Until Beth

Finished Until Beth by Lisa Amowitz.  I received a copy from the publisher for review. (Note: This is the publishing company I work for but this is not one of my books.)

Summary (from Goodreads):

Talented rock guitarist Beth Collins has been barely holding herself together for months, ever since her boyfriend and bandmate became the latest victim in a string of suspicious disappearances. When her brother is injured an accident and she sees something dark billowing around him as he hovers close to death, she’s convinced her sanity is collapsing for good.

Then she’s accepted by a boarding school for the musically gifted. All of her new friends are bursting with talent, but they’re also keeping secrets. Can she trust Vincent, who’s so sweet that his very touch makes her fears melt away? Or Xavier, who’s trying to tell her something but is hiding even more?

And will anyone be safe when her true Talent comes out?”

The first thing you should know is that this is the start of a series. The second thing? Once you are finished with Until Beth, you will be absolutely desperate to read the next book.

Beth is a kickass heroine.  There’s some tragedy in her life and epic levels of weirdness but she refuses to give up.  She is seriously awesome, too.  She’s a kickass friend and always does what she feels she needs to do to keep her friends safe—sometimes even at her own expense.

I spent a lot of the book not knowing what was going on, and also not knowing who to trust.  If you read this—and you should—be aware that nothing’s going to make sense at first.  Even so, this is an insane ride and you’ll never want to get off.

Highly recommended.

Max the Brave

Finished Max the Brave by Ed Vere.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.  Click here to enter a giveaway (good luck)!

Summary (from Goodreads):

Max the Brave is a brilliant new picture book from Ed Vere. This is Max. Max the Brave, Max the Fearless, Max the Mouse-catcher…But, in order to be a Mouse-catcher, Max needs to know what a mouse is, so off he goes to find out. This hilarious new picture book from the phenomenally-talented Ed Vere introduces a new and lovable character, with Ed’s trademark bold illustrations and clever story. Other Ed Vere titles to look out for: Banana; Bedtime for Monsters; Mr. Big; The Getaway Ed Vere studied fine art at Camberwell College of Art and has been writing and illustrating children’s books since 1999. He is published in both England and the US. Ed is also a painter, working from his studio in east London and is represented by galleries in London and Los Angeles. After a year and a half living in Barcelona, Ed now lives and works in London.

After finishing, my book and cape (thank you Sourcebooks!) went to stay with a young friend of mine, and as you can see, he’s a fan, too. :)

Max the Brave 2 Max the Brave

I don’t read picture books very often, but Max the Brave makes me want to change that.

This book is absolutely adorable and my goddaughter (Rory the Brave) is going to love it when she gets it for Christmas.

Max is the best mouse-catcher ever—or would be, if he knew what a mouse was.  He tries to learn more about what mice are and how they look, but not everyone is as forthcoming as he would like.

This book is a complete delight from the text to the pictures to the perfection that is Max (the brave).

Highly recommended.

Why Not Me?

Finished Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling.

Summary (from Goodreads):

From the author of the beloved New York Times bestselling book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? and the creator and star of The Mindy Project comes a collection of essays that are as hilarious and insightful as they are deeply personal.

In Why Not Me?, Kaling shares her ongoing journey to find contentment and excitement in her adult life, whether it’s falling in love at work, seeking new friendships in lonely places, attempting to be the first person in history to lose weight without any behavior modification whatsoever, or most important, believing that you have a place in Hollywood when you’re constantly reminded that no one looks like you.

In “How to Look Spectacular: A Starlet’s Confessions,” Kaling gives her tongue-in-cheek secrets for surefire on-camera beauty, (“Your natural hair color may be appropriate for your skin tone, but this isn’t the land of appropriate–this is Hollywood, baby. Out here, a dark-skinned woman’s traditional hair color is honey blonde.”) “Player” tells the story of Kaling being seduced and dumped by a female friend in L.A. (“I had been replaced by a younger model. And now they had matching bangs.”) In “Unlikely Leading Lady,” she muses on America’s fixation with the weight of actresses, (“Most women we see onscreen are either so thin that they’re walking clavicles or so huge that their only scenes involve them breaking furniture.”) And in “Soup Snakes,” Kaling spills some secrets on her relationship with her ex-boyfriend and close friend, B.J. Novak (“I will freely admit: my relationship with B.J. Novak is weird as hell.”)

Mindy turns the anxieties, the glamour, and the celebrations of her second coming-of-age into a laugh-out-loud funny collection of essays that anyone who’s ever been at a turning point in their life or career can relate to. And those who’ve never been at a turning point can skip to the parts where she talks about meeting Bradley Cooper.”

If you are a fan of Mindy Kaling, you need to read this book.  (If you aren’t a fan, examine your life choices.)

Mindy Kaling is probably pretty much my imaginary best friend.  And, like her earlier book (and books by Amy Poehler and Tina Fey), come for the laugh-out-loud parts and stay for the chunks of wisdom (all through this book but especially in the last essay, “Why Not Me?”).

Basically all I got accomplished today was read this book.  (And I watched the season four premiere of her show, The Mindy Project.)  It was a really good day and I regret nothing.

If you’re a fan of The Office or The Mindy Project, there is a lot here to enjoy, but even beyond that, Mindy Kaling’s outlook on life is pretty freaking awesome.  (I could probably quote the entire book, but that would get pretty tedious for both of us, so just buy it and read it already.)

The only downside to this book is the fact that now I probably need to wait years for another one.

Highly recommended.

After You

Finished After You by Jojo Moyes.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

How do you move on after losing the person you loved? How do you build a life worth living?

Louisa Clark is no longer just an ordinary girl living an ordinary life. After the transformative six months spent with Will Traynor, she is struggling without him. When an extraordinary accident forces Lou to return home to her family, she can’t help but feel she’s right back where she started.

Her body heals, but Lou herself knows that she needs to be kick-started back to life. Which is how she ends up in a church basement with the members of the Moving On support group, who share insights, laughter, frustrations, and terrible cookies. They will also lead her to the strong, capable Sam Fielding—the paramedic, whose business is life and death, and the one man who might be able to understand her. Then a figure from Will’s past appears and hijacks all her plans, propelling her into a very different future. . . .

For Lou Clark, life after Will Traynor means learning to fall in love again, with all the risks that brings. But here Jojo Moyes gives us two families, as real as our own, whose joys and sorrows will touch you deeply, and where both changes and surprises await.

After You is quintessential Jojo Moyes—a novel that will make you laugh, cry, and rejoice at being back in the world she creates. Here she does what few novelists can do—revisits beloved characters and takes them to places neither they nor we ever expected.”

I was very nervous about reading this because I loved Me After You so much, and I was not expecting there to be a sequel.  And I was excited for the same reason.

In a letter that came with my review copy, Jojo Moyes asked that readers/reviewers keep details to themselves, so this is going to be a pretty flimsy review.  But all you need to know is that I loved Me After You and I loved After You.

This is not Me After You.  But I loved the chance to spend more time with Lou and with her family.  I’m grateful that I got to spend more time with these people and that I got to see how Lou was doing.

Highly recommended.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Finished Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz.

Summary (from Goodreads):

A lyrical novel about family and friendship from critically acclaimed author Benjamin Alire Sáenz.

Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.”

I’d heard so many great things about this book and I don’t know why I waited so long to read it.  I have been deliberately trying to read more diverse books this summer, and this works as both diverse ethnicity and diverse sexuality.

I loved Ari, even though he’s incredibly angry about just about everything.  His parents are worried because he doesn’t really have any friends and his older sisters are much older than he is (and his older brother is in jail and never really discussed) so it’s basically Ari on one side and everyone else in the world on the other.

And then he met Dante.

You guys, this book. It’s sweet and smart and at the same time so realistic.  Ari doesn’t automatically become a great guy and they don’t automatically insta-love each other.  The book is  about two people preparing to be together.

I love everything about it.

Highly recommended.

All-American Boys

Finished All-American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

In an unforgettable new novel from award-winning authors Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, two teens—one black, one white—grapple with the repercussions of a single violent act that leaves their school, their community, and, ultimately, the country bitterly divided by racial tension.

A bag of chips. That’s all sixteen-year-old Rashad is looking for at the corner bodega. What he finds instead is a fist-happy cop, Paul Galuzzi, who mistakes Rashad for a shoplifter, mistakes Rashad’s pleadings that he’s stolen nothing for belligerence, mistakes Rashad’s resistance to leave the bodega as resisting arrest, mistakes Rashad’s every flinch at every punch the cop throws as further resistance and refusal to STAY STILL as ordered. But how can you stay still when someone is pounding your face into the concrete pavement?

But there were witnesses: Quinn Collins—a varsity basketball player and Rashad’s classmate who has been raised by Paul since his own father died in Afghanistan—and a video camera. Soon the beating is all over the news and Paul is getting threatened with accusations of prejudice and racial brutality. Quinn refuses to believe that the man who has basically been his savior could possibly be guilty. But then Rashad is absent. And absent again. And again. And the basketball team—half of whom are Rashad’s best friends—start to take sides. As does the school. And the town. Simmering tensions threaten to explode as Rashad and Quinn are forced to face decisions and consequences they had never considered before.

Written in tandem by two award-winning authors, this tour de force shares the alternating perspectives of Rashad and Quinn as the complications from that single violent moment, the type taken from the headlines, unfold and reverberate to highlight an unwelcome truth.”

I’m a huge fan of Jason Reynolds and now I want to read Brendan Kiely’s first book, too.  This book is incredibly timely and hard to read.

The story is told in alternating chapters by Rashad (victim of police brutality) and Quinn (who saw the incident—which, if we’re being honest, should really be called assault—but who is incredibly close to the officer who assault Rashad and who is conflicted about what to think and whom to believe, even though he actually DID see pretty much everything).

It’s not surprising exactly but everything here is so complicated.  It’s obvious that Paul is carrying around a lot of anger, but does that really discount all the good he does?*  There are no easy answers**, and everyone takes sides.

This book is really great and if you want to see a case like this from both sides, this is for you.

Highly recommended.

* = I would actually argue yes, that putting someone in the hospital with internal bleeding and broken ribs and a broken nose DOES discount all the good he does.

**= Well, okay, not true.  Easy answer: Paul is wrong.  Easy AND true.

Everything, Everything

Finished Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon.

Summary (from Goodreads):

My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.”

I was incredibly excited to read this book.  It’s been on my radar since before BEA, but I didn’t manage to pick up a copy, and I didn’t see it offered on Edelweiss or Netgalley.  When it finally arrived (thank you, Amazon), I read it pretty much immediately.  (Well, once I got home from work.)

I loved Madeline immediately (it didn’t hurt that, like me, she’s a voracious reader) and I fell for Olly about as quickly as she did.  I’m almost 20 full years older than she is, though, so even as she was ready to risk everything, I was like, “BE CAREFUL! DON’T DO THAT!”

And there are definitely conversations I want to have because of this book—most notably the question of whether it counts as living if you’re being careful all the time.

This book is amazing and has become one of my favorites of this year (and ever).

Highly recommended.

Never Never

First, Captain James Hook stopped by to answer some questions.  I have had many amazing guests on my blog, but this is the first time I’ve hosted a pirate. Best day ever!

What made you decide to tell your story? 

Children spend all their lives believing in Peter Pan, but no one wants their children to believe in me. Peter is a child. He is small and laughing and careless and easy to love. But some children don’t have the souls of fairies and Lost Boys. Some have the souls of pirates. I wanted to tell my story for them.

What do you think the biggest misconception about you is?

That I am heartless. And I suppose, even worse than that, that I am a coward. People see me as vicious and cold and cruel. Only a man with a soul made of stone could so relentlessly go after the life of a boy. But I am a pirate. I love and hate in equal measure. And it doesn’t make me a coward to go desperately after what I want, to fight against the things I hate, to go to battle for the things…and the people…I love.

Do you ever miss being a Lost Boy?

Sometimes. More than that, I miss being who I was before I was Lost at all. I love being a pirate. But I miss…sometimes I miss being a child playing at make-believe in the woods, I suppose.

What are the best and worst things about life in Neverland?

I like being a Dreamer. I like knowing that the pirates are mine, that the ship is mine. I like the stars and the pinpricks of light in the sea. The worst thing about it, when it comes down to it, is that it isn’t…home.

What’s the best part about being a pirate in general and captain in particular?

What isn’t fantastic about piracy? The freedom, the ship, the salt on the sea. The gold, the crew. I’m expected to do what I want, when I want it, and I can. And Peter can’t say a thing about it.

Now on to the rest of the book (including a chance to win your own copy)!

Title: Never Never

Author: Brianna Shrum

Release Date: September 22, 2015

Publisher: Spencer Hill Press

Synopsis: James Hook is a child who only wants to grow up.


When he meets Peter Pan, a boy who loves to pretend and is intent on never becoming a man, James decides he could try being a child—at least briefly. James joins Peter Pan on a holiday to Neverland, a place of adventure created by children’s dreams, but Neverland is not for the faint of heart. Soon James finds himself longing for home, determined that he is destined to be a man. But Peter refuses to take him back, leaving James trapped in a world just beyond the one he loves. A world where children are to never grow up.

But grow up he does.

And thus begins the epic adventure of a Lost Boy and a Pirate.

This story isn’t about Peter Pan; it’s about the boy whose life he stole. It’s about a man in a world that hates men. It’s about the feared Captain James Hook and his passionate quest to kill the Pan, an impossible feat in a magical land where everyone loves Peter Pan.

Except one.

Click here to enter to win a copy of Never Never! (Good luck!)

Goodreads link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24517738-never-never?from_search=true

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Never-Brianna-Shrum/dp/1633920399/ref=sr_1_3_twi_pap_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1442691504&sr=8-3&keywords=Never+Never

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/never-never-brianna-shrum/1121739760?ean=9781633920392

Book Depository: http://www.bookdepository.com/Never-Never-Brianna-Shrum/9781633920392

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/never-never-4

IndieBound: http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781633920392

Author Bio and social media links:


Brianna Shrum

Author Bio:

Brianna Shrum lives in Colorado with her high-school-sweetheart-turned-husband, two boys, and two big, floppy hound dogs. She thinks chai tea is proof of magic in the world, and loves all things kissy, magical, and strange. She’d totally love to connect with you. You can find her saying ridiculous things on Twitter @briannashrum

Author Social Media Links:

Website: http://briannashrum.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/briannashrum

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/brianna.r.shrum?_rdr





Teaser Tuesday: Until Beth


Until Beth (by Lisa Amowitz) is out Sept. 29 (your wait is almost over!)

Synopsis: She doesn’t just play, she kills it.


Talented rock guitarist Beth Collins has been barely holding herself together for months, ever since her boyfriend and bandmate became the latest victim in a string of suspicious disappearances. When her brother is injured an accident and she sees something dark billowing around him as he hovers close to death, she’s convinced her sanity is collapsing for good.


Then she’s accepted by a boarding school for the musically gifted. All of her new friends are bursting with talent, but they’re also keeping secrets. Can she trust Vincent, who’s so sweet that his very touch makes her fears melt away? Or Xavier, who’s trying to tell her something but is hiding even more?


And will anyone be safe when her true Talent comes out?

Goodreads link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22459608-until-beth?from_search=true&search_version=service

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Until-Beth-Lisa-Amowitz/dp/163392033X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1436751867&sr=1-1&keywords=until+beth

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/until-beth

Book Depository: http://www.bookdepository.com/Until-Beth-Lisa-Amowitz/9781633920330


Andre burst through the gym doors, as bare-shouldered as always, graceful tattoos coiling up one of his muscled brown arms. Though his breath came in misty puffs, his hands were warm when he took my cold ones in his.


“Come inside, Beth,” he said, a hint of a smile in his dark eyes. “You’re gonna freeze your ass off out here.”


At Andre’s touch I felt my tension ebb, and the sob that was trapped inside my ribs dissolve. Andre, respectfully distant, was always just close enough when I needed him. I pressed my head against his chest and let him hold me.


“Not a day goes by when I don’t feel it, too,” he murmured. Andre was the only one who understood what it was like to breathe when your lungs were gone. Sam had been his best friend, the rock he could hang on to when things at home got to be too much for him.


“But standing here in the cold isn’t going to bring him back. Besides, it’s

time for the sound check.”


And just like that, I felt better. Andre’s touch, as I called it to myself, had the power to calm me. It wasn’t attraction. Andre and Shelly had been together even longer than Sam and I. It was shared pain. And somehow, Andre had the ability to take mine away. I was in too much pain to wonder what he did with his own.


Squeezed into a black satin bustier over a cobalt tulle skirt and black fishnets, I waited in the wings backstage. I couldn’t see past the glare of the lights, but judging from the crowd’s roar, the whole town had shown up for the Band Slam Semi-Finals. August Rebellion was pitted against eight other bands. The winner wouldn’t be chosen until

the Grand Finale next week.


At last, our turn came and I tried to kick it into gear. I belted out Blast Mahoney’s “Like Never”, hoping to incinerate my nerves with the screaming licks of my guitar. Shelly scorched on bass. Andre hammered the beat. We sounded good, but inside I was hollow, the keyboard chords ringing in my ears. I wanted them to be Sam’s notes. And they weren’t.


When it was over the crowd went nuts. Long-time Slam tradition required the audience to throw random junk at their favorite band. They flung crazy stuff at us—coins, confetti, flowers, rubber chickens. Even someone’s bra and underpants landed on the stage. I figured as far as the crowd was concerned, we’d rocked the house. When the spotlight dimmed, I glimpsed Luke and Carson standing on their chairs and pumping their fists. My chest tingled and I felt the roots of my hair, as if I was about to be struck by lightning. I had to get out of there.


Pushing past the kids who crowded the backstage, I fled to the dressing room behind the auditorium.

A boy with a halo of blond curls and mirrored sunglasses slouched against the door.


“Hi,” he said, walking up to me, hand extended. “I’m Vincent Rousseau. Your bandmate Andre asked me to come to the Band Slam tonight to hear you play.”


“What? Andre didn’t tell me anyone was coming.” Shivering in my skimpy costume, I scanned the empty corridor. The next band, Wails from the Crypt, was already tuning up. My phone was in the dressing room drawer. If Vincent Rousseau planned to kidnap me, no one would hear my screams.


“What do you want?”


The boy’s surprisingly deep voice was colored by a trace of an accent. French, I decided, from the way he emphasized the second syllable in his first name—Vin-cent. I couldn’t help but notice how his dusky skin contrasted pleasingly with his mop of bright curls. “I’m a scout for a high school residency program for talented youth. Andre

speaks very well of you.”


I twirled a strand of damp hair. “Huh? Where is this program?”


“We’re allied with many colleges nationwide.”


“Yeah? Never heard of something like that. Does it have a name?”


“HSTYP, or High Step as we call it. Your friend Andre thought you’d be a good candidate.”


“Oh, did he?” I glared at the poor guy. I was in a crummy mood and had no problem taking it out on him. “I’m not leaving Linford.”


“No matter, then,” said Vincent Rousseau, shrugging. “I am just a student at one of the local affiliates. I will leave you with my card in case you have a change of heart.” He smiled again, and despite myself, I felt my guard slip just a notch. Still, I wasn’t sure if I could trust someone who wore mirrored sunglasses indoors in the middle of



“Look, I’ve got to change,” I said, taking his card. “It was nice to meet you—Vincent.”


I was pretty sure I didn’t mean it, but if Vincent cared, he didn’t show it. He smiled, broadly and said, “It’s been a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Bethany Collins.”


I shook my head and watched him go. Strange guy. But polite. And oddly hot. I was going to have to chew out Andre for his well-meaning but lame attempt to shake me from my gloom. But first I had to get out of my ridiculous get-up.


Days of Awe

Finished Days of Awe by Lauren Fox.

Summary (from Goodreads):

The celebrated author of Friends Like Us now gives us a raw, achingly funny novel about a woman who, after the death of her best friend, must face the crisis in her marriage, the fury of her almost-teenage daughter, and the possibility that she might open her cantankerous heart to someone new.

Only a year ago Isabel Moore was married, the object of adoration of her ten-year-old daughter, and thought she knew everything about her wild, extravagant, beloved best friend, Josie. But in that one short year: her husband moved out and rented his own apartment; her daughter grew into a moody insomniac; and Josie — impulsive, funny, secretive Josie — was killed behind the wheel in a single-car accident. As Isabel tries to make sense of this shattering loss and unravel the months leading up to Josie’s death, she comes to understand the shifts, large and small, that can upend a friendship and an entire life. Heartbreaking and wryly funny, Days of Awe is a masterly exploration of marriage, motherhood, and the often surprising shape of new love.”

I am really drawn to books about grieving and books about friendship.  When I heard about this book, one that is about both? YES PLEASE TAKE MY MONEY.

It read like a conversation with a stranger and I think those can go one of two ways.  The first is that you learn everything, because you’ll never see that person again.  It’s super-intimate and tends to get that way really fast.  The other way keeps you at a remove because you ARE a stranger and it means you have no context.

Days of Awe read more like the second one.

That’s not necessarily a criticism.  I enjoyed Days of Awe and liked Isabel.  I wanted her to be happy (and for her daughter, Hannah, to stop being a brat) and neither of us knew if she could make it.

I just didn’t enjoy it as much as I would have if I had understood her and her motives a little more.  (It’s 256 pages; this may be part of it.)