Category Archives: Books I Received From The Publisher

All We Ever Wanted

Finished All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

In the riveting new novel from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of First Comes Love and Something Borrowed, three very different people must choose between their family and their values.

Nina Browning is living the good life after marrying into Nashville’s elite. More recently, her husband made a fortune selling his tech business, and their adored son has been accepted to Princeton. Yet sometimes the middle-class small-town girl in Nina wonders if she’s strayed from the person she once was.

Tom Volpe is a single dad working multiple jobs while struggling to raise his headstrong daughter, Lyla. His road has been lonely, long, and hard, but he finally starts to relax after Lyla earns a scholarship to Windsor Academy, Nashville’s most prestigious private school.

Amid so much wealth and privilege, Lyla doesn’t always fit in—and her overprotective father doesn’t help—but in most ways, she’s a typical teenage girl, happy and thriving.

Then, one photograph, snapped in a drunken moment at a party, changes everything. As the image spreads like wildfire, the Windsor community is instantly polarized, buzzing with controversy and assigning blame.

At the heart of the lies and scandal, Tom, Nina, and Lyla are forced together—all questioning their closest relationships, asking themselves who they really are, and searching for the courage to live a life of true meaning.”

This is an incredibly timely novel but it’s also got a new slant: it’s told from the perspective of the parents (Finch’s mom and Lyla’s dad) and not the teens themselves. It was especially interesting to hear from Finch’s mom, because it’s clear that she struggles with loving and wanting to protect her son but, at the same time, being horrified at what he did (and with it seeming like he doesn’t fully get exactly why it was so wrong).

This novel also touches on class differences (Lyla is at the school on scholarship; Finch can have pretty much literally anything and everything he wants) and that’s also interesting. Finch’s dad believes that his money can get them out of any predicament (he tries to bribe Lyla’s dad to drop the matter and gives him $15,000.  It’s clear that he doesn’t think of that as a large amount of money…which I can’t even imagine, btw).

If you want your beach reads to be more than a guilty pleasure, check this one out.

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Any Man

Finished Any Man by Amber Tamblyn. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“In her blazingly original and unforgettable debut novel “Any Man”, Amber Tamblyn brings to startling life a specter of sexual violence in the shadowy form of Maude, a serial female rapist who preys on men.

In this electric and provocative debut novel, Tamblyn blends genres of poetry, prose, and elements of suspense to give shape to the shocking narratives of victims of sexual violence, mapping the destructive ways in which our society perpetuates rape culture.

A violent serial rapist is on the loose, who goes by the name Maude. She hunts for men at bars, online, at home— the place doesn’t matter, neither does the man. Her victims then must live the aftermath of their assault in the form of doubt from the police, feelings of shame alienation from their friends and family and the haunting of a horrible woman who becomes the phantom on which society projects its greatest fears, fascinations and even misogyny. All the while the police are without leads and the media hound the victims, publicly dissecting the details of their attack.

What is extraordinary is how as years pass these men learn to heal, by banding together and finding a space to raise their voices. Told in alternating viewpoints signature to each voice and experience of the victim, these pages crackle with emotion, ranging from horror to breathtaking empathy.”

I’m honestly not sure how I feel about this book. I read it in a few hours, unable to put it down. At the same time, it’s a horrible thing to read. (By which I mean it’s graphic and made me feel incredibly uncomfortable, which is obviously the point.)

The men in this are treated the way we treat female rape victims. (“Why were you there? Why did you invite this person over? Why were you drinking at a bar? Why weren’t you home?”) I’m wondering if this will cause anyone to reconsider the questions that we ask women. (I kind of doubt it; the people who need to read this are the people who would never read this.)

This book is well-written and thought-provoking, but it’s also intense and incredibly hard to read. We know what’s happened to these men, and it’s horrifying. Be very aware of all of this before you start reading it.

Del Toro Moon

Finished Del Toro Moon by Darby Karchut. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Twelve year old Matt Del Toro is the greenest greenhorn in his family’s centuries-old business: riding down and destroying wolf-like monsters, known as skinners. Now, with those creatures multiplying, both in number and ferocity, Matt must saddle up and match his father’s skills at monster whacking. Odds of doing that? Yeah, about a trillion to one. Because Matt’s father is the legendary Javier Del Toro—hunter, scholar, and a true caballero: a gentleman of the horse.

Luckily, Matt has twelve hundred pounds of backup in his best friend—El Cid, an Andalusian war stallion with the ability of human speech, more fighting savvy than a medieval knight, and a heart as big and steadfast as the Rocky Mountains.

Serious horse power.

Those skinners don’t stand a chance.”

I’ve been a fan of Darby Karchut’s for years, and every book seems to get better. This is her best yet. It’s laugh-out-loud funny but there’s also a ton of suspense and a surprising amount of sweetness. Darby ALSO continues to perfectly capture how it feels to want to be taken seriously, to be seen as better than you currently are—to be judged by your potential and not as much your current ability level. (I think these things are universal, and not gender-specific.)

She also continues to show perhaps her greatest trademark as a writer. Like her other books, this one centers around a father-son relationship. It’s so nice to see the way that Javier and his son Matt interact. They clearly love and respect each other, but at the same time, it’s definitely a father-son relationship. They aren’t best friends and Javier is unquestionably in charge.

This is not always an easy read but it’s constantly compelling and excellent. If you (or someone you know) loves excellent middlegrade stories, snag this one. You need it.

Highly recommended.

The Cabin at the End of the World

Finished The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“The Bram Stoker Award-winning author of A Head Full of Ghosts adds an inventive twist to the home invasion horror story in a heart-palpitating novel of psychological suspense that recalls Stephen King’s Misery, Ruth Ware’s In a Dark, Dark Wood, and Jack Ketchum’s cult hit The Girl Next Door.

Seven-year-old Wen and her parents, Eric and Andrew, are vacationing at a remote cabin on a quiet New Hampshire lake. Their closest neighbors are more than two miles in either direction along a rutted dirt road.

One afternoon, as Wen catches grasshoppers in the front yard, a stranger unexpectedly appears in the driveway. Leonard is the largest man Wen has ever seen but he is young, friendly, and he wins her over almost instantly. Leonard and Wen talk and play until Leonard abruptly apologizes and tells Wen, “None of what’s going to happen is your fault”. Three more strangers then arrive at the cabin carrying unidentifiable, menacing objects. As Wen sprints inside to warn her parents, Leonard calls out: “Your dads won’t want to let us in, Wen. But they have to. We need your help to save the world.”

Thus begins an unbearably tense, gripping tale of paranoia, sacrifice, apocalypse, and survival that escalates to a shattering conclusion, one in which the fate of a loving family and quite possibly all of humanity are entwined. The Cabin at the End of the World is a masterpiece of terror and suspense from the fantastically fertile imagination of Paul Tremblay.”

Some warnings: if you like books with tidy resolutions, this isn’t for you. If you like books that make sense and where nothing awful happens, this isn’t for you. And you should know going in that this book will infect you and also break your heart.

This is the third book of Paul Tremblay’s that I’ve read and each one has been amazing and horrifying. This continues the trend and I think it’s actually the most horrifying of the three. (I can’t tell if it’s the best of the three, but it’s the one that’s disturbed me most.)

The Cabin at the End of the World is a hard book to recommend. It’s definitely not for everyone, and again: horrible things happen. A lot of them.

But…it’s worth it.

Highly recommended (to the people who can handle it).

Providence

Finished Providence by Caroline Kepnes. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

A propulsive new thriller about the obsessive nature of love when an intensifying relationship between best friends is disrupted by a kidnapping.

Growing up as best friends in small-town New Hampshire, Jon and Chloe are the only ones who truly understand each other, though they can never find the words to tell one another the depth of their feelings. When Jon is finally ready to confess his feelings, he’s suddenly kidnapped by his substitute teacher who is obsessed with H.P. Lovecraft and has a plot to save humanity.

Mourning the disappearance of Jon and facing the reality he may never return, Chloe tries to navigate the rites of entering young adulthood and “fit in” with the popular crowd, but thoughts of Jon are never far away.

When Jon finally escapes, he discovers he now has an uncontrollable power that endangers anyone he has intense feelings for. He runs away to protect Chloe and find the answers to his new identity–but he’s soon being tracked by a detective who is fascinated by a series of vigilante killings that appear connected.

Whisking us on a journey through New England and crashing these characters’ lives together in the most unexpected ways, Kepnes explores the complex relationship between love and identity, unrequited passion and obsession, self-preservation and self-destruction, and how the lines are often blurred between the two.”

First, you should know that this is completely different from her earlier books. You and its sequel, Hidden Bodies, are incredibly creepy and darkly funny. This book has very little in common with them. It’s a little bit paranormal, but also more of a love story than her earlier books. (None of her books are in any way traditional love stories, but this is definitely more of one than “I loved this girl so I literally stalked her.”)

This is incredibly well-written and I wanted to know what would happen. I was curious to see if we would learn exactly what happened to Jon while he was kidnapped. That said, I still can’t say for sure if I really LIKED the book. (To be fair, like You, this isn’t really a fun, easy read. This book is dark and weird and creepy and really good.)

Proceed with caution, but definitely consider proceeding.

Jar of Hearts

Finished Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“This is the story of three best friends: one who was murdered, one who went to prison, and one who’s been searching for the truth all these years . . .

When she was sixteen years old, Angela Wong—one of the most popular girls in school—disappeared without a trace. Nobody ever suspected that her best friend, Georgina Shaw, now an executive and rising star at her Seattle pharmaceutical company, was involved in any way. Certainly not Kaiser Brody, who was close with both girls back in high school.

But fourteen years later, Angela Wong’s remains are discovered in the woods near Geo’s childhood home. And Kaiser—now a detective with Seattle PD—finally learns the truth: Angela was a victim of Calvin James. The same Calvin James who murdered at least three other women.

To the authorities, Calvin is a serial killer. But to Geo, he’s something else entirely. Back in high school, Calvin was Geo’s first love. Turbulent and often volatile, their relationship bordered on obsession from the moment they met right up until the night Angela was killed.

For fourteen years, Geo knew what happened to Angela and told no one. For fourteen years, she carried the secret of Angela’s death until Geo was arrested and sent to prison.

While everyone thinks they finally know the truth, there are dark secrets buried deep. And what happened that fateful night is more complex and more chilling than anyone really knows. Now the obsessive past catches up with the deadly present when new bodies begin to turn up, killed in the exact same manner as Angela Wong.

How far will someone go to bury her secrets and hide her grief? How long can you get away with a lie? How long can you live with it?”

I don’t know what it is about summer, but hot weather always makes me want to read thrillers. If that’s true for you, too, this is the book you need.

It is completely intense and you may think you see everything coming but trust me, you don’t.

This is my first Jennifer Hillier novel and I think it’s probably the best one to start with. (NOTE: I do want to read her backlist, and I think I actually have one of them already.) It’s so compulsively readable—good luck getting anything else done, so maybe start it early on a Saturday, if you have no other plans.

Highly recommended.

Good Enough

Finished Good Enough by Jen Petro-Roy. I received a copy for review. This book will be released in February; you should pre-order it now.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Before she had an eating disorder, twelve-year-old Riley was many things: an aspiring artist, a runner, a sister, and a friend.

But now, from inside the inpatient treatment center where she’s receiving treatment for anorexia, it’s easy to forget all of that. Especially since under the influence of her eating disorder, Riley alienated her friends, abandoned her art, turned running into something harmful, and destroyed her family’s trust.

If Riley wants her life back, she has to recover.

Part of her wants to get better. As she goes to therapy, makes friends in the hospital, and starts to draw again, things begin to look up.

But when her roommate starts to break the rules, triggering Riley’s old behaviors and blackmailing her into silence, Riley realizes that recovery will be even harder than she thought. She starts to think that even if she does “recover,” there’s no way she’ll stay recovered once she leaves the hospital and is faced with her dieting mom, the school bully, and her gymnastics-star sister.

Written by an eating disorder survivor, this is a realistic depiction of inpatient eating disorder treatment, and a moving story about a girl who has to fight herself to survive.”

I loved Jen’s debut novel, PS I Miss You, and so I was waiting for this with no small amount of impatience. I’m only mildly ashamed to admit that once I knew that egalleys were a thing, I basically pouted and whined and used emojis as a weapon. I didn’t mean to read this in one afternoon. I wanted to savor it, because Jen’s writing is gorgeous.

But I immediately loved Riley and I worried about her. I worried about whether she’d be able to have a healthy relationship with food and if she’d be able to talk to her family about her feelings, if they’d listen to just keep assigning blame and ignoring her feelings.

I had to know what would happen next, and each page made me completely feel for her. (A lot of feelings–sadness, sometimes anger, always pride.)

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that Jen Petro-Roy is this generation’s Judy Blume. She’s talking about hard topics, things parents may not feel their kids are ready to know about. But Jen’s not writing for the parents. She’s writing for the kids, and she’s telling them the best, most important message ever: you will be OK. You are enough, just as you are. You aren’t alone. You can do this. Whatever “this” you’re struggling with, you can beat it. You will be OK.

It’s something we all need to hear, but kids especially.

Highly, highly recommended.

Little Do We Know

Finished Little Do We Know by Tamara Ireland Stone. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Next-door neighbors and ex-best friends Hannah and Emory haven’t spoken in months. Not since the fight—the one where they said things they couldn’t take back.

Now, Emory is fine-tuning her UCLA performing arts application and trying to make the most of the months she has left with her boyfriend, Luke, before they head off to separate colleges. Meanwhile, Hannah’s strong faith is shaken when her family’s financial problems come to light, and she finds herself turning to unexpected places—and people—for answers to the difficult questions she’s suddenly facing.

No matter how much Hannah and Emory desperately want to bridge the thirty-six steps between their bedroom windows, they can’t. Not anymore.

Until their paths cross unexpectedly when, one night, Hannah finds Luke doubled over in his car outside her house. In the aftermath of the accident, all three struggle to understand what happened in their own ways. But when a devastating secret about Hannah and Emory’s argument ultimately comes to light, they must all reexamine the things they hold true.

In alternating chapters, a skeptic and a believer piece together the story of their complex relationship and the boy caught somewhere in the middle. New York Times best-selling author Tamara Ireland Stone deftly crafts a moving portrait of faith, love, and friendship.”

Books about faith and friendship are my jam and it’s very rare to get both. It’s also rare to have an exploration of faith and doubt that doesn’t feel like either (a) the religion is bad or weird or (b) the person having the doubts is bad or weird.

And I love the relationship Emory and Luke have. They are actual relationship goals and I love them so much. They’re so sweet together and they clearly do love each other.

My actual favorite aspect of the novel, though? Emory and Hannah’s friendship. For most of the book, it’s basically imploded and we only have a very hazy idea of why. Even so, it’s so obvious that they still love each other so much and just can’t figure out how to salvage the friendship.

I absolutely adore this book (no surprise; Tamara Ireland Stone is AMAZING) and I hope you read it, too. Highly recommended.

Dear Rachel Maddow

Finished Dear Rachel Maddow by Adrienne Kisner. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

In Adrienne Kisner’s Dear Rachel Maddow, a high school girl deals with school politics and life after her brother’s death by drafting emails to MSNBC host Rachel Maddow in this funny and heartfelt YA debut.

Brynn Haper’s life has one steadying force–Rachel Maddow.

She watches her daily, and after writing to Rachel for a school project–and actually getting a response–Brynn starts drafting e-mails to Rachel but never sending them. Brynn tells Rachel about breaking up with her first serious girlfriend, about her brother Nick’s death, about her passive mother and even worse stepfather, about how she’s stuck in remedial courses at school and is considering dropping out.

Then Brynn is confronted with a moral dilemma. One student representative will be allowed to have a voice among the administration in the selection of a new school superintendent. Brynn’s archnemesis, Adam, and ex-girlfriend, Sarah, believe only Honors students are worthy of the selection committee seat. Brynn feels all students deserve a voice. When she runs for the position, the knives are out. So she begins to ask herself: What Would Rachel Maddow Do?”

This is a fantastic and timely story. There’s a lot going on here (Brynn’s home life isn’t great, her brother has died, her girlfriend broke up with her, she doesn’t feel like she fits in anywhere) and it’s all told via email. (Mostly from Brynn to Rachel Maddow.)

Seeing Brynn start to care and try about things is easily the best part of the novel for me. I also enjoyed watching her start to take an interest in politics (nationally but also as part of her school) and start to run campaigns.

This felt completely realistic and I read the bulk of it in one sitting. I can’t wait to see what Adrienne Kisner writes next.

Monday’s Not Coming

Finished Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Monday Charles is missing, and only Claudia seems to notice. Claudia and Monday have always been inseparable—more sisters than friends. So when Monday doesn’t turn up for the first day of school, Claudia’s worried. When she doesn’t show for the second day, or second week, Claudia knows that something is wrong. Monday wouldn’t just leave her to endure tests and bullies alone. Not after last year’s rumors and not with her grades on the line. Now Claudia needs her best—and only—friend more than ever. But Monday’s mother refuses to give Claudia a straight answer, and Monday’s sister April is even less help.

As Claudia digs deeper into her friend’s disappearance, she discovers that no one seems to remember the last time they saw Monday. How can a teenage girl just vanish without anyone noticing that she’s gone?”

This is an absolute gut punch of a novel. It’s so good but also so sad. (And so terrifying—how can you vanish for months without anyone noticing? And yes, Claudia notices Monday’s absence but no one else does. And when she talks to adults, they’re like, “No, it’s fine.”)

It’s hard to discuss this without spoilers, so suffice it to say that you’ll probably realize long before the adults do that there is a very real problem with Monday’s disappearance and that her mom and older sister are lying. You’ll probably have theories about what happened. (No, I won’t say whether you’re probably right about it.)

Tiffany Jackson is one of the best authors writing now, and she’s still relatively new. Start reading her now, and thank me later. (I’ll provide the tissues.)

This reminds me of Relisha Rudd’s disappearance (she has been missing for four years now) although it’s not a perfect correlation. Both these stories have broken my heart.

Highly recommended.