Category Archives: Science Fiction

What I Read in 2016 + All My Faves

This is a long post, friends! It’s been fun to look back on my 2016 reads, and I hope you’ll find a new favorite book while perusing. 

First up, I’ve listed all the books I read in the last year, organized by age category: adult, new adult, middle grade, and young adult. Young adult books are broken down more specifically by genre, since there are so many.

FYI: Titles link to Goodreads pages. Young adult titles with * were published in 2016. Titles with ** are debuts that will be published in 2017. Books are categorized as I saw most appropriate; some might fit into more than one age category or YA genre, but I did the best I could. 🙂

Adult

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, The Boy Who Drew Monsters by Keith Donohue, Follow the River by James Alexander Thom, In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume, Me Before You by JoJo Moyes, The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman, Before the Fall* by Noah Hawley, The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

New Adult

November 9 by Colleen Hoover, Love in B Minor* by Elodie Nowodazkij, Summer Skin* by Kirsty Eager

Middle Grade

Wonder by RJ Palacio, Rules For Stealing Stars by Corey Ann Haydu

NonFiction

Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family by Amy Ellis Nutt, Take Off Your Pants by Libbie Hawker

Young Adult

YA Historical – Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee, Salt to the Sea* by Ruta Sepetys, Wait For Me** by Caroline Leech

YA Magical Realism – The Weight of Feathers & When the Moon Was Ours* by Anna-Marie McLemore, Devil and the Bluebird* by Jennifer Mason-Black

YA Contemporary – The Distance Between Us & On the Fence by Kasie West, Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy, Thicker Than Water* by Kelly Fiore, Althea & Oliver by Cristina Moracho, How To Keep Rolling After a Fall* & How to Say I Love You Out Loud by Karole Cozzo, First & Then by Emma Mills, In Real Life* by Jessica Love, The Boy Next Door by Katie Van Ark, The Girl Who Fell* by Shannon Parker, Dreamology* by Lucy Keating, All American Boys by Jason Reynolds & Brendan Kiely, When We Collided* by Emery Lord, The Year We Fell Apart* by Emily Martin, You Don’t Know My Name** by Kristen Orlando, The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett** by Chelsea Sedoti, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, It Started With Goodbye** by Christina June, Last Year’s Mistake by Gina Ciocca, The Last Boy and Girl in the World* by Siobhan Vivian, Exit, Pursued by a Bear* by E.K. Johnston, South of Sunshine* by Dana Elmendorf, Escaping Perfect* by Emma Harrison, No Love Allowed* by Kate Evangelista, What’s Broken Between Us by Alexis Bass, The Heartbeats of Wing Jones** by Katherine Webber, Wild Swans* by Jessica Spotswood, Fear Me, Fear Me Not* by Elodie Nowodazkij, Under Rose-Tainted Skies** by Louise Gornoll, Wanderlost* by Jen Malone, Catch a Falling Star by Kim Culbertson, After the Woods* by Kim Savage, Sad Perfect** by Stephanie Elliot, Other Broken Things* by C. Desir, Definitions of Indefinable Things** by Whitney Taylor**, Holding Up the Universe* by Jennifer Niven

YA Fantasy – These Vicious Masks* by Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas, The Love That Split the World by Emily Henry, Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier, The Winner’s Kiss* by Marie Rutkowski, The Rose & the Dagger* by Renee Ahdieh, The Raven King* by Maggie Stiefvater, Gilded Cage** by Vic James, The Star Touched Queenby Roshani  Chokshi

YA Speculative Fiction (Sci-Fi, Paranormal, etc.) – Cold Kiss by Amy Garvey, Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson, Noggin by John Corey Whaley, A World Without You* by Beth Revis

Of the YA novels I read that were published this year,
some standouts…

Favorite 2016 YA Historical Fiction

Salt to the Sea blew me away. It’s set during World War II, and focuses on the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff, the deadliest maritime disaster in history. Ruta Sepetys tells her story through the perspectives of four different but equally compelling characters. Her prose is spare but visceral, her cast unforgettable, and the way she threads symbolism throughout this novel is masterful. It’s been ages since I read a book so beautiful and haunting. 

Favorite 2016 YA Speculative Fiction


I’m cheating a little here, because A World Without You is actually straight-up contemporary, but a lot of it reads as spec-fic because Bo, our protagonist, is suffering from severe delusions. He believes he is a time-traveler, and he’s desperate to save his girlfriend from 1600s Salem, where he believes he accidentally left her. Because the story is told mostly from Bo’s 1st person POV, it seems as if we really are manipulating time along with him. A harrowing novel that addresses mental illness in a manner unlike any I’ve read before. 

Favorite 2016 YA Fantasy Novel


I loved everything about The Winner’s Kiss, the final book in one of my very favorite trilogies. It’s a beautifully written story about love and war, full of emotion and fraught with tension, and its protagonists, Kestrel and Arin, will stay with me forever. I would honestly live in this world, if I could — it’s so rich in detail, populated by characters I wish I could know. I hesitate to say too much about the last installment’s plot for fear of spoiling its gloriousness, but if you’ve yet to read the Winner‘s novels, I highly recommend them.

Favorite 2016 YA Contemporary Novels

  
Wild Swans 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. Give it a read the next time you’re in the mood for a heartfelt contemporary with gorgeous writing and a wonderfully relatable protagonist. The Last Boy and Girl in the World‘s main character Keeley’s lack of self-awareness made me cringe about a thousand times, but she’s absolutely charming and lovable, and its setting, a town that’s about to be sunk by a damned river, is super unique. Both of these stories surprised me in a lot of really great ways, and both Jessica Spotswood and Siobhan Vivivan are now among my favorite contemporary YA writers.

Favorite 2016 “Issue” Book

  
Other Broken Things is an unflinching exploration of alcoholism and recovery, narrated by Natalie, a seventeen-year-old girl who’s fresh out of rehab after a DUI. This story is so complex; I found myself desperate to shake some sense into Natalie while simultaneously wanting to give her the world’s biggest hug. Check this one out if you like stories about ballsy girls facing enormous challenges. When We Collided is an incredibly affecting story. 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. 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.

Favorite 2016 YA Mystery


Fear Me, Fear Me Not is chilling in the best way! It’s part romance, part murder mystery, and it’s bursting with suspense. 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 root for, plus some very well written swoon, check out Fear Me, Fear Me Not.

Favorite 2016 Family-Focused YA Novel 


Thicker Than Water was high on my most-anticipated of 2016 list, and it did not disappoint. It’s a story about addiction and the toll it takes on an already floundering family. Author Kelly Fiore’s depictions are devastating in their accuracy and, thanks to the novel’s before/after format, there’s a sense of inevitability that makes it hard to put down. Definitely worth checking out if you’re a fan of dark, hard-hitting YA.

Favorite 2016 YA Novel About Friendship


Exit, Pursued by a Bear, about a girl who is raped at cheer camp, is smart and nuanced. While E.K. Johnston realistically portrays the trauma of sexual assault and the viciousness of teenagers in the wake of a “scandal” like the one featured in this book, main character Hermione never reads as weak. She’s sad and confused and angry and afraid, but she’s so resilient, and she never lets what happened at camp bury her. I love how cheerleading is depicted — as a legitimate, kick-ass sport. Hermione and her friends aren’t vapid pom-pom shakers; they’re loyal athletes who rally around their own. Big recommend.

Favorite 2016 YA Thriller


After the Woods reminded me a lot of Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects. MC Julia survived an abduction — one she became involved with because she sacrificed herself to save her best friend, Liv. Now, the anniversary of the abduction is approaching, and it’s obvious that something’s not right with these girls and their families and the case and the reporter who’s sniffing around, but it’s hard to pin down what, exactly, which kept me frantically turning pages. Read this one if you like tightly plotted, expertly written  psychological thrillers.

Favorite 2016 YA Retelling


Not sure if Devil and the Bluebird is technically a retelling, but it’s inspired by a folktale so I’m rolling with it. Gorgeous cover, evocative prose, atmospheric and unique. Protagonist Blue has made a deal with the devil; she’s traded her voice for help in finding her missing sister. Blue begins her journey with a pair of magic boots, her dead mother’s guitar, and heart full of grief. This is a unique, moody story that had me entirely enchanted.

Favorite 2016 YA Romances

    
The Year We Fell Apart does an interesting thing, 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, is careful and considerate and responsible — until he’s not. My favorite part of this novel was its climactic scene; my heart was literally pounding. Read The Year We Fell Apart if you’re into romances full of conflict and will-they-won’t-they moments. In Real Life is Catfish set in Vegas, and it so good. Hannah and Nick have been online besties for years and (they think) they know everything about each other. When Hannah surprises Nick with a visit in Sin City, she learns the startling truth: He hasn’t been completely forthcoming. This story is full of delicious angst, its pacing is fantastic, and its characters, despite their dishonesty with each other and, often, themselves, are utterly endearing. Hannah and Nick’s online and in real life (!) relationship gave me all the feels.

Favorite 2016 YA Magical Realism


Everything that’s amazing about YA: unique plot, gorgeous prose, unforgettable characters, plus threads of magic so strange and surreally beautiful, I couldn’t help but be absorbed into this extraordinary world. When the Moon Was Ours is the story of enigmatic Miel, who grows roses from her wrist, and who loves Sam, a boy who has a penchant for hanging moons about town, and who is keeping a potentially devastating secret. I loved this story’s twists, its reverential portrayal of LGBTQIA themes, and the tangible bond between its lead characters. All the stars (or moons) for this enchanting novel.

Favorite 2016 Genre Bender


These Vicious Masks is Austen-esque, but with characters who have special abilities, sort of like X-Men, an element that gives the novel an extra layer of awesome. Protagonist Evelyn is dry and witty, especially regarding the societal norms of her Victorian world. She’s not interested in balls or fancy dresses or marriage, and she balks with the best sort of snark. Plus, she’s super loyal and always courageous. If you’re looking for a lighthearted read with a heroine you’ll root for immediately, be sure to check out These Vicious Masks.

Favorite 2016 YA Series Wrap-Up


The Rose and the Dagger is a very satisfying end to an incredible duology. 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 so powerful. This story is fantastical (flying carpets, fire manipulators, magic spells, serpents) and has 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.

Favorite 2016 Debut


The Love That Split the World is beautiful, emotional, and despite its… um… more extraordinary elements, it feels incredibly real. Protagonist Natalie Cleary is  dealing with a lot: a complicated break-up, a best friend who’s moving away, nerves regarding her acceptance to Brown, and the conflicted feelings that’ve come with being an American Indian adopted into a white family. On top of all that, she’s had a lifetime of nightmares and visions and strange lapses in time. Then she meets Beau. I suspect that your enjoyment of this novel will hinge on whether you buy into Natalie and Beau’s intense relationship — I absolutely do. From its first chapter, I could not put this book down. Big recommend!

Favorite Reads Published Before 2016

  
  
What’s Broken Between Us‘s MC, Amanda, while closed off and full of grief, is incredibly relatable. Her big brother Jonathan, with whom she has a painfully complex relationship, has just finished a year-long prison sentence for killing his friend and seriously injuring his girlfriend while driving drunk. Amanda’s (non?) relationship with one-time flame Henry is equally complicated. My heart hurt through the better part of this novel, but at the same time, there’s a thread of hopefulness running through its pages. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda won the William C. Morris Award last year — it’s smart and funny and voice-y. Protagonist Simon is a drama kid who’s being blackmailed because of his sexuality, and he’s also dealing with changing friendships, his slightly offbeat (but cool) family, and his own identity. This is a thoughtful read that prompts contemplation while at the same time being delightfully entertaining. First & Then made me happy, happy, happy. I loved protagonist Devon and her stellar voice, the small town setting, the football backdrop, Foster (oh, Foster — so sweet), the incredibly likable cast of supporting characters, and the hints of romance. I can’t wait to read more from Emma Mills! Althea & Oliver is gritty and poignant. It’s set in the late nineties, and author Cristina Moracho does an amazing job of nailing down the simpler, grungier feel of the decade. Althea and Oliver have been best friends forever, which works, until Althea develops feelings for Oliver, and he begins to suffer from a debilitating sleep disorder. These two have the most riveting character arcs, and even in their ugliest moments, I found myself hoping they’d triumph. 

Non-YA Favorites Read in 2016

 
 
I want to live in the beautiful, beautiful world that is The Night Circus. The spun-sugar prose, the lovingly crafted characters, the wonderfully vivid settings, the way multiple layers of story tie together in the end… I found it all to be perfection. 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. It’s a sexy book in all the obvious ways, but it’s the chemistry between MC Jess and trying-to-reform womanizer Mitch that makes this story sizzle. Rules For Stealing Stars 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. Author Corey Ann Haydu combines protagonist Silly’s authentic, youthful voice with charming insight and lovely descriptions, while creating a world that is both vastly sad and infinitely hopeful. In the Unlikely Event is 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. 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.

So, that’s it — my 2016 reading wrap-up.
Tell me! What’d you read and love in 2016? 

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December Reading Wrap-Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

January Reading Wrap-Up

January –> The month of extraordinary YA!
Every book I read over the last several weeks was incredible, and I strongly recommend any and all of these young adult novels.

(As always, covers link to Goodreads pages.)

This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner – What an impressive follow-up! These Broken Stars is amazing, and I worried that This Shattered World wouldn’t live up to its awesomeness. No need to be concerned — it absolutely does! Flynn and Jubilee (strange name, but it totally fits her) are fantastic protagonists — very different, but equals when it comes to strength and smarts. I love their convoluted push-and-pull dynamic, plus there are some beautifully written steamy moments between them that help to offset their sparring and the overall swampy, violent tone of the story. I also love how intricately plot elements from the first novel in this series are woven into World. Hints of conspiracy and ruthless twists make this book unputdownable. (Plus, there are a few Tarver/Lilac cameos that made me oh-so-happy!)


The Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson – This novel is quiet and meandering and virtually plotless, and it’s incredible. It’s a cold, melancholy, atmospheric book, and Jodi Lynn Anderson’s third-person prose is beautiful. Teenager Katy related so completely to MC Maggie (careful, thoughtful, timid), and I so wanted her to get her happily ever after — or at least avoid having her heart crushed. The Vanishing Season centers around a trio of friends with a tangled dynamic. It’s set against a wintery backdrop and incorporates a string of small-town murders, plus a lonesome ghost. This novel isn’t a murder mystery, though, and it isn’t a ghost story, either. It’s a character study, and an examination of a thorny, boundary-crossing friendship. It left me heavy-hearted, but glad for the experience.


Blackout by Meredith McCardle – I love Blackout even more than its predecessor, The Eight Guardian. It’s packed with tension and twists and holy crap! moments, and it’s nearly impossible to step away from. Amanda (codename: Iris) continues to travel through time, unraveling mysteries and fighting corruption like the badass she is, but in Blackout we get to see a more vulnerable side of her personality. A big part of her slowly-revealed softer side stems from her boyfriend Abe (codename: Blue). He plays a bigger role in this second installment, and he is adorable — a perfect balance to Amanda’s toughness. This is a thrilling story: fast-paced, high-stakes, and full of awesome descriptions of past events. Its characters are riveting, especially because you’re never quite sure who you (and Amanda) should trust. And the conclusion… Let’s just say you’ll be anxiously awaiting Annum Guard #3.


All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven – This book made my heart hurt, and it made my heart sing. It’s been likened to The Fault in Our Stars and Eleanor and Park, comparisons that normally make me roll my eyes because… come on. But honestly, in this case the correlations make sense, and I ended up loving All the Bright Places even more than its comparables. Finch and Violet are complex, fully-realized, and engaging. Both struggle with depression and guilt, and both are varying degrees of broken, which makes them relatable and sympathetic. Their romance is absolutely swoonworthy, but dreadfully messy. All the Bright Places‘s supporting characters are also compelling; I especially enjoy how present and authentic Violet’s parents are. This story is told through dual perspectives, and the narrators’ voices are distinct and honest. The tone of the story is intoxicatingly fresh, yet genuinely YA. In my opinion, it’s the perfect sort of contemporary: layered and rich and real, with a message that at no point feels like A Message. Highly recommend!


Love & Other Theories by Alexis Bass – This book reminds me a little bit of 17 First Kisses, a little bit of Before I Fall, and a little bit of the movie Mean Girls. And… I love it. I’ve read a few not-so-favorable reviews of this novel, reviews that knock MC Aubrey and her friends for being mean and shallow and (gasp) slutty. Just… ugh. (Have I mentioned that the “unlikeable teen girl” is one of my most loathed literary gripes?) Admittedly, Aubrey and her BFFs are not perfect. They make some choices that are dangerous and selfish and worrisome and immature, but who hasn’t? These girls have reasons for behaving as they do, and it’s their unapologetic realness (the good, the bad, and the ugly) that makes me a big fan of this debut. Along with characters who leap of the page, Love & Other Theories brims with earnest romance and unavoidable loss and enviably authentic voice, plus an examination of that pivotal time in high school when you start to become the person you’re meant to be — when you feel powerless and confused and you’re grappling with identity and life’s just hard. Alexis Bass captures it perfectly. (Also, Trip. I adore Trip!)


Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy – Oh, hey, another “unlikable” teen protagonist… Y’all, MC Alice has cancer. She’s in constant pain and her hair’s falling out and she’s suffering through chemo that doesn’t seem to be working. Plus, she’s involved in some ugly drama at school, and things with her parents appear to be falling apart. Of course she’s angry and selfish and, sometimes, really mean. Of course she’s bitter! But, I find her incredibly relatable, too. Under Alice’s hard exterior, there’s fear and sweetness (the rescued pup!) and a sense of vulnerability that made my heart ache. And then there’s Harvey, Alice’s longtime friend, who’s a freaking doll. I’m so glad he was a co-narrator because he helped soften some of Alice’s prickliness, as well shed light onto her more lovable traits. While I enjoyed every page of this novel, my absolute favorite part is its conclusion, which feels realistic, yet very hopeful. Such a strong debut.


Fall For Anything by Courtney Summers – I’ve now read all of Courtney Summers’s published books, and I am officially declaring Fall For Anything my favorite among her extraordinary body of work. This book… It shredded me. It surprised me in ways I didn’t know I wanted to be surprised — like, I thought I knew what to expect out of the plot and I would have been perfectly satisfied (happy, even) if it had played out the way I’d anticipated, but then the story took this phenomenal turn, leaving me staggered and gratified and very, very impressed. Eddie is a remarkable character. Her narration is almost stream-of-conscious, and brutally frank. The way her relationships with BFF Milo and mysterious new boy Culler play out is fascinating, but equally compelling are her interactions with her mother and her mother’s irksome friend, Beth. The way Eddie reacts to her father’s suicide is stark and utterly heartbreaking, but it never makes her feel distant or unsympathetic. Fall For Anything is definitely one to read if you’re a fan of sharp, affecting contemporaries.

What’s the best book you read in January? 

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 This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner. It’s incredible. I’m in awe of the brilliant plotting, plus the complex characters the authors created. And, there are some wonderfully steamy moments which, of course, I loved. I also read The Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson, which is poignant and evocative and cold and lonely, just as beautiful as her Tiger Lily. She’s quickly becoming a favorite author of mine. Now I’m reading All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven and even though I’ve only just started, I’m loving Finch and Violet and their authentic voices.

  

What I’m Writing: Continuing to read through my NaNo manuscript, (which still doesn’t have a conclusion). I’ve left myself tons of notes about things I need to research/revise, and I’ve cleaned up a lot of its messiness. I’ve also got a plan for The End, which (GOAL) I’m going to carefully plot in the coming week. I’m going on a most amazing writing retreat in February (yay, yay, yay!), during which I hope to do the actual writing.

What Else I’ve Been Up To: Playing around with Tumblr. I just signed up and though I have no idea what I’m doing, I’ve enjoyed posting (reblogging?) pictures of books and Disney characters and Taylor Kitsch and inspirational images, plus quotes on writing and success. Do you Tumbl? Is that even a word? I’m HERE if you’re interested in linking up!


Spreading the word about Cavalcade of Authors West, a literary conference for Western Washington middle school students. My longtime friend Kari Bradley is one of the organizers and their list of participating authors is aMaZiNg — Kimberly Derting, Peggy Eddleman, Kristin Halbrook, Mindy McGinnis, Richelle Mead, Marissa Meyer, Alyson Noel, Lisa Schroeder, Liesl Shurtliff, and Staia Ward Kehoe, to name a few. You can learn more about COA West on the post I shared last week, or you can visit the official site. If you’re able, I highly encourage you to donate to this fantastic literary event.


And, since one of my 2015 goals was to fix more treats, I present… A plate of super rich, super delicious Rocky Road Fudge. (You’re welcome.)

What Works For Me: Vlogagrams! Author Megan Whitmer had the brilliant idea to initiate a weekly vlogagram challenge on Instagram, and it’s been so much fun! I find vlogging daunting, normally, because I’m shy and I hate the pressure of coming up with a topic and having to speak in an entertaining manner for minutes upon minutes. Vlogagrams are short (fifteen seconds) and Megan is hooking participants up with weekly themes, which makes the process much less intimidating. I’ve loved “meeting” fellow writers and building on the sense of community I’ve already found via IG. If you’re interested, check out the vlogagram hashtag. The videos I’ve done so far are HERE

Tell me… What’s up with you today? 

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. Here’s what’s up with me this week…

What I’m Reading: This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner which, so far, is just as fabulous as their co-written debut, These Broken Stars. I haven’t had tons of time to read lately, but each and every one of my spare moments are being spent with Flynn and Jubilee.

 

What I’m Writing: I’m slowly cleaning up my NaNo project and prepping to write its climax and conclusion, which I *think* I’ve finally figured it out. Additionally, I spent a few days reading and offering feedback on Riley Edgewood‘s super hot, super amazing upcoming contemporary NA. I wish I could give you hints as to all of this story’s awesomeness, but let’s just say, it’s very much a Katy Book, and I loved it.

What Else I’ve Been Up To: Trying to get back into a routine now that my husband’s back to work and my daughter’s back to school. Plus…


I participated in the YA Buccaneers‘s #12DaysOfBooks photo challenge and made some new Instagram buddies along the way. Above are two of my favorite photo prompts (with assistance from Daphne): “Bookcase” and “Spine Poetry” (mine reads: if i stay / through the ever night / what’s left of me / cracked up to be / something like normal / forever…). Thanks for hosting, Buccaneers!


My husband, daughter, and I spent a day exploring downtown Pensacola. We walked a ton, hit up a history museum, ate amazing burgers (and drank a spiked Almond Joy milkshake), and watched a professional hockey game.

  
I’ve been playing with minimalism and candy-colored photos on Instagram, which is all sorts of fun. I first learned about the look on the IG feed of blogger extraordinaire Fat Mum Slim (Chantelle), who talks about #CandyMinimal HERE. She was inspired by photographer Matt Crump, whose IG feed is gorgeous. He gives a fantastic candy-colored editing tutorial HERE.

What Works For Me: Writing has been sporadic over the last few weeks, but my girl’s back to school and my husband’s leave is over and I’m trying to buckle down. That means butt in chair and accounta-buddies, plus the knowledge that if my MS-on-sub doesn’t sell, I’ll be far less depressed if I have something shiny and new to present to my agent (don’t ask how I know this). My WiP, which is tragically ending-less, inspires me too. After all the work and heart I’ve put into it, it deserves a conclusion!

Tell me… What’s up with you today? 

Class of 2014: YA Superlatives Blogfest HEAD OF THE CLASS

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

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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

Head of the Class

Favorite Dystopian


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

Favorite Science Fiction


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

Favorite Fantasy


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

Favorite Contemporary

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

Favorite Action/Adventure


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

Favorite Historical


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

Favorite Comedy


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

Favorite Mystery

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

Favorite Romance

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

Favorite Paranormal


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

Favorite Genre Bender


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

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

January Reading Wrap-Up

My January reading list is quite diverse, I must say. Each book was special and engrossing and very well-written, and I’d recommend any and all of these. As always, book covers link to Goodreads pages…

Butter by Erin Jade Lange – Butter is an issue book that’s entertaining as well as thought-provoking. It’s a unique story with a compelling concept (lonely, obese teen promises to eat himself to death online, gaining instant popularity), and I read it feeling like one of the voyeuristic students at Butter’s high school: I was morbidly curious as to whether he’d actually carry out his threat. Erin Jade Lange writes in a clear, easy-to-read style, and she gives Butter plenty of conflict. She wrapped her debut up in a way that left me satisfied, yet hopeful.

When Audrey Met Alice by Rebecca Behrens – So much more than the lighthearted shenanigans-in-the-White-House book I was expecting! Rebecca Behrens does an incredible job of bouncing between two distinct voices: fictional Audrey’s inquisitive, finding-her-place teen voice, and Alice Roosevelt’s more formal (and snarkier!), almost-a-lady voice. Audrey and Alice face similar challenges, and both act out in ways that feel real and warranted. I particularly love how Audrey turns to Alice’s diary when she feels exceptionally forlorn. The reverence she feels for untamable Alice is awesome. (As is the super sweet romantic subplot!) My full Bookanista recommendation is HERE.

These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner – This novel is epic and rich and glorious. It wasn’t at all what I expected, especially since I’ve read in several different reviews that it’s like Titanic on a spaceship. Not much of the novel takes place on a spaceship, actually. In fact, almost all of it takes place on a strange alien planet, and the story is all about survival and acceptance and sacrifice and love, and there’s this chilling mystery running beneath everything else, and it’s just… awesome. Also, Tarver. ♥ Clearly I’m partial to soldiers, but oh my gosh. He is just so full of swoon. I loved this one!

Tampa by Alissa Nutting – While most of the scenes in this adult novel were so graphic and disturbing I wish I could unread them, I have to admit… I found this story riveting. Protagonist Celeste describes herself as a soulless pervert, and that’s an understatement. She preys on teenages boys, lies compulsively, lacks any sense of moral responsibility, and has no concern for the ramifications of her actions — except as they might impact her getting what she wants. She’s utterly unsympathetic, but it was fascinating to be in her head. Tampa touches on a lot of big issues: sexual predators in positions of authority, minor victims and gender assumptions/bias, and the shades of gray in guilty vs. not guilty verdicts. It was a difficult book to put down, and nearly impossible to recover from.

Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn – This isn’t a book I normally would have picked up because there’s much talk of wolves in the summary, but it is so, so good, guys. The plotting — WOW. And the writing… it’s beautiful. The entire story is visceral and haunting, one of those where you’re never quite sure what’s real and what’s not. Stephanie did a masterful job incorporating symbolism and metaphors, so much so that I’m already looking forward to rereading this novel so I can pick up all the hints and clues I missed on my first read. The other day Charm & Strange  was named the William C. Morris YA Debut Award winner – well deserved! Such an exceptional book.

What’s the best book you read in January?