Category Archives: Books I Received From The Publisher

The Outliers

Finished The Outliers by Kimberly McCreight. I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

It all starts with a text: Please, Wylie, I need your help. Wylie hasn’t heard from Cassie in over a week, not since their last fight. But that doesn’t matter. Cassie’s in trouble, so Wylie decides to do what she has done so many times before: save her best friend from herself.

This time it’s different though. Instead of telling Wylie where she is, Cassie sends cryptic clues. And instead of having Wylie come by herself, Jasper shows up saying Cassie sent him to help. Trusting the guy who sent Cassie off the rails doesn’t feel right, but Wylie has no choice but to ignore her gut instinct and go with him.

But figuring out where Cassie is goes from difficult to dangerous, fast. As Wylie and Jasper head further and further north into the dense woods of Maine, Wylie struggles to control her growing sense that something is really wrong. What isn’t Cassie telling them? And could finding her be only the beginning?

In this breakneck tale of intrigue, betrayal, and deeply buried secrets, New York Times bestselling author Kimberly McCreight brilliantly chronicles a fateful journey that begins with a single decision—and ends up changing everything.”

I am a huge, huge fan of Kimberly McCreight’s and have been since I read Reconstructing Amelia.  So when I found out that she was writing a YA novel, I was beyond excited.  (There are actually no words for how excited I was; it’d basically be a line of bolded, italicized, underlined exclamation points in probably size 100 font.)

And when I got the chance to read it, it was everything I wanted.  It’s really fast-paced but there’s also a lot of depth there. It’s a grieving book, at its core, as Wylie is missing the loss of both her mom and her best friend.

And once she goes on the run to try and find/save Cassie, things get even crazier.  Threre’s so much going on and no one seems particularly trustworthy.

The only downside to this book is that it’s the first book in a series and you will want the next installment immediately.  I hope it’s out soon.

Highly recommended.

Not If I See You First

Finished Not If I See You First by Eric Lindstrom.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

The Rules:

Don’t deceive me. Ever. Especially using my blindness. Especially in public.

Don’t help me unless I ask. Otherwise you’re just getting in my way or bothering me.

Don’t be weird. Seriously, other than having my eyes closed all the time, I’m just like you only smarter.

Parker Grant doesn’t need 20/20 vision to see right through you. That’s why she created the Rules: Don’t treat her any differently just because she’s blind, and never take advantage. There will be no second chances. Just ask Scott Kilpatrick, the boy who broke her heart.

When Scott suddenly reappears in her life after being gone for years, Parker knows there’s only one way to react—shun him so hard it hurts. She has enough on her mind already, like trying out for the track team (that’s right, her eyes don’t work but her legs still do), doling out tough-love advice to her painfully naive classmates, and giving herself gold stars for every day she hasn’t cried since her dad’s death three months ago. But avoiding her past quickly proves impossible, and the more Parker learns about what really happened—both with Scott, and her dad—the more she starts to question if things are always as they seem. Maybe, just maybe, some Rules are meant to be broken.

Combining a fiercely engaging voice with true heart, debut author Eric Lindstrom’s Not If I See You First illuminates those blind spots that we all have in life, whether visually impaired or not.”

Okay, guys, I am absolutely in love with this novel.  Apparently the author’s next book won’t be out until NEXT JANUARY, and I am frankly devastated by that.

As you know, I am a huge fan of snarky protagonists, and that is absolutely Parker. She became blind after an accident (the same accident killed her mom) and she was determined to not be a victim.  She wanted her life to be as normal as possible and she wanted to figure everything out on her own, damn it.  And if you break one of her rules, you are out of her life forever.

Except…what happens if someone deserves a second chance?

This book is absolutely laugh-out-loud funny but it will also absolutely break your heart while you’re not paying attention.  These are the best kinds of books.

Highly recommended.

Wilde Lake

Finished Wilde Lake by Laura Lippman. I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

The bestselling author of the acclaimed standalones After I’m Gone, I’d Know You Anywhere, and What the Dead Know, challenges our notions of memory, loyalty, responsibility, and justice in this evocative and psychologically complex story about a long-ago death that still haunts a family.

Luisa “Lu” Brant is the newly elected—and first female—state’s attorney of Howard County, Maryland, a job in which her widower father famously served. Fiercely intelligent and ambitious, she sees an opportunity to make her name by trying a mentally disturbed drifter accused of beating a woman to death in her home. It’s not the kind of case that makes headlines, but peaceful Howard county doesn’t see many homicides.

As Lu prepares for the trial, the case dredges up painful memories, reminding her small but tight-knit family of the night when her brother, AJ, saved his best friend at the cost of another man’s life. Only eighteen, AJ was cleared by a grand jury. Now, Lu wonders if the events of 1980 happened as she remembers them. What details might have been withheld from her when she was a child?

The more she learns about the case, the more questions arise. What does it mean to be a man or woman of one’s times? Why do we ask our heroes of the past to conform to the present’s standards? Is that fair? Is it right? Propelled into the past, she discovers that the legal system, the bedrock of her entire life, does not have all the answers. Lu realizes that even if she could learn the whole truth, she probably wouldn’t want to.”

I’ve been a fan of Laura Lippman’s for years now (I think about 13? But a while) and I have loved everything she’s ever written.  If you had pressed me before, my favorite would have been To the Power of Three or maybe What the Dead Know.

Now, my favorite is absolutely this one.  No contest.

It helps that there are some definite parallels to To Kill a Mockingbird but it’s also amazing just on its own merits.  It’s not something you need to have read to love Wilde Lake (though if you haven’t read TKaM, you need to get on that), though.

I don’t want to get into the plot because of potential spoilers, but there is so much going on with this novel.  Obviously you’ll get drawn into the dual mysteries (what happened with AJ when he was a teenager? And who killed the lady now? Is it the man that Lu is prosecuting? If not him, then who?) but there’s also so much going on with family and the ways that we deal with our relatives, the way that we resort to childhood roles and ways of dealing with things, even if we don’t want to and actively try not to.

This is an absolutely perfect book and, like I said, her best yet.  And if you’ve already read Laura Lippman, you know that’s saying a lot.

Highly recommended.

 

Ask Me How I Got Here

Finished Ask Me How I Got Here by Christine Heppermann. I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Addie has always known what she was running toward. In cross-country, in life, in love. Until she and her boyfriend—her sensitive, good-guy boyfriend—are careless one night and she ends up pregnant. Addie makes the difficult choice to have an abortion. And after that—even though she knows it was the right decision for her—nothing is the same anymore. She doesn’t want anyone besides her parents and her boyfriend to know what happened; she doesn’t want to run cross-country; she can’t bring herself to be excited about anything. Until she reconnects with Juliana, a former teammate who’s going through her own dark places.

This book is really interesting and fairly dark.  I’m glad that it was a novel in verse, because I feel like that showed Addie’s growing depression in a different and more compelling way than straight prose necessarily could.  You can see Addie start to disengage from everything after her abortion (even though she knows that she absolutely did the right thing and that she was in no way ready to have a kid) and even so, it’s so clearly a hard thing for her to go through.

I also love the fact that this book doesn’t go any of the expected routes.  Addie’s parents are nothing but supportive and her boyfriend is, too.  He doesn’t act horribly toward her and he doesn’t ditch her or make her go through everything herself.  Addie’s lucky to have such a strong support system.  (And even so, things get really hard for her.)

I read Christine Heppermann’s earlier collection, and this is even better. I cannot wait to see what she does next.

Recommended.

Her Again

Finished Her Again by Michael Schulman.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

A portrait of a woman, an era, and a profession: the first thoroughly researched biography of Meryl Streep—the “Iron Lady” of acting, nominated for nineteen Oscars and winner of three—that explores her beginnings as a young woman of the 1970s grappling with love, feminism, and her astonishing talent.

In 1975 Meryl Streep, a promising young graduate of the Yale School of Drama, was finding her place in the New York theater scene. Burning with talent and ambition, she was like dozens of aspiring actors of the time—a twenty-something beauty who rode her bike everywhere, kept a diary, napped before performances, and stayed out late “talking about acting with actors in actors’ bars.” Yet Meryl stood apart from her peers. In her first season in New York, she won attention-getting parts in back-to-back Broadway plays, a Tony Award nomination, and two roles in Shakespeare in the Park productions. Even then, people said, “Her. Again.”

Her Again is an intimate look at the artistic coming-of-age of the greatest actress of her generation, from the homecoming float at her suburban New Jersey high school, through her early days on the stage at Vassar College and the Yale School of Drama during its golden years, to her star-making roles in The Deer Hunter, Manhattan, and Kramer vs. Kramer. New Yorker contributor Michael Schulman brings into focus Meryl’s heady rise to stardom on the New York stage; her passionate, tragically short-lived love affair with fellow actor John Cazale; her marriage to sculptor Don Gummer; and her evolution as a young woman of the 1970s wrestling with changing ideas of feminism, marriage, love, and sacrifice.

Featuring eight pages of black-and-white photos, this captivating story of the making of one of the most revered artistic careers of our time reveals a gifted young woman coming into her extraordinary talents at a time of immense transformation, offering a rare glimpse into the life of the actress long before she became an icon.”

This book made watching Kramer vs. Kramer almost unbearably emotional (see my review of that tomorrow for more) and I think it’s always nice to be able to get a more thorough picture of a good movie.

As the synopsis says, this book doesn’t cover her whole career (or her childhood).  It’s basically a little of high school, a lot more of college and then her career through Kramer vs. Kramer.  Because of that, we get a really in-depth portrayal of Meryl Streep right as she’s on the cusp of becoming MERYL STREEP.

I’m not sure if this book is for everyone, but if you’re a fan of hers (and who isn’t, really? She’s a phenomenal actress and I don’t think many would argue that she’s the best actress working today) it’s required reading.

Recommended.

Highly Illogical Behavior

Finished Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Sixteen-year-old Solomon is agoraphobic. He hasn’t left the house in three years, which is fine by him.

Ambitious Lisa desperately wants to get into the second-best psychology program for college (she’s being realistic). But how can she prove she deserves a spot there?

Solomon is the answer.

Determined to “fix” Sol, Lisa thrusts herself into his life, introducing him to her charming boyfriend Clark and confiding her fears in him. Soon, all three teens are far closer than they thought they’d be, and when their facades fall down, their friendships threaten to collapse, as well.”

This was my first John Corey Whaley novel, which is embarrassing for someone who loves contemp YA as much as I do.  His first two novels have both been very well received (especially the first one) and I definitely want to read both—especially after reading this one.

I loved Solomon immediately.  He’s agoraphobic and hasn’t left the house in three years.  (I can’t even imagine and I’m someone who’s happiest when at home.)  And then he meets Lisa, who enters his life only to be able to write a college admissions essay about him (she wants to be a psychologist).  Except they end up becoming really good friends, which leads to guilt.

Obviously, right? Because how do you tell your new friend that you initially started hanging out with him to get into the college of your choice (preferably with a full scholarship)?

I absolutely adore this book and hope to get to his backlist quickly.

Recommended.

Dreamology

Finished Dreamology by Lucy Keating.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

For as long as Alice can remember, she has dreamed of Max. Together they have traveled the world and fallen deliriously, hopelessly in love. Max is the boy of her dreams—and only her dreams. Because he doesn’t exist.

But when Alice walks into class on her first day at a new school, there he is. It turns out, though, that Real Max is nothing like Dream Max, and getting to know each other in reality isn’t as perfect as Alice always hoped.

When their dreams start to bleed dangerously into their waking hours, the pair realize that they might have to put an end to a lifetime of dreaming about each other. But when you fall in love in your dreams, can reality ever be enough?”

I love this book.  I’m not sure how to classify it (magical realism?) but it’s smart and sweet and just a lovely novel.

The disparity between Real Max and Dream Max is jarring and made me feel sad for Alice.  And it’s not even like Real Max is horrible.  He’s pretty awesome.  But Dream Max is basically Cary Grant.  Who can compare to Cary Grant?

Throw in the fact that they could be in actual danger if they keep dreaming of each other, and I was completely hooked.

Disbelief may need to be suspended but it’s worth it.

Recommended.

The Haters

Finished The Haters by Jesse Andrews.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

From Jesse Andrews, author of the New York Times bestselling Me and Earl and the Dying Girl and screenwriter of the Sundance award–winning motion picture of the same name, comes a groundbreaking young adult novel about music, love, friendship, and freedom as three young musicians follow a quest to escape the law long enough to play the amazing show they hope (but also doubt) they have in them.

Inspired by the years he spent playing bass in a band himself, The Haters is Jesse Andrews’s road trip adventure about a trio of jazz-camp escapees who, against every realistic expectation, become a band.

For Wes and his best friend, Corey, jazz camp turns out to be lame. It’s pretty much all dudes talking in Jazz Voice. But then they jam with Ash, a charismatic girl with an unusual sound, and the three just click. It’s three and a half hours of pure musical magic, and Ash makes a decision: They need to hit the road. Because the road, not summer camp, is where bands get good. Before Wes and Corey know it, they’re in Ash’s SUV heading south, and The Haters Summer of Hate Tour has begun.

In his second novel, Andrews again brings his brilliant and distinctive voice to YA, in the perfect book for music lovers, fans of The Commitments and High Fidelity, or anyone who has ever loved—and hated—a song or a band. This witty, funny coming-of-age novel is contemporary fiction at its best.”

I very much enjoyed Jesse Andrews’ first book, Me & Earl & The Dying Girl.  This is much different than that one.

Well, let me dial that back.  It’s got the same sense of humor (try and read this without laughing, I dare you) but it doesn’t have the book’s underlying current of…can I say “a good heart” without getting booed?

The Haters kept my attention from start to finish, and the comparison to High Fidelity is incredibly apt. It’s absolutely a book for people who love music, and there are so many music references that I think would just delight readers.

I have to admit, though, that this book felt a little flat for me.  I enjoyed it, but I didn’t love it the way I did his first novel.  I’m not sure what kept me at a disconnect, but reading the reviews, it seems like I’m not the only one who felt that way.  (Maybe if I knew more about music? Maybe if I were a boy?)

Still, Jesse Andrews has so much talent, and I cannot wait for his next book.

Once Was a Time

Finished Once Was a Time by Leila Sales.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

In the war-ravaged England of 1940, Charlotte Bromley is sure of only one thing: Kitty McLaughlin is her best friend in the whole world. But when Charlotte’s scientist father makes an astonishing discovery that the Germans will covet for themselves, Charlotte is faced with an impossible choice between danger and safety. Should she remain with her friend or journey to another time and place? Her split-second decision has huge consequences, and when she finds herself alone in the world, unsure of Kitty’s fate, she knows that somehow, some way, she must find her way back to her friend. Written in the spirit of classic time-travel tales, this book is an imaginative and heartfelt tribute to the unbreakable ties of friendship.

So I accidentally read two World War II-set books back to back (sort of; this starts in World War II but soon goes to a more modern time) but they’re both incredibly different (and incredibly wonderful).

I absolutely love this book.  And that’s not surprising, given that I’ve loved every Leila Sales book I’ve read (all of them except for Past Perfect, which I really need to get to one of these days) but this book is so different from the others.

For one thing, it’s middlegrade (and yes, I do plan to get this for my goddaughter’s birthday in August) and I guess it’s technically fantasy, while her others are all contemp YA.

Don’t let that scare you off.  It’s also exactly what her other books are: well-written and wonderful and full of characters that you want to be friends with.

I am completely in love with this book and every facet of it.

Highly recommended.

Girl with the Blue Coat

Finished Girl with the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Amsterdam, 1943. Hanneke spends her days finding and delivering sought-after black market goods to paying customers, nights hiding the true nature of her work from her concerned parents, and every waking moment mourning her boyfriend, who was killed on the Dutch front lines when the German army invaded. Her illegal work keeps her family afloat, and Hanneke also likes to think of it as a small act of rebellion against the Nazis.

On a routine delivery, a client asks Hanneke for help. Expecting to hear that Mrs. Janssen wants meat or kerosene, Hanneke is shocked by the older woman’s frantic plea to find a person: a Jewish teenager Mrs. Janssen had been hiding, who has vanished without a trace from a secret room. Hanneke initially wants nothing to do with such a dangerous task but is ultimately drawn into a web of mysteries and stunning revelations—where the only way out is through.

Beautifully written, intricately plotted, and meticulously researched, Girl in the Blue Coat is an extraordinary, unforgettable story of bravery, grief, and love in impossible times.”

Oh, you guys, this book.  This book made me cry at least three times, and yes, I will admit that I hugged it when I was done.

I don’t want to tell you anything about it except that it is about bravery and cowardice and friends and enemies and heroes and villains and how each of us can encompass all those things.

The long and short of it is that you need this book.  You need to read it and you need to make your friends read it.

Highly recommended.