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?

RTW: June’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 June?

In celebration of Contemporary YA Month (the brainchild of the talented authors over at The Contemps), I tried hard to read only contemporary YA stories in June. There were some winners… and some I just didn’t care for. Either way, it was great to immerse myself in realistic YA fiction for several weeks–there are so many choices and I learned a lot. Here’s what I read:

Moonglass by Jessi Kirby – I spoke about this one in great detail in a Debut Love post, which you can find HERE. In short, I thought Moonglass was lovely.

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray – Incredibly well-written, funny and a totally unique idea, but lacking an intense romantic thread–what usually keeps me coming back for more. If you don’t care either way about boys and kissing and love, and you like your fiction smart and witty, then you’ll probably enjoy Beauty Queens.

Boyfriends with Girlfriends by Alex Sanchez – While I think it’s important to portray diverse relationships in YA (these characters are exploring whether it’s possible to be bisexual and what that means in the world of high school dating), this book didn’t do it for me. I found the message to be too heavy-handed and the dialogue unrealistic.

After by Amy Efaw – This one read like a Jodi Piccoult novel, but with a compelling teen voice. It covers the aftermath of a girl who’s had a baby in secret, then ditched the newborn in a dumpster. I bought After wondering how Efaw could possibly make her protagonist sympathetic. She does, and still manages to write a very entertaining novel.

Sweet Valley Confidential by Francine Pascal – Okay, this isn’t technically YA, but to me the twins will always be young adults. And let’s be honest, they act like the lowliest of overly-hormonal teenagers in this story. I had problems buying into the behavior of pretty much every character populating Confidential. Winston, Bruce, Todd, Steven, even Jessica and Elizabeth… they all turned out to be terribly out of character and really unlikable. Bummer.

Honey, Baby, Sweetheart by Deb Caletti – I liked this one a lot, but I would have loved it had it focused more on Ruby’s out-of-control destructive relationship with Travis Becker, and less on the Casserole Queens subplot. Still, Ruby has some of the best life observations I’ve read in YA. She was a truly likable character despite her sometimes questionable decision making.

The Bermudez Triangle by Maureen Johnson – This is the first Maureen Johnson novel I’ve read, and I see now why she’s so popular. The characters were distinct with clear flaws and motivations, and the writing was clean and often funny, but Bermudez lacked the darkness and angst of books I truly love. That said, I’m looking forward to reading Maureen’s upcoming The Name of the Star.

And June’s Book of the Month, hands down, is Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta…

From Goodreads: Francesca is stuck at St. Sebastian’s, a boys’ school that pretends it’s coed by giving the girls their own bathroom. Her only female companions are an ultra-feminist, a rumored slut, and an impossibly dorky accordion player. The boys are no better, from Thomas who specializes in musical burping to Will, the perpetually frowning, smug moron that Francesca can’t seem to stop thinking about. Then there’s Francesca’s mother, who always thinks she knows what’s best for Francesca—until she is suddenly stricken with acute depression, leaving Francesca lost, alone, and without an inkling who she really is. Simultaneously humorous, poignant, and impossible to put down, this is the story of a girl who must summon the strength to save her family, her social life and—hardest of all—herself.

Melina Marchetta is so incredibly talented. Her stories are real and layered and nuanced and clever, so freaking enviable. I’d venture to say that Jellicoe Road (March’s Book of the Month) is my very favorite YA novel*, and Saving Francesca does not fall far behind.

Protagonist Francesca Spinelli manages to walk the very fine line between endearingly vulnerable and sassy smart ass. She spends the course of the book discovering not only who she is, but who her parents and teachers and friends are, and most importantly, who she wants to be. Thanks to Francesca’s wit and spot-on remarks about life and human interactions, her journey (which isn’t exactly high concept) proves to be fascinating.

I absolutely love how Melina Marchetta is able to take a ragtag group of characters and weave interesting and genuine relationships among them. I adored Francesca’s friends and family. Supporting characters Thomas, Jimmy, Justine, Siobhan and Tara are fantastic, and love interest Will Trombal… sigh. LOVE him.

I recommend Saving Francesca to anyone who enjoys contemporary stories, and especially to anyone who writes contemporary YA. You will love the setting (an Australian all boys’ Catholic school that’s recently [and begrudgingly] opened its doors to girls), the dialogue (smart, funny, perfect), and the characters (engaging, delightful, memorable). Someday very soon I’m going to reread Saving Francesca AND Jellicoe Road–they’re that good.

*Incidentally, I recently told my husband that if we ever have a little boy, I want to name him Jonah after Jellicoe Road‘s Jonah Griggs. My husband immediately snorted and told me to “bury that name deep.” Boo.

So, what’s the best book YOU read in June?

May’s Book of the Month

May proved to be way too busy, with some extreme highs and lows in both my writing and personal life. Still, I managed to get quite a bit of reading done. Here’s my wrap up:

Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr – Once I was able to get over the craziness of invisible faeries walking among us, I mostly enjoyed this book. The world building was very cool and I especially liked Donia, a tragically damaged supporting character. My gripe came at the end, when the main character got everything she wanted, free of sacrifice, Breaking-Dawn-style.

Darker Days by Jus Accardo – A beta read for one of my super talented critique partners. You can’t read it yet, but I hope you get to soon because this one is all kinds of amazing!

You Wish by Mandy Hubbard – Normally I like my books dark and depressing, but by the end of the first chapter of You Wish, I was hooked. Fantastic voice, enviable wit, laugh-out-loud funny. Plus, it’s set in a town that neighbors mine, which is always fun. I recommend this one as a light, summery read.

Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma – Part of me loved Forbidden, while another part was so weirded out by the brother/sister romance that at times I had difficulty absorbing the narrative. Still, the writing was gorgeous and the story (the ending, especially) packed quite an emotional punch. I recommend Forbidden for anyone who appreciates a truly–ahem–forbidden romance, but only for those not disturbed by a very controversial topic.   

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson – I’m not normally a reader of sci-fi (I didn’t even realize Jenna was sci-fi when I bought it), but I thought this book was fantastic. A little slow to start, but because the voice was so unique and the writing so flawless, I didn’t mind . It picked up around page 100 though, and by that point I was completely hooked. There are so many twists and turns, Jenna is almost a study in the plotting of and unfolding of a great mystery.

The Year of Fog by Michelle Richmond – If I wrote adult fiction, this is EXACTLY the kind of book I’d want to produce. It’s the story of a little girl who goes missing while playing on a foggy beach with her father’s fiancee, and the guilt, grief and constant state of unknowing that take place after. My mom recommended it, saying, “Read it. You’ll never let go of your daughter’s hand in public again.” Yeah. Pretty much.

And… May’s Book of the Month is Forget You by Jennifer Echols.

From Jennifer Echol’s site: There’s a lot Zoey would like to forget. Like how her father has knocked up his twenty-four-year old girlfriend. Like Zoey’s fear that the whole town will find out about her mom’s nervous breakdown. Like darkly handsome bad boy Doug taunting her at school. With her life about to become a complete mess, Zoey fights back the only way she knows how, using her famous attention to detail to make sure she’s the perfect daughter, the perfect student, and the perfect girlfriend to ultra-popular football player Brandon. But then Zoey is in a car crash, and the next day there’s one thing she can’t remember at all–the entire night before. Did she go parking with Brandon, like she planned? And if so, why does it seem like Brandon is avoiding her? And why is Doug–of all people–suddenly acting as if something significant happened between the two of them? Zoey dimly remembers Doug pulling her from the wreck, but he keeps referring to what happened that night as if it was more, and it terrifies Zoey to admit how much is a blank to her. Controlled, meticulous Zoey is quickly losing her grip on the all-important details of her life–a life that seems strangely empty of Brandon, and strangely full of Doug.

There are so many things I adored about this book, I think list form will work best for all the gushing I’m about to do…

1) Cover – See the way he’s gazing at her all adoringly? And see how she looks at peace, like she only ever wants to be with him? That’s what initially drew me in.

2) Setting – Florida. The beach. Various swimming pools. The backseat of several cars. Yep. Awesome.

3) Swimming – I swam competitively in high school. It’s a difficult sport to get right on paper, especially if you’ve never actually done it. I’m not sure what Jennifer Echol’s background with swimming is, but in my opinion, she nailed it. From the rush of diving from the starting blocks to the scent of chlorine that lingers on your skin hours after leaving the water, I totally got why Zoey loved the sport.

4) Dialogue – Some of the best teen dialogue I’ve read, hands down. Everything that came out of Zoey and Doug’s mouths was honest and frank, often funny. Jennifer Echols doesn’t filter anything, and I found that very refreshing.

5) Voice (Zoey’s Inner Monologue, in Particular) – Zoey is dry and intelligent, yet confused and often naive. She’s controlling and that shows throughout the story, within all of her relationships (except, maybe, her father). I found myself laughing at her observations and commiserating with her troubles repeatedly. I started Forget You midmorning, and Zoey’s narration kept me reading all day, until I finished early evening.

6) Zoey – The YA novels I enjoy most are ones with female protagonists that are flawed, yet relatable and with inner strength. Examples: Taylor from Jellicoe Road, Lennie from The Sky is Everywhere, Violet from The Body Finder and Mia from If I Stay. Forget You‘s Zoey falls into this group. She has a way of justifying irresponsible decisions and bad behavior, yet she’s obviously a smart girl. I got the sense that even though she excused away a lot (especially in regard to Brandon and her feelings for Doug), deep down she knew exactly what was going on. She just wasn’t ready to face it.   

7) Doug – Why didn’t Doug go to my high school? Despite (or maybe because of?) his snarkiness, semi-dysfunctional family, and occasionally sneaky, self-serving ways, Echols manages to make him utterly and completely appealing. Maybe it’s that we see him through Zoey’s eyes, or maybe bad boys who are secretly good are just extra alluring. Whatever the case, Doug has become one of my favorite YA love interests.

8) Romance – Forget You is, at its core, a romance, and wow is it steamy. Quite possibly one of the most, um, graphic YAs I’ve read, but it works. Both Zoey and Doug are so candid throughout the book, to gloss over their intimate interactions would have been unnatural.

Yep… Forget You joins my short list of favorite YA contemporaries. I recommend it to anyone who’s read and enjoyed  Jennifer Echol’s other books, anyone who enjoys dramatic (but not melodramatic) romance, and anyone who likes layered and truly realistic teen fiction.  

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

April’s Book of the Month…

April proved to be a month of surprises in my To-Read pile. Books I thought I’d love (Wither, The Mermaid’s Mirror) turned out to be a bit under-whelming, and books I’d felt luke-warm about when I started them (Divergent, Tangled) turned out to be far more entertaining than I would have guessed.  Without further ado, here’s April’s Reading Wrap-Up…

Wither by Lauren DeStephano – Gorgeous writing. Just as Rhine and her sister wives were subtly brainwashed into accepting their bizarre, oppressive situation, I was disturbed by how “okay” I became with it. I liked the relationship between the sister wives, but I was a little skeptical of some of the world-building. There wasn’t much explanation given for why things were the way they were.

Tell Me A Secret by Holly Cupala – I feel so lucky to have heard Holly speak at an author panel a few months ago. She was lovely, just like this book. Tell Me A Secret is a story of teen pregnancy, changing relationships and growing up. It reminded me a lot of Jandy Nelson’s The Sky is Everywhere, both in the quality of writing and tone, which is to say: I loved it.

The Mermaid’s Mirror by LK Madigan – I enjoyed the beachy, atomospheric setting and all of the supporting characters, but I wanted to like Lena, the protagonist, more. I thought she behaved selfishly at times, and I wanted her relationship with Nix to be more developed. The writing itself was excellent though, and I look forward to reading Madigan’s Flash Burnout.

Now, my official book of the month is Veronica Roth’s debut novel, Divergent, out May 3rd, because, well, it was nothing short of amazing.

But, I’ve raved about it quite a bit on both Twitter and here on the blog, (most notably HERE) so I wanted to take a moment to feature another book that brightened my April… Tangled by Carolyn Mackler.

From Carolyn Mackler’s site: Paradise wasn’t supposed to suck. Not the state of being, but a resort in the Caribbean. Jena, Dakota, Skye, and Owen are all there for different reasons, but at Paradise their lives become tangled together in ways none of them can predict. Paradise will change them all. It will change Jena, whose first brush with romance takes her that much closer to having a life, and not just reading about those infinitely cooler and more exciting. It will change Dakota, who needs the devastating truth about his past to make him realize that he doesn’t have to be a jerk just because people think he’s one. It will change Skye, a heartbreakingly beautiful actress, who must come to terms with the fact that for once she has to stop playing a role or face the consequences. And it will change Owen, who has never risked anything before and who will take the leap from his online life to a real one all because of a girl he met at Paradise…. From confused to confident and back again, one thing’s certain: Four months after it all begins, none of them will ever be the same.

First, isn’t the cover delightful? Still, I can’t tell you how many times I picked this book up at Borders over the last year, then put it back down in favor of something flashier, more profound, or hookier. Last week, though, I lucked out and found it marked down at a store closing sale and snatched it up.

So glad I did! While Adult Katy thought this book was adorable and highly entertaining, Teen Katy would have absolutely treasured it. Tangled is so authentically YA, from the subject matter to the voice(s). The issues aren’t super heavy, but I found them to be right in line with what real teenagers are dealing with today.

Tangled is a quick read, broken up into four separate parts, told by four very different narrators over the course of four months. My favorite section was Dakota’s because I love male protagonists and he’s fantastic. Not exactly likeable at first, but he certainly redeems himself by the story’s conclusion.

Carolyn Mackler writes with startling honestly. I found her style both refreshing and engaging. If you’re looking for a book with genuine characters and a story that’s equal parts heartbreaking, steamy, laugh-out-loud funny, and touching, please do check out Tangled.

What’s the best book you read in April?

March’s Book ‘O the Month

Much like January, March seemed to drag on FOREVER. I feel like I  read a whole library of books, and there were several standouts, including one that’s a new favorite.

1. The Secret Year by Jennifer Hubbard – I wish more of this story had been set during the time of Cole and Julia’s secret relationship. That said, I did enjoy Cole. He’s the supposed to be a bad boy from the flats, but really he’s sensitive and relatable. Not the cliché he could have been.

***2. Invincible Summer by Hannah Moskowitz (courtesy of Simon and Schuster eGalley) – Thought about this one long after I finished reading. The beach setting was fantastic and the dysfunctional family dynamics were so well written.  Chase “Everyboy” McGill ended up becoming someone I wish I really knew.

3. A sort of teens-in-peril novel I had high hopes for and ended up really disliking. The characters were flat, the voice was flat, and the ending was shockingly abrupt. While “clean teen” has its place, it did not work for this book. Fifteen-year-old guys in life-or-death situations do NOT say, “Oh, darn it!”

***4. Fixing Delilah by Sarah Ockler – While Twenty Boy Summer is still my favorite Sarah Ockler novel, I thought Delilah was excellent. Loved the summery setting, loved the kooky cast and family secrets, loved the steamy romance. I’m such a Sarah Ockler fan; I’ll read anything she writes.

***5. Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters by Natalie Standiford – While I think “quirky” is over used in YA literature, it’s the perfect word to describe this family, and this book. The writing is fantastic. Funny at times, heartwarming, and completely honest. Confessions is different from what I normally read… in a good way.

***6. Where She Went by Gayle Forman (courtesy of an ARC) – I went into this book with one part excitement and two parts trepidation–I didn’t want anything about it to ruin my love for If I Stay. Luckily, Where She Went did the near-impossible: improved Adam and Mia’s story exponentially. I loved Adam as a narrator, and I loved how Gayle Forman was brave enough to take the story to difficult places. If you’re an If I Stay fan, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed in this follow-up.

***7. We’ll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han (courtesy of Simon and Schuster eGalley) – Sigh… I absolutely adore Jenny Han’s Summer trilogy and this final book did not disappoint. Something about the dynamic between Belly, Jeremiah and Conrad really gets me. The longing, the romance, the perfectly teen perspective of Belly… LOVE! Oh, and I totally think Belly made the right choice in the end. 🙂

8. Sea by Heidi R. Kling – For some reason this one was hard for me to get into, but when I finally did I was sucked in. The Indonesian setting was very cool, and the love interest, Deni, was so different from the usual YA boy. I’m normally not a fan of bittersweet endings, but somehow Sea‘s was fitting.

***9. Cryer’s Cross by Lisa McMann – I’ve never read anything by Lisa McMann so I had no idea what to expect. I was very impressed. This story is as creepy and weird as the book’s cover, and the protagonist, Kendall, is very cool. Also, cheers to the super hot and sometimes humorously cold romance between her and Jacian.

***I’ll say that any one of the books I starred above could have been Book of the Month had I not been so swept away by one in particular. They were that good. But there was one book that I fell head over heels in love with, one that made me all but forget about the others. That book was…

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta.

From the book jacket: In this lyrical, absorbing, award-winning novel, nothing is as it seems, and every clue leads to more questions. At age eleven, Taylor Markham was abandoned by her mother. At fourteen, she ran away from boarding school, only to be tracked down and brought back by a mysterious stranger. Now seventeen, Taylor’s the reluctant leader of her school’s underground community, whose annual territory war with the Townies and visiting Cadets has just begun. This year, though, the Cadets are led by Jonah Griggs, and Taylor can’t avoid his intense gaze for long. To make matters worse, Hannah, the one adult Taylor trusts, has disappeared. But if Taylor can piece together the clues Hannah left behind, the truth she uncovers might not just settle her past, but also change her future.

Jellicoe Road joins If I Stay, The Sky is Everywhere and Stolen as one of my all-time favorite YA novels. I heard more than once, “The first hundred pages are strange and confusing… STICK WITH IT!” I’m so glad I did. Two stories woven together, mystery, romance, perfect teen dialogue… I loved this book more than I can adequately describe… but I’ll try.

First, lets talk about Jonah Griggs. It’s almost as if he was written just to make me swoon. There are a lot of YA guys I dig, but Jonah… He’s exactly my type. Rugged, brave, stubborn, loyal, sort of crass and super sweet with Taylor. Plus, he’s a cadet, he enjoys tramping around in the woods and he wears fatigues. What can I say? I’ve been married to a soldier for almost eight years. It’s my thing.

And Taylor. She’s severely lacking in people skills, but at the same time she’s awesome. No nonsense, vulnerable and erratic. I loved her interactions with her friends Raffy and Santangelo, but I especially adored any scene she shared with Griggs. She forced him to confront his fears, just as he did to her. She challenged him, just as he challenged her. Neither of them ever once backed down from the layers of conflict that stood in their way. They’re a perfect match.

Jellicoe Road‘s mystery and the way it unfolds over two separate storylines, decades apart, is genius. While I knew early on that somehow all the characters and plotlines would eventually come together, the conclusion was a true surprise. Melina Marchetta has a knack for connecting even seemingly insignificant threads in the most satisfying ways.

Fair warning: Jellicoe Road‘s plot, pacing and writing might make you want to quit reading forever. When I finished, I was sure I’d never find another book that moved me the way this one did. The mystery is perfectly layered, the setting (Australia!) is all-consuming, and the characters got right inside my head and have been camping out there ever since. And if you’re a writer, well, be prepared to feel completely incompetent. Still, I highly, HIGHLY recommend this book.

What’s the best book you read in March?