Category Archives: Books I Received From The Publisher

To Siri With Love

Finished To Siri With Love by Judith Newman. I received a copy for review. 

Judith has twin boys (now teenagers). One, Gus, has autism. He’s high-functioning and quirky; exhibit A: he’s friends with Siri. Yes, the one in the phone. 

This is such a cool story! I recently watched Life Animated (which is briefly referenced in this book) and I love how random things (in that case, Disney movies; in this case, an app) can help people make sense of the world. 

My favorite part, though, is that while obviously we know Gus is autistic, it doesn’t take long for that to become his least interesting label. He’s a music-lover who can identify basically any song immediately. He’s able to help anyone get anywhere (the next time I’m in New York, I hope to maybe get some help with the subway system; maybe he can make a few bucks helping a clueless tourist with a horrible sense of direction). He is my imaginary friend (he’s real, obviously, but as we have never met…). 

In short, you need this book. Recommended. 

The Good Daughter

Finished The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter. I received a copy for review. This is a mini-review because of spoilers. 

When they were young, Sam and Charlie were injured in an incident that left their mom dead. (The incident was due to their public defender dad, who wasn’t home at the time.) Sam was shot and buried alive; Charlie was injured but mostly psychologically scarred. Now adults (and both lawyers), they end up ensnared in a school shooting case. 

This book is INSANE. I was so proud of myself for solving the central mystery that I forgot to pay attention to other details and ended up punched in the face by a different revelation. That is some excellent story-telling. 

This isn’t my first Karin Slaughter novel but it’s close to it. Like the last time, I really need to read more of her books. (This time I really mean it.)

Recommended. 

Things That Surprise You

Finished Things That Surprise You by Jennifer Maschari. I received a copy for review. 

Emily is in middle school and it’s kind of awful. She and her best friend aren’t as close as they used to be and she feels really left behind. 

There’s a lot of other stuff going on (her sister is in treatment for anorexia and her dad is living with another woman) and really, she just feels forgotten by everyone. 

This book is absolutely amazing. I think middle school is awful for everyone and I bet we can all relate to losing friends then. It’s the worst time because it’s when all of a sudden, people change. And if you’re not changing as fast as they are, you get ditched. And Emily is still elementary school Emily. She likes boys as friends, not as BOYS. She still loves her silly unicorn books. And she isn’t that into makeup and fashion. 

And add in her parents splitting up and her sister…it’s awful. (And I love how she’s allowed to be angry about it. She has good parents.)

This is a fantastic novel and you need it. Highly recommended. 

The Authentics

Finished The Authentics by Abdi Nazemian.  I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

The Authentics is a fresh, funny, and insightful novel about culture, love, and family—the kind we are born into and the ones we create.

Daria Esfandyar is Iranian-American and proud of her heritage, unlike some of the “Nose Jobs” in the clique led by her former best friend, Heidi Javadi. Daria and her friends call themselves the Authentics, because they pride themselves on always keeping it real.

But in the course of researching a school project, Daria learns something shocking about her past, which launches her on a journey of self-discovery. It seems everyone is keeping secrets. And it’s getting harder to know who she even is any longer.

With infighting among the Authentics, her mother planning an over-the-top sweet sixteen party, and a romance that should be totally off limits, Daria doesn’t have time for this identity crisis. As everything in her life is spinning out of control—can she figure out how to stay true to herself?”

I wanted to love this book, and there are a lot of great things here.  I love Daria’s heritage and the way that she identifies herself proudly as part of that heritage.  I love her relationship with her parents (she and her dad get along so well; she and her mom have a more contentious relationship) and that she has a group of friends who feel more like family.  (I am less enamored of the fact that they call themselves “The Authentics,” as in they actually have named their group of friends and it is something they all say about themselves as a group and they say it OUT LOUD. But sure, fine.  I was probably super pretentious as a teenager, too.)

SPOILERS BELOW:

She learns that she’s adopted, which throws her life into complete upheaval.  It’s so interesting and it means that basically her entire life is not what she thought.  Her parents aren’t her parents and (really just as importantly) her culture isn’t her culture.  I would’ve loved a book that focused on these things.  That is important and real and messy and honest.

Here’s what the book focused on: her birth mom has a stepson and Daria and Enrique briefly date.

NOT EVERY BOOK HAS TO HAVE A LOVE STORY. (And also, speaking as an adopted person but not necessarily for every single adopted person, I call absolute shenanigans on the fact that, when she first meets Enrique, she tells him that his stepmom is her biological mom but barely talks to him about her. I will tell you now that if I had first met a member of my birth mom’s family before contacting her, I would’ve pumped them for information like nobody’s business but also never said exactly who I was and what my relationship was.  THAT IS HOW YOU RUIN LIVES AND MAKE SURE THE BIOLOGICAL FAMILY HATES YOU.)

This is not a horrible book at all but it was not for me.

Emma in the Night

Finished Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker.  I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

From the bestselling author of All Is Not Forgotten comes a thriller about two missing sisters, a twisted family, and what happens when one girl comes back…

One night three years ago, the Tanner sisters disappeared: fifteen-year-old Cass and seventeen-year-old Emma. Three years later, Cass returns, without her sister Emma. Her story is one of kidnapping and betrayal, of a mysterious island where the two were held. But to forensic psychiatrist Dr. Abby Winter, something doesn’t add up. Looking deep within this dysfunctional family Dr. Winter uncovers a life where boundaries were violated and a narcissistic parent held sway. And where one sister’s return might just be the beginning of the crime.”

Oh, you guys, this book.  It’s obviously full of twists and turns, and (as with all thriller novels) a question of whether the narrator is reliable.  (Or in this case, if either narrator is reliable.)

This novel is so clever and it’s hard not to be immediately sucked in.  I also immediately shared Cass’s frantic insistence that her sister needed to be found and saved…except, unfortunately, she can’t say exactly where her sister is.  (They were kept on an island away from other people, and she could describe the island and give a vague location but wasn’t able to say “We were on this exact island and here’s how you find it.”)

One interesting thing is that this was suspenseful despite feeling that no one in the novel was in immediate danger (except for Emma, obviously, but every character the reader interacted with was safe).

If you’re in the mood for suspense, pick this up now.  You won’t regret it.

Recommended.

The Girl in the Show

Read The Girl in the Show by Anna Fields.  I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“I’m not funny at all. What I am is brave.” —Lucille Ball

With powerhouses like Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Amy Schumer dominating the entertainment landscape and memoirs from today’s most vocal feminist comediennes shooting up the bestseller lists, women in comedy have never been more influential.

Marking this cultural shift, The Girl in the Show provides an in-depth exploration of how comedy and feminism have grown hand in hand to give women a stronger voice in the ongoing fight for equality. From I Love Lucy to SNL to today’s rising cable and web-series stars, Anna Fields’ entertaining retrospective combines amusing and honest personal narratives with the historical, political, and cultural contexts of the feminist movement.

With interview subjects like Abbi Jacobson, Molly Shannon, Mo Collins, and Lizz Winstead among others—as well as actresses, stand-up comics, writers, producers, and female comedy troupes—Fields shares true stories of wit and heroism from some of our most treasured (and under-represented) artists. At its heart, The Girl in the Show captures the urgency of our continued struggle towards equality, allowing the reader to both revel in—and rebel against—our collective ideas of “women’s comedy.”

I can’t even imagine the extent of the research that Anna Fields did for this novel.  It’s smart and funny and so interesting.  I never really thought about the…we’ll say sociology of comedy, especially female comics (or the way that I gender comedians, like I JUST DID).

Like Anna (and a lot of the women mentioned here), I absolutely love Gilda Radner.  Part of it (on my end) has nothing to do with how funny she is (although she is hilarious), it’s because I have hair that’s a lot like hers and it’s the first time I saw someone who looks like me be funny and get to do things. It meant a lot.  And I know women younger than me probably feel the exact same way about Molly Shannon and Tina Fey and Amy Poehler and Mindy Kaling.

What I didn’t understand before reading this book was the sort of throughline connecting Gilda to the women after her and how all of that really began with Lucille Ball, who was the first woman to be a really powerful comedian.  She created and wrote a show, and she was protective of her character.  She set rules for what Lucy would and wouldn’t do, but also made rules like, “Lucy can make fun of Ricky’s accent; nobody else can.” There was no way any earlier lady could’ve even made a rule like that, let alone have it be listened to.

This book is smart and important (and relevant) but it’s also really fun.  If you like to laugh, read this book.  Highly recommended.

The Secret History of Us

Finished The Secret History of Us by Jessi Kirby. I received a copy for review. 

Olivia almost died in a car accident; she was even in a coma for days. When she wakes up, she can’t remember what happened–which is normal. But she ALSO can’t remember the four years prior. Her whole high school experience is gone. So…was her life really as great as her family and friends say?

I loved this book. And, despite the last sentence, this isn’t really a sinister book. It’s not like someone is deliberately trying to hurt her. Olivia can trust everyone except herself, because she doesn’t really know who she is. (How would you be able to, if you couldn’t remember four years of your life?)

Everything Jessi Kirby writes is amazing, and this is no exception. Recommended. 

Between Me and You

Finished Between Me and You by Allison Winn Scotch. I received a copy for review. This will be released on January 9. 

Depending on where you are in the book, Ben and Tatum are unhappy and divorcing or the best couple ever. That’s because Tatum’s narrative starts at the beginning and moves forward and Ben’s starts at the end and moves back. We get the full picture, but not right away. 

This masterpiece of a novel has elements of A Star is Born (pick your favorite version) and also reminds me of Almost Paradise by Susan Isaacs, but is completely its own thing–it doesn’t read like a pale imitation of either. 

If you love love stories or Hollywood (Yes, they are a Hollywood power couple, though they take turns eclipsing each other) or smart stories told perfectly, this is for you. You need this book. 

I’ve been a fan of Allison Winn Scotch’s for years and this is her best book by far. (This is also an incredibly high bar. All of her books are excellent.)

Highly recommended. 

One For Sorrow

Finished One For Sorrow by Mary Downing Hahn. I received a copy for review. 

Annie is the new girl at school, and it’s awful. Elsie is the only girl who will talk to her, and she’s the class freak. Not surprisingly, Annie is now the other class freak. (And it’s deserved, honestly; Elsie is awful.) When Elsie gets sick, Annie has a chance to make the popular girls like her…and it works! Except Elsie then gets the Spanish flu and dies…although (like Helen in the scariest kids book ever, Wait til Helen Comes), it doesn’t seem to matter. She’s still very much around. 

This is an excellent, creepy and fun story. It’s not as scary as her earlier novel Wait til Helen Comes, but that’s OK. It’s still very well-written and genuinely unsettling. 

Elsie can affect things. She can touch people (who can’t touch her back) and she can also damage things. Scariest of all, she can also almost possess Annie and make her say and do things. And, of course, Annie is blamed for everything. (Pro tip: if you blame things on your dead classmate, no one will believe you.)

I love that Mary Downing Hahn is still writing intensely creepy novels. This one is sure to bring a bit of Halloween to your end-of-summer fun. 

Morningstar

Finished Morningstar by Ann Hood.  I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

A memoir about the magic and inspiration of books from a beloved and best-selling author.

In her admired works of fiction, including the recent The Book that Matters Most, Ann Hood explores the transformative power of literature. Now, with warmth and honesty, Hood reveals the personal story behind these works of fiction.

Growing up in a mill town in Rhode Island, in a household that didn’t foster the love of literature, Hood nonetheless learned to channel her imagination and curiosity by devouring The Bell Jar, Marjorie Morningstar, The Harrad Experiment, and other works. These titles introduced her to topics that could not be discussed at home: desire, fear, sexuality, and madness. Later, Johnny Got His Gun and The Grapes of Wrath influenced her political thinking as the Vietnam War became news; Dr. Zhivago and Les Miserables stoked her ambition to travel the world. With characteristic insight and charm, Hood showcases the ways in which books gave her life and can transform—even save—our own.”

One of the genres I love the most is books about books, and this is a great example.  Ann Hood’s family, for the most part, weren’t readers.  She and an older cousin traded Nancy Drew novels, but in general, she was the family oddball.  One of her first book-related memories involved reading Little Women and being so consumed with the story and Beth dying that she missed some school activities. Most of the books she mentioned here I haven’t read (I did read Little Women, of course, but I’m a lot more familiar with the Winona Ryder version of the movie), but I definitely still have similar stories of being late or almost late because of random books (I stayed up literally all night to read The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon).

Ann Hood is also one of my favorite authors, and her books are always all these stunningly well-written things. This is especially true in this one—it’s so clearly a topic she’s passionate about, and it comes through in every word and page here.

Recommended.