Category Archives: Books I Received From The Publisher

Six of Crows

Finished Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone…

A convict with a thirst for revenge.

A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager.

A runaway with a privileged past.

A spy known as the Wraith.

A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.

A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.

Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz’s crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.”

I don’t read very many paranormal books anymore, and this book was almost an impulse grab at BEA. (I had a linejump pass and two of my friends were obsessed with getting this book and one mentioned that it was compared to Ocean’s 11, and I was like, REALLY?!)

I mention that to make sure you know that I came very close to not reading this book at all.  That would’ve been a huge mistake on my part.

I love everything about this book (except for the fact that the sequel won’t be out until NEXT FALL.)  The world that Leigh Bardugo created is amazing.  (I didn’t read her earlier Grisha trilogy, but you don’t need to do that to love this book.  I do plan to go back and read them eventually, though, because if they’re anything like this, I am going to love them beyond all reason.)

There is so much tension in this book.  Part of it is romantic (I ship two different couples here and I have to believe they will each get it together) and most of it is just the question of whether these six people will be able to do what is essentially impossible.

Highly recommended.

How to Be Brave (review, excerpt and giveaway!)

How To Be Brave

Finished How to Be Brave by E. Katherine Kottaras.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.  I’m happy to be offering a giveaway of this novel; to enter, please leave a comment!

Click here to see the trailer.


This is what it was like:

I didn’t want you to come. I didn’t want you there.

The day before school, the very first year,

we waited in line for my schedule.

They stared. Those in line around us—

the other girls and their moms,

the ones who were my year,

who were never my friends—

They saw how you were big, planetary, next to them.

Next to me.

The girl in pigtails, someone’s sister,

asked: Is there a baby inside?

Her mother, red now, whispered in her ear.


But the girl didn’t mind:

Oh, so she’s fat.


The other girls, the ones who were my year

who were never my friends—they laughed at you, quietly.

At me.


Her mother said she was sorry, so sorry,

And you said: It’s fine. It’s fine.

But it wasn’t.


You squeezed my hand, and then to the girl in pigtails,

you said: I am big, yes. But I am beautiful, too.

And so are you.


Her mother pulled her child away.

She left the line and let us go first.


I didn’t say: You shouldn’t have come.

I didn’t say: I don’t want you here.


But I also didn’t say: I love you.

Or: Thank you for being brave.


Later that night, I cried:

I don’t want to go. I don’t want to face them.

And every year after.


You’d look at me like I was that girl,

and you’d say, as though it were true:

You are possibility and change and beauty.

One day, you will have a life, a beautiful life.

You will shine.


I didn’t see it. I couldn’t see it,

not in myself,

not in you.


Now, it’s not like that anymore.

This is what it’s like:

It’s quiet in our house. Too quiet. Especially tonight. The day before my first day of senior year.

The A/C hums, the fridge hums, the traffic hums.

I’m standing at my closet door, those old knots churning inside my stomach again.

I don’t want to go tomorrow. I need to talk to her.

Instead, I’ve done what she always did for me the night before the first day of the school year. I’ve picked out three complete outfits, hung them on my closet door.

It’s a good start, I guess.

Outfit #1: Dark indigo skinny jeans (are they still considered skinny if they’re a size 16?), drapey black shirt, long gold chain necklace that Liss gave me, and cheap ballet flats that hurt my feet because they’re way too flat and I hate wearing shoes with no socks.

Outfit #2: Black leggings, dark blue drapey knee- length dress (draping is my thing), gold hoop earrings that belonged to my mom, and open-toed black sandals, but that would mean a last-minute half-assed pedicure tonight. A spedicure, if you will.

Outfit #3: A dress my mom bought for me two years ago. The Orange Dress. Well, really more like coral. With embroidered ribbons etched in angular lines that camouflage my flab. Knee-length (not too short/not too long). Three-quarter-length sleeves (to hide the sagging). It’s perfectly retro. And just so beautiful. Especially with this utterly uncomfortable pair of canary-colored peep-toe pumps that belonged to my mom.

I begged her for the dress. I made her pay the $125 for it. I knew my parents didn’t have the money, but I couldn’t help crying when I saw myself in the mirror. It fit (it’s a size 14), and I think she saw how pretty I felt because I did feel pretty for the first time, so she charged it.

But I’ve never worn it.

The day after, she went into the ER, her heart acting up again. She needed another emergency stent, which meant more dye through her kidneys, which meant dialysis a few weeks later, which meant the beginning of the end of everything.

I never put it on after that.

It’s just so bright. So unlike everything else I wear.

I could wear it tomorrow.

I could. And if she were here, she would tell me to.

I really need to talk to her.

It’s just so quiet in this house.

HOW TO BE BRAVE by E. Katherine Kottaras. Copyright © 2015 by the author and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Griffin.

Summary (from Goodreads):

An emotional contemporary YA novel about love, loss, and having the courage to chase the life you truly want.

Reeling from her mother’s death, Georgia has a choice: become lost in her own pain, or enjoy life right now, while she still can. She decides to start really living for the first time and makes a list of fifteen ways to be brave – all the things she’s wanted to do but never had the courage to try. As she begins doing the things she’s always been afraid to do – including pursuing her secret crush, she discovers that life doesn’t always go according to plan. Sometimes friendships fall apart and love breaks your heart. But once in a while, the right person shows up just when you need them most – and you learn that you’re stronger and braver than you ever imagined.”

I don’t know what it is but I am drawn to books about grief.  I also love books that focus on friendship and ones that focus on personal growth.  (I like character arcs, basically.)  And so a book that does all three? YES PLEASE.

And honestly, I love Georgia.  I love her so, so much.  She’s a plus-sized lady (and in high school, so God love her for that) and she doesn’t really focus on her weight.  She is okay with the fact that she has curves and she never really obsesses about it.  She wants to lose a few pounds but that’s to be healthier, not “prettier.”

At the same time, though, she has the same body issues that I’m pretty sure almost literally every woman ever has.  (One of her life list items is to go skinny dipping, which is fine until she realizes that will mean being naked in front of people.)

The only reason this book isn’t five stars is because, at 288 pages, I thought a few things seemed really rushed.  But those 288 pages were all wonderful and I cannot wait to read everything E. Katherine Kottaras ever writes, ever.

How to Be Brave sets out to make statements on dealing with grief and body image and self-acceptance and that time where you’re trying to figure out what to do with the rest of your life AND dealing with crumbling friendships.  There is a lot going on and it would be so easy to let one (or many) of those balls drop.  That doesn’t happen in this case; everything is handled masterfully.  (So masterfully, in fact, even Olivia Pope couldn’t have handled it better.)

Highly recommended.

Sinful Longing

Finished Sinful Longing by Lauren Blakely.  I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

He’s the inked brother. The one you’re wondering about. The bad boy of the family.
Colin Sloan has a past. He’s done things he’s not proud of, but he’s living differently now. Making changes in his life. Working hard, working out harder, and trying to win over one woman. He’s utterly crazy about Elle Mariano, and though the sex is epic, their friends-with-benefits arrangement just isn’t cutting it anymore. He wants all of her, and is determined to prove he’s what she needs in her life.

Elle is fiery, loyal, and in major lust with Colin Sloan. He’s everything she craves in a man — smart, sexy, kind — and a rock star between the sheets. But his past hits too close to home for her, and the people she has to protect. There isn’t room in her life for a relationship with Colin. Especially when she’s forced to keep a secret that could tear his family apart…

SINFUL LONGING is the third book in the steamy, sexy, suspenseful New York Times Bestselling Sinful Nights series from Lauren Blakely, author of the wildly popular Seductive Nights series…This high-heat, high-stakes romance series follows the Sloan family as each sibling falls madly in love against the backdrop of sin, money, greed, passion, mystery and suspense...”

I haven’t read the first two books in this series, but it’s easy to follow anyway.  (I think it would’ve been better if I had, though, just because of the subplot with Colin’s father’s murder. I’m guessing I’d have a more complete picture if I had read the first two books.)  But the main plot with Colin and Elle? Yeah, that’s easy to love even with no background.

(I think these are more connected books than an actual series, though; it seems like each book focuses on a different member of Colin’s family.)

And I definitely do want to bingeread the first two books (maybe before the last one comes out?) but I’m not sure when that can happen.  I have to say, though, I am going to miss Colin and Elle.  (Colin probably makes a cameo but Elle probably doesn’t.)

Which reminds me, probably my favorite thing about Lauren Blakely’s books is the way that she writes these flawed characters who still fit together so perfectly.  Her books are just amazing, and if you haven’t read them by now, you really should.

This is basically everything I’ve come to expect from Lauren Blakely: hot sex, sweet scenes and now insane amounts of suspense (well, okay, that last one is new).

Highly recommended.

First & Then

Finished First & Then by Emma Mills.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Devon Tennyson wouldn’t change a thing. She’s happy watching Friday night games from the bleachers, silently crushing on best friend Cas, and blissfully ignoring the future after high school. But the universe has other plans. It delivers Devon’s cousin Foster, an unrepentant social outlier with a surprising talent for football, and the obnoxiously superior and maddeningly attractive star running back, Ezra, right where she doesn’t want them first into her P.E. class and then into every other aspect of her life.

Pride and Prejudice meets Friday Night Lights in this contemporary novel about falling in love with the unexpected boy, with a new brother, and with yourself.”

I try to read a variety of different books, but my favorite (at least for now) is contemporary YA and this book is a great example of why.  It’s sweet and fun, but also there’s a lot of emotional depth.

Devon is a high school senior.  She doesn’t know where she wants to go to college and she’s dealing with the fact that her cousin is now living with them (Foster’s dad is dead and his mom has substance abuse issues) and Foster is…we’ll go with quirky.

That’s enough to deal with but Devon also loves her best friend (the feelings are most definitely not requited) and there’s this new guy in school who is basically EVERYWHERE and that’s confusing too.

I love this book.  It made me care about football (sort of, almost) and it made me smile.  I love Dev and her family and especially Ezra.

(And all I want in the world is a Foster-centric sequel.)


Notorious RBG

Finished Notorious RBG by Irin Carmon and Shana Khizhnik.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

You can’t spell truth without Ruth.
Only Ruth Bader Ginsburg can judge me.
The Ruth will set you free.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg never asked for fame—she was just trying to make the world a little better and a little freer. But along the way, the feminist pioneer’s searing dissents and steely strength have inspired millions. Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, created by the young lawyer who began the Internet sensation and an award-winning journalist, takes you behind the myth for an intimate, irreverent look at the justice’s life and work. As America struggles with the unfinished business of gender equality and civil rights, Ginsburg stays fierce. And if you don’t know, now you know.”

I knew before I read this book that I liked Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  But I wasn’t very familiar with her before she became a justice on the Supreme Court.  (Given her age and the fact that she was only the second female justice—and the fact that there have only been four—I knew she was a trailblazer, but I didn’t understand just how amazing her life has been.)

The book includes excerpts of opinions she’s written and has  a lot of pictures, but the real joy (for me) is in learning more about her personal life.  Her marriage to Marty GInsburg is an actual inspiration and if I could find a lady like Marty (or like Ruth, that’d be pretty awesome, too), I’d be incredibly lucky.  Their marriage was fantastic and I love the fact that they each didn’t seem to have an ego where the other was concerned.  Neither of them felt the need to be the one in charge.  (I also love the fact that Marty pitched in at home while Ruth was working.  It seems like that’s still rare now, so you can imagine how rare it was decades ago.)

If you need or want to know more about “Notorious RBG,” this is the book for you.

Highly recommended.


Finished Traffick by Ellen Hopkins.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Five teens victimized by sex trafficking try to find their way to a new life in this riveting companion to the New York Times bestselling Tricks from Ellen Hopkins, author of Crank.

In her bestselling novel, Tricks, Ellen Hopkins introduced us to five memorable characters tackling these enormous questions: Eden, the preacher’s daughter who turns tricks in Vegas and is helped into a child prostitution rescue; Seth, the gay farm boy disowned by his father who finds himself without money or resources other than his own body; Whitney, the privileged kid coaxed into the life by a pimp and whose dreams are ruined in a heroin haze; Ginger, who runs away from home with her girlfriend and is arrested for soliciting an undercover cop; and Cody, whose gambling habit forces him into the life, but who is shot and left for dead.

And now, in Traffick, these five are faced with the toughest question of all: Is there a way out? How these five teenagers face the aftermath of their decisions and experiences is the soul of this story that exposes the dark, ferocious underbelly of the child trafficking trade. Heartwrenching and hopeful, Traffick takes us on five separate but intertwined journeys through the painful challenges of recovery, rehabilitation, and renewal to forgiveness and love. All the way home.”

I’ve been a huge fan of Ellen Hopkins for years and her books pretty much always break my heart.  This one is no exception.  It’s a sequel to her book Tricks and it’s not a spoiler to say that just because the teens have escaped from prostitution, it doesn’t mean that their lives are any easier.

Between them, their difficulties range from medical problems, drug withdrawal and self-esteem issues, but there are a lot more difficulties below the surface.  It’s a lot to overcome—especially for a few of the teens, who don’t even really have support systems.

Still, they are determined to survive.  Their resilience and drive is actually inspiring (and I know that word tends to inspire eyerolls, but seriously, these are amazing teens).  As with all her books, this is a must-read.

Highly recommended.

Breath to Breath (and giveaway!)


Finished Breath to Breath by Craig Lew.  I received a copy for review.  It will be released Nov. 17.

Click here to enter to win a copy! (Good luck!)


Summary (from Goodreads):

Uprooted from his home and sent to live with his estranged father, seventeen-year-old William’s world is feeling tenuous at best. When he’s unexpectedly dragged into a situation in which he has no choice but to help an abused four-year-old boy, William’s world is rocked to the core as he discovers the truth behind the mysterious young boy’s stories of extreme sexual abuse. He and this boy are connected in ways William can’t even imagine and as horrible memories begin flood his consciousness, William’s rage drives him to steal a neighbor’s guns, convinced he must kill those responsible for causing a boy so much pain and betrayal. How William finds the love and compassion he needs to make the right choices is the heart and pulse of this riveting verse novel. Inspired by a true story, BREATH TO BREATH explores what hurt and healing really mean: to survive you hold your breath, but to live you must exhale.

First, you should know that this is a really, really hard novel to read.  It’s about a child who is sexually abused.  It’s not graphic, per se, but we know that there is sexual abuse going on, and at least three separate children are victimized.  (The other two make a brief appearance toward the end.)  So yeah, this is not a fun afternoon’s read.

This is also a novel in verse, which I know is a dealbreaker for a lot of people.  (I personally like it, but just as a warning to those who don’t.)

William’s journey throughout this novel is amazing and inspiring.  He now lives with his dad—they have not really had a relationship up to this point—and he’s in a new state, going to a new school.  He’s got anger issues that he’s trying to bring under control…so basically about every reason you can think of to be unhappy.

Yet he quickly makes a friend and has a potential girlfriend.  Things are looking up…except he can’t stop thinking about this little kid he met by mistake and who he knows is being sexually abused.  He tries everything he can think of to find and help the little boy, but nothing works.

This is the kind of book that will seriously affect you.  It’s not an easy read, and the ending shattered me.  But it’s important to read books that will affect you, not just the ones that will make you smile.

These things happen in the world; the least we can do is bear witness.

Highly recommended.

Craig Lew

About Craig Lew:

Craig Lew’s storytelling career began even before he had learned to write. As a child, he used his father’s tape recorder to capture tales about strange planets and scary creatures. His favorite story openings at that time were, “Once upon a junk yard heap …” or “It was a dark and stormy night.”

A movie producer, director, award winning author, illustrator, and screenwriter, Craig still favors a Hitchcockian thriller over a broad teen comedy. Regardless of the genre, he believes the best stories involve a hero who is either seeking love or giving love. At heart he’s a big, mushy romantic.

Craig spends his days with his fiancé in a house on a hill with the corgi land seals Yobo and Zeekie, a three-footed Boston Terrier named Moogie, and Smittens, the kitten with the marshmallow mittens.

I strive to spread good karma. Artistically, I enjoy pushing the envelope because I believe this makes more room in the middle. I believe the keys to success are dreaming big, working hard, and being nice.

Tour Schedule:

Just Visiting

Finished Just Visiting by Dahlia Adler.  I received a copy from the publisher for review. (Note: I work for this company, but this was not one of my books.)

Summary (from Goodreads):

Reagan Forrester wants out—out of her trailer park, out of reach of her freeloading mother, and out of the shadow of the relationship that made her the pariah of Charytan, Kansas.

Victoria Reyes wants in—in to a fashion design program, in to the arms of a cute guy who doesn’t go to Charytan High, and in to a city where she won’t stand out for being Mexican.

One thing the polar-opposite best friends do agree on is that wherever they go, they’re staying together. But when they set off on a series of college visits at the start of their senior year, they quickly see that the future doesn’t look quite like they expected. After two years of near-solitude following the betrayal of the ex-boyfriend who broke her heart, Reagan falls hard and fast for a Battlestar Galactica-loving, brilliant smile-sporting pre-med prospective… only to learn she’s set herself up for heartbreak all over again. Meanwhile, Victoria runs full-speed toward all the things she thinks she wants… only to realize everything she’s looking for might be in the very place they’ve sworn to leave.

As both Reagan and Victoria struggle to learn who they are and what they want in the present, they discover just how much they don’t know about each other’s pasts. And when each learns what the other’s been hiding, they’ll have to decide whether their friendship has a future.”

I’m a recent convert to the Cult of Dahlia Adler, and I’ve now read every book of hers except for the NA (but its time is coming, don’t worry).  This one is my current favorite of hers—which is not a slam on her Daylight Falls series—and I honestly love everything about it.

I love the idea that you can be so sure of what you want from your future and then all of a sudden, you just have no idea.  (I remember junior and senior year of high school being so stressful for just that reason—it was the first time that I could really tell that my choices would have a really lasting impact on my life.  Everything else, you can just start over but between choosing a college and choosing a major, those actually can change your life.)

The best part of this book, though? The friendship between Reagan and Victoria.  I love the two of them and you could really tell how much they loved each other, even when they were fighting.  I especially love the fact that, although there are boys in here, the focus really is on their friendship.  (A lot of times in contemp YA, it seems like friends are there to keep you company while you wait for boys.)

There’s going to be a sequel, right?

Highly recommended.


Finished Smoke by Catherine McKenzie.  I received a copy for review from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

From the internationally bestselling author Catherine McKenzie comes an evocative tale of two women navigating the secrets and lies at the heart of a wildfire threatening their town.

After a decade-long career combating wildfires, Elizabeth has traded in for a quieter life with her husband. Now she works as the local arson investigator in a beautiful, quaint town in the Rockies. But that tranquil life vanishes when she and her husband agree to divorce, and when a fire started in nearby Cooper Basin begins to spread rapidly. For Elizabeth, containing a raging wildfire is easier than accepting that her marriage has failed.

For Elizabeth’s ex-friend Mindy, who feels disconnected from her husband and teenage children, the fire represents a chance to find a new purpose: helping a man who lost his home to the blaze. But her faith is shattered by a shocking accusation.

As the encroaching inferno threatens the town’s residents, Elizabeth and Mindy must discover what will be lost in the fire, and what will be saved.

I am a huge fan of Catherine McKenzie’s books and I think this one might be her best (note: I still have not read Hidden).

Her earlier books have concepts that seem like they’re going to be fluffy, mindless reads but which completely transcend the “guilty pleasure” genre.  They’re smart and well-done and have all the character development you could want.  They’re fun, but they’re not stupid.

This one, though, sounded like a departure from her earlier books.  It doesn’t seem like it will be Serious Literature, but it definitely sounds heavier than her previous novels.  And it is.  There are very real problems (even beyond the fire, which is threatening to destroy part of a town).  But it’s not depressing or maudlin.

Like all of Catherine McKenzie’s novels, this is a must-read.  Recommended.

Don’t Fail Me Now

Finished Don’t Fail Me Now by Una LaMarche. I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

From the author of Like No Other, the novel Entertainment Weekly calls “One of the most poignant and star-crossed love stories since The Fault in Our Stars“: What if the last hope to save your family is the person who broke it up to begin with?

“Fans of John Green, Rainbow Rowell, and Sharon Flake will find much to love in [Don’t Fail Me Now].”
School Library Journal
Michelle and her little siblings Cass and Denny are African-American and living on the poverty line in urban Baltimore, struggling to keep it together with their mom in jail and only Michelle’s part-time job at the Taco Bell to sustain them.

Leah and her stepbrother Tim are white and middle class from suburban Maryland, with few worries beyond winning lacrosse games and getting college applications in on time.

Michelle and Leah only have one thing in common: Buck Devereaux, the biological father who abandoned them when they were little.

After news trickles back to them that Buck is dying, they make the uneasy decision to drive across country to his hospice in California. Leah hopes for closure; Michelle just wants to give him a piece of her mind.

Five people in a failing, old station wagon, living off free samples at food courts across America, and the most pressing question on Michelle’s mind is: Who will break down first–herself or the car? All the signs tell her they won’t make it. But Michelle has heard that her whole life, and it’s never stopped her before….

Una LaMarche triumphs once again with this rare and compassionate look at how racial and social privilege affects one family in crisis in both subtle and astonishing ways.”

Una LaMarche has quickly become one of my favorite authors.  This is different from her second YA novel (Like No Other) but both are excellent.

I love Michelle so much.  Her life is so hard (typical teen problems but on top of that, her mom is a drug user and it’s her responsibility to take care of her younger siblings—part of that means that she has to have a job to earn money for food for everyone) but she never really complains about it.  Instead, she just gets everything done.

I love stories about family and this is a wonderful example.  It was awesome seeing Michelle and Leah going from strangers to friends.

This is a smart, fun story and I loved it.

Highly recommended—now I need to read Five Summers!