May Reading Wrap-Up

I started May with an intense and incredibly absorbing fantasy binge, then moved on to an issue-based contemporary, and wrapped up the month with a gripping and very scary post-apocalyptic sci-fi adventure. All in all, it’s been a month of fantastic reading. Here’s my wrap-up…

Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta – Finnikin of the Rock is everything I look for in a story: a sweeping, sizzling romance, an intricately layered, breathtakingly twisted plot, unique and vibrant characters who leap off the page and demand that I  care deeply about them, and emotionality that is genuine and profound. A new favorite fantasy to add to my list. Finnikin of the Rock is a big ol’ recommend. My full review is HERE.

Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta – Though Froi of the Exiles was my least favorite of the Lumatere Chronicles, I still loved it. I didn’t care much for Froi in Finnikin (he does something really, really awful), but he managed to redeem himself against all odds. He became a narrator I adored, one who was easy to relate to and root for. And I loved watching his relationships with Quintana, Gargarin, and Lirah grow and change. Another recommend!

Quintana of Charyn by Melina Marchetta – Quintana of Charyn is a stunning conclusion to an amazing trilogy. Despite its considerable length and complicated storyline, it is a fast read. I had a hard time putting it down, and when I did, I was still thinking about Quintana, Froi, Finnikin, Isaboe, Lucian, Phaedra, and the many other vibrant characters who populated this book and its predecessors. I’ll go so far as to declare Quintana one of the most gratifying finales I’ve read. My full review is HERE.

The S-Word by Chelsea Pitcher – The S-Word is very much an issue book. Suicide, homosexuality, date rape, child molestation, slut-shaming, bullying, and cutting are all given varying degrees of attention throughout the course of the story. My favorite thing about the novel is protagonist Angie’s voice. She reads as so spot-on eighteen, it’s hard to believe the author isn’t a teen herself. If you’re a fan of issue books with authentic teen voice, or of serious contemporary YA, you’ll probably enjoy The S-Word. My full review is HERE.

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey – I’m so glad I bent to all the buzz this one’s been getting because the hype is well-deserved. As I recently mentioned, I’m not a big science fiction reader, but The 5th Wave may change that. This story is freaking amazing. Protagonists Cassie and Zombie are both completely real and totally awesome. The writing, the plot twists, the way everything — everything — circles back together… I can find no flaws within the pages of this book. I most definitely recommend it. To everyone!

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

What’s Up Wednesday

Today I’m jumping in on “What’s Up Wednesday,” 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.

Awesome, right? Here’s what’s up with me this week…

What I’m Reading: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey. It is FANTASTIC. I’m not a big sci-fi gal, but I’m finding this book to be very accessible. It’s also very scary in its feasibility. And it’s a total pageturner. The twists! The unknowns! Zombie! Loving this one. In addition to published fiction, I’m beta reading a fantastic contemporary manuscript. I’m lucky to have such talented friends!

What I’m Writing: Um… blog posts? Book reviews? Grocery shopping lists? Kidding! Now that my revision is done-done, I’m back to working on my shiny new WiP. I still love it, and I also love that I get to use Scrivener to draft it — a first for me. Want to read a bit?

He was going to step inside, Jenna realized with a start. He was going to step into the elevator with her and the enormous TV cart, and then the doors would seal up tight. She would be trapped with him, breathing his air, smelling his smell, avoiding eye contact like it was her job. She’d been confined to a tight space with a boy once before, and the experience had scarred her. 

Jenna’s palms were suddenly clammy, and her heart hammered with such force she thought it might burst from her chest.

But this boy—the boy with the midnight eyes and the uncooperative hair—was not that boy, she reminded affected psyche. And she was at school, a safe place. She was not drunk. She was not incoherent. She was not vulnerable.

What Else I’ve Been Up To:

  

Hanging  with my hubby and my girlie. Lately we’ve spent some time at Carmel Beach, and we’ve gone on a few Big Sur hikes. Both spots are incredibly scenic and lots of fun. We live in one of the most beautiful parts of the country (I mean, come on… that’s a waterfall cascading down onto the sand) and we’re trying to take full advantage before the Army makes us pick up and move again.

I’ve also been baking up a storm. I’m currently out of butter, flour, and brown sugar, and low on eggs. Over the weekend I made a favorite, Peanut Butter Cake, which is rich and comforting and always a crowd pleaser. And the other day I made classic Chocolate Chip Cookies to take to a barbecue. They went so fast!

And, finally, I’ve been doing lots of running, as usual. I’m trying to drop my five-mile pace to eight minute miles, which my husband tells me is the Ranger Standard. I’m getting closer and closer!  I’ve also surpassed 800 miles for 2013. Basically, I could have run from where we live now (the Monterey Bay area) to my hometown in Western Washington. No problem, right? 😉

What Inspires Me Right Now:

Wear Blue: Run to Remember, an organization with the goal of building a running community that honors the service and sacrifice of the American military. One of my good friends organized a Wear Blue Memorial Day run here in our town and the turn out was fantastic. More than fifty people showed up to run in remembrance of fallen soldiers. It was inspiring and moving to hear their names spoken aloud before we began our run.

And, on a lighter note, I’m finding the A Beautiful Mess iPhone app quite inspiring. I could play with it all day. In fact, I have to refrain from adding text and borders and doodles to ALL of my photos. So much fun!

Tell me… What’s up with you?

January Reads

Always!

Still, I did pretty well in January. Here’s what I read (and what I recommend!)…

Graffiti MoonGraffiti Moon by Cath Crowley – LOVED this one. Beautiful, beautiful prose and characters I wanted to both hug and hang out with. Ed was the perfect combination of complicated and adorable, and I loved Lucy’s audacity and wit. This is one of those rare books that’s both enviably amazing, yet totally inspirational in the writing department. How are Australian authors so consistently awesome? Highly recommend!

Sharp ObjectsSharp Objects by Gillian Flynn – If you’re looking for a psychological thriller and are not easily offended, disturbed or freaked out, please do pick up Sharp Objects. I reviewed it in greater detail HERE.

Ask The Passengers
Ask the Passengers by A.S. King – So unique; it’s several different books rolled into one. A provocative issue book, a perfectly-voiced contemporary, a first-love romance, a family drama that feels alarmingly authentic, all with a sprinkle of unexplainable magic tossed in. Find my review for YA Confidential HERE.

Dark PlacesDark Places by Gillian Flynn – Probably my least favorite of her three, but that’s not to say it wasn’t excellent. True to Gillian-Flynn-form, this book’s characters were completely deplorable, yet totally compelling. Dark Places is structured like a fairly traditional murder mystery, but it’s twisty and chilling and definitely had me turning pages. The ending, like those of all of Flynn’s novels, was a beguiling surprise.

Shades of Earth (Across the Universe, #3)Shades of Earth by Beth Revis – (Damn it — I still wish this cover matched the other two in the trilogy. I like my shelves to look cohesive!) Shades of Earth is a worthy conclusion to a trilogy I’ve followed since it debuted. I had no idea what to expect going into this one (though I’d heard something about dinosaurs… whoa), and I’m glad for all the surprises. Beth Revis does not hesitate to throw the unexpected in your face, which made this novel a total page-turner. Also, Elder continues to be charming and endearing, so that doesn’t hurt. If you haven’t read the Across the Universe trilogy, I highly recommend it (even if, like me, you’re not a huge science fiction person).

(I also had the pleasure of reading the final half of my CP Alison Miller‘s amazing YA contemporary/magical realism retelling, did a beta read of Jessica Love‘s fantastic YA contemporary, and I’m nearly done beta reading an action-packed time travel story by Meredith McCardle. I’m so lucky to have such a talented bunch of friends!)

Tell Me: What’s the best book you read in January?

The Class of 2012: YA Superlative Blogfest – HEAD OF THE CLASS

It’s here, it’s here, it’s here! 

In case you’ve forgotten, The Class of 2012: YA Superlative Blogfest (hosted by Jessica Love,Tracey NeithercottAlison Miller, and me) begins today, Monday, December 17th, and will run through Thursday, December 20th. All of the awesome people who are participating in the blogfest (YOU, I hope!) will highlight favorite books published 2012 using a variety of super fun superlative categories. The Class of 2012: YA Superlative Blogfest is all about promoting extraordinary young adult books, so if you haven’t already, draft a post, hop down to the end of THIS post, and sign up to participate. We can’t wait to see your favorite reads of 2012!

So, here are the 2012 YA novels I’ve read over the last year, listed in no particular order: The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, A Million Suns, The Fault in Our Stars, The Disenchantments, Something Strange and Deadly, Pandemonium, Wanderlove, Under the Never Sky, Ten, This is Not a Test, Happy Families, Insurgent, Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone, Monstrous Beauty, Bitterblue, Time Between Us, My Life Next Door, Breathe, Pushing the Limits, Skylark, The Raven Boys, Live Through This, Bittersweet, Flawed, Ditched, Starters, Reached, Lovely, Dark and Deep, Meant to Be, and Days of Blood and Starlight…

And here’s how I chose to award today’s categories (I totally cheated and named two novels for a few of the categories… there were just too many fantastic 2012 books to choose from!):

Head of the Class

Favorite Dystopian

Pandemonium (Delirium, #2)This novel had it all: Lauren Oliver’s beautiful writing, a crazy-fast pace, a slow-burn forbidden romance, and a world that is both unique and formidable. I’m dying to see how this trilogy concludes when Requiem comes out in a few months.

Favorite Science Fiction

A Million Suns (Across the Universe, #2)Once again, life on the Godspeed had me absolutely enthralled. Beth Revis has created a fascinated world and filled it with complex characters and tons of twists and turns. Can’t wait for the final installment of this trilogy!

Favorite Fantasy

Bitterblue (Graceling Realm, #3)Oh, Bitterblue… This novel gave me all the feelings. I laughed, I swooned, I cringed, and I worried. I adored everything about Bitterblue and her complicated world, especially Gideon. If I had to choose an absolute favorite 2012 YA novel, it would probably be this one.

The Raven Boys (Raven Cycle, #1)One of the most original books I’ve read this year. I loved headstrong Blue, and I loved the complex, realistic relationship between the Raven Boys. This one had a twist that gave me shivers!

Favorite Contemporary

The DisenchantmentsFrom the music, to the road trip, to the colorful characters who populated this novel– not to mention their wild relationships — I adored it all. Nina LaCour has a way of penning imperfect characters who are easy to root for, which I think is this novel’s greatest strength.

The Fault in Our StarsOnce again, John Green has shown that he is a master at lending humor to unimaginably heartbreaking situations. Oh, and he rocks at writing a teen girl’s voice. This novel didn’t make me cry (I’m not an easy crier), but it did make me want to go to Amsterdam!

Favorite Action/Adventure

Under the Never Sky (Under the Never Sky, #1)I could have filed this one under dystopian, of course, but because each and every page was filled with heart-pounding action, I thought it would fit well here, too. Oh, Perry… I’d leave the dome for him any day.

This is Not a TestThis is Not a Test was definitely action packed, but it was character-driven, too, a perfect combination. Sloane was at first a difficult character to root for, yet I loved her for her honesty, and I loved the way she came out at the end of this novel. Courtney Summers writes unlikable narrators like nobody else.

Favorite Comedy

Meant to BeThis story is just adorable. It’s not slapstick, silly comedy, but more subtle and refined, something real teens will actually find funny. Julia is a quick, witty narrator, definitely someone I’d want to be friends with!

Favorite Mystery

Amelia Anne is Dead and GoneKat Rosenfeld’s prose is gorgeous and literary and mature, and the creepy murder mystery at the center of this book’s plot kept me guessing until the end.

Favorite Romance

WanderloveBria and Rowan’s relationship throughout the course of Wanderlove progressed believably and sweetly. They challenged each other, yet they had a very clear mutual respect for one another. I was rooting from them from their very first encounter.

My Life Next DoorDoesn’t every teen girl want to live next door to a cute, considerate, attentive high school boy? My Life Next Door fulfills that fantasy with a believable, enviable romance between main character Samantha and boy-next-door Jase. These two are just too cute together.

Favorite Paranormal

Monstrous BeautyMonstrous Beauty is two interwoven stories in one, told in a parallel manner with twists and turns that left me all kinds of surprised. None of the characters in this book are quite who they seem, and the mermaids are creepy and diabolical, a win when it comes to this paranormal story.

Favorite Family Drama

Lovely, Dark and DeepI could have chosen Lovely, Dark and Deep for the romance category because main character Wren’s relationship with older boy Cal is all kinds of steamy, but there’s a lot going on in the way of Wren’s family dynamics too. Whatever the genre, I loved every minute of this novel.

Favorite Genre Bender

Days of Blood & Starlight (Daughter of Smoke and Bone, #2)Laini Taylor’s writing is absolutely beautiful. She melds romance and urban fantasy and lots of crazy uniqueness so perfectly, her world feels absolutely real. I cannot wait for Book 3!

July Reading Wrap-Up

And, my summer of amazing books continues. Here’s what I’ve been reading…

Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama – A sophisticated, intricately told tale with something for everyone: A complex plot, multi-dimensional characters, a thrilling, chilling mystery, strong writing, a fresh spin on tried and true paranormal, a bit of history, and romance that will have you swooning. Full review HERE.

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore – I never thought I’d say this, but I loved Bitterblue even more than Graceling. This book… It wrecked me in every way possible. It romanced me, it made me laugh, it made me angry, it broke my heart and, at times, it absolutely horrified me. I can’t say enough about this novel. In my humble opinion, it was just about as perfect as a story can get. A definite favorite. Full review HERE.

The Doll People by The Doll People by Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin, illustrated by Brian Selznick – Quickly paced and charming, decidedly contemporary but with a delightfully timeless feel, and illustrations that are gorgeous and perfectly match the enchantingly magical quality of the story. Full review HERE.

Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone – I’m a romance girl, so if I can fall for a couple, I usually end up a fan of the book. I thought Anna was a fantastic MC, and I found Bennett to be adorable. Their relationship developed believably (considering the absolute inconceivability of their situation), so I was rooting for them. I do wish Bennett’s love for music and the mystery of the “missing person” had been further developed, but I truly loved the ending of this book. Check out my interview with author Tamara Ireland Stone HERE.

*The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky – This book was so unique in format (letters to an unnamed “friend”) and voice, it was nearly impossible to put down. The existing and emerging relationships felt genuine, and the characters leapt off the page, especially main character, Charlie, and his crush, Sam (played by Emma Watson in the upcoming movie!). If you haven’t read Wallflower, it’s a definite recommend!

*Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card –  I checked the audio version of this one out from the library and took it with me on a twelve-hour road trip. It wasn’t exactly a Katy Book (no romance, no butterflies, no kisses, TONS of battles and action sequences), but I can certainly understand why it’s become a classic. The writing is fantastic, the world-building exceptional, the depth of main character Ender and his plight astounding, and the ending… It’s one of those oh-em-gee! endings I love. Also, the audio version concluded with a long talk by Orson Scott Card about the history of Ender’s Game, the beginning of his writing career, and his thoughts on the writing process. It was fascinating.

My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick – I heard about this book when my friend Elodie raved about it, and it’s very much a Katy Book. It’s an upper YA “romantic drama,” which is what I write and what I prefer to read. BUT… I think the romantic drama is also one of the toughest genres to pull off well. Huntley Fitzpatrick does so beautifully. Sam and Jase are freaking adorable, and they share tons of sweet moments and steamy kisses. Plus, Jase’s huge family is awesome, and enviable characterized. Another recommend!

And, last but not least, July’s Book of the Month: *The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-BanksFrom GoodreadsFrankie Landau-Banks at age 14: Debate Club. Her father’s “bunny rabbit.” A mildly geeky girl attending a highly competitive boarding school. Frankie Landau-Banks at age 15: A knockout figure. A sharp tongue. A chip on her shoulder. And a gorgeous new senior boyfriend: the supremely goofy, word-obsessed Matthew Livingston. Frankie Laundau-Banks. No longer the kind of girl to take “no” for an answer. Especially when “no” means she’s excluded from her boyfriend’s all-male secret society. Not when her ex boyfriend shows up in the strangest of places. Not when she knows she’s smarter than any of them. When she knows Matthew’s lying to her. And when there are so many, many pranks to be done. Frankie Landau-Banks, at age 16: Possibly a criminal mastermind. This is the story of how she got that way.

I have to admit… When I read secret society and pranks in the jacket summary, my interest wasn’t exactly piqued.  But, I love books set in boarding schools (hello, Jellicoe Road) and Frankie came highly recommended by many of my trusted YA friends, including Erin BowmanCaroline RichmondCopil YanezGhenet Myrthil, and Sarah Enni.  Turns out they were all spot on in their gushing. Frankie was so perfectly fun and bizarre, I couldn’t stop turning pages.

Frankie has a pitch-perfect YA voice (even though the story is told in third-person). Protagonist Frankie Landau-Banks is brilliant, dry, and witty, and she’s not afraid to take charge and go after what she wants. That said, she can be sort of thick and she makes plenty of mistakes over the course of her story. But, that’s what makes her so endearing. The best part of this book was how it ended. I won’t give anything away, of course, but I will say that when I read the final page, I felt like every character had experienced the consequences he or she deserved, and that the conclusion was handled realistically, but with the same intelligence and charm the rest of the book possessed.

If you’ve yet to read The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, I highly recommend you check it out!

Don’t forget to head over to YA Highway to check out other July favorites. 🙂

Tell me: What’s the best book you’ve read so far this summer?

*Gap Books

V is for Vader

Don’t freak out but… I haven’t seen Star Wars.

Before you judge me too harshly, I should tell you that I know the plot of the saga in its entirety. I know the characters and twists and turns and arcs. I’ve even caught bits and pieces of the action while my husband (a Star Wars enthusiast) watched over the years.

Oh, and speaking of my husband? In the three short months since he returned home from his last deployment, he’s somehow managed to turn our daughter into a massive Star Wars fan . Don’t get me wrong… She still loves Rapunzel and Barbie and Tinkerbell, but now she owns an Ewok shirt and a Yoda shirt, and a Darth Vader action figure. She wants to be Princess Leia for Halloween. She also wants my husband to be Anakin and me to be Padme, because (spoiler alert!) they’re Leia’s parents. Makes, perfect sense, right?

To me? Not really.

Star Wars fans, don’t hate me, but I just don’t get it. Sure, I haven’t sat down and become absorbed in the franchise, but the thing is: I don’t really want to. I see value in the story and the entertainment it lends — I really do — but it just doesn’t appeal to me.

At all.

Tell me: Is there a super popular movie (or series of movies) that holds no interest for you? Does your disinterest make you feel like a crazy person?