Category Archives: Series

Blood Will Tell

Finished Blood Will Tell by April Henry. I received a copy for review at ALA.

Summary (from Goodreads):

What happens when someone who’s only ever wanted to be a hero becomes a suspect?

When a woman’s body is found in a Portland park, suspicion falls on an awkward teen who lives only a few blocks away, owns several knives, loves first-person shooter video games, and doodles violent scenes in his school notebooks. Nick Walker goes from being a member of a Search and Rescue team to the prime suspect in a murder, his very interest in SAR seen as proof of his fascination with violence. How is this even possible? And can Alexis and Ruby find a way to help clear Nick’s name before it’s too late?”

This is technically the second book in a series, but it definitely works as a standalone. (I didn’t read the first book and I was fine reading this.)

This story is one of my worst nightmares. As someone who is a huge fan of horror movies and suspense novels, I get that I would look completely suspicious if people near me started ending up dead. (Maybe only mildly suspicious since women generally aren’t serial killers, but that isn’t very comforting.) The police shouldn’t take hobbies into account but I’m sure they do. They DEFINITELY did in Nick’s case. (And isn’t everyone who likes video games fond of the first person shooter ones? I mean, they’re really popular, aren’t they? [Genuine question. I don’t really do video games myself.])

At any rate, this book is completely engrossing. The reader knows almost immediately that Nick had nothing to do with it, but the real suspense comes from seeing if he’ll continue to be a suspect and just how far the police will go to prove that he did it.

I also want to go back and read the first one. All three main characters (Nick, Ruby and Alexis) are fantastic but I definitely want to spend more time with Ruby. She reminds me of a teenage version of Holly in Mr. Mercedes and its sequels. Ruby knows SO MUCH and is able to put things together so quickly.

If you’re in the mood for a fun thriller that won’t creep you out when it’s time to go to sleep, this is for you.

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Dating Disasters of Emma Nash

Finished Dating Disasters of Emma Nash by Chloe Seager. I received a copy for review at ALA.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Don’t miss the laugh-out-loud novel of the year!

Online, you can choose who you want to be. If only real life were so easy…

Emma Nash may be down, but after months of wallowing, stalking her ex online and avoiding showering—because, really, who’s going to care?—Emma’s ready to own her newly single status, get out with her friends and chronicle her dating adventures on her private blog.

But life online doesn’t always run smoothly. Stumbling upon her mother’s Tinder dating profile, getting catfished and accidentally telling the entire world why her ex-boyfriend Leon’s not worth any girl’s…um…time… Okay, those were disasters.

But surely nothing else can go wrong?

Filled with fun, flirty encounters and heartwarming friendships, Dating Disasters of Emma Nash will shock and delight scores of readers looking for something fresh.”

This book is basically Bridget Jones for teenagers and in the era of social media. That probably tells you whether or not you want to read it, right?

I’m also not sure you can read it without laughing out loud (literally) multiple times. Yes, Emma is an emotional idiot, but she’s also really relatable. She makes horrible decisions, but so do most of us. And I think we’ve all been careless with other people before, right? So while Emma is maybe not the best reflection of us, she IS us.

Also, I love that this is a super sex-positive book. (Or at least masturbation-positive.) Emma is unapologetic about masturbating and about being horny. I think we need more books like this.

This book is a total delight and I’m looking forward to the sequel. (I hope Emma makes better choices, but I’m not holding my breath.)

Sunny

Finished Sunny by Jason Reynolds. I received a copy for review at ALA.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Sunny Lancaster is a winner. Wih-winner. When it comes to the 1600 meter, Sunny can beat anyone by, well, a mile. But for Sunny, winning is boring. Buh-boring. Truth is, Sunny doesn’t like running. Never has. What Sunny really loves… is dancing.

The boom-bap bap of his teacher. Aurelia’s dance routines beats the chick chick chick of his track meets any day. Sunny loves his team, though, so he can’t quit, but he also can’t be on a track team not run. And he definitely can’t be on a track team and dance. But it turns out track isn’t just chick chick chick. It’s also whoosh whoosh ahh.

If Sunny lets loose everything he’s been holding inside, will it be his best move ever, or will it be his biggest mistake?”

This is easily my favorite of Jason Reynolds’ Track series so far. While all have been great, this one is actually extraordinary.

Sunny’s mom died almost immediately after giving birth to him, and so he’s felt a lot of pressure his whole life. Because he’s basically responsible for her death (in his mind), he runs. Doing a marathon was his mom’s dream but because he’s great at running, it becomes his thing, too. Except…he really likes dancing.

This is about balancing what your family wants and what you want. And it’s about learning to forgive yourself. (This is phrased badly, because it’s clearly not Sunny’s fault that his mom died. But because he felt guilty and had to learn how to let that go, I’m not sure of a better way to put it.)

Jason Reynolds is writing some of the best and most important books out there now. If you haven’t read him, you need to start. (The Track series is middlegrade, but he really shines as a YA writer.)

You really need these books in your life. Highly recommended.

Merciless IV: Last Rites (mini-review)

Finished Merciless IV: Last Rites by Danielle Vega.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“The fourth book of the scream-worthy cult series The Merciless combines Stephen King level terror with true crime stories like the Amanda Knox case.

The ropes tighten on Berkley Hubbard’s wrists. Blood drips down her fingers and lands with a smack on the cold floor of the church basement. She’s trapped, bound, and petrified by fear. A knife punctures her fragile skin as Berkley’s captors search for the mark of the devil on her body. They say they want to save her–drive the devil away and cleanse her soul–but will she make it out alive?

When Berkley arrived in Italy a week ago, the last thing she expected was that she’d end up fighting for her life. After spending six months at the Institute, confined to a room with the dangerous-yet-alluring Sofia Flores, Berkley was certain that a vacation in Italy with her two best friends would be the perfect getaway. But Berkley is hiding a terrible secret, one that threatens to undo everything. As she’s forced to face her wicked past, she learns that the devil is always watching, and no one is coming to save her.”

This is the latest installment of an insanely creepy series. I think this may be the weakest one, but ultimately that doesn’t matter. It’s still hard to put down and it’s also incredibly unsettling.

If you’re in the mood for something that will send shivers down your spine (even during a heat wave), this is for you. (But read the other books first. This could probably work as a stand-alone, but you’ll get more out of it if you know who Sofia Flores is first.)

 

When Life Gives You Lululemons

Finished When Life Gives You Lululemons by Lauren Weisberger. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

New York Times bestselling author Lauren Weisberger returns with a novel starring one of her favorite characters from The Devil Wears Prada—Emily Charlton, first assistant to Miranda Priestly, now a highly successful image consultant who’s just landed the client of a lifetime.

Welcome to Greenwich, CT, where the lawns and the women are perfectly manicured, the Tito’s and sodas are extra strong, and everyone has something to say about the infamous new neighbor.

Let’s be clear: Emily Charlton, Miranda Priestly’s ex-assistant, does not do the suburbs. She’s working in Hollywood as an image consultant to the stars, but recently, Emily’s lost a few clients. She’s hopeless with social media. The new guard is nipping at her heels. She needs a big opportunity, and she needs it now.

Karolina Hartwell is as A-list as they come. She’s the former face of L’Oreal. A mega-supermodel recognized the world over. And now, the gorgeous wife of the newly elected senator from New York, Graham, who also has his eye on the presidency. It’s all very Kennedy-esque, right down to the public philandering and Karolina’s arrest for a DUI—with a Suburban full of other people’s children.

Miriam is the link between them. Until recently she was a partner at one of Manhattan’s most prestigious law firms. But when Miriam moves to Greenwich and takes time off to spend with her children, she never could have predicted that being stay-at-home mom in an uber-wealthy town could have more pitfalls than a stressful legal career.

Emily, Karolina, and Miriam make an unlikely trio, but they desperately need each other. Together, they’ll navigate the social landmines of life in America’s favorite suburb on steroids, revealing the truths—and the lies—that simmer just below the glittering surface. With her signature biting style, Lauren Weisberger offers a dazzling look into another sexy, over-the-top world, where nothing is as it appears.”

This is my favorite in the series so far. (I’m not sure if there will be a fourth installment.) I loved the idea that Emily is now basically Olivia Pope and that she’s working to take down this hideous person (that’s Graham, if the synopsis doesn’t make it clear).

My one problem (minor spoiler): For the entire series up to and including most of this book, Emily has been super clear about not wanting or even particularly liking kids. And then she gets pregnant accidentally and is soon so happy and excited about it. I think this is a little insulting, the presumption that every woman wants kids, even if they say they don’t.  (And I get that this is something that probably wouldn’t even bother a lot of people, so it definitely could just be a me thing.)

Even so, basically everything about this book is perfect for summer. It’s completely fun and is perfect beach-or-poolside reading material. It’s sort of a First Wives Club for the modern age, and I think that’s something most of us could get behind. (NOTE: only one character is divorce-bound, so the analogy is more to do with women banding together and kicking ass.)

Revenge Wears Prada

Finished Revenge Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Almost a decade has passed since Andy Sachs quit the job “a million girls would die for” working for Miranda Priestly at Runway magazine—a dream that turned out to be a nightmare. Andy and Emily, her former nemesis and co-assistant, have since joined forces to start a high end bridal magazine, The Plunge, which has quickly become required reading for the young and stylish. Now they get to call all the shots: Andy writes and travels to her heart’s content; Emily plans parties and secures advertising like a seasoned pro.

Even better, Andy has met the love of her life. Max Harrison, scion of a storied media family, is confident, successful, and drop-dead gorgeous. Their wedding will be splashed across all the society pages as their friends and family gather to toast the glowing couple. Andy Sachs is on top of the world. But karma’s a bitch.

The morning of her wedding, Andy can’t shake the past. And when she discovers a secret letter with crushing implications, her wedding-day jitters turn to cold dread. Andy realizes that nothing—not her husband, nor her beloved career—is as it seems. She never suspected that her efforts to build a bright new life would lead her back to the darkness she barely escaped ten years ago—and directly into the path of the devil herself…”

This was so much better than the first one! I think most of it (at least for me) is the fact that Andy is a lot more grown up. (I mean, obviously. She’s in her thirties and married for most of this book and a mom for a goodly chunk of it.) She’s not perfect (she definitely has issues with coming out and saying what she wants. (The magazine she co-owns with Emily could be bought by Elias-Clark—which Miranda Priestly now runs—and Emily is ALL IN but Andy is just as fervently completely out. But instead of insisting that she would actually rather eat her own arm than work with—or more accurately for—Miranda again, she keeps postponing the conversation for another time.)

This is still a really fun read and I can’t wait to read the third installment (focused on Emily!) and I’ve heard it’s the best of the three.

I really hope Miranda comes back.

The Devil Wears Prada

Finished The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“A delightfully dishy novel about the all-time most impossible boss in the history of impossible bosses.

Andrea Sachs, a small-town girl fresh out of college, lands the job “a million girls would die for.” Hired as the assistant to Miranda Priestly, the high-profile, fabulously successful editor of “Runway “magazine, Andrea finds herself in an office that shouts “Prada! Armani! Versace!” at every turn, a world populated by impossibly thin, heart-wrenchingly stylish women and beautiful men clad in fine-ribbed turtlenecks and tight leather pants that show off their lifelong dedication to the gym. With breathtaking ease, Miranda can turn each and every one of these hip sophisticates into a scared, whimpering child.

THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA gives a rich and hilarious new meaning to complaints about “The Boss from Hell.” Narrated in Andrea’s smart, refreshingly disarming voice, it traces a deep, dark, devilish view of life at the top only hinted at in gossip columns and over Cosmopolitans at the trendiest cocktail parties. From sending the latest, not-yet-in-stores Harry Potter to Miranda’s children in Paris by private jet, to locating an unnamed antique store where Miranda had at some point admired a vintage dresser, to serving lattes to Miranda at precisely the piping hot temperature she prefers, Andrea is sorely tested each and every day—and often late into the night with orders barked over the phone. She puts up with it all by keeping her eyes on the prize: a recommendation from Miranda that will get Andrea a top job at any magazine of her choosing. As things escalate from the merely unacceptable to the downright outrageous, however, Andrea begins to realize that the job a million girls would die for may just kill her. And even if she survives, she has to decide whether or not the job is worth the price of her soul.”

This is actually a re-read because I got an e-galley of the third book in the series. I read this one back when it first came out, but I didn’t read the sequel.

I’m not that crazy about the book (although I still love the movie). I remember liking it when it came out, but back then, Andy and I were about the same age. Reading it as a grownup, Andy comes across as completely petulant and obnoxious. Yes, Miranda is a pretty awful boss, but most of it is garden-variety bad. (The Harry Potter thing is unreasonable, and yes, she’s mean a lot of the time. But your boss expecting you to answer your phone? That’s normal. And while wanting to take longer to run errands and expense things that you really shouldn’t may ALSO be normal, actually doing it makes you a crappy employee.

I know this makes it sound like I really didn’t like the book; I did. I’m excited to keep going, because I think I’ll like Andy more when she grows up (and I already love Emily).

You

Finished You by Caroline Kepnes. I received a copy for review but this is actually a re-read.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“When a beautiful, aspiring writer strides into the East Village bookstore where Joe Goldberg works, he does what anyone would do: he Googles the name on her credit card.

There is only one Guinevere Beck in New York City. She has a public Facebook account and Tweets incessantly, telling Joe everything he needs to know: she is simply Beck to her friends, she went to Brown University, she lives on Bank Street, and she’ll be at a bar in Brooklyn tonight—the perfect place for a “chance” meeting.

As Joe invisibly and obsessively takes control of Beck’s life, he orchestrates a series of events to ensure Beck finds herself in his waiting arms. Moving from stalker to boyfriend, Joe transforms himself into Beck’s perfect man, all while quietly removing the obstacles that stand in their way—even if it means murder.”

I’m not entirely sure what to say about this book. It’s interesting and creepy and just unusual in the best way. You should also know that it’s written in the second person (Joe addresses Beck continually in his narration), which was jarring at first but ended up working very well.

This isn’t really a romantic thriller, but it’s important to know that there is something really, really wrong with Joe. He’s a stalker at best, and he just has no idea how to be in a normal relationship. He seems to consider every relationship he’s in as a love story for the ages, and obviously that’s not true for every relationship ever.

The synopsis says that it’s a “perversely romantic thriller” and that’s true. There aren’t many romantic moments but there are some, and then it would become a very interesting moment for me as the reader, because obviously I know much more about Joe than Beck does, and so obviously I know that it’s not actually romantic. It’s not kismet that they have so much in common or that he miraculously knows what she wants; it’s the fact that he is watching her and reading her emails and texts.

This is a very unsettling book, but it’s so, so good. Highly recommended.

Children of Blood and Bone

Finished Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zelie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now, Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers—and her growing feelings for the enemy.”

As a rule, I am not a huge fan of fantasy. I like things that are real and situations that could really happen. But more than that? I like great stories. And because of that, I am a huge, HUGE fan of this book.

And yes, obviously this is rooted in social justice. In the author’s note, Tomi Adeyemi asks us to care as much about Philando Castile’s death as we do about fictional characters’. This story is incredibly plausible because, while majii aren’t real, we see people killed by a system that’s theoretically in place to protect them on a regular basis. We don’t see discrimination rooted in hair color, but we see police called because “the wrong people” were barbecuing in a park.

This book is fantasy but it’s also a reality we see every day.

An Entertainment Weekly article said this is Black Panther with magic and compared Tomi Adeyemi to JK Rowling. These are bold statements, but they’re deserved. This is the kind of book that can shake the world.

I am in love with it and I cannot wait for the sequel. (Out just before my birthday next year.) You need this book; we all need this book.

Highly recommended.

Puddin’

Finished Puddin’ by Julie Murphy. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“It is a companion novel to Dumplin’, which follows supporting characters from the first book in the months after Willowdean’s star turn in the Clover City pageant.

Millie Michalchuk has gone to fat camp every year since she was a girl. Not this year. This year she has new plans to chase her secret dream—and to kiss her crush. Callie Reyes is the pretty girl who is next in line for dance team captain and has the popular boyfriend. But when it comes to other girls, she’s more frenemy than friend. When circumstances bring the girls together over the course of a semester, they will surprise everyone (especially themselves) by realizing they might have more in common than they ever imagined.”

I am so in love with this book! It’s just as good as Dumplin’ and maybe even just a little bit better. It made me really love Callie, which I wouldn’t have though possible.

And I have always loved Millie but Puddin’ takes it to a whole other level. She is all kinds of goals.

And there are so many moments in this novel that made me literally cheer out loud. If you’re looking for a book that will make you happy and inspire you without ever feeling cheesy or lame, this is the one you need.

Highly recommended.