Reading Wrap-Up and Book of the Month

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway‘s contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s unique take on the topic. To participate, just answer the prompt on your blog and leave a link over at YA Highway.

This week’s question: What’s the best book you read in September?

I’m sadly behind on my reading wrap-ups. I haven’t done tons of reading in the last few months thanks to a big ol’ revision, but here are the books I’ve managed to knock off my To-Read list:

Breathe by Sarah Crossan (available October 2nd) – I enjoyed this dystopian’s concept and Sarah Crossan’s writing, and I look forward to finding out more about this world as the series progresses. That said, I had a little trouble connecting with the main characters, perhaps because there were three first-person narrators. I never felt fully immersed in any one protagonist’s life. Regardless, this one’s worth checking out next month, especially if you’re a fan of dystopian YA.

Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry – This was a very cool book, reminiscent of the gritty, no-holds-barred contemporaries of Simone Elkeles. Echo and Noah were both sympathetic main characters with distinct voices and fascinating backstories. I found myself rooting for them throughout the novel. My one criticism of this story was that their relationship was at times a bit… romance-novel-esque, which is to say, not exactly my taste. Still, this book is an entertaining read. I recommend it for lovers of more mature contemporary YA.

Skylark by Meagan Spooner – This disturbing world was so unlike anything I’ve read before, it took some time to get a grasp on all the details. Once I was immersed, though, I was intrigued by Lark’s plight and impressed by how she transformed into a smart, capable heroine. Meagan Spooner has a timeless writing style that was refreshing in this age of super-trendy teen speak. Definitely looking forward to this story’s continuation in Shadowlark.

Nobody But Us by Kristin Halbrook (available January, 2013) – I absolutely loved this beautiful, heartbreaking, fearless tale of two damaged teens on the run. It’s one of the best YA contemporaries I’ve read. I posted a full Bookanista review HERE.

And the best book I’ve read in the last few months…

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl

From Goodreads: On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer? As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?

Yes! An ADULT book is the best I’ve read in recent memory. I’ve seen Gone Girl recommended all over the place lately, specifically by Rachel, Ghenet, and Meredith (via Instagram), and when I purchased it at my local indie, the woman behind the counter couldn’t say enough about how fantastic she thought it was. So, I knew I was in for something good. I just didn’t know how good.

I refuse to give anything about Gone Girl away, but I will say that this book made me feel ALL THE FEELINGS. I was charmed, horrified, romanced, aghast, and sometimes even amused. Every chapter was a total trip, and most of the chapter endings left me reeling. In other words, Gone Girl is a page turner of the very best sort. Married protagonists Nick and Amy are tragically flawed, yet somehow weirdly lovable, and their marriage is a wreck. Nick and Amy are both presumably unreliable, which makes Gone Girl‘s mystery is a TRUE mystery. I had absolutely no idea what was coming next, and not even a guess at how the story would end. But, I was desperate to find out. And the writing! It’s fantastic, guys. Gillian Flynn is a master, and I pretty much wanted to stand up and applaud after every. Single. Paragraph. I’m a big fan of the thoughtful, well-placed adverb (yeah, yeah, they pave the road to hell… whatever), and let me tell you: Gillian Flynn ROCKS the deliberate adverb. All in all, Gone Girl is on my short list of 2012 favorites. It’s THAT GOOD.

So, have I raved enough? Will you please, please, please read Gone Girl?

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


July Reading Wrap-Up

And, my summer of amazing books continues. Here’s what I’ve been reading…

Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama – A sophisticated, intricately told tale with something for everyone: A complex plot, multi-dimensional characters, a thrilling, chilling mystery, strong writing, a fresh spin on tried and true paranormal, a bit of history, and romance that will have you swooning. Full review HERE.

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore – I never thought I’d say this, but I loved Bitterblue even more than Graceling. This book… It wrecked me in every way possible. It romanced me, it made me laugh, it made me angry, it broke my heart and, at times, it absolutely horrified me. I can’t say enough about this novel. In my humble opinion, it was just about as perfect as a story can get. A definite favorite. Full review HERE.

The Doll People by The Doll People by Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin, illustrated by Brian Selznick – Quickly paced and charming, decidedly contemporary but with a delightfully timeless feel, and illustrations that are gorgeous and perfectly match the enchantingly magical quality of the story. Full review HERE.

Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone – I’m a romance girl, so if I can fall for a couple, I usually end up a fan of the book. I thought Anna was a fantastic MC, and I found Bennett to be adorable. Their relationship developed believably (considering the absolute inconceivability of their situation), so I was rooting for them. I do wish Bennett’s love for music and the mystery of the “missing person” had been further developed, but I truly loved the ending of this book. Check out my interview with author Tamara Ireland Stone HERE.

*The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky – This book was so unique in format (letters to an unnamed “friend”) and voice, it was nearly impossible to put down. The existing and emerging relationships felt genuine, and the characters leapt off the page, especially main character, Charlie, and his crush, Sam (played by Emma Watson in the upcoming movie!). If you haven’t read Wallflower, it’s a definite recommend!

*Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card –  I checked the audio version of this one out from the library and took it with me on a twelve-hour road trip. It wasn’t exactly a Katy Book (no romance, no butterflies, no kisses, TONS of battles and action sequences), but I can certainly understand why it’s become a classic. The writing is fantastic, the world-building exceptional, the depth of main character Ender and his plight astounding, and the ending… It’s one of those oh-em-gee! endings I love. Also, the audio version concluded with a long talk by Orson Scott Card about the history of Ender’s Game, the beginning of his writing career, and his thoughts on the writing process. It was fascinating.

My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick – I heard about this book when my friend Elodie raved about it, and it’s very much a Katy Book. It’s an upper YA “romantic drama,” which is what I write and what I prefer to read. BUT… I think the romantic drama is also one of the toughest genres to pull off well. Huntley Fitzpatrick does so beautifully. Sam and Jase are freaking adorable, and they share tons of sweet moments and steamy kisses. Plus, Jase’s huge family is awesome, and enviable characterized. Another recommend!

And, last but not least, July’s Book of the Month: *The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-BanksFrom GoodreadsFrankie Landau-Banks at age 14: Debate Club. Her father’s “bunny rabbit.” A mildly geeky girl attending a highly competitive boarding school. Frankie Landau-Banks at age 15: A knockout figure. A sharp tongue. A chip on her shoulder. And a gorgeous new senior boyfriend: the supremely goofy, word-obsessed Matthew Livingston. Frankie Laundau-Banks. No longer the kind of girl to take “no” for an answer. Especially when “no” means she’s excluded from her boyfriend’s all-male secret society. Not when her ex boyfriend shows up in the strangest of places. Not when she knows she’s smarter than any of them. When she knows Matthew’s lying to her. And when there are so many, many pranks to be done. Frankie Landau-Banks, at age 16: Possibly a criminal mastermind. This is the story of how she got that way.

I have to admit… When I read secret society and pranks in the jacket summary, my interest wasn’t exactly piqued.  But, I love books set in boarding schools (hello, Jellicoe Road) and Frankie came highly recommended by many of my trusted YA friends, including Erin BowmanCaroline RichmondCopil YanezGhenet Myrthil, and Sarah Enni.  Turns out they were all spot on in their gushing. Frankie was so perfectly fun and bizarre, I couldn’t stop turning pages.

Frankie has a pitch-perfect YA voice (even though the story is told in third-person). Protagonist Frankie Landau-Banks is brilliant, dry, and witty, and she’s not afraid to take charge and go after what she wants. That said, she can be sort of thick and she makes plenty of mistakes over the course of her story. But, that’s what makes her so endearing. The best part of this book was how it ended. I won’t give anything away, of course, but I will say that when I read the final page, I felt like every character had experienced the consequences he or she deserved, and that the conclusion was handled realistically, but with the same intelligence and charm the rest of the book possessed.

If you’ve yet to read The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, I highly recommend you check it out!

Don’t forget to head over to YA Highway to check out other July favorites. 🙂

Tell me: What’s the best book you’ve read so far this summer?

*Gap Books

Bookanista Rec – THE BOOK THIEF

summer reading. #books, #reading, #summer

Oh, my. I haven’t done a Book of the Month post since… FEBRUARY. Bad Katy! So, since yesterday was the first day of SUMMER, let’s play catch up, shall we?

I present:

The Books I Read This Spring (with a Bookanista rec at the end!)

Delirium by Lauren Oliver – Delirium sat on my nightstand for months. I passed it up time and again (I’d been underwhelmed by several dystopians of late), and honestly, I thought the idea of love-as-a-disease was a little hard to buy into . Turns out it wasn’t, not when written by the incredibly talented Lauren Oliver. Delirium was good. Quiet, but with lovely prose and characters I wanted to know. I recommend it!

Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver – This book grabbed me and never let go. If you were disappointed by the slow pace and inherent quietness of Delirium (I, as I mentioned above, was not), you should know that Pandemonium is a turn around. While it’s similar to Delirium in its gorgeous writing and gripping characters, it’s also action-packed, with tension that made it utterly unputdownable. You can read my Bookanista recommendation HERE.

Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard – I’m a sucker for beautifully written contemporary YA, especially when the story is set somewhere warm and beachy, and ESPECIALLY when there’s a slow-burn (read: realistic) romance involved. In these ways, Wanderlove is a triple threat. Oh, and Kirsten Hubbard’s writing is enviable. My Bookanista recommendation is HERE.

Graceling by Kristin Cashore – What I loved most about Graceling‘s Katsa is that her strength, while very much present, is not at all black and white. She’s layered, definitely not perfect and not always likable, but very real. And the Graced prince, Po? You will totally fall for him! More about why I adored Graceling HERE.

Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi – Main character Aria’s steep, authentic arc transformed her from a character I felt eh about, into a character I wanted to befriend, a character whose story I can’t wait to continue reading. This book has it all: fantastic pacing, world building that blew my mind, and a romance that had me flipping pages late into the night. More on Under the Never Sky HERE.

Ten by Gretchen McNeil (available September 18th, 2012) – I found this book to be reminiscent of the movies Scream and The Ring. It’s a murder mystery, a big group of kids secluded during a storm, picked off by the unknown killer among them. Ten is packed with tension and twists right up to the very end. A scary but fun read.

Happy Families by Tanita S. Davis – A no-nonsense contemporary about a family going through a big change. It’s narrated by a brother-sister pair (good, smart kids with lofty goals), and while I liked the protagonists and their respective arcs, the tone of this book was a little on the young side for my taste. Still, if you love stories about complex family dynamics, Happy Families is one to check out.

This Is Not a Test by Courtney Summers – Not regular Courtney Summers contemporary fare, but just as absorbing, just as unputdownable, as any of her other novels. Raw and unflinching, I suspect that even non-zombie-lovers will be captivated by this book! My YA Confidential review is HERE.

On Writing by Stephen King – The end-all-be-all of craft books! I was long overdue in giving this one a read, but I’m so glad I finally did. Stephen King writes with honestly and a touch of irony that made this book hard to step away from. It helped me reflect on my writing goals and writing practices in a way I haven’t before. I recommend this one to anyone who writes or wants to write, and to non-writers who simply enjoy Stephen King’s nonfiction articles (he’s had many pop culture bits published in Entertainment Weekly… they’re awesome!).

Insurgent by Veronica Roth – I had mixed feelings about this one right up until the big reveal at the end, which is when I fell in love. I enjoyed Tris and her narration throughout, but my thoughts during most of the book were this: Too much action (YES). Not enough Four. But, I have to see where this is going. I’m glad I did, because Veronica Roth made it all worthwhile at the end. I can’t wait to see what the final installment of this trilogy brings.

Amelia Anne Is Dead and Gone by Kat Rosenfield (available July 5, 2012) – Kat Rosenfield holds nothing back in the weaving of Rebecca and Amelia’s parallel stories. Her prose is enchantingly gritty, and the relationships she fosters between her characters feel real and flawed and dangerously precarious. One part literary fiction, one part murder mystery… This book blew me away. My Bookanista recommendation is HERE.

And, finally(!), my favorite book of the season, one I highly recommend: The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak.

The Book ThiefFrom Goodreads: It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . . Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau. This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.

I’ve read quite a few books set during the Holocaust, stand-outs being Number the Stars, Night, Sarah’s Key, and The Diary of Anne Frank. The Book Thief has quite a bit in common with these stories, yet in many ways it isn’t like them it all. It focuses on blonde, German kids, “normal” kids who attend book burnings and Hitler Youth rallies. They’re kids who, as part of their everyday lives, deal with the Gestapo and food rationings and parades of emaciated Jews marching through their streets toward probable death. It’s rare to hear stories about these kids, kids caught between innocence and evil who, for the most part, lack the power to make real change in a world many of them recognize as incredibly unjust.

A few points about The Book Thief:

~ It was a slow read for me, but that was okay. The characters (even the lesser characters) were absolutely captivating. I didn’t want to hurry their story along.

~ The language… Oh, my gosh. So gorgeous. The imagery and the personification and the metaphors. This novel is a study in weaving beautiful prose.

~ The narrator of the story is Death. I was weirded out by this initially, but I got used to it quickly. In my opinion, Death’s perspective was the only one from which to tell this story.

~ The only (tiny) thing I didn’t like about Death’s narration was that he wasn’t one for foreshadowing. He gave away big plot points seemingly willy-nilly, which I could have done without.

~ Rudy Steiner. *sigh* I absolutely adore that kid. He is by far my favorite character. Such a little shit, but with the world’s biggest heart. He alone is worth picking up The Book Thief for.

So, that’s that. The Book Thief: If it’s one of your gap books, please, please please run to your local bookseller or library to pick it up!

Don’t forget to check out what my fellow Bookanistas are up to: 

Elana Johnson can’t get enough of See You At Harry’s

Shannon Messenger shares some YA cover lust

Shelli Johannes-Wells talks about the cover for The 13th Sign–with a contest!

Stasia Ward Kehoe and Nikki Katz gush about Surrender

Jessica Love has feelings for The List

Tell me, have you read The Book Thief? If so, what did you love about it? If not… WHY?!

RTW: February’s Reading Wrap-Up and Book of the Month

Winter Heart

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where the girls at YA Highway post a weekly writing- or reading-related question for participants to respond to on their own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s unique take on the topic.

This Week’s Topic: What’s the best book you read in February? 

First, here’s my book wrap-up for the month:

The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour – Love, love, LOVE. Technically my very favorite book of February, but I’ve already reviewed it for a Bookanista post so I won’t rehash today. Please do check it out HERE if you’re interested. 🙂

Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard – (I was lucky enough to read an ARC of this book and plan to review it in more detail closer to its publication date, July 24th!) Eleanor is a fantastic protagonist: strong and smart and funny, definitely no damsel in distress. I loved how the elegant Victorian setting contrasted with the eerie creepiness of the Dead. And Susan’s writing is awesome–perfect for this action-packed story. Definitely check it out when it debuts in July.

These Things Hidden by Heather Gudenkauf – An adult novel about the cost of secrets. Initially, I wasn’t sure how I felt about this one. While the writing is lovely, there are multiple POVs (some in first person, some in third person) and tons of backstory. There were also a few plausibility issues I just couldn’t wrap my head around. Still, an intense climax and a well-executed twist tipped the balance of my opinion and I did end up enjoying the story. I recommend it if you like books in the same vein as Jodi Picoult’s.

And February’s Book of the Month: Ditched: A Love Story by Robin Mellom

Ditched: A Love Story

From GoodreadsHigh school senior Justina Griffith was never the girl who dreamed of going to prom. Designer dresses and strappy heels? Not her thing. So she never expected her best friend, Ian Clark, to ask her. Ian, who promised her the most amazing night at prom. And then ditched her.

First, I love Ditched‘s cover so much. Such a fun, cheeky twist on the ever-so-popular melancholy girl in a super elegant dress. And the model looks just the way I pictured the story’s protagonist, Justina. Another plus? This cover totally relates to the story, and the dress’ image is carried throughout the pages of the book. Genius.

I have to admit: I was a little hesitant about Ditched when I first read the story synopsis. I thought this one might have the potential to come off as young, or maybe a little cheesy. Thankfully, that was so NOT the case. Ditched is about teens acting like teens. Yay! And Robin Mellom has a fantastic authorial voice, a style that’s one of my favorites–genuine, funny, straight-forward, and unflinchingly honest.

I could not help but smile as I read about Justina and her prom shenanigans. The people populating her world felt real and were full of quirks and imperfections, even will-they-won’t-they romantic interest Ian.  But, flaws and all, Justina and her cast of supporting characters are inherently likable, as was this book! I highly recommend it if you’re in need of a smart and funny contemporary.

Tell me: What’s the best book YOU read in February?

January’s Reading Wrap-Up and Book of the Month

Oh my goodness, has January been good to me on the literary front! I can honestly say I enjoyed every. Single. Book. I read, which rarely happens. They were all winners, but of course I had a stand out favorite. Here’s the wrap-up:

Before I Die by Jenny Downham – Melancholy but lovely. Read my Bookanista recommendation HERE.

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi – A post-apocolyptic/dystopian mash-up that left me feeling hot and dirty and bleak. That’s not to say Ship Breaker wasn’t good–it was excellent. I felt a deep connection with protagonist Nailer, which is unusual for me when it comes to books written in third person. And the world building… thorough, gloomy, enviable.

A Million Suns by Beth Revis – I very much enjoyed Across the Universe, the first book in this trilogy, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that AMS improved upon it. Loved it! Read my Bookanista recommendation HERE.

The Fault in our Stars by John Green – This one was equal parts hilarious and heartbreaking. Hazel was absolutely darling. Her observations about life and love and death were so very YA and incredibly profound. Though TFIOS doesn’t take the place of Looking for Alaska as my favorite John Green novel, it’s still a definite recommend.

Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally – A contemporary full of realistic high school relationships and snappy dialogue. It was fun to be immersed in Jordan’s world of football and cute boys. Plus, this book was set in one of my very favorite cities, Franklin, Tennessee!

Chasing Brooklyn by Lisa Schroeder – I love Lisa Schroeder’s writing, and I loved this book. It’s a study in nuance and rhythm, and it’s full of beautiful language, imagery, and symbolism. If you’re unaccustomed to novels written in verse, Chasing Brooklyn is a great place to start. I bet you’ll adore it as much as I do!

And my very favorite book of January:
The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight

From Goodreads – Who would have guessed that four minutes could change everything? Today should be one of the worst days of seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan’s life. She’s stuck at JFK, late to her father’s second wedding, which is taking place in London and involves a soon to be step-mother that Hadley’s never even met. Then she meets the perfect boy in the airport’s cramped waiting area. His name is Oliver, he’s British, and he’s in seat 18C. Hadley’s in 18A. Twists of fate and quirks of timing play out in this thoughtful novel about family connections, second chances and first loves. Set over a 24-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver’s story will make you believe that true love finds you when you’re least expecting it.

Title? Perfectly unique. Such a mouthful it can’t help but be intriguing.

Cover? Perfectly adorable. Love the color scheme. Love the font. Love the poses of the models. Love the slightly askew heart encircling them.

Characters? Perfectly delightful. I want to know Hadley and Oliver. I want to hang out with them and laugh with them and hear their stories about childhood. They’re true-to-life teens–flawed and funny and confused and endearing.

Romance? Perfectly real. Sure, it develops in a super short span of time (twenty-four hours!), but you will believe in it and you will root for it because it jumps off the page in its sincerity. And the kisses… so sweet.

Want to know the BIGGEST reason I love The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight? Why it won the title of January’s Book of the Month by a landslide? Easy. This book is contemporary and fairly simple in concept, but Jennifer E. Smith’s writing brings a magical quality to each and every page. The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight is about people and relationships and learning about one’s self. There are no explosions or evil villains or paranormal beasts, yet I was still at the edge of my seat, flipping page after page to find out what would happen next.

The Statistical  Probability of Love at First Sight is honest and heartfelt and warm, authentic in its execution. It’s exactly the kind of book I aspire to write, and I can’t recommend it enough.

Tell me: What’s the BEST book you read in January?  

December’s Reading Wrap-Up and Books of the Month

Pinned Image

Happy New Year’s Eve! December was a super-busy month, what with the holidays and the Class of 2011: YA Superlatives Blogfest and all, so I didn’t get as much reading done as I’d hoped. Still, there were a few books I managed to get through that definitely deserve mentioning:

Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss – A humorous craft book on grammar and why it’s essential. This one was a fast read and it had me smiling more than once. If you’re someone who rolls her eyes at the misuse of its and it’s or the ever-tricky apostrophe, you’ll appreciate this book.

The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler – This was such a fun book! Read more about why I liked it in my Bookanista recommendation.

The Liar Society by Lisa & Laura Roecker – This one came highly recommended by several Bookanistas and Agent Vickie, and now I know why! Kate was a fantastically funny narrator, though the pain she felt at losing her best friend was also palpable. And the suspense in this one was masterfully built. Recommend!

And my favorite books of December: Crossed by Ally Condie

From Goodreads: In search of a future that may not exist and faced with the decision of who to share it with, Cassia journeys to the Outer Provinces in pursuit of Ky – taken by the Society to his certain death – only to find that he has escaped, leaving a series of clues in his wake. Cassia’s quest leads her to question much of what she holds dear, even as she finds glimmers of a different life across the border. But as Cassia nears resolve and certainty about her future with Ky, an invitation for rebellion, an unexpected betrayal, and a surprise visit from Xander – who may hold the key to the uprising and, still, to Cassia’s heart – change the game once again. Nothing is as expected on the edge of Society, where crosses and double crosses make the path more twisted than ever.

This follow-up to last year’s Matched seems to be getting mixed reviews, but I kind of loved it. Yes, it was slowly paced and the ending wasn’t exactly satisfying, but this was the middle book of a trilogy. Not all can be resolved! I was mesmerized by Matched’s setting, its ever-evolving and unpredictable characters, and Ally Condie’s quiet, elegant writing. I’ll definitely be reading the conclusion to this trilogy!

And, Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma

[Imaginary Girls cover]

From Goodreads: Chloe’s older sister, Ruby, is the girl everyone looks to and longs for, who can’t be captured or caged. When a night with Ruby’s friends goes horribly wrong and Chloe discovers the dead body of her classmate London Hayes left floating in the reservoir, Chloe is sent away from town and away from Ruby. But Ruby will do anything to get her sister back, and when Chloe returns to town two years later, deadly surprises await. As Chloe flirts with the truth that Ruby has hidden deeply away, the fragile line between life and death is redrawn by the complex bonds of sisterhood.

This book was bizarre in the very best sense of the word. The writing is stunning, one of those where I found myself rereading sentences in hopes of fully absorbing their awesomeness. And the characters… Ruby. Yikes! I hated her fully, but then I was absolutely smitten with her too, very much the way Chloe seemed to feel about her. The premise of this novel is unique, one I hesitate to talk too much about because the unknowing is quite creepy. I will say that it is guaranteed to keep you guessing with every turn of the page!

What’s the best book you read in December?

RTW: Best of November and Reading Wrap-Up

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where the ladies at YA Highway post a weekly writing- or reading-related question for participants to respond to on their own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s unique take on the topic.

Today’s Topic: What’s the best book you read in November?

November was another fabulous book month. Here’s what I read…

Hushed by Kelley York – A fantastically edgy contemporary debut, full of darkness and unexpected twists and turns. Check out my Debut Love post for more about this one.

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver – I absolutely loved this book! Read my Bookanista Recommendation post for all the reasons why.

Want to Go Private by Sarah Darer Littman – A cautionary tale about internet predators that left me more than a little skeeved. The teen voice in Private was younger than I normally read, and set against the very explicit language of internet pedophile Luke, it sort of gave me whiplash. While Private occasionally read as preachy, it’s certainly timely and important. Recommend for those who like contemporary “issue” books.

The Pledge by Kimberly Derting – A beautifully written, uniquely spun dystopian-set fairy tale. Check out my Bookanista Recommendation for a full review.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater – A gorgeous legend-based story that takes itself utterly seriously, so I did too. A book you should avoid while you’re drafting or seriously revising… it will make you feel tragically incompetent. Still, Scorpio is too beautiful to NOT read. Check out my Bookanista post tomorrow for more on why I loved this one. 🙂

And, November’s Book of the Month: The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta

From Goodreads: Melina Marchetta’s brilliant, heart-wrenching new novel takes up the story of the group of friends from her best-selling, much-loved book Saving Francesca – only this time it’s five years later and Thomas Mackee is the one who needs saving. Thomas Mackee wants oblivion. Wants to forget parents who leave and friends he used to care about and a string of one-night stands, and favourite uncles being blown to smithereens on their way to work on the other side of the world. But when his flatmates turn him out of the house, Tom moves in with his single, pregnant aunt, Georgie. And starts working at the Union pub with his former friends. And winds up living with his grieving father again. And remembers how he abandoned Tara Finke two years ago, after his uncle’s death. And in a year when everything’s broken, Tom realises that his family and friends need him to help put the pieces back together as much as he needs them.

Oh my. I’ve yet to read a novel by Melina Marchetta that hasn’t completely shredded my heart. Here’s the thing though: The Piper’s Son (like its predecessor, Saving Francesca) isn’t exactly exciting. It’s not what I’d call a page-turner, and it certainly isn’t high concept.


I fell head over heels in love with the characters of The Piper’s Son. I wanted to hug them, smack them, lecture them, and hang out with them at the Union pub all night long. I knew Tom and Georgie and Dom and Sam and Tara and Ned (I adored Ned!), therefore I rooted for them from start to finish. In fact, The Piper’s Son might be the most perfect example of a character-driven novel I’ve ever read. It made me teary, a rarity. It also made me laugh and ponder and want to visit Australia, as is the case anytime I read a Melina Marchetta novel.

The Piper’s Son is a definite recommend for anyone who loves contemporary, older YA/new adult, flawless writing, and books centered around family dynamics and character development. I absolutely loved it!

What’s the best book YOU read in November?

RTW: Best Book of September

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where the ladies at YA Highway post a weekly writing- or reading-related question for participants to respond to on their own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s unique take on the topic.

Today’s Topic: What’s the best book you read in September?

Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell – This one came highly recommended by both Agent Vickie and talented author friend Jessi Kirby. Let’s just say, I was not disappointed. Plot and Structure is one of the best craft books I’ve read and I plan to use everything I learned from it to draft, revise, and rewrite. Clear and concise, fast-paced, and full of fantastic examples. Recommend!

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs – I’m not going to go into this one in too much depth today because I’ll be posting a full review for Fall Book Club on Friday. Please do check back then!

Chain Reaction by Simone Elkeles – I enjoyed the third and final book in the this trilogy more than the second book, Rules of Attraction, but not quite as much as the original, Perfect Chemistry. Nikki and Luis were both fantastic narrators with believable motivations and arcs, but I find this author’s style to be a bit too telling at times. Also, it takes A LOT of violence to upset me, and there was one scene in this book that actually made me feel a little nauseous. Fair warning to the faint of heart.

Forgotten by Cat Patrick – The concept (a girl whose memory “resets” every night, leaving her with no recollection of the past but with strange glimpses into the future) was definitely intriguing. It’s fresh (to YA, anyway), and quite well-written. Main character London was sympathetic and likable, and love interest Luke was adorable. I’ve read reviews stating that the conclusion of this book came out of left field, but I didn’t feel like that at all. I found it to be action-packed and satisfying. Recommend!

And, September’s Best Book of the Month: Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly…

From GoodReads: BROOKLYN: Andi Alpers is on the edge. She’s angry at her father for leaving, angry at her mother for not being able to cope, and heartbroken by the loss of her younger brother, Truman. Rage and grief are destroying her. And she’s about to be expelled from Brooklyn Heights’ most prestigious private school when her father intervenes. Now Andi must accompany him to Paris for winter break. PARIS: Alexandrine Paradis lived over two centuries ago. She dreamed of making her mark on the Paris stage, but a fateful encounter with a doomed prince of France cast her in a tragic role she didn’t want—and couldn’t escape. Two girls, two centuries apart. One never knowing the other. But when Andi finds Alexandrine’s diary, she recognizes something in her words and is moved to the point of obsession. There’s comfort and distraction for Andi in the journal’s antique pages—until, on a midnight journey through the catacombs of Paris, Alexandrine’s words transcend paper and time, and the past becomes suddenly, terrifyingly present. Jennifer Donnelly, author of the award-winning novel A Northern Light, artfully weaves two girls’ stories into one unforgettable account of life, loss, and enduring love. Revolution spans centuries and vividly depicts the eternal struggles of the human heart.

I’ve had Revolution sitting on my nightstand since March. It’s outward appearance is a bit daunting, to be perfectly honest. It’s part historical (not my preferred genre) and it’s HUGE (123K words). But, I’d heard some wonderful things about it (particularly from my sister-in-law, who loaned it to me), so I was determined to give it a go.

I’m so glad I did, because this is one stunningly sophisticated novel. While Andi’s voice is authentically YA, the book’s themes are mature, and the subject matter is very graphically addressed. Andi is an addict (she over-uses prescription drugs an effort to cope with her grief), there is much suffering in both time periods, and there are beheadings described in great detail. Seriously.

Because of all its intensity, Revolution is layered and incredibly rich, both in Andi’s present day narration and  Alex’s French Revolution-era journal entries. And Jennifer Donnelly totally takes you there. She’ll make you feel Andi’s deep, deep depression, as well as Alex’s unyielding loyalty.  You’ll hear the soulful guitar music, you’ll taste the crusty bread, and you’ll smell the stench of dirty Parisian streets. You’ll fall for Virgil, who’s subtle yet awesome, and you’ll root for Andi to recover from her loss and her guilt, and to reclaim her life.

Now that I’ve finished Revolution, I want to read the rest of Jennifer Donnelly’s work. I also want to travel to Paris and research the French Revolution and explore the catacombs. It’s that kind of book, one that broadens your horizons and makes you think more critically about the world around you.

Definitely check out Revolution if you haven’t already!

So, what’s the best book you read in September?

August’s Reading Wrap-Up and Book of the Month…

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where the ladies at YA Highway post a weekly writing- or reading-related question for participants to respond to on their own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s unique take on the topic.

Today’s Topic: What’s the best book you read in August?

My August book choices were fairly diverse. Here’a a quick wrap-up of everything I read:

Notes from the Blender by Brendan Halpin and Trisha Cook – I don’t usually go for funny books, but I won this one in a giveaway and I’m so glad I did!  It’s not exactly the most unique concept (family drama, coming of age), and I wouldn’t call it a literary masterpiece, but it was seriously hilarious. Teen boy Dec’s voice was perfect (and “pervy” :)), and had me cracking up on more than one occasion. Recommend!

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin- There were several aspects of this book I loved: the creepiness, the banter, the setting, the unknowing, the shocking ending. And, there are a few aspects I still have questions about: the suddenly intense romance,  the “abilities” of the characters, and lots of loose threads at the conclusion. I’m looking forward to reading Mara‘s follow-up in hopes that some of those questions will be answered. If you’re a lover of paranormal romance, you’ll probably enjoy this one.

Drenched by AE Rought – This is only a tease because Drenched is still in manuscript form. It’s the work of one of my fabulous CPs, and is currently unavailable to you. I have to mention it here though, because 1) it’s awesome 2) it’s the coolest take on werewolves I’ve seen 3) there’s an X-Men-ish spin that’s incredibly cool. Be on the look-out for it in the future!

Beat Sugar Addiction Now by Jacob Teitelbaum – This probably seems a random choice, but I’ve been trying to cut back on the sugar and white flour I consume and this nonfiction was a great motivator. It identifies the four types of sugar addiction and gives advice on how to break cravings. I recommend it if you’re contemplating healthier eating habits and want more information about sugar addiction in particular.

Ripple by Mandy Hubbard – Finally a “mermaid book” that lives up! Actually, main character Lexi is a siren, and she’s surprisingly likeable. Her occasional woe-is-me attitude is warranted, and the choices she has to make are legitimately challenging. Another plus: there are two hot guys in this book AND a love triangle that puts Lexi in an impossible spot. For me, the twist at the end was a little abrupt (I would have liked a few more clues leading up to it), but all in all, Ripple was a great read.

And my Book of the Month, the cream of August’s crop: Plain Kate by Erin Bow

From Goodreads – Plain Kate lives in a world of superstitions and curses, where a song can heal a wound and a shadow can work deep magic. As the wood-carver’s daughter, Kate held a carving knife before a spoon, and her wooden talismans are so fine that some even call her “witch-blade”: a dangerous nickname in a country where witches are hunted and burned in the square. For Kate and her village have fallen on hard times. Kate’s father has died, leaving her alone in the world. And a mysterious fog now covers the countryside, ruining crops and spreading fear of hunger and sickness. The townspeople are looking for someone to blame, and their eyes have fallen on Kate. Enter Linay, a stranger with a proposition: In exchange for her shadow, he’ll give Kate the means to escape the angry town, and what’s more, he’ll grant her heart’s wish. It’s a chance for her to start over, to find a home, a family, a place to belong. But Kate soon realizes she can’t live shadowless forever — and that Linay’s designs are darker than she ever dreamed.

True confession: I would have never picked up Plain Kate had it not come highly recommended by Caroline Richmond and Erin Bowman, who both have amazing taste. First, Plain Kate is quite fantastical and I tend to favor more contemporary titles. Also, there is NO romance. None. I love romance–it’s almost always the romantic thread that carries me through a novel. I couldn’t imagine how Plain Kate would possibly hold my attention without a cute boy and some steamy kisses. Let me tell you, between the imagery, the action, the unknowing, the beautiful writing, and the occasional humor, it totally did.

If you’re looking for an example of the oft talked about but hard to pinpoint “strong female character,” look no further. Don’t misunderstand–Kate’s not the ass-kicking, sword-wielding kind of heroine. She’s subtler and smarter. More nuanced. While life hurls challenge after challenge at her, she stands strong in her convictions. Though many try, she refuses to let people (men, mostly) walk over her, and she bounces back from the most impossible of situations with more vitality than before.

Plain Kate is full of gorgeous language and unique, memorable characters. Drina, a spunky, sisterly-type and Kate’s first real friend. Taggle the cat, who I won’t say too much about other than that he’s fabulous. And Linay, dark and mysterious and unpredictable, creepy yet somehow sympathetic. You’ll be thinking about them–and Plain Kate–long after you finish this novel.

So, what’s the best book you read in August? (And how is August already over? *sob*)

July’s Book of the Month

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where the ladies at YA Highway post a weekly writing- or reading-related question for participants to respond to on their own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s unique take on the topic.

This Week’s Topic: What’s the best book you read in July?

July turned out to be one of those rare months where I genuinely enjoyed every book I read, though they were all quite different. Here’s my reading wrap-up:

A Need So Beautiful by Suzanne Young – This book grabbed me from the beginning, thanks mostly to boyfriend Harlin. He was so sweet and loving and attentive and HOT, I flew through the pages wanting to read more scenes with him. The story as a whole was incredible and–dare I say–rather inspiring. And the ending… yowza… I’m still sort of reeling from it, but in the best of ways.

Chime by Franny Billingsley – I raved about Chime in this POST, so I won’t bore you with further accolades. I will simply say: I LOVED it.

The Day Before by Lisa Schroeder – I’m not sure why I continuously shy away from books written in verse. I always end up enjoying them. This one, especially, was lovely. I’m awed by how much story was packed into one day in Amber and Cade’s lives (only about 20K words), and  I’m seriously envious of Lisa Schroeder’s gift for language.

Forever by Maggie Steivfater – If an author can truly sell me the love story in her book, I can overlook many a flaw relating to pacing, plot, and character development. I ADORE Sam and Grace of the Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy. They’re sweet and romantic and so respectful of each other, plus,they have subtle but undeniably hot chemistry. It’s because of them (and Cole!) that I didn’t mind Forever‘s fairly predictable plot, or the continued weirdness of Grace’s parents, or the complete implausibility of the last quarter of the story. Forever struck me as a fitting end to this trilogy, yet I still wanted more from it.

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott – It’s been awhile since I read a craft book, and lately I’ve been in need of some writing inspiration. I’d heard great things about Bird and it did not disappoint. It’s succinct, funny, and honest. My favorite take-away lessons? Be authentic, view the world reverently, and do not be afraid to make mistakes. I highly recommend Bird by Bird if you’ve yet to read it.

And July’s Book of the Month is… Room by Emma Donoghue.

From GoodReads: To five-year-old-Jack, Room is the world. . . . It’s where he was born, it’s where he and his Ma eat and sleep and play and learn. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits. Room is home to Jack, but to Ma it’s the prison where she has been held for seven years. Through her fierce love for her son, she has created a life for him in this eleven-by-eleven-foot space. But with Jack’s curiosity building alongside her own desperation, she knows that Room cannot contain either much longer. Room is a tale at once shocking, riveting, exhilarating–a story of unconquerable love in harrowing circumstances, and of the diamond-hard bond between a mother and her child.

Admittedly, I was hesitant to read this book. While I like stories that are bizarre and/or disturbing, books that include sensationalized violence against women do not appeal to me. Also, Room is narrated by a five-year-old boy. As the mother of a precocious almost-four-year-old, I wasn’t sure I wanted to spend 300 pages locked in that mindset. Well, I’m glad to report that Room is neither the lurid account of a tortured woman or the juvenile narration of a preschooler. Room, instead, is about the strength of the human spirit and an incredibly unique mother-son bond.

A comment on Jack’s narration: In my opinion, this story couldn’t have been told by anyone else. Jack is an intelligent, thoughtful boy, and his observations about what’s around him (from Room to his Ma’s sometimes erratic behavior) are eye-opening. His simplicity veils the brief scenes of violence, and he is key to all the action that takes place–we’d miss out if we weren’t in Jack’s head. It’s fascinating to view the world through his innocence. Donoghue did an amazing job capturing the mindset of a child.

I don’t want to tell you too much about Room‘s plot; I think its  impact will be stronger if you travel through the pages uninitiated. While I wouldn’t call this book a “thriller,” I certainly found it to be a page-turner. I was desperate to know what would happen to Jack and Ma as their story unfolded. Yes, I know Room isn’t a young adult novel (I think it’s actually my first adult Book of the Month!), but I highly recommend you check it out.

Tell me… what’s the best book you read in July?