September Reading Wrap-Up

Just three books in September, because I logged about a million hours revising and editing my (just announced!) 2018 YA.  :-)
(As always, cover images link to Goodreads pages.)

Wanderlost by Jen Malone – So cute! Voice-y and fun and sweet, plus Wanderlost gave me a wicked case of wanderlust. To be completely honest, the plot here is rather implausible, but I didn’t even care because the story itself is so full of wit and charm. I’m all sorts of jealous of Aubree’s European adventures, I loved her character arc, and I can totally relate to her duck-out-of-water feelings when it comes to stepping out and taking risks. I adored her super swoony romance with adorable Sam, as well as the expertly-developed (and unexpectedly hilarious) elderly people on the tour she leads. Definitely pick Wanderlost up if you’re looking for a light contemporary YA that’s bursting with heart.

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman – I bought this novel in an airport bookstore after watching the movie trailer in a random Facebook ad. I loved it. It’s historical fiction with a setting so vividly described, I felt as though I was on Janus with Tom and Isabel. Tragically, our protagonists have lost three pregnancies, leaving them (Isabel especially) desperate for a child. Serendipitously, a row boat washes up on their isolated lighthouse island. Inside is a baby girl, who Tom and Isabel decide to raise her as their own. Obviously there are a lot of intensely bittersweet feelings that come along with such a choice, especially when they discover the baby’s mother is alive, grieving her lost daughter on the mainland. While I became frustrated with Isabel at certain points, I could also relate to her fertility struggles and her longing, which may have played a part in my appreciation of this story. Regardless, it’s beautifully written and deeply emotional, and I highly recommend it if you’re into historical fiction with a literary slant.

Catch a Falling Star by Kim Culbertson – I borrowed this one from the library on a whim, mostly because its cover caught my eye. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it! I thought it’d be a fluffy, wish-fulfillment sort of story, but it’s not, thanks to author Kim Culbertson’s skillful writing and main character Carter’s overall awesomeness. When Hollywood bad boy Adam Jakes comes to Carter’s small town to film a movie, he tangles her up in a PR stunt, paying her to play his small-town girlfriend, thus improving his image. Carter only accepts because she’s got a legitimate need for the cash Adam offers, but of course it’s not long before she begins to fall for him. Without giving anything away, a lot about this story surprised me, and I ended up smitten with Adam just as Carter was. Give Catch a Falling Star a read if you’re into books by Huntley Fitzpatrick and Leila Howland.

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

GuEsS wHaT?!

Back in 2014, I wrote a book during National Novel Writing Month. Actually, I started a few weeks before, in October. I wrote about 10K words, then another 50K words in November (I “won” NaNoWriMo — yay!) and then I finished a final 10K words in February of 2015. I did a lot of revising (as usual, because I write the most convoluted first drafts ever), and then I sent the manuscript to my CPs. I spent a million more months revising before putting the story on the back burner because amazing things started happening with Kissing Max Holden.

Fast forward to when my agent and I started chatting about what to submit to Swoon Reads as my option book. My 2014 NaNoWriMo project seemed like a perfect follow-up to Kissing Max Holden, so we sent the manuscript in. Time passed, meetings were had, emails were exchanged and then…

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Swoon Reads bought a second book from me! I’m thrilled! I feel so lucky to be working with Kat Brzozowski (who is a brilliant editor) along with the rest of the Swoon Team, and I’m so thankful to my agent, Victoria Marini, who’s worked tirelessly for this deal.

So, what’s The Impossibility of Us about?  It’s a love story (duh) about a girl who wants to be a photojournalist and a boy who wants to be a writer. They come from different countries — different cultures — and there are a lot of forces working against them. There’s a cute dog, too, as well as a beautiful beach, and a lot of wishes sent to the wind. There’s also some kissing. Of course there is.

            

The Impossibility of Us is tentatively slated for 2018.
I can’t wait for you to read it!  

August Reading Wrap-Up

I read some amazing books this month, and I’ve been so excited to share them here. Big recommend to all of these novels, guys!
{As always, covers link to Goodreads pages.}

Rules for Stealing Stars by Corey Ann Haydu – My nine-year-old daughter and I read this middle grade novel together, and we loved it. It’s a story that tackles weighty issues (a mother’s alcoholism, most notably), but it’s a fairy tale as well, a book about sisters and magic and imagination and secrets and unbreakable bonds. Silly is the youngest of four; she and her sisters are deftly drawn — each unique, with her own strengths and flaws. While they lean on each other, there’s distance between the girls, too, due to their mother’s drinking and their father’s inattentiveness and the general discord a pair of inept parents bring to a household. Silly and her sisters have their closets, though — extraordinary places full of magic and beauty (mostly), where they can escape their unhappy reality. Corey Ann Haydu combines Silly’s authentic, youthful voice with charming insight and enchanting descriptions, while creating a world that is both vastly sad and infinitely hopeful. I feel so lucky to have shared this one with my girl, and I highly recommend it.

The Heartbeats of Wing Jones by Katherine Webber (March 14, 2017) – I added this 2017 debut to my list of Katy Books immediately upon finishing — it’s everything I hope for when I pick up a YA novel. Wing is a fascinating character: often uncomfortable in her skin and full of longing, yet strong in spirit, too. When Marcus, the big brother she idolizes, kills two people (and almost himself) while driving drunk, Wing steps out of his shadow and into a pair of running shoes in an effort save both her sanity and her family’s home. While The Heartbeats of Wing Jones features touches of magic, it’s a story rooted in reality, in family and friendship and first love (Aaron — you will adore him). It’s beautifully written, nuanced, and full of lovely, evocative language, the sort of descriptions that make you want to start the story all over again the second you finish (that first kiss, man…). Definitely pick up The Heartbeats of Wing Jones when it debuts in March — I loved it!

Wild Swans by Jessica Spotswood – This book is so lovely. It’s a quiet story about a girl named Ivy who, thanks to her talented (and troubled) lineage, is striving to meet her granddad’s sky-high expectations. Ivy’s such a great protagonist. She’s smart and sporty and incredibly kind, though she doesn’t exactly excel at any one thing — a problem, considering the gifted women who’ve come before her. Along with her perceived mediocrity, Ivy’s also trying to come to terms with the sudden return of her absolutely awful mother, and the two sisters she knows little about. My favorite aspects of Wild Swans are its setting (a small town on the Chesapeake Bay), its friendships (Ivy’s got two awesomely supportive girl friends), and its romance, which is equal parts sweet and steamy. Love interest Connor is the hottest YA boy I’ve encountered in a long while (hello, ink! 😍 ).  Give Wild Swans a read the next time you’re in the mood for a heartfelt contemporary with gorgeous writing and a wonderfully relatable protagonist.

Gilded Gage by Vic James (February 14, 2017) – The marketing material on and inside the Gilded Cage‘s ARC makes some big promises about its excellence and let me tell you — it’s not kidding around. This book is so cool; its concept is unique, its world-building is outstanding, and its characters are captivating. It’s set in a fantastical version of modern England, where those with magical abilities rule, and commoners serve in the way of a ten year slavery stint. Main characters Abi and Luke are a sister/brother pair who have very different experiences while enslaved. Their voices are marvelously vibrant, as is Vic James’s third person narration; her prose is enviable, her style somehow both classic and accessible. Gilded Cage is full of twists and magic and rebellion and romance, and to be honest, I had a hard time putting it down. Mark it To-Read now, and snatch it up when it debuts in February.

Fear Me, Fear Me Not by Elodie Nowodazkij (September 27, 2016) – Ooh, this book is chilling, in the best way! I think it might be my favorite Elodie Nowodazkij novel, and I know Erin and Dimitri are my favorite Elodie Nowodazkij couple. They have a long history, and amazing chemistry, and I loved all of their swoony scenes. But Fear Me, Fear Me Not is not just a romance; it’s a murder mystery, too, and it’s bursting with suspense. Elodie manages to pull off three distinct points-of-view, including the killer’s, while keeping the tension high and the thrills coming. I love the roles family and friendship play in this novel, rocketing the stakes up and up and up, and keeping me turning pages (or scrolling through the document — whatever 😉 ) late into the night. If you’re ready for a book that’ll have you searching for clues, while giving you a few good scares, featuring characters who are easy to cheer for, check out Fear Me, Fear Me Not at the end of September.

On the Fence by Kasie West – I read this romantic contemporary while on a camping trip, and that’s exactly what the story is — the perfect vacation read. I found MC Charlie to be endearing and relatable, while simultaneously full of spunk and delightfully flawed. She spends the novel coming to terms with her athletic body and tom-boy-ish sensibilities (not to mention hazy memories of her deceased mother), while discovering that the Charlie she’s always been is not necessarily the Charlie she has to be forever. I love the family dynamics in this novel (Charlie’s big brothers are excellent), and I thought the romance was so sweet. Boy-next-door Braden is a love interest worth rooting for; he appreciates Charlie for exactly who she is and stands in as a constant source of support. Recommended for fans of contemporary YA.

Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornoll (US edition out January 3rd, 2017, UK edition available from Book Depository now) – This debut is masterful in its balance of dark and light. Main character Norah battles agoraphobia, as well as OCD and frequent urges to self-harm. Basically, she’s trapped in her house, her only companions her doting mom and her frank therapist. She’s stifled and scared, emotions that are conveyed brilliantly through Louise Gornoll’s evocative language. Norah’s challenges absolutely wear her down, and her sadness and frustration are palpable, but she’s full of wit and sarcasm, too. It seems she’s gained a certain level of acceptance regarding her mental illness — until cute new boy Luke moves in next door. While Luke’s not a savior, he challenges Norah in this gentle, respectful way that pushes her to begin confronting her fears. The final quarter of this book surprised me; it’s action-packed and rather creepy, and it allows us to see the true scope of Norah’s strength. Under Rose-Tainted Skies is an affecting and beautifully written book — big recommend.

What’s the best book you read in August?

And the winning cover direction is…

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I’m so excited to share the winning cover direction for Kissing Max Holden!

This fence concept stood out to me from the very beginning. There’s something about its tones, its symbolism, and its couple—their position and their clear affection for one another other—that, for me, truly captures the feeling of Kissing Max Holden. I’m so glad it’s the cover direction that scored the most votes!

To read more about my thoughts on the cover direction selection process, head over to Swoon Reads to check out my most recent post.

Thanks so much to all who voted!  <3

Cover voting is live!

One of my favorite things about the Swoon Reads experience is the amount of involvement members of the site get to have. From rating and commenting on submitted stories to voting on cover directions for selected manuscripts, Swoon Readers get a big say in many aspects of the books published by Swoon Reads.

Now’s one of those times when Swoon Reads needs your help — let’s select the cover direction for my debut, Kissing Max Holden!

Guys, I can’t tell you how long I’ve anticipated seeing my name on an actual book cover, and now it’s on FOUR. Four lovely covers that all capture different aspects of Jill and Max’s story in really beautiful ways…

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Above, you’ll find a piece of each of the four options. Remember — these are cover directions, not necessarily final products. The winner will likely undergo adjustments and fine-tunings, but it’ll be the cover you help select!

Head over to the Swoon Blog to see the full cover concept images and vote for your very favorite(s). Can’t wait to see which you choose…

The winner will be announced soon!

IT’S AUGUST 1ST!

Guys, you know what this means, right?

Kissing Max Holden debuts in exactly one year! 

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Let’s celebrate with a giveaway, shall we?

One lucky winner will receive FOUR of my favorite YA novels — each signed by its author!

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That’s right: Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski, Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally, and The Wrath & the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh will go to one randomly chosen winner!

⬇️  Enter the giveaway using the Rafflecopter link below. ⬇️

**** A Rafflecopter Giveaway ****

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Fine print: This giveaway is for US residents only (why is shipping so expensive?!) but please look for international giveaways in the future. If you are under 18, please secure parental permission before entering. All entries will be verified. Giveaway begins August 1st and continues through August 9th at 12 a.m. The winner will be announced and contacted shortly thereafter. 

Any help in spreading the word will be much appreciated.❤

July Reading Wrap-Up

July reviews are short and sweet, friends. In case you missed it, I’ve got an adorable foster kiddo in my care, plus I’m drafting a new novel and working on edits for two others. Frankly, I’m pretty proud of the fact that I managed to do any reading at all, but I did, and I’m eager to chat about these fantastic books…
{As always, covers link to Goodreads pages.}

Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston – This novel about a girl who is raped at cheer camp is smart and nuanced and, in a way, refreshing. While E.K. Johnston realistically portrays the trauma of sexual assault and the viciousness of teenagers in the wake of a “scandal” like the one featured in this book, main character Hermione never reads as weak. She’s sad and confused and angry and afraid, but she’s so resilient, too, and that comes in large part from her caring parents and supportive friends. Of course Hermione struggles through the aftermath of her attack, but she never lets what happened at camp bury her, and I love that. I also love how cheerleading is depicted — as a legitimate, kick-ass sport. Hermione and her friends aren’t vapid pom-pom shakers; they’re loyal athletes who rally around their own. Big, big recommend.

Noggin by John Corey Whaley – Long story short: Cancer was killing teen Travis’s body, so he had his head removed and frozen until doctors could attach it to a healthy donor body, allowing Travis to live on, only five years in the future. Of course everything’s changed and Travis is having a hard time letting go of the life he knew, particularly his then-girlfriend Cate, who’s now an engaged adult. While the premise of this novel is bizarre, it allows for some interesting dialogue regarding who we are and who we can choose to be, as well as the ethical and moral quandaries that might stem from a procedure like the one Travis receives. More than that, though, this novel is deeply entertaining and a lot of fun. Travis’s voice rocks, and his friendships are awesome. Loved it!

South of Sunshine by Dana Elmendorf – The setting of South of Sunshine made it for me. Main character Kaycee and her friends live in Sunshine, TN, and Dana Elmendorf does an amazing job portraying not only the rich landscape and small-town energy, but the mostly close-minded population, too. I enjoyed Kaycee and love interest Bren, but it’s Van who I adored most. He supports Kaycee, while at the same time challenging her and giving her room to grow. I also love how Dana Elmendorf conveys emotion. Kaycee’s kind of all over the place — grappling with her conservative upbringing and oft judgmental classmates while learning to accept her sexuality and herself, as well as navigate her new relationship with Bren. Pick this one up if you’re into contemporary YA romance, particularly LGBT romance.

Escaping Perfect by Emma Harrison – While I liked this contemporary YA’s setting and supporting characters, I had a hard time relating to MC Cecelia/Lia. The situation she finds herself in is serious (she’s run away from her high-profile family to hide out in a small Tennessee town), and while she does find a job and try to make a life for herself, she’s mostly just focused on wooing a guy who I didn’t find charming. Like, at all. I didn’t love this book’s ending, either. It’s going to have a sequel so I suspect we’ll get some closure eventually, but the major cliffhanger didn’t feel like enough of a payoff for me. Still, check it out if you like small town dynamics and contemps with a heavy focus on romance.

No Love Allowed by Kate Evangelista – The perfect poolside read! This YA romance’s plot and mood reminded me of Gossip Girl which, hello — yes please! Despite their dramatic circumstances, Caleb, a rich boy who needs a fake girlfriend, and Didi, a girl with mental health challenges who needs cash, feel very real. So does their chemistry; Kate Evangelista writes some steamy kisses, and some fantastic banter, too. She handles Didi’s health issues in a way that reads as authentic, giving her traits and interests that go beyond the “girl with mental illness” we sometimes see in fiction. And Caleb, who could’ve very easily come off as a privileged and entitled jerk, was really quite adorable. So looking forward to seeing what Kate Evangelista writes next!

What’s Broken Between Us by Alexis Bass – I loved this story so much. Author Alexis Bass writes some of the most realistic high school experiences in YA, and I think her books deserve far more hype than they appear to get — they’re so good. MC Amanda, while closed off and full of grief, is incredibly relatable. Her big brother, Jonathan, has just finished a year-long prison sentence after killing his friend and seriously injuring his girlfriend while driving drunk. Jonathan is very complex, as is his relationship with Amanda. Every time they shared the page, I could feel myself literally tensing up. Amanda’s (non?) relationship with one-time flame Henry is equally complicated. This whole book, guys… The character arcs are so steep and the writing is so affecting. My heart hurt through the better part of it, but at the same time, there’s a thread of hopefulness running through its pages. Definitely give What’s Broken Between Us a read, and check out Alexis Bass’s debut, Love and Other Theories, too!

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