Category Archives: Books I Received From The Publisher

The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You

Finished The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You by Lily Anderson. I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Trixie Watson has two very important goals for senior year: to finally save enough to buy the set of Doctor Who figurines at the local comic books store, and to place third in her class and knock Ben West–and his horrendous new mustache that he spent all summer growing–down to number four.

Trixie will do anything to get her name ranked over Ben’s, including give up sleep and comic books–well, maybe not comic books–but definitely sleep. After all, the war of Watson v. West is as vicious as the Doctor v. Daleks and Browncoats v. Alliance combined, and it goes all the way back to the infamous monkey bars incident in the first grade. Over a decade later, it’s time to declare a champion once and for all.

The war is Trixie’s for the winning, until her best friend starts dating Ben’s best friend and the two are unceremoniously dumped together and told to play nice. Finding common ground is odious and tooth-pullingly-painful, but Trixie and Ben’s cautious truce slowly transforms into a fandom-based tentative friendship. When Trixie’s best friend gets expelled for cheating and Trixie cries foul play, however, they have to choose who to believe and which side they’re on–and they might not pick the same side.”

The first thing you need to know about this is that it’s a YA version of Much Ado About Nothing.  (The synopsis doesn’t make that clear, but it’s true.)  And also, I absolutely loved it.  (Not surprising, really, seeing as how MAAN is my favorite Shakespearean comedy.)

Really, how can you go wrong with an updated version of that play that centers around pop culture nerds? Answer: you cannot.

Okay, so  I am completely in book smit with Trixie.  She’s way more sarcastic than anyone I’ve ever met (think Veronica Mars turned up to 11) and she is so passionate about everything.  And probably the thing she loves the most is being mean to/about Ben.  But don’t feel too bad for Ben—he gives back as good as he gets.

And, if you know the original source material (or pop culture at all), you know what happens next.  Except getting there is most of the fun.

Warning: this will make you want to binge Battlestar Galactica.

Highly recommended.

Modern Lovers

Finished Modern Lovers by Emma Straub.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

From the New York Times‒bestselling author of The Vacationers, a smart, highly entertaining novel about a tight-knit group of friends from college—their own kids now going to college—and what it means to finally grow up well after adulthood has set in.

Friends and former college bandmates Elizabeth and Andrew and Zoe have watched one another marry, buy real estate, and start businesses and families, all while trying to hold on to the identities of their youth. But nothing ages them like having to suddenly pass the torch (of sexuality, independence, and the ineffable alchemy of cool) to their own offspring.

Back in the band’s heyday, Elizabeth put on a snarl over her Midwestern smile, Andrew let his unwashed hair grow past his chin, and Zoe was the lesbian all the straight women wanted to sleep with. Now nearing fifty, they all live within shouting distance in the same neighborhood deep in gentrified Brooklyn, and the trappings of the adult world seem to have arrived with ease. But the summer that their children reach maturity (and start sleeping together), the fabric of the adults’ lives suddenly begins to unravel, and the secrets and revelations that are finally let loose—about themselves, and about the famous fourth band member who soared and fell without them—can never be reclaimed.

Straub packs wisdom and insight and humor together in a satisfying book about neighbors and nosiness, ambition and pleasure, the excitement of youth, the shock of middle age, and the fact that our passions—be they food, or friendship, or music—never go away, they just evolve and grow along with us.”

I am a huge fan of Emma Straub’s, and I need to read The Vacationers soon.

Her books are seemingly simple and lighthearted, but they’ve got so much going on beneath the surface.

Modern Lovers is told from every character’s perspective, and it’s invaluable (at least for me), getting to spend time with every character.  It also makes it easier to empathize with them (especially in Andrew’s case, and Jane’s, because I think otherwise they’re the two most likely to come off incredibly poorly).

Obviously a major focus is on the romantic relationships, but I also loved the way that we see how the friendships have grown and changed over time.  Like a lot of people, I have friends that I’ve known since high school and college, and it’s interesting to see what may be in store for us.  (Minus the moderate fame; none of us did anything like release records or a hit song.)

Basically, this is the perfect book for the beach if you want a fun read that will also make you think and feel.

Recommended.

Saving Abby

Finished Saving Abby by Steena Holmes.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

All children’s book illustrator Claire Turner ever wanted was to be a mother. After six years of trying to conceive, she and her husband, Josh, have finally accepted that she will never be pregnant with a child of their own.

Yet once they give up hope, the couple gets the miracle they’ve been waiting for. For the first few months of her pregnancy, Claire and Josh are living on cloud nine. But when she begins to experience debilitating headaches, blurred vision, and even fainting spells, the soon-to-be mother goes to the doctor and receives a terrifying diagnosis. Since any treatment could put their unborn baby’s life at risk, the Turners must carefully weigh their limited options. And as her symptoms worsen, Claire will have to make an impossible decision: Save her own life, or save her child’s?

USA Today and New York Times bestselling author Steena Holmes brings us an unforgettable story of one woman’s courage and love.”

I love books that give you an impossible scenario and force you to choose which you’d pick.  That’s certainly true with this novel, because you don’t get much worse than having to decide whether you should save your own life or your unborn baby’s.

I completely adore Steena Holmes’ books.  They’re short and easy to read, but at the same time, there is so much character development and plot packed into them.  I can speed through them without feeling like quality has been sacrificed.  (I also love how prolific she is, but that’s because I am greedy and I want to read all her books.)

And best of all, this book doesn’t go the uber-melodramatic route that it would have if it had been written by another author.  This is…dignified, for lack of a better word.

Recommended.

 

Signs of Life

Finished Signs of Life by Selene Castrovilla.  I received a copy from the author for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

The tables are turned with a vengeance in this tour de force love story. Nearly a year has gone by and now it’s Dorothy who is fragmented and lost, while Joey keeps the promise he had made her to better himself —even though she’s gone. Joey talks about what is happening in the present while Dorothy describes what happened before— in the moments and hours after the Glock dropped. This time the stakes are even higher, as Joey forces himself to move forward while Dorothy is frozen in place. But when he learns of a devastating decision, Joey races to find her before it is too late. Truth, consequence, repercussion and modern medicine collide as pieces converge in this psychological, thrilling story which begs the question: Can love really conquer all?

Okay, so I absolutely loved Melt (the first book in this series) and I was mostly really excited to read Signs of Life but also a little nervous. What if it wasn’t as good? What if the characters weren’t as great as I remembered them being? What if it didn’t feel as viscerally true as Melt did?

Well, if I were Joey, I’d have to snap my wrist with a rubber band for those thoughts.  Not only does this live up to Melt, it even surpasses it.

Melt is somewhat similar to The Wizard of Oz, but this book takes a new inspiration: As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner.  I haven’t read it so I know for a fact that you don’t need to know it at all to fall in love with this novel.

Unfortunately, I can’t really discuss specifics at all, because we don’t learn very much about what’s going on with Dorothy until later in the novel.  So here’s what I can tell you: Dorothy and Joey are currently not together, although they are all the other person can think about.  Dorothy’s chapters are mostly flashbacks, showing how the separation occurred.  Joey’s are sometimes present day and sometimes flashbacks.  In the present day, we learn how hard he’s working to improve his life (he’s taking college classes! and reading! And learning how to speak better—I love Joey so much) and it’s so clear how much of that is because of Dorothy’s impact on his life.  (I can’t call her Doll as he does; it feels too intimate.)

Best news: this is now apparently a trilogy.  And thank God, because that ending is a cliffhanger and a half.

Highly recommended.

Summer Days & Summer Nights

Finished Summer Days & Summer Nights, an anthology edited by Stephanie Perkins.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Maybe it’s the long, lazy days, or maybe it’s the heat making everyone a little bit crazy. Whatever the reason, summer is the perfect time for love to bloom. Summer Days & Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories, written by twelve bestselling young adult writers and edited by the international bestselling author Stephanie Perkins, will have you dreaming of sunset strolls by the lake. So set out your beach chair and grab your sunglasses. You have twelve reasons this summer to soak up the sun and fall in love.

Featuring stories by Leigh Bardugo, Francesca Lia Block, Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, Brandy Colbert, Tim Federle, Lev Grossman, Nina LaCour, Stephanie Perkins, Veronica Roth, Jon Skovron, and Jennifer E. Smith.”

This is a perfect summer read.  These are lovely sweet stories (well, some of them) and are perfect for any YA reader.  Many are contemp, but there are also some paranormal and one that I would even classify as a horror story.  And many have happy endings, but not all do.

Basically, no matter how your tastes run, you’ll find at least one story here to make you smile.

Personally, my favorite is probably the Libba Bray (not coincidentally, that’s also the horror story) but every story in this collection is incredibly enjoyable.

Grab this book, a towel, some sunscreen and the beverage of your choice—summer is coming!

Recommended.

The Fireman

Finished The Fireman by Joe Hill.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

No one knows exactly when it began or where it originated. A terrifying new plague is spreading like wildfire across the country, striking cities one by one: Boston, Detroit, Seattle. The doctors call it Draco Incendia Trychophyton. To everyone else it’s Dragonscale, a highly contagious, deadly spore that marks its hosts with beautiful black and gold marks across their bodies—before causing them to burst into flames. Millions are infected; blazes erupt everywhere. There is no antidote. No one is safe.

Harper Grayson, a compassionate, dedicated nurse as pragmatic as Mary Poppins, treated hundreds of infected patients before her hospital burned to the ground. Now she’s discovered the telltale gold-flecked marks on her skin. When the outbreak first began, she and her husband, Jakob, had made a pact: they would take matters into their own hands if they became infected. To Jakob’s dismay, Harper wants to live—at least until the fetus she is carrying comes to term. At the hospital, she witnessed infected mothers give birth to healthy babies and believes hers will be fine too. . . if she can live long enough to deliver the child.

Convinced that his do-gooding wife has made him sick, Jakob becomes unhinged, and eventually abandons her as their placid New England community collapses in terror. The chaos gives rise to ruthless Cremation Squads—armed, self-appointed posses roaming the streets and woods to exterminate those who they believe carry the spore. But Harper isn’t as alone as she fears: a mysterious and compelling stranger she briefly met at the hospital, a man in a dirty yellow fire fighter’s jacket, carrying a hooked iron bar, straddles the abyss between insanity and death. Known as The Fireman, he strolls the ruins of New Hampshire, a madman afflicted with Dragonscale who has learned to control the fire within himself, using it as a shield to protect the hunted . . . and as a weapon to avenge the wronged.

In the desperate season to come, as the world burns out of control, Harper must learn the Fireman’s secrets before her life—and that of her unborn child—goes up in smoke.”

I have been a fan of Joe Hill’s since I read Heart-Shaped Box.  It was one of the most genuinely unsettling books I’d ever read (then or since) and I knew that he was going to be one of my favorites authors.

His later books helped cement that (NOS4A2 is probably my favorite of his) and this one is just as good.  The easy comparison is probably to The Stand, and it’s a fair one to make (end of the world, focusing just as much on how the world ends as how a small group of survivors try to stay alive) but honestly, I think I preferred this.  (That may at least partially be because I catch a cold every time I read The Stand and it terrifies me every time, even though I know it’s coming.)

We don’t spend much time with Harper and Jakob before Dragonscale makes an appearance and even after, we spend much more time with Harper.  This works, because as we learn a little more about Jakob, it becomes clear that he’s a pretty wretched human being. (I would have liked to know more about what he was like before the world started ending, but I’m honestly 98% sure he’d be a jerk under any circumstance.)

And the book gets even better (and Harper’s life gets better) once we get to the community of survivors.  It also becomes such an interesting sociological statement of what becomes important when everything is falling apart.  What do people cling to once everything is essentially gone? And it’s not a spoiler to say that the community shows us the best and worst of humanity.

I found the book to be incredibly clever and sweet and funny and a little bit heartbreaking.  I loved the characters (except for the ones I hated, of course, but I could even understand and find empathy for them) and I miss them.

Highly recommended.

The Unexpected Everything

Finished The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Andie had it all planned out.

When you are a politician’s daughter who’s pretty much raised yourself, you learn everything can be planned or spun, or both. Especially your future.

Important internship? Check.

Amazing friends? Check.

Guys? Check (as long as we’re talking no more than three weeks)

But that was before the scandal. Before having to be in the same house with her dad. Before walking an insane number of dogs. That was before Clark and those few months that might change her whole life.

Because here’s the thing – if everything’s planned out, you can never find the unexpected.

And where’s the fun in that?”

So as you know, I am a huge, HUGE fan of Morgan Matson and have been ever since I read Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour.  That one will likely always be my absolute favorite, but I’ve loved everything else, too, and will even agree that her books get better with each one.

Sooooo yes, this is her best book yet.

There are a lot to love about her books, but I think my absolute favorite is the way that she portrays friendships.  In this one, Andie has a rotating cast of boyfriends and crushes, but her constants are her best friends: Palmer, Bri and Toby (and Palmer’s boyfriend Tom, who is generally forgotten).  And you guys, I loved them.  I would be so happy with companion novels from any of their perspectives, and I would also really love a sequel about Andie and Clark.  (All the books about these people, seriously.)

It made me smile and laugh and cry and there may or may not have been a moment or ten where I hugged my Kindle.  (Shut up; you don’t know my life.)

Like all of her books, this one is highly recommended.

My Best Friend’s Exorcism

Finished My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Abby and Gretchen have been best friends since fifth grade, when they bonded over a shared love of E.T., roller-skating parties, and scratch-and-sniff stickers. But when they arrive at high school, things change. Gretchen begins to act…different. And as the strange coincidences and bizarre behavior start to pile up, Abby realizes there’s only one possible explanation: Gretchen, her favorite person in the world, has a demon living inside her. And Abby is not about to let anyone or anything come between her and her best friend. With help from some unlikely allies, Abby embarks on a quest to save Gretchen. But is their friendship powerful enough to beat the devil?

I didn’t read Grady Hendrix’s first novel, Horrorstor, but I’ve heard excellent things.  I’m also going to need to change that, because this book freaked me out on a very visceral level.

A blurb said it was The Exorcist meets Heathers, and I can absolutely see that.  Except picture it as being Heathers, just slowly getting darker and darker and darker until all of a sudden, you realize you’ve been seriously terrified for the past several chapters and it’s late and you should sleep but it’s at a scary part and you just know that it is not a good idea to stop there, so you keep reading because you’re scared to stop reading and scared to keep reading and the only way out is through, so you keep going.

And that probably makes it sound like I didn’t like the book, except I absolutely loved it.  It was an incredibly fun (and terrifying) novel.

And I recommend it to anyone who doesn’t get scared too easily.  (I don’t and this one did it.)

Highly recommended.

The Bassoon King

Finished The Bassoon King by Rainn Wilson.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Rainn Wilson’s memoir about growing up geeky and finally finding his place in comedy, faith, and life.
 
For nine seasons Rainn Wilson played Dwight Schrute, everyone’s favorite work nemesis and beet farmer. Viewers of The Office fell in love with the character and grew to love the actor who played him even more. Rainn founded a website and media company, SoulPancake, that eventually became a bestselling book of the same name. He also started a hilarious Twitter feed (sample tweet: “I’m not on Facebook” is the new “I don’t even own a TV”) that now has more than four million followers.

Now, he’s ready to tell his own story and explain how he came up with his incredibly unique sense of humor and perspective on life. He explains how he grew up “bone-numbingly nerdy before there was even a modicum of cool attached to the word.” The Bassoon King chronicles his journey from nerd to drama geek (“the highest rung on the vast, pimply ladder of high school losers”), his years of mild debauchery and struggles as a young actor in New York, his many adventures and insights about The Office, and finally, Wilson’s achievement of success and satisfaction, both in his career and spiritually, reconnecting with the artistic and creative values of the Bahá’í faith he grew up in.”

I am a huge fan of The Office and so I would’ve read this book even without the fact that the introduction is written by one Dwight K. Schrute.  (If you love that show as much as I do, I absolutely dare you not to read it and not laugh out loud at least three times on every page.  AT LEAST.)

So yeah, come for the parts by Dwight and the Office anecdotes, but you’ll stay for the rest of it.  It’s clever and sweet and just good.

I always forget just how many things Rainn Wilson has done that I’ve loved (including, God help me, House of 1,000 Corpses).  Obviously I think of The Office first, but he’s also in Galaxy Quest! Almost Famous!  The Rocker (one of the most underrated comedies ever, according to me).

Also, he just sounds like a great human, and we need more of those.

Recommended.

A Walk in the Sun

Finished A Walk in the Sun by Michelle Zink.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

In this Bridges of Madison County for teens, Michelle Zink weaves a magnetic tale about summer love that stays with you long after the seasons change.

Rose Darrow never wanted to spend her life working on her family’s farm. But when her family is rocked by an unexpected tragedy she has no choice but to put her plans for the future—and dreams of escaping her small town—on hold.

Bodhi Lowell left home as a kid and hasn’t looked back. Years of working farm jobs has given him the one thing he wants most: freedom to travel without answering to anyone. He’s already looking past his job at Darrow Farm and plans on leaving in September—until he meets Rose.

Neither Rose nor Bodhi can deny the sparks flying between them, but with the end of summer looming, they must decide if it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all….”

This book is an emotional roller-coaster.  It’s all about grief, but it’s also all about hope and love.

It’s incredibly appropriate that it centers around the summer after graduating from college, because that’s exactly how this book feels.  (Although even more so, because Rose’s mom has died fairly recently—less than a year ago—so it’s even more intense for her.)

But it’s also just the knowledge that everything is changing.  And even if you have so many things to look forward to (college, new adventures, new places), it’s still scary and sad.

I really enjoyed this book, and its love story.  (Because even beyond Bodhi and Rose, it’s about Rose’s love for her family and friends, as well as the farm where she grew up.)

I’m probably not doing the book justice, so just read it.  :)