Posts tagged ‘arc’

August 10th, 2013

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick; Review

by Madeleine Rex

Title: Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock

Author: Matthew Quick

Published: August 13, 2013

Number of Pages: 273

Rating: 3/5


In addition to the P-38, there are four gifts, one for each of my friends. I want to say good-bye to them properly. I want to give them each something to remember me by. To let them know I really cared about them and I’m sorry I couldn’t be more than I was—that I couldn’t stick around—and that what’s going to happen today isn’t their fault.

Today is Leonard Peacock’s birthday. It is also the day he hides a gun in his backpack. Because today is the day he will kill his former best friend, and then himself, with his grandfather’s P-38 pistol.

But first he must say good-bye to the four people who matter most to him: his Humphrey Bogart-obsessed next-door neighbor, Walt; his classmate Baback, a violin virtuoso; Lauren, the Christian homeschooler he has a crush on; and Herr Silverman, who teaches the high school’s class on the Holocaust. Speaking to each in turn, Leonard slowly reveals his secrets as the hours tick by and the moment of truth approaches.

In this riveting book, acclaimed author Matthew Quick unflinchingly examines the impossible choices that must be made—and the light in us all that never goes out. [From Goodreads]

Official Review Sent to Little Brown:

Matthew Quick’s third Young Adult novel, Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock, is tough to swallow, but it deals with difficult topics that need addressing. Quick heard Leonard’s voice asking to have its story told and has done so with magnificent skill, creating a book full of confusion and chaos and neglect, but never hopelessness. If there’s any one moral to Leonard’s story, it’s that the world is a dark place, but good people can be beacons of light, and in the end, light penetrates the darkness.


I finished this book approximately three minutes ago.

It’s still moving through me, circulating in my veins, soaking into my mind, making it fuzzy and stuck half-way in reality, half-out.

I have other things that need doing right now, but I feel the need to review this book while it’s still coursing through me.

I’m not sure how I feel about Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock. It’s not my favorite of Matthew Quick’s books, it’s not the most enjoyable – in fact, it often made me uncomfortable – but the things is: That’s the point. This book isn’t a generally happy book. It deals with uncomfortable topics. Tough things. Abuse, neglect, depression. These are things we don’t like to spend too much time thinking about, but Leonard Peacock reminded me of what I already knew was true but had forgotten: there are people who don’t get to choose whether or not they have to think about these things, and it’s crucial that we don’t forget those people. That we don’t turn a blind eye to what makes us uncomfortable simply because it’s hard.

Leonard’s mother, Linda, was the beautiful yet tragic personification of the phrase “turning a blind eye.” Her inability to focus on Leonard, her eagerness to see what she wanted to see, or what was easiest to process, wasn’t just absurd. It was sad. I’m still saddened by the idea that she will never appreciate her boy for what he has withstood. As Leonard says at one point, she’s missing out.

So, like I said, this book is hard. There’s a profuse amount of f-words and gruesome images, but, however much I disliked them, I came to realize that they are a part of who Leonard Peacock is, for now, and that because I came to love him, I could deal with them.

I have no doubt that some people will be turned off quite quickly by Leonard’s depression and “angst,” but there’s a reason for his angst. It’s not like his prom date stood him up, or he didn’t get a car for his eighteenth birthday. Leonard is lost, and Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock is the story of his realizing that being lost is not the end of the world, that finding his place in the world may take time but that it – his place – is out there somewhere, and he’s the only one who can fill it.

That hope, that optimism, is the light in a dark book. Matthew Quick, who I’ve respected and admired since his first YA book, Sorta Like a Rockstar (here’s the review and an interview he graciously participated in later), has written yet another magnificent, one-of-a-kind book. I think that’s what I love most about his books. There is nothing quite like them. They aren’t even particularly like each other. And that’s how you know that his characters are telling their stories, as opposed to him spinning tales of his own. Matthew has managed, yet again, to hear the voice of a character with a story that needed telling and to take it upon himself to tell it.

So, whether or not the book made me uncomfortable at times, whether or not I ever read it again (I’m not sure I could handle it), I appreciate it for its honesty, its bluntness, and its message. As Gandalf would say, “Not all those who wander are lost,” and I think that’s what Leonard is trying to figure out.

Ultimately, I came to love Leonard. At first, I pitied him. Now, I still feel sorry for him because of what he’s been forced to deal with, but I admire him. As his few, true friends know, he has a light in him that shines into the dark world. He has the potential, and, even more importantly, the desire (whether he admits it to himself or not) to make people happy, and what’s pitiful about that? Nothing.

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock is a chaotic book. It throws your emotions right and left and swings them back and forth, but it teaches without being preachy. It’s full of dark things, but lovely things are sprinkled in between, like Humphrey Bogart films and Hamlet and banana chocolate-chip pancakes. It’s bittersweet, but so is life, and I think that’s the point.

So, thank you Little Brown, for the galley, and thank you Matthew Quick, for listening to the voices in your head that need to have their stories told, and for telling them.

December 19th, 2012

Shadowlands by Kate Brian; Review

by Madeleine Rex

Title: Shadowlands

Author: Kate Brian

Published: January 2013

Number of Pages: 336

Rating: 4/5


Rory Miller had one chance to fight back and she took it. Rory survived… and the serial killer who attacked her escaped. Now that the infamous Steven Nell is on the loose, Rory must enter the witness protection with her father and sister, Darcy, leaving their friends and family without so much as a goodbye.

Starting over in a new town with only each other is unimaginable for Rory and Darcy. They were inseparable as children, but now they can barely stand each other. As the sisters settle in to Juniper Landing, a picturesque vacation island, it seems like their new home may be just the fresh start they need. They fall in with a group of beautiful, carefree teens and spend their days surfing, partying on the beach, and hiking into endless sunsets. But just as they’re starting to feel safe again, one of their new friends goes missing. Is it a coincidence? Or is the nightmare beginning all over again? [From Goodreads]

Official Review:

Shadowlands starts with a bang, turns things around and lulls you into a comfortable sense of security, and then takes great pleasure in laughing in your face when the climax hits, leaving you breathless and astonished by the frightening action and incredible twists. Kate Brian has woven a story using the best of thrilling materials – suspense, confusion, attractive young men. I found surprise around every corner, the last most of all. Needless to say, I’ll be doing all I can to get my hands on the sequel.


Wow. Just wow. I love it when I’m utterly surprised by a book. Shadowlands‘ synopsis did not strike me as altogether groundbreaking, but Brian skillfully turns what could have been an average book into something that leaves a reader totally breathless.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s freaky right from the start. Delightfully so. However, what doesn’t become apparent straightaway is how eerie and mysterious this book is. As I said in my official review, I was really fooled into a false sense of security, only to find that what I had believed all along was untrue. The scariness with which the book begins is an obvious sort – the main character, Rory, has been attacked, and the man who attacked her is still after her. There’s enough suspense to keep the story moving. However, Brian takes the suspense and thrill even further.

Speaking of Rory, she’s awesomely nerdy and easy to relate to. I found her a refreshingly reasonable character. Certainly, she seems a bit paranoid, but wouldn’t we all be? Her fear is well-founded and entirely justified. What is unreasonable is the seeming lightheartedness with which some of the people around her face the situation she’s in. Her family has been deteriorating for years, and Rory knows that the stress and anxiety left by recent events could leave them ruined or bring them closer together. Shadowlands, though an awesome thriller, is also a fantastic story of what family is and how resilient people can be.

Rory’s relationship with her sister is also one with which many people can relate, I believe. I don’t have a sister myself, but as a teenage girl in general, I can sense the brutal honesty of their relationship. I see it between my friends’ and their sisters all the time. Though Rory and Darcy’s relationship is not easy in any sense, it is inspiring.

I can hear you all wondering, “What about this attractive young men she mentioned?” Notice I said attractive men. Yes, that’s plural. One fascinating thing about the attractive boys in this novel is that, though mutually good-looking, their personalities and relationships with Rory are quite different. There’s the boy she’s liked for a long time, with whom she has a history. There’s the macho, ridiculously handsome boy. There’s the cute best friend. There’s the strikingly good-looking but altogether confusing boy who clearly has a secret. Let’s see… that’s four? Need I give you another reason to read Shadowlands?

Cute boys aside, what I appreciated most about Shadowlands was its refusal to be what I expected it to be. It’s the sort of book that ends in such a mind-blowing way that you can’t help but run over every event in your head, examining things in a new light. The end is also a maddeningly great cliff-hanger and left me full of eagerness to read the next book.

In short, read Shadowlands, and prepare for shock.

December 12th, 2012

Stealing Parker by Miranda Kenneally; Review

by Madeleine Rex

Title: Stealing Parker

Author: Miranda Kenneally

Published: October 1st, 2012

Number of Pages: 256

Rating: 4/5


Red-hot author Miranda Kenneally hits one out of the park in this return to Catching Jordan’s Hundred Oaks High.

Parker Shelton pretty much has the perfect life. She’s on her way to becoming valedictorian at Hundred Oaks High, she’s made the all-star softball team, and she has plenty of friends. Then her mother’s scandal rocks their small town and suddenly no one will talk to her.

Now Parker wants a new life.

So she quits softball. Drops twenty pounds. And she figures why kiss one guy when she can kiss three? Or four. Why limit herself to high school boys when the majorly cute new baseball coach seems especially flirty?

But how far is too far before she loses herself completely? [From Goodreads]

Official Review Sent to Publishers*:

Miranda Kenneally’s Catching Jordan won me over with its charm and humor. Her companion novel, Stealing Parker, though just as charming and funny, takes its characters a step further, placing them in difficult positions, teaching them that though you struggle, you are not a failure, though you’re in that awkward what-on-earth-am-I-going-to-do-with-my-life stage, things will turn out fine. It’s a story that deals with issues that teens have faced for centuries, as well as issues that are unique to teenagers today. It is a story that is inspiring without losing that charisma and fun that makes Catching Jordan a great book. At the risk of being cliché, I must say that Stealing Parker hits the ball out of the park.


As you must know, I’m a huge fan of Miranda Kenneally’s. She’s an awesome writer, beta-reader, and friend. Her awesomeness is made manifest once again in her second novel, Stealing Parker. However, those who have read her first novel, Catching Jordan (Review), and are expecting something nearly identical are in for a surprise.

Certainly, there are loads of similarities between the two books. Both take place around the same time period, in the same place, and with many of the same people. Stealing Parker’s primary difference is its main character. Parker, like Jordan, is a sporty, troubled teenage girl in need of a little guidance. But just as Parker’s sport is different than Jordan’s, Parker’s trouble is of a different vein.

Parker struggles with many social issues that are particularly relevant to today’s teenagers (I would know – I spend all day with them): low self-esteem, sexuality (not her’s, but that of those people close to her), need of a belief system. It is clear from the start that Parker is looking for something and someone to believe in. Her life appears to have taken a turn for the worst, and she needs someone to guide her through the chaos. Parker’s challenge is to find someone who will guide her through it, not distract her temporarily.

Miranda is great at twisting love stories. Parker’s is quite an adventure. I definitely spent a lot of my time worried that her confusion would lead her astray, but there’s an array of supporting characters whose friendliness and genuine love gave me hope. Though it’s a funny story and its tone is lighthearted, I saw within Stealing Parker a more serious story of girl trying to figure out who is really on her side, who has her best interest at heart, who loves her. And it’s within that more serious story that I find Parker’s troubles to be a lot like mine – like any teenager’s. Just as she did with Catching Jordan, Miranda captures the essence of the Great and Terrible Teenage Confusion (my new term).

Like I mentioned above, and inevitably after the brilliance of Catching Jordan, Stealing Parker is clever and funny. Parker and her group of friends (some of whom were part of Jordan’s group, too, like Sam Henry) can’t seem to help themselves – they’re hilarious. By nature. It’s a gift of the characters’ personalities that the reader can freely benefit from.

Because this book deals with issues that the average eleven year old doesn’t deal with, I wouldn’t recommend it for the average eleven year old. In other words, this is definitely a book for a young adult audience. I think it would be great for book clubs (and intend to have mine read it) for a variety of reasons. One, it’s funny and full of quotes people will want to share. Two, you learn about baseball (I’ve always felt my ignorance was somewhat unpatriotic). Three, Parker’s problems are our problems. My friends deal with similar issues every day. I found Parker’s experiences were not only entertaining, but instructive. I can learn from her mistakes as well as her victories.

Overall, Stealing Parker is a book that will make you laugh and make you think. It’s complex. It’s life.

*Thank you so much, Sourcebooks, for the ARC!