Category Archives: Books I Received From The Publisher

Absolutely True Lies

Finished Absolutely True Lies by Rachel Stuhler.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Amazon):

“A fledgling entertainment writer stumbles into the gig of a lifetime writing a teenage pop star’s memoir and soon realizes that the young celebrity’s squeaky-clean image is purely a work of fiction.

Struggling writer Holly Gracin is on the verge of moving back home to upstate New York when she gets hired to write the memoirs of eighteen-year-old Daisy Mae Dixson, a former Nickelodeon child star who has moved seamlessly into both blockbuster movies and pop music.

Holly quickly realizes that Daisy’s wholesome public image is purely a work of fiction, as Holly finds herself trailing the star as she travels around the world on yachts, gets stalked by paparazzi, and sneaks out of five-star hotels in the dead of night.

As Holly struggles to write a flattering portrait of a teenage millionaire who only eats “nightshades” and treats her employees like slaves, Daisy has a public meltdown—and suddenly, her book is the cornerstone of resurrecting her image. But working at all hours trailing a pop star has taken its toll, and Holly must decide if becoming the ultimate insider is worth losing a starring role in her own life.

Fun, juicy, and inspired by Rachel Stuhler’s own stranger-than-fiction experiences as a celebrity ghost writer, Absolutely True Lies is an entertaining look at how the lifestyles of the rich and famous aren’t always what they seem.”

This book is insanely fun!  Holly is a very engaging character and her sarcastic sense of humor made me laugh out loud many times.

I liked Daisy, too, although she’s definitely out of touch with reality.  (She seems sort of like an early Britney Spears, circa her first year or so of fame, or possibly Jessica Simpson—remember when she sang?)  She’s sweet but kind of dumb…although, of course, we quickly learn neither of those things are exactly true.

This book is really fun and the kind of book that is absolutely perfect for a beach vacation.

Recommended.

Don’t Touch

Finished Don’t Touch by Rachel M. Wilson.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Amazon):

“Step on a crack, break your mother’s back,
Touch another person’s skin, and Dad’s gone for good . . .

Caddie has a history of magical thinking—of playing games in her head to cope with her surroundings—but it’s never been this bad before.

When her parents split up, Don’t touch becomes Caddie’s mantra. Maybe if she keeps from touching another person’s skin, Dad will come home. She knows it doesn’t make sense, but her games have never been logical. Soon, despite Alabama’s humidity, she’s covering every inch of her skin and wearing evening gloves to school.

And that’s where things get tricky. Even though Caddie’s the new girl, it’s hard to pass off her compulsions as artistic quirks. Friends notice things. Her drama class is all about interacting with her scene partners, especially Peter, who’s auditioning for the role of Hamlet. Caddie desperately wants to play Ophelia, but if she does, she’ll have to touch Peter . . . and kiss him. Part of Caddie would love nothing more than to kiss Peter—but the other part isn’t sure she’s brave enough to let herself fall.

From rising star Rachel M. Wilson comes a powerful, moving debut novel of the friendship and love that are there for us, if only we’ll let them in.”

This book should have been absolutely gripping and emotionally devastating, but it left me cold.  It may be that I was reading it during the riots that gripped Baltimore, but I had a pretty serious case of “So what?”

I found the premise very interesting and I love the idea that this also played out while Caddie was playing Ophelia (so appropriate, right?) but beyond that, everything left me unmoved.

None of the Above

Finished None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

A groundbreaking story about a teenage girl who discovers she was born intersex… and what happens when her secret is revealed to the entire school. Incredibly compelling and sensitively told, None of the Above is a thought-provoking novel that explores what it means to be a boy, a girl, or something in between.

What if everything you knew about yourself changed in an instant?

When Kristin Lattimer is voted homecoming queen, it seems like another piece of her ideal life has fallen into place. She’s a champion hurdler with a full scholarship to college and she’s madly in love with her boyfriend. In fact, she’s decided that she’s ready to take things to the next level with him.

But Kristin’s first time isn’t the perfect moment she’s planned—something is very wrong. A visit to the doctor reveals the truth: Kristin is intersex, which means that though she outwardly looks like a girl, she has male chromosomes, not to mention boy “parts.”

Dealing with her body is difficult enough, but when her diagnosis is leaked to the whole school, Kristin’s entire identity is thrown into question. As her world unravels, can she come to terms with her new self?”

I absolutely loved this book. It’s smart and funny and about something I had very little experience with (I’ve read Golden Boy by Abigail Tartellin, which is mentioned as recommended reading in the back of the book) but these two books are very different.

I love Krissy.  Her life is pretty perfect, except for the fact that her mom died of cancer.  She’s got the best boyfriend and she excels at running (specifically hurdling) and has a full scholarship to college.  She’s doing really well and life is going along well.

And then she learns that she’s intersex, which basically completely sends her spiraling.  She has an identity crisis—she feels like a girl, so what does it mean that she has male chromosomes and testes?  And if she likes guys, does that make her gay?  Can she still use pronouns like “she” and “her”?

And then everyone finds out and because she’s a teenager, people are not as understanding as one might hope.

This book taught me a lot, but it never felt obnoxious or preachy.

Highly recommended.

17 First Kisses

Finished 17 First Kisses by Rachael Allen.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

No matter how many boys Claire kisses, she can’t seem to find a decent boyfriend. Someone who wouldn’t rather date her gorgeous best friend, Megan. Someone who won’t freak out when he learns about the tragedy her family still hasn’t recovered from. Someone whose kisses can carry her away from her backwoods town for one fleeting moment.

Until Claire meets Luke.

But Megan is falling for Luke, too, and if there’s one thing Claire knows for sure, it’s that Megan’s pretty much irresistible.

With true love and best friendship on the line, Claire suddenly has everything to lose. And what she learns—about her crush, her friends, and most of all herself—makes the choices even harder.

In her moving debut, Rachael Allen brilliantly captures the complexities of friendship, the struggles of self-discovery, and the difficulties of trying to find love in high school. Fans of Sarah Ockler, Susane Colasanti, and Stephanie Perkins will fall head over heels for this addictive, heartfelt, and often hilarious modern love story.”

This book is ridiculously sweet and fun.  This is the ideal vacation book, one that will make you smile but also make you think about the friends you had in high school.  There are so many nuances in these types of relationships and this book captures it perfectly.

It also shows just how easy it is to make poor decisions but also how nice it is to have the luxury of time to fix those mistakes.

Bird Box

Finished Bird Box by Josh Malerman.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Something is out there, something terrifying that must not be seen. One glimpse of it, and a person is driven to deadly violence. No one knows what it is or where it came from.

Five years after it began, a handful of scattered survivors remains, including Malorie and her two young children. Living in an abandoned house near the river, she has dreamed of fleeing to a place where they might be safe. Now that the boy and girl are four, it’s time to go, but the journey ahead will be terrifying: twenty miles downriver in a rowboat–blindfolded–with nothing to rely on but her wits and the children’s trained ears. One wrong choice and they will die. Something is following them all the while, but is it man, animal, or monster?

Interweaving past and present, Bird Box is a snapshot of a world unraveled that will have you racing to the final page.”

If you’re in the mood for something creepy, this is your book.  We don’t know what the monster is, only that if you see it, you will go crazy and you will kill yourself.  (And you may kill other people first.)  The paranoia behind this is incredible and I’m not even sure you can call it paranoia when the threat is very much real.

I absolutely loved this book, and it creeped me out beyond all reason.  I jumped at every noise and anything from outside was terrifying.

Highly recommended.

Saving Lucas Biggs

Finished Saving Lucas Biggs by Marisa de los Santos and David Teague.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

When thirteen-year-old Margaret’s father is unfairly sentenced to death by the cruel Judge Biggs, she is determined to save him, even if it means using her family’s secret-and forbidden-ability to time travel. With the help of her best friend, Charlie, and his grandpa Josh, Margaret goes back to a time when Judge Biggs was a young boy and tries to prevent the chain of events that transformed him into a corrupt, jaded man.”

This book is absolutely gorgeous.  While there is a touch of the paranormal (enough so where this book would probably be shelved under “magical realism”), it mostly reads as a contemp novel.

I love the idea that you can sort of undo the horrible things that turn you into a bitter, unpleasant person.  (I’m not sure how true it is, but it feels like it could be.)

This is a sweet story and Marisa de los Santos’ middlegrade debut.  (I haven’t read David Teague at all.)  If you’ve read her adult novels, it shouldn’t surprise you to learn that the writing here is absolutely stunning.

Highly recommended.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Finished Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.”

I had heard nothing but amazing things about this book, and I went in with incredibly high expectations.

They were all met.

It’s impossible not to love Simon, and just as impossible not to fall for Blue the way Simon does.

We’ll start with Simon.  He’s sweet and smart and probably one of the most sarcastic guys I’ve ever met.  Still, it’s obvious that he’s got the best heart; he’s one of those people you know will be in your life forever.

And Blue.  Oh, Blue. :)  SIMON AND BLUE! I don’t want to talk too much about it, because I don’t want to ruin who Blue is, but it’s perfect.

This whole book is perfect.

Highly recommended.

Scarlett Undercover

Finished Scarlett Undercover by Jennifer Latham.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

A voice-driven mystery perfect for fans of Veronica Mars.

Meet Scarlett, a smart, sarcastic, kick-butt, Muslim American heroine, ready to take on crime in her hometown of Las Almas. When a new case finds the private eye caught up in a centuries-old battle of evil genies and ancient curses, Scarlett discovers that her own family secrets may have more to do with the situation than she thinks — and that cracking the case could lead to solving her father’s murder.

Jennifer Latham delivers a compelling story and a character to remember in this one-of-a-kind debut novel.”

I absolutely loved this novel.  As the synopsis says, it’s perfect for fans of Veronica Mars, and that is definitely me.

Scarlett is the kind of character I love: smart, loyal, brave.  She doesn’t give up, ever.

I don’t read that much paranormal fiction these days, but the presence of genies and curses didn’t deter me at all.  It made the story a little more interesting and unusual but it also made sense in the context of the story.

Also—in the “We need diverse books” realm—Scarlett is Muslim and that’s not a big deal.  I love that so much!

Jennifer Latham is now a must-buy for me; I can’t wait for her next book.

Highly recommended.

The Royal We

Finished The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“I might be Cinderella today, but I dread who they’ll think I am tomorrow. I guess it depends on what I do next.”

American Rebecca Porter was never one for fairy tales. Her twin sister, Lacey, has always been the romantic who fantasized about glamour and royalty, fame and fortune. Yet it’s Bex who seeks adventure at Oxford and finds herself living down the hall from Prince Nicholas, Great Britain’s future king. And when Bex can’t resist falling for Nick, the person behind the prince, it propels her into a world she did not expect to inhabit, under a spotlight she is not prepared to face.

Dating Nick immerses Bex in ritzy society, dazzling ski trips, and dinners at Kensington Palace with him and his charming, troublesome brother, Freddie. But the relationship also comes with unimaginable baggage: hysterical tabloids, Nick’s sparkling and far more suitable ex-girlfriends, and a royal family whose private life is much thornier and more tragic than anyone on the outside knows. The pressures are almost too much to bear, as Bex struggles to reconcile the man she loves with the monarch he’s fated to become.

Which is how she gets into trouble.

Now, on the eve of the wedding of the century, Bex is faced with whether everything she’s sacrificed for love-her career, her home, her family, maybe even herself-will have been for nothing.”

I absolutely adored this book.  I am a huge fan of the real royal couple—I was the person who DVRed their wedding and waited anxiously for both of the royal births.  So I am absolutely this book’s target audience.

While Nicholas and Bex aren’t exactly William and Kate (Bex is American, for one), there are definitely parallels (hello Ginger Prince Brother!).

This book is just a fun read, although there are also a lot of emotional depths here.  It’s a perfect vacation read, but at the same time, it’s not so shallow that you’ll feel guilty for reading it.

I’m hoping that there will be a sequel.  (There HAS TO BE, right?)  I’m also holding out hope for companion novels and, if so, the first one should be on Prince Freddie.

Highly recommended.

Gracefully Grayson

Finished Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky (it may be spelled Amy; cover says Ami and Twitter says Amy).  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Alone at home, twelve-year-old Grayson Sender glows, immersed in beautiful thoughts and dreams. But at school, Grayson grasps at shadows, determined to fly under the radar. Because Grayson has been holding onto a secret for what seems like forever: “he” is a girl on the inside, stuck in the wrong gender’s body.

The weight of this secret is crushing, but leaving it behind would mean facing ridicule, scorn, and rejection. Despite these dangers, Grayson’s true self itches to break free. Strengthened by an unexpected friendship and a caring teacher who gives her a chance to step into the spotlight, Grayson might finally have the tools to let her inner light shine.

Debut author Ami Polonsky’s moving, beautifully-written novel shines with the strength of a young person’s spirit and the enduring power of acceptance.”

I loved this book!  It’s incredibly important (in the wake of Leelah Alcorn’s suicide) but it never feels preachy.  It just shows what it’s like for Grayson, who is biologically a boy but who identifies as female.  I feel like this book is so timely but, as I said, it never feels like it’s an afterschool special.  (Do they even have those anymore?)

There’s a part at the end where Grayson is told that most people are good and that, if she pays attention (person says “you,” but I am saying “she” because that’s how Grayson identifies), she’ll see that people are reaching out.  I love this; it’s good advice for everyone.

This book is perfect for fans of Wonder and for anyone who wants to understand transgender people a little better.

Highly recommended.