Waiting on Wednesday: From Where I Watch You by Shannon Grogan

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.  Its purpose is to spotlight eagerly-anticipated upcoming releases.

This week I’m eagerly awaiting:

From Where I Watch You by Shannon Grogan

Expected Release Date: August 4, 2015

Sixteen-year-old Kara McKinley is about to realize her dream of becoming a professional baker. Beautifully designed and piped, her cookies are masterpieces, but also her ticket out of rainy Seattle—if she wins the upcoming national baking competition and its scholarship prize to culinary school in California. Kara can no longer stand the home where her family lived, laughed, and ultimately imploded after her mean-spirited big sister Kellen died in a drowning accident. Kara’s dad has since fled, and her mom has turned from a high-powered attorney into a nutty holy-rolling Christian fundamentalist peddling “Soul Soup” in the family café. All Kara has left are memories of better times.

But the past holds many secrets, and they come to light as Kara faces a secret terror. Someone is leaving her handwritten notes. Someone who knows exactly where she is and what’s she’s doing. As they lead her to piece together the events that preceded Kellen’s terrible, life-changing betrayal years before, she starts to catch glimpses of her dead sister: an unwelcome ghost in filthy Ugg boots. If Kara doesn’t figure out who her stalker is, and soon, she could lose everything. Her chance of escape. The boy she’s beginning to love and trust. Even her life.

(summary via Goodreads)

First off, the cover is super gorgeous.  But more than that, the book sounds so compelling.  Early buzz has been largely positive, and I can’t wait to get my hands on this one and read it.  I love the exploration of oppressive faith and the secrets of the past, as well as the complicated relationship between sisters.  I can’t wait.

What are you waiting on this week?

 

Book Review: I Take You by Eliza Kennedy

Lily Wilder is a New York lawyer who seems to have it all.  In the week leading up to her wedding to brilliant, charming archaeologist Will, Lily returns home to her Key West family for the first time in over a decade.  Once there, she’s confronted with the harsh reality that she might not be marriage material–or is she simply not marrying the right guy?  As she boozes it up and makes some decisions that might seem questionable at best, Lily is forced to face her demons head on, and ends up with some surprising conclusions.

Readers looking for a straightforward romantic comedy are going to be disappointed here.  Eliza Kennedy’s debut novel has teeth, and it isn’t afraid to show them.  The result is a frequently funny, smart, subversive take on the romantic comedy.  Despite a few implausibilities, this is an entertaining romp with a hidden intellectual side, and it’s thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish.

Kennedy has an ear for snappy dialogue, and each page is chock full of one liners and zingers.  There are a few standout scenes, mostly between Lily and her best friend Freddie, and there are moments where Lily is so audacious it’s astonishing.  She’s one hundred percent herself always, and she shines brigtest when she’s taking down sexist old-boy’s-club lawyers.

The novel’s main misstep is when it tries to tackle Lily’s sexual proclivities.  She opines at one point that women sometimes just want sex because they want sex, but it doesn’t seem that it’s totally true for her throughout the course of the novel.  It’s also not a particularly astounding revelation in a post-Sex & the City world.  Here is where the novel’s biggest weakness is, but it’s not enough to derail the rest of the novel, which is so, so much fun.

Eliza Kennedy is an author to watch, and this subversive, smart little novel is the perfect antidote to the well-trodden happily-ever-after.  This would make for a great movie (can we make that happen, actually?) and would also make for a great book club discussion book, as there’s likely to be differing views (and strong ones at that) about the characters and their actions.  Recommended.

I Take You by Eliza Kennedy. Crown: 2015. Library copy.

Book Review: The Devil You Know by Trish Doller

All Arcadia wants now that she’s graduated from high school in her minuscule Florida town is to embark on some sort of adventure.  Feeling trapped in her life as primary caregiver to her four-year-old brother and absentee father, Cadie jumps at the chance for some fun when she meets a pair of cute cousins in the midst of a road trip.  But what starts out as a fairly innocent trip turns dangerous when Cadie realizes that one of the boys isn’t exactly how he seems.

Doller moves outside her normal genre with a romantic thriller that is guaranteed to have readers frantically turning the pages to see what happens next.  Tight plotting and excellent pacing make this one a totally entertaining read from start to finish.  Doller is an author to watch, and she proves it again and again.

In the character of Cadie, Doller has crafted an authentic, head-strong heroine who is still flawed.  But she’s smart, and her desires to break free of a life she views as suffocating feel authentic, even when the story strains a bit at credulity.  Her palpable chemistry with the mysterious Noah helps propel the story forward, and their scenes are both romantic and steamy.

The novel’s rising action builds to a breathless climax that will grip readers completely.  This is a read-in-one-sitting type of book, and it doesn’t disappoint.  Doller allows the tension to build by dropping small hints that things are amiss, but it never feels over-the-top or overly obvious. The result is a tense, scary thrill ride.

Highly recommended.

The Devil You Know by Trish Doller.  Bloomsbury Childrens: 2015. Library copy.

Book Review: Chase Me by Tessa Bailey

Roxy Cumberland is a struggling actress in New York.  She thinks she’s hit rock bottom when she takes a gig as a singing telegram, but when she shows up dressed as a giant bunny and a super hot dude answers the door, she knows she’s hit a new low.  Louis is hot, all right–hot and rich, and everything Roxy says she hates.  So why is she so drawn to him?  The feeling is mutual, especially after the two share a steamy kiss.  Louis is determined to track Roxy down, but it’s going to require quite the chase.

For readers who like their romances steamy and their dialogue witty, Tessa Bailey is an author that should be on their radar.  In this novel, one being hailed as “new adult romance,” she’s crafted vivid characters whose chemistry practically leaps off the page.  It’s fun, fast, and sexy, and it’s perfect for a day at the beach (or an hour, because this one reads very quickly).

The book’s strengths lay in its characters and their interactions.  Both Roxy and Louis are well-drawn as far as characters go, and there are some nice touches with regard to Roxy’s roommates (both girls have their own spin-off sequels) and Louis’s twin sisters.  The dialogue is genuinely funny and often very qitty, something that can be difficult to pull off without readers being able to see how hard the author is working.  It’s got a whip-fast plot (sometimes to its detriment) and the love scenes are sexy as hell.

All of this makes the incredibly abrupt ending all the more frustrating for readers looking for a bit more closure.  There’s not much practicality in how it ends, which will leave some readers scratching their heads.  Also frustrating is how predictable the book’s central conflict is, because it’s a trope so well-worn even the most forgiving reader will see it coming from a mile away.  Even so, readers will stay for the characters.  It’s still a hell of a lot of fun.

Chase Me by Tessa Bailey. Avon Impulse: 2015.  Library copy.

 

 

Book Review: The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West

Gia Montgomery gets dumped by her perfect college boyfriend in the parking lot of her high school prom.  Desperate to show him off to her friends so they won’t think she made him up, she ends up dragging an unsuspecting guy from a nearby truck into the dance and convincing him to pretend to be the now-gone Bradley.  She figures he’s the perfect stop-gap until she can win back her boyfriend.  But then she ends up having a good time with this fill-in guy, and she starts to realize he’s occupying all her brain space.  When the mystery guy’s sister approaches her and asks her to do her brother a favor–pose as his girlfriend at his ex’s graduation party, Gia wonders how far this whole fill-in relationship thing will go.

Kasie West has quickly made a name for herself as an excellent romance writer for teens, and this latest contemporary offering shouldn’t disappoint.  Smart, funny, and full of heart, this is a fast-paced, sweet little read that will have readers ripping through it and sighing with contentment.  It’s perfect for a light read on a summer’s day, and the sweet, chaste romance means it will work for younger teens as well as older ones.

There are things that work very well here.  West’s penchant for truly witty banter is on display here, and it’s fun to read and never feels forced.  There’s genuine chemistry between Gia and the fill-in guy, and her burgeoning friendship with his sister Bec feels authentic and is refreshing when contrasted with her stagnant, toxic friendships with her clique of mean-girls.  West allows Gia to grow in a very realistic way, and readers will be satisfied by her changes throughout the book.

But it’s not a perfect book.  Although West makes an attempt to explore some heavier issues, specifically related to how Gia and her family communicate and share with each other, it comes off in a way that feels overly didactic at moments and forced at others.  There’s some good stuff here, and many readers won’t even see the strings being pulled, but something about it feels forced, probably because these characters are underdeveloped.  The same goes for frenemy Jules, who isn’t given enough backstory to make her motives realistic or sympathetic in the least.

Even so, this is a fun, wholly immersive read that teens will gobble up.  West is an author that should be on shelves because there’s enormous teen appeal here.  This was a lot of fun.

The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West. HarperTeen: 2015.  Library copy.

 

Book Review: John Belushi is Dead by Kathy Charles

john belushi

Hilda and Benji are loners and best friends because of their shared interest: death.  They troll the streets of Los Angeles to view sites of celebrity murder and suicide.  When the two meet a misanthropic and reclusive old man named Hank, their relationship starts to change.  As Hilda spends more time with Hank, Benji’s behavior becomes increasingly erratic and potentially dangerous.  The more Hilda discovers that there’s more to life than death, the more obsessed Benji becomes with proving her wrong.

Kathy Charles’s John Belushi is Dead is a backlist title that should still be circulating a lot.  It’s outstanding, and it’s one that will resonate with a wide variety of readers.  Compelling, edgy, and mor than a little bit dark, this is great for the older YA set.

Strong prose helps bring to life the characters that populate the book.  Hilda is the narrator and is well drawn.  She’s a complete character with a full backstory that allows readers insight into why she is the way she is (and why she’s so consumed with the concept of death).  But what works so well here is how Charles allows Hilda’s perceptions of the people she knows to filter what the reader knows about what’s happening.  Not everyone is quite what they seem, and while this is certainly a theme explored throughout the novel, it never overpowers the main story.  In fact, it’s used to great effect.

The story is also really smartly done.  Charles uses Los Angeles itself as one of the characters.  An iconic city filled with the world’s most famous stars makes for a compelling backdrop as Hilda figures out some of life’s hardest realities.  The use of the strangeness of the city to help illustrate Hilda and Benji’s feelings of being outsiders is powerful and memorable.

On the whole, this is a gem of a book.  It’s quirky without being cloying, dark without being overwhelmingly bleak, and beautifully complex.  Guaranteed to push some readers out of their comfort zone, it’s also compulsively readable.  Highly recommended.

John Belushi is Dead by Kathy Charles. MTV Books: 2010.  Library copy.

Waiting on Wednesday: The Night We Said Yes by Lauren Gibaldi

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.  Its purpose is to spotlight eagerly-anticipated upcoming releases.

This week I’m eagerly awaiting:

The Night We Said Yes by Lauren Gibaldi

Expected Release Date: June 16, 2015

Before Matt, Ella had a plan. Get over a no-good ex-boyfriend. Graduate from high school without any more distractions. Move away from Orlando, Florida, where she’s lived her entire life.

But Matt—the cute, shy, bespectacled bass player who just moved to town—was never part of that plan.

And neither was attending a party that was crashed by the cops just minutes after they arrived. Or spending an entire night saying “yes” to every crazy, fun thing they could think of.

Then Matt abruptly left town, and he broke not only Ella’s heart but those of their best friends, too. So when he shows up a year later with a plan of his own—to relive the night that brought them together—Ella isn’t sure whether Matt’s worth a second chance. Or if re-creating the past can help them create a different future.

In alternating then and now chapters, debut author Lauren Gibaldi crafts a charming, romantic story of first loves, lifelong friendships, uncovered secrets, and, ultimately, finding out how to be brave.

(summary via Goodreads)

This looks like a cute little romance read for the summer.  Although some sources compare it to Susane Colasanti and Sarah Dessen (I’m not sure those are readalike authors, even), I think this is probably going to skew closer to the Colasanti side of things.  At any rate, I’m sure it will be a quick read, good for an afternoon escape.

What are you waiting on this week?