Category Archives: Books I Received From The Publisher

The Marriage Clock

Finished The Marriage Clock by Zara Raheem. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

In Zara Raheem’s fresh, funny, smart debut, a young, Muslim-American woman is given three months to find the right husband or else her traditional Indian parents will find one for her–a novel with a universal story that everyone can relate to about the challenges of falling in love.

To Leila Abid’s traditional Indian parents, finding a husband in their South Asian-Muslim American community is as easy as match, meet, marry. But for Leila, a marriage of arrangement clashes with her lifelong dreams of a Bollywood romance which has her convinced that real love happens before marriage, not the other way around.

Finding the right husband was always part of her life-plan, but after 26 years of singledom, even Leila is starting to get nervous. And to make matters worse, her parents are panicking, the neighbors are talking, and she’s wondering, are her expectations just too high? So Leila decides it’s time to stop dreaming and start dating.

She makes a deal with her parents: they’ll give her three months, until their 30th wedding anniversary, to find a husband on her own terms. But if she fails, they’ll take over and arrange her marriage for her.

With the stakes set, Leila succumbs to the impossible mission of satisfying her parents’ expectations, while also fulfilling her own western ideals of love. But after a series of speed dates, blind dates, online dates and even ambush dates, the sparks just don’t fly! And now, with the marriage clock ticking, and her 3-month deadline looming in the horizon, Leila must face the consequences of what might happen if she doesn’t find “the one…”

I’m not very familiar with Indian culture (I know about Bollywood, of course, but I haven’t seen any of the movies) and so I was completely interested in this book from the moment I knew it existed. I loved Leila’s dilemma between being American and being Indian, and the way that she felt part of both cultures and paradoxically neither. Her fully American friends didn’t understand the way that she felt compelled to listen to her parents’ wishes (OK, let’s be fully honest here: her parents’ demands) that she get married sooner rather than later.

And this is the set-up for a romantic comedy if ever there was one, right? Trying to find love before you have to see what your parents line up for you? Because there is no way that your parents have the same criteria you have.

I love Leila’s parents, too, and their relationship. (It was an arranged marriage and they only fell in love afterwards. In this book and for this relationship, it seems so sweet and so romantic—yes, I know it can turn out horribly; don’t @ me.)

This is a charming read and it made my face hurt from smiling. (Also the ending had me practically cheering.) Recommended.

Advertisements

How Not to Die Alone

Finished How Not to Die Alone by Richard Roper. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

A darkly funny and life-affirming debut novel for readers of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine the story of one man who is offered a second chance at life and love when he develops an unexpected friendship–if he can expose the white lie he told years ago that grew into so much more.

Andrew’s day-to-day is a little grim, searching for next of kin for those who die alone. Thankfully, he has a loving family waiting for him when he gets home, to help wash the day’s cares away. At least, that’s what his coworkers believe.

Andrew didn’t mean for the misunderstanding to happen, yet he’s become trapped in his own white lie. The fantasy of his wife and two kids has become a pleasant escape from his lonely one bedroom with only his Ella Fitzgerald records for company. But when new employee Peggy breezes into his life like a breath of fresh air, Andrew is shaken out of his routine. She doesn’t notice the wall he’s been safely hiding behind and their friendship promises to break it down.

Andrew must choose: Does he tell the truth and start really living his life, but risk losing his friendship with Peggy? Or will he stay safe and alone, behind the façade? How Not to Die Alone is about the importance of taking a chance in those moments when we have the most to lose. Sharp and funny, warm and real, it’s the kind of big-hearted story we all need.”

This is compared to Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, and that’s a really apt comparison. Both are darkly funny stories about people who decide to shake up their perfectly fine (but boring) lives to take a chance on having a more chaotic but potentially happier one.

And oh you guys, Andrew’s life. He accidentally told his boss that he’s married with children (this is not true) and there’s no really good way to get out of that. Especially since at this point, it’s been years. AND since he’s embellished this lie. (Which makes sense, right? People talk about their families. You don’t just say you have a wife and kids and never talk about them, right?)

Except then he meets Peggy and they are perfect together. (I sort of picture them as Holly and Michael from The Office.) But…how do you date someone when she thinks you’re married?

So yeah, there’s a lot going on here. This book is seriously laugh out loud funny but it’s also sweet and just a great experience. This is going to make my best of 2019 list. Highly recommended.

Unpregnant

Finished Unpregnant by Jenni Hendriks and Ted Caplan. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Seventeen-year-old Veronica Clarke never thought she would wish she’d failed a test until she finds herself holding a thick piece of plastic in her hands and staring at two solid pink lines. Even the most consistent use of condoms won’t prevent pregnancy when your boyfriend secretly pokes holes in them to keep you from going out-of-state for college.

Veronica needs an abortion, but the closest place she can legally get one is over nine hundred miles away—and Veronica doesn’t have a car. Too ashamed to ask her friends or family for help, Veronica turns to the one person she believes won’t judge her: Bailey Butler, Jefferson High’s own little black cloud of anger and snark—and Veronica’s ex-best friend. Once on the road, Veronica quickly remembers nothing with Bailey is ever simple and that means two days of stolen cars, shotguns, crazed ex-boyfriends, truck stop strippers with pro-life agendas, and a limo driver named Bob. But the pain and betrayal of their broken friendship can’t be outrun. When their fighting leads to a brutal moment of truth, Bailey abandons Veronica. Now Veronica must risk everything in order to repair the hurt she’s caused.”

Veronica’s practically perfect and her life reflects that. She’s likely to be valedictorian and her boyfriend is sweet and attentive. And then she gets pregnant. This is NOT part of her five year plan (which includes Brown and which doesn’t at all include following in her sister’s footsteps of dropping out of college, marrying and having a baby). This means getting an abortion, which means driving for 1,000 miles each way, to the nearest clinic that will perform it without parental permission. And her companion on this trip? Her former best friend, Bailey.

If you’re in the mood for a laugh-out-loud road trip book, this is for you. Everything that can go wrong for Veronica and Bailey does, but it’s hysterically funny (because it’s not happening to you, and until you think about how they have to travel almost 2,000 miles round trip to get an abortion which, incidentally, IS LEGAL IN THE US. This is why I’ll never live anywhere south of where I currently live, btw).

Besides being a madcap comedy, though, it’s about friendship. I hope we all have at least one person who will make hard journeys with us. And I hope we all have at least one person who would do it even if we weren’t currently friends.

Highly recommended.

Redwood and Ponytail

Finished Redwood and Ponytail by K.A. Holt. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Told in verse in two voices, with a chorus of fellow students, this is a story of two girls, opposites in many ways, who are drawn to each other; Kate appears to be a stereotypical cheerleader with a sleek ponytail and a perfectly polished persona, Tam is tall, athletic and frequently mistaken for a boy, but their deepening friendship inevitably changes and reveals them in ways they did not anticipate.”

I snagged a copy of this at ALA as an impulse and I’m so glad I did. This book is amazing.

It’s told in verse from both girls’ viewpoints. Watching them become friends and then fall for each other is incredibly satisfying. Of course there are hurdles, but it’s still so sweet and swoon-worthy. The poetry adds an extra dimension to this, especially the parts where they’re thinking almost the same thing. It’s adorable, and

This is absolutely a book to watch out for (it’s out October 1), and I’ll be looking for K.A. Holt’s backlist. Recommended.

American Royals

Finished American Royals by Katharine McGee. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

What if America had a royal family? If you can’t get enough of Harry and Meghan or Kate and William, meet American princesses Beatrice and Samantha.

Two princesses vying for the ultimate crown.
Two girls vying for the prince’s heart.
This is the story of the American royals.

When America won the Revolutionary War, its people offered General George Washington a crown. Two and a half centuries later, the House of Washington still sits on the throne. Like most royal families, the Washingtons have an heir and a spare. A future monarch and a backup battery. Each child knows exactly what is expected of them. But these aren’t just any royals. They’re American. And their country was born of rebellion.

As Princess Beatrice gets closer to becoming America’s first queen regnant, the duty she has embraced her entire life suddenly feels stifling. Nobody cares about the spare except when she’s breaking the rules, so Princess Samantha doesn’t care much about anything, either . . . except the one boy who is distinctly off-limits to her. And then there’s Samantha’s twin, Prince Jefferson. If he’d been born a generation earlier, he would have stood first in line for the throne, but the new laws of succession make him third. Most of America adores their devastatingly handsome prince . . . but two very different girls are vying to capture his heart.

The duty. The intrigue. The Crown. New York Times bestselling author Katharine McGee imagines an alternate version of the modern world, one where the glittering age of monarchies has not yet faded–and where love is still powerful enough to change the course of history.”

I loved everything about this book, but I think my favorite is how one major thing that’s changed (America being a monarchy) has changed a lot of other things about our history, too. It’s obvious that there would be ripple effects and that things would be different, but it’s so interesting to see it play out.

I also love the characters. It’s fascinating to see how the responsibility of her role (current and as the future queen) weighs on Beatrice and how seriously she takes that responsibility. We don’t see many people who really do put country before self, but she does. Her sister Samantha is a sharp contrast to that, but it’s hard not to feel for her because her whole life has been about how she is less important than her siblings (her sister will be queen and her twin brother is the only boy) and her code name is Sparrow, which is so mean (because she’s the spare).

Our other two narrators are Daphne and Nina. If you ask Daphne, she and Nina are in a fight practically to the death to win Prince Jefferson’s heart. If you ask Nina, she’s just living her life. Daphne is probably my least favorite of the four, but I respected her and her drive. She’s basically a Terminator; she will not stop.

This book is such over the top fun and I loved every page of it. I can’t wait for the sequel. Highly recommended.

Past Perfect Life

Finished Past Perfect Life by Elizabeth Eulberg. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Small-town Wisconsin high school senior Allison Smith loves her life the way it is-spending quality time with her widowed father and her tight-knit circle of friends, including best friend Marian and maybe-more-than-friends Neil. Sure she is stressed out about college applications . . . who wouldn’t be? In a few short months, everything’s going to change, big time.

But when Ally files her applications, they send up a red flag . . . because she’s not Allison Smith. And Ally’s-make that Amanda’s-ordinary life is suddenly blown apart. Was everything before a lie? Who will she be after? And what will she do as now comes crashing down around her?”

I felt so awful for Ally. I can’t imagine how it would feel to learn that everything you thought you knew about your life was a lie. Then, as an added bonus, you would have to go live with strangers in an entirely different state.

And Ally does her best. She doesn’t continually ask her mom to call her Ally instead of Amanda. She doesn’t try and run away. She just quietly becomes increasingly unhappy.

On paper, her new life seems better. Her stepdad is super nice and she has a half-sister. All of a sudden, she has this huge extended family. But again, they’re complete strangers. Her school is also a lot better but it’s hard to make friends because how do you figure out and stick to a cover story so no one figures out you’re THAT KID.

This is a real departure from Elizabeth Eulberg’s usual books (it’s just as well-written and fun to read, but it’s not as light as her other books—this is not to say it’s dark or uncomfortable to read; it’s just comparatively dark) but I think it’s her best yet. Recommended.

Never Look Back

Finished Never Look Back by Alison Gaylin. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“When website columnist Robin Diamond is contacted by true crime podcast producer Quentin Garrison, she assumes it’s a business matter. It’s not. Quentin’s podcast, Closure, focuses on a series of murders in the 1970s, committed by teen couple April Cooper and Gabriel LeRoy. It seems that Quentin has reason to believe Robin’s own mother may be intimately connected with the killings.

Robin thinks Quentin’s claim is absolutely absurd. But is it? The more she researches the Cooper/LeRoy murders herself, the more disturbed she becomes by what she finds. Living just a few blocks from her, Robin’s beloved parents are the one absolute she’s always been able to rely upon, especially now amid rising doubts about her husband and frequent threats from internet trolls. She knows her mother better than anyone—or so she believes. But all that changes when, in an apparent home invasion, Robin’s father is killed and her mother’s life hangs in the balance.

Told through the eyes of Robin, podcaster Quentin, and a series of letters written by fifteen-year-old April Cooper at the time of the killings, Never Look Back asks the question:

How well do we really know our parents, our partners—and ourselves?”

I apologize because it is going to be next to impossible to share any more about the book without risking spoilers.

What I can tell you is that this is an incredibly intense story that’s full of red herrings and complicated characters. Everyone here is nuanced and no one is 100% hero or villain.

It’s the perfect summer read (especially if you like true crime podcasts, but even if you don’t, I don’t think it will ruin your enjoyment). I also think this will cement Alison Gaylin as a must-buy author for a ton of actively literate people.

Highly recommended.

The Echo Park Castaways

Finished The Echo Park Castaways by MG Hennessey. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

From the author of The Other Boy comes a poignant and heartfelt novel that explores what it means to be a family. Perfect for fans of Counting by 7s.

Nevaeh, Vic, and Mara are veterans of the Los Angeles foster care system. For over a year they’ve been staying with Mrs. K in Echo Park. Vic spends most of his time living in a dream world, Mara barely speaks, and Nevaeh is forced to act as a back-up parent. Though their situation isn’t ideal, it’s still their best home yet.

Then Child Protective Services places Quentin in the house, and everything is turned upside down. Nevaeh really can’t handle watching over anyone else, especially a boy on the autism spectrum. Meanwhile, Quentin is having trouble adjusting and attempts to run away.

So when Vic realizes Quentin just wants to see his mom again, he plans an “epic quest” to reunite them. It could result in the foster siblings getting sent to different group homes. But isn’t family always worth the risk?”

I really liked The Other Boy, but this was so much better. (At this rate, Hennessey’s next book may actually kill me with how amazing it is. A third book hasn’t been announced yet; I hope there will be one soon.)

I feel like I compare every middlegrade book I love to Katherine Paterson, but this does have shades of The Great Gilly Hopkins. (The kids aren’t particularly close at first but this quest really brings them together and makes them bond, which means they do basically become a family…but will they be allowed to stay together?)

This is a sweet, fast read; it’s incredibly short (barely 200 pages, according to Goodreads; I read an e-galley on my Kindle) but it’s deceptively deep. Highly recommended.

The Boy Who Cried Werewolf

Finished The Boy Who Cried Werewolf by JH Reynolds. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

The Monsterstreet series kicks off with this chilling tale about a boy who discovers his father was killed by a legendary werewolf.

Max Bloodnight can’t decide what’s more terrifying about his weekend in Wolf County—the fact that he has to stay with grandparents he’s never met before or being stuck on a farm without cell service. If only that was all he had to fear.

Determined to solve the mystery of his father’s death, which occurred years before at the claws of a legendary werewolf, Max must hunt to uncover the truth before the full moon rises . . . and the werewolf strikes again.”

Max never knew his dad (he died when Max was a baby) and so he’s excited (and nervous) to spend time with his dad’s parents, who he also doesn’t really know. Unfortunately, they may or may not live in an actual horror movie because there may or may not be a werewolf in the forest. You know, the forest that’s basically in their backyard.

When I saw this on Edelweiss, it reminded me of old school RL Stine, and I downloaded it immediately. The comparison is accurate. I don’t think that it’s as creepy as the Fear Street books were, but if your middlegrade reader is looking for a gateway into horror, this is a good place to start.

I really enjoyed this story and hope to check out the other two books (book three is about an evil carnival!).

Lock Every Door

Finished Lock Every Door by Riley Sager. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“No visitors. No nights spent away from the apartment. No disturbing the other residents, all of whom are rich or famous or both. These are the only rules for Jules Larsen’s new job as an apartment sitter at the Bartholomew, one of Manhattan’s most high-profile and mysterious buildings. Recently heartbroken and just plain broke, Jules is taken in by the splendor of her surroundings and accepts the terms, ready to leave her past life behind.

As she gets to know the residents and staff of the Bartholomew, Jules finds herself drawn to fellow apartment sitter Ingrid, who comfortingly, disturbingly reminds her of the sister she lost eight years ago. When Ingrid confides that the Bartholomew is not what it seems and the dark history hidden beneath its gleaming facade is starting to frighten her, Jules brushes it off as a harmless ghost story . . . until the next day, when Ingrid disappears.

Searching for the truth about Ingrid’s disappearance, Jules digs deeper into the Bartholomew’s dark past and into the secrets kept within its walls. Her discovery that Ingrid is not the first apartment sitter to go missing at the Bartholomew pits Jules against the clock as she races to unmask a killer, expose the building’s hidden past, and escape the Bartholomew before her temporary status becomes permanent.”

Riley Sager has become one of my favorite authors. His first (Final Girls) is probably still my absolute favorite, but I’ve loved all three of his books. This one (the third) is a little different in tone but as suspenseful and chilling as the other two.

Part of the difference is that we don’t know entirely what’s going on. There are a bunch of possibilities (I had my imaginary fortune bet on a Rosemary’s Baby-type deal) but the actual answer is not something I would’ve ever guessed.

If you’re in the mood for something that will make actual shivers run up and down your spine, this is for you. Highly recommended.