Currently…

(I plan to do a “Currently…” post every other Tuesday. You should join me! Find the origins of the idea HERE.)

Currently

Loving

Barns. (Is that weird?) There are a couple in my current WiP, and we spotted a few that were really cool during a recent trip to Gettysburg. My husband, patient as he is, indulged my requests to “Pull over so I can get a picture!” I have no desire to live on an actual working farm, but I’d really love to have a beautiful red barn on my property one day.

Reading

In observance of Autism Awareness Month, I’m reading How to Say I Love You Out Loud by fellow Swoon Reads author Karole Cozzo and so far it’s excellent! Unrequited love and family discord are two of my favorite themes when it comes to contemporary YA, and How to Say I Love You Out Loud has both.

Watching

Outlander. I recently binged, and I’ve got a huge crush on Jamie (you’re welcome). I’m also obsessed with the history and the romance and the costumes — all of it. But oh God, the last two episodes of the first season… my heart. Also watching: Game of Thrones: predictably upsetting yet totally addictive. I’ve gotta say, I’m reading all sorts of rave reviews about the first episode of season 6, but I was kind of eh about it. I loved the scene where Cersei and Jaime talked about Myrcella (man, Cersei’s really starting to grow on me) and of course I adored Daenerys’s conversation with the Dothraki Khal, but Jon Snow… 😢

Listening To

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys, which is blowing me away. The four points of view are equally fascinating, and I can’t wait to see how each character’s story connects back to the others. I’m a big fan of Ruta Sepetys’s Out of the Easy and so far, Salt to the Sea is just as extraordinary.

Thinking About

How to successfully close out Camp NaNoWriMo (I’m so close to meeting my goal!) while at the same time chipping away at round two of my Kissing Max Holden edits (it’s coming together, guys!). Traditionally, I’m not so great at juggling two projects at once, but I’m striving to become better as far as setting word-count/pages-revised targets and hitting them.

Anticipating

This Thursday’s lunch with two of my favorite writing buddies, this weekend’s proposed brunch with a couple of fellow Swanky Seventeens, getting my car back from the shop (sad day when you get side-swiped in a no-fault state), and some celebration-worthy news I’ll hopefully get to share with you soon…

Wishing

You’ll check out the following Goodreads lists: YA Novels of 2017YA Debuts 20172017 Debut YA/MG Novels, and Books Published by Swoon Reads. Kissing Max Holden has found its way onto all of them, which is so exciting! Maybe you’d like to vote for my debut, or add it as “To Read”. Also! Last week I interviewed 2016 debut author Lucy Keating about her recently released YA speculative fiction/romance, Dreamology for The Swanky Seventeens. I hope you’ll take a moment to read it. 😘

Making Me Happy

Springtime. We’ve been enjoying a stretch of beautiful weather and scores of lovely flowers are blooming and I’m feeling extra optimistic and cheerful.

Did you post a “Currently…” this week?
Let me know in the comments, and I’ll be sure to visit! 

January Reading Wrap-Up

Starting 2016 off right with five incredible novels.
(As always, covers link to Goodreads pages.)

The Distance Between Us by Kasie West – Hello, Katy Book. The Distance Between Us is everything I look for in contemporary YA romance. Its protagonist, Caymen, is full of pluck and sarcasm; her personality sparkles, and she made me laugh repeatedly. She feels so authentic — I think we would’ve been friends in high school. 🙂 Her romantic interest, Xander, is all sorts of swoony. He’s filthy rich and Caymen’s definitely not, and while Xander is never anything but sweet and gracious, the class differences make for some interesting conflict. Bear in mind, most of the discord is created by Caymen, her feelings of inadequacy, and her prejudices against the wealthy, but her issues make sense and come from struggles in her — and her mother’s — past. Speaking of Caymen’s mother, I really enjoyed her. She’s present and kind and, while she has her issues, it’s very clear that Caymen is her sun and moon. The Distance Between Us is full of heart, romance, and perfect, perfect voice. Some might call it fluffy, but I disagree. It’s a cleverly told story about real people with real problems, and I loved it.

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy – I had high expectations for this sophomore effort. In fact, I had very specific expectations — I was itching to read something outwardly lighthearted, but with an underlying depth. More specifically, I wanted a book with a complicated romance, a likable and layered protagonist, a small-town setting, and eccentricities guaranteed to make me smile. Dumplin’ was everything I was hoping it’d be, and more. Willowdean Dickson is incredible — I dare you not to fall instantly in love with her. She’s spirited and resilient and smart, and she faces challenges that will likely be familiar to anyone who’s experienced high school: self-consciousness, envy, bullies, evolving friendships, parental expectations, and unrequited love. I adored Willowdean’s voice and her sense of humor; even when she was screwing up, causing me cringe by making choices I knew she’d regret, I never stopped cheering her on. I loved so many aspects of this novel, including Will’s new friendships, her complex relationships with Bo and Mitch, her confidence and her inhibitions, every single scene leading up to and set during the Miss Teen Blue Bonnet Pageant, and the many Dolly Parton references. Dumplin’ is a delight from start to finish — recommend!

18711172Thicker Than Water by Kelly Fiore – This one was high on my most-anticipated of 2016 list, and it did not disappoint. It’s a story of addiction and the toll it takes on an already floundering family. CeCe Price’s big brother, Cyrus, has been hooked on OxyContin since suffering a soccer injury. He used to be CeCe’s hero, but now he’s something of a tragedy — lying and manipulating, abusing CeCe, stealing from their father, disappearing for long stretches of time. Money’s tight in the Price household and, thanks to an unfortunate but seemingly unavoidable series of events, CeCe begins dealing pills she’s filched from her brother. Cyrus ends up dead and CeCe’s accused of his murder and this story… it makes me sad, sad, sad. I have experience with an addicted family member, and Kelly Fiore’s narrative hit hard. Her depictions are unflinching, devastating in their accuracy, and, thanks to the novel’s before/after format, there’s a sense of inevitability that makes it hard to put down. CeCe is easy to relate to (even if you haven’t encountered addiction first hand, I think), and even while she stands trial for killing her brother, she’s incredibly sympathetic. I haven’t read anything quite like Thicker Than Water before, and its authenticity impressed me. Definitely worth checking out if you’re a fan of dark, hard-hitting YA.

Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee – This book is SO impressive. It’s got everything: a strong, fully developed protagonist, tons of action, a setting unlike any other (the Oregon Trail!), perfectly planted plot twists, an incredibly diverse cast, and prose so evocative, you’ll feel like you’re trekking across the prairie with Samantha, Annamae, and the cowboys they befriend along the way. Last month I read Erin Bowman’s Vengeance Road and it converted me into a true Western fan, which is why I decided to give Under a Painted Sky a go. It didn’t hurt that I’ve been reading excellent reviews of this debut for the last year. All that hype is well deserved. This is such a strong novel — reading it is a complete experience, and it is intense. These characters who I grew to love face all sorts of hardships along the trail: unforgiving elements, outlaws, cholera, wild mustangs, rushing rivers, and unrequited love (obviously — this is a YA novel <3). My very favorite aspect of Under a Painted Sky is the friendship that forms between Samantha (a Chinese violin prodigy) and Annamae (an intrepid runaway slave). The way these girls care for each other through unimaginable adversity is incredibly moving. Definitely give Under a Painted Sky a read — I think you’ll love it.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – I want to live in this beautiful, beautiful book. The spun-sugar prose, the lovingly crafted characters, the wonderfully vivid settings, the way multiple layers of story tie together in the end… The Night Circus is perfection. I listened to Jim Dale’s narration of the audiobook, then immediately bought myself a physical copy because I will definitely reread, and because I can’t not own this novel — it sits among my top five favorite stories ever. The Night Circus is about illusion, and competition, and sacrifice, but it’s mostly a story about love. Marco and Celia are adversaries in a dangerous, high-stakes game, yet they’re too well matched. They fall for each other and their romance is pure magic. Like, I got literal chills pretty much every time they were on the page together — their chemistry is that amazing. I adored, too, Bailey and Poppet and Widget; their friendship is so lovely, their immediate bond so charming. Erin Morgenstern’s writing is exquisite. She’s so imaginative, and her ability to engage the senses with her dreamlike descriptions is unparalleled. Her prose is elegant and arrestingly powerful, and I found myself hoping it would seep into my brain and stay with me forever. Please, please, please give The Night Circus a read (or a listen, because Jim Dale is fantastic!) if you haven’t already.

What’s the best book you read in January?

Currently…

(I plan to do a “Currently…” post every other Tuesday. You should join me! Find the origins of the idea HERE.)

Currently

Loving

My new yoga studio! My husband bought me a membership for Christmas and it is aMaZiNg. I’ve practiced yoga for several years now, but mostly at home. I’ve never consistently attended classes, but after just a few short weeks in the studio with instructors who are deeply knowledgeable about the practice, I’m hooked.

Reading

Julie Murphy’s sophomore novel, Dumplin’, a contemporary YA about a small town girl who loves Dolly Parton and ends up an unlikely participant in a local beauty pageant. So far, it’s as glorious as its cover.

Watching

My husband and I just caught up on Homeland and, as per usual, my favorite character appears to have died in the season finale. I’m sad. My falling in love with a TV character pretty much guarantees his or her demise, which is why I don’t watch much TV.

Listening To

The new season of Serial, for starters. It explores the case of Bowe Bergdahl, the Army soldier who was held as a POW by the Taliban for five years. I have a lot of feelings about Bergdahl and the circumstances under which he was captured, and I’m finding Sarah Koenig’s reporting compelling as usual. I’m also listening to a YA historical fiction, Stacey Lee’s Under a Painted Sky (using the new-to-me OverDrive app). I’m enjoying the story and the narration very much.

Thinking About

Goal setting, and the sort of 2016 I’d like to have. In the past, I’ve set a focus word for the New Year (ResolveAcceptanceStoicism, and Present) and tried to keep that word in mind as I went about the business of being a wife, mama, friend, and writer. This year, though, I’ve decided to create a mission statement, one that will hopefully remind me to live my best life in 2016. Already, it feels like a postive step forward…

Anticipating

My upcoming writers’ retreat! I get to spend four days in a lovely Maryland house with five of my favorite writer buddies. I’ve got plenty to do as far as my Kissing Max Holden edits go, and I’m super excited about a girls’ weekend away. Can. Not. Wait!

Wishing

For smooth sailing as I tackle a fairly substantial revision. I know the changes on my To-Do checklist are going to make for a stronger story, but man… I’d forgotten how challenging revisions can be! One tiny alteration, and I’ve suddenly got a waterfall of adjustments to make. But! I love revising a thousand times more than drafting, so no complaints here. 🙂

Making Me Happy

Guys, I signed a publishing contract. I have an amazing editor, and an edit letter I believe in. Kissing Max Holden is on Goodreads. I have an author page on Facebook. In 2017, my book is going to be a BOOK. How can I not be happy?!

What’s currently making YOU happy?

December Reading Wrap-Up

A weird mix of books in December…
(As always, covers link to Goodreads pages.)

Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman – Guys, I would’ve sworn I didn’t like Westerns before reading this Arizona-set stand-alone. Now, I’m a convert. I loved Erin Bowman’s Taken trilogy, but Vengeance Road affected me in a completely different way. It’s a trek through a rugged and unforgiving desert, a quest for revenge, a treasure hunt, and a romance. It’s historical fiction at its best: rich, authentic, atmospheric, and incredibly well-researched. MC Kate Thompson is stubborn and rash, but she’s also brave and loyal, making her a narrator worth rooting for. And I love the people she meets during her journey — Will and Jesse and Liluye in particular. They’re fascinating in their own right, and they make this novel feel even deeper and more vivid. All of Vengeance Road‘s characters have enviable strengths and cringe-worthy weakness. There are no easy decisions in this story, and there are no perfect outcomes, but there are some super surprising twists which made for an intense reading experience. Vengeance Road is definite 2015 favorite, plus such a gorgeous cover!

Their Fractured Light by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner – A satisfying conclusion to a series I’ve loved since the release of its first book, This Shattered World. As much as I enjoyed this final novel, I couldn’t read more than a chapter or two per sitting — it made me so anxious. That speaks to how much I’ve grown to care about these characters, but man — Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner had my pulse racing for the better part of Sofia and Gideon’s story. It’s hard to chat candidly about Their Fractured Light because it’s full of spoilers from the first and second books in the trilogy, but suffice to say: I thought this story was amazing. It’s super fast-paced and packed with emotion. My heart literally hurt for these characters because they run into road block after road block, and they’re challenged in ways that are just awful (poor Tarver can’t catch a break… that boy needs a hug).  The Starbound novels have some of the most incredible world-building I’ve read, and I was thrilled to see tiny threads from the earlier books picked up and woven into the tapestry of this final installment. I’m endlessly impressed with this trilogy, and I recommend you pick it up, even if you don’t fancy yourself a sci-fi fan — it’s that good.

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen – This one was a reread for me; this time, I read it aloud to my eight-year-old daughter. While the story of Brain’s survival in the Canadian wilderness was just as riveting as I remember, it was the language, Gary Paulsen’s spare but evocative prose, that awed me most. Those scenes with the mosquitos, and the porcupine quills, and the turtle eggs — so visceral! This is a really cool story of perseverance and courage, and it’s packed with interesting facts about surviving with nothing but a hatchet and some serious gumption. Additionally, Writer Katy found Hatchet to be a compelling character study. I can’t remember the last story I read that featured a protagonist with such a steep arc. Check it out if you haven’t read this classic!

Every Day by David Levithan – I listened to the audio version of this book and the narrator did a wonderful job. The story came to life as she read A’s tale and, overall, I enjoyed it very much. The concept is fascinating, the pacing is quick, and the flow is seamless. I have one issue, though: I didn’t feel as though I got to know A as someone other than a person who loves Rhiannon. Maybe I’m shallow, but without a physical appearance, or hobbies, or friendships, or a gender, or familial relationships to go on, I had a hard time connecting with A. Rhiannon, yes — she felt whole, fully formed and charming. Even the minor characters, like Justin and Nathan, struck me as complete. But A… A was mostly focused on checking for Rhiannon’s emails and plotting new ways to be near her. I get that — love was a new experience for A, but still… I wanted more. That said, I did feel like A was redeemed in the novel’s final scenes; A’s gesture and the way Rhiannon was left in a place of hopefulness were really lovely. My favorite aspect of this story is its vignettes (for lack of a better word) — the scenes where A is in random bodies and has experiences completely unrelated to Rhiannon. I found them captivating, and very profound. Pick Every Day up if you like a novel with a unique concept and a focus on romance.

Tell me… What’s the best book you read in December?

Currently…

(I plan to do a “Currently…” post every other Tuesday. You should join me! Find the origins of the idea HERE.)

Currently

Loving

My most recent craft book purchase: The Emotion Thesaurus. ABC Family’s holiday movie marathon — here’s full the schedule! This recipe for Beer Mac-N-Cheese — the best homemade mac I’ve ever made. My new favorite pens: Pilot’s FriXion Point Erasable Gel Pens. And the beautiful #SipSwap mug (and super thoughtful extras!) sent to me by Laura Marcella.

Reading

Over the long weekend I read Sloth, an adult novel by Ella James. It was intense, and very good (I reviewed it HERE). Now, I’m reading Erin Bowman’s Vengeance Road. It’s as excellent as its cover implies. (Don’t forget to peruse my November Reading Wrap-Up HERE.)

Watching

Mockingjay – Part 2, finally. Overall, I think The Hunger Games movies are an excellent adaptation of the book series. Jennifer Lawrence is a goddess, and the films are visually stunning. Also, Effie and Haymitch? I buy it…

Listening To

I’ve been listening to my Kissing Max Holden playlist in the car a lot lately (driving my daughter nuts in the process). It’s full of awesome country music, plus a few fun poppy numbers, and includes songs by Taylor Swift, Johnny Cash, Lady Antebellum, Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw, The Band Perry, Echo Smith, Dolly Parton, and Zac Brown Band, among others.

Thinking About

Some of my most anticipated 2016 YA releases…

Anticipating

The holidays! We’ve decorated our house; it looks lovely and festive. Now I need to get my shop on. My dad and my father-in-law are always the most difficult to buy for… Any gift recommendations for men in their early sixties?

Wishing

You’ll check out my post about how you can help support a fantastic literary event aimed at middle schoolers: Cavalcade of Authors West. It promotes Pacific Northwest YA and MG authors while introducing kids to a variety of genres and subject matter and promoting reading and writing within the community. And in case you didn’t know, today’s Giving Tuesday — the perfect day to donate to worthy causes. Click to support to Cavalcade of Authors West

Making Me Happy

The long holiday weekend, which is exactly what I needed to recharge for another week of substitute teaching.

What’s currently making YOU happy?

November Reading Wrap-Up

I wish I’d been able to do more reading in November. Luckily, the books I managed to sneak in were quite good…
(As always, cover images link to Goodreads pages.)

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers – I went into Grave Mercy expecting a light, fantastical read, but what I got was a rich, well-researched historical fiction with an ass-kicking heroine and a to-die-for slow-burn romance. Though many of my trusted book-ish friends have read and recommended this one, I put it off for a long time. The back cover summary mentions “assassin nuns” and that didn’t do much to snare my attention. I’m glad I gave Grave Mercy a chance, though, because it’s so good. There’s mystery, court intrigue, betrayal, and legit history presented in really interesting ways. Ismae, the novel’s protagonist, has a fascinating backstory and a wicked sense of humor. I found myself laughing out loud more than once, most memorably at this line: “I comfort myself with the knowledge that if Duval ever feels smothered by me, it will be because I am holding a pillow over his face.” Duval, of course, is Grave Mercy‘s romantic interest, and he’s equal parts brutish and charming. There’s a scene near the story’s climax where his survival is uncertain, and I experienced that unpleasant I’ll-throw-this-book-at-the-wall-if-he-dies feeling — so, basically I fell for Duval just as hard Ismae did. While historical fiction isn’t my first choice in genres, I found Grave Mercy enchanting. It’s got two follow-up novels (Dark Triumph and Mortal Heart), and I’m very much looking forward to picking them up.

The Game Plan by Kristen Callihan – Guys, there’s something about these Game On books that totally sucks me in. Rationally, I know they’re a tad melodramatic, but they’re also impassioned and entertaining and totally addictive — especially if you’re a football fan. While Anna and Drew from The Hook-Up will probably always be my favorite Kristen Callihan couple, The Game Plan‘s Dex and Fiona are close contenders. They’re freaking cute together, and their chemistry is super steamy. And, like all of the Game On couples, they’re kind and respectful and loving to one another, even during stressful (often terrible) circumstances. So, while the plots are splashy and the drama is sensational (in the case of The Game Plan, lifted from recent news headlines), these books never feel manufactured or insincere because the couples read as totally genuine. Specific to this third installment, I love Fiona’s spunkiness, Dex’s quiet strength, and the various settings — New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans. I love, too, the appearances of Gray and Ivy, and Anna and Drew, and the kindred bond of the group. The Game Plan is a big recommend if you’re looking for a sexy, escapist book to read over the holidays.

Shattered Blue by Lauren Bird Horowitz – I hadn’t heard of this one before I saw in mentioned in a Twitter recommendation. It’s not the sort of book I normally pick up (Fae — not really my thing), but the cover intrigued me and the story’s set in one of my very favorite cities (Monterey) and I’m weirdly drawn to “dead sister” books. Also, the prose I read in the sample pages was lyrical and evocative. Oddly enough, the Fae aspect didn’t end up bothering me — in fact, I thought Shattered Blue‘s world-building was very well done. Noa is a compelling character; I particularly enjoyed her interactions with her little sister Sasha. And Lauren Bird Horowitz’s writing really is gorgeous. The imagery and bits of verse sprinkled throughout the story… wow. The one thing I didn’t love about Shattered Blue was Noa’s intense and quickly developing feelings for the mysterious Callum and, later, an additional character. Young adult books (specifically paranormal, I think) catch a lot of flak for “insta-love” and love triangles; I wouldn’t go so far as to say that those devices kept me from enjoying this particular story, but I do prefer a slowly building romance and this… was not that. Still, I’m interested to see how these characters and unresolved plot lines develop over the course of the series, and I can’t wait to lose myself in Lauren Bird Horowitz’s beautiful prose once again.

Sloth by Ella James – I debated about whether to discuss this book on my blog. It’s really smutty and really graphic, and it explores marijuana dealing, as well as marijuana as a treatment for cancer-related side effects, among other adult themes. Even though Sloth is a story for a mature audiences and my blog generally focuses on sharing YA love, I want to mention it because it’s very good. Like, I-read-late-into-the-night-because-I-couldn’t-put-it-down good. Its mystery snagged my attention from its earliest pages, and the chemistry between its main characters, Cleo and Kellan, is intense. Despite this book’s serious subject matter, it’s tons of fun to be in Cleo’s head. She’s awkward and funny and transparent in the best way; she takes zero shit. And Kellan, for all his apparent flaws, is utterly captivating. It’s easy to see why Cleo falls for him, and why she’s willing to make big sacrifices to keep him. Ella James’s writing is lovely (even when what she’s describing is totally indecent), and she’s crafted characters who feel both relatable and extraordinary. Another recommend, and big thanks to Riley Edgewood for insisting I read Sloth immediately. 😉 Also, after reading Ella James’s Author’s Note, I feel compelled to share this important link, but maybe wait to click until you’ve read the story to avoid spoilers.

Tell me… What’s the best book you read in November?

Class of 2014: YA Superlatives Blogfest HEAD OF THE CLASS

The Class of 2014: YA Superlative Blogfest (hosted by Jessica LoveTracey NeithercottAlison Miller, and me) runs Monday, December 15th through Thursday, December 18th and will highlight favorite books published in 2014 using a variety of fun superlative categories. The Class of 2014: YA Superlative Blogfest is all about promoting the extraordinary young adult books published this year, so if you haven’t already, draft a post and sign up to participate at the end of this post. We can’t wait to see your favorite reads of 2014!

Class of 2014_Banner

2014 Reading List (starred = debut): The Winner’s Curse, *Let’s Get Lost, *Loop, Blue Lily, Lily Blue, *17 First Kisses, Ashes to Ashes, *The Secret Sky, *Behind the Scenes, Isla and the Happily Ever After, *The Only Thing To Fear, Bleed Like Me, The Bridge From Me to You, *Creed, Dreams of Gods and Monsters, I’ll Give You the Sun, *One Two Three, *Of Scars and Stardust, We Were Liars, *Wish You Were Italian, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, Frozen, What I Thought Was True, *The Eighth Guardian, *Pointe, *Push Girl, *Open Road Summer, *Far From You, *The Symptoms of My Insanity, Panic, *The Truth About Alice, *NIL, Complicit, The Summer I Found You, The Evolution of Emily, Into the Still Blue, Heartbeat, The Killing Woods, Brown Girl Dreaming

Head of the Class

Favorite Dystopian


Frozen by Erin Bowman – Loved it even more than its predecessor, Taken! Gray is such a compelling protagonist, and I can’t wait to see how this trilogy wraps up with Forged come spring.

Favorite Science Fiction


Into the Still Blue by Veronica Rossi – Is this a stretch for the sci-fi category? It’s the only sci-fi-esque 2014 book I read, and it was a fantastic conclusion to a trilogy I’ve followed since its first book. Bravo! (Honorable Mention to These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner, which came out late in 2013 and therefore missed a spot on my Class of 2013 list. It’s so excellent!)

Favorite Fantasy


The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski – Not only my favorite fantasy of 2014, but one of my favorite reads of the year, period. Oh, the glorious world-building and the slow-burn, deliciously forbidden romance…

Favorite Contemporary

   
I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson and Let’s Get Lost by Adi Alsaid – I could not choose between these two! They’re both incredibly moving and gorgeously written, and they both left me feeling just… joyful. New favorites!

Favorite Action/Adventure


Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor – Another trilogy concluded. I love Laini Taylor’s prose, and this book was a true page-turner. Unputdownable!

Favorite Historical


Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson – Oh my gosh… So gorgeous. I’m such a sucker for verse stories and this one, a chronicle of the author’s childhood in the 1960s and 1970s (so, it’s a little bit middle grade if you want to get technical), is mesmerizing. Plus, that cover… Love.

Favorite Comedy


The Symptoms of My Insanity by Mindy Raf – I’m not big on comedies and this book certainly has plenty of profound moments, but it was also full of genuine, perfectly penned humor. I legit LOLed more than once!

Favorite Mystery

  
Far From You by Tess Sharpe and We Were Liars by E. Lockhart – Again — I could NOT choose! Both of these are gripping, full of beautiful writing, diverse characters, and gut-wrenching twists. So, so good.

Favorite Romance

   
Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins and Open Road Summer by Emery Lord – Both of these are lovely romances, but they’re so much more, too — friendship and travel and authentic voice. Love them both! (Honorable mention to To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han, which I couldn’t select this year because I *must* read the sequel before deciding if Lara Jean and Peter’s romance is a favorite.)

Favorite Paranormal


Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater – Obviously, right? I am such a fan of this series, and I am already so anxious to see how it concludes next fall. Can I please be Maggie Stiefvater when I grow up?

Favorite Genre Bender


Ashes to Ashes by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian – While I did not love how this trilogy concluded (I want to tear the epilogue out of my copy, quite honestly) there’s no denying that the series, as a whole, is crazy-good. Oh, Reeve. ❤

Class of 2014_Button2

Click the graphic below to add your name and your Head of the Class post link to our sign up so we can hop around and check out your selections. Don’t forget — there will be a new link sign-up each day!

What’s Up Wednesday

“What’s Up Wednesday” is a fun weekly meme started by my friends Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk. From Jaime: It’s similar in some respects to the Currently… post, but it’s been whittled down to only four headings to make it quicker and more manageable on a weekly basis. You’re invited to join us if you’re looking for something to blog about, a way to let your blog friends know what’s been going on with you. If you’re participating, make sure to link your What’s Up Wednesday posts to the list on Jaime’s blog each week. That way, others can visit your post and check out what you’ve been up to. And now, here’s what’s up with me this week…

What I’m Reading: I finished The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski and loved it SO MUCH. Amazing world-building, and a super-swoonworthy slow-burn forbidden romance. I also read Caroline Tung Richmond’s debut, The Only Thing To Fear, a reimagining of the outcome of WW combined with some genetically modified people with X-Men-esue super powers — it was excellent! Now, I’m reading Brown Girl Dreaming, Jacqueline Woodson’s National Book Award winning historical verse story. It’s beautiful so far.

  

What I’m Writing: I’ve been revising my road trip book, The Road So Far, according to notes from my amazing CPs. They have helped me SO MUCH and I am endlessly grateful. I sent the manuscript off to my agent yesterday, so we’ll see what she thinks. *crosses fingers* Now, I’m back to drafting the end my NaNo story, Stars Like Dust. Hoping to finish by the end of the month.

What Else I’ve Been Up To: All the holiday prep…

I baked my husband’s favorite Christmas treat, Mexican Wedding Cookies

  

And made a Christmas craft, Cinnamon Star Garland

And addressed Christmas cards with my little elf. ❤

What Works For Me: Amazing published novels as inspiration. Luckily, 2014 has been full of exceptional reads! Jessica Love, Tracey Neithercott, Alison Miller, and I are celebrating with our 4th annual YA Superlatives Blogfest, a fun and interactive way to highlight our favorite books published during the last year. The blogfest begins Monday, December 15th and runs through Thursday, December 18th. We hope you’ll join us!

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Tell me… What’s up with you today? 

2013 YA Superlatives Blogfest :: Head of the Class

The Class of 2013: YA Superlative Blogfest (hosted by Jessica LoveTracey NeithercottAlison Miller, and me) runs Monday, December 16th through Thursday, December 19th. All of our fantastic participants will highlight favorite books published in 2013 using a variety of fun superlative categories. The Class of 2013: YA Superlative Blogfest is all about promoting the extraordinary young adult books published this year, so if you haven’t already, draft a post and sign up to participate at the end of this post. We can’t wait to see your favorite reads of 2013!

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My Books Pubbed in 2013 Reading List (starred books are 2013 debut novels): Shades of Earth, *The Tragedy Paper, Just One Day, *If You Find Me, *Nobody But Us, *Taken, Through the Ever Night, Eleanor & Park, Requiem, *Pretty Girl-13, *Uses For Boys, This is What Happy Looks Like, Quintana of Charyn, *The S-Word, The 5th Wave, *Nantucket Blue, *The Sea of Tranquility, Golden, *Strands of Bronze and Gold, Where the Stars Still Shine, Dare You To, All I Need, Out of the Easy, *OCD Love Story, The Dream Thieves, *Canary, The Truth About You and Me, Fangirl, *My Life After Now, September Girls, *Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, Dead Silence, Invisibility, Just One Year, *Fault Line, Allegiant, *How to Love, The Beginning of Everything, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, *Unteachable, Dangerous Girls, and *Reclaimed (Covers link to Goodreads pages!)

Today’s Categories for Best in Show…

Favorite Dystopian

   
I couldn’t narrow this category down to one. Both Through the Ever Night and Taken have amazing worldbuilding and beautiful prose. Love them both.

Favorite Science Fiction

The end of this book almost killed me, but… phew! I thought it was a fitting and fantastic conclusion to a trilogy I’ve followed since its release.

Favorite Fantasy

I read this trilogy over the course of a few weeks last spring, and I’m still in awe. I’ve never cared so much for such a huge cast of characters. Brilliant high fantasy.

Favorite Contemporary

   
Because this is actually one story, right? Allyson and Willem really did give me all the feels, not to mention a wicked case of wanderlust.

Favorite Action/Adventure

This one’s sci-fi as well, and it’s intense. Expertly plotted and full of action and twists. I couldn’t put it down!

Favorite Historical Fiction

I adore this gritty but beautiful glimpse into life in a 1950s New Orleans brothel. Protagonist Josie is one of my favorites of the year.

Favorite Comedy

This is a stretch, but I don’t read traditional comedies, and Fangirl actually does have several funny moments. It’s also deep and thoughtful and romantic. Love.

Favorite Mystery

This book kept me guessing until its final pages. It’s raw and twisty and bold, a scary look at foreign legal systems and the ruthlessness of friendship and love.

Favorite Romance

   
I couldn’t pick just one! How to Love and Eleanor & Park are stories of challenged but genuine devotion, and they both gave me all the first love tingles.

Favorite Paranormal

This book is surreal and atmospheric and totally weird, but I dig it. The writing is lovely and the symbolism is fascinating. Plus, look at that cover!

Favorite Family Drama

    
Two heartbreaking but hopeful stories with similar themes of love and devotion and healing. Both protagonists have exceptional fathers, too.

Favorite Genre Bender 

This book is a trip, and I could not put it down. I’m such a Gansey fan… I’d read a story about him grocery shopping if Maggie Stiefvater published it.

Tell us about your favorites, and make sure to link your post with all of the other Class of 2013: YA Superlative Blogfest posts…

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July Reading Wrap-Up

I feel like it’s been ages since I read some of these…
July was a loooong month! 

Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood – Paranormal romance is not normally my thing and witch stories, especially, don’t usually hold my interest. That said, I absolutely adore Born Wicked. Jessica Spotswood writes beautifully and even though her story has a historical setting, her protagonist, Cate, is no delicate flower. She’s smart and strong and determined — I love her. Also, I’d heard a lot about the steamy kisses in this book. They do NOT  disappoint. Born Wicked‘s ending was a heartbreaker. I can’t wait to read its follow-up, Star Cursed.

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo – My heart broke a thousand times while reading this gorgeous middle grade story, and the final pages gave me chills. Edward Tulane‘s themes of giving and accepting love are relayed with such nuance, and main character Edward, a ceramic rabbit who likes fine clothing (YES), is incredibly compelling. This book’s chapters are short and its language is unembellished, but the story is so profound. If you’ve got kiddos, I highly recommend reading Edward Tulane with them.

Dare You To by Katie McGarry – Pretty much what I expected. Entertaining, sexy, and full of drama. I like a dual narration in romance novels, and Katie McGarry pulls of both Beth’s and Ryan’s voices fantastically. If you’re a fan of Pushing the Limits, you’ll like Dare You To. Noah and Echo even make a few appearances!

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin – The Westing Game was an entertaining  middle grade read. The characters were interesting and the mystery was cool, but the story didn’t have the emotional impact necessary for me to fall truly in love with it. My full YA Book Club post is HERE.

The House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods by Matt Bell – This is a strange novel. It’s very literary — beautifully written, but unconventional. The story centers around a husband and wife who live in seclusion and struggle through some intense (and graphically described) fertility issues. Their marriage is a trip — I was never quite sure what was real and what was conjured by the damaged imaginations of the characters. If you like a book that’s different and dark and surreal, The House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods might be the story for you.

The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken – Yowza… This book was a wild ride. It’s a dark dystopian thriller with tons of twists and turns, and a core group of four characters who I came to truly adore. Chubs, especially, won my love, and Liam is a total heartthrob.  The Darkest Minds is a complex book with heavy themes and heavy moments. It left me with plenty of questions, most of which will hopefully be answered in the next installment of this trilogy, Never Fade.

All I Need by Susane Colasanti – This book came at just the right time — I was looking for something airy and beachy and romantic, and All I Need is those things and more. It’s a fast read, dual narration, and very sweet. It reminded me a bit of Judy Blume’s Forever… in its earnestness and portrayal of two real teens just trying to make their love work. Check it out of you’re looking for a contemporary YA to set the tone for your summer.

Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys – I love this book so, so much. Main character Josie’s life is brutal, but she experiences moments of such sincere beauty. Out of the Easy is layered with a cast of fantastically riveting characters, and its setting (gritty 1950 New Orleans) is enchanting. I urge you to pick this one up if you’re looking for a historical novel that’s equal parts mesmerizing and affecting.

OCD Love Story by Corey Ann Haydu – More on this book next week in a pending Bookanista/Debut Author Challenge post, but for now I’ll just say that OCD Love Story is outstanding — one of my favorite debuts of the year. The voice is contemporary YA perfection. Main character Bea’s struggle with OCD is gripping and distressing, yet she possesses an irresistible quirkiness that makes her a narrator you’ll want to befriend. A big ol’ recommend!

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