January Reading Wrap-Up

January –> The month of extraordinary YA!
Every book I read over the last several weeks was incredible, and I strongly recommend any and all of these young adult novels.

(As always, covers link to Goodreads pages.)

This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner – What an impressive follow-up! These Broken Stars is amazing, and I worried that This Shattered World wouldn’t live up to its awesomeness. No need to be concerned — it absolutely does! Flynn and Jubilee (strange name, but it totally fits her) are fantastic protagonists — very different, but equals when it comes to strength and smarts. I love their convoluted push-and-pull dynamic, plus there are some beautifully written steamy moments between them that help to offset their sparring and the overall swampy, violent tone of the story. I also love how intricately plot elements from the first novel in this series are woven into World. Hints of conspiracy and ruthless twists make this book unputdownable. (Plus, there are a few Tarver/Lilac cameos that made me oh-so-happy!)


The Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson – This novel is quiet and meandering and virtually plotless, and it’s incredible. It’s a cold, melancholy, atmospheric book, and Jodi Lynn Anderson’s third-person prose is beautiful. Teenager Katy related so completely to MC Maggie (careful, thoughtful, timid), and I so wanted her to get her happily ever after — or at least avoid having her heart crushed. The Vanishing Season centers around a trio of friends with a tangled dynamic. It’s set against a wintery backdrop and incorporates a string of small-town murders, plus a lonesome ghost. This novel isn’t a murder mystery, though, and it isn’t a ghost story, either. It’s a character study, and an examination of a thorny, boundary-crossing friendship. It left me heavy-hearted, but glad for the experience.


Blackout by Meredith McCardle – I love Blackout even more than its predecessor, The Eight Guardian. It’s packed with tension and twists and holy crap! moments, and it’s nearly impossible to step away from. Amanda (codename: Iris) continues to travel through time, unraveling mysteries and fighting corruption like the badass she is, but in Blackout we get to see a more vulnerable side of her personality. A big part of her slowly-revealed softer side stems from her boyfriend Abe (codename: Blue). He plays a bigger role in this second installment, and he is adorable — a perfect balance to Amanda’s toughness. This is a thrilling story: fast-paced, high-stakes, and full of awesome descriptions of past events. Its characters are riveting, especially because you’re never quite sure who you (and Amanda) should trust. And the conclusion… Let’s just say you’ll be anxiously awaiting Annum Guard #3.


All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven – This book made my heart hurt, and it made my heart sing. It’s been likened to The Fault in Our Stars and Eleanor and Park, comparisons that normally make me roll my eyes because… come on. But honestly, in this case the correlations make sense, and I ended up loving All the Bright Places even more than its comparables. Finch and Violet are complex, fully-realized, and engaging. Both struggle with depression and guilt, and both are varying degrees of broken, which makes them relatable and sympathetic. Their romance is absolutely swoonworthy, but dreadfully messy. All the Bright Places‘s supporting characters are also compelling; I especially enjoy how present and authentic Violet’s parents are. This story is told through dual perspectives, and the narrators’ voices are distinct and honest. The tone of the story is intoxicatingly fresh, yet genuinely YA. In my opinion, it’s the perfect sort of contemporary: layered and rich and real, with a message that at no point feels like A Message. Highly recommend!


Love & Other Theories by Alexis Bass – This book reminds me a little bit of 17 First Kisses, a little bit of Before I Fall, and a little bit of the movie Mean Girls. And… I love it. I’ve read a few not-so-favorable reviews of this novel, reviews that knock MC Aubrey and her friends for being mean and shallow and (gasp) slutty. Just… ugh. (Have I mentioned that the “unlikeable teen girl” is one of my most loathed literary gripes?) Admittedly, Aubrey and her BFFs are not perfect. They make some choices that are dangerous and selfish and worrisome and immature, but who hasn’t? These girls have reasons for behaving as they do, and it’s their unapologetic realness (the good, the bad, and the ugly) that makes me a big fan of this debut. Along with characters who leap of the page, Love & Other Theories brims with earnest romance and unavoidable loss and enviably authentic voice, plus an examination of that pivotal time in high school when you start to become the person you’re meant to be — when you feel powerless and confused and you’re grappling with identity and life’s just hard. Alexis Bass captures it perfectly. (Also, Trip. I adore Trip!)


Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy – Oh, hey, another “unlikable” teen protagonist… Y’all, MC Alice has cancer. She’s in constant pain and her hair’s falling out and she’s suffering through chemo that doesn’t seem to be working. Plus, she’s involved in some ugly drama at school, and things with her parents appear to be falling apart. Of course she’s angry and selfish and, sometimes, really mean. Of course she’s bitter! But, I find her incredibly relatable, too. Under Alice’s hard exterior, there’s fear and sweetness (the rescued pup!) and a sense of vulnerability that made my heart ache. And then there’s Harvey, Alice’s longtime friend, who’s a freaking doll. I’m so glad he was a co-narrator because he helped soften some of Alice’s prickliness, as well shed light onto her more lovable traits. While I enjoyed every page of this novel, my absolute favorite part is its conclusion, which feels realistic, yet very hopeful. Such a strong debut.


Fall For Anything by Courtney Summers – I’ve now read all of Courtney Summers’s published books, and I am officially declaring Fall For Anything my favorite among her extraordinary body of work. This book… It shredded me. It surprised me in ways I didn’t know I wanted to be surprised — like, I thought I knew what to expect out of the plot and I would have been perfectly satisfied (happy, even) if it had played out the way I’d anticipated, but then the story took this phenomenal turn, leaving me staggered and gratified and very, very impressed. Eddie is a remarkable character. Her narration is almost stream-of-conscious, and brutally frank. The way her relationships with BFF Milo and mysterious new boy Culler play out is fascinating, but equally compelling are her interactions with her mother and her mother’s irksome friend, Beth. The way Eddie reacts to her father’s suicide is stark and utterly heartbreaking, but it never makes her feel distant or unsympathetic. Fall For Anything is definitely one to read if you’re a fan of sharp, affecting contemporaries.

What’s the best book you read in January? 

What’s Up Wednesday

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“What’s Up Wednesday” is a fun weekly meme started by my friends Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk. From Jaime: It’s similar in some respects to the Currently… post, but it’s been whittled down to only four headings to make it quicker and more manageable on a weekly basis. You’re invited to join us if you’re looking for something to blog about, a way to let your blog friends know what’s been going on with you. If you’re participating, make sure to link your What’s Up Wednesday posts to the list on Jaime’s blog each week. That way, others can visit your post and check out what you’ve been up to. And now, here’s what’s up with me this week…

What I’m Reading: I finished Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy and adored it. I thought the ending, in particular, was perfection. And Harvey! <3 I also read Love and Other Theories by Alexis Bass and loved it so much. Awesome voice, awesome characterizations, total Katy Book — pretty much the highest praise I can give. More on both of these duebuts coming Friday in my monthly reading wrap-up post. Now, I’ve started Fall For Anything by Courtney Summers, which is predictably amazing so far. It’s the only one of her novels I’ve yet to read, though I’ve owned it for years. Her writing is incredible.

  

What I’m Writing: I accomplished last week’s goal of replotting the last third of my NaNo project, Stars Like Dust. What a relief! I’ve got most of the big picture stuff figured out now, and I feel comfortable diving back into the actual drafting. I’m guessing I have about 15K left to write and I’m hoping to get about half of that done in the next week because on February 6th, I’m leaving for a weekend writing retreat where I’ll *hopefully* finish this first draft.

What Else I’ve Been Up To: My husband’s been traveling a lot for work, so I’ve been spending bunches quality time with my girl.

 
Didn’t she do a most excellent job on this cute little sewing project?!


Saturday night’s sunset. I’d much rather look at this than snow!

What Works For Me: Celebrating my friends’ successes! Two of my favorite writing buddies have signed with literary agents in the last few months: Liz Parker and Tracey Neithercott. It just so happens I’ve read both of the stories that helped them snag their new agents, and they are aMaZiNg. You should totally go congratulate them! Additionally, my former agent-mate and overall wonderful person Kris Asselin recently shared the cover of her debut, Any Way You Slice It. Check it out HERE!  

Tell me… What’s up with you today? 

What’s Up Wednesday

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“What’s Up Wednesday” is a fun weekly meme started by my friends Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk. From Jaime: It’s similar in some respects to the Currently… post, but it’s been whittled down to only four headings to make it quicker and more manageable on a weekly basis. You’re invited to join us if you’re looking for something to blog about, a way to let your blog friends know what’s been going on with you. If you’re participating, make sure to link your What’s Up Wednesday posts to the list on Jaime’s blog each week. That way, others can visit your post and check out what you’ve been up to. And now, here’s what’s up with me this week…

What I’m Reading: I finished All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven and oh, my gosh… It was incredible. Like, so, so good. I already suspect it’ll be among my most-loved 2015 releases. Now, I’m reading Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy, which is fantastic so far. Incidentally, if you’re not listening to Sarah Enni’s First Draft podcast, you should be. Last week she interviewed Julie, who was endlessly delightful. It was their transparent and engaging conversation that made me want to rescue Side Effects from my towering TBR pile.

What I’m Writing: I got feedback on my road trip book, The Road So Farfrom my agent. I’m pleased to report that she loved it — phew! Of course, this book’s a follow-up, so its predecessor has to sell first, but it’s such a relief to know that she understands what the story is meant to be and is on-board.

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been dragging my feet on finishing my NaNo book, Stars Like Dust, and I’m starting to realize that the reason for my procrastination is… I screwed something up along the way –> the pacing of what will eventually be the final third. I was discussing the problem with my husband the other day and he said (plainly, like the solution was obvious), “Why don’t you just have [important event] come before [other important event]. And I was like… “Huh.” Negative: The fix is going to be a pain in the butt. Positive: The fix is going to make the story much stronger. Goal: Adjust what’s already written, then replot the end of Stars Like Dust so I can tackle it during February’s writing retreat.

What Else I’ve Been Up To: We’ve been playing tourist in our own area, which is always fun. We move A LOT and in order to make the best of it, we make a point to see as much of each new “home” as possible…


We visited Destin’s Gulfarium, an aquarium that’s literally on the beach. My girl and I have been once before, but we wanted my husband to see how awesome it is, too. If you’re ever on the Emerald Coast, check it out!


We also visited Fort Barrancas, a centuries-old military fort and National Historic Landmark overlooking the Pensacola Bay. It’s very cool (especially if you’re into military history, like my husband) and the views are gorgeous.


This girl started her basketball season. It’s been so fun to watch her improve with every game. My sweet, gentle child is becoming so aggressive!

What Works For Me: What works for me? THIS…

Tell me… What’s up with you today? 

Must-Watch Movies

Recently, I was chatting with my dad and my husband about movies that, when we catch them on TV, we have to sit down and watch through the end. They’re not necessarily our favorite movies and most of them are neither poignant nor profound, but they lend a sense of nostalgia and boost our moods. They’re movies that are just too good to pass up.

We agreed on…

Wedding Crashers
Step Brothers
Road Trip

And my personal must-watch films…

The Princess Bride
The Goonies
Tangled
Moulin Rouge!
Dirty Dancing
Walk the Line
The Notebook
Mean Girls
Pitch Perfect
The Man in the Moon
10 Things I Hate About You

What are your must-watch movies?

What’s Up Wednesday

“What’s Up Wednesday” is a fun weekly meme started by my friends Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk. From Jaime: It’s similar in some respects to the Currently… post, but it’s been whittled down to only four headings to make it quicker and more manageable on a weekly basis. You’re invited to join us if you’re looking for something to blog about, a way to let your blog friends know what’s been going on with you. If you’re participating, make sure to link your What’s Up Wednesday posts to the list on Jaime’s blog each week. That way, others can visit your post and check out what you’ve been up to. And now, here’s what’s up with me this week…

What I’m Reading: I finished This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner. It’s incredible. I’m in awe of the brilliant plotting, plus the complex characters the authors created. And, there are some wonderfully steamy moments which, of course, I loved. I also read The Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson, which is poignant and evocative and cold and lonely, just as beautiful as her Tiger Lily. She’s quickly becoming a favorite author of mine. Now I’m reading All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven and even though I’ve only just started, I’m loving Finch and Violet and their authentic voices.

  

What I’m Writing: Continuing to read through my NaNo manuscript, (which still doesn’t have a conclusion). I’ve left myself tons of notes about things I need to research/revise, and I’ve cleaned up a lot of its messiness. I’ve also got a plan for The End, which (GOAL) I’m going to carefully plot in the coming week. I’m going on a most amazing writing retreat in February (yay, yay, yay!), during which I hope to do the actual writing.

What Else I’ve Been Up To: Playing around with Tumblr. I just signed up and though I have no idea what I’m doing, I’ve enjoyed posting (reblogging?) pictures of books and Disney characters and Taylor Kitsch and inspirational images, plus quotes on writing and success. Do you Tumbl? Is that even a word? I’m HERE if you’re interested in linking up!


Spreading the word about Cavalcade of Authors West, a literary conference for Western Washington middle school students. My longtime friend Kari Bradley is one of the organizers and their list of participating authors is aMaZiNg — Kimberly Derting, Peggy Eddleman, Kristin Halbrook, Mindy McGinnis, Richelle Mead, Marissa Meyer, Alyson Noel, Lisa Schroeder, Liesl Shurtliff, and Staia Ward Kehoe, to name a few. You can learn more about COA West on the post I shared last week, or you can visit the official site. If you’re able, I highly encourage you to donate to this fantastic literary event.


And, since one of my 2015 goals was to fix more treats, I present… A plate of super rich, super delicious Rocky Road Fudge. (You’re welcome.)

What Works For Me: Vlogagrams! Author Megan Whitmer had the brilliant idea to initiate a weekly vlogagram challenge on Instagram, and it’s been so much fun! I find vlogging daunting, normally, because I’m shy and I hate the pressure of coming up with a topic and having to speak in an entertaining manner for minutes upon minutes. Vlogagrams are short (fifteen seconds) and Megan is hooking participants up with weekly themes, which makes the process much less intimidating. I’ve loved “meeting” fellow writers and building on the sense of community I’ve already found via IG. If you’re interested, check out the vlogagram hashtag. The videos I’ve done so far are HERE

Tell me… What’s up with you today? 

Cavalcade of Authors West

I’m so excited to help my longtime friend, middle school teacher Kari Bradley, spread the word about a fantastic literary event: Cavalcade of Authors West.

COA West’s Mission: The Cavalcade of Authors West (COA West) is dedicated to providing the secondary students of our region access to some of the best Young Adult authors of our era. Our special interest is to celebrate Pacific Northwest Authors while introducing students to a variety of genres and subject matter and to furthermore, promote reading and writing within our community. We provide for our participants an authentic writing conference experience where students can learn from the ultimate mentors: the authors of the books they are reading.  We work in conjunction with the sister organization located in the Tri-Cities area of Washington called Cavalcade of Authors.

The basics: Who? Secondary students in Pierce County and their teachers and librarians. What? A literary/writing conference. The program is comprised of two components: 1) students reading novels by 15 featured authors and 2) a writer’s conference led by these featured authors. When? Saturday, May 2nd, 2015 Where? Pacific Lutheran University (PLU) in Tacoma, Washington

This year’s author line-up: Royce Buckingham, Kimberly Derting, Peggy Eddleman, Kevin Emerson, Kristin Halbrook, Kazu Kibuishi, Lish McBride, Mindy McGinnis, Richelle Mead, Marissa Meyer, Alyson Noel, Lisa Schroeder, Liesl Shurtliff, Terry Trueman, Leslye Walton, Staia Ward Kehoe, Jim Whiting

How you can help: While PLU is generously donating the facility and many of the authors are donating part or all of their appearance, there are still significant costs associated with running this conference for 450 students and their teachers. Please considering lending financial support to this fantastic event by visiting the Indie GoGo site below.

Cavalcade of Authors West

Visit COA West’s Website, Twitter, Instagram

What’s Up Wednesday

“What’s Up Wednesday” is a fun weekly meme started by my friends Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk. From Jaime: It’s similar in some respects to the Currently… post, but it’s been whittled down to only four headings to make it quicker and more manageable on a weekly basis. You’re invited to join us if you’re looking for something to blog about, a way to let your blog friends know what’s been going on with you. If you’re participating, make sure to link your What’s Up Wednesday posts to the list on Jaime’s blog each week. That way, others can visit your post and check out what you’ve been up to. Here’s what’s up with me this week…

What I’m Reading: This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner which, so far, is just as fabulous as their co-written debut, These Broken Stars. I haven’t had tons of time to read lately, but each and every one of my spare moments are being spent with Flynn and Jubilee.

 

What I’m Writing: I’m slowly cleaning up my NaNo project and prepping to write its climax and conclusion, which I *think* I’ve finally figured it out. Additionally, I spent a few days reading and offering feedback on Riley Edgewood‘s super hot, super amazing upcoming contemporary NA. I wish I could give you hints as to all of this story’s awesomeness, but let’s just say, it’s very much a Katy Book, and I loved it.

What Else I’ve Been Up To: Trying to get back into a routine now that my husband’s back to work and my daughter’s back to school. Plus…


I participated in the YA Buccaneers‘s #12DaysOfBooks photo challenge and made some new Instagram buddies along the way. Above are two of my favorite photo prompts (with assistance from Daphne): “Bookcase” and “Spine Poetry” (mine reads: if i stay / through the ever night / what’s left of me / cracked up to be / something like normal / forever…). Thanks for hosting, Buccaneers!


My husband, daughter, and I spent a day exploring downtown Pensacola. We walked a ton, hit up a history museum, ate amazing burgers (and drank a spiked Almond Joy milkshake), and watched a professional hockey game.

  
I’ve been playing with minimalism and candy-colored photos on Instagram, which is all sorts of fun. I first learned about the look on the IG feed of blogger extraordinaire Fat Mum Slim (Chantelle), who talks about #CandyMinimal HERE. She was inspired by photographer Matt Crump, whose IG feed is gorgeous. He gives a fantastic candy-colored editing tutorial HERE.

What Works For Me: Writing has been sporadic over the last few weeks, but my girl’s back to school and my husband’s leave is over and I’m trying to buckle down. That means butt in chair and accounta-buddies, plus the knowledge that if my MS-on-sub doesn’t sell, I’ll be far less depressed if I have something shiny and new to present to my agent (don’t ask how I know this). My WiP, which is tragically ending-less, inspires me too. After all the work and heart I’ve put into it, it deserves a conclusion!

Tell me… What’s up with you today?