Stay by Allie Larkin. Savannah ("Van") has been in love with her friend Peter for six years. He even asked her to marry him… if they weren't married by the time they were thirty. But well before that deadline, Van finds herself as a bridesmaid while her college best friend marries her childhood best friend. The relationships with each change drastically, and Van tries to find her footing. This means she's drinking more, which leads to accidentally ordering a German Shepherd puppy online. When the puppy is more than she bargains for, Van has to adjust to her completely new life. This book is an entertaining read that will make you feel warm and fuzzy inside, and you won't want to put down until you're all done.
Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers. A dark, depressing book about the underbelly of high school popularity. Regina is the right hand man of Anna, the most popular girl in her high school, until everything gets out of hand at a party. Anna's boyfriend comes on to Regina, almost raping her, but the story is twisted so it sounds like Regina came onto him. Anna exiles her from the popular crowd and makes her life miserable. I had a hard time believing Regina, who used to be so passive and needed Anna's approval for everything, was the type who would stand up to her and be vicious enough to get back at her, regardless of what was at stake. It's a well-written book, and very interested to read because the main character isn't likable, but you still find yourself rooting for her.
The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee by Sarah Silverman. I've been reading a lot of funny memoirs lately, but Silverman takes the cake. It seems wrong to describe her humor as "subtle" since she's so over the top, but that's exactly what I'd say about this book. Instead of showcasing the joke in each paragraph, Silverman tucks one into each sentence so you read over it and are laughing before you realize what the joke was. When you read over the sentence, you're cracking up for a good five minutes before you can continue on. It's a straight-forward memoir, starting, appropriately, with her childhood problem of wetting the bed and continuing on to her teenage problem of wetting the bed. We're right along with her as she breaks into comedy, still occasionally wetting the bed.
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. I picked up this book because every YA reader and blogger I knew had reviewed it, and raved about it. I trust their opinions, so I knew I had to read it for myself. I wasn't disappointed! It's everything you could want in a YA novel - adventure, romance, heartbreak (ok, I guess you might not WANT heartbreak, but it's necessary!). Anna Oliphant is going to Paris! Sounds like fun, right? Except she's being sent away by her parents, she'll miss the senior year at her high school in Atlanta, and she'll have to attend a boarding school with other Americans. On top of all that, she's leaving behind her little brother she adores, her best friend, and the boy she was maybe-kinda starting something with. Understandably, Anna isn't too happy when she first arrives in Paris. Thankfully classmates take her under their wings and she grows to love the city. She even finds another boy to maybe-kinda start something with! Except there's one hitch… he has a girlfriend.
And I Don't Want to Live This Life by Deborah Spungen. The story of Nancy Spungen (of Sid and Nancy infamy) told by someone who knew her best - her mother. I read this book over and over when I was in high school; I guess the mystery of the rock and roll life and death appealed to me more back then. It was a little more difficult to get through this time. Spungen's writing is very verbose, and at times it's too melodramatic. Sometimes I identified with her or had empathy for her, but sometimes she came off as whiny. She starts with the difficult time she had giving birth to Nancy, then all the behavioral problems that followed. Nancy's death is, of course, still a mystery, but Spungen provides insight into Sid Vicious in the form of letters he wrote her while he was in jail. The book is very dark, which is appropriate, considering the subject matter. Still, there is an upbeat ending because Spungen became very involved in various victims' rights and Families of Murdered Children groups.
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. Read this book. Seriously, you must read it. I don't want to give this book the short end of the stick when it comes to writing a review, but I don't actually think there's much that can be said about it. Or, more accurately, there's so much that can be said about it, once you encounter someone else who has read it. I think it's best to open the cover knowing as little as possible about the subject matter. Let yourself go in with no expectations and be overcome with the characters and the story. One of those books where you read it as quickly as you can, savoring the prose while needing to know what happens, though you don't actually want to reach the end.
Gasping for Airtime by Jay Mohr. Jay Mohr is so personable on his podcast "Mohr Stories" that I couldn't wait to read the book about his years on Saturday Night Live. It was written eight years ago, so all I can hope is that Mohr was still bitter when he wrote the book, or needed money, or something. It reads like it's supposed to be one of those gossip-y books giving the dirt on a beloved institution, but it fell flat even in that regard. Mohr disses all his fellow cast members and writers in the first half of the book, but later waves that away and says he loved them all. He never disses Lorne Michaels, however, and kind of kisses his butt a bit. It's not surprising to see him bend over backwards for the one with the most power, but it was so over-the-top that it didn't seem like Mohr at all. The book was a little imbalanced - 5 pages were dedicated to a wrestling match with Chris Farley, but other major experiences were glossed over. I was expecting him to be brutally honest - on his podcast, he admits that he used to be an asshole, and 'fesses up to his substance abuse. In the book, it's all played down. Mohr gets frustrated when his sketches are never chosen for the show, or he's never cast in any, which I understand - why hire someone you don't plan to use? Yet he starts begging out of sketches that don't give him any lines, then complains that no one ever saw him on TV. Overall, it came off as bitter and whiny. Stick to the podcast.
Kinsey and Me by Sue Grafton. This book is half short stories starring Kinsey Millhone and half autobiographical stories starring Kit Blue. Though most of the Millhone stories have been previously published, I had never read any, and really enjoyed seeing the private eye in such concise adventures, especially as I feel that Grafton's last few books have been much longer than they need to be. The Kit Blue stories didn't win me over as easily. The first few sounded awkward and forced, which isn't a surprise since Grafton wrote the deeply personal stories soon after her mother died. The last few stories of the book, however, were wonderfully written and really tugged at the heartstrings.
Wild by Cheryl Strayed. As much as I love to dream that I could hike the Appalachian Trail, I think I'll have to settle for reading about such adventures. Cheryl Strayed hiked the AT's cousin, the mountainous Pacific Crest Trail that stretches from the California/Mexico border to the Washington/Canada border. Strayed grew up in a home without electricity or indoor plumbing and camped often, but hiking over 1,100 miles was still something she wasn't physically prepared for. She wasn't emotionally prepared, either, still grieving over her mother's death, as well as her recent divorce. She takes to the trail as a type of therapy, and by the end of the book, I felt like I had trekked along with her, learning lessons and experiencing life as one does alone in nature.
Saving Zoe by Alyson Noel. Echo was about to turn fourteen when her older sister, Zoe, disappeared. It takes six months before they figure out what really happened to Zoe; during that time, everyone had suspected Zoe's boyfriend, Marc. On Echo's fifteenth birthday, Marc gives her Zoe's diary. Echo grows closer to her sister and realizes she wants that kind of life. Once she's living it, however, she feels fragmented, and starts learning things about the darker side of life - and also finding a way she can save her sister's legacy.
Teaching Montessori in the Home by Elizabeth G. Hainstock. I wanted to learn a bit of background about montessori teaching, and stumbled across this book at the library. Published in 1968, some of it is a bit outdated - "For practical-life training the Bissel Little Queen set is ideal - it contains an apron, carpet sweeper, mop, broom, sponge and dustpan. It may be found at any toy shop or obtained with trading stamps." But overall it has a brief yet thorough history of Maria Montessori, an outline of how and why montessori is taught, and tons of great learning activities. The best part is that all of the activity supplies can be made if you have the time - especially effective if you don't have any trading stamps laying around.
These Girls by Sarah Pekkanen. This is one of those books that you pick up because it looks like a quick, entertaining read. And it is. I started it and could hardly put it down. But it's deeper than that - exploring relationships and friendships and family so thoroughly, yet it doesn't resonate with you until you finish the story. I keep writing sentences summarizing what happens with New York City roommates Cate, Renee, and Abby, but none of it is good enough. It's better to jump in to the story and get hooked.
Social Media Just for Writers by Frances Caballo. Reviewed here with a giveaway!
The Opposite of Me by Sarah Pekkanen. Lindsey and Alex are fraternal twins and complete opposites. One is the "smart" twin, and one is the "pretty" twin. Though Lindsey is on the road to major success at an ad agency in New York City, she's always been jealous of Alex, who things seem to come easy to because she's beautiful. When Lindsey's job spirals out of control, she moves back home to Bethesda, Maryland. There she learns a lot about family, her sister, and who Lindsey really is. Another great read by Pekkanen that will suck you right in.