, but I’ll take “real” over “sweet” any day.

Recommended.

Imagine Us Happy

Finished Imagine Us Happy by Jennifer Yu. I received a copy for review at ALA.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Some love stories aren’t meant to last. 

Stella lives with depression, and her goals for junior year are pretty much limited to surviving her classes, staying out of her parents’ constant fights and staving off unwanted feelings enough to hang out with her friends Lin and Katie.

Until Kevin. A quiet, wry senior who understands Stella and the lows she’s going through like no one else. With him, she feels less lonely, listened to—and hopeful for the first time since ever…

But to keep that feeling, Stella lets her grades go and her friendships slide. And soon she sees just how deep Kevin’s own scars go. Now little arguments are shattering. Major fights are catastrophic. And trying to hold it all together is exhausting Stella past the breaking point. With her life spinning out of control, she’s got to figure out what she truly needs, what’s worth saving—and what to let go.”

This was an impulse grab at ALA, and like many of my impulse grabs, it ended up being one of the best books I’ve read.

There are a lot of books about teen relationships that break up because one person is abusive or maybe just a jerk. Stella isn’t awful and neither is Kevin. They’re just two people who are good together until they aren’t anymore.

The narrative is told out of chronological order. It begins toward the end and goes back to the beginning but random chapters are outside of a linear timeline. It keeps us from fully investing in their relationship but it doesn’t keep us from liking Kevin and Stella.

This is the kind of story that makes me sad, because there’s no real reason for them not to work. It’s just that it’s not the right relationship (or maybe the timing’s bad). But there’s no villain in the story.

Imagine Us Happy is an unexpected favorite. I’m going to read everything Jennifer Yu writes, and I also just realized that her first book ($7.50 on Kindle!) is also about Stella (she’s one of five people at the camp mentioned in this novel). So I’m excited for more time with her.

Recommended.

Quiver

Finished Quiver by Julia Watts. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Set in rural Tennessee, QUIVER by Julia Watts is a brilliant YA novel that focuses on the unlikely friendship between two teens from opposite sides of the culture wars.

Libby is the oldest child of six, going on seven, in a family that adheres to the “quiverfull” lifestyle: strict evangelical Christians who believe that they should have as many children as God allows because children are like arrows in the quiver of “God’s righteous warriors.” Like the other families who adhere to this philosophy, Libby’s family regards the father as the “Christian patriarch” and leader and the mother as the “helpmeet” who gives birth to, cares for, and homeschools the children.

Meanwhile, Zo is the gender fluid offspring of Libby’s new neighbors who have moved to the country from Knoxville in hopes of living a slower-paced, more natural life.

Zo and hir family are as far to the left ideologically as Libby’s family is to the right, and yet Libby and Zo, who are the same age, feel a connection that leads them to friendship—a friendship that seems doomed from the start because of their families’ differences.

Through deft storytelling, built upon extraordinary character development, author Watts offers a close examination of the contemporary compartmentalization of social interactions, and forms a story that resonates far beyond its pages.”

I love books that focus on religion, but it’s hard to do well. I don’t like it when people are one-note characters, and that can tend to happen with this topic.

I love Zo and her parents but I also love Libby and her mom. Both families are full of good people who genuinely believe what they believe and are unwilling to listen to other viewpoints. (Which I totally identify with because sometimes I do, too.)  And then there are Zo and Libby, who are holding firm to their own beliefs but who are able to see other stances, too.

This is such a fun story, but it’s also got incredibly tense parts. I would definitely show up for a sequel or a Claire-centered companion novel. OR BOTH.