January Reading Wrap-Up

So many amazing reads in January…

40599855Stealing Home by Becky Wallace (July, 2019)
This YA romance encompasses everything I love about the genre — savvy heroine, dreamy love interest, snappy dialogue, butterfly-inducing chemistry — while feeling unexpected and fresh. I was rooting for Ryan and Sawyer (and the Buckley Beavers!) from the first pitch. If you’re into contemporary YA, or baseball, or characters you’ll wish you could befriend, check this delightful story out when it releases this summer. It’ll make a fantastic beach/pool/park read. ☀️

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I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara
I’ve read a lot of true crime, and this is one of the best. It’s an armchair detective’s chronicle of her hunt for one of California’s most notorious serial rapists/murderers, and it is riveting. This book’s strongest attribute is that it never feels as though it’s taking advantage of the Golden State Killer’s victims, even while it reads like page-turning fiction. Its pace is quick, its “characters” are gripping, and it’s so full of atmosphere and tension, I had a hard time stepping away. I recommend it if you’re a true crime fan.

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A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi
Somehow I never read a Tahereh Mafi novel before this one? But now I’m all about burning through her catalogue, because A Very Large Expanse of Sea is beautiful. It’s about Shirin, a Muslim girl living in the US after 9/11. She faces horrifying micro-aggressions, as well as a lot of overt racism. In the midst of all this, though, she learns to breakdance, and she falls in love with the sweetest boy, Ocean. This book is important and topical and gorgeously written, but its romance was (of course) my favorite part. Shirin and Ocean are perfection. 💗

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The Birds, the Bees, and You and Me by Olivia Hinebaugh
Guys, this is the sex-positive, music-infused, friendship-focused, gloriously feminist debut you’ve been waiting for. It’s so wonderfully frank in its discussion of sexual health and consent, yet it never feels heavy handed. Main character Lacey and her group of friends (and her mom!) are all layered, supportive, engaging, and awesome. Another bonus — the central romance in this book surprised me in the best way. It’s clandestine and swoony, full of chemistry and sweetness. Big, big recommend!

15781725The House Girl by Tara Conklin
The House Girl did not disappoint. I found Lina (present day lawyer) and Josephine (1800s slave) fascinating in their own right, though had this book been written exclusively from Josephine’s POV, I think I would have liked it even more. Her plight as a “house girl”, runaway, and artist was so compelling. There are some subplots in this one that aren’t as interesting as Josephine’s story, but in the end, everything came together in a satisfying way. Additionally, the prose was descriptive and lovely. If you’re a fan of historical fiction, you’ll likely enjoy The House Girl.

So? What’s the best book you read in January?

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Reveling in 2019

My 2019 word is REVEL.

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In the waiting. In the necessary tasks. In the small successes and the tiny joys. I want to be present and patient. I want to appreciate. I want to celebrate. 💗

Tell me: Have you picked a focus word for the New Year?

November/December Reading Wrap-Up

Here’s what I read in November and December… 😘

36379949That Night by Amy Giles
I loved this story about two teens, Jess and Lucas, who’ve each lost a brother in a local mass shooting, and the different paths they take through their grief. I appreciate that the novel doesn’t sensationalize the shooting or the shooter; rather, it focused on the families that were impacted. It features a really lovely romance that reads as realistic and healthy, despite the baggage that Jess and Lucas both carry. Pick this one up if you’re into contemporary young adult romances — it’s truly wonderful.

12611073The Harbringer by Jonathan Cahn
Weird but fascinating, this one’s about the theory that the the events of 9/11 were predicted by the Bible. If you like conspiracy theories or religious rumination or history, you might enjoy The Harbringer. There are some sections that, in my opinion, feel a little long and a little dry, but there were definitely moments that made me wonder… maybe? I listened to the audiobook and found it well done.

34993791Match Me If You Can by Tiana Smith (January 9, 2019)
This debut is an adorable romantic comedy, fluffy and fun in all the right ways. I adored Mia and found her super relatable, and the chemistry between her and Logan was delightful. I love when two people who are clearly perfect together start the story acting as though they can’t stand each other–makes for such a great payoff at the end! Tiana Smith’s writing style is fresh and flowing, and she does humor so well. If you like cute contemporary YAs, pick up Match Me If You Can when it release January 9, 2019.

42156Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin
Something Borrowed is a cheating book, so if those make you mad, maybe skip it? I don’t so much mind reading about cheating and I thought Emily Giffin handled the sticky subject matter gracefully. While Darcy grated my nerves, I genuinely liked Rachel and Dex and many of the supporting characters. The writing was fantastic; I flew through the story. My one hang up was the conclusion. Without spoiling anything, I wanted a different ending for Rachel. Still, I’m looking forward to reading Something Blue.

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We Are the Ghosts by Vicky Skinner (August 13, 2019)
This is totally a Katy Book, and I can’t wait for the world to read it next summer — so, so good! It’s a road trip and a mystery and a romance and a sibling story, as well as a really complex exploration of grief and loss. I found the story’s protagonist, Ellie, to be incredibly relatable, and undeniably likable in her many imperfections. She feels so real. Also, Cade. <333 If you enjoyed Vicky’s debut, How to Breathe Underwater, I think you’ll love We Are the Ghosts. Copies are available for preorder now!

What’s the best book you’ve read lately?

September/October Reading Wrap-Up

Happy Halloween! 
Below, find the books I read during the last two months. I’ve been having a hard time getting through young adult books lately (they’re usually my fave!), so this list is adult-read heavy. That said, Starry Eyes and Sadie were exceptional.

22571565Where All Light Tends to Go by David Joy
1. Unflinching. Where All Light Tends to Go is an intense, graphic story about a boy caught up in the meth ring his father runs in rural North Carolina. It centers on murder, scandal, and secrets, and while author David Joy doesn’t shy away from ugliness, he writes about this world in the most elegant way. I found myself rereading many of his beautifully penned lines.
2. YA-ish. This is an adult novel (the subject matter and themes are mature) but main character Jacob is eighteen and his voice reads as authentically teen. The heavier content was a cool change of pace without falling too far outside my usual reading scope.
3. Extraordinary pacing. There’s not one moment in this debut novel that drags. Things are constantly changing for Jacob, worsening his situation and upping the tension. I couldn’t put this book down, and its conclusion, while surprising, did not disappoint.

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The Girls by Emma Cline
1. Haunting. I’m still thinking about this book more than a month after finishing. It was evocative, ruthlessly honest, and so unsettling.
2. Coming of age. Much like Where All Light Tends to Go, the narrator of The Girls, Evie, is a teenager. She becomes mixed up in a cult reminiscent of the Manson Family, and ends up learning a whole lot about power, evil, and what it means to be a girl in the late 1960s. Evie’s arc and the characters who surround her are absolutely fascinating.
3. Gorgeous prose. I’m a big fan of Emma Cline’s writing style. Her words are vivid and her sentences are lovely, even when the subject matter is not; I ended up completely caught up in the world she spun.

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Sparkly Green Earrings by Melanie Shankle
1. FUNNY. I’m not normally drawn to books described as “hilarious”; honestly, that’s a very lofty claim. But Sparkly Green Earrings is full of wit and snark. Melanie Shankle writes with openness and humor about the not so glamorous parts of marriage and motherhood, and I couldn’t help but laugh. A lot.
2. Heartwarming. Here’s a fellow mama writing honestly about how distraught she was over a miscarriage, about how stressful potting training can be, and about getting puked on, repeatedly, by her sick toddler. Sometimes it’s really nice to be reminded that you’re not alone in the awful moments. That’s what this book did for me, and my heart was happy as a result.
3. Conversational. Melanie Shankle’s style is frank, fluid, and fun; it almost feels as if she’s sitting across the table, sharing anecdotes over coffee. Pick this one up if you’re looking for something light and bright.

35297469Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett
1. Survival story. I especially love survival stories that have a strong romantic thread. Starry Eyes is a survival story set in the California backcountry starring two former best friends turned sweethearts turned enemies. So. Good.
2. Awesome characters. Zorie and Lennon are both a little bit eccentric. She’s into astronomy, planning, and nerd-chic fashion. He’s goth and loves retiles. Also, his moms own a sex shop, so that’s fun. Zorie and Lennon, despite some major complications, are so great together. Their banter and chemistry are incredibly well written, and made this book nearly impossible to put down.
3. Sex positive. I’ve read all of Jenn Bennett’s YA novels this year, and don’t even think about asking me to pick a favorite. Her books rock, and one of my favorite things about them is their candid, affirming take on sex and sexuality. I’m such a fan, and highly recommend Starry Eyes, as well as Jenn’s other books.

34810320Sadie by Courtney Summers
1. Brutal. Like the Courtney Summers novels before it, Sadie battered my heart. It’s visceral, suspenseful, gritty, and rich. It’s affecting and incredibly entertaining — a study in outstanding storytelling.
2. Unique format. Sadie is told partly through Sadie’s first-person perspective as she hunts down her sister’s murderer, and partly through the transcripts of a podcast called The Girls, which centers on finding Sadie. What a brilliant way to relay this riveting story.
3. Unforgettable characters. Sadie, Mattie, West have burrowed into my soul. I finished this novel weeks ago, but I’m still worrying for its characters, as if they’re real people. Courtney Summers writes about the challenges of being a girl in this cruel, callous world like no other author I’ve encountered. Sadie is a must-read.

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Story Genius by Lisa Cron
I’m not going to review this book with my usual 1, 2, 3 format because I can sum it up in one sentence: Writers, you need to read Story Genius. This craft book lays out the steps in creating a character-driven “blueprint” that will help you execute a truly satisfying story — one that will hook readers from the start. Story Genius has changed the way I think about crafting narratives, and I plan to use Lisa Cron’s strategies going forward. So glad I picked this one up!

Tell me — what’s the best book you’ve read this autumn?

HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN has a cover!

Guys! How the Light Gets In has a cover, and it is GORGEOUS!

⇣ sneak peek ⇣

_HTLGI Cover Cut

Want to see the whole glorious image?

Hop over to Swoon Reads for the full cover, and read about all the reasons I love it. Plus, I’m talking a little about the inception and evolution of How the Light Gets In, as well sharing its official synopsis.

(I don’t want to play cover favorites because I happen to think all three of mine are truly beautiful, but there’s something really special about this cover. I hope you agree!)

How the Light Gets In‘s Swoon Reads Cover Reveal

Mark How the Light Gets In To-Read on Goodreads

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?

Happy release day, THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF US!

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

TIoU Cover

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.
VOYA

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.