May Reading Wrap-Up

May has been a super varied month of reading,
and I’ve got lots of good stuff to recommend…

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The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd – This one is the June pick for my book club (I’m actually ahead for once!) and it really impressed me. It’s based on the life of historical figures Sarah and Angelina Grimke, early abolitionists and feminists, but also tells the (almost entirely fictionalized) story Hetty “Handful” Grimke, a slave who comes of age in the Grimke household. I was worried that this tale would center on Sarah helping Handful to freedom, but it doesn’t. Both Sarah and Handful are strong women with agency, and their evolving relationship is fascinating. The Invention of Wings is a difficult read, as it holds little back in the way of depicting the severe realities of slavery, but it is also a beautiful story about love and sacrifice and standing up for what’s right. Recommended for anyone with an interest in American history, and fans of sweeping historical fiction.

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The Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles – This is a cool book — it calls back to those 2007-2009 paranormal romances we all loved so much, but it definitely has its own unique spin. I bought The Edge of Everything because of its fabulous cover, but didn’t know much about what I was getting into until I started reading. The gist: Montana girl meets underworldly (yes)  boy; mayhem, mystery, and romance ensue. I love Zoe for her stubbornness and sass, and I love X for his vulnerability and sense of chivalry, and I love the two of them together because, despite the completely bonkers situation they find themselves in, they just… make sense. The voice of this debut impressed me, too. While the story is action-packed, author Jeff Giles has infused some smart humor into, too, which made it a super entertaining read. Pick this one up if you’re nostalgic for paranormal romance, or if you like captivating characters and evocative prose.

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The Truth About Happily Ever After by Karole Cozzo – I’ve loved all of my Swoon Sister Karole’s books, but this one is definitely my new favorite. The Truth About Happily Ever After is everything I wanted it to be — fantastic writing, layered characters who are so easy to root for, and super swoony romance. Protagonist Alyssa is relatably flawed and instantly likable, and I’ve got a new favorite Book Boy in Miller. This NA novel takes place at Enchanted Dominion, a stand-in for Disney World (my favorite!). Alyssa and her friends are character actors — Alyssa plays Cinderella with passion and perfection, and expects life and love to be the fairytale she presents at work. Of course, it doesn’t work out that way, and Alyssa is forced to come to terms with some pretty unexpected challenges. Her character arch is steep and satisfying, while still feeling magical and fun. Perfect for those wanting an authentic-feeling romance between college-aged characters, with a delightfully enchanting setting.

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The Hot Shot by Kristen Callihan – I’m not even gonna lie — this book is full of smutty goodness, so if that’s not your thing, probably steer clear. But if you’re looking for a guilty pleasure read about an NFL quarterback and the utterly endearing photographer he falls for, this is the book for you. I recommend reading the first three books in this series first; I found them all unputdownable!

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Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han – It’s hard for me to chat about this third and final book about Jenny Han’s adorable Lara Jean and her winsome boyfriend Peter K because to admit that I loved this story probably gives a lot away. But yeah. I LOVED IT. Always and Forever, Lara Jean tackles the very real challenges of a high school senior: college applications and acceptances, stretching friendships, shifting family dynamics, and tested romances. It’s all very authentic, but still very charmed, as Lara Jean’s stories tend to feel. She’s matured in this book, which I appreciated seeing. She’s a better communicator, she’s less naive, and she’s even more thoughtful when it comes to the people she loves. And Peter’s grown too — he’s basically the world’s best boyfriend. ❤️ I could rave about this one all day. Read it if you haven’t yet, and if you’re waiting around to start this series, now’s the perfect time!

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The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena – May’s book club selection, and I was captivated. This one’s about a couple who leaves their 6 month old baby, Cora, asleep in her crib while they have dinner/drinks with (you guessed it) the couple next door. They’ve got a baby monitor and they’re checking on her every half hour, but of course something horrible happens: Cora is kidnapped. This novel is fast-paced and full of twists and turns; it kept me guessing through its final pages. My only two qualms are the writing style — for me, it felt flat and at times tell-y — and the conclusion which, as far as baby Cora is concerned, I thought to be incredibly implausible. Still, this is a great summer read, sensational as it is. Recommended for those who like mystery and psychological thrillers.

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Fireworks by Katie Cotugno – Oh my goodness — this book exactly what I needed in nineties-set novel about a fledgling pop girl group and the dreamy boy band they come to know. Y’all, if you’re not reading Katie Cotugno’s books, please start now. She’s so good. I adored my time with this third novel of hers very much. Main character Dana is cool and layered and easy to relate to, and her love interest, Alex, is fantastic. I loved the way their relationship unfurled — it’s equally romantic and realistic. I also enjoyed how the demise of Dana’s best friendship was portrayed; her “break-up” with Olivia rang very true, and is an issue I don’t see addressed often enough in young adult literature. Fireworks is another excellent summer story, perfect for the beach or pool, and a must-read for contemporary lovers, particularly those who were teens in the nineties. 😘

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

February Reading Wrap-Up

Six fantastic novels for your To-Be-Read list…

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If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo – What a relevant, necessary, wonderful book. If I Was Your Girl is thought-provoking, and helps to give a candid and relatable face to the trans community. Its prose is spare but emotive, and it’s #OwnVoices — it reads as such. More than anything, though, this nuanced story of Amanda, who’s trying to make a place for herself at a new school, as well as navigate the relatively unfamiliar experience of living life fully as the female she’s always known she is, is absorbing and entertaining. I was rooting for Amanda from page one, and cheering on the friends she made and the new romance she pursued. And when things got tough, well, my heart broke right along with hers. An important and engaging novel.

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Girl Out of Water by Laura Silverman (May 2, 2017) – This book is delightful — a charming and romantic beach read, but with depth. California girl Anise’s summer plans are turned upside down when she’s forced to make an extended trip to Nebraska to help care for her young cousins. There, she meets dreamy skateboarder, Lincoln, who challenges her in both silly and significant ways. She also begins to confront the baggage that’s come along with her mother’s abandonment. There’s even a mini road trip in this story, cementing its status as a Katy Book. Laura Silverman’s prose is an unusual but appealing blend of lyrical and gritty, dropping me right into Anise’s world. If you’re a fan of Sarah Dessen and Emery Lord, definitely pick up Girl Out of Water in May.

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Just Friends by Tiffany Pitcock (August 1, 2017) – Tiffany and I share a publisher and a release date, which made me all the more excited to get my hands on an ARC of her forthcoming debut. Just Friends is everything I wanted it to be: cute, angsty, and fun. Main characters Chance and Jenny become friends thanks to the ultimate meet-cute, and they share adorable chemistry. This one’s a romance so the conclusion is expected, but the path we get to travel toward Chance and Jenny’s happily ever after has all sorts of unexpected twists and turns, and it’s populated by an excellent supporting cast. I love how Chance and Jenny grow and change over the course of this story, all the while supporting and caring for each other. Snag Just Friends this August if you love to read contemporary YA romance à la Kasie West.

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The Hating Game by Sally Thorne – I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: If I can get behind a couple’s chemistry, I become blind to any and all flaws a book might otherwise have. Such is the case with The Hating Game. Is it a technically perfect novel? Who knows! I was so completely mesmerized by the legitimately hilarious writing, the I-hate-you-wait-actually-I-might-love-you nature of the plot, and the heat between main characters Josh and Lucy. Their back-and-forth is utterly flawless, their characterizations are deep, and Lucy’s narration is so bright and sparkly and fun and funny, I literally could not put this book down. I know there’s all sorts of hype surrounding The Hating Game which, for me, can be a turn off. But in this case? YES. BUY THE BOOK. #NewFavorite

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Watch the Sky by Kirsten Hubbard – This book is so lovely and melancholy. It’s a middle grade novel about Jory, a boy who lives a mostly secluded life with his stepfather, mother, sister (who has a fascinating backstory all her own), and baby brother. After a meteor shower, Jory’s stepfather, a war vet who’s always talking about “signs,” insists the family descend into the nearby canyon every night to dig a hole in the dirt. As Jory begins to make new friends at school, he starts to question his stepfather’s edicts, and his family’s way of life. Watch the Sky‘s themes–family and loyalty and secrets and fear–are profound, but the story is narrated in a way that feels both accessible and safe. My nine-year-old read this novel a month ago, then immediately put it into my hands. So, it’s earned both of our stamps of approval. Big recommend for middle grade fans.

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The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner – A few things you should know about this debut novel… First, despite what I’d pegged as a fantastical cover, this is a Tennessee-set contemporary about three very different teenagers with a host of diverse struggles. Second, it’s a tale of friendship, and how friendship (and first love) can help a person overcome what might otherwise be a tragic fate. Third, Jeff Zentner’s writing is extraordinary; I listened via audiobook, and the voices of Dill, Lydia, and Travis were so authentic and distinct and vivid, I was blown away. Fourth, I think Jeff Zentner must take a tiny bit of pleasure in shredding hearts, because by the end of this story, mine was in tatters. I see now, why The Serpent King won the Morris Award this year. It is an exemplary novel.

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

Authors-I-Already-Love-Must-Preorder-Can’t-Wait-For 2017 Contemporary Young Adult Novels

Laziness alert!

This morning I tweeted about some of my most-anticipated 2017 contemporary YA releases written by already-established authors. I wanted to share here, but I didn’t so much feel like drafting a whole post and searching for links and, you know, doing any additional work. Which is why embedded tweets are my friend.

Hopefully you’ll find some recommendations to anticipate right along with me!

Tell me!
What books are you most looking forward to in 2017?

August Reading Wrap-Up

I read some amazing books this month, and I’ve been so excited to share them here. Big recommend to all of these novels, guys!
{As always, covers link to Goodreads pages.}

Rules for Stealing Stars by Corey Ann Haydu – My nine-year-old daughter and I read this middle grade novel together, and we loved it. It’s a story that tackles weighty issues (a mother’s alcoholism, most notably), but it’s a fairy tale as well, a book about sisters and magic and imagination and secrets and unbreakable bonds. Silly is the youngest of four; she and her sisters are deftly drawn — each unique, with her own strengths and flaws. While they lean on each other, there’s distance between the girls, too, due to their mother’s drinking and their father’s inattentiveness and the general discord a pair of inept parents bring to a household. Silly and her sisters have their closets, though — extraordinary places full of magic and beauty (mostly), where they can escape their unhappy reality. Corey Ann Haydu combines Silly’s authentic, youthful voice with charming insight and enchanting descriptions, while creating a world that is both vastly sad and infinitely hopeful. I feel so lucky to have shared this one with my girl, and I highly recommend it.

The Heartbeats of Wing Jones by Katherine Webber (March 14, 2017) – I added this 2017 debut to my list of Katy Books immediately upon finishing — it’s everything I hope for when I pick up a YA novel. Wing is a fascinating character: often uncomfortable in her skin and full of longing, yet strong in spirit, too. When Marcus, the big brother she idolizes, kills two people (and almost himself) while driving drunk, Wing steps out of his shadow and into a pair of running shoes in an effort save both her sanity and her family’s home. While The Heartbeats of Wing Jones features touches of magic, it’s a story rooted in reality, in family and friendship and first love (Aaron — you will adore him). It’s beautifully written, nuanced, and full of lovely, evocative language, the sort of descriptions that make you want to start the story all over again the second you finish (that first kiss, man…). Definitely pick up The Heartbeats of Wing Jones when it debuts in March — I loved it!

Wild Swans by Jessica Spotswood – This book is so lovely. It’s a quiet story about a girl named Ivy who, thanks to her talented (and troubled) lineage, is striving to meet her granddad’s sky-high expectations. Ivy’s such a great protagonist. She’s smart and sporty and incredibly kind, though she doesn’t exactly excel at any one thing — a problem, considering the gifted women who’ve come before her. Along with her perceived mediocrity, Ivy’s also trying to come to terms with the sudden return of her absolutely awful mother, and the two sisters she knows little about. My favorite aspects of Wild Swans are its setting (a small town on the Chesapeake Bay), its friendships (Ivy’s got two awesomely supportive girl friends), and its romance, which is equal parts sweet and steamy. Love interest Connor is the hottest YA boy I’ve encountered in a long while (hello, ink! 😍 ).  Give Wild Swans a read the next time you’re in the mood for a heartfelt contemporary with gorgeous writing and a wonderfully relatable protagonist.

Gilded Gage by Vic James (February 14, 2017) – The marketing material on and inside the Gilded Cage‘s ARC makes some big promises about its excellence and let me tell you — it’s not kidding around. This book is so cool; its concept is unique, its world-building is outstanding, and its characters are captivating. It’s set in a fantastical version of modern England, where those with magical abilities rule, and commoners serve in the way of a ten year slavery stint. Main characters Abi and Luke are a sister/brother pair who have very different experiences while enslaved. Their voices are marvelously vibrant, as is Vic James’s third person narration; her prose is enviable, her style somehow both classic and accessible. Gilded Cage is full of twists and magic and rebellion and romance, and to be honest, I had a hard time putting it down. Mark it To-Read now, and snatch it up when it debuts in February.

Fear Me, Fear Me Not by Elodie Nowodazkij (September 27, 2016) – Ooh, this book is chilling, in the best way! I think it might be my favorite Elodie Nowodazkij novel, and I know Erin and Dimitri are my favorite Elodie Nowodazkij couple. They have a long history, and amazing chemistry, and I loved all of their swoony scenes. But Fear Me, Fear Me Not is not just a romance; it’s a murder mystery, too, and it’s bursting with suspense. Elodie manages to pull off three distinct points-of-view, including the killer’s, while keeping the tension high and the thrills coming. I love the roles family and friendship play in this novel, rocketing the stakes up and up and up, and keeping me turning pages (or scrolling through the document — whatever 😉 ) late into the night. If you’re ready for a book that’ll have you searching for clues, while giving you a few good scares, featuring characters who are easy to cheer for, check out Fear Me, Fear Me Not at the end of September.

On the Fence by Kasie West – I read this romantic contemporary while on a camping trip, and that’s exactly what the story is — the perfect vacation read. I found MC Charlie to be endearing and relatable, while simultaneously full of spunk and delightfully flawed. She spends the novel coming to terms with her athletic body and tom-boy-ish sensibilities (not to mention hazy memories of her deceased mother), while discovering that the Charlie she’s always been is not necessarily the Charlie she has to be forever. I love the family dynamics in this novel (Charlie’s big brothers are excellent), and I thought the romance was so sweet. Boy-next-door Braden is a love interest worth rooting for; he appreciates Charlie for exactly who she is and stands in as a constant source of support. Recommended for fans of contemporary YA.

Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornoll (US edition out January 3rd, 2017, UK edition available from Book Depository now) – This debut is masterful in its balance of dark and light. Main character Norah battles agoraphobia, as well as OCD and frequent urges to self-harm. Basically, she’s trapped in her house, her only companions her doting mom and her frank therapist. She’s stifled and scared, emotions that are conveyed brilliantly through Louise Gornoll’s evocative language. Norah’s challenges absolutely wear her down, and her sadness and frustration are palpable, but she’s full of wit and sarcasm, too. It seems she’s gained a certain level of acceptance regarding her mental illness — until cute new boy Luke moves in next door. While Luke’s not a savior, he challenges Norah in this gentle, respectful way that pushes her to begin confronting her fears. The final quarter of this book surprised me; it’s action-packed and rather creepy, and it allows us to see the true scope of Norah’s strength. Under Rose-Tainted Skies is an affecting and beautifully written book — big recommend.

What’s the best book you read in August?

Currently…

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

Currently

Loving

Watching my daughter compete with her swim team. It’s been such an amazing experience for her, and she’s improved SO MUCH in two months. Her times are dropping and her strokes are looking better and better, and I’m just really, really proud of her. I swam in high school, and it’s awesome to see her enjoying (and beginning to excel at!) a sport I love.

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Reading

I just finished Escaping Perfect by Emma Harrison. While I enjoyed the setting and found the secondary characters to be super likable, I don’t think the “Gone Girl meets the TV show Nashville” comparison is at all fitting. Also, that ending, man… 🤔  In other news, my girlie and I are reading Rules for Stealing Stars by Corey Ann Haydu, and whoa. Equally beautiful and heartbreaking and magical. It’s also initiating a lot of interesting conversation. We’re loving it so far!

Watching

Parenthood. Still obsessed. Also, my husband and I recently started watching United States of Tara, about a woman struggling with her family and her dissociative identity disorder. Toni Collette is so good!

Listening To

Invisibilia, an NPR podcast about “the invisible forces that control human behavior – ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions.” The topics are fascinating, and they’re discussed in a very accessible and entertaining way. Recommend!

Thinking About

Camp NaNoWri Mo. I’m participating, and I’m chipping away at my 15K word goal. Currently sitting pretty at 8,471 words, and I just passed 60K on my WiP — whoop! Now I need to figure out how to wrap the story up (why are endings always so hard?!)

Anticipating

Remember the annoyingly vague “top-secret” news I mentioned two weeks ago? Well, I can finally share about one of the things I’ve been anticipating… The Uppermans are an officially approved foster family, and we recently received our first placement. I can’t share details or photos of the child, and we’re not yet sure how long the placement will last, but I can say that we’re very happy. Also, very tired. 🙂 Here’s my cat resting on a Boppy pillow, in case you’re wondering how she’s adjusting…IMG_4178Wishing

You’ll sign up to receive my monthly newsletter, chock full of current favorites (reads, shows, movies, recipes, products, quotes, etc), plus occasional updates on my own book-ish pursuits. It’ll be all kinds of fun — promise!

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Making Me Happy

All of the well wishes we’ve gotten regarding our decision to become foster parents. I’m overwhelmed by the kind words of family and friends from afar, as well as the support and excitement and help we’ve received from our local friends. Makes my heart full. ❤

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

Currently…

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

Currently

Loving

Everything about the photo below: dark chocolate espresso beans and iced chai lattes and pink roses and blush peonies, all of which I splurged on after my very first school visit. My daughter’s teacher invited me to speak with the 3rd graders about writing and publishing and while I totally wanted to do it, I was SO nervous. I mean, I know a lot of the kids and I’ve learned a thing or two about writing over the years, but an actual school visit? Luckily, it went really well. The kids were great listeners and participators, and they asked some really thoughtful questions. I’m super thankful, and already eager to do it again! 13413424_1578444175781472_822276646_nReading

I’ve been doing lots of reading lately. I recently finished Wonder by R.J Palacio (holy crap — amazing) and The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater (predictably mesmerizing). Also, how fun is the #FlipThatBook tag on Instagram?!

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I’m currently reading The Last Boy & Girl in the World by one of my favorite authors, Siobhan Vivian, and it’s fantastic. It’s a romance with a compelling hook (its setting is a town that’s about to be sunk by a dammed river), and it’s full of interesting girl friendships and swoon and surprises. I’m loving it!13398444_503108083216522_1676210314_n Watching

Parenthood. I’m only, like, nine episodes in, but yeah. It’s fantastic. I love Peter Krause (Six Feet Under — best show ever) and of course I adore Lauren Graham. The writing is perfection and dialogue is amazingly authentic and the relationships all feel so genuine and complicated and lovely. Thanks, Riley Edgewood, for insisting I watch this one; you were right — I love it!

Listening To

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. It’s very clear why this debut won the William C. Morris Award last year — it’s smart and funny and awesomely voice-y. Protagonist Simon is immediately likable, and the audiobook narrator is extraordinary. Recommend!

Thinking About

Our recent vacation to Smith Mountain Lake, which is gorgeous. We shared a condo with friends (our next door neighbors from our time in Monterey) and had so much fun swimming, kayaking, inner tubing, sunning, and eating. I’m already ready to go back!

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Anticipating

Copyedits! Kissing Max Holden has finally reached this important step (YAY!), and I’m weirdly excited to see all the ways I’ve misused commas and semicolons and em dashes. 🙂

Wishing

You’ll check out the recently revealed Swanky 17 covers! They’re all so gorgeous — my fellow Swanks are winning the cover lottery all over the place! Find the YA covers HERE and the MG covers HERE.

Making Me Happy

My girlie played Somewhere Over the Rainbow on her guitar during her school’s Talent Showcase and it was pretty much the most adorable thing ever. I’m so proud of her courage and her dedication. She did so well!

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

May Reading Wrap-Up

Seven books read in May. Thirty-two books read in 2016.
As always, covers link to Goodreads pages.

How to Say I love You Out Loud by Karole Cozzo – I was charmed by this story of family and first love and fitting in. Main character Jordyn is so complex. Her home life is tricky because her younger brother, Phillip, falls at the severe end of the Autism spectrum, and her parents spend most of their time and energy accommodating him. Jordyn often feels left out and overlooked, and as a result, she’s not Phillip’s biggest fan. At times, Jordyn’s hard to like, but that’s because she’s real. She’s not always kind to her brother, and she experiences moments of selfishness and resentment, but don’t worry — her arc is steep. I love that Jordyn has to learn how to say eff it, and I love that she discovers ways to appreciate her brother for who he is, and I especially love the way her romance with adorable and altruistic Alex pans out. Karole Cozzo’s prose is simultaneously concise and emotive, and she writes amazing kissing scenes. I recommend How to Say I Love You Out Loud for fans of family-focused and romantic contemporary YA.

The Year We Fell Apart by Emily Martin – Another contemporary YA with a main character who’s so authentic and so flawed, she often comes across as prickly. Throughout the course of this story, Harper makes some big mistakes, and I found myself cringing more than once. Author Emily Martin’s done an interesting thing here, gender swapping the Good Girl/Bad Boy trope. Harper drinks and hooks up and acts out when she’s feeling overwhelmed, while her first love and current ex, Declan (who I’m smitten with), is careful and considerate and responsible — until he’s not. I think this is a unique take on contemporary YA romance, and the flip definitely kept me engaged. My favorite thing about The Year We Fell Apart (aside from its incredible romantic tension) is Harper and Declan’s friend group, Cory in particular. He’s so constant and loyal — exactly the sort of buddy Harper needs to temper the upheaval in her life. I love, too, that climactic scene in the parking lot. My heart was literally pounding. Read this one if you’re into romances full of conflict and angst.

The Wrath & the Dawn by Renee Ahdeih – A reread, this time I listened to the (outstanding) audiobook. The glowing review I wrote last summer is HERE.

The Rose & the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh – A satisfying end to an incredible duology. As much as I wanted to rush through this book so I could learn the fates of Shazi and Khalid and Tariq and Despina and all of the other characters I’ve come to love, I made myself savor each page because Renee Ahdieh pens some of the most beautiful prose I’ve read. Her descriptions are lush, and she has this way of relating her characters’ emotions that’s just so powerful. I’m a fan of this concluding book for a lot of reasons, most of which have to do with Shahrzad and how utterly badass she is. She never falters in her convictions, though she’s not opposed to experimenting with new tactics and accepting help from an eccentric bunch of secondary characters. While I loved every moment she spent with Khalid (that first scene they shared… <3), I was particularly fascinated by her evolving relationships with Tariq and her younger sister, Irsa (who’s a badass in her own quiet way). The Rose & the Dagger is full of fantasy (magic carpets, fire manipulators, magic spells, flying serpents) and some stunning twists, but it never gets lost in sensationalism. Its characters are layered and authentic, its relationships are real and often imperfect, and it’s grounded in feminism — a most excellent spin on The Arabian Nights: Tales From 1,001 Nights.

In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume – Honest moment: If this book hadn’t been written by Judy Blume, I probably wouldn’t have picked it up. It’s historical fiction set in Elizabeth, New Jersey, a town where three planes crashed in the space of 58 days in late 1951 and early 1952 (that actually happened). Not subject matter that would normally pique my interest, but I’m so glad I gave this book a read — I thought it was wonderful. Its cast is huge, but a great deal of the story is told through fifteen-year-old Miri’s eyes, and she’s awesome — a lot like the winsome girls of Judy Blume’s earlier MG and YA novels. Miri comes of age during the winter of the plane crashes, partly because of the crashes, and partly because she’s dealing with all sorts of normal teenage issues: family strife, first love, and failing friendship. She responds to it all with such genuine sentiment; she feels absolutely real. I love how the fates of the fictional citizens of Elizabeth are woven together, and how each of their paths alters in the wake of the plane crashes. I also love how the early 1950s come to life within the pages of this novel. It’s all about the human experience, and it’s full of heart. I loved it.

You Don’t Know My Name by Kristen Orlando (January, 2017) – I went into this book expecting a fun spy story, but by the novel’s end I was tense and torn and totally heartbroken. Seventeen-year-old MC Reagan’s parents are Black Angels — super secret spies who go out on dangerous missions and change their identities at a moment’s notice. That means Reagan, too, has to pick up and move, often in the middle of the night, leaving her fledging friendships — not to mention a piece of herself– behind. Thanks to a childhood spent training in martial arts and weaponry and foreign languages, Reagan’s expected to become a Black Angel herself, but she’s questioning her presumed future thanks to her most recent group of friends — cute JROTC cadet Luke, in particular. But when Reagan gets tangled up in one of her parents’ missions and is forced to put her training to use, her life changes irrevocably. Author Kristen Orlando does such an amazing job capturing the many facets of Reagan’s life, including the sweet romance she and Luke are developing, the anxiety she experiences thanks to her intense lifestyle, her complicated relationship with her parents, and the tragic rescue-mission-gone-wrong in Columbia. Definitely pick You Don’t Know My Name up of you’re into unflinching novels that’ll set your heart racing.

Summer Skin by Kirsty Eagar – THIS BOOK IS SO GOOD! I mean, it’s written by an Aussie author so its quality comes as no surprise, but even so, Summer Skin far exceeded my sky-high expectations. It’s a college-set story about friendship and love, about learning and growing and changing for the better — even when that’s really, really hard. Jess is such an extraordinary MC. She’s driven and super smart, she’s all sorts of fun, and she takes zero shit. She’s comfortable in her skin, but that doesn’t mean she’s not sometimes awkward and uncertain, She makes mistakes just like the rest of us did in college, which is a big part of why she’s so relatable and endearing. Summer Skin is a sexy book in all the obvious ways, but it’s the chemistry between Jess and trying-to-reform womanizer Mitch that makes this story sizzle. Between the angst and the humor and the swoon, I found Summer Skin to be unputdownable. Just a note, it’s not available in the US, so if you’re interested in reading (and you should totally be interested in reading) find it at The Book Depository.

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

Currently…

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

Currently

Loving

I met Morgan Matson! She’s been one of my favorite authors for a long time now (Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour is among my top five favorite contemporary YAs) and in person, she’s an absolute delight. Listening to her talk about writing and characters and travel-as-research and the inception of her novels’ ideas… I’m feeling so inspired. Plus, she could not have been more personable and genuine. I picked up her latest release, The Unexpected Everything, and had a copy of Amy & Roger signed for a future giveaway. Keep an eye out!

Reading

I finished reading Summer Skin by Kristy Eagar and it was freaking amazing. Look for it on The Book Depository if you want to order — well worth your money, I think! I also read my very first Swanky 17 ARC: You Don’t Know My Name by Kristen Orlando, a spy story with dashes romance and family angst — really fantastic. Now, I’m reading Renne Ahdieh’s The Rose & the Dagger, sequel to The Wrath & the Dawn, one of my very favorite novels of last year. Guys, how gorgeous is this book? Watching

Still obsessing over Game of Thrones and Outlander, but that’s pretty much it. I have very little patience when it comes to TV. That said, once I turn in this round of Kissing Max Holden edits, I’m going to give Parenthood a shot. Thoughts?

Listening To

I finished listening to Judy Blume’s In the Unlikely Event and I enjoyed it so much. The cast is huge, but the character who’s given the most focus is a fifteen-year-old named Miri, and she’s adorable. Now, I’m waiting for Me Before You by JoJo Moyes to become available because the movie trailer! 😍

Thinking About

Knocking out what’s left of my second round of Kissing Max Holden edits. This round has been easier than the first, but isn’t it funny how when it comes to revising, a tiny change at the beginning of the story ends up snowballing into adjustments made throughout the entire manuscript? Still, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I love revising, and I’m thrilled to work on KMH during the early morning and late into the night if that means I’m making the story stronger.

Anticipating

Our summer travels… We’re meeting friends at a lake house in a few weeks, and at the end of August we’ll be spending five days with my husband’s parents in Washington, then five days with my parents in Arizona. My daughter is super excited about quality time with her grandparents!

Wishing

You’ll check out the recently revealed Swanky 17 covers! They’re all so gorgeous — my fellow Swanks are winning the cover lottery all over the place! Find the YA covers HERE and the MG covers HERE.

Making Me Happy

Today’s our thirteenth wedding anniversary! My husband’s out of town (of course — he’s only been present for half of our anniversaries) but we celebrated on Saturday night with dinner at The Melting Pot, which was delicious. And… he got me (us) a new mattress! We’ve had the same crappy mattress for the duration of our marriage and I’ve been (not-so-subtly) hinting that we need a new one for a few years now. And he surprised me with a really nice one. It’s like sleeping on a cloud… 🙂

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

April Reading Wrap-Up

Four books finished in April (all YA!), making my total number of books read so far this year 26. Here’s hoping I can reach my goal of 55 books before the end of the year.
(As always, cover images link to Goodreads pages.)

Dreamology by Lucy Keating – Oh, this book is so fun! It’s romantic and full of drama, but it doesn’t take itself too seriously which, along with its meandering and sometimes silly dream sequences, makes it utterly charming. Main character Alice is lighthearted and witty, and she brings a wonderful sense of whimsy to the story. She’s spent the better part of her life dreaming of perfect Max, who’s become something of an imaginary friend, yet he feels incredibly real to her, like a boyfriend she only sees when she’s sleeping. Then Alice moves from NYC to Boston and discovers that Max — real Max — goes to her new school. Worse yet, he’s got a girlfriend, and perhaps he’s not so perfect after all. I really enjoyed Lucy Keating’s vivid writing, as well as her three-dimensional (and totally unpredictable!) characters. Plus, how gorgeous is that cover? Recommend if you’re looking for a spirited YA romance with a twist.

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds & Brendan Kiely – This novel impressed me in so many ways, but mostly because it conveys its message with compassion and nuance. It’s told from two perspectives: Rashad, a spunky, artistic black kid who’s brutally (and absolutely undeservedly) beaten by a white police officer, and Quinn, a white basketball player who’s deeply conflicted about what happened to Rashad because the police officer in question has been a father-figure to him since his dad died. What I love about this book is how no character is without flaws. They all have moments of anger and judgement, and they all have backstories that illustrate how complex an issue race and discrimination are. I love, too, the ways in which Rashad’s friends and classmates band together to take a stand against what happened to him — it’s all so timely and relevant. All American Boys is smart and profound. It made me angry, it encouraged me to think, and it left me hopeful. An important read.

When We Collided by Emery Lord – I feel like Emery Lord is destined to be one of those authors whose most recently released book will always replace her last as my favorite. They just keep getting better and better and oh, my… When We Collided rocked my world. It’s told from two points of view: Vivi, a girl with bipolar disorder who blows into idealistic Verona Beach like a tornado, and Jonah, a sad boy who gets swept up in her tumultuous wind. Vivi’s chapters are so good — frenetic and colorful and sometimes chilling– and Jonah’s chapters are a necessary calm amongst the storm that is Vivi. He’s got his own issues — his dad’s recently passed and he, his mom, and his many winsome siblings are dealing with their grief and the restaurant Dad left behind. Vivi and Jonah’s relationship is unlike anything I’ve read in YA. They’re good for each other, and they’re unintentionally awful for each other, and they both care so deeply; watching it all play out did terrible things to my heart. As you might know, I never cry when it comes to books, but the conclusion of When We Collided ~almost~ got me. It’s so realistic, so perfectly bittersweet… I loved it.

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys – I’m so blown away by this book. It’s historical fiction set during World War II, focusing mostly on the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff, the deadliest maritime disaster in history (which, wow, I hadn’t even heard of until I picked up this novel). Salt to the Sea is told through the eyes of four different narrators: Alfred, a self-righteous German sailor; Emilia, a sweet and starry-eyed Polish girl; Joana, an altruistic nurse; and Florian, a Prussian deserter with an invaluable secret. These four characters, both likable and despicable, are all unique and absorbing, and the way their lives weave together is so clever. Salt to the Sea is a raw story that focuses on the horrors of war, yet it boasts heartwarming instances of humanity, too: the birth of a baby, the bond forged between an old shoemaker and a lost orphan, and a romance born of violence and loss. Ruta Sepetys’ prose is spare but visceral, and the way she threads symbolism throughout this novel is masterful. It’s been ages since I read a book so beautiful and affecting. Highly recommend Salt to the Sea.

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

Currently…

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

Currently

Loving

Mount Vernon! We made our third trip the other day (we’re trying to visit during each of the four seasons), and it was beautiful as usual. George Washington’s home is one of our favorite D.C. spots. If you’re ever in the area, definitely give yourself a day to check it out.

Reading

I recently finished Marie Rutkoski’s The Winner’s Kiss, my most anticipated release of the year, and it was just… perfection. It made me feel a million feelings and the end was just so satisfying. Plus, it’s a NYT Bestseller! Check out my more detailed review in March’s Reading Wrap-Up. Now I’m reading Emery Lord’s latest release, When We Collided, and it’s lovely so far.

Watching

Nothing much, honestly. The older I get, the less patience I have for TV and I just haven’t had time for movies lately. That said, despite my ranting at the end of the last season of Game of Thrones (*sob*), I am looking forward to April 24th and the first episode of Season 6.

Listening To

I just finished All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, and it was fantastic. Powerful and important and, unfortunately, timely. I’m so impressed with how layered the characters are, and how complex Rashad and Quinn’s relationships with family and friends turn out to be. Plus, the audiobook narrators are exceptional. Big recommend.

Thinking About

My WiP. It’s coming along, word-count-wise, but oof… it’s a mess. I keep reminding myself that I can’t fix words that aren’t written, but I’ve never dealt with a first draft this shitty. Hopefully by the time I’m done drafting I’ll have figured out what this story’s actually about. I did come across this line, though, written months and months ago — She smells like fields of lavender. She tastes like strawberries. She kisses like a freaking champ. — and I kind of like it. I’m hoping that, eventually, I’ll kind of like the rest of the book.

Anticipating

So, so excited about the Gilmore Girls revival — especially now that Entertainment Weekly has released photos from the set. Can’t wait to be reunited with Lorelai, Rory, Luke, Sookie, and the rest of the gang!

Wishing

That 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”. 😘

Making Me Happy

Longtime friends who flew across the country to visit, and were willing to participate in a 10 mile trek through D.C., during which dozens of tourist attractions were viewed. We’re having an awesome time with Kari and Patrick!

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