Jessica Darling’s It List #3

Finished Jessica Darling’s It List #3 by Megan McCafferty.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Book 3 in New York Times bestseller Megan McCafferty’s realistic middle grade series, perfect for fans of Dear Dumb Diary, The Popularity Papers, and Wendy Mass’s Willow Falls.

Crazy teachers; best friends turning pretty overnight; “The Unbreakable Laws of Cafeteria Line Cutting”…. Junior high is rough, and Jessica Darling needs help! Enter older sister Bethany and her “It List,” meant to help Jessica uphold “The Darling Domination of Popularity.”

In Jessica Darling’s It List 3, Jessica faces the potentially mortifying outcome of the Top Secret Pineville Junior High Crushability Test. Plus, she’s kind of stuck in the middle, as smarties and skaters unite to collect signatures on a petition to bring back the school’s annual dance. Will the dramarama of seventh grade be Jessica’s downfall? Not if she can help it.”

It’s not a secret that I absolutely love Jessica Darling.  This is my favorite of the middlegrade prequels to her YA/adult series.

If, like me, you are a huge fan of Jess and Marcus Flutie, this is going to be your favorite, too. :)  The two of them are circling around each other for most of this novel, too, but there is a pretty fun development toward the end.  (Still no kissing, but still.)

I also love the fact that we see Hope and Jess really starting to click as friends, and I love seeing that.  (We also get to know Hope’s brother Heath; that’s less fun because, as we learn in Sloppy Firsts, he dies of a drug overdose.)

I love Jessica Darling and I just want more of her life.  (Can we get sequels, maybe? I want to know her as an adult, too!)

This ended on a bit of a cliffhanger, so I hope that there’s at least one more of Bethany’s lists floating around somewhere.

Recommended.

The Good Girls

Finished The Good Girls by Sara Shepard. I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

From Sara Shepard, author of the #1 New York Times bestselling Pretty Little Liars series, comes the shocking sequel to The Perfectionists—with an ending you’ll have to read to believe!

Mackenzie, Ava, Caitlin, Julie, and Parker have done some not-so-perfect things. Even though they all talked about killing rich bully Nolan Hotchkiss, they didn’t actually go through with it. It’s just a coincidence that Nolan died in exactly the way they planned . . . right? Except Nolan wasn’t the only one they fantasized about killing. When someone else they named dies, the girls wonder if they’re being framed. Or are they about to become the killer’s next targets?”

This is the sequel to The Perfectionists and is the last book in the duology.

The interesting thing about this book is that it moves past The Perfectionists and other people the girls disliked start dying or having accidents.  This obviously makes them look like even bigger suspects.

This book and series was incredibly fun and definitely vacation-worthy, but not really a must-read.  It’s a little forgettable.  And the reveal has definitely been done before.  (Although I would argue that the ending was still pretty chilling, at least for me…and, of course, it leaves things open for another book.  I hope Sara Shepard doesn’t do one.)

The Perfectionists

Finished The Perfectionists by Sara Shepard.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

From the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling series Pretty Little Liars comes a thrilling new novel about five perfect girls who are framed for a murder they didn’t commit.

In Beacon Heights, Washington, five girls—Ava, Caitlin, Mackenzie, Julie, and Parker—know that you don’t have to be good to be perfect. At first the girls think they have nothing in common, until they realize that they all hate Nolan Hotchkiss, who’s done terrible things to each of them. They come up with the perfect way to kill him—a hypothetical murder, of course. It’s just a joke…until Nolan turns up dead, in exactly the way they planned. Only, they didn’t do it. And unless they find the real killer, their perfect lives will come crashing down around them.

From Sara Shepard, author of the #1 New York Times bestselling Pretty Little Liars series, comes another story of dark secrets, shocking twists, and what happens when five beautiful girls will do anything to hide the ugly truth.”

This is an incredibly fun novel, one that is very similar to her Pretty Little Liars and Lying Game series.  (Unlike those two, this is only a duology—a wise choice, considering that both of those seemingly dragged on forever.)

I like the concept behind this.  Who hasn’t thought about getting back at the people who are mean to you, and who hasn’t jokingly wished someone dead?  Obviously, most people never mean those thoughts…except in this case, someone clearly did.

Things are also creepy, as we have no idea exactly who the killer is, and if it’s one of the girls or if it’s some random person.  As in her other series, everybody’s a suspect.

I enjoyed this book and was very excited that I could read the second one immediately.

365 Days of Wonder

Finished 365 Days of Wonder by RJ Palacio.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“In the #1 New York Times bestselling novel Wonder, readers were introduced to memorable English teacher Mr. Browne and his love of precepts. Simply put, precepts are principles to live by, and Mr. Browne has compiled 365 of them—one for each day of the year—drawn from popular songs to children’s books to inscriptions on Egyptian tombstones to fortune cookies. His selections celebrate kindness, hopefulness, the goodness of human beings, the strength of people’s hearts, and the power of people’s wills. Interspersed with the precepts are letters and emails from characters who appeared in Wonder. Readers hear from Summer, Jack, Charlotte, Julian, and Amos.

There’s something for everyone here, with words of wisdom from such noteworthy people as Anne Frank, Martin Luther King Jr., Confucius, Goethe, Sappho—and over 100 readers of Wonder who sent R. J. Palacio their own precepts.”

I love this book and it appealed to me for the same reasons that Postsecret does: these sentences and thoughts all affect me.  Some are applicable to my life now and some aren’t but they’re all worth thinking about.

For people who aren’t sure this is something they’d enjoy, each month is also bookended by thoughts from Mr. Browne (the teacher from Wonder who solicited these precepts).  There are also notes from students in those chapters (including Auggie, the hero from Wonder).

This book is a fun stocking stuffer, especially if you pair it with Wonder.  I read that when it first came out and this makes me really want to re-read it.

Because You’ll Never Meet Me

Finished Because You’ll Never Meet Me by Leah Thomas.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

In a stunning literary debut, two boys on opposite ends of the world begin an unlikely friendship that will change their lives forever.

Ollie and Moritz are best friends, but they can never meet. Ollie is allergic to electricity. Contact with it causes debilitating seizures. Moritz’s weak heart is kept pumping by an electronic pacemaker. If they ever did meet, Ollie would seize. But Moritz would die without his pacemaker. Both hermits from society, the boys develop a fierce bond through letters that become a lifeline during dark times—as Ollie loses his only friend, Liz, to the normalcy of high school and Moritz deals with a bully set on destroying him.

A story of impossible friendship and hope under strange circumstances, this debut is powerful, dark and humorous in equal measure. These extraordinary voices bring readers into the hearts and minds of two special boys who, like many teens, are just waiting for their moment to shine.”

I very much enjoyed this novel.  It’s about these two boys who, for different reasons, are outcasts.  And they have different ways of dealing with their isolation.  Moritz has become dark and cynical; Ollie clings to hope and is almost annoyingly cheerful.  (Okay, if we’re being honest, a little more than “almost.”)

As the two become closer, they turn into best friends.  Watching that happen was incredibly sweet.  Until, of course, the novel takes a dark turn.

This book isn’t for everyone.  It’s sad, but there’s also a great deal of hope (mostly, but not entirely, on Ollie’s side).  I enjoyed it, though, and am excited to see what Leah Thomas does next.  I hope for a sequel.

Armada

Finished Armada by Ernest Cline.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Zack Lightman has spent his life dreaming. Dreaming that the real world could be a little more like the countless science-fiction books, movies, and videogames he’s spent his life consuming. Dreaming that one day, some fantastic, world-altering event will shatter the monotony of his humdrum existence and whisk him off on some grand space-faring adventure.

But hey, there’s nothing wrong with a little escapism, right? After all, Zack tells himself, he knows the difference between fantasy and reality. He knows that here in the real world, aimless teenage gamers with anger issues don’t get chosen to save the universe.

And then he sees the flying saucer.

Even stranger, the alien ship he’s staring at is straight out of the videogame he plays every night, a hugely popular online flight simulator called Armada—in which gamers just happen to be protecting the earth from alien invaders.

No, Zack hasn’t lost his mind. As impossible as it seems, what he’s seeing is all too real. And his skills—as well as those of millions of gamers across the world—are going to be needed to save the earth from what’s about to befall it.

It’s Zack’s chance, at last, to play the hero. But even through the terror and exhilaration, he can’t help thinking back to all those science-fiction stories he grew up with, and wondering: Doesn’t something about this scenario seem a little…familiar?

At once gleefully embracing and brilliantly subverting science-fiction conventions as only Ernest Cline could, Armada is a rollicking, surprising thriller, a classic coming of age adventure, and an alien invasion tale like nothing you’ve ever read before—one whose every page is infused with the pop-culture savvy that has helped make Ready Player One a phenomenon.”

I was a huge fan of Ready Player One and so this was one of my must-reads for the year.

While I definitely preferred Ready Player One, fans of that will find so much to love here, too.  (They are very similar in terms of tone and all the pop culture references.  There’s a lot more about video games here, but that didn’t affect my fondness for Armada.)

At any rate, this is such an interesting premise and I love the characters we meet as Zack and a few other gamers prepare to help save the world.  It would be easy for a story like this to become a caricature, but it’s obvious that Ernest Cline loves the tropes so much that this is a love letter and not a mockery.  (I would really enjoy seeing what he does with horror movies…)

Recommended.

Exquisite Corpse

Finished Exquisite Corpse by Penelope Bagieu.  I received a copy for review at BEA.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Zoe isn’t exactly the intellectual type, which is why she doesn’t recognize world-famous author Thomas Rocher when she stumbles into his apartment…and into his life. It’s also why she doesn’t know that Rocher is supposed to be dead. Turns out, Rocher faked his death years ago to escape his critics, and has been making a killing releasing his new work as “lost manuscripts,” in cahoots with his editor/ex-wife Agathe. Neither of them would have invited a crass party girl like Zoe into their literary conspiracy of two, but now that she’s there anyway. . . . Zoe doesn’t know Balzac from Batman, but she’s going to have to wise up fast… because she’s sitting on the literary scandal of the century!

This is the latest in my quest for a graphic novel I would enjoy. (This is probably technically considered a graphic novella; it’s only 124 pages.)  This one is incredibly fun (even though I wish it had been longer*).

I liked Zoe.  Even though I’m not sure how she didn’t know who Thomas Rocher is (based on the description, he’s probably not unlike, say, Joan Didion but with novels), I absolutely get the feeling of being trapped in your life and unsure how to extricate yourself.

This was a really interesting story, as well (and the ending was absolutely perfect).  I need to find more from Penelope Bagieu.

* = I know I always say that.  It’s still true.

A Million Miles Away

Finished A Million Miles Away by Lara Avery.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

When high school senior Kelsey’s identical twin sister, Michelle, dies in a car crash, Kelsey is left without her other half. The only person who doesn’t know about the tragedy is Michelle’s boyfriend, Peter, recently deployed to Afghanistan. But when Kelsey finally connects with Peter online, she can’t bear to tell him the truth. Active duty has taken its toll, and Peter, thinking that Kelsey is Michelle, says that seeing her is the one thing keeping him alive. Caught up in the moment, Kelsey has no choice: She lets Peter believe that she is her sister.

As Kelsey keeps up the act, she crosses the line from pretend to real. Soon, Kelsey can’t deny that she’s falling, hard, for the one boy she shouldn’t want.”

The jacket copy says this is for fans of Nicholas Sparks, but I’m not sure that’s true.  (For one thing, the novel’s only death comes at the beginning of the novel).

And okay, yes, Kelsey does a horrible thing pretending to be her dead twin sister, Michelle.  But she does it for the right reasons.  The big part is the fact that she worries about Peter losing what he says is keeping him going.  But I’m pretty sure the reason really is the fact that it gives her a connection to Michelle, the last connection.  It’s still a lousy thing to do, of course—but it’s not something people couldn’t understand.

And the relationship between Kelsey and Peter is really swoon-worthy.  (It’s almost as nice as watching Kelsey become a better version of herself.)

This is a sweet, fun novel but one with a lot of emotions attached to it.

Recommended.

Charlie, Presumed Dead

Finished Charlie, Presumed Dead by Anne Heltzel.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

In Paris, family and friends gather to mourn the tragic passing of Charlie Price—young, handsome, charming, a world-traveler—who is presumed dead after an explosion. Authorities find only a bloodied jacket, ID’d as Charlie’s. At the funeral, two teens who are perfect strangers, Lena Whitney and Aubrey Boroughs, make another shocking discovery: they have both been dating Charlie, both think Charlie loved them and them alone, and there is a lot they didn’t know about their boyfriend. Over the next week, a mind-bending trip unfolds: first in London—then in Mumbai, Kerala, and Bangkok, the girls go in search of Charlie. Is he still alive? What did their love for him even mean? The truth is out there, but soon it becomes clear that the girls are harboring secrets of their own.

No one knows whom to trust in this thrilling tale of suspense and deception.”

I love the concept behind this book and, while it definitely kept my attention, I wasn’t really hooked until the end.  (This is unfortunate, because there was an abrupt ending and I’m not sure there will be a sequel.)

The idea of a potentially faked death and the fact that no one really knows who Charlie is/was is a very intriguing one.  (Charlie sounds like a complete jerk—obviously, right? because nice people don’t fake their own deaths.)

I definitely preferred Aubrey to Lena—but I really hope there’s a sequel, because I’m pretty sure more is going on with both of them than I currently know.

This is an interesting book but not a super satisfying one.  It almost felt like I was missing a few chapters and that there were major pieces that I wasn’t given.  Even so, it is definitely interesting and will keep your attention.