October Reading Wrap-Up

Happy Halloween!¬†ūüéÉ
I read an odd assortment of books this month, and found some gems.
Let me know in the comments if you’ve read any of these!¬†

30199656What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum
1. David Drucker. Best book boy I’ve read in a looooong time. Unique and brilliant and complicated and sweet and just so, so wonderful. I absolutely adored everything about his perspective. (Kit’s pretty great, too!)
2. Complex narrative. This isn’t a fun, sweet romance — though there are fun, sweet, romantic moments in the story. What to Say Next deals with heavy themes, and they’re handled with sensitivity and nuance.
3. Twisty-turns. This contemporary YA surprised me repeatedly, and I loved that about it. Never once does the story fall flat or feel predictable. And I thought its ending was perfect.

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Dating You/Hating You by Christina Lauren
1. LOL. Guys, books rarely make me crack a smile, but this one had me giggling more than once. Both MCs are funny, but Evie is particularly hilarious.
2. Chemistry, chemistry, chemistry. Even when Carter and Evie are actively hating each other, it’s so obvious they’re in l.o.v.e. And those moments when they’re — ahem — not hating each other? Whoa.
3. Hollywood. I found the talent agent aspect of this novel surprisingly interesting. Carter and Evie aren’t just hot for each other; they’re passionate about their careers, too, and it shows in various ways throughout the story.

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The Last Wish of Sasha Cade by Cheyanne Young (Fall, 2018)
1. Full of hope. It’s no secret that I like my YAs sad and Sasha Cade is a tearjerker, but ultimately it’s a hopeful story that made my heart so full.
2. A+ protagonist. Raquel Clearwater is freaking fantastic. I love a protagonist who’s loyal and strong and determined, and Raquel is all those things, and more.
3. Elijah. All my ideal book boy traits, rolled into one: mysterious, flawed, selfless, sweet, driven, and dreamy. You will love him.

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The Long Walk by Stephen King
1. Super character driven. Unlike many of King’s other stories, this one feels fairly restrained. There are no monsters, and there’s not much in the way of atmosphere. It’s all about the internal and external struggles of the boys.
2. Fascinating commentary on competition and military enlistment. Like, is the glory ever worth the pain/solitude/sacrifice?
3. Visceral writing. There were so many moments in this story that made me hurt, made me queasy, made me sad, made me furious. It’s an important, thought-provoking read.

25613996At First Blush by Beth Ellyn Summer
1. Teen YouTube beauty guru! I’m a junkie when it comes to watching makeup reviews and tutorials on YouTube, so I fell easily and happily into Lacey’s world.
2. Relatable self discovery.¬†I love that Lacey has an abundance of challenges to deal with, and that they all help her learn and grow in different ways. Even though I’ve (sadly) never interned at a magazine, I still connected with Lacey on various levels, and I wish we could be real life besties.
3. Cutest romance. ‚̧¬†Guys, Lacey and Tyler are freaking adorable, and they’re relationship plays out so satisfyingly. All the swoons!

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My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier & Christopher Collier
1. Quality middle grade audiobook. We listened to this one during a road trip; the whole family was entertained, and we all learned something.
2. Weighty themes. This middle grade novel is about the Revolutionary War, and it asks important questions about the potential futility of war, while reminding readers that there are two sides to every conflict.
3. Steep character arc. Protagonist Tim begins the story as a naive, whiny boy, and ends it as a mature young adult who’s endured too much loss. While this novel is historical fiction and moves rather slowly, it feels very relevant.

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The Wangs vs. the World by Jade Change
1. Road trip! I’m a sucker for books that revolve around a journey, and the cross-country trip the Wangs embark on definitely delivers.
2. Dry humor. Some of the comedy in this book (like Andrew’s stand-up routines) fell flat, but there were several scenes that had me snickering. A fun shift from the books I typically read (especially for book club).
3. Familial relationships. The Wangs are all flawed, but I found the ways they leaned on each other and loved each other heartwarming. Their relationships felt authentic and dynamic and so, even though each of the family members exhibited moments of selfishness and insensitivity, it was easy to root for them.

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

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October Events

20645250_10213835576221259_8156803949160231629_oYA Debuts Reading
with Meg Eden, Lisa Rosinsky, and Misa Sugiura
East City Bookshop
October 13, 2017 6:30 PM
“Come hear debut YA authors Misa Sugiura (IT’S NOT LIKE IT’S A SECRET), Katy Upperman (KISSING MAX HOLDEN), Lisa Rosinsky (INEVITABLE AND ONLY), and Meg Eden (POST HIGH-SCHOOL REALITY QUEST) read from their works and talk about the writing and publishing process.¬†Then, stick around for the first meeting of W(h)ine & Angst, a YA book club for readers 21+, discussing AN INHERITANCE OF ASHES by Leah Bobet.”

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Fall For the Book Festival
In the Mood for Love Panel
with Ada Calhoun & Lindsay Detwiler
Merten Hall, Room 1203, George Mason University
October 14, 2017 2:30
“Ada Calhoun,¬†Lindsay Detwiler¬†and¬†Katy Upperman¬†chat about the art of writing about L-O-V-E across genres. In¬†WEDDING TOASTS I’LL NEVER GIVE¬†author¬†Ada Calhoun¬†is revered for her honesty, poignancy, and sense of humor in her memoir about the complexity of marriage. Calhoun is a contributor to the¬†New York Times‚Äô¬†‚ÄúModern Love‚ÄĚ column. Romance novelist¬†Lindsay Detwiler¬†shares the gripping tale of a married couple, fighting for their lives and their love in the novel¬†REMEMBER WHEN.¬†Katy Upperman¬†continues the discussion with her debut YA novel¬†KISSING MAX HOLDEN¬†about a forbidden teenage romance with the boy next door.”

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Roundtable: A Conversation with Authors of Teen Fiction
Catonsville Library
Sunday, October 22, 2017 2:00
“Join¬†6 writers of fiction for¬†teens (Faith Boughan, Meg Eden, Christina June, Kathy MacMillan, Sharon Huss Roat, and Katy Upperman) for a lively, interactive panel discussion about their inspirations, writing process, and the value of stories in the modern world. Books will be available for purchase and signing after the program.¬† This panel is co-sponsored by Baltimore County Public Library and the MD/DE/WV Region of the Society for Book Writers and Illustrators.”

Hope to see you! ‚̧

YA Scavenger Hunt (Team Pink ūü§ó)

Welcome to YA Scavenger Hunt!

This bi-annual event was first organized by author¬†Colleen Houck¬†as a way to give readers a chance to gain access to exclusive bonus material from their favorite authors… and a chance to win some awesome prizes!

During this hunt, you not only get access to exclusive content from each participating author, you also get a numerical clue for the hunt. Add up the clues, and you can enter for our prize — one lucky winner will receive¬†one book from each author on the hunt in my team!¬†But play fast: this contest (and all the exclusive bonus material) will only be online for 120 hours!
Team Pink¬†There are seven contests going on simultaneously, and you can enter one, or all! I am part of the¬†PINK TEAM — but there is also a red team, orange team, gold team, green team, purple team, and blue team, all offering a chance to win different sets of books! 

(To learn more about the hunt, find links for all the authors participating, and see the full list of prizes, go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page.)

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SCAVENGER HUNT PUZZLE

Directions:¬†Below, I’ve “hidden” my¬†favorite number. (Okay, hint — it’s highlighted in pink!) Collect the favorite numbers of all the authors on the¬†pink team, and then add them up (don’t worry, you can use a calculator!).

Entry Form:¬†Once you’ve visited the blogs of all members of the pink team AND added up all the numbers,¬†make sure you fill out the form HERE to officially qualify for the grand prize. Only entries that have the correct number answer will qualify.

Fine Print:¬†Open internationally. Anyone under the age of 18 should have a parent or guardian’s permission to enter. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the completed entry form by¬†Sunday, October 8th, at noon PST. Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered.

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SCAVENGER HUNT GUEST AUTHOR

Tera

Today, I’m super excited to welcome Tera Lynn Childs to my blog! She’s the RITA-award-winning young adult author of the mythology-based Oh. My. Gods. series, the Forgive My Fins mermaid romance series, the kick-butt monster-hunting Sweet Venom trilogy, and the Darkly Fae series. She also wrote the City Chicks sweet chick lit romance series and co-wrote the Hero Agenda and Creative HeArts series. Tera lives nowhere in particular and spends her time writing wherever she can find a comfy chair and a steady stream of caffeinated beverages. Learn more about Tera¬†by checking out her author website, where you can also find more information about her books! Tera also has a Facebook page, and¬†Goodreads author page, and you can follow her on Twitter!

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EXCLUSIVE CONTENT FROM TERA LYNN CHILDS

Pearls

As best friend and emissary to her mer kingdom’s princess, Periwinkle Wentletrap juggles many responsibilities. At the moment those include getting the princess (and herself) ready for the upcoming Sea Harvest Dance. When a trip to the Thalassinian marketplace for pearls and dress-making supplies leads to a reunion with her long-time crush, Peri is once again caught up in the swirl of emotions she feels for a thoughtful pearl trader who reminds her of a dashing pirate. But things are never simple with Riatus Ballenato. The shadows of his past have come back to haunt him and he will do anything to keep those he cares about from getting caught in the darkness. Even if that means pushing away the girl he’s falling for. With the dance fast approaching, it might take a little outside help to bring Peri and her crush together at last.

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And now, some really fun exclusive content from Tera — and Peri!

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Ahoy! Periwinkle Wentletrap here, aka the star of Pretty in Pearls and the best friend since guppihood of Lily Sanderson, Crown Princess of Thalassinia.

When TLC asked me to come up with something special to share for the YA Scavenger Hunt, my first thought was PIRATES! My first thought is usually pirates, so that’s not surprising to anyone who knows me. (After you read Pretty in Pearls you’ll understand why I have a special affinity for the rebellious sea captain sort. *cough* Riatus *cough*)

So here, in no particular order, is my list of my top ten favorite pirate(ish) movies.

1 – Pirates of the Caribbean

2 – Captain Ron

3 – Hook

4 – Swiss Family Robinson

5 – The Princess Bride

6 – Treasure Island

7 – Muppet Treasure Island

8 – Pirates of Penzance

9 – Cutthroat Island

10 – Scooby-Doo! Pirates Ahoy!

If you love pirates as much as I do, then I think you’ll love these movies.

Yo-ho-ho,
Peri

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Okay, scavenger hunters! Don’t forget to enter the contest for a chance to win a ton of books from me,¬†Tera Lynn Childs, plus many more authors! To enter, you need to have found my favorite number (in pink!) hidden somewhere in this post.¬†Add up all the favorite numbers of the authors on the¬†PINK TEAM and you’ll have the secret code to enter for our grand prize!

To keep going on your quest for the secret code,  check out the next author on the PINK TEAM, Ginger Scott. 

September Reading Wrap-Up

September’s been the pits, my friends. Thanks to a lot of life stuff, I slacked on reading. But! The books I managed were pretty great…

28187230The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
1. Page turner. While, for me, this one had some believability issues, I still couldn’t put it down, mostly because I was desperate to find out what the heck was going on.
2. Emotive setting. Just like main character Lo, I felt disturbingly claustrophobic while “aboard” the luxurious but eerie Aurora Borealis.
3. Wholly unreliable cast. This was perhaps my favorite part of The Woman in Cabin Ten; I love when a book makes me doubt which of its characters can be trusted, and that was the case with this one up until its final chapters.

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Be True To Me by Adele Griffin
1. Dreamiest setting. Be True To Me is set in 1976, on Fire Island. It was a simpler time in many ways, though author Adele Griffin describes the scenery and spirit in such a lush, evocative way, I found myself longing to be there with Fritz and Jean.
2. Deeply flawed cast. Give me a book full of characters who make bad decisions over a group of perfect princes and princesses any day. I love that these teenagers were sometimes selfish and inconsiderate and single-minded. They weren’t always likable, but they felt so, so relatable.
3. Lovely prose. Like this: Summer romances were made out of ice cream and cotton candy, intensely sweet before they melted into nothing.¬†Fact —¬†Be True To Me is my first Adele Griffin novel, but I’ve become a fast fan. Can’t wait to read more of her work!

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Before You Know Kindness by Chris Bohjalian
1. Suuuuuper character driven. This story focuses on a small, multi-generational family and you will get to know its members well. The good, the bad, the ugly.
2. Issues galore. Animal rights, gun control, marital strain, underage drug and alcohol use, self-harm. This is a long, slow story, allowing the author ample time to explore the many themes he presents. Nothing’s black and white, and I appreciated the opportunity to draw my own conclusions.
3. Young adult-ish. Before You Know Kindness is literary fiction written for an adult audience, though the sections that center around the Seton family’s youngest generation feel markedly YA. They were my favorite sections, obvs.

a562e848e72902082dd52bfa7249c203Not the Girls You’re Looking For by Aminah Mae Safi (June 19, 2018)
1. aMaZiNg characterizations. I’ve been searching for one perfect adjective to describe Lulu and her girl friends and… I don’t think there is one? They’re fierce yet vulnerable, confident yet afraid, always exuberant, and so very real. There are some A+ parents plus a pretty great boy, too. ‚̧
2. Enviable prose. This is one of those novels chock full of passages you’ll want to read over and over again, because they are either lovely, or sharply insightful, or darkly funny.
3. Feminism for the win. I can’t wait to hand this book to my daughter in a few years. Its girls are complicated, and they make mistakes, and they do risky things. But they champion each other in ways that consistently warmed my heart. Pick up a copy of Not the Girls You’re Looking For next summer!

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Finding You by Lydia Albano
1. Incredible character arcs. Protagonist Isla begins the book a naive and admittedly weak girl. By the story’s end, she’s retained her compassion and her huge heart, but she’s otherwise unrecognizable — in the most impressive way.
2. Relevant subject matter.¬†Finding You is an intense (possibly triggering) read about human trafficking. Though it’s set in a vaguely dystopian world void of most modern technology, its issues and themes are timely and very important.
3. Girl friendships. There’s a sweet romance in this book and while I loved Isla and Tam, I found myself even more invested in the relationships she formed with her fellow captives. I’m so impressed by how these girls came to lean on and support one another.

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

Cover Voting for THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF US!

I’ve been anticipating this for a¬†long¬†while… It’s time to vote on the cover of my July, 2018 book,¬†The Impossibility of Us!¬†Here’s a¬†summary from my publisher, in case you’d like to get to know the story better before seeing the cover directions:

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 to be closer to Elise’s sister-in-law and niece.

When Elise meets Mati during a beachside walk, they quickly discover how much they have in common. Mati is new to town, too, 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?

Here are the 3 options the cover designers at Swoon Reads came up with:

  

Guys, I love them all so much! These models so perfectly capture Mati and Elise’s spirits, and I adore the attention to detail paid by the cover designer: Mati’s hands in his pockets, Elise’s long, caramel colored hair, the beachy setting, the beautiful dandelions, and the romantic yet slightly hesitant postures. I also adore the color scheme of each cover — so dreamy.¬†I’m truly smitten with each!¬†

Visit the Swoon Reads blog to¬†vote for your favorite cover direction, now through September 15th.¬†And if you’d like to learn more about¬†The Impossibility of Us, check out¬†this post, and its¬†Goodreads page, where you can also mark it To-Read.

Which cover direction is your favorite?!

August Reading Wrap-Up

I’ve been sharing monthly reading wrap-up posts almost as long as I’ve been blogging — like, seven years. And I love doing them; recommending fantastic books is one of my favorite things about being a member of the writing/reading community. But, man, these posts take a long time to compile.

Bad news… With a busy tween, a mischief-making foster toddler, and a fledgling publishing career, plus my husband and friends and house and various other commitments, I need to scale back on my monthly wrap-ups.

Good news… I’m not giving them up! I’m just going to streamline them into a more manageable “Three Things” structure. So, I’ll share three things I loved about each of the books I read during a given month, and hopefully that will help you decide whether the stories I feature might be ones you’d enjoy.

This month is all about testing the new format, and I’d love your feedback. Let me know in the comments what you think of the “Three Things” wrap-up!

30971685The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy
1. Incredibly unique world building.¬†You’ve never read a story quite like this. Full of rich detail,¬†The Disappearances is historical fiction, but with a magical twist, and a puzzle that’ll keep you guessing through its final pages.
2. Gorgeous prose. Emily’s writing is lyrical and lovely. I found myself rereading sentences just for the pleasure of savoring her word choice, imagery, and rhythm.
3. A relatable main character.¬†Aila is strong, determined, and smart, but she can also be self-conscious and uncertain. She loves hard, though, and she’s unfailingly loyal, which makes her so easy to root for.

29437949Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris
1. Swiftly paced. While this adult psychological thriller is told in a past/present format, it never drags. In fact, I had a hard time putting it down!
2. Chilling, but not graphic or gratuitous. MC Grace is stuck in an abusive relationship (she’s her husband’s prisoner, basically), and while Jack is terrifying and manipulative and sadistic, no part of this book made me feel like I was going to have nightmares, or created images I couldn’t sweep away soon after.
3. Super satisfying conclusion. I kept wondering, How is Grace ever going to escape this? Without spoiling the ending, I’ll say that I was pretty pleased with how things turned out.

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Little Monsters by Kara Thomas
1. Slow-burn mystery.¬†This is a tightly plotted book, full of red-herrings, twists, and turns. I wouldn’t call it fast-paced, though, as it focuses heavily on character development, which only serves the story. And the ending’s a shocker.
2. A host of unreliable perspectives. Main character, Kacey, feels at times untrustworthy and at times completely sincere. In fact, at one point or another, all of Little Monster‘s characters seem to be hiding something, upping the intrigue tenfold.
3. Incredibly atmospheric. This book made me cold. It made me hyperaware when walking into dark spaces. And it made me want to stay far, far away from haunted barns. It really is the YA version of a Gillian Flynn novel!

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By Your Side by Kasie West
1. Excellent setting. During the first half of By Your Side, Autumn and mysterious loner, Dax, are trapped in a library. There are a lot of challenges for them to overcome (what to eat, for example) but mostly their situation struck me as pretty darn dreamy.
2. Anxiety Disorder representation. I appreciated reading about a protagonist who is living (flourishing, really) with anxiety. Though Autumn’s disorder presents unique struggles, it does not define her, or drive the plot.¬†¬†
3. Sweet romance. Kasie West has become a go-to author when I’m looking to read a light book with a gratifying romance. While Autumn and Dax definitely face challenges, their relationship is free of contrived drama, and they’ve got great chemistry.

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Romancing the Beat by Gwen Hayes
1. Truly helpful structural tips. Both for romance writers, and those hoping to thread romance into stories of other genres.
2. Quick, easy read. Also, encouraging! Romancing the Beat left me eager to dive back in to my troublesome WiP.
3. Humorously and irreverently written. Bonus — eighties song references!

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The Big F by Maggie Ann Martin –
1. Bridges the YA/NA gap. The Big F has the same light, hopeful feel of a lot of my favorite YAs (see my mention of Kasie West above), but its MC, Danielle, is trudging through her first year of community college. It’s nice to see this stage featured in a book.
2. Dynamic characterizations. From Danielle, to her younger brother, to her best friend, to potential love interests Luke and Porter, Maggie Ann Martin’s characters leap off the page.
3. Excellent voice. I can totally see myself hanging out with Danielle and her bestie, Zoe. They read as so authentic, and that’s thanks to this debut’s stellar voice.

Tell me: What’s the best book you read in August?
And, what do you think of the “Three Things” structure of this post?

Why I recommend rather than review…

If you’ve been hanging around this blog for a while, you’ve probably noticed that I don’t write negative book reviews. It’s certainly true that I don’t love everything I read; I don’t even like everything I read. And yet, I almost always* choose to highlight the positive.

Here’s why…

1. I’m a writer — part of the writing community — and I don’t feel comfortable offering unsolicited public critique of my peers’ work.

2. I believe every book has its readers. Even if I don’t connect with a story, I can almost always point to its positive attributes, and hope the right reader picks it up.

3. There’s plenty of unpleasantness in the world as is, especially these days. I don’t have time or energy to waste on negativity. I prefer to celebrate books I love, rather than bash books I don’t enjoy.

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This isn’t to say that negative reviews are bad. While I appreciate enthusiastic praising when it comes to stories, I also see great value in thoughtful criticisms. That’s just not what I do here.

It’s simple, really. I boost books — particularly the books I love.
And you know what? It feels really good. ūüíô

*If I notice problematic (racist, sexist, homophobic, etc) content, I’ll say so.