Category Archives: Swoon Reads

July/August Reading Wrap-Up

I wanted to read more this summer, but time got away from me.
Still, six novels in two months… Not terrible, right? 

32470593Coming Up For Air by Miranda Kenneally
1. Swim life. I was on my high school’s swim team so I’m easily annoyed by inaccuracies in what it’s like to be a competitive swimmer. Miranda Kenneally gets it right; it’s clear she did tons of research to portray the challenges and rewards of the sport.
2. Sex positive. I mean, this is a Miranda Kenneally book, so obviously. I’m always impressed by how her characters are frank about what they want and how they feel. And, the fact that these conversations and experiences are often awkward and fumbling make them even more authentic.
3. Best friends become sweethearts… maybe. Maggie and Levi are lifelong besties with swimming their common bond. They end up in something of a contractual relationship because Maggie doesn’t want to go away to college inexperienced in the way of intimacy. Emotions become heightened, of course, and all sorts of complications arise. I loved this book A LOT; I might go so far as to say it’s my favorite of Miranda’s Hundred Oaks series!

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To Be Honest by Maggie Ann Martin (August 21, 2018)
1. Family first. While I love romances most, stories about families and their complex dynamics are a close runner-up. Maggie Ann Martin paints such a realistic picture of Savannah’s prickly relationship with her mom (who’s recently lost a lot of weight and has become fixated on dieting and exercise), and her suddenly growing-pained relationship with her older sister, Ashley.
2. Body positive (this cover, though!). Savannah is fat and cool with it, and wow — how refreshing. As someone who’s struggled with body image over the years, I found myself constantly wanting to break into applause for Savannah because even while she struggles with insecurities in realistic and relatable ways, she truly loves herself.
3. Voice. To Be Honest tackles some serious topics (diet culture, fat-phobia, divorce, anxiety) but thanks to Maggie’s effervescent narrative voice, the story never feels bogged down or like it’s forcing A Message on readers. It’s sometimes funny, often moving, and always heartfelt.

29236380Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow
1. Survival story. Perhaps not in the traditional sense — main character Charlie isn’t, like, stranded in the woods, but she’s certainly lost, and she’s definitely alone. She spends the better part of the story learning how to sustain herself in a new city, while battling a lot of personal demons.
2. Intense subject matter. I’m not sure this book is for everyone, but I loved it. It’s raw and gritty and troubling, tackling issues like self harm, substance abuse, and assault in a way that holds nothing back. It’s an unflinching story about a courageous girl.
3. Gorgeous prose. Kathleen Glasgow write about ugly experiences in a beautiful way. I found myself rereading so many of her phrases, in awe of the way she made me feel so much with a few carefully chosen words.

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The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
1. Book love. This is a story about books and book lovers and the impact books can have on our lives. So, firmly in my wheelhouse.
2. Charming and complex characters. Even the most flawed people in A.J. Fikery (including A.J. himself) have moments of humanity that make them feel known. I felt this most notable with Daniel, who’s a self-indulgent, womanizing jerk and yet… I didn’t hate him.
3. Lovely setting. Alice Island comes to life within the pages of this novel, particularly its indie bookstore, Island Books. It sounds like the loveliest vacation destination.

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Things Jolie Needs to Do Before She Bites It by Kerry Winfrey
1. Authentically teen. This book, more than any other I’ve read lately, felt like high school. Maybe that’s because I related deeply to MC Jolie and her desire to avoid taking up space. Or, maybe author Kerry Winfrey’s just exceptionally talented when it comes to capturing the voice and spirit of teenagers. Either way, I can’t wait to read more of her work.
2. Cuuuuute romance. Without giving too much away, the turn this book took romance-wise was delightful. It turned out to be a really sweet take on one of my favorite tropes {highlight for spoiler: best friends become sweethearts}, and totally gave me all the first-love butterflies. In addition to the romance, Jolie’s relationships with her two best friends, Evelyn and Derek, are perfectly imperfect.
3. Sisters forever. Much like To Be Honest, Things Jolie Needs to Do Before She Bites It has a complex and interesting sister relationship. I loved how it developed over the course of the book, particularly as Abbi’s pregnancy progressed. Jolie’s entire family, in fact, is pretty fantastic.

34499240Love Scene, Take Two by Alex Evansley
1. Wish fulfillment — for me, anyway. 🙂 When I was eighteen, I would’ve traded a limb to be a NYT bestselling author with a movie deal and a cute lead actor who adores me — just like this debut’s MC, Bennett.
2. Complex (and super likable) characters. Bennett and her love interest Teddy are, of course, charming and winsome, but the story’s supporting characters are layered and well-drawn, too. Beautiful leading lady Olivia was my favorite; she wasn’t at all what I first assumed. Sometimes it’s really cool when a character turns out to be the opposite of what’s expected!
3. All the humor. I’m not usually drawn to rom-coms, but Love Scene, Take Two makes me want to read a whole lot more in this genre. While the story has its serious moments, it also made me LOL repeatedly. Alex Evansley has this (seemingly) effortless knack for writing both dialogue and inner monologues that are genuinely hilarious. Definitely snag this book if you’re needing a pick-me-up!

Tell me: What’s the best book you’ve read recently?

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Happy release day, THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF US!

My second novel, The Impossibility of Us, is on sale today!

TIoU Cover

Here’s its summary…

The last thing Elise wants is to start her senior year in a new town. But after her brother’s death in Afghanistan, she and her mother move from San Francisco to a sleepy coastal village. When she meets Mati, the two quickly discover how much they have in common. Mati is new to town as well, visiting the U.S. with his family. Over the course of the summer, their relationship begins to blossom, and what starts out as a friendship becomes so much more. But as Elise and Mati grow closer, her family becomes more and more uncomfortable with their relationship, and their concerns all center on one fact—Mati is Afghan. Beautifully written, utterly compelling, and ultimately hopeful, The Impossibility of Us asks—how brave can you be when your relationship is questioned by everyone you love?

THANK YOU…

I am so fortunate to be part of the Swoon Reads family, where I feel at all times supported and celebrated. I’m grateful to Jean Feiwel and Lauren Scobell for cultivating this incredible community. Working with my editor, Kat Brzozowski, has been a dream. Her insight, wisdom, and warmth have taught me so much. And I can’t imagine doing this publication thing without my agent, Victoria Marini. Her guidance, expertise, and humor are invaluable.

Alison Miller, Temre Beltz, Riley Edgewood, and Elodie Nowodazkij are far and away the best critique partners a girl could ask for. Their combined intelligence, compassion, and generosity are inspiring. Big thanks to Rachel Simon, Jaime Morrow, and Lola Sharp for their enthusiastic beta reads of TIoU. I’m grateful to Arvin Ahmadi, Rania, and Silanur for their thoughtful feedback and generously shared personal experiences as they relate to this book. And thank you to Khalid Ahmad for his generous assistance with the Pashto translations. Thank you to my wonderful writer friends, especially Tracey Neithercott, Mandie Baxter, Liz Parker, Christina June, Jessica Love, Christa Desir, Sara Biren, Karole Cozzo, and Erin Bowman for the reassurances and celebrations. To the 2017 Debuts, thank you for sharing this journey with me. And to the authors known affectionately as the Swoon Squad, um . . . wow. What an amazing group of people!

Thank you, thank you, thank you to my parents for their boundless support and infinite love, and for hand-selling my books to their friends. My brothers might not be fans of young adult romance, but they’re fans of me and really, isn’t that all that matters? 🙂 Thanks to the rest of my extended family, whose continued cheerleading means the world to me. All the hugs and kisses to my girlies for bringing me indescribable joy. And, finally, this book wouldn’t exist without my husband. His genuine excitement over my success makes me feel unstoppable. He’s still my happily ever after.

The Impossibility of Us in Review

What could have been a clichéd, tired romance novel will surprise readers with depth of character and a unique layout. The chapters alternate: Elise’s in narrative prose and Mati’s in verse. The protagonists share their cultural and language differences with each other, setting aside surrounding discrimination and prejudices. Elise learns about Afghanistan and Pashto, releases her resentment and intolerance, and finds healing as she grieves her brother’s death. Mati navigates how to fulfill his familial and faith obligations while staying true to himself and his passions. This book tackles several heavy subjects as the author explores religious and ethnic intolerance, bigotry, fear, and lack of fairness. Though Upperman uses traditional romance tropes, readers will find the story meaty, satisfying, and enlightening. This surprising and worthwhile romance is a solid choice to add to any teen collection.
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Elise is passionate and caring and inquisitive, and isn’t afraid to admit—and then change—when she’s ignorant or wrong. Plenty of people could take a page out of her book on how to be compassionate humans. Elise and Mati are quickly intrigued by each other, but because of Mati’s religious beliefs and his life back in Afghanistan, it takes a while before anything physical manifests. But this just means a graze or a glance is that much more charged. And it gives them an opportunity to get to the really sexy stuff: understanding one another emotionally and connecting deeper on an intellectual level. Upperman crafted a great summer romance, combining the headiness of finding someone and falling in love over just a few months with the bittersweet of knowing summer—and possibly that relationship—has a definite end. I devoured this book in an evening and it left me with a smile by the end.
Forever YA for Kirkus

Don’t expect the same story that you read in Kissing Max Holden. Sure, the characters faced impossible odds (hence the title) like in KMH, but Upperman explored different avenues of her writing. I fell head-over-heels for the love interest, Mati. One of my favorite parts of the book was his voice. Instead of prose, he told his story through poetry. It was eloquent and beautiful, and it perfectly encapsulated Mati’s essence. Your heart will break reading this book, but it will also soar. You’ll question everything you’ve imagined about difficult relationships, look at your own self in a new light, but you’ll also fall in love.
~ Moriah’s Musings

…an adorable story about falling for a boy and realizing what love really is, while also having to deal with your respective families and addressing the prejudices that they have against one another. If you’re looking for your next beach read that will grip you and have you flipping the pages quickly, laughing, crying, gasping and even swooning, then this is definitely the book for you!
~ TeenReads

There’s a lot to love in this beachy read about a summer romance, in which the two main characters face unusual complications due to circumstance, culture, and prejudice… I found myself rooting for Mati and Elise to make things work against all odds — and while the book is filled with plenty of heartache, I found it ultimately hopeful and uplifting.
~ Novel Novice

This sophomore offering was another huge hit from Katy Upperman, and at this point I’ll read anything this lady writes.
~ Pages and Pugs (this review’s GIF game is 👌🏼)

Katy Upperman has done it again. As much as I loved her debut novel, Kissing Max Holden, The Impossibility of Us has more depth, packs more of an emotional punch, and made a visceral impact that had me wiping away tears. Upperman managed to engage my mind and my heart in this beautiful tale of friendship and first love, tolerance and acceptance. She has deftly created a story that is timely and relevant and equal parts heartbreaking and hopeful. The Impossibility of Us is one that is not to be missed.
~ Girl Plus Books

The Impossibility of Us on Sale

::   The Impossibility of Us at Amazon   ::
::  The Impossibility of Us at IndieBound  ::
::   The Impossibility of Us at The Book Depository   ::
::  The Impossibility of Us at Barnes & Noble  ::
:: The Impossibility of Us at BAM  ::
::  The Impossibility of Us at Target  ::
::  The Impossibility of Us at Powell’s  ::

Or, order from my local independent bookstore, One More Page Books. They’ll ship you a signed, personalized copy of the novel from Arlington, VA!

The Impossibility of Us Interviews

With “So Few Books”

With Buried in a Bookshelf

Upcoming Events

My Local Launch Event ⇣IMG_4749

Also ⇣
Fountain Bookstore ~ Richmond, VA
Q&A + Signing w/ Christina June
Saturday, August 25, 2018, 2:00 PM

Thank you — yes, you!

Thank you for asking about my writing, for sharing my promotional tweets/posts/images, for asking me to come to your town for a signing, for passing out my bookmarks, and for reading and reviewing Kissing Max Holden. Thank you for preordering The Impossibility of Us, for requesting it at your local library, for talking about it with the readers in your life, for complimenting its cover, its summary, and its blurbs. Thank you so much for your tireless support.

December/January Reading Wrap-Up

I only managed to read two books in December (chaotic month, I tell ya), so I decided to combine my December and January wrap-ups.
Can’t wait to share these excellent books with you!

32172614How to Breathe Underwater by Vicky Skinner (August 14, 2018)
1. Fully developed cast. While Kate is the protagonist of this debut, she’s not the only character with layers and flaws and problems. Her parents, sister, love interest, and friends all have challenges that play out alongside Kate’s. I appreciate when a story feels as complicated as real life, and How to Breathe Underwater definitely does.
2. Sweet, slow-burn romance. Love doesn’t come easy for Kate and her v. cute salsa dancing neighbor, Michael, which means that when they finally work things out, the payoff is so worth it.
3. Skillful prose. For a book with a lot of heavy themes, How to Breathe Underwater remains a smooth and endearing read. Vicky infuses the novel with thoughtful commentary and just the right amount of humor, making it read like a wonderful escape.

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The Game Can’t Love You Back by Karole Cozzo (May 15, 2018)
1. Badass female lead. Just wait until you meet Eve — she’s strong, smart, loyal, determined, and super athletic. She stares down sexism and attempted intimidation without flinching, and I kind of want to be her.
2. Dreamiest male lead. Jamie is a new favorite book boy; he has a reputation for being a player, but he’s actually got a heart of gold. He’s so sweet with Eve (eventually), and endlessly devoted to his family and his teammates. *swoon*
3. Enemies to lovers. One of my favorite tropes, and Karole pulls it off beautifully. Eve and Jamie begin the story as competing pitchers on the same baseball team and hate each other intensely. It’s not long, though, before they start to see the good in each other and, as their relationship develops, the chemistry between them skyrockets.

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Bad Romance by Heather Demetrios
1. Voice, voice, voice. Bad Romance is a study in it. Protagonist Grace leaps of the page, and has this very unsettling way of making you feel exactly the way she’s feeling. I had a hard time putting this book down because I was so utterly invested in her narrative.
2. Atmosphere. A strange thing to notice about about a contemporary novel, perhaps, but man did this story make me feel tied down — to Grace’s small town, to her dysfunctional family and, mostly, to Gavin, her manipulative and controlling boyfriend.
3. Complex characters. Bad Romance is one of those books populated by characters so layered and flawed, they feel absolutely real. Grace is easy to relate to, particularly when it comes to her intense feelings for Gavin. Her stepfather, who is almost entirely terrible, manages to show tiny glimpses of humanity. And Gavin isn’t just an Abusive Boyfriend; there are moments when he is so vulnerable and charming, it’s easy to see why Grace falls passionately in love with him. Bad Romance is not a feel-good novel, but it’s also one of the most powerful books I’ve read, and I highly recommend it.

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West With the Night by Beryl Markham
1. For realz. This one was my book club’s January pick, and it’s not my usual fare. Still, I enjoyed it very much, especially the fact that it’s a memoir written by a strong, courageous woman who I previously knew nothing about.
2. Lovely prose. This one was originally published in 1942, so the language is slightly dated, but it reads as elegant and evocative. I found myself completely caught up in Beryl Markham’s fascinating memories.
3. Unique setting. A great deal of this story takes place in agricultural Kenya, a place I’ve read very little about. I loved learning about the terrain, the people, and the wildlife through Beryl’s engaging chronicle.

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Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy
1. Enviable voice. I’ve read all three of Julie Murphy’s books, and she always awes me with how perfectly she nails her protagonists’ voices. They’ve all been distinct and wonderful, but I’ve got to name Ramona as my favorite; she’s funny and spirited and plucky — an unforgettable force.
2. A sister story. Ramona Blue boasts a large and lively cast and features a lovely romance (Freddie 💙), but at its core, it’s a book about two sisters — Ramona and Hattie — and how fiercely they love one another.
3. Diverse representation. It’s been a long time since I read a book that depicts such a varied, authentic cross-section of our population: different races, different sexualities, different socioeconomic situations, and so on. Incredibly refreshing.

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When Life Gives You Demons by Jennifer Honeybourn (July 17, 2018)
1. Fun, fun, fun. This book’s cover perfectly represents the story beneath it. Even though When Life Gives You Demons tackles some serious themes (good vs. evil, finding one’s place within family/community), it never takes itself too seriously. Protagonist Shelby is a Catholic school girl/exorcist in training, after all. 🙂
2. Mystery. Aside from Shelby’s various exorcisms and butterfly-inducing study dates with Spencer, she’s also trying to get to the bottom of her mother’s recent disappearance. Suffice to say, I was very surprised by Shelby’s eventual discovery!
3. All the Buffy vibes. If you’re a fan of show, I think you’ll love this novel. It’s the perfect blend of paranormal and humor, with a kickass heroine you’ll wish you could befriend.

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Surviving Adam Meade by Shannon Klare (August 14, 2018)
1. FNL feels. Are you obsessed with Friday Night Lights like I am? Then this is the book for you. It brought me right back to the weeks I spent binge watching that show a few years back, and gave me all of the same swoony feels. Friendship! Football! Kissing!
2. Claire + Adam = Sparks. I mean really — is there anything better than two characters yelling at each other because they *actually* want to kiss each other? Claire and Adam are evenly matched in the snark department, making their banter a thing of beauty, and when they finally make it to romance, it’s fantastic.
3. Senior year challenges. I’m a fan of how author Shannon Klare incorporated the challenges that come along with senior year into her debut. College visits, applications, deciding whether to attempt long distance relationships. It all feels very real and relevant set against the small town football backdrop. I can’t wait for you to meet these characters come August!

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Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett
1. California. ☀️ I’m obsessed with coastal California towns, which is perfect because Alex, Approximately is set in (what I assume is) a fictionalized version of Santa Cruz. Better yet, it makes mention of some of my favorite real-life places, like Pacific Grove and Monterey. It’s all beachy and dreamy and inspired.
2. Flawless romance. The relationship main character Bailey builds with surfer boy Porter spoke to the heart-eyed idealist inside me. They’re so adorable together; they support each other, have a very interesting history, tons of chemistry, and they challenge one another in all the right ways. I’m smitten!
3. Delightful supporting characters. While Bailey + Porter have become a new favorite fictional couple, they don’t overshadow the awesomeness of the rest of the cast. I adore Bailey’s father, her new friend Grace, and the whole of Porter’s family. Honestly, for me, this book is perfect, perfect, perfect — everything I’d hoped it’d be. Can’t wait to get my hands on another Jenn Bennett novel!

What’s the best book you read recently?

September Reading Wrap-Up

September’s been the pits, my friends. Thanks to a lot of life stuff, I slacked on reading. But! The books I managed were pretty great…

28187230The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
1. Page turner. While, for me, this one had some believability issues, I still couldn’t put it down, mostly because I was desperate to find out what the heck was going on.
2. Emotive setting. Just like main character Lo, I felt disturbingly claustrophobic while “aboard” the luxurious but eerie Aurora Borealis.
3. Wholly unreliable cast. This was perhaps my favorite part of The Woman in Cabin Ten; I love when a book makes me doubt which of its characters can be trusted, and that was the case with this one up until its final chapters.

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Be True To Me by Adele Griffin
1. Dreamiest setting. Be True To Me is set in 1976, on Fire Island. It was a simpler time in many ways, though author Adele Griffin describes the scenery and spirit in such a lush, evocative way, I found myself longing to be there with Fritz and Jean.
2. Deeply flawed cast. Give me a book full of characters who make bad decisions over a group of perfect princes and princesses any day. I love that these teenagers were sometimes selfish and inconsiderate and single-minded. They weren’t always likable, but they felt so, so relatable.
3. Lovely prose. Like this: Summer romances were made out of ice cream and cotton candy, intensely sweet before they melted into nothing. Fact — Be True To Me is my first Adele Griffin novel, but I’ve become a fast fan. Can’t wait to read more of her work!

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Before You Know Kindness by Chris Bohjalian
1. Suuuuuper character driven. This story focuses on a small, multi-generational family and you will get to know its members well. The good, the bad, the ugly.
2. Issues galore. Animal rights, gun control, marital strain, underage drug and alcohol use, self-harm. This is a long, slow story, allowing the author ample time to explore the many themes he presents. Nothing’s black and white, and I appreciated the opportunity to draw my own conclusions.
3. Young adult-ish. Before You Know Kindness is literary fiction written for an adult audience, though the sections that center around the Seton family’s youngest generation feel markedly YA. They were my favorite sections, obvs.

a562e848e72902082dd52bfa7249c203Not the Girls You’re Looking For by Aminah Mae Safi (June 19, 2018)
1. aMaZiNg characterizations. I’ve been searching for one perfect adjective to describe Lulu and her girl friends and… I don’t think there is one? They’re fierce yet vulnerable, confident yet afraid, always exuberant, and so very real. There are some A+ parents plus a pretty great boy, too. ❤
2. Enviable prose. This is one of those novels chock full of passages you’ll want to read over and over again, because they are either lovely, or sharply insightful, or darkly funny.
3. Feminism for the win. I can’t wait to hand this book to my daughter in a few years. Its girls are complicated, and they make mistakes, and they do risky things. But they champion each other in ways that consistently warmed my heart. Pick up a copy of Not the Girls You’re Looking For next summer!

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Finding You by Lydia Albano
1. Incredible character arcs. Protagonist Isla begins the book a naive and admittedly weak girl. By the story’s end, she’s retained her compassion and her huge heart, but she’s otherwise unrecognizable — in the most impressive way.
2. Relevant subject matter. Finding You is an intense (possibly triggering) read about human trafficking. Though it’s set in a vaguely dystopian world void of most modern technology, its issues and themes are timely and very important.
3. Girl friendships. There’s a sweet romance in this book and while I loved Isla and Tam, I found myself even more invested in the relationships she formed with her fellow captives. I’m so impressed by how these girls came to lean on and support one another.

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

Cover Voting for THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF US!

I’ve been anticipating this for a long while… It’s time to vote on the cover of my July, 2018 book, The Impossibility of Us! Here’s a summary from my publisher, in case you’d like to get to know the story better before seeing the cover directions:

The last thing Elise wants is to start her senior year in a new town. But after her brother’s death in Afghanistan, she and her mother move from San Francisco to a sleepy coastal village to be closer to Elise’s sister-in-law and niece.

When Elise meets Mati during a beachside walk, they quickly discover how much they have in common. Mati is new to town, too, visiting the U.S. with his family. Over the course of the summer, their relationship begins to blossom, and what starts out as a friendship becomes so much more.

But as Elise and Mati grow closer, her family becomes more and more uncomfortable with their relationship, and their concerns all center on one fact – Mati is Afghan.

Beautifully written, utterly compelling, and ultimately hopeful, The Impossibility of Us asks: How brave can you be when your relationship is questioned by everyone you love?

Here are the 3 options the cover designers at Swoon Reads came up with:

  

Guys, I love them all so much! These models so perfectly capture Mati and Elise’s spirits, and I adore the attention to detail paid by the cover designer: Mati’s hands in his pockets, Elise’s long, caramel colored hair, the beachy setting, the beautiful dandelions, and the romantic yet slightly hesitant postures. I also adore the color scheme of each cover — so dreamy. I’m truly smitten with each! 

Visit the Swoon Reads blog to vote for your favorite cover direction, now through September 15th. And if you’d like to learn more about The Impossibility of Us, check out this post, and its Goodreads page, where you can also mark it To-Read.

Which cover direction is your favorite?!

August Reading Wrap-Up

I’ve been sharing monthly reading wrap-up posts almost as long as I’ve been blogging — like, seven years. And I love doing them; recommending fantastic books is one of my favorite things about being a member of the writing/reading community. But, man, these posts take a long time to compile.

Bad news… With a busy tween, a mischief-making foster toddler, and a fledgling publishing career, plus my husband and friends and house and various other commitments, I need to scale back on my monthly wrap-ups.

Good news… I’m not giving them up! I’m just going to streamline them into a more manageable “Three Things” structure. So, I’ll share three things I loved about each of the books I read during a given month, and hopefully that will help you decide whether the stories I feature might be ones you’d enjoy.

This month is all about testing the new format, and I’d love your feedback. Let me know in the comments what you think of the “Three Things” wrap-up!

30971685The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy
1. Incredibly unique world building. You’ve never read a story quite like this. Full of rich detail, The Disappearances is historical fiction, but with a magical twist, and a puzzle that’ll keep you guessing through its final pages.
2. Gorgeous prose. Emily’s writing is lyrical and lovely. I found myself rereading sentences just for the pleasure of savoring her word choice, imagery, and rhythm.
3. A relatable main character. Aila is strong, determined, and smart, but she can also be self-conscious and uncertain. She loves hard, though, and she’s unfailingly loyal, which makes her so easy to root for.

29437949Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris
1. Swiftly paced. While this adult psychological thriller is told in a past/present format, it never drags. In fact, I had a hard time putting it down!
2. Chilling, but not graphic or gratuitous. MC Grace is stuck in an abusive relationship (she’s her husband’s prisoner, basically), and while Jack is terrifying and manipulative and sadistic, no part of this book made me feel like I was going to have nightmares, or created images I couldn’t sweep away soon after.
3. Super satisfying conclusion. I kept wondering, How is Grace ever going to escape this? Without spoiling the ending, I’ll say that I was pretty pleased with how things turned out.

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Little Monsters by Kara Thomas
1. Slow-burn mystery. This is a tightly plotted book, full of red-herrings, twists, and turns. I wouldn’t call it fast-paced, though, as it focuses heavily on character development, which only serves the story. And the ending’s a shocker.
2. A host of unreliable perspectives. Main character, Kacey, feels at times untrustworthy and at times completely sincere. In fact, at one point or another, all of Little Monster‘s characters seem to be hiding something, upping the intrigue tenfold.
3. Incredibly atmospheric. This book made me cold. It made me hyperaware when walking into dark spaces. And it made me want to stay far, far away from haunted barns. It really is the YA version of a Gillian Flynn novel!

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By Your Side by Kasie West
1. Excellent setting. During the first half of By Your Side, Autumn and mysterious loner, Dax, are trapped in a library. There are a lot of challenges for them to overcome (what to eat, for example) but mostly their situation struck me as pretty darn dreamy.
2. Anxiety Disorder representation. I appreciated reading about a protagonist who is living (flourishing, really) with anxiety. Though Autumn’s disorder presents unique struggles, it does not define her, or drive the plot.  
3. Sweet romance. Kasie West has become a go-to author when I’m looking to read a light book with a gratifying romance. While Autumn and Dax definitely face challenges, their relationship is free of contrived drama, and they’ve got great chemistry.

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Romancing the Beat by Gwen Hayes
1. Truly helpful structural tips. Both for romance writers, and those hoping to thread romance into stories of other genres.
2. Quick, easy read. Also, encouraging! Romancing the Beat left me eager to dive back in to my troublesome WiP.
3. Humorously and irreverently written. Bonus — eighties song references!

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The Big F by Maggie Ann Martin –
1. Bridges the YA/NA gap. The Big F has the same light, hopeful feel of a lot of my favorite YAs (see my mention of Kasie West above), but its MC, Danielle, is trudging through her first year of community college. It’s nice to see this stage featured in a book.
2. Dynamic characterizations. From Danielle, to her younger brother, to her best friend, to potential love interests Luke and Porter, Maggie Ann Martin’s characters leap off the page.
3. Excellent voice. I can totally see myself hanging out with Danielle and her bestie, Zoe. They read as so authentic, and that’s thanks to this debut’s stellar voice.

Tell me: What’s the best book you read in August?
And, what do you think of the “Three Things” structure of this post?

Welcome to the world, Jilly and Max!

It’s here, it’s here, it’s here!

Kissing Max Holden has finally (FINALLY!) made its way into the world — I can hardly believe it! 

FullSizeRender 5(Photo credit: Bridget AKA @DarkFaerieTales_)

In case you’re new around here, a brief summary of the story: 

After his father has a life-altering stroke, Max Holden isn’t himself. As his long-time friend, Jillian Eldridge only wants to help him, but she doesn’t know how. When Max climbs through her window one night, Jill knows that she shouldn’t let him kiss her. But she can’t resist, and when they’re caught in the act by her dad, Jill swears it’ll never happen again. Because kissing Max Holden is a terrible idea.

With a new baby sister on the way, her parents fighting all the time, and her dream of culinary school up in the air, Jill starts spending more and more time with Max. And even though her father disapproves and Max still has a girlfriend, not kissing him is easier said than done. Will Jill follow her heart and allow their friendship to blossom into more, or will she listen to her head and stop kissing Max Holden once and for all?

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I wrote about the beginnings of Kissing Max Holden‘s path to publication in On Patience, Perseverance, and the Elusive Book Deal, back in December, 2015 so I’ll spare you a rehashing of how selling this book was a long, bumpy road, but please do check out that post if you’re into book-ish origin stories, or if you’re working on getting your own manuscript sold and need a little inspiration in the way of sticking it out.

Today, I’d like to say thank you…

Thank you to Holly West and Lauren Scobell, who selected Kissing Max Holden from a wealth of truly excellent Swoon Reads submissions, and helped me shape it into the story it is today. And thank you to Kat Brzozowski, who’s offered such kindness and guidance and patience over the last year.

Thank you to Jean Feiwel, who took the genius idea of a crowd-sourced YA imprint and turned it into a reality, simultaneously making my dream of publication a reality.

Thank you to my ever diligent publicist, Kelsey Marrujo. Thank you to marketing superstar and early Kissing Max Holden champion Ashley Woodfolk. Thank you to Valerie Shea and Starr Baer for their copyediting prowess. Thank you to Emily Settle for all the things. Thank you to Rebecca Syracuse for the gorgeous, gorgeous cover. Thank you to everyone else at Swoon Reads, Fierce Reads, and Macmillan who had a hand in making my debut (and my debut experience!) so amazing.

Thank you to my agent, Victoria Marini, who is smart and honest and funny and real, and who’s stuck with me through it all.

Thank you to my little group of critiquers — Alison Miller, Temre Beltz, Riley Edgewood, and Elodie Nowodazkij — for their brilliant feedback, endless inspiration, and boundless enthusiasm. All writers should be so lucky to have friends like you.

Thank you to Jessica Love, Tracey Neithercott, Jaime Morrow, Christa Desir, and Erin Bowman for sharing their wisdom, humor, and priceless critiques on Kissing Max Holden at its various stages of storydom. This book is so much better because of you!

Thank you to the #SwoonSquad for being so welcoming and warm. Thank you to my fellow 2017 middle grade and young adult authors. Your support, pep talks, and commiseration have been invaluable. Thank you to the YA community for making me feel like one of you, even in the beginning. And thank you to Jessi Kirby, Miranda Kenneally, Jessica Love, Lisa Schroeder, and Erin Bowman for the beautiful blurbs.

Thank you to my parents, for indulging my lifelong love of reading, and for stressing the importance of education, and for making me feel loved at all times. Thank you to my brothers for providing plenty of fodder for my fictional familial relationships, and for accompanying me on the wild ride that was growing up. Thank you to my mother-in-law and father-in-law for their unwavering support, and thanks to the rest of my family for their constant excitement regarding my writing. You guys are the best!

An enormous, heart-shaped thank you to my husband, who shares Max’s best traits, who always knows how to cheer me up, and who happily orders pizza when I’m in the weeds. Thank you to my daughter, who has never stopped believing this would happen, and thank you to my littlest munchkin because even now, your love of books (and me!) shines bright.

And thank you — yes, you!

Thank you for asking about my writing, for sharing my shamelessly promotional tweets/posts/images, for asking me to come to your town for a signing, for passing out my bookmarks, for preordering Kissing Max Holden, for requesting it at your library, for talking about it with the readers in your life, for complimenting its cover, its summary, and its blurbs. Thank you, so much, for your tireless support.

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Because it’s release day, I’m going to drop a few links below — you know, should you want to order Kissing Max Holden for yourself or your favorite book lover. You should also be able to find it at most major brick-and-mortar book retailers, as well as many independent bookstores. If you can’t find it, just ask! Most stores are more than willing to order requested books. 🤗

  Order Kissing Max Holden from Amazon
Order Kissing Max Holden from Indie Bound
Order Kissing Max Holden from Barnes and Noble
Order Kissing Max Holden from BAM!
Order Kissing Max Holden from Target
Order Kissing Max Holden from Powell’s
Order a signed copy of Kissing Max Holden from One More Page Books

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Kissing Max Holden‘s launch party is this Saturday, August 5th, 7PM – 8PM at One More Page Books in Arlington, VA. All are welcome, and I hope to see you there!

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And I’ll be on tour next week, so if you’re in Richmond VA, Charlotte NC, Asheville NC, Atlanta GA, or Greenville SC, please do come see me, my tour buddy, Christina June, and our lovely special guests!

KSG Tour Graphic

For information on other future appearances, visit my Out and About page.

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And… I think that’s it.

I’m officially an author now.

Dreams do come true. 💕