Category Archives: Books I Received From The Publisher

Good Enough

Finished Good Enough by Jen Petro-Roy. I received a copy for review. This originally ran last summer, when I originally read it.

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.

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Rayne & Delilah’s Midnite Matinee

Finished Rayne & Delilah’s Midnite Matinee by Jeff Zentner. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

A contemporary novel about two best friends who must make tough decisions about their futures–and the TV show they host–in their senior year of high school.

Every Friday night, best friends Delia and Josie become Rayne Ravenscroft and Delilah Darkwood, hosts of the campy creature feature show Midnite Matinee on the local cable station TV Six.

But with the end of senior year quickly approaching, the girls face tough decisions about their futures. Josie has been dreading graduation, as she tries to decide whether to leave for a big university and chase her dream career in mainstream TV. And Lawson, one of the show’s guest performers, a talented MMA fighter with weaknesses for pancakes, fantasy novels, and Josie, is making her tough decision even harder.

Scary movies are the last connection Delia has to her dad, who abandoned the family years ago. If Midnite Matinee becomes a hit, maybe he’ll see it and want to be a part of her life again. And maybe Josie will stay with the show instead of leaving her behind, too.

As the tug-of-war between growing up and growing apart tests the bonds of their friendship, Josie and Delia start to realize that an uncertain future can be both monstrous…and momentous.”

I was so excited because I thought for sure that this would be a lot lighter than Jeff Zentner’s first two books. Well, joke’s on me, because it’s about a girl who loves horror movies because she watched them with her dad and he’s no longer part of her life. Which, hello, it me. (And for the record, my dad just died; he wasn’t a jerk like Delia’s dad.) Either way, it hit me right in the feelings and there were a lot of tears.

But there’s also a lot in this book that made me laugh. I loved everything about it, and it probably is my favorite of his novels. (The others are tied for second place.)

I loved Josie and Delia and I loved their show. It makes me want to start watching public access or even start my own goofy show. (I won’t do it; I do not at all have the nerve.)

Everything about this book is sweet and lovely, even the parts that made me ugly cry. Highly recommended.

The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried

Finished The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried by Shaun David Hutchinson. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

A good friend will bury your body, a best friend will dig you back up.

Dino doesn’t mind spending time with the dead. His parents own a funeral home, and death is literally the family business. He’s just not used to them talking back. Until Dino’s ex-best friend July dies suddenly—and then comes back to life. Except not exactly. Somehow July is not quite alive, and not quite dead.

As Dino and July attempt to figure out what’s happening, they must also confront why and how their friendship ended so badly, and what they have left to understand about themselves, each other, and all those grand mysteries of life.”

I love Shaun David Hutchinson’s books so much! They’ve all got an aspect of the paranormal to them, but they’re also very much contemporary YA. They deal with breakups and friendships ending; they remind me of my beloved Buffy with the way that aliens and zombies work as almost metaphors for the more mundane monsters we deal with every day.

This one is my favorite, I think; I love Dino and July’s friendship. Even though they’re definitely not close anymore, they’ve still got this shorthand and they’re still very much connected, even though they haven’t been friends in a while.

That also broke my heart—I can’t imagine losing my best friend and I also can’t imagine us not talking all the time.

I love everything about this book. I cried a little but I also laughed a lot (there is humor and it is dark). I cannot recommend this strongly enough.

The Art of Losing

Finished The Art of Losing by Lizzy Mason. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“On one terrible night, 17-year-old Harley Langston’s life changes forever. At a party she discovers her younger sister, Audrey, hooking up with her boyfriend, Mike—and she abandons them both in a rage. When Mike drunkenly attempts to drive Audrey home, he crashes and Audrey ends up in a coma. Now Harley is left with guilt, grief, pain and the undeniable truth that her ex-boyfriend (who is relatively unscathed) has a drinking problem. So it’s a surprise that she finds herself reconnecting with Raf, a neighbor and childhood friend who’s recently out of rehab and still wrestling with his own demons. At first Harley doesn’t want to get too close to him. But as Audrey awakens and slowly recovers, Raf starts to show Harley a path forward that she never would have believed possible—one guided by honesty, forgiveness, and redemption.”

This was one of my most anticipated reads of 2019 (I’ve heard nothing but great things!) and I wasn’t disappointed.

I loved Harley so much and I felt so awful for her—she loves her younger sister and they’ve always been really close, but the night of Audrey’s near-fatal accident, she also made out with Harley’s boyfriend. She (a) nearly died and (b) didn’t remember any of it, so Harley knew it wasn’t fair to still be angry about it (and most of her anger was aimed at Mike, anyway). But even though it wasn’t fair, it’s very, very human and I think anyone could understand why she did still carry a fair bit of resentment toward her sister.

And oh wow, I loved Raf so much. He’s a total sweetheart and he’s so young to be fighting a battle like addiction. He and Harley are so good for each other, even though it’s really the absolute worst time for them to be together.

Everything about this book is amazing. It’s hard to believe that Lizzy Mason is a debut author, but she’s off to a great start. I can’t wait to see what she does next.

Highly recommended.

Parkland

Finished Parkland by Dave Cullen. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“The New York Times bestselling author of Columbine offers a deeply moving account of the extraordinary teenage survivors of the Parkland shooting who pushed back against the NRA and Congressional leaders and launched the singular grassroots March for Our Lives movement.

Emma Gonzalez called BS. David Hogg called out Adult America. The uprising had begun. Cameron Kasky immediately recruited a colorful band of theatre kids and rising activists and brought them together in his living room to map out a movement. Four days after escaping Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, two dozen extraordinary kids announced the audacious March for Our Lives. A month later, it was the fourth largest protest in American history.

Dave Cullen, who has been reporting on the epidemic of school shootings for two decades, takes us along on the students’ nine-month odyssey to the midterms and beyond. With unrivaled access to their friends and families, meetings and homes, he pulls back the curtain to reveal intimate portraits of the quirky, playful organizers that have taken the nation by storm.

Cullen brings us onto the bus for the Road to Change tour showing us how these kids seized an opportunity. They hit the highway to organize the young activist groups mushrooming across America in their image. Rattled but undeterred, they pressed on in gun country even as adversaries armed with assault weapons tailed them across Texas and Utah trying to scare them off.

The Parkland students are genuinely candid about their experiences. We see them cope with shattered friendships and PTSD, along with the normal day-to-day struggles of school, including AP exams and college acceptances. Yet, with the idealism of youth they are mostly bubbling with fresh ideas. As victims refusing victimhood, they continue to devise clever new tactics to stir their generation to action while building a powerhouse network to match the NRA’s.

This spell-binding book is a testament to change and a perceptive examination of a pivotal moment in American culture. After two decades of adult hand-wringing, the MFOL kids are mapping a way out. They see a long road ahead, a generational struggle to save every kid of every color from the ravages of gun violence in America. Parkland is a story of staggering empowerment and hope, told through the wildly creative and wickedly funny voices of a group of remarkable kids.”

The first thing that’s important to remember is that last year at this time, we didn’t know who David Hogg, Cameron Kasky, Jackie Corin or Emma Gonzalez were. It hasn’t even been a year since seventeen people were murdered in Parkland. Every time I think about that, it shocks me. These kids are household names, and it feels like they always have been.

The second thing—and this is more important—is that they, like all American kids in their generation, have grown up in the age of mass shootings in general and school shootings in particular. They haven’t known a world without them. I was in college when Columbine happened; they weren’t even born yet.

That’s probably why they reacted the way they did. They realized this whole time that adults weren’t going to save them, but after the shooting at their school, they realized they would have to save themselves and everyone else.

It is awe-inspiring to see what they’ve done in under a year and I’m sure we’re going to continue to see great things from them.

This book doesn’t go into the details of the shooting, but it does show how they took a horrific day and worked to do everything they could to make it stop with them. At the same time, they’re realistic. They’ve said repeatedly that they don’t want to take away all the guns; in fact, Cameron and David have grown up around them. They just want to make it harder for people to use guns to kill people. (I’m pretty sure most of us would agree that that’s a good goal, right? Fewer murders?)

Parkland made me angry but it’s also an inspiring story and a hopeful one. It’s easy to give up, but they haven’t. Neither can we.

Highly recommended.

Watch Us Rise

Finished Watch Us Rise by Renee Watson and Ellen Hagan. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Jasmine and Chelsea are sick of the way women are treated even at their progressive NYC high school, so they decide to start a Women’s Rights Club. They post everything online—poems, essays, videos of Chelsea performing her poetry, and Jasmine’s response to the racial macroaggressions she experiences—and soon they go viral. But with such positive support, the club is also targeted by online trolls. When things escalate, the principal shuts the club down. Jasmine and Chelsea will risk everything for their voices—and those of other young women—to be heard.”

I apologize in advance because I will not be able to discuss this book like a rational human being.

I love this book. It is the book I needed when I was in high school; it is the book I need now.

Chelsea and Jasmine are amazing. They’re smart and focused and fierce and funny and they are going to change the world, whether the people in their lives help or not. (I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that many people don’t but a not-small amount do.)

It’s unapologetically feminist and its feminism is intersectional. It focuses on people of color and also deals with issues that are typically ignored. I think everyone who reads this is going to learn something.

But this doesn’t feel like homework. It’s a fun read and it’s a book everyone I know will receive as presents this year. I love this book; I love its authors and it is the book we all need.

Highly recommended.

Red, White & Royal Blue

Finished Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“A big-hearted romantic comedy in which the First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales after an incident of international proportions forces them to pretend to be best friends…

First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz is the closest thing to a prince this side of the Atlantic. With his intrepid sister and the Veep’s genius granddaughter, they’re the White House Trio, a beautiful millennial marketing strategy for his mother, President Ellen Claremont. International socialite duties do have downsides—namely, when photos of a confrontation with his longtime nemesis Prince Henry at a royal wedding leak to the tabloids and threaten American/British relations.

The plan for damage control: staging a fake friendship between the First Son and the Prince. Alex is busy enough handling his mother’s bloodthirsty opponents and his own political ambitions without an uptight royal slowing him down. But beneath Henry’s Prince Charming veneer, there’s a soft-hearted eccentric with a dry sense of humor and more than one ghost haunting him.

As President Claremont kicks off her reelection bid, Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret relationship with Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations. And Henry throws everything into question for Alex, an impulsive, charming guy who thought he knew everything: What is worth the sacrifice? How do you do all the good you can do? And, most importantly, how will history remember you?”

This book is actual perfection and everything I needed. For starters, it’s got a president with politics I agree with (which, even without the amazing love story, is something I could really go for right now). It’s got great friendships and a lovely, supportive family. I would really like June and Nora to be my friends, please and thank you.

But…we’re really here for Alex and Henry, right? And this is a love story for the ages. It’s sweet and sexy and kind of adorable but also holy crap, so hot. So, so hot.

I couldn’t even estimate how many times I laughed but I also cried twice and laughed while crying once. This book is a complete delight and I need Casey McQuiston’s next book tomorrow, please.

This is going to be one of the best books of the year, but it’s also the one to beat for my personal favorite of 2019.

Highly recommended.

The Little Book of Bad Moods

Finished The Little Book of Bad Moods by Lotta Sonninen. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

For fans of Wreck This Journal and Calm the F*ck Down comes a hilarious fill-in activity book that encourages you to unleash your inner rage, chronicle your deepest annoyances, and creatively detail every person who has ever done you wrong.

Let’s face it: we’re sick of staying positive. Meditating. Doing yoga. Those things are so boring. How about finding a new and more engaging way to relieve your stress and get you through the hell that is your life?

The Little Book of Bad Moods, an irreverent adult activity book, lets you unleash all that anger and say the things that you can’t say out loud. With lots of fun and easy fill-in activities perfect for all the minor annoyances in life, this is the only kind of meditation you’ll ever need.

Hilarious, fun, and shockingly cathartic, this is a bad little book that encourages you to complain, moan, and embrace your inner a**hole. So put that pen to paper, let your cranky flag fly, and be sure to hide this book from anyone you care about.”

You guys, I cannot even fully explain how much I loved this book.

It’s a journal for petty grievances and lists. Is there something you’ve always wanted to say to your ex? Write it down. Does your coworker snap her gum every 25 seconds? Write it down!

It’ll help you vent your spleen without making any enemies. (Do not leave this unattended.)

If you’re a fan of complaining, you need this. It’s fantastic.

Highly recommended.

Right as Rain

Finished Right as Rain by Lindsey Stoddard. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

From the critically acclaimed author of Just Like Jackie comes a strikingly tender novel about one family’s heartbreak and the compassion that carries them through, perfect for fans of Sara Pennypacker, Lisa Graff, and Ann M. Martin.

It’s been almost a year since Rain’s brother Guthrie died, and her parents still don’t know it was all Rain’s fault. In fact, no one does—Rain buried her secret deep, no matter how heavy it weighs on her heart.

So when her mom suggests moving the family from Vermont to New York City, Rain agrees. But life in the big city is different. She’s never seen so many people in one place—or felt more like an outsider.

With her parents fighting more than ever and the anniversary of Guthrie’s death approaching, Rain is determined to keep her big secret close to her heart. But even she knows that when you bury things deep, they grow up twice as tall.

Readers will fall in love with the pluck and warmth of Stoddard’s latest heroine and the strength that even a small heart can lend.”

This book broke me multiple times. Most of us have experience with grief and it can be impossible to deal with. Now picture you’re a kid and you’re in a new place and your older brother is dead and it’s your fault. How Rain is functioning as well as she is is an actual miracle. (And she’s not doing particularly well, but she’s not catatonic. She’s going to her new school and she’s trying and she’s making friends.)

This reminds me a little bit of Bridge to Terabithia, in that it takes these horrible situations and shows kids the way they really are. We live in a world where kids die and it’s stupid and senseless but it’s reality. And at some point, everyone is going to have to deal with grief. Right as Rain shows some really healthy ways to do that.

Recommended.

The Silent Patient

Finished The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Promising to be the debut novel of the season The Silent Patientis a shocking psychological thriller of a woman’s act of violence against her husband—and of the therapist obsessed with uncovering her motive…

Alicia Berenson’s life is seemingly perfect. A famous painter married to an in-demand fashion photographer, she lives in a grand house with big windows overlooking a park in one of London’s most desirable areas. One evening her husband Gabriel returns home late from a fashion shoot, and Alicia shoots him five times in the face, and then never speaks another word.

Alicia’s refusal to talk, or give any kind of explanation, turns a domestic tragedy into something far grander, a mystery that captures the public imagination and casts Alicia into notoriety. The price of her art skyrockets, and she, the silent patient, is hidden away from the tabloids and spotlight at the Grove, a secure forensic unit in North London.

Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist who has waited a long time for the opportunity to work with Alicia. His determination to get her to talk and unravel the mystery of why she shot her husband takes him down a twisting path into his own motivations—a search for the truth that threatens to consume him…. ”

This is a hard book to describe. From the synopsis, it seems like a thriller; I didn’t have that experience at all. Instead, it seemed more like watching Theo destroy his life in bits and pieces. He was consumed by Alicia and his impressions of her almost immediately and kept researching, even after being told repeatedly to let it go. His personal life is also falling apart, for unrelated reasons.

We learn Alicia’s story in bits and pieces, through diary entries. It’s obviously interesting (how did Gabriel die? Why isn’t he talking?) but Theo is definitely the focus. (Even as Alicia is portrayed as basically the femme in every noir movie ever.)

Still, this book is fascinating and I think it’ll get a lot of attention.