July/August Reading Wrap-Up

I wanted to read more this summer, but time got away from me.
Still, six novels in two months… Not terrible, right? 

32470593Coming Up For Air by Miranda Kenneally
1. Swim life. I was on my high school’s swim team so I’m easily annoyed by inaccuracies in what it’s like to be a competitive swimmer. Miranda Kenneally gets it right; it’s clear she did tons of research to portray the challenges and rewards of the sport.
2. Sex positive. I mean, this is a Miranda Kenneally book, so obviously. I’m always impressed by how her characters are frank about what they want and how they feel. And, the fact that these conversations and experiences are often awkward and fumbling make them even more authentic.
3. Best friends become sweethearts… maybe. Maggie and Levi are lifelong besties with swimming their common bond. They end up in something of a contractual relationship because Maggie doesn’t want to go away to college inexperienced in the way of intimacy. Emotions become heightened, of course, and all sorts of complications arise. I loved this book A LOT; I might go so far as to say it’s my favorite of Miranda’s Hundred Oaks series!

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To Be Honest by Maggie Ann Martin (August 21, 2018)
1. Family first. While I love romances most, stories about families and their complex dynamics are a close runner-up. Maggie Ann Martin paints such a realistic picture of Savannah’s prickly relationship with her mom (who’s recently lost a lot of weight and has become fixated on dieting and exercise), and her suddenly growing-pained relationship with her older sister, Ashley.
2. Body positive (this cover, though!). Savannah is fat and cool with it, and wow — how refreshing. As someone who’s struggled with body image over the years, I found myself constantly wanting to break into applause for Savannah because even while she struggles with insecurities in realistic and relatable ways, she truly loves herself.
3. Voice. To Be Honest tackles some serious topics (diet culture, fat-phobia, divorce, anxiety) but thanks to Maggie’s effervescent narrative voice, the story never feels bogged down or like it’s forcing A Message on readers. It’s sometimes funny, often moving, and always heartfelt.

29236380Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow
1. Survival story. Perhaps not in the traditional sense — main character Charlie isn’t, like, stranded in the woods, but she’s certainly lost, and she’s definitely alone. She spends the better part of the story learning how to sustain herself in a new city, while battling a lot of personal demons.
2. Intense subject matter. I’m not sure this book is for everyone, but I loved it. It’s raw and gritty and troubling, tackling issues like self harm, substance abuse, and assault in a way that holds nothing back. It’s an unflinching story about a courageous girl.
3. Gorgeous prose. Kathleen Glasgow write about ugly experiences in a beautiful way. I found myself rereading so many of her phrases, in awe of the way she made me feel so much with a few carefully chosen words.

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The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
1. Book love. This is a story about books and book lovers and the impact books can have on our lives. So, firmly in my wheelhouse.
2. Charming and complex characters. Even the most flawed people in A.J. Fikery (including A.J. himself) have moments of humanity that make them feel known. I felt this most notable with Daniel, who’s a self-indulgent, womanizing jerk and yet… I didn’t hate him.
3. Lovely setting. Alice Island comes to life within the pages of this novel, particularly its indie bookstore, Island Books. It sounds like the loveliest vacation destination.

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Things Jolie Needs to Do Before She Bites It by Kerry Winfrey
1. Authentically teen. This book, more than any other I’ve read lately, felt like high school. Maybe that’s because I related deeply to MC Jolie and her desire to avoid taking up space. Or, maybe author Kerry Winfrey’s just exceptionally talented when it comes to capturing the voice and spirit of teenagers. Either way, I can’t wait to read more of her work.
2. Cuuuuute romance. Without giving too much away, the turn this book took romance-wise was delightful. It turned out to be a really sweet take on one of my favorite tropes {highlight for spoiler: best friends become sweethearts}, and totally gave me all the first-love butterflies. In addition to the romance, Jolie’s relationships with her two best friends, Evelyn and Derek, are perfectly imperfect.
3. Sisters forever. Much like To Be Honest, Things Jolie Needs to Do Before She Bites It has a complex and interesting sister relationship. I loved how it developed over the course of the book, particularly as Abbi’s pregnancy progressed. Jolie’s entire family, in fact, is pretty fantastic.

34499240Love Scene, Take Two by Alex Evansley
1. Wish fulfillment — for me, anyway. 🙂 When I was eighteen, I would’ve traded a limb to be a NYT bestselling author with a movie deal and a cute lead actor who adores me — just like this debut’s MC, Bennett.
2. Complex (and super likable) characters. Bennett and her love interest Teddy are, of course, charming and winsome, but the story’s supporting characters are layered and well-drawn, too. Beautiful leading lady Olivia was my favorite; she wasn’t at all what I first assumed. Sometimes it’s really cool when a character turns out to be the opposite of what’s expected!
3. All the humor. I’m not usually drawn to rom-coms, but Love Scene, Take Two makes me want to read a whole lot more in this genre. While the story has its serious moments, it also made me LOL repeatedly. Alex Evansley has this (seemingly) effortless knack for writing both dialogue and inner monologues that are genuinely hilarious. Definitely snag this book if you’re needing a pick-me-up!

Tell me: What’s the best book you’ve read recently?

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Happy release day, THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF US!

My second novel, The Impossibility of Us, is on sale today!

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Here’s its summary…

The last thing Elise wants is to start her senior year in a new town. But after her brother’s death in Afghanistan, she and her mother move from San Francisco to a sleepy coastal village. When she meets Mati, the two quickly discover how much they have in common. Mati is new to town as well, visiting the U.S. with his family. Over the course of the summer, their relationship begins to blossom, and what starts out as a friendship becomes so much more. But as Elise and Mati grow closer, her family becomes more and more uncomfortable with their relationship, and their concerns all center on one fact—Mati is Afghan. Beautifully written, utterly compelling, and ultimately hopeful, The Impossibility of Us asks—how brave can you be when your relationship is questioned by everyone you love?

THANK YOU…

I am so fortunate to be part of the Swoon Reads family, where I feel at all times supported and celebrated. I’m grateful to Jean Feiwel and Lauren Scobell for cultivating this incredible community. Working with my editor, Kat Brzozowski, has been a dream. Her insight, wisdom, and warmth have taught me so much. And I can’t imagine doing this publication thing without my agent, Victoria Marini. Her guidance, expertise, and humor are invaluable.

Alison Miller, Temre Beltz, Riley Edgewood, and Elodie Nowodazkij are far and away the best critique partners a girl could ask for. Their combined intelligence, compassion, and generosity are inspiring. Big thanks to Rachel Simon, Jaime Morrow, and Lola Sharp for their enthusiastic beta reads of TIoU. I’m grateful to Arvin Ahmadi, Rania, and Silanur for their thoughtful feedback and generously shared personal experiences as they relate to this book. And thank you to Khalid Ahmad for his generous assistance with the Pashto translations. Thank you to my wonderful writer friends, especially Tracey Neithercott, Mandie Baxter, Liz Parker, Christina June, Jessica Love, Christa Desir, Sara Biren, Karole Cozzo, and Erin Bowman for the reassurances and celebrations. To the 2017 Debuts, thank you for sharing this journey with me. And to the authors known affectionately as the Swoon Squad, um . . . wow. What an amazing group of people!

Thank you, thank you, thank you to my parents for their boundless support and infinite love, and for hand-selling my books to their friends. My brothers might not be fans of young adult romance, but they’re fans of me and really, isn’t that all that matters? 🙂 Thanks to the rest of my extended family, whose continued cheerleading means the world to me. All the hugs and kisses to my girlies for bringing me indescribable joy. And, finally, this book wouldn’t exist without my husband. His genuine excitement over my success makes me feel unstoppable. He’s still my happily ever after.

The Impossibility of Us in Review

What could have been a clichéd, tired romance novel will surprise readers with depth of character and a unique layout. The chapters alternate: Elise’s in narrative prose and Mati’s in verse. The protagonists share their cultural and language differences with each other, setting aside surrounding discrimination and prejudices. Elise learns about Afghanistan and Pashto, releases her resentment and intolerance, and finds healing as she grieves her brother’s death. Mati navigates how to fulfill his familial and faith obligations while staying true to himself and his passions. This book tackles several heavy subjects as the author explores religious and ethnic intolerance, bigotry, fear, and lack of fairness. Though Upperman uses traditional romance tropes, readers will find the story meaty, satisfying, and enlightening. This surprising and worthwhile romance is a solid choice to add to any teen collection.
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Elise is passionate and caring and inquisitive, and isn’t afraid to admit—and then change—when she’s ignorant or wrong. Plenty of people could take a page out of her book on how to be compassionate humans. Elise and Mati are quickly intrigued by each other, but because of Mati’s religious beliefs and his life back in Afghanistan, it takes a while before anything physical manifests. But this just means a graze or a glance is that much more charged. And it gives them an opportunity to get to the really sexy stuff: understanding one another emotionally and connecting deeper on an intellectual level. Upperman crafted a great summer romance, combining the headiness of finding someone and falling in love over just a few months with the bittersweet of knowing summer—and possibly that relationship—has a definite end. I devoured this book in an evening and it left me with a smile by the end.
Forever YA for Kirkus

Don’t expect the same story that you read in Kissing Max Holden. Sure, the characters faced impossible odds (hence the title) like in KMH, but Upperman explored different avenues of her writing. I fell head-over-heels for the love interest, Mati. One of my favorite parts of the book was his voice. Instead of prose, he told his story through poetry. It was eloquent and beautiful, and it perfectly encapsulated Mati’s essence. Your heart will break reading this book, but it will also soar. You’ll question everything you’ve imagined about difficult relationships, look at your own self in a new light, but you’ll also fall in love.
~ Moriah’s Musings

…an adorable story about falling for a boy and realizing what love really is, while also having to deal with your respective families and addressing the prejudices that they have against one another. If you’re looking for your next beach read that will grip you and have you flipping the pages quickly, laughing, crying, gasping and even swooning, then this is definitely the book for you!
~ TeenReads

There’s a lot to love in this beachy read about a summer romance, in which the two main characters face unusual complications due to circumstance, culture, and prejudice… I found myself rooting for Mati and Elise to make things work against all odds — and while the book is filled with plenty of heartache, I found it ultimately hopeful and uplifting.
~ Novel Novice

This sophomore offering was another huge hit from Katy Upperman, and at this point I’ll read anything this lady writes.
~ Pages and Pugs (this review’s GIF game is 👌🏼)

Katy Upperman has done it again. As much as I loved her debut novel, Kissing Max Holden, The Impossibility of Us has more depth, packs more of an emotional punch, and made a visceral impact that had me wiping away tears. Upperman managed to engage my mind and my heart in this beautiful tale of friendship and first love, tolerance and acceptance. She has deftly created a story that is timely and relevant and equal parts heartbreaking and hopeful. The Impossibility of Us is one that is not to be missed.
~ Girl Plus Books

The Impossibility of Us on Sale

::   The Impossibility of Us at Amazon   ::
::  The Impossibility of Us at IndieBound  ::
::   The Impossibility of Us at The Book Depository   ::
::  The Impossibility of Us at Barnes & Noble  ::
:: The Impossibility of Us at BAM  ::
::  The Impossibility of Us at Target  ::
::  The Impossibility of Us at Powell’s  ::

Or, order from my local independent bookstore, One More Page Books. They’ll ship you a signed, personalized copy of the novel from Arlington, VA!

The Impossibility of Us Interviews

With “So Few Books”

With Buried in a Bookshelf

Upcoming Events

My Local Launch Event ⇣IMG_4749

Also ⇣
Fountain Bookstore ~ Richmond, VA
Q&A + Signing w/ Christina June
Saturday, August 25, 2018, 2:00 PM

Thank you — yes, you!

Thank you for asking about my writing, for sharing my promotional tweets/posts/images, for asking me to come to your town for a signing, for passing out my bookmarks, and for reading and reviewing Kissing Max Holden. Thank you for preordering The Impossibility of Us, for requesting it at your local library, for talking about it with the readers in your life, for complimenting its cover, its summary, and its blurbs. Thank you so much for your tireless support.

June Reading Wrap-Up

So, June was an excellent reading month. I highly recommend all five of these, though you’ll have to wait on a couple. It’ll be worth it. 🙂 

23310763The Anatomical Shape of a Heart by Jenn Bennett
1. Quirky characters — in the best possible way. Bex and Jack are vibrant and fun and artistic and compassionate; they jump off the page as dynamic, realistically flawed teenagers. And the chemistry they share? Whoa. I love them!
2. Sex positive. Author Jenn Bennett has this natural and authentic way of dealing with sexuality; this book boasts one of the most candid, awkward, and wonderful conversations about sex by two fictional teens that I’ve ever read.
3. Mental illness. Without giving too much away, there’s a character in The Anatomical Shape of a Heart who has been diagnosed with a serious mental illness. I was moved by the way this character was portrayed — as a person, not an affliction– and with the utmost sensitivity and regard. Jenn Bennett is a new favorite author of mine, and this is a remarkable book.

36146624You’d Be Mine by Erin Han (April 2, 2019)
1. Country music! It’s no secret that I’m a huge country music fan, and the way my favorite genre was incorporated into this debut is glorious. While the novel is about two fictional singers, real life greats are sprinkled throughout, making the story feel rich and authentic.
2. All the angst. If you’re looking for an intense push-and-pull romance that’ll give you all the feels without reading as contrived or manipulative, watch for You’d Be Mine next spring. Annie and Clay have to slay a million demons to be together, and I rooted for them so hard.
3. Atmosphere. Erin Hahn has a gift for dropping the reader right into a scene — whether it be a family moment at Annie’s grandparents’ farm, Clay’s quiet show in a local dive bar, or an extravagant performance in a packed arena under the heat of the setting sun. I finished this novel wanting to live in its pages.

36199084The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
1. Hot, hot, hot. Friends,  this is not YA. There’s a lot of steaminess — like, a lot, and it’s explicitly described — but the intimate scenes MCs Stella and Michael share aren’t gratuitous; they drive the plot. Plus, they’re beautifully written and packed with emotion and, wow, I really love this book.
2. Neurodiversity. Stella is on the spectrum, and she believes she’s bad at relationships as a result. Her challenges with connections and social situations are a big part of the story, but they’re not the biggest part of Stella. She’s incredibly smart, thoughtful, generous, and funny. One of the most deftly drawn protagonists I’ve read in a long time.
3. A+ love interest. Michael has the sort of complicated backstory that gives him that damaged romantic hero vibe, but he also has a warm family and a sweetly protective nature, and he’s altruistic to a fault. He’s seriously the best.

28587957Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
1. Timely and important. I had misgivings going into Small Great Things; I didn’t want to read a white woman’s take on what it’s like to be a black woman, nor did I want to be preached to. Fortunately, I found this novel to be a thoughtful, nuanced look at what it means to be an ally; it’s a necessary and powerful read considering current events.
2. Unflinching. Honestly, I had a hard time reading white supremacist Turk’s point-of-view chapters. His language and ideologies literally made me cringe, but at the same time, his character arc captivated me. What does it take to produce a person like him? Is someone with such deeply engrained racism capable of change? Of redemption?
3. Unputdownable. This one’s definitely a page-turner, and there are some twists that shocked me. Additionally, the character development is masterful, as has been the case with all of the Jodi Picoult books I’ve read.

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No Place Like Here by Christina June (May 21, 2019)
1. Steep character arc. In the opening of this novel, MC Ashlyn reminded me of myself as a teenager: quiet, resigned, and stuck in my head. As the story progresses, though, she becomes a strong, take-charge girl who makes big decisions and takes risks. Teen readers will be able to relate to her, and I think they’ll love cheering her on.
2. Unique setting. Ashlyn’s summer job at a retreat center is really cool — it’s like camp, but for adults. There’s swimming and a dining hall and a ropes course, which leads to the cutest, most awkward zip-line rescue you ever did read.
3. Friendship focused. I like my YA romance centered, but I found No Place Like Here refreshing in its emphasis on friendship. I loved watching Ash’s relationship with her cousin, Hannah, blossom, and it was fun to see her get to know Baxter, master of the ropes course, in a deep but platonic way. My almost-eleven-year-old is a Christina June fan, and she’s already asking for this book.

What’s the best book you read in June?

THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF US Preorder Campaign

If you preorder a copy of The Impossibility of Us, or request it from your local library, you are eligible to receive the gifts of appreciation detailed below…

TIoU Cover

Tier One
A gift for all who enter, while supplies last. Includes one signed The Impossibility of Us bookmark, one sticker with a quote from the story, and one exclusive bookplate, personalized and signed, just for you! International.

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Tier Two
Three winners
 will be chosen at random to receive the gifts from Tier One, plus a Dandelion “Wish” Friendship Bracelet and an “All Things Grow With Love” notebook. U.S. only.

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Tier Three
One winner
 will be chosen at random to receive the gifts from Tiers One and Two, as well as Lip Smackers, a “Romance Trope” strawberries and champagne candle and a Book Lovers tote bag. U.S only.

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How To Enter

  1. Preorder The Impossibility of Us in hardcover (ISBN 9781250127990) or eBook (ISBN 9781250128003) from your favorite bookseller. For convenience, here are some quick links: Amazon : IndieBound : The Book Depository : Barnes & Noble : BAM : Target : Powell’s : One More Page Books. Or, request a copy of The Impossibility of Us from your library.
  2. Photograph or screenshot your proof of purchase and/or library request and email it to UppermanPreorders@gmail.com.
  3. Fill out this The Impossibility of Us preorder incentive form, including your name, email address, mailing address, and preferred bookplate personalization. (Information collected will be used for this preorder campaign only, and will not be sold, distributed, or retained.)

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Fine Print

Entries must be submitted via the linked form by July 30, 2018 at 11:59 PM. First Tier gifts of appreciation are available to all entrants. Second and Third Tier gifts are available only to entrants with U.S. mailing addresses, and will be chosen randomly. Proof of purchase/request must be submitted for eligibility. Preorder incentive is open as long as supplies last. Gifts will be mailed on a first-come, first-serve basis, beginning early August.

Questions? Please email them to UppermanPreorders@gmail.com.

As always, thank you so much for your support! 😘

May Reading Wrap-Up

Yes — hit my five book goal for May. 🤗
(Links –> Goodreads.)

13508607The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton
1. Lush historical fiction. The Secret Keeper jumps timelines (“WWII England through the blitz, to the ’60s and beyond” as Goodreads puts it) but maintains a strong sense of time and place through the various narratives and settings.
2. Twisty turns. The story centers around a bizarre killing (was it murder? self defense?) witnessed by teen Laurel, and principle to her character’s decades-spanning arch. The mystery kept me guessing throughout, and its conclusion was really surprising and super satisfying. All the scandalous secrets in this one!
3. Sister story. While Laurel and her sisters aren’t necessarily central to the story’s main and complex plot, their characterizations and relationships jump off the page, and cemented my investment in the story.

34520598The Leading Edge of Now by Marci Lyn Curtis (September, 2018)
1. Perfect blend of light and dark. I’m in awe of the way Marci Lyn Curtis combines humor and romance with much more serious topics like grief, sexual assault, estrangement, and the child welfare system. This is a profound and important story, one that’s full of heart and spirit.
2. Extraordinary protagonist. Grace is a survivor in so many ways; she’s faced a seemingly unfair amount of adversity in her seventeen years, but she’s witty and independent and strong and compassionate. Her voice is both hilarious and heartfelt, and she’s so easy to root for. I think YA fans are going to adore her.
3. Owen, Owen, Owen. I worry that my thoughts here might be a bit of a spoiler, so I’m printing them in white. If you’re interested in reading, highlight… Grace’s longtime off-and-on love interest has faced challenges of his own, but he’s endlessly kind and supportive and wonderful. Plus, he has a hint of an Aussie accent, so that’s delightful… ❤

35098412The Queen’s Rising by Rebecca Ross
1. Sisterhood. My favorite thing about this beautifully written fantasy is its focus on female empowerment. Main character Brienna doesn’t have biological sisters, but she fosters bonds with her school mates (as well as another woman named *spoiler*) and I loved seeing how those relationships came to impact the plot.
2. Fascinating world-building. Author Rebecca Ross has done some unique things with Brienna’s world, beginning with the “passions” she studies at her school, Magnolia House. I thought the rival countries of Valenia and Maevana were distinct and well drawn, too.
3. Strong conclusion. The Queen’s Rising is the first book in a trilogy, but it ends in fulfilling way — no frustrating cliffhanger! There are plenty of threads left open for story to come, and I’m curious to find out what happens to Brienna and company next, but I appreciate the closure Rebecca Ross provided.

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Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi
1. A study in voice. I loved this book, but it took me three weeks to read because I was pouring over sentences and passages, studying their perfect combinations of words. Emergency Contact‘s prose is as full of charisma as its main characters.
2. All the feels. Parts of this book are hysterical and parts of in are heartbreaking, but it’s entirely relatable. I found myself cringing, sometimes, because I felt Sam and Penny’s emotions so viscerally. Also, their friendship and the tentative beginnings of their romance are, in my opinion, flawlessly written.
3. Set. In. College. Guys, I wish there were more books that take place during the years just after high school. The freedom a college setting affords characters is wonderfully conducive to self discovery, and all sorts of mischief. The dynamic that both Sam and Penny have with their mothers at this point in their lives is fascinating, too.

36575818Meet the Sky by McCall Hoyle (September, 2018)
1. Survival story. I love books (and movies) about characters who are stranded, forced to by mother nature to test themselves in ways that incite growth and change. Meet the Sky‘s Sophie is a selfless, resilient girl before the hurricane hits her island home, but after? Whoa. Her courage and resourcefulness make her a character worth cheering for. It doesn’t hurt that love interest Finn provokes change in her, too, as she challenges him. I love the intensity the storm brought to their fledging relationship.
2. Beach-set book. It’s no secret that I love stories set near the ocean, and Meet the Sky takes place on North Carolina’s Outer Banks. The scenery is beautifully and evocatively described, making the setting feel like a character all its own.
3. Powerful prose. McCall Hoyle has a gift with words. Every line of her sophomore novel is compelling and lyrical. I felt Sophie’s worries and wishes as if they were my own.

Tell me: What’s the best book you read in May?

April Reading Wrap-Up

Four books in April. Aiming for five in May. 🙂

25062038Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert
1. Diversity. As far as representation goes, I hope Little & Lion becomes the rule. Its characters are authentic and intersectional and exceptional, written with nuance and sensitivity. This book is a must-read for contemporary YA fans.
2. Suzette! She has moments of relatable doubt about who she is and who she wants to be, but mostly she’s strong and steadfast and awesome.
3. Focus on family. Suzette and Lionel have the best parents. They’re supportive and loving and appreciative of their kids’ unique qualities, but somehow, they never feel too perfect to be believable. Also, I adored Suzette and Lionel’s relationship. They’re not biologically related (they’re not even legally step-siblings) but there’s so much love and loyalty between them. I was constantly moved by the scenes they shared.

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Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali
1. A+ protagonist. Janna, at fifteen, is a little younger than most of the YA protagonists I read, but she’s complex: smart and considerate and philanthropic. It was delightful to watch her grow and change over the course of her story.
2. Everyday portrayal. I read a few reviews of this debut that used the term “slice of life” and that’s exactly what I think it is — a first person glimpse into the joys and challenges and frustrations of being a teenage Muslim American photographer. The stakes aren’t sky-high, but the story is super engaging.
3. Friendships. Janna has unique and interesting relationships with all the various people in her life, but my favorite was her friendship with kind Mr. Ram.

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Meant To Be Broken by Brandy Woods Snow (July, 2018 – Cover to come!)
1. Sloooooow burn. There’s a love triangle in this romantic debut, and it’s really well done. Rayne’s dating golden boy Preston, who’s a genuinely good guy, but there’s so much heat between her and Preston’s brother, Gage. You’ll have to read to see how it all plays out, but I will say: #TeamGage.
2. Mystery. There’s a small town scandal brewing beneath all the romance, and I love the way characters who feel initially peripheral later come into play in major ways. I was totally surprised by this story’s twists and revelations.
3. Unputdownable. I stayed up way too late flipping pages, and was completely invested in Rayne, Gage, and Preston. Meant To Be Broken is full of authentic southern voice and tells a complete story in an intensely emotional way. Definitely a Katy Book!

23197837The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton
1. Prose as beautiful as its cover. Dhonielle Clayton knows how to spin a lovely sentence, and she writes descriptions so sharp and rich and colorful, you can’t help but plant yourself in the fantastical world of Orléans.
2. Holy world building! It’s been a long time since I’ve read a novel with such a thoughtfully and intentionally created universe — one that doesn’t just complement the story’s plot, but is instrumental to it. (Teacup animals?!)
3. Complex themes. I went into The Belles expecting beauty and pageantry and intrigue, and I got all of that, but beneath the splendor, Dhonielle Clayton works to unpack the dangerousness of a society’s fixation on beauty, as well as the hazards toxic femininity. This one’s a frothy page-turner, but it’ll also make you think.

What’s the best book you read in April?

How the Light Gets In: A Not So Brief History

The sale of a book is a weird phenomenon — an often exciting but sometimes frustrating process involving a magical combination of skill, timing, and — mostly — luck. 

If you’re a writer who’s feeling defeated, or if you’re curious about the behind-the-scenes of the submission process, or if you’re just nosey and want to know how my latest sale went down, I invite you to read on. I hope this saga (spanning seven years) reads like commiseration or inspiration or maybe a little bit of both. I hope it encourages you to continue trudging down the path to publication because — cliche as this may sound — it really does take only one yes.

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September 9, 2010 – On this, my daughter’s first day of preschool, I write the opening scene of Where Poppies Bloom, the manuscript that will one day end up almost entirely rewrittenIf you’ve followed this blog or any of my social media platforms for a while, you might recall hearing about Poppies, also known as my Ghost Book.

November 30, 2010 – After three months of writing like the wind, I finish the first (of MANY) drafts of Ghost Book. It is my third complete manuscript.

January 3, 2011 – I begin querying. I feel hopeful, like Ghost Book might be The Book.

March 6, 2011 – I complete an agent-requested revise & resubmit. I’ve trimmed 11K words (about 50 pages) from the story, and learned a lot about pacing and killing darlings.

April 29, 2011 – I receive the first of two agent offers of representation. I’m certain this is it — my big break.

May 9, 2011 – I accept an agent’s offer of representation. Celebration ensues.

Early June, 2011 – I begin to revise Ghost Book according to my recently acquired agent’s feedback. I work hard, all summer and into the fall.

November 4, 2011 – Ghost Book goes out on submission, a process that will prove to be long, and rife with close calls.

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August, 2012 – After a miserable “we love this, but the market is currently saturated” walk down submission lane, Ghost Book is, to my dejection, placed in a metaphorical drawer.

November, 2012 – With much anxiety, I decide to part ways with my agent. The decision to seek new representation turns out to be a positive career move.

December 3, 2012 – After a whirlwind and surprisingly positive querying experience with a fresh manuscript, I accept an offer of representation from Victoria Marini.

January 21, 2013 – Just as Victoria and I are getting ready to send the manuscript for which she signed me out on submission, we hit a snag. Through the publishing grapevine, I discover that my first agent received an offer on Ghost Book. In secret, she declined that offer on my behalf. This is a long, convoluted story, but suffice to say, I am very upset.

Late January, 2013 – Super agent Victoria manages to gracefully straighten out the mess caused by my first agent. I decide to let the previous offer for Ghost Book go in favor of focusing on the submission of my new manuscript. I won’t lie — this is a hard decision. For years, I will wondered if it is the right decision.

February, 2013 – April, 2014 – I work on new things: different manuscripts, strengthening my craft, and supporting others in the writing community. This time brings highs and plenty of lows. The path to publication is a rocky one.

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May, 2014 – Because I love it — have always loved it — I dig Ghost Book out of hibernation, and brainstorm how to revitalize it. Victoria and I agree on the incorporation of a new element, and I begin a significant rewrite.

July 14, 2014 – I finish rewriting Ghost Book. I am so proud. I send it off to my critique partners, and await feedback.

November, 2014 – After another round of revisions, the story is ready. Victoria sends it to a limited list of editors. Remember, an earlier version of this book was submitted back in 2011-2012, so the pool is shallow. I write new stories while the months pass. Again, ALL the close calls. If I hear maybe when the market shifts one. More. Time.

July, 2015 – Eventually, Ghost Book finds its way back into the drawer, but not indefinitely. I believe that one day, luck will be on its side. I’m not so sad this time, either, because I’ve recently discovered Swoon Reads, and I’m preparing to upload a different manuscript, Kissing Max Holden, to the site. I’m excited to see where this crowd-sourced Macmillan imprint might get me.

November 16, 2015 – Holy shit — Swoon Reads wants to publish Kissing Max Holden! Finally, I’ve gotten my foot in the door, and with an imprint I find truly inspiring.

December, 2015 – August 1, 2017 – I spend the next 18 months focused on Jilly and Max. I revise, and edit, and promote. Spring, 2016, Victoria and I sell a second manuscript, The Impossibility of Us, to Swoon Reads. I am thrilled to be working with an imprint that supports and celebrates its authors. I can’t wait to write more!

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Early August, 2017 – Victoria and I submit a third manuscript to Swoon Reads. Full disclosure: I’m feeling pretty confident.

September 13, 2017 – I get word that my editor isn’t into this latest manuscript. I’m so bummed, and yet… I get her reasoning. Also — surprise! — published authors don’t go on to sell everything they submit. I knew this, but now I know this.

 October 11, 2017 – I write detailed synopses of two new story ideas, and submit them to my editor. I am vaguely excited about both ideas, but also terrified that I won’t be able to pull them off should either be picked up based on proposal alone.

November 6, 2017 – Turns out, my concern was for nothing. My editor isn’t 100% onboard with either idea. *womp womp* But… she suggests I consider writing a story like [popular YA novel] meets [popular YA novel]. To which I respond… I’ve actually already written something kind of like that — my Ghost Book.

November 15, 2017 – My editor reads Ghost Book. And… she wants to take it to acquisitions. I am DYING. It’s been years, and this story means SO MUCH to me. How will I get through the next few weeks of waiting?

November 29, 2017 – Victoria has good news: Swoon Reads wants to buy Ghost Book! I’m beside myself! Not only do I get to work with my fantastic editor on another book, but this story that I love with all my heart has finally, finally, finally found a home.

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And now I get to share my news with you! The story to which I have for years lovingly referred to as Where Poppies Bloom has a beautiful new title, How the Light Gets In, which speaks so perfectly to its themes and mix of darkness and light.

I’ve been hard at work on revisions, taking inspiration from my editors savvy notes, as well as some of the images I’ve included here, and those I’ve pinned on my How the Light Gets In Pinterest Board. This book (what will be my third published novel — what is this life?!) is due in stores and libraries Spring/Summer, 2019.

I can’t wait for you to read it!