weekly wrap-up 5/22

↠ Yesterday was Sewickley Unleashed, an annual street fair/5K run that benefits the Humane Society! There’s a dog parade and costume contest and it’s always a blast – unfortunately it was pouring in the morning, so Matt and I didn’t do too much browsing. Instead, we stopped by the farmers market, loaded up on some goodies, and lunched at our favorite sandwich place!

↠ Other than that, this week has been super low-key and rainy: my favorite kind of reading weather! ♥

READING REPORT Last week I was at 72 books read for the year with 49 of those books written by female authors, while 23 were written by male authors. I’m currently at 75 books read, with 51 by women, 24 by men.

WHAT I FINISHED Interestingly enough, two books I finished this week were audiobooks: Terry Pratchett’s Dodger and Sharon M. Draper’s Stella by Starlight. Both were excellent and links to their mini reviews can be found below! I also tore through Megan Miranda’s The Safest Lies, a Panic Room-esque YA thriller. Check back next week for my review!

WHAT I’M READING Immediately after finishing Stella by Starlight I jumped into a new audiobook: Timothy Dwyer’s Hissing Cousins, an excellent nonfic about the turbulent relationship between Eleanor Roosevelt and Alice Roosevelt Longworth. If you know me, you know I’m not only a big history buff, but I also adore Teddy Roosevelt (Mornings on Horseback was a 5-star read last year!) and am absolutely captivated by this book! I’m also reading Dawn Kurtagich’s The Dead House, which was a total impulse grab from overdrive and I’m enjoying it as well – lately I’ve become a fan of epistolary novels when I used to hate them. This one is told through e-mails, diary entries, and police transcripts so it’s a super fast read. Lastly, I’m reading the second of Roald Dahl’s autobiographies, Going Solo. Last week I mentioned I finished his first, More About Boy and loved it (obvs.) Boy only went up to the end of his schooling, with Going Solo detailing his time spend in the RAF during WWII.

MISSED SOMETHING THIS WEEK? Jessica Brockmole’s At the Edge of Summer is one of only TWO 5-star reads so far this year, so that should tell you how much I loved this one! World War I, France, art, a war-torn romance. ALL THE SIGHS. The blog was turned over to my pup for another BarkBox unboxing! This month’s theme was SO me and Bay loves everything inside! UPDATE: surprisingly, Gus is still intact (though that’s more because Bay hasn’t played with him as much as the others) while poor Dingo has sacrificed several limbs. :( Finally, I posted some mini reviews (both Dodger and Stella by Starlight are included in this roundup!) Mostly it’s all praise…but there was one book that was downright awful.

The Many Selves of Katherine North by Emma Geen
I received an ARC of this one a few months ago, but Bloomsbury was awesome enough to send a finished copy my way! New Adult, a research department that has their employees “jumping” – leaving their own bodies and inserting their consciousness into animals. I honestly don’t know much more about this book, other than there’s an ominous turn and suddenly Kit isn’t sure she trusts the Company anymore. Definitely looking forward to reading this one! Thank you, Bloomsbury!

mini reviews: the good, the great, and the REALLY bad.

Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand | May 17, 2016
When she is sent to stay with her grandparents for the summer while her parents attempt to work out the problems in their marriage, Finley meets the family she’s only heard stories about. Years ago, something happened that caused a huge rift between her father and his family and now she’s not entirely sure they even want her there. What’s worse, she’s been carrying the heavy weight of sadness, her ‘blue days’ that she tries her best to hide, afraid to tell anyone what’s going on inside her mind.

Some Kind of Happiness is a heartbreaking, powerful, and important book that doesn’t sugarcoat mental health. This little girl is burdened by the thought that she needs to keep her feelings a secret, that she should feel happy although she doesn’t, and she’s perfected the art of smiling when she doesn’t want to. Over and over my heart broke for Finley – though it’s not all somber and subdued moments! Fin has created a magical world that she allows her cousins into and they all befriend the neighbor boys who were always seen as being from the wrong side of the tracks.

There’s so much to discuss with this book that it’s a little overwhelming! Seriously, Middle Grade and Adult readers alike will be captivated by this book. I’ve adored Claire’s work for years now, but this one is truly something special.

A HUGE thank you to Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers for a review copy!

Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper | January 6, 2015
It’s the 1930s, North Carolina. One night 11-year-old Stella and her little brother see a large bonfire out by the town pond. When the bonfire turns out to be a Klan rally, the small community of Bumblebee turns upside down. Despite the mounting tensions in town, life carries on as Stella still has to write essays in school and go to church every Sunday.

I’ve been wanting to read this one since I first head of it and even grabbed a copy from my library last fall, but never managed to get around to it. Recently I saw the audiobook was available and wasted no time claiming a copy! Stella by Starlight is one of those books that made me kick myself a little for putting it off for so long. While this was certainly a thought-provoking tale there were plenty of light-hearted and oh so wonderful moments, like when Stella wonders why she’s suddenly self-conscious around a boy she’s known all her life or during the school play when nothing goes according to plan.

Even better than the story, however, was the AMAZING and INCREDIBLE narration performed by Heather Alicia Simms. Her soothing voice totally made this one for me – the subtle differences between each character’s voice breathed life into this story and her singing was beautiful. I hear the book has illustrations (and I’m all about that!) but since the audio was so phenomenal I’d have to recommend a joint read/listen!

Dodger by Terry Pratchett | September 13, 2012
Oh, Sir Terry. This was actually my first book of his (that wasn’t co-authored by Neil Gaiman) and it was a blast. A superb setting (Victorian London, mostly the sewers and gritty, dirty underbelly,) a fantastic cast of characters (including some run-ins with Charles Dickens and Sweeney Todd,) and, again, wonderful narration (this time done by Stephen Briggs) all blended together to make for one great read.

I’m glad I picked up the audio, rather than print – from what I’ve read in other reviews, the style is a bit harsh and disorienting since Pratchett went for a street urchin-esque approach. Briggs, however, gave a flawless performance and I’d love to pick up a copy of the companion piece, Dodger’s Guide to London, a non-fic full of fun facts and trivia. In the afterword to Dodger, Pratchett mentioned his research and how there were tidbits he had hoped to squeeze in to the story, but couldn’t find the space. I’m thinking this is the result.

The Girl Without a Name by Sandra Block | September 8, 2015
This was a total impulse buy, plus it was published on my birthday! It turns out it’s actually the second in a series, but it read as a standalone and I had no issues whatsoever with following along (particularly since this was a ‘new case.’)

Zoe is nearly finished with her residency at the local hospital when she gets a case that changes her completely. A young girl, no more than 12 or 13, is found wandering the streets in a catatonic state. Once the doctors get her talking they discover she doesn’t remember anything about what had happened – she doesn’t even know her name. From there, things spiral nearly out of control and Zoe begins to wonder if someone is deliberately interfering with the girl’s recovery.

It’s interesting to note that Zoe has ADHD and Sandra Block did a great job in bringing that to Zoe’s narration – though I don’t feel that particular writing style will work for every reader. For this one, however, it was an absolute homerun and when I wasn’t reading this book I was counting down the minutes until I could get back to it!

The only thing I wasn’t too fond of was the Big Reveal. Early on in the story a throwaway line from a character got under my skin and I had a feeling it was capital I Important. That said, Zoe never thought anything of it until the very, very end. Despite calling it, I still had an absolute blast with this one and look forward to reading Little Black Lies!

Left in the Wind by Ed Gray | May 3, 2016
Told in diary form, Left in the Wind is a fictionalized account of what really happened to the lost colony of Roanoke. Sounds awesome, right? It ended up reading more as 1580s New World erotica than anything resembling historical fiction and was CLEARLY this man’s fantasy put to paper.

The MC sleeps with four men throughout the novel, is nearly raped by two more, and references her past as a prostitute (?? it’s never directly stated, but she talks about entertaining members of a Mason guild.)

Naturally Emme is gorgeous and has ridiculously big boobs (“Our Lord was most generous when he endowed you, Mrs. Merrimoth. Most generous indeed.”) that make all the men (White and Native American) want her. Especially once she begins mingling with the Croatoan tribe and starts dressing as they do: only a flimsy piece of animal skin for a skirt. Oh and let’s not forget how Emme all but wills herself to begin lactating so she can assume duties as a wet nurse, only to have the child taken away and when the pain of her engorged (and impossibly gigantic, remember) breasts becomes too much, a gentleman kindly takes it upon himself to step up and being suckling away.

I don’t think I’ve been this disappointed by a historical fiction novel since Neverhome.

A HUGE thank you to Pegasus for a review copy!

unboxing our second BarkBox!

Last month I featured our first unboxing with BarkBox, a subscription box specifically for dogs! Each box includes treats, toys, and products like shampoos – they even have allergy-free boxes for those pups with sensitive stomachs! What I especially love is how they work with over 3,000 charities and shelters across the US and Canada!

If you’re new to how BarkBox works: you select a size for your pup (for Baylor I chose the Big and Bold option – 50+ lbs. for durable toys since she’s a little rough!) The box is $29.99 per month and for an additional $9 you can include a Premium toy.

Again, the shipping was crazy fast! I received an e-mail saying it was shipped out on the 15th (a Sunday!!) and it arrived Tuesday, the 17th! It was actually at my post office Monday, but the mail had already gone out that day, otherwise I would have received it then. The tracking info said the expected arrival date wasn’t until the 22nd, so holy moly.

This box’s theme was Country Fair and it’s clear Bay is SO my dog – sorry, Matt! I don’t know who was more excited this time, me or Bay! Just like our previous box, Bay received 3 treats, plus 2 toys and the Premium toy.

Butchers Block Bones: Krunchie Tube $3.00
100% beef trachea and the first thing Bay went for when we opened the box! I couldn’t find an accurate price since these are sold in packs, but I managed to come across a 7-pack for $14.99! And its name is no joke: these are VERY crunchy!

Nana’s Natural Chicken + Sweet Potato Jerky $8.00 *a BarkShop exclusive!*
We received two grain-free treats in this month’s box. These jerky strips are made with chicken, sweet potato, and rice flour and is wheat and gluten free.

Craft Dog Treatrty Donut Bites $8.00
Made this chickpea flour, cheddar cheese, and sweet potato, these soft & chewy donut bites are wheat and gluten free.

Slobbery Sunflowers $12.00 *BarkShop exclusive!*
Oh my goodness, these are the cutest!! The bundle is made of four individual sunflowers and it’s held together by a velcro bow. SO stinkin’ adorable! Even better? Each one has a squeaker (Bay is obsessed with squeaky toys) and has a crinkly material too.

Dingo the Scarecrow $12.00 *BarkShop exclusive!*
This little guy has a squeaky body and rope arms/legs perfect for tug-o-war! Bay’s already a huge fan of this one and I was really excited to discover this toy is part of BarkBox’s Destroyers Club. Bay is VERY rough with her toys (one of the toys we received last month didn’t last 30 minutes) so I’m curious to see how this one holds up!

Gus the State Fair Goldfish $9.00 *BarkShop exclusive!*
This was our Premium toy and the moment I opened it my heart sank. It’s incredibly cute, but does NOT seem like a premium toy at all. On the website it’s labeled as a toy for heavy chewers and I honestly don’t see it lasting long. I would love to be proven wrong! This one is squeaky too and floats, so it would be excellent to take to the pool or lake – if it lasts that long!

I’m loving this box even more than I loved our first, though, again, I’m a little concerned about the durability of some of the toys. On the plus side, the shipping is amazing and opening the box each month is every bit as exciting for me as it is for Bay! Also, with a value of $52, this box more than pays for itself!

Art, WWI, and one unforgettable summer.

At the Edge of Summer by Jessica Brockmole
Pub. Date: May 17, 2016
Source: e-ARC via netgalley (Thank you, Ballantine Books!)
Summary: Luc Crépet is accustomed to his mother’s bringing wounded creatures to their idyllic château in the French countryside, where healing comes naturally amid the lush wildflowers and crumbling stone walls. Yet his maman’s newest project is the most surprising: a fifteen-year-old Scottish girl grieving over her parents’ fate. A curious child with an artistic soul, Clare Ross finds solace in her connection to Luc, and she in turn inspires him in ways he never thought possible. Then, just as suddenly as Clare arrives, she is gone, whisked away by her grandfather to the farthest reaches of the globe. Devastated by her departure, Luc begins to write letters to Clare—and, even as she moves from Portugal to Africa and beyond, the memory of the summer they shared keeps her grounded.

Years later, in the wake of World War I, Clare, now an artist, returns to France to help create facial prostheses for wounded soldiers. One of the wary veterans who comes to the studio seems familiar, and as his mask takes shape beneath her fingers, she recognizes Luc. But is this soldier, made bitter by battle and betrayal, the same boy who once wrote her wistful letters from Paris? After war and so many years apart, can Clare and Luc recapture how they felt at the edge of that long-ago summer?
Genre: Historical Fiction, Wartime Fiction, Romance

With her mother long gone and her father’s recent death, 15-year-old Claire finds herself packing her belongings and leaving Scotland for the French countryside where her mother’s best friend is all too willing to take her in. Claire’s mother was an artist and Claire has been developing her own talents which flourish under Monsieur Crépet’s tutelage, he himself a famous painter who once illustrated a book of fairy tales. Even Madame Crépet has her own gifts, but it’s the Crépets’ son Luc who really gives life to Claire’s sketches and drawings.

The entire summer the two are practically inseparable – when, of course, Luc is home from his university. Just as their friendship is on the edge of blossoming into something more, Claire receives an unexpected guest: her grandfather, returned from his years spent traveling, has come to take her home.

Torn apart by their families and, later, the onset of WWI, Claire and Luc still write letters – letters that slowly become more infrequent with Claire’s travels and Luc’s enlistment. It’s only when Claire accepts work with the Red Cross sculpting masks for servicemen who were gravely injured that their paths cross once again. With eight years and Luc’s horrific wounds between them, could they possibly return to that long ago summer?

Okay, cue the squealing and flaily arms. I LOVED this book. Loved. From the very first page I was hooked, not just because it’s – hello – Jessica Brockmole or because it’s a novel bursting with art (and you all know how I feel about art novels) but because it was just. so. good. From the first line I was fully and totally gone, completely immersed in Jessica’s gorgeous writing and the unforgettable setting. I got to know Claire and Luc and as I watched their shy friendship grow and barely begin transforming into something more, I wholeheartedly championed their almost-relationship (though I SO wanted to grab them and finally smoosh their faces together ♥!) Both were so sweet and innocent and Jessica so, so wonderfully showed that and how the war changed not only them, but France itself.

As the years progress, Claire blooms into a tough-as-nails young woman, unafraid to explore the desert or row down a raging river and quickly develops a knack for saying what she thinks. While Claire becomes full of life and warmth, Luc, however, struggles to find peace and internalizes his pain, every day sinking deeper into himself. He’s haunted by the war, by the things he’s seen and done and hides away so that he doesn’t have to face the stares he gets on the street.

To say more would be to spoil the entire thing, though romance is a driving force in this book, so it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. I could talk about At the Edge of Summer for days and the more I think about it, the more I love it. It’s heartbreakingly beautiful, full of joy and sorrow, with characters I not only loved, but wish I could know in real life! There’s art, letters, scenes that will give you a serious case of wanderlust – At the Edge of Summer is a novel to get lost in and is one I know I won’t stop thinking about any time soon!

weekly wrap-up 5/15

↠ I didn’t do a wrap-up post last week because of Mother’s Day! Every year my entire family (plus the in-laws) do Pittsburgh’s Race for the Cure – have you ever done it?? :) I posted a few pictures on instagram!

↠ I also went to the vegan festival that I’ve been gushing over for MONTHS! It was everything I had hoped for and then some! My absolute favorite vendor was Onion Maiden (their Kimmy Gibbler hotdog was to die for!) and Piccadilly’s ice cream was made with liquid nitrogen. Such an awesome event and I’ll for sure be going to the next one in August!

↠ Earlier this week was our 9-month adoptionversary and I can’t believe it’s been that long! ♥ She’s definitely my baby.

↠ Bay and I have been getting up extra early to go on our walks now that the weather is nice and warm! The best part? Coming home and listening to nature wake up. The photo above is the view from my backyard and there’s honestly nothing better than sitting on my porch with a big cup of coffee and listening to the birds. Deer love playing in our yard and recently a turkey strolled through too!

READING REPORT Technically this is a two-week report, since my last wrap-up was on the 1st. The last time I checked in I was at 66 books read for the year with 45 written by women and 21 written by males. I’m currently at 72 books read with 49 books written by female authors and 23 written by male authors!

WHAT I FINISHED Two books I finished (Hannah Dennison’s A Killer Ball at Honeychurch Hall and Laura Dave’s Eight Hundred Grapes were also reviewed, so check the links below for my full thoughts! Claire Legrand’s Some Kind of Happiness absolutely broke my heart in the best way possible and Teresa Toten’s Beware that Girl (more info below!) was very fun and a super fast-paced thriller. You all know I adore Roald Dahl and I spent some time with More About Boy, one of his autobiographies and I absolutely loved it. I had never read it before and the look inside his early life was fascinating! Lastly, Ed Gray’s Left in the Wind was supposed to be a historical fiction novel about Roanoke…instead it was basically 1580s New World erotica. I’ll be sharing a mini review soon, but seriously, don’t waste your time with this one.

WHAT I’M READING I’m this close to finishing my audio of Terry Pratchett’s Dodger! I’ll be a little sad to say goodbye :(

MISSED SOMETHING THIS WEEK? There was a lot going on around here! I read my very first Jude Deveraux and loved it: The Girl from Summer Hill is a modern retelling of Pride & Prejudice and it was seriously fantastic. Fun and funny with a super swoony romance! I love Hannah Dennison’s Honeychurch Hall mystery series and it just keeps getting better with each book! In A Killer Ball at Honeychurch Hall, a body is discovered in a hidden room and secrets from the past come bubbling to the surface. Hannah was also kind enough to do a guest post and shared her inspiration behind the series! I looked back on April in my April recap. While Laura Dave’s Eight Hundred Grapes was a short book, I wasn’t in love with it. Every single person in the family has some Issue they’re dealing with and no one has the backbone to make a decision. Each character is so wishy-washy I couldn’t get behind any of them and certainly didn’t care about their problems. I love geeky, nerdy romances and HOLY MOLY Lily Anderson is awesome. The Only Thing Worse Than Me is You is chockful of fandom references and has one of my guilty pleasure tropes (a romance that initially begins as a rivalry ♥!) I truly cannot say enough about this one. GO READ IT! Finally, Mary Kubica is back and better than ever. Don’t You Cry had me completely HOOKED from the very beginning and when the ending comes it’s like being hit by a train. LOVE!


In Bitter Chill by Sarah Ward
In the 1970s in England, two schoolgirls are kidnapped and one is later found unharmed, but can’t remember anything about the person who took her. Thirty years later, the mother of the other (still missing) girl commits suicide. The case is reopened in an attempt to see what modern technology has to offer. Rachel, the girl who had been found unharmed, is now an adult and willing to aid in the investigation, though she’s still unable to remember anything. Once the case makes the national news, however, an old school teacher is found strangled and, with the mother’s suicide still fresh in everyone’s mind, police begin to wonder if they’re connected. I love murder mysteries, I love English police forces. I can’t wait to dive in!

The Girl in the Red Coat by Kate Hamer
A mother’s worst nightmare comes true when her 8-year-old daughter wanders away from her. I honestly don’t know much more apart from that single sentence, but the book alternates between narratives (the mother’s and the daughter’s) and I’m looking forward to it!

Untethered by Julie Lawson Timmer
This book was completely unknown to me when it arrived recently. Char, a college professor, wife, and stepmother, loves her life and the home she’s created. When her husband suddenly dies in an accident, everything Char knew is calling into question – particularly the step part of her relationship with Allie and the biological mother who wants to be back in the picture. I’m interested in the ‘domestic suspense’ label and this seems like a great break from some of the genres I’ve been focused on lately. Thank you, Putnam!

Behind Closed Doors by B. A. Paris
THE It book of the summer! I recently received an e-ARC of this one and practically lost my mind once a physical copy arrived! A psychological thriller on par with Girl on the Train and The Silent Wife. I’m DEFINITELY planning to set aside a weekend where I can fully immerse myself in this story! Thank you, St. Martin’s!

Beware That Girl by Teresa Toten
I received this one early this week and already read it, so that alone should tell you something! A Gone Girl, Hitchcockian YA psychological thriller that read lightning-fast. Be sure to check back soon for my full thoughts! Thank you, Delacorte!

The Safest Lies by Megan Miranda
I’m starting to think Megan Miranda is a robot. She’s been churning out thriller after thriller in practically no time at all! This one comes out next week and her first adult novel (another book I recently received and am VERY much looking forward to!) comes out in June. The Safest Lies is slightly reminiscent of Room – Kelsey’s mother was kidnapped while pregnant and hasn’t stepped foot outside since. When her mother suddenly goes missing, Kelsey must face her deepest fears – and the truth. Thank you, Crown Books for Young Readers!

AbrakaPOW by Isaiah Campbell
A Middle Grade novel – based on true events – about an 11-year-old magician and the tricks she must use to recapture Nazi POWs who escaped a West Texas prison. Um, YES PLEASE. Thank you, Simon & Schuster!)

City of Strangers by Louise Millar
I love Millar and actually first talked about this one back in February when I shared 10 upcoming novels I NEEDED in my life. By now, Millar is one of those authors who I’ll read without even knowing what the book is about – but this one sounds so good anyway! Grace and Mac return from their honeymoon to discover a man dead in their apartment. They have no idea who he is or where he came from. Three months later, Grace finds a note tucked inside one of the wedding gifts that sends her on a hunt to find out what really happened in the apartment that night. Thank you, Atria!

A Deadly Affection by Cuyler Overholt
I’m a sucker for a good historical mystery and this one has my name written all over it! New York, 1907. A psychiatrist must prove her patient’s innocence or risk being charged as an accomplice in a gruesome murder. Yessss. Thank you, Sourcebooks!

Reckless in Texas by Kari Lynn Dell
Because sometimes you just need a cowboy rodeo romance. Summer’s on its way and those hazy, lazy evenings are perfect for contemporary romances! Thank you, Sourcebooks!

Roadside Assistance by Marie Harte
Summer nights are also for tattooed mechanics! Thank you, Sourcebooks!

Don’t You Cry by Mary Kubica

Don’t You Cry by Mary Kubica
Pub. Date: May 17, 2016
Source: e-ARC via netgalley (Thank you, MIRA!)
Summary: In downtown Chicago, a young woman named Esther Vaughan disappears from her apartment without a trace. A haunting letter addressed to My Dearest is found among her possessions, leaving her friend and roommate Quinn Collins to wonder where Esther is and whether or not she’s the person Quinn thought she knew.

Meanwhile, in a small Michigan harbor town an hour outside Chicago, a mysterious woman appears in the quiet coffee shop where eighteen-year-old Alex Gallo works as a dishwasher. He is immediately drawn to her charm and beauty, but what starts as an innocent crush quickly spirals into something far more dark and sinister than he ever expected.

As Quinn searches for answers about Esther, and Alex is drawn further under Pearl’s spell, master of suspense Mary Kubica takes readers on a taut and twisted thrill ride that builds to a stunning conclusion and shows that no matter how fast and far we run, the past always catches up with us in the end.
Genre: Contemporary, Thriller

Last year I devoured Pretty Baby, an edge-of-your-seat, stay-up-past-your-bedtime ride (that left me a little disappointed with the ending.) HOWEVER, the moment I heard about Don’t You Cry I knew it was a book I needed in my life and the moment I scored a copy I settled in.

Esther Vaughan walks into Quinn’s life after Quinn responds to an ad Esther placed seeking a roommate. While they aren’t bestie overnight, they get along well enough while still maintaining certain boundaries (Esther’s cupboard of spices and trendy flour is arranged a certain way and must never be touched.) When Esther doesn’t return home one night, Quinn doesn’t think too much of it…but as the days progress and it’s apparent Esther has vanished, Quinn does a little snooping and discovers her roommate isn’t exactly who she thought she was.

Just as Ether disappears, a young woman named Pearl shows up in a Michigan coffee shop, immediately catching the eye of 18-year-old Alex. Interwoven with Alex’s meeting Pearl is Ingrid, a woman who suffered a terrible panic attack one day and has since refused to leave the house (Alex does her shopping for her) and local lore about a haunted house and the little girl who is said to still haunt its walls.

While it might seem like Don’t You Cry is a slow, unassuming novel with multiple (seemingly unlinked) storylines, Mary Kubica rolls up her sleeves and shows the reader just what she can do. Immediately I was hooked and once Saint Esther (sweet Esther who sings in the church choir and volunteers whenever she’s available) fled the apartment I knew I wasn’t going anywhere until I found out what happened.

Going back and forth between Quinn and Alex, the reader doesn’t really get a feel for who the real Esther is until the very ending when Kubica pulls all the stops and the storylines meet. She is an absolute master at this and I’m purposely remaining vague – trust me, you do NOT want this one spoiled!

Although I was just as hooked on Pretty Baby, the sharp detour at the end left me wanting. With Don’t You Cry, however, I was there until the very last word. I almost – almost – want to hold off on reading Kubica’s debut, The Good Girl, just so there will still be a fresh, unread novel waiting for me. Don’t You Cry was excellent and had me guessing right up to the final pages.

when YA meets fandom and geekery.

The Only Thing Worse Than Me is You by Lily Anderson
Pub. Date: May 17, 2016
Source: e-ARC + print ARC via publisher (Thank you, St. Martin’s Griffin!)
Summary: Trixie Watson has two very important goals for senior year: to finally save enough to buy the set of Doctor Who figurines at the local comic books store, and to place third in her class and knock Ben West–and his horrendous new mustache that he spent all summer growing–down to number four.

Trixie will do anything to get her name ranked over Ben’s, including give up sleep and comic books–well, maybe not comic books–but definitely sleep. After all, the war of Watson v. West is as vicious as the Doctor v. Daleks and Browncoats v. Alliance combined, and it goes all the way back to the infamous monkey bars incident in the first grade. Over a decade later, it’s time to declare a champion once and for all.

The war is Trixie’s for the winning, until her best friend starts dating Ben’s best friend and the two are unceremoniously dumped together and told to play nice. Finding common ground is odious and tooth-pullingly-painful, but Trixie and Ben’s cautious truce slowly transforms into a fandom-based tentative friendship. When Trixie’s best friend gets expelled for cheating and Trixie cries foul play, however, they have to choose who to believe and which side they’re on–and they might not pick the same side.
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance, Fandom

Messina Academy for the Gifted (not-so-lovingly referred to as The Mess by its students) is not for the faint of heart. IQ numbers are considered sacred and highly secretive and class rankings are routinely posted for the entire school to see. For years Trixie and her arch-nemesis Ben West have been battling for the third position (the first and second spots are firmly secured and so far out of their league, thank you very much) and with her senior year drawing to a close, Trixie is more determined than ever to pull ahead of Ben once and for all.

Their rivalry that has been going strong since the infamous First Grade Monkey Bar Incident comes to a screeching halt when Trixie’s BFF and Ben’s best friend begin dating. Suddenly Trixie and Ben are forced into hanging out and tagging along on oh so awkward dates and while their fandoms might give them something to talk about, they certainly aren’t planning on becoming bosom buddies any time soon.

Things go from bad to worse when it’s discovered someone has been hacking into The Mess’s system and altering GPAs. Suddenly Harper is Prime Suspect #1 and her expulsion from the school has Trixie and Ben working hard to prove her innocence. Could they possibly put aside their differences once and for all and work together?

I’m going to come out and say it: I loved this book. A lot. A lot a lot. The fandom references (Doctor Who, Firefly, Star Wars, Supernatural, Game of Thrones, various comic books) were SO much fun and were the initial drawing point for me. Readers who aren’t into the geekier aspects, don’t worry: the shout-outs weren’t heavy-handed and were ‘mainstream’ enough that I think anyone familiar with pop culture could easily get it.

Before I go any further, I want to say something about Ben. For a good part of the story I didn’t want him to be the Love Interest! The very first line in the book mentions the mustache Ben has been growing all summer and Trixie and her friends constantly refer to it being gross, a living being, etc. Now I’m a girl who loves facial hair, but in my mind, Ben’s do became less Tom Selleck and more John Waters and THAT was an image I just couldn’t shake. Sorry, Ben! Eventually, however, I came to my senses and learned to love the guy.

There’s a lot that can be said about The Mess’s absurdly high standards and the stress it puts on these kids. After multiple people are expelled for hacking, fingers finally point to Harper. Trixie knows her friend couldn’t have possibly been the one to go and change grades – Harper’s too good, too perfect for that – and it’s Harper’s expulsion that causes a rift in Trixie and Ben’s newly developed truce. While Trixie is 100% positive Harper is innocent, Ben isn’t entirely convinced. This angle – the elite private school where your grades mean everything – was done so well. Bravo, Ms. Anderson!

The gist of this novel, though, is the romance and my goodness yes (creepy mustache and all.) One of my ultimate guilty pleasures is a romance that starts with a rivalry or hate – is that too strong of a word here? Two people who would never in a million years dream of falling in love with the other…until they do. Trixie and Ben’s romance had me grinning like a fool over how absolutely perfect it was. I ship it, guys.

Although there were definitely some somber, serious moments, over all The Only Thing Worse Than Me is You was a super fun, totally adorkable read that I plowed through in record time. Lily Anderson can write a character, guys. Trixie, Ben, their friends, and even minor characters were fantastic and every single one had a life of their own. No cardboard cutouts here! These are kids I would love to be friends with and I’m actually a little upset they’re not real. I honestly can’t say enough about this one. It was fun, sweet, and nerdy with a good dose of drama and romance and I HIGHLY recommend it! (Also, Lily, we’re now besties and you need to write another book now. No pressure or anything obvs ♥)