January Reading Wrap-Up

So many amazing reads in January…

40599855Stealing Home by Becky Wallace (July, 2019)
This YA romance encompasses everything I love about the genre — savvy heroine, dreamy love interest, snappy dialogue, butterfly-inducing chemistry — while feeling unexpected and fresh. I was rooting for Ryan and Sawyer (and the Buckley Beavers!) from the first pitch. If you’re into contemporary YA, or baseball, or characters you’ll wish you could befriend, check this delightful story out when it releases this summer. It’ll make a fantastic beach/pool/park read. ☀️

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara
I’ve read a lot of true crime, and this is one of the best. It’s an armchair detective’s chronicle of her hunt for one of California’s most notorious serial rapists/murderers, and it is riveting. This book’s strongest attribute is that it never feels as though it’s taking advantage of the Golden State Killer’s victims, even while it reads like page-turning fiction. Its pace is quick, its “characters” are gripping, and it’s so full of atmosphere and tension, I had a hard time stepping away. I recommend it if you’re a true crime fan.

A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi
Somehow I never read a Tahereh Mafi novel before this one? But now I’m all about burning through her catalogue, because A Very Large Expanse of Sea is beautiful. It’s about Shirin, a Muslim girl living in the US after 9/11. She faces horrifying micro-aggressions, as well as a lot of overt racism. In the midst of all this, though, she learns to breakdance, and she falls in love with the sweetest boy, Ocean. This book is important and topical and gorgeously written, but its romance was (of course) my favorite part. Shirin and Ocean are perfection. 💗

The Birds, the Bees, and You and Me by Olivia Hinebaugh
Guys, this is the sex-positive, music-infused, friendship-focused, gloriously feminist debut you’ve been waiting for. It’s so wonderfully frank in its discussion of sexual health and consent, yet it never feels heavy handed. Main character Lacey and her group of friends (and her mom!) are all layered, supportive, engaging, and awesome. Another bonus — the central romance in this book surprised me in the best way. It’s clandestine and swoony, full of chemistry and sweetness. Big, big recommend!

15781725The House Girl by Tara Conklin
The House Girl did not disappoint. I found Lina (present day lawyer) and Josephine (1800s slave) fascinating in their own right, though had this book been written exclusively from Josephine’s POV, I think I would have liked it even more. Her plight as a “house girl”, runaway, and artist was so compelling. There are some subplots in this one that aren’t as interesting as Josephine’s story, but in the end, everything came together in a satisfying way. Additionally, the prose was descriptive and lovely. If you’re a fan of historical fiction, you’ll likely enjoy The House Girl.

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


June Reading Wrap-Up

Kind of an eccentric mish-mash of books this month… 
A little something for everyone? 😉

Dare Me by Megan Abbott – I picked this one up after it was discussed on Christa Desir & Carrie Mesrobian’s most excellent The Oral History Podcast. While this story’s about a group of high school cheerleaders, it’s definitely an adult novel, and it’s fantastic — a twisty, disturbing spin on competition and how far girls will go to get to the top (of the pyramid, literally), as well as a mystery and a study in decomposing friendships. Megan Abbott’s writing is seriously beautiful, but also like a sharp kick to the gut: Sometimes you stand under the hot gush for so long, looking at your body, counting every bruise. Touching every tender place. Watching the swirl at your feet, the glitter spinning. Like a mermaid shedding her scales. You’re really just trying to get your heart to slow down. You think, this is my body, and I can make it do things. I can make it spin, flip, fly. Big recommend if you’re looking for a book that will have you compulsively turning pages, and questioning everything you think you know about cheerleaders.

Wesley James Ruined My Life by Jennifer Honeybourn (July 18, 2017) – This forthcoming debut was everything I was hoping for in a summer read: voice-y, witty, and swoony, but with depth I always appreciate. Quinn’s summer is becoming quite a mess: her grandmother is suffering from Alzheimer’s, her father has gambling addiction that’s costing him a lot more than money, she’s lost her shot at a band trip to England, and her friend-turned-nemisis, Wesley James, is back in Seattle after years spent in Portland. Quinn makes it her mission to punish Wesley for a mistake he made years before, but along the way, she starts to realize that maybe she doesn’t hate him quite as much as she’d like. Quinn and Welsey have fantastic banter and flirty chemistry, but their relationship is deeper than that, too, and I loved watching it rekindle, and then develop into more. I also loved this story’s setting: Seattle and, more specifically, Quinn and Wesley’s workplace, Tudor Tymes, which is full of charm and ridiculousness. Pick this one up in a few weeks if you’re looking for a fun, smart, romantic poolside read.

Hold Still by Nina LaCour – I’m a Nina LaCour super fan, but somehow I’d neglected to read her debut before now, despite the fact that it’s been sitting on my bookshelf for years (I bought it at Borders!). Hold Still is a beautiful book about loss and revival; if you read and enjoyed Nina LaCour’s latest, We Are Okay, I suspect you’ll adore this one as well. Caitlin’s struggling to come to terms with the suicide of her best friend, Ingrid, by attempting to reclaim their joint hobby of photography, gradually letting in a few new friends, and building a treehouse. Caitlin’s recovery is slow, particularly as she learns more about the depth of Ingrid’s depression through her journal entries, making for a largely sorrowful story. And yet, it’s a hopeful story, as well — one that shows the importance of family, and friendship, and the acceptance of our personal limitations when it comes to the mental health of those we love. Nina LaCour’s prose is just lovely — spare yet lyrical, and at all times affecting. Read Hold Still if you gravitate toward novels that are literary and moving, with a focus on friendship, and a hint of romance.

Speak of Me as I Am by Sonia Belasco – One of my favorite debuts of the year, and another novel that deals with suicide and grief and recovery. Speak of Me as I Am is told from the points of view of Damon, whose best friend, Carlos, recently took his life, and Melanie, whose mother recently died of cancer. Both protagonists are wading through unimaginable sadness when they meet, and while they don’t miraculously fix each other, they do begin to heal through conversation about shared emotions and experiences. It’s really beautiful to witness, and set against a school production of Othello (Damon is the lead, and Melanie works on set design) the characters’ arcs feel particularly profound. Two other things I loved about Speak of Me as I Am: It’s set in D.C., a city I’m really growing to enjoy, and its secondary characters are as well developed and complex as its protagonists. Tristan and Carlos, especially, leap of the page. Speak of Me as I Am is gorgeously written and poignant, and I highly recommend it to all readers.

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance – Not my usual fare, but this one’s a book club pick, and I’m glad I gave it a read. Hillbilly Elegy is a sociological study, definitely, but more often than not, it reads like a memoir. J.D. Vance’s family is historically white, working class (on the low end of working class, really), and descended from the Appalachian region. While detailing his family’s origins and his own upbringing in the Rust Belt, he muses on how and why “hillbillies lost faith in any hope of upward mobility, and in opportunities to come.” An affecting and insightful read, especially considering the current social and political landscapes.

Amid Stars and Darkness by Chani Lynn Feener (July 18, 2017) – I don’t read a lot of sci-fi, but I was immediately drawn to this novel’s beautiful cover, as well as its summary: Earth girl Delaney is mistaken for alien princess Olena, then dragged to a faraway planet, where she’s imprisoned in a castle and forced to impersonate Olena in order to maintain galactic peace. Amid Stars and Darkness is a fast-paced space opera with cool world-building and a swoony romance (I adored Ruckus!), plus some well executed humor, thanks to Delaney’s spectacular voice. If you’re not sure whether you’re into sci-fi/space fiction, this book is a great way to dip your toe in the water. It reads as vast and futuristic, while still feeling accessible. While Amid Stars and Darkness wraps up neatly, it leaves off with a big hook for the second book in this planned trilogy — a book I’m already itching to get my hands on! Check this one out when it releases in a few weeks.

I haven’t read either of these myself, but my daughter has, and she adored them both. In fact, she hasn’t stopped talking about them, and she’s given them both the coveted 5-star rating. So, if you’ve got a middle grade reader, hand them copies of Missy Piggle-Wiggle and the Whatever Cure and The Infinity Year of Avalon James!

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

August Reading Wrap-Up

Last month I read a fantastic adult novel, a gripping nonfiction, and a few excellent contemporary YAs. As always, covers link to Goodreads pages.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand – Not my usual fare, but I enjoyed this story so much. It’s a nonfiction account of Olympian and WWII veteran Louis Zamperini’s life experiences, and it’s equal parts horrifying and inspiring. I cannot believe what this man survived: forty-seven days floating in a raft on the open ocean, followed by almost two years in a harrowing POW camp. Unbroken is the sort of biography that’s accessible and humanizing, and I suspect you’ll be captivated by Louie’s story even if you’re not war buff or history fanatic. Recommend!

The Bridge From Me to You by Lisa Schroeder – This was such a sweet and poignant novel, told in dual POVs. I adore Lisa Schroeder’s verse, and The Bridge from Me to You proves her prose to be just as beautiful. Protagonists Lauren and Colby feel so layered and real and fresh, and the reverential way they treat each other is heartening; there’s no manufactured drama here. I love this story’s small-town setting, not to mention its high school football backdrop. If you’re a FNL fan (like me!), I bet you’ll fall for Lauren and Colby’s story too.

The Good Girl by Mary Kubica – I’ve had my eye on this novel for months, ever since I first saw its striking cover. The story’s summary intrigued me, as did the comparisons between it and Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. I understand why people group these two books together (fast-paced, thrilling, multiple narrators, fantastic twists), but I’ve got to say… I liked The Good Girl better than Gone Girl,  and that’s because its characters have redeeming qualities — even those who do seemingly terrible things. The Good Girl is full of surprises, thoughtful commentary on parent/child relationships, and an unexpected romance I bought into so completely, I ended having one of those elusive All the Feels moments at the book’s conclusion. Big recommend!

Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins – My favorite of Stephanie Perkins’ trio of novels, though when I think about it objectively, I wouldn’t call it her strongest. I loved this story so much because I related to its characters completely. I’m more like Isla than Anna or Lola, and my husband is more like Josh than Cricket or St. Clair. Neither of us are as self-destructive as Isla and Josh, but still… I understood them and their motivations, and they totally made me swoon. Isla and the Happily Ever After is a story about staying together, not so much getting together, and that’s another reason I loved it so much. It’s romantic and angsty and really hot. And, as is to be expected from a Stephanie Perkins novel, the characters and settings are unique and incredibly well drawn. Plus, the final chapter! So satisfying!

Behind the Scenes by Dahlia Adler – Such a refreshing read! Hollywood plots aren’t usually my cup of tea, but Dahlia is delightful and continuously recommends fantastic books, so it came as no surprise that hers was unputdownable. I enjoyed her flawed-but-charming characters, and I loved all the steamy, swoony scenes between Ally and Liam. Ally’s relationship with her BFF, Vanessa, felt genuine and true, and I was particularly moved by the scenes she shared with her father. Their bond was lovely, and it made me care about Ally’s story all the more. Definitely pick this one up if you’re looking for a romantic upper YA novel with real relationships and tons of voice.

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

RSW Update 8

Ready. Set. WRITE! is 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 in our writing—planning, drafting, revising, or polishing. This year, your RSW hosts are Alison MillerJaime MorrowErin Funk, and myself. Find the rest of the details HERE.

~ I will do my best to respond to comments on today’s post, as well as blog hop to comment on all of your wonderful posts, BUT… My husband’s coming home from a 6 month deployment this morning! We’re obviously very excited and we’ll definitely be busy. I’ll be back to blogging 100% next week. 🙂 ~

* How I did on last week’s goal(s).

1. Complete a revision of my contemporary-ish YA, Where Poppies Bloom.

2. Complete the first draft of my contemporary YA, The Road So Far, by the close of RSW… IN PROGRESS. Moving right along! I wrote 6,680 words this week (6K was my goal) for a total of 58,160 words for the manuscript. Thirteen (planned) scenes and five (planned) chapters left to write!

3. Read (on average) one YA/adult novel per week… YES! I read Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. Not the sort of book I’m used to reading, but I LOVED it. Thanks to my mom and my sister-in-law for the recommendation!

4. Read (on average) one MG novel with my daughter every two weeks… IN PROGRESS! We’re working on Rump by Leisl Shurtliff. It’s awesome!

5. Maintain my tan… YES! We spent Friday swimming at the nearby AFB pool, and on Saturday I mowed the grass. Again. I like neat, trim lawns. 🙂

* My goal(s) for this week.

This week is going to be very busy. My husband’s coming home, my daughter starts cheerleading, and we’re spending the weekend in Orlando. So, I’m going to give myself a break and not set a concrete goal because, honestly, I don’t feel like stressing about it. This week, forward motion’s where it’s at

* A favorite line from my project OR a word/phrase that sums up what I wrote/revised.

From The Road So Far

It’s not long before we’re approaching the Colorado River. It’s preceded by a big sign with Arizona’s state flag, a golden star surrounded by rays of red and yellow. The Grand Canyon State Welcomes You, it declares. Callie takes my hand as we cross the border. She’s smiling, but she looks anxious too. I get it. If ever we’ve had a there’s no going back moment, this is it. We’re driving blind now, into a state that none of us has even visited, searching for a person who might’ve left years ago. We’re setting ourselves up for disappointment, for failure, and I’m leading the charge with my dumbass flag flapping proudly in the breeze.

* The biggest challenge I faced this week.

Busyness! My daughter’s seventh birthday was yesterday (*sniffle*) and we spent the whole day doing fun, girlie things. Also, we’ve been going-going-going with homecoming preparations. Writing time was hard to come by.

* Something I love about my WiP. 

I love that I can feel my story challenging me, and making me a better writer. (Is that weird? Whatever… It’s totally true!)

And, finally, a big congrats to our last Writer’s Care Package giveaway winner… Leandra Wallace! 

I can’t wait to read about how Ready. Set. Write! is going for you. Don’t forget to share the link of your latest post below!

March Reading Wrap-Up

March. A long month full of awesome books! Along with the three manuscripts I beta read, here are the books I added to my Read list…
(As always, covers link to Goodreads pages.)

The Book of Broken Hearts by Sarah Ockler – I’ve now read all of Sarah Ockler’s novels and this one’s tied with Twenty Boy Summer as my favorite. I enjoyed JuJu’s voice (so spirited and perfectly teen), I adored Emilio (especially the sweet way he treated JuJu and her father), and I loved the family dynamics (Holy Trinity FTW. Also, Pancake!). And, there were several Friday Night Lights references, which automatically increase a book’s awesome quotient. The Book of Broken Hearts is pretty much an ideal Katy Book. Definitely a recommend for fans of contemporary romantic YA with strong family threads.

Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn (June 24th) – I recently read Stephanie’s debut, Charm & Strange, and I absolutely loved it. I signed up for Netgalley specifically so I could read Complicit early and now that I have, I can promise that I’ll be buying a physical copy when it releases in June. It’s amazing. Twisty and mind-bendy, and even though you sort of know where the story’s headed, the ride is bananas and had me swiping pages at an alarming rate. Jamie is a complex character with a sad and complicated past. His strangeness is oddly enchanting, as is his sister, Cate. This story’s conclusion, much like that of Charm & Strange, is staggering. Can’t wait until you’ve all read it so we can discuss!

Nil by Lynne Matson – This is such a cool book. Part survival story, part romance, part adventure, it’s like Survivor set in a parallel dimension, one where escape is not guaranteed. Lynne Matson is ruthless when it comes to challenging her characters, and she very successfully uses the idea of dwindling time to ratchet the tension up, making Nil almost impossible to put down. Charley and Thad’s relationship deepened  quickly, a bit of an insta-love situation that might’ve bothered me in another story, but on Nil, time’s limited and a no regrets mindset is the way of life. While Nil requires some suspension of disbelief, it’s a unique story of survival and sacrifice. My Bookanista rec is HERE.

Panic by Lauren Oliver – Honest confession: The synopsis of this novel didn’t do much for me. The fact that there’s no mention of romance had a lot to do with that. Also, talk of the “game” and the danger and the high-stakes… Just not my thing. But the game of Panic turned out to be quite gripping, and the characters are beautifully drawn. This is one of those books that seems absolutely hopeless as you’re reading —how are these people possibly going to solve all of their problems? — so it was hard to put down, particularly as I hit the climax. And the ending… awesome. Pick it up if you like contemporary that’s gritty and unique, and if you’re a fan of stunning, evocative prose. My Bookanista rec is HERE.

The Vincent Boys by Abbi Glines – This one’s not going to win any fine literary awards, but I kind of loved it. It’s a perfect read-in-the-sun, guilty-pleasure romance, and it’s pretty darn sexy (as its cover suggests). Beau is totally hot (gotta love the tortured bad boy), and while Ash occasionally grated my nerves, she also struck me as a very genuine, true-to-life teen. The Vincent Boys is another book that seems like it just has to end in tragedy, but Abbi Glines wraps it all up quite satisfyingly. Now, I need to get my hands on The Vincent Brothers. Wait — not literally… Okay, maybe literally. 😉 Next time you’re in the mood for a book that’s sweet and steamy, pick up The Vincent Boys.

Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon – Erin Bowman read and reviewed this one a couple years ago and I’ve wanted to read it ever since. I finally bought myself a copy, and I thought it was a great little read. Super quick, and full of awesome thoughts on creativity and how to get the most out of yours. A lot of Austin Kleon’s advice is stuff you’ve probably heard before, but the reminders are excellent and were particularly timely for me, as I’m in a weird between-projects place. Recommend!

The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu (June 3rd) – Such a fantastic debut. I had a feeling I’d like this book going in, but it turned out to be much more than I was expecting. It’s all about Alice, who supposedly slept with two boys in the same night and then killed one of them by texting him while he was driving. Alice’s story is told by several peripheral characters who — save Kurt — are pretty big jerks. Yet, Jennifer Mathieu manages to humanize each of them in really specific ways, making this story of slut-shaming much more complex than it might’ve been otherwise. Fantastic pacing, fantastic small town setting, FANTASTIC voice. Definitely get your hands on this one when it debuts in June.

Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson – A new favorite! I loved this book fiercely, and I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to read it. I liked Morgan Matson’s Second Chance Summer a lot, but Amy & Roger… I swooned over every. Single. Page. The slow-burn dynamic between Amy and Roger is executed brilliantly, and the people they meet during their epic road trip are fascinating and fun. There’s just the right amount of conflict, and all kinds of quirky road trip antics. Plus, there are doodles and scrapbook memorabilia and playlists jotted between chapters, which are just so charming. I borrowed the book I read, but upon finishing, I immediately bought a copy of my own, and I can’t wait to reread it. Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour is a total experience, and I adored it. Recommend!

What’s the best book you read in March?

Bookanistas Rec :: THE GIRL GUIDE

Today’s Bookanista recommendation is The Girl Guide: Finding Your Place in a Mixed-Up World by Christine Fonseca

From Goodreads: Finding your unique voice in a noisy world can be hard—very hard. But not if you have a great guide! The Girl Guide: Finding Your Place in a Mixed-Up World is a must-read for girls in grades 6–8 as they enter the tumultuous world of adolescence. Packed with fun worksheets and quizzes, as well as stories from older girls and women, The Girl Guide covers everything a teenage girl needs to know on the journey toward her own identity. Proven strategies for dealing with stress management, confronting relational aggression, being safe online, navigating the changing mother-daughter relationship, and more make this the ultimate guide for any girl to get through the teen years and discover her unique point of view in the world.

This book is too cool — I totally wish I’d had a copy when I was growing up. The Girl Guide is chock full of advice and anecdotes and quizzes and worksheets meant to help girls find their “own unique voices.”

When I was a teenager, I loved books and magazines that had specific places blocked off for me to write down my thoughts and reflections. The Girl Guide has tons blank charts and empty bubbles and open lines for lists — it made me want to grab a pink feathery pen and get to work! As if that’s not enough, this book includes all sorts of strategies for coping, living confidently, finding and giving social acceptance, and leading a healthy lifestyle, all discussed in clear, well-organized chapters. But my very favorite parts of The Girl Guide are the quotes from real teenagers, and the bits of advice offered by mothers, pastors, youth leaders, and writers like Gretchen McNeil, Jessi Kirby, and Stasia Ward Kehoe.

I’m going to make sure I have a copy of The Girl Guide: Finding Your Place in a Mixed Up World on hand to give my daughter when she’s in middle school. Not only is this book all kinds of fun, but it educates girls without coming across as preachy or stiff. It reads more like a conversation with a friend than the self-help manual you might expect. If there’s a teenage girl in your life, I highly recommend picking up a copy of The Girl Guide to give to her.

Check out what my fellow Bookanistas are up to today!

Shari Arnold marvels at THE MOON AND MORE by Saran Dessen

Tracy Banghart is thrilled by 3:59 by Gretchen McNeil

Christine Fonseca shivers over SHATTER ME by Tahereh Mafi

Carrie Harris and Elana Johnson reveal the cover of

Corrine Jackson is nuts for

Jessica Love joins the BY BLOOD by Tracy Banghart book blitz – with giveaway!

Shannon Messenger  raves about JELLICOE ROAD by Melina Marchetta

Tracey Neithercott adores THE ARCHIVED by Victoria Schwab

Kimberly Sabatini is touched by OUT OF REACH by Carrie Arcos