Currently…

(I plan to do a “Currently” post every other Tuesday, and I think y’all should join me… Find the origins of the idea HERE.)

Currently

Loving

Starbucks is my least favorite coffee chain, but they have (a version of) coconut milk now, and it is delicious with their chai, iced or hot. Also, Cougar Gold Cheese (one of my husband’s coworkers, a fellow Coug, recently hooked us up with a can — yummy!). And then there’s this “Holy Swoon” t-shirt that I want so bad, but it’s $50 and I’m trying to be reasonable and responsible. It’s really difficult. Oh, and I’m totally in love with my Pilot Frixion Erasable Markers — so cool! And, finally, my Erin Condren Life Planner which, miraculously, is just as fun to use today as it was when I got it back in February.

Reading

Last week I finished Katie Cotugno’s 99 Days, which I absolutely loved — it’s messy and angsty and enlightening. This week I read Kathleen Davitt Bell’s recently released I Remember You, a unique and heart-wrenching YA romance with an MC who I found rather prickly. More on both of these YAs in my upcoming May Reading Wrap-Up post. I also flew through two NAs: Kristen Callihan’s The Friend Zone, and Dahlia Adler’s Last Will and Testament. I definitely wouldn’t put either of these in a young adult’s hands, but they’re both super good!

Watching

On Friday we went to see Pitch Perfect 2, which was a blast. I kept my expectations low (because the original is just so freaking good), and I’m happy to report that said expectations were blown clear out of the water. I mean, there were some ridiculously silly moments, but overall, I thought the sequel was funny and genuine and entertaining. Recommend!

Listening To

I recently discovered a most excellent podcast called The Narrative Breakdown. It’s about writing of all sorts (fiction, screenplays, journals, etc), as well as the many aspects of books and publishing (character, dialogue, literary agents and query letters, etc). I highly recommend it if you’re a podcast person with an interest in growing your craft.

Thinking About

Our move. Ugh. But… we found a house and we’ve got a signed lease, and that’s all a huge, HUGE relief. I really like the house, too, and the neighborhood, and I think (hope!) we’ll be happy there for the next few years.

Anticipating

Ready. Set. WRITE! It’s a summer writing intensive that encourages goal-setting and accountability, and provides an opportunity for us to cheer each other on wherever we’re at within our writing projects—planning, drafting, revising, or polishing. This year, your RSW hosts will be Alison MillerJaime MorrowErin Funk, Elodie Nowodazkij, and myself. Find more info HERE, and look for a post with this year’s details next week. We hope you’ll join us for the fun!

Wishing

On a star (or a dandelion) that my most recently completed WiP will find success, and that my newest project (still in its brainstorming/plotting stages) will quit being such a jerk and just submit already. 😉

Making Me Happy

Date nights with my husband, and a recent visit with my mom.

  

What’s currently making YOU happy?

April Reading Wrap-Up

April: Month of the Fascinating Fictional Female
I read some seriously good books this month!
(As always, covers images link to Goodreads pages.)


Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens – While I enjoyed this book from its earliest pages, it didn’t become truly impressive until its conclusion — I loved the way author Courtney Stevens wrapped this debut up. MC Alexi is a compelling narrator who’s struggling with a dark secret. While her behavior makes sense, there were moments when I wanted to give her a little shake — I so wanted her to see that what happened to her was not her fault. Luckily, she reconnects with sweet loner Bodee, who is one of the most endearing YA boys I’ve read. He’s battling his own demons, but he’s unwaveringly there for Alexi, and in a refreshingly nonjudgemental way. Bodee helps Lex regain her autonomy and become a girl who is strong and determined and far healthier than she is at the novel’s opening. While there were a few moments in this story that (for me) bordered on preachy, I think it’s an incredibly strong debut.

Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver – I’ve read two books in the last couple of years that have a premise similar to that of Vanishing Girls, so I figured out this story’s mystery fairly quickly. That said, knowing what was coming did not ruin my reading experience; rather, I used this novel as an opportunity to study how a talented author pulls off this sort of meandering, enigmatic plot. Lauren Oliver’s prose is predictably gorgeous and, once again, she has crafted complex, unpredictable characters who I cared about genuinely. I recommend Vanishing Girls if you’re a fan of dark, twisty YA.

 
Flat-Out Love and Flat-Out Matt by Jessica Park – These books were recommended to me by a friend who I now think of as my book soulmate. She was so right — I loved these stories! When I bought Flat-Out Love, I didn’t know it was a trailblazer in NA self-publishing (the paperback is now pubbed by Skyscape), nor did I know that there was a companion, Flat-Out Matt, or a follow-up, Flat-Out Celeste (which I can’t wait to read!). Flat-Out Love’s romantic tone reminded me of Anna and the French Kiss — the slow-burn romance is delicious torture. It’s so obvious who MC Julie is meant to be with, but thanks to a series of misunderstandings and missteps and messy family dynamics, her journey to coupledom is all sorts of complicated, and totally worth the ride. Flat-Out Matt is the perfection companion; several chapters from Flat-Out Love told from Matt’s POV, plus a very — ahem — special night told from Julie’s. Guys, these books are full of eccentric characters, outstanding nerd references, and writing that reads as effortless. I wish there were more NA stories like these on the market!


Bone Gap by Laura Ruby – The best book I’ve read so far this year. I’d heard that this novel is fantastical and sort of bizarre, but that’s all I knew going in, and I’m so glad I started reading blindly. Because how do you describe a book like this…? It’s about two sad brothers, a ballsy beekeeper, and a lovely, missing girl. There are summer jobs and whispering cornfields and first kisses; there is a fascinating small-town dynamic, a twisted fairy tale, and a magical horse. Bone Gap is so beautifully written, so evocative and powerful, it’s the sort of book that makes me want to work harder on my own writing. It’s a haunting, lyrical story about love and perception and feminism, and reading it is an enchanting experience — one I didn’t want to end. Highly recommend.


All the Rage by Courtney Summers – I’ve made no secret of my love of Courtney Summers’ writing. She is fearless, and her latest release is bold and gritty and so, so good. Romy is a protagonist unlike any I’ve read before. She’s rightfully lost and pissed and afraid, emotions that stem from a past sexual assault that went unpunished, as well as subsequent bullying from her classmates. Romy isn’t a likable girl in the traditional sense (she lies, she gets into fights, and she thinks cruel thoughts) but I happen to love her. She’s so honest — an uncomfortable, exhilarating sort of honest. Her supporting cast is also riveting. I particularly enjoyed Romy’s mother, who’s doing the best she can, as well as Todd and Leon, who become positive male figures in Romy’s life. All the Rage is a gut-wrenching story that illustrates how complicated it is to trudge through life as a female, and how scary it can be to raise a girl in this world. Read it.


Forged by Erin Bowman – I’ve been bad about keeping up with trilogies and series lately. I’ve started so many over the last few years, but most have fallen off my radar — even those whose first books I truly enjoyed. The Taken trilogy is one that’s held my interest since its first book released in 2013, though, and that’s because of its characters. Don’t get me wrong — the world-building is fantastic, the plot is unique, and the pacing is swift, but it’s Gray, Bree, Clipper, Emma, Sammy, and Blaine who’ve kept me committed. Bree, especially, continues to blow me away with her awesomeness. Though she’s not the lead character, she’s a standout thanks to her independence and toughness and vigor, and she lends a sense of humanity (and humility) to protagonist Gray. Author Erin Bowman concludes her debut series in a way that feels real and true and courageous and, though there were some genuinely heartbreaking moments, I closed this novel feeling hopeful and content. Recommend!

What’s the best book you read in April? 

Currently…

(I plan to do a “Currently” post every other Tuesday, and I think y’all should join me… Find the origins of the idea HERE.)

Currently

Loving

This (incredibly easy) Chocolate Cake recipe. My favorite (free!) yoga videos: Yoga With Adriene. Washi tape — I am officially obsessed. Pura Vida bracelets. This fantastic “beYOUtiful raglan t-shirt,” of which 1/4 of the price is donated to First Descents, providing free adventure experiences for cancer fighters and survivors. And a recent Pub(lishing) Crawl post by Erin Bowman, all about how to support authors before, during, and after release day.

Reading

Jessica Park’s Flat-Out Love (NA at its most adorable), and Laura Ruby’s Bone Gap (one of the weirdest, most beautifully written books I’ve read in a long time). These two stories couldn’t be more different, but I loved them both, particularly Bone Gap — pure magic. Now, I’ve started All the Rage by one of my favorite authors, Courtney Summers. More about this recent release soon!

   

Watching

Guys, I finished Gossip Girl! I thought the series finale was quite satisfying — though I wanted more Chuck and Blair (always). I’ve just finished watching the first season of The CW’s The 100 which, as promised by many, has drastically improved since its fist few episodes. It definitely has its cheese-tastic moments, but it also has enough twists and romance to hold my attention. So far, so good. Hurry up and make season 2 available, Netflix!

Listening To

Echosmith‘s Bright, which is so damn cute. It’s the perfect theme song for my WiP, Stars Like Dust, too.

Thinking About

My Shiny New Idea! It’s in its very earliest brainstorming stages, but I’m *really* excited about it. I was at the dentist a few weeks ago and during my cleaning, two songs from the same movie soundtrack played — one of my favorite movies. I was suddenly super inspired, and I’ve been stewing over plot-ish things ever since. I’ve named my main characters, and I’ve made a mood board that’s now my computer’s desktop –> progress!

Anticipating

I can’t wait to randomly select the winner of my 5 Year Blog-iversary Giveaway! I’ve got YA books, notecards, a travel mug and Jelly Bellies up for grabs. If you haven’t already, enter HERE. The giveaway closes this Thursday, April 23rd at midnight, and is open internationally. Good luck!

Wishing

That the people who picked up the novels my daughter and I left around our community during last week’s Rock the Drop will love the stories they scored!

Making Me Happy

My family, always. ❤

What’s currently making YOU happy?

What’s Up Wednesday

d542d-wuwwinterholly1(It’s warm enough for shorts today so this graphic seems sort of odd, but I suppose it’s still winter in some places. Brrr…)

“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: Lots of love for two of my favorite NAs, both of which released recently. Find my rave reviews of Riley Edgewood’s Surf & Surrender HERE and Ellie Cahill’s When Joss Met Matt HERE. I’m currently reading Kathryn Holmes’ The Distance Between Lost and Found, which is pretty incredible so far. I love the 3rd person narrative, and the survival aspects of the story are gripping. Can’t wait to see how it plays out!

 

What I’m Writing: I FINISHED MY 1ST DRAFT OF STARS LIKE DUST. What a relief! I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to see this one through, guys. Not because I don’t love it, but because I love it so much I’m desperate to do it justice. Hopefully I’m getting there. I’m the sort of writer who revises as she drafts, so this manuscript is fairly clean. I’m taking care of some small-ish issues now, and I’m hoping to have it to my CPs in the next couple of days. For more on my writing, you can check out my #WriterRecharge Wrap-Up HERE. Goal for the next week: Start outlining my next project. 🙂

What Else I’ve Been Up To: Aside from writing and revising a TON, I’ve mostly just been hanging out with my girl…


We celebrated the end of her basketball season with a party at our favorite fro-yo spot. Is there a better way to spend an afternoon than with a cute kid and bowl of banana frozen yogurt? She and I also had a girls’ day in Pensacola, full of shopping (Target and Michael’s — yay!), plus lunch at Red Robin.

What Works For Me: I mentioned my planner in last week’s post and to be honest, I’ve gotten to the point where I live and die by the thing. (I worked out this morning because my planner told me to, and my husband was like, “I wish I had a planner that had that kind of control over me.”) As well as tracking my schedule and writing progress, I’ve also been using it to write down daily gratitudes, an idea I got from my friend Elodie — thanks, lady! Each night, I take a few minutes to jot down three things I’m thankful for. Sometimes they’re big (like finishing Stars Like Dust) and sometimes they’re little (last week I was super thankful for NyQuil). Either way, gratitudes help me reflect on and appreciate the positive things happening in my life — never a bad thing.

Tell me… What’s up with you today?

WHEN JOSS MET MATT Virtual Blog Tour

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I’m not sure if I’ve ever participated in a virtual blog tour before, but when I got an email inviting me to be a part of one celebrating the release of Ellie Cahill’s NA romance When Joss Met Matt, I could not pass up the opportunity. Guys, I LOVE this book. I lucked into an advanced copy late last year, and it ended up being one of my favorite novels of 2014. It’s sexy and fun, full of humor and heart, and it’s absolutely unputdownable. Keep reading to learn more about it, and for a chance to win your own copy of When Joss Met Matt!

From Goodreads –> Dating can be fun, but it can leave a nasty taste in your mouth. For Joss, ever since her longtime boyfriend cheated on her, she doesn’t want her last memory of a guy to be that jerk. Enter her college friend, Matt. They come up with a theory: after a bad break-up, a person needs to cleanse the palate with a little sorbet sex. Lovers for a night, but always back to being friends in the morning. The two can handle it because they have a contract: rules they wrote, rules they follow and rules they can sometimes bend. The arrangement works: everyone needs a little sorbet now and again … until it starts to be the only thing you want. And then Joss breaks the one rule they never wrote down: don’t fall in love.

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My thoughts –> I adore this book, and I will absolutely read any NA novels Ellie Cahill publishes in the future. When Joss Met Matt is a contemp about a unique and precarious friends-with-benefits hook-up situation (sorbet sex, if you will), set during college and the years just after. The narrative voice is spot-on, the steamy scenes are just the right sort of steamy, and the characters are layered and likable (Joss is delightful and a bit nutty; Matt is so sweet, but a little dense when it comes to romance). When Joss Met Matt is one of those All the Feels books, but with more tenderness than angst. There’ve been few couples who I’ve rooted for as enthusiastically as I rooted for Joss and Matt.

More praise for When Joss Met Matt:
 
“Hands down, one of my favorite New Adult reads . . . Ellie Cahill is definitely one to watch!” — New York Times bestselling author Cora Carmack 

“This is one of those books that make you forget everything around you. Prepare to be consumed by this story.” — Sophie Jordan, New York Times bestselling author of Wild
 
“Fun, sexy, and full of amazing chemistry, When Joss Met Matt is an entertaining escape that will leave you smiling with every turn of the page.” — Cassie Mae, author of The Real Thing

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Ellie Cahill is a freelance writer and also writes books for young adults under the name Liz Czukas. She lives outside Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with her husband, son, and the world’s loudest cat. Facebook Twitter Blog Instagram

And, lucky you — there’s a giveaway! Click on the link below for a chance to win one of 10 copies of When Joss Met Matt

A Rafflecopter Giveaway

SURF & SURRENDER is out now!

I’m so excited for my friend Riley Edgewood — her second NA romance, Surf & Surrender, is out today and it is FaNtAsTiC!

From GoodreadsQuinn Westwood is completely over Sawyer Carson. He broke her heart years ago and disappeared from her life without a word. So yeah. She’s over him. Never even thinks of him. In fact, she’s spending her college summer break surfing and lifeguarding in the Outer Banks, while nursing a bruised heart from a different relationship gone wrong. She doesn’t have room in her mind or heart for Sawyer—until she runs into him at a beach bonfire and the sparks that fly between them are way hotter than the flames heating the sand. Sawyer never got over Quinn. The only thing stronger than what he feels for her is the secret keeping them apart, but sharing it would destroy more than just his life—it’d ruin hers, as well. Still, he can’t seem to keep away from her, can’t seem to keep his hands off of her soft, tempting skin. Especially since she has even less self-control when it comes to reigniting the physical side of what made them perfect together. But secrets have a way of slipping out, and when Sawyer’s is revealed it threatens to shatter everyone involved. He’ll have to face walking away a second time, and Quinn will have to decide if fighting for him is worth it when the fallout could affect more than just her heart, but also those of the people she loves most.

I adore Riley’s first novel, Rock & Release, but Surf & Surrender… It grabbed me and refused to let go. I love this story. It’s a mash-up of all my bookish favorites: first love, lost love, reclaimed love, hot boys, spirited girls, messy families, the beach, flowers, genuinely sexy sexy-times (that’s a technical term), beautiful writing, and a little bit of mystery. Riley’s characters are some of my very favorites: Quinn is all sorts of amusing and unaffected and awesome, and surfer boy Sawyer… swoon. I can’t wait to see a copy of this book on my shelf!

Sound like something you might like? Add Surf & Surrender to Goodreads HERE. Buy Surf & Surrender HERE. And find Riley HERE.

December Reading Wrap-Up

Another diverse month of books. Here’s what I read…
(As always, cover images link to Goodreads pages.)

Maybe Someday by Colleen Hoover – I’m finding that when it comes to NA, I’m either passionately on-board or totally underwhelmed. In the case of Maybe Someday, it’s the former. I am so impressed with this book! So much about it is just… different. The writing is compulsively readable. The characters are complex and likable. The problems are complicated and seem nearly impossible to solve. Maybe Someday centers around a love triangle, but it’s a love triangle that’s well done (no easy answers, no bad guys, real life), and even if you aren’t a love triangle fan (I am not) I bet you’ll still be completely engaged. My very favorite aspect of this novel is a particular element of diversity, an impairment one of the main characters has, which is handled in an informative and authentic manor, and also serves to heighten every other aspect of the plot, particularly the musical component. Maybe Someday‘s a big recommend, and I can’t wait to read more from Colleen Hoover.  

 
The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski – One of my favorites of the year! Though The Lumatere Chronicles and The Graceling Realm are some of my most-loved stories, for me fantasy is a hard sell. I *almost* didn’t read The Winner’s Curse because it’s just really tough for me to get into this genre. I am so glad I gave it a chance! I read this novel in less than forty-eight hours, and I loved every second I spent with MCs Kestrel and Arin. Their world is so richly imagined, and the concepts of ownership and free-will and conflicted culture and warfare are fascinating. Kestrel and Arin are both so intelligent and enlightened, and I loved following along as their relationship went from slow-burn to sizzling. The Winner’s Curse is full of secrets and twists, and of course it concludes with a big ol’ cliffhanger. I can’t wait to read The Winner’s Crime come March!


The Only Thing to Fear by Caroline Tung Richmond – One of the most creative stories I’ve read — a reimagining of the outcome of WWII had Hitler and the Nazis been victorious, combined with a small sect of the population who bear X-Men-like powers thanks to Nazi genetic testing. I love debut author Caroline Tung Richmond’s 3rd person narration, and how she handles The Only Thing to Fear‘s complex plot. There are some heavy themes in this novel, yet it never feels bogged down. And I adore protagonist Zara! She’s sweet but tough, stubborn but sympathetic, and so very courageous. I love, too, the romantic subplot. Bastian is delightful, and the scenes he and Zara share are some of my favorites. Pick this one up if you’re looking for a unique concept, stellar writing, and plenty of adventure.


The Law of Moses by Amy Harmon – So, I have this friend who’s pretty much my book soul mate. She recommends the *best* stories to me. The Law of Moses is one of them — I hadn’t even heard of it before she mentioned it! This one gave me all the feels; I almost cried, and that never happens. The first half of the story is an angsty (in the best way) YA romance, while the second half flashes forward seven years, taking the story into more mature territory. This novel is part romance, part mystery, part magical realism, set in rural Utah. Main characters Georgia (a feisty cowgirl) and Moses (a “cracked” but incredibly talented artist) are endearing in their own nuanced ways, and I wanted nothing more than a happily ever after for them both. And Tag — I love him! Author Amy Harmon’s prose is lovely, and she has a way of invoking real, intense emotion. She gave me chills more than once… Recommend!


The One & Only by Emily Giffin – I have a lot of thoughts on this book, some critical, some favorable. One of my two main issues had to do with MC Shea, who I sometimes had a difficulty rooting for. She can be blatantly dishonest, which is a trait I have a hard time overlooking. But she’s passionate and hardworking and smart and loyal, too, not to mention a major football fan. Those qualities, thankfully, were enough to keep me on her side through the duration of the story. My other issue has to do with how a certain domestic abuse issue was handled. I won’t go into detail for fear of spoilers, but I found this thread heavy-handed and not completely resolved. Despite those matters, The One & Only is unputdownable. The love story, while unconventional and complicated, feels very genuine. I’ve read various reviews that mention serious problems with the romance, but I can totally understand how it evolved and changed over time, and how the circumstances heightened feelings on both sides; I found myself invested. Additionally, I love this story’s setting, its tertiary characters, and its college football backdrop. I look forward to reading more from Emily Giffin.


The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan – My husband found this one on my Wish List and surprised me with it for Christmas. Going in, I thought it was YA — I guess because David Levithan is such a well-known YA editor. The Lover’s Dictionary definitely isn’t YA, but that doesn’t mean it’s not wonderful. It’s a brief and bittersweet tale of love and loss told through super clever dictionary entries. It’s a fast but moving read, sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking, and it felt like the perfect book with which to end my year of reading. I adored it.

What’s the best book you read in December? 

Class of 2014: YA Superlatives Blogfest BEST IN SHOW

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!

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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

Best In Show

Favorite Cover

    
Lots of beautiful covers in 2014… These four stuck out: The Secret Sky by Atia Abawi, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han, Pointe by Brandy Colbert, and Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn. All four are excellent reads, as well!

Cutest Couple

  
Gwen and Cassidy from Huntley Fitzpatrick’s What I Thought Was True, and Isla and Josh (despite their drama) from Stephanie Perkins’s Isla and the Happily Ever After — too cute to choose, too cute for words. ❤

Most Likely to Succeed (Pick a Printz)


Not only did Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You the Sun hit me harder in the feels than any other book I read this year, it’s also one of the most beautifully written stories I’ve encountered.

Most Likely to Make You Miss Your Bedtime


Could. Not. Put. Down The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski. The romance, the pacing, the twists, the crazy-compelling characters. So, so good!

Best Repeat Performance (Sequel or Follow-Up)


These The Raven Cycle books just keep getting better, don’t they? I adored Maggie Stiefvater’s Blue Lily, Lily Blue, and I can’t wait to see how this series ends when the final novel comes out next year.

Favorite Finale or End of Series Novel

  
I’ve followed Laini Taylor’s and Veronica Rossi’s trilogies since their opening books, and Dreams of Gods and Monsters and Into the Still Blue held up through the end. Love and recommend both of these fantastical series!

Romance Most Worthy of an Ice Bath


Isla and the Happily Ever After‘s Isla and Josh in Spain… Need I say more? Thank you, Stephanie Perkins, for bringing the swoon. (Honorable Mention to Dahlia Adler’s Behind the Scenes — hot, hot, hot!)

Best Breakout Novel (Debut Author) 


This one’s hard because I’ve read some *fantastic* debuts this year, but my love for Adi Alsaid’s Let’s Get Lost knows no bounds. It’s just so charming and and heartwarming and poignant. Plus, hello, adorable cover!

Best Old-Timer (Favorite Novel Pubbed BEFORE 2014)

  
Late to the party on both of these (seriously — what took me so long?!) but Morgan Matson’s Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour and Cristin Terrill’s All Our Yesterdays both lived up to and then completely surpassed their hype. If you’ve put off reading either or both, remedy that soon!

Most Likely to Make a Grown Man Cry

  
We all know I’m not a book crier, but Christa Desir’s Bleed Like Me and Elodie Nowodazkij’s debut One, Two, Three pulled at my heartstrings in major (though very different) ways.

Most Pleasant Surprise


I’m not sure I would have picked up Caroline Tung Richmond’s The Only Thing to Fear if I didn’t know and adore her — the cover doesn’t exactly scream Katy Book. But I’m so glad I gave this debut a go because it’s one of the most unique and creative stories I’ve read. Loved it!

Most Creative Use of a Love Triangle


Sophie from Tess Sharpe’s Far From You is tangled up between a brother and sister and oh my goodness, it’s messy. Plus, there’s a murder mystery and drug addiction and guilt and sadness to contend with. Such an enthralling read.

Sleeper Hit (Novel So Awesome I Wish It’d Been Hyped More)

    
I wouldn’t call Elizabeth Scott’s Heartbeat, Jessica Love & Chelsie Hill’s Push Girl, Lisa Schroeder’s The Bridge From Me to You, or Stephanie Kuehn’s Complicit “under the radar,” but they’re all so good, I wish I was seeing them featured on everyone’s end-of-the-year “Best” lists. If you haven’t read any of the four of these and are a fan of contemporary YA, you MUST check them out!

Favorite Outlier (Best 2014 Picture, MG, NA, or Adult Book)

  
  
Roxane Gay’s An Untamed State, Rebecca Behren’s When Audrey Met Alice, Riley Edgewood’s Rock & Release serial, and Mary Kubica’s The Good Girl are all such different books, but all four are so affecting. They each blew me away with their amazingness.

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Click below to add your name and your Best in Show post link to our sign up so we can hop around and check out your selections. 

This weekend, Jessica, Tracey, Alison, and I will randomly select FOUR Superlative Blogfest participants to win a 2014 YA book of their choice. Make sure to include your post links to all of the linky lists that apply so you’ll be eligible to win… 

And thanks so much to those who participated, commented, and helped spread the word about this blogfest… I’ve had a blast reading all of the posts, and my TBR list has grown by leaps and bounds!

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 Let’s Get Lost by Adi Alsaid, and loved it so, so much! I chatted about it (and all of my November reads) in Monday’s Reading Wrap-Up post. I also read Maybe Someday by Colleen Hoover, a fabulous contemporary NA. Loved the musical component, and a particular element of diversity (no spoilers!) I haven’t seen represented much in literature. Also, it *almost* made me cry, which is extremely rare. Yesterday, I started The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski. While fantasy is not my genre of choice, this one’s been too highly praised to pass up. It’s excellent so far! 

What I’m Writing: I took a writing break after winning National Novel Writing Month (!!!) last week. I didn’t even open my laptop over the long Thanksgiving weekend, which was a very nice recharge. Though I still need to finish the last 10K or so of my NaNo story (I shared its Love List last week), I’m putting it on the back-burner to work on a CP-recommended revision of my WiP The Road So Far. I’m so happy to be back with this story and these characters! 

What Else I’ve Been Up To: All the holiday things! Baking, buying, wrapping, mailing, decorating… It’s been a busy week…

  
I had a lovely Thanksgiving with my little family, and I made a super yummy Chocolate Pecan Pie, among many other goodies. So many leftovers! 


Last year we moved over the holidays so we didn’t get to put up any of our holiday decorations. It’s been wonderful to trim the tree and hang stockings in a house this year. My daughter is beside herself with excitement! 

What Works For Me: Perseverance, which for me, is all about shutting down the voices of uncertainty that are constantly chattering in my head. The only way I know how to do that is to continue to push on, writing-writing-writing, even when it feels like there’s no point. The busier I am, the less time I have for second-guessing. *Curious: How do you quiet the doubt monsters?

What’s up with you today? 

November Reading Wrap-Up

So many amazing (and varied) books in November!
Here’s what I read…

(As always, covers link to Goodreads pages.)

When Joss Met Matt by Ellie Cahill – I love this book so much, and I will absolutely read any NA novels Ellie Cahill (Liz Czukas) publishes in the future. When Joss Met Matt is a contemp about a unique and precarious friends-with-benefits situation (sorbet, if you will), set during college and the years just after. The writing is spot-on, the steamy scenes are just the right sort of steamy, and the characters are layered and likable (Joss is delightful and a bit nutty; Matt is so sweet, but a little dense when it comes to romance). When Joss Met Matt is one of those All the Feels books (but without the crazy angst that’s become synonymous with NA), and I can’t remember the last time I rooted for a couple so enthusiastically. It’s out February, 2015, and you should DEFINITELY read it!


Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater – (Minor spoiler-ish comments ahead…) Oh, Maggie. You slay me consistently, and I promise to buy and devour any and every book you write. I adored this third installment (of four) of one of my favorite YA series. I am a Gansey girl through-and-through, and I loved the more vulnerable side we saw of him this time around (his fear in the cave — my heart was pounding!). I love, too, the palpable chemistry he and Blue share. I mean, they’ve yet to so much as kiss, but still… *swoon* Just as captivating as Gansey and Blue are Adam and Ronan. Their bond (for lack of a better word at this point) is enrapturing (the hand cream — good Lord!). And then there’s Maggie’s Stiefvater’s prose, which is gorgeous and evocative and oh-so-enviable. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book this beautifully penned. Incase my fan-girling hasn’t made my feelings clear, BL,LB is amazing and so is its series.


Loop by Karen Akins – Aah! This is a fun, twisty book, and an amazingly unique spin on time travel. Karen Akins’s debut is pretty much a study in how to pull off a feisty, genuinely amusing YA voice. Traveling through time in Bree’s head was a treat, and getting to know irresistibly sweet love interest Finn wasn’t so bad either. I adored the way their interactions played out (thanks to time travel, there’s narrator Bree and future Bree and, well, things can get a little nutty in the romance department when you’re not sure what your future self has done with the boy who claims to have a relationship with you). Needless to say, I found myself laughing out loud more than once. My only issue with Loop? Its crazy cliffhanger ending! I don’t want to have to wait for more Bree and Finn!


On Writing by Stephen King – How have I never read this? I loved it, as many told me I would. On Writing is (obviously) about the craft of writing, but it begins with a brief summary of Stephen King’s defining life moments, which were fascinating. Still, it was the sections on writing (see what I did there?) that captivated me most. King’s advice is so candid and forthright, presented with a touch of humor and plenty of anecdotal evidence, including some self-depreciating examples from his own work. The man is so clever and so prolific, and his suggestions are so smartly presented. This one’s a book I’ll reread from time to time when inspiration is waning.


Losing It by Cora Carmack – Though many, many friends have recommended this author to me, I finally picked up this book because of an odd reverse blurb situation. Its author blurbed When Joss Met Matt (see above) and I loved that book so much, I figured it’d be likely that I’d enjoy the blurber’s writing as well. (Does any of that make sense? I hope so…) Anyway, Losing It was full of fun voice-y bits and some almost slap-stick situations that totally made me laugh. It’s a book that deals with college theatre, which is a world I know very little about, so it certainly held my attention.  My only quibble has to do with the romance, which just didn’t hit me in the feels the way other NAs have. Still, I’ve heard that Cora Carmack’s All Lined Up is excellent, and I look forward to checking it out.


VIP by Riley Edgewood – How I adore this first act in Riley Edgewood’s three-act debut serial, Rock & Release. I’ve read it twice, once as a beta, and once as a fan. VIP is definitely the steamy (sometimes literally!) sort of book NA is known for, but more than that, it’s a gorgeous story. Riley has this lovely way with words that gets under my skin and stays with me. Even her sexiest scenes are written with elegance and nuance, and they read almost like poetry. MC Cassidy is such a fun heroine to get to know. She’s not perfect, but she has the *best* heart, and she’s funny in this endearingly self-depreciating way — so easy to root for. And then there’s Gage, who is one of the most desirable NA guys out there. He’s hot (obviously — look at that cover), and he’s a musician, and he’s goes after what he wants. But he’s also sweet and attentive and truly caring, which makes him impossible not to love. If you’re looking for a read that’s full of emotion and seduction and beautiful, beautiful words, I highly recommend Riley’s VIP.

Let’s Get Lost by Adi Alsaid – All the stars for this book! I finished it the other night and I’m still thinking about, and still smiling from the sheer joy of its reading experience. Let’s Get Lost is a collection of five short stories that have Leila, a girl who’s on an answers-seeking road trip to Alaska, in common. Though we only get to spend a short time with each of the characters (save Leila), I grew to know them all so well. As soon as I pegged one as a favorite, his/her story would conclude and I’d get to begin a whole new adventure with another charming protagonist. Though I loved each character and felt invested in each story, Sonia’s was my absolute favorite because… romance and humor and winsome boy. ❤ Along with Let’s Get Lost‘s characters, I adored Adi Alsaid’s whimsical 3rd-person writing style, and his descriptions of the varied settings. This whole book feels like a John Hughes movie, and I’m a huge fan. 

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