Category Archives: Books I Received From The Publisher

Red Queen

Finished Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

The poverty stricken Reds are commoners, living under the rule of the Silvers, elite warriors with god-like powers.

To Mare Barrow, a 17-year-old Red girl from The Stilts, it looks like nothing will ever change.

Mare finds herself working in the Silver Palace, at the centre of those she hates the most. She quickly discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy Silver control.

But power is a dangerous game. And in this world divided by blood, who will win?”

First a warning: this book is going to absolutely dominate all your time until you finish it.  And once you do finish it, you will be desperate for the sequel.

I loved this book immediately.  The world and its class system (the Silvers are upperclass; the Reds are…well, I guess we can say somewhere around the level of serfs.  There’s no real middleground because even the lowliest Silver is worlds above the Reds and there are no Red subclasses) was fascinating to me.

And of course I love Mare.  I hate that so much of what happens is not within her control (as a Red, her entire life is basically her being a pawn for other people) but how she is determined to do what she can to make her family’s life better.

I can’t discuss too much more about the book because of spoilers, but suffice it to say that if you haven’t read this book yet, you need to.

Highly recommended.

An Ember in the Ashes

Finished An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir.  I received a copy for review from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Set in a terrifyingly brutal Rome-like world, An Ember in the Ashes is an epic fantasy debut about an orphan fighting for her family and a soldier fighting for his freedom. It’s a story that’s literally burning to be told.

LAIA is a Scholar living under the iron-fisted rule of the Martial Empire. When her brother is arrested for treason, Laia goes undercover as a slave at the empire’s greatest military academy in exchange for assistance from rebel Scholars who claim that they will help to save her brother from execution.

ELIAS is the academy’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias is considering deserting the military, but before he can, he’s ordered to participate in a ruthless contest to choose the next Martial emperor.

When Laia and Elias’s paths cross at the academy, they find that their destinies are more intertwined than either could have imagined and that their choices will change the future of the empire itself.”

Because I got this through Penguin’s First to Read program, I had to read it through this very specific app, BlueFire.  I mention that because the day I was reading this book, my iPad kept crashing every 10 pages (at best; 5-6 pages at worst) so I read most of this almost 450-page book on my phone.  And I didn’t even mind, because the alternative—waiting over a month until the book was released—wasn’t even an option.  That should tell you how amazing this book is, right? I would rather read 450 pages on a phone screen than wait and read a normal size book.

Because you guys, this book really is fantastic.  I don’t read all that much fantasy anymore, but holy crap, this world that Sabaa Tahir made.

I have heard complaints that Laia’s sections were boring, but I didn’t find that to be true at all.  Yes, Elias’ sections are more action-packed (he goes through the trials, after all) but that doesn’t mean that hers were boring.  She was risking her life spying for the rebels, and was at the world’s scariest place, in close proximity to the world’s scariest person.  (Seriously, read this book and tell me the Commandant doesn’t give you chills.)

I have heard that this may be a standalone, but given the ending, I refuse to believe that’s true.  There has to be a sequel, right? Please say yes.

Highly recommended.

Lacy Eye

Finished Lacy Eye by Jessica Treadway.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Hanna Schutt never suspected that her younger daughter’s happiness would lead to her husband’s death and the destruction of their family. When Dawn brings her new boyfriend home from college for a visit, her parents and sister try to hide their doubts because they’re glad that Dawn – always an awkward child – appears to have grown into a confident, mature young woman in her relationship with Rud. But when Hanna and her husband, Joe, are beaten savagely in their bed, Rud becomes the chief suspect and stands trial for Joe’s murder.

Claiming her boyfriend’s innocence, Dawn estranges herself from her mother, who survived the attack with serious injuries and impaired memory. When Rud wins an appeal and Dawn returns to the family home saying she wants to support her mother, Hanna decides to try to remember details of that traumatic night so she can testify to keep her husband’s murderer in jail, never guessing that the process might cause her to question everything she thought she knew about her daughter.”

I absolutely love this book.  I love the fact that my assumptions about what was true kept changing as we learned new things and how Hanna is accidentally an unreliable narrator.

I can’t even imagine what life is like for Hanna.  Her husband was brutally murdered in an attack that also almost killed her and did leave her disfigured.  Her two children don’t speak and it also becomes almost impossible for her to have a relationship with both of them.  (Obviously that’s because Dawn is a suspect in the murder/attempted murder and, while Hanna believes that she’s innocent, her other daughter Iris does not).

The story is full of unexpected occurrences and I will admit to spending most of my time seriously afraid for Hanna and at the same time hoping that she was right and that Dawn had nothing to do with it (because let’s face it, she’s been through more than enough).

I cannot wait to read future books by Jessica Treadway.

Highly recommended.

I Kill the Mockingbird

Finished I Kill the Mockingbird by Paul Acampora.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

When Lucy, Elena, and Michael receive their summer reading list, they are excited to see To Kill A Mockingbird included. But not everyone in their class shares the same enthusiasm. So they hatch a plot to get the entire town talking about the well-known Harper Lee classic. They plan controversial ways to get people to read the book, including re-shelving copies of the book in bookstores so that people think they are missing and starting a website committed to “destroying the mockingbird.” Their efforts are successful when all of the hullabaloo starts to direct more people to the book. But soon, their exploits start to spin out of control and they unwittingly start a mini-revolution in the name of books.

I enjoyed this sweet, fun read but I didn’t love it the way I was expecting to.  It’s definitely an easy read.  I love books that are about people who love books, and Lucy, Elena and Michael love books.  (Especially Lucy.)

When they decide to come up with a way to have everyone in their class pick To Kill a Mockingbird for their summer reading project, it’s hard not to agree with them.  Even their method, while flawed, is pretty ingenuous.  (They decide that they need to make it look like someone’s trying to keep people from reading it, which will obviously make everyone want to read it.)

Except, of course, things get out of hand.  Because of course they would.  Even if their intentions are good (and they definitely are), there’s no way to keep other people from doing this, too.  And those other people’s intentions may not be as pure.

This is an incredibly fun way to spend an afternoon.

Above

Finished Above by Isla Morley.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

I am a secret no one is able to tell.

Blythe Hallowell is sixteen when she is abducted by a survivalist and locked away in an aban­doned missile silo in Eudora, Kansas. At first, she focuses frantically on finding a way out, until the harrowing truth of her new existence settles in—the crushing loneliness, the terrifying madness of a captor who believes he is saving her from the end of the world, and the persistent temptation to give up. But nothing prepares Blythe for the burden of raising a child in confinement. Deter­mined to give the boy everything she has lost, she pushes aside the truth about a world he may never see for a myth that just might give mean­ing to their lives below ground. Years later, their lives are ambushed by an event at once promis­ing and devastating. As Blythe’s dream of going home hangs in the balance, she faces the ultimate choice—between survival and freedom.”

This book is so similar to Room, except it’s told from Ma’s perspective.  (And in this one, we know her name, which is awesome.)

The biggest downside for this book is the fact that in the e-galley I read, the timeline was sometimes hard to gauge.  Time tended to fly by and so I was never really sure when things were happening.  I think that may have been done on purpose, though, to illustrate how fluid time is when you’re basically a prisoner.  (It’s genius, if so; it just confused me a bit.)

Like Room, this book was nearly impossible to put down and I was so interested in learning if Blythe (and, later, her son) would be able to escape.  (And, if so, how.)

I really enjoyed this book and can’t wait to see what Isla Morley writes next.

Bright Before Sunrise

Finished Bright Before Sunrise by Tiffany Schmidt.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

When Jonah is forced to move from Hamilton to Cross Pointe for the second half of his senior year, “miserable” doesn’t even begin to cover it. He feels like the doggy-bag from his mother’s first marriage and everything else about her new life—with a new husband, new home and a new baby—is an upgrade. The people at Cross Pointe High School are pretentious and privileged—and worst of all is Brighton Waterford, the embodiment of all things superficial and popular. Jonah’s girlfriend, Carly, is his last tie to what feels real… until she breaks up with him.

For Brighton, every day is a gauntlet of demands and expectations. Since her father died, she’s relied on one coping method: smile big and pretend to be fine. It may have kept her family together, but she has no clue how to handle how she’s really feeling. Today is the anniversary of his death and cracks are beginning to show. The last thing she needs is the new kid telling her how much he dislikes her for no reason she can understand. She’s determined to change his mind, and when they’re stuck together for the night, she finally gets her chance.

Jonah hates her at 3p.m., but how will he feel at 3 a.m.?

One night can change how you see the world. One night can change how you see yourself.”

As with many stories with two narrators, I definitely preferred one over the other.  I liked Jonah by the end, but I liked Brighton immediately.  It’s probably safe to say that a large part of that is the fact that she also has a dead dad.

I can see how other people would find her obnoxious (she’s so cheerful all the time!) but I absolutely understand the idea that being put together all the time could be used as sort of a protective mechanism.

And I will admit that yes, Jonah absolutely grew on me.  He isn’t close to his parents (or his mom and stepfather, as I’m pretty sure he would clarify) but he loves his little sister so much and their relationship was incredibly sweet.

This isn’t the kind of book that will change your life but it’s the kind that will make your day better.

The Chance You Won’t Return

Finished The Chance You Won’t Return by Annie Cardi.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

When your mom thinks she’s Amelia Earhart, navigating high school, first love, and family secrets is like flying solo without a map.

Driver’s ed and a first crush should be what Alex Winchester is stressed out about in high school – and she is. But what’s really on her mind is her mother. Why is she dressing in Dad’s baggy khaki pants with a silk scarf around her neck? What is she planning when she pores over maps in the middle of the night? When did she stop being Mom and start being Amelia Earhart? Alex tries to keep her budding love life apart from the growing disaster at home as her mother sinks further into her delusions. But there are those nights, when everyone else is asleep, when it’s easier to confide in Amelia than it ever was to Mom. Now, as Amelia’s flight plans become more intense, Alex is increasingly worried that Amelia is planning her final flight – the flight from which she never returns. What could possibly be driving Mom’s delusions, and how far will they take her?”

I really enjoyed this story.  I especially loved Alex.  Alex is an incredibly realistic heroine.  She is selfish and embarrassed about her mom’s mental problems and close to her brother and sister but also resentful at having to spend so much time taking care of them. I love that she’s a regular teenager and not a perfect person.

And I love that she tries so hard to spend time with her mom and even plays along with everything, as much as she can.  She fails a lot, but she keeps trying.  (And I love that, as someone who also fails a lot and also keeps trying.)

I found everything about this book intriguing.  There is a history of depression in my family, but I’ve never had any experience with delusions and things like this.  I love how it’s presented very matter-of-factly.  I mean yes, Alex is embarrassed by her mom, but it’s never like a freak show, for lack of a better term.

Recommended.

The One Safe Place

Finished The One Safe Place by Tania Unsworth.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

In this near-future dystopia with echoes of “The Giver” and “Among the Hidden,” Tania Unsworth has created an unsettling page-turner fast-paced, smooth, filled with dread that s wholly satisfying and startlingly original.

Devin doesn’t remember life before the world got hot; he has grown up farming the scorched earth with his grandfather in their remote valley. When his grandfather dies, Devin heads for the city. Once there, among the stark glass buildings, he finds scores of children, just like him, living alone on the streets. They tell him rumors of a place for abandoned children, with unlimited food and toys and the hope of finding a new family. But only the luckiest get there.

An act of kindness earns Devin an invitation to the home, but it s soon clear that it s no paradise. As Devin investigates the intimidating administrator and the zombie-like sickness that afflicts some children, he discovers the home s horrific true mission. The only real hope is escape, but the place is as secure as a fortress.

Fans of dystopian fiction and spine-chilling adventure will devour “The One Safe Place”; its haunting themes will resonate long after readers have turned the final page.”

I can’t even tell you how much I l enjoyed this book.  The synopsis compares it to The Giver, and I think that’s absolutely appropriate.

I love Devin, but I think my favorite character is Kit.  She clearly has had an awful life but she still is a good person and helps Devin (even as she says repeatedly that you have to rely on yourself because no one else will help you).  It’s so obvious why she’s so willing to stay at the Home even as it becomes increasingly clear that it is not a great place to be: even as scary as it can get, it’s still a place where she has a bed and a shower and food.

I’m hoping that Tania Unsworth writes something else soon.  Ideally we could maybe get a sequel (the ending is not really open-ended, but let’s be honest: the Administrator, like most villains, doesn’t really let things go) but I would settle for anything.

Recommended.

Where They Found Her

Finished Where They Found Her by Kimberly McCreight.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“From the author of the New York Times bestseller and 2014 Edgar and Anthony nominee Reconstructing Amelia comes another harrowing, gripping novel that marries psychological suspense with an emotionally powerful story about a community struggling with the consequences of a devastating discovery

At the end of a long winter, in bucolic Ridgedale, New Jersey, the body of an infant is discovered in the woods near the town’s prestigious university campus. No one knows who the baby is, or how her body ended up out there. But there is no shortage of opinions.

When freelance journalist, and recent Ridgedale transplant, Molly Anderson is unexpectedly called upon to cover the story for the Ridegdale Reader, it’s a risk, given the severe depression that followed the loss of her own baby. But the bigger threat comes when Molly unearths some of Ridgedale’s darkest secrets, including a string of unreported sexual assaults that goes back twenty years.

Meanwhile, Sandy, a high school dropout, searches for her volatile and now missing mother, and PTA president Barbara struggles to help her young son, who’s suddenly having disturbing outbursts.

Told from the perspectives of Molly, Barbara, and Sandy, Kimberly McCreight’s taut and profoundly moving novel unwinds the tangled truth about the baby’s death revealing that these three women have far more in common than they realized. And that their lives are more intertwined with what happened to the baby than they ever could have imagined.”

I absolutely loved Reconstructing Amelia and was so excited to get a chance to read this one early.  My expectations were really high, as well, and I completely adored this book, as well.

It’s not another Reconstructing Amelia, except it’s just as compelling.  (This one centers around a newborn girl who was found dead in a relatively remote area.  Nobody knows who her mom is, or how she got there, and obviously it has the small town in an uproar.)

I love that Kimberly McCreight chose to have Barbara co-narrate.  If I had only heard about her in Molly and Sandy’s chapters, it would have been impossible to even remotely like her.  I’m not going to say that it made me wish Barbara and I were friends, but it allowed me to see where she was coming from and it made me empathize with her a little bit.  (She’s still a jerk, but it was nice to see exactly why.)

Where They Found Her is incredible.  I kept thinking I knew where it was going and I had no idea.  I have to say, I absolutely love books that can take me by surprise.

I can’t wait for Kimberly McCreight’s next book.

Highly recommended.

All the Rage (Reflections)

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When I decided to devote a week to All the Rage, I knew that I wanted to spend a day going more in-depth of how this book made me feel and what it made me think.  (Warning: this is probably going to be long.)

First, you should know that I was a sociology and gender studies major, so I am generally very in tune with the idea of rape culture and victim blaming and similar things.  I don’t think that you can or should be blamed for being raped, regardless of what you were wearing or what you were drinking or any decisions you made that night.

But because this is a Courtney Summers book, the heroine isn’t particularly likable.  I think that this is actually a brilliant choice, because I would think things like, “Quit drinking, Romy; this is a bad idea” and then I’d stop, horrified.  Because she’s a teenager at a party, and they tend to drink.  You should be able to behave in a normal way at a party without worrying that you’re going to be taken advantage of or raped.  (For most of the book, we get the story in bits and pieces, so while I did say that “she was apparently raped” while discussing it with my friend Bekki, it was because I knew that something horrible had happened while Romy was drunk, but I didn’t know if it was rape or if things had just gone a lot farther than she had wanted.  It was definitely clear either way that Romy was in no shape to give any kind of consent.

Second, the thing that really struck me with this book was a throwaway comment (that is later repeated) from Romy when she learns that her boyfriend Leon’s sister is going to have a baby: “I hope it’s not a girl.”  The thought startles her so much that she initially gives it more thought and then definitively agrees that she doesn’t want it to be a girl.

The statement startled me, too (I have a niece and two goddaughters) and then as I thought about it, I agreed.  I worry about them in a way that I don’t have to worry about my godson.  Life is not easy for anyone, but it is definitely harder for girls.

After the baby is born (and it is a girl), there’s an absolutely wrenching scene where Romy holds her and then finds herself wanting to apologize to her for the life she knows that Ava will probably have.  Even if she doesn’t suffer any type of sex assault (although since one in four women will—and that number is probably only going to increase), she will have to navigate the world in a different and harder way than boys will.  I know that we are all aware of the ideas of how having sex in high school if you’re a girl makes you a slut (sometimes even beyond high school) and those ideas probably aren’t going to go away, either.