Category Archives: Books I Received From The Publisher

Playlist for the Dead

Finished Playlist for the Dead by Michelle Falkoff.  I received a copy for review from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“A teenage boy tries to understand his best friend’s suicide by listening to the playlist of songs he left behind in this smart, voice-driven debut novel.

Here’s what Sam knows: There was a party. There was a fight. The next morning, his best friend, Hayden, was dead. And all he left Sam was a playlist of songs, and a suicide note: For Sam—listen and you’ll understand.

As he listens to song after song, Sam tries to face up to what happened the night Hayden killed himself. But it’s only by taking out his earbuds and opening his eyes to the people around him that he will finally be able to piece together his best friend’s story. And maybe have a chance to change his own.

Part mystery, part love story, and part coming-of-age tale in the vein of Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Tim Tharp’s The Spectacular Now, Playlist for the Dead is an honest and gut-wrenching first novel about loss, rage, what it feels like to outgrow a friendship that’s always defined you—and the struggle to redefine yourself. But above all, it’s about finding hope when hope seems like the hardest thing to find.“

This is an incredibly fast read, because I was interested to know why Hayden killed himself and what was going on with several different things.
Unfortunately, there were at least two plotlines too many for a novel that isn’t even 300 pages.
At its core, the story worked best (at least for me) when it was about Sam and Hayden.  As you’d expect, Sam is heartbroken and angry at his best friend for committing suicide.  He listens to the playlist obsessively trying to understand why Hayden did it, but the answers aren’t obvious.
And then the rest was introduced.  Hayden may or may not have been dating someone; a girl named Astrid appears who knows more than she’s saying; someone using Hayden’s screen name starts contacting Sam; people who were mean to Hayden start being attacked by a mysterious person or people.
It’s a lot to cram in to one 288 page book.
But, like I said, it definitely held my interest, and I love the concept.  I would absolutely read her again.

Leaving Amarillo

Finished Leaving Amarillo by Caisey Quinn.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Dixie Lark hasn’t had it easy. She lost her parents in an accident when she was young and grew up in a ramshackle house on a dirt road in Amarillo with her ailing grandparents and overprotective older brother. Thanks to her grandfather, Dixie learned to play a mean fiddle, inspired by the sounds of the greats—Johnny and June, Waylon, and Hank. Her grandfather’s fiddle changed Dixie’s life forever, giving her an outlet for the turmoil of her broken heart and inspiring a daring dream.

Ten years later, Dixie and her brother, Dallas, are creating the music they love and chasing fame with their hot band, Leaving Amarillo. But Dixie isn’t enjoying the ride. All she can think about is Gavin, the band’s tattooed, tortured drummer who she’s loved since they were kids. She knows he feels the connection between them, but he refuses see her as more than his best friend’s little sister.

Convinced that one night with Gavin will get him out of her system, Dixie devises a plan. She doesn’t know that her brother has forbidden Gavin from making a move on her-a promise he swore he’d always keep . . . a promise that once broken will unexpectedly change the future for Dixie, Gavin and the band.”

Oh, this book.  It was pitched as a “New Age Nashville” and I was like, “SOLD!”

Dixie is a fantastic heroine.  I love her and her combination of sass and vulnerability, the way that she can ricochet from one to the other almost within the same moment.  And, like pretty much every woman I know, I have my own story of what we will call The Long-Standing Crush.  (In this case, of course, it’s Gavin.)

And oh, Gavin.  He’s hot and wounded and strong and broken.  He so clearly loves Dixie, but he knows that sometimes acting on romantic feelings is the fastest way to ruin relationships (his friendship with Dallas, but also potentially his friendship with Dixie).

Although it’s not a spoiler to say that of COURSE they hook up.  Of course they do.  (And oh WOW were those a hot few scenes.)

This left me desperate for the sequel, which is out this summer.


Dead Wake

Finished Dead Wake by Erik Larson.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

On May 1, 1915, a luxury ocean liner as richly appointed as an English country house sailed out of New York, bound for Liverpool, carrying a record number of children and infants. The passengers were anxious. Germany had declared the seas around Britain to be a war zone, and for months, its U-boats had brought terror to the North Atlantic. But the Lusitania was one of the era’s great transatlantic “Greyhounds” and her captain, William Thomas Turner, placed tremendous faith in the gentlemanly strictures of warfare that for a century had kept civilian ships safe from attack. He knew, moreover, that his ship–the fastest then in service–could outrun any threat.

Germany, however, was determined to change the rules of the game, and Walther Schwieger, the captain of Unterseeboot-20, was happy to oblige. Meanwhile, an ultra-secret British intelligence unit tracked Schwieger’s U-boat, but told no one. As U-20 and the Lusitania made their way toward Liverpool, an array of forces both grand and achingly small–hubris, a chance fog, a closely guarded secret, and more–all converged to produce one of the great disasters of history.

It is a story that many of us think we know but don’t, and Erik Larson tells it thrillingly, switching between hunter and hunted while painting a larger portrait of America at the height of the Progressive Era. Full of glamour, mystery, and real-life suspense, Dead Wake brings to life a cast of evocative characters, from famed Boston bookseller Charles Lauriat to pioneering female architect Theodate Pope Riddle to President Wilson, a man lost to grief, dreading the widening war but also captivated by the prospect of new love. Gripping and important, Dead Wake captures the sheer drama and emotional power of a disaster that helped place America on the road to war.”

As you know, I don’t read very much nonfiction, but I’d heard very good things about Erik Larson and I jumped at the chance to read this book.

As he noted himself in the epilogue, there are a lot of misperceptions about the Lusitania and its deliberate sinking at the hands of the Germans during World War I.  I also thought that it was one of the immediate causes of our entering the war (although it took two more years, in reality).

One of the chilling things I learned while reading this was just how many times this was almost averted.  Depending on your perspective, everything went wrong (or right), and it led to this happening.  If weather conditions earlier had been different, or if a few incredibly small things had happened differently, the Lusitania never would have been torpedoed.

It’s incredibly sad to think about how many things had to come together perfectly to enable this.

I look forward to reading more of his books.


The Stranger

Finished The Stranger by Harlan Coben.  I received a copy for review from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

The #1 New York Times bestselling master of suspense delivers a shocking thriller that proves that a well-placed lie can help build a comfortable life—and a secret has the same explosive power to destroy it.

Harlan Coben’s seven consecutive #1 New York Times bestsellers feature unrivaled depths of emotion combined with cutting-edge suspense plots that keep millions of readers turning pages deep into the night. In The Stranger, married parents Adam and Hannah confront the shocking secret on which their marriage is built—leaving Adam wondering whether he ever truly knew Hannah at all.”

First a word of warning: do not start this book at night or when you might be starting to get hungry any time soon.  I didn’t heed either of those warnings (a rookie mistake) and by the end of the book was both exhausted and starving.

Even so, completely worth it.

The Stranger is Harlan Coben at his absolute best.  This book starts off fast and never slows down.  Every time I thought I knew what was going on, I quickly learned I really had no idea.  The ending caught me by surprise but at the same time, was so obvious that I was mad at myself for not figuring it out.

(This is why I love Harlan Coben.)

If you haven’t already started reading him, you owe it to yourself to start.  This book has now replaced Tell No One as my absolute favorite of his, but you can’t go wrong with any of them.

Highly recommended.

Vanishing Girls

Finished Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver.  I received a copy for review from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Dara and Nick used to be inseparable, but that was before the accident that left Dara’s beautiful face scarred and the two sisters totally estranged. When Dara vanishes on her birthday, Nick thinks Dara is just playing around. But another girl, nine-year-old Madeline Snow, has vanished, too, and Nick becomes increasingly convinced that the two disappearances are linked. Now Nick has to find her sister, before it’s too late.

In this edgy and compelling novel, Lauren Oliver creates a world of intrigue, loss, and suspicion as two sisters search to find themselves, and each other.”

I’ve loved the Lauren Oliver books I’ve read, but I’ve also managed to miss quite a few.  I’m hoping to catch up on the other two soon.

I was immediately captivated by this story and its subplots.  Obviously I wanted to know if Dara and Nick would be able to overcome their estrangement and be sisters again, but I also wanted to know if we would find out what happened to the little girl, and whether she was alive or dead.  (I also was curious about whether the two stories really were linked, because sometimes a lot of bad things just happen in a row and for no good reason.)

This is the kind of book that you should read immediately.  There are two reasons for this.  First, the book is amazing and why would you want to hold off on reading an amazing book?

And the second is that people are going to be talking about this book and you don’t want any of the chatter to affect your enjoyment of this book.

Highly recommneded.


Finished Duplicity by N.K. Traver.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

A computer-hacking teen. The girl who wants to save him. And a rogue mirror reflection that might be the death of them both.

In private, seventeen-year-old Brandon hacks bank accounts just for the thrill of it. In public, he looks like any other tattooed bad boy with a fast car and devil-may-care attitude. He should know: he’s worked hard to maintain that façade. With inattentive parents who move constantly from city to city, he’s learned not to get tangled up in things like friends and relationships. So he’ll just keep living like a machine, all gears and wires.Then two things shatter his carefully-built image: Emma, the kind, stubborn girl who insists on looking beneath the surface – and the small matter of a mirror reflection that starts moving by itself. Not only does Brandon’s reflection have a mind of its own, but it seems to be grooming him for something—washing the dye from his hair, yanking out his piercings, swapping his black shirts for … pastels. Then it tells him: it thinks it can live his life better, and it’s preparing to trade places.

And when it pulls Brandon through the looking-glass, not only will he need all his ill-gotten hacking skills to escape, but he’s going to have to face some hard truths about who he’s become. Otherwise he’ll be stuck in a digital hell until he’s old and gray, and no one will even know he’s gone.”

I absolutely love the  premise of this book.  It’s incredibly unique and I love that this urban legend the hackers have turn out to be true.  (Can you imagine if other urban legends turn out to be true and there’s this guy who keeps losing his hook in car doors?)
I liked Brandon, too, although he’s one of those people who doesn’t seem to accept responsibility for his actions.  (For example, he has a horrible relationship with his parents, but he’s pretty rude to them and he keeps getting all these tattoos and piercings, which might have something to do with the relationship not being awesome all the time.)
But even though he can be a bit of a brat at times, he’s also incredibly loyal and really, really smart.  I tend to root for really, really smart people.
I’m pretty sure this is going to have a sequel.  At least, I hope it will.  I’m excited to know what comes next.

Something Real

Finished Something Real by Heather Demetrios.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

There’s nothing real about reality TV.

Seventeen-year-old Bonnie™ Baker has grown up on TV—she and her twelve siblings are the stars of one-time hit reality show Baker’s Dozen. Since the show’s cancellation and the scandal surrounding it, Bonnie™ has tried to live a normal life, under the radar and out of the spotlight. But it’s about to fall apart…because Baker’s Dozen is going back on the air. Bonnie™’s mom and the show’s producers won’t let her quit and soon the life she has so carefully built for herself, with real friends (and maybe even a real boyfriend), is in danger of being destroyed by the show. Bonnie™ needs to do something drastic if her life is ever going to be her own—even if it means being more exposed than ever before.”

I immediately loved this book.

No small part of that is due to Chloe (which is the name that Bonnie goes by) and her brother Benny.  Those two have a really great bond, one of the few that makes me really wish I had a sibling.  (In general, I am totally Team Only Child.)  But honestly, a lot of it is because of Patrick Sheldon, Chloe’s love interest.

Patrick Sheldon is PERFECT.  (I actually texted a friend that I would marry him except we are separated by four insurmountable obstacles: I am gay, he is very young—almost half my age—he loves Chloe and he isn’t real.)  He is smart, he is quirky, he is cute and he is a great and loyal person.

This became one of my all-time favorites even before I was done reading it, and I can’t wait to read her other books.

Highly, highly recommended.


Boarding School Girls

Finished Boarding School Girls by Helen Eve. I received a copy for review from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Siena, older sister to Stella, battles to fulfill her mother’s vicarious ambitions and to retain her place at Temperley High’s social epicentre.

Worshipped, envied, desired, and feared by all, Siena Hamilton reigns over Temperley High, the embodiment of the Hamilton legacy. She and the Starlets may still be healing from the unfortunate and horrible events of that night, at the end of last year, but nothing can shake her place as the head of Temperley’s elite any longer. The Starlets are nothing if not adept at dealing with traitors, and Siena is her mother’s daughter: she knows how to be perfect, and she will not disappoint. There is only one person who could possibly get in her way…

Romy, former Starlet, is back—back from a mutually-agreed-upon term away, in France—and no one is happy about it, least of all herself. She’s changed now, though. She’s trying harder to be normal, to dress appropriately, to blend in, to keep her head down and keep the secret of what really happened that night safe and hidden. But when your former best friends are untouchable, and you’ve betrayed them, you don’t just get to come back—even if you’re beginning to think they might not have been your friends in the first place.

In this prequel to Helen Eve’s first novel Stella, revenge runs deep, old wounds break open, and the past can never, never be outrun.”

This was an incredibly fun book.  Also, even though it’s a prequel to her first novel, Stella, you don’t need to have read that book to enjoy this one.  (Although I want to track it down to see what happens next.)

A blurb on the back of the book compares it to Gossip Girl, and that is an incredibly apt comparison.  Siena is incredibly Blair Waldorf and Romy is very similar to Serena.  There are differences, of course, but this book was campy fun (until the end).

I loved Siena the most.  She’s very determined to be perfect (or, if she can’t BE perfect, at least to APPEAR perfect) and fortunately she has a crew of friends (read: minions) who are happy to help achieve this goal.  (Of the friends, Libby is my favorite; she is sort of the vice president and actually runs Siena’s calendar, including finding people to serve detention for her or to reschedule said detention, as needed.)

This book is just crazy fun—until, as I said, it isn’t anymore.  Because the problem with trying to appear perfect is that once that facade crumbles…well, nothing good can come of it.

I definitely want to read Stella now, and I’m excited to see what Helen Eve does next.

Bet Your Life

Finished Bet Your Life by Jane Casey.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Jess Tennant has now been living in a tiny town on the English seaside for three months, and is just beginning to relax and think of it as home after the traumatic events of last summer. But in the small hours of Halloween night, a teenage boy is left for dead by the side of the road. Seb Dawson has a serious head injury and may not survive. Jess might not have liked Seb much, but surely he didn’t deserve this. The police don’t seem to be taking the attack very seriously, but Jess can’t just let it go, and she takes matters into her own hands.

As she investigates, Jess discovers that Seb was involved in some very dangerous games. A secret predator around girls, he would do whatever it took to abuse them, from lying and blackmail to spiking drinks. Could a group of vengeful victims be behind his attack? Or is there someone else with a grudge against Seb, who will stop at nothing to silence him? Jane Casey returns with another edge-of-your-seat mystery in Bet Your Life.”

Like its predecessor (How to Fall), this book is incredibly fun.

Jess has been dragged into another mystery (this one a little more plausible) and while she remembers what happened to her last time (I guess nearly dying will do that), she also can’t resist helping.  (Seb’s little sister wants to know what happened to him and doesn’t buy the police investigation’s result.)

I’m not entirely sure that there can be a third one, but I’ve enjoyed these two books a great deal.

I also want to check out Jane Casey’s adult series.  I like her writing style a great deal.

How to Fall

Finished How to Fall by Jane Casey.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Sixteen-year-old Jess Tennant has never met any of her relatives, until her mom suddenly drags her out of London to spend the summer in the tiny English town where her family’s from. Her mom’s decision is surprising, but even more surprising is the town’s reaction to Jess. Everywhere she goes, people look at her like they’ve seen a ghost. In a way, they have—she looks just like her cousin Freya, who died shortly before Jess came to town.

Jess immediately feels a strange connection to Freya, whom she never got to meet alive. But the more Jess learns about the secrets Freya was keeping while she was alive, the more suspicious Freya’s death starts to look. One thing is for sure: this will be anything but the safe, boring summer in the country Jess was expecting.

Beloved author Jane Casey breaks new ground with How to Fall, a thrilling and insightfully written mystery.”

Jess isn’t necessarily happy to be in a strange town, away from her dad and friends—although she’s kind of excited to meet her mom’s family.  (They’ve been estranged for years, for kind of murky reasons…and now there’s another interesting facet because Jess looks just like her cousin Freya…who died under suspicious circumstances.  As in it may have been an accident.  Or suicide.  Or murder.)

And Jess decides her summer project is going to be to learn exactly what happened to Freya.  And not surprisingly, everyone is against this idea.

I had heard mixed reviews about this but I really enjoyed it.

The idea of identical cousins is not a new one, but this is definitely an interesting take on the trope.

I had mixed feelings about Jess.  I liked her for the most part, but she didn’t really think about things or plan them well.  This is probably not too surprising, given that she’s a teenage girl, but if you’re going to investigate something that may have been  a murder, you need to be careful and make good plans.  (Because if it was a murder and the killer has gotten away with it up to this point, they are going to not be pleased that you are bringing it up again.)

This was a fun book that kept my interest and I’m excited to get to read the sequel (although I’m a little suspicious that she stumbles into another mystery in this really small town.  But we’ll see).