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September/October Reading Wrap-Up

Happy Halloween! 
Below, find the books I read during the last two months. I’ve been having a hard time getting through young adult books lately (they’re usually my fave!), so this list is adult-read heavy. That said, Starry Eyes and Sadie were exceptional.

22571565Where All Light Tends to Go by David Joy
1. Unflinching. Where All Light Tends to Go is an intense, graphic story about a boy caught up in the meth ring his father runs in rural North Carolina. It centers on murder, scandal, and secrets, and while author David Joy doesn’t shy away from ugliness, he writes about this world in the most elegant way. I found myself rereading many of his beautifully penned lines.
2. YA-ish. This is an adult novel (the subject matter and themes are mature) but main character Jacob is eighteen and his voice reads as authentically teen. The heavier content was a cool change of pace without falling too far outside my usual reading scope.
3. Extraordinary pacing. There’s not one moment in this debut novel that drags. Things are constantly changing for Jacob, worsening his situation and upping the tension. I couldn’t put this book down, and its conclusion, while surprising, did not disappoint.

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The Girls by Emma Cline
1. Haunting. I’m still thinking about this book more than a month after finishing. It was evocative, ruthlessly honest, and so unsettling.
2. Coming of age. Much like Where All Light Tends to Go, the narrator of The Girls, Evie, is a teenager. She becomes mixed up in a cult reminiscent of the Manson Family, and ends up learning a whole lot about power, evil, and what it means to be a girl in the late 1960s. Evie’s arc and the characters who surround her are absolutely fascinating.
3. Gorgeous prose. I’m a big fan of Emma Cline’s writing style. Her words are vivid and her sentences are lovely, even when the subject matter is not; I ended up completely caught up in the world she spun.

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Sparkly Green Earrings by Melanie Shankle
1. FUNNY. I’m not normally drawn to books described as “hilarious”; honestly, that’s a very lofty claim. But Sparkly Green Earrings is full of wit and snark. Melanie Shankle writes with openness and humor about the not so glamorous parts of marriage and motherhood, and I couldn’t help but laugh. A lot.
2. Heartwarming. Here’s a fellow mama writing honestly about how distraught she was over a miscarriage, about how stressful potting training can be, and about getting puked on, repeatedly, by her sick toddler. Sometimes it’s really nice to be reminded that you’re not alone in the awful moments. That’s what this book did for me, and my heart was happy as a result.
3. Conversational. Melanie Shankle’s style is frank, fluid, and fun; it almost feels as if she’s sitting across the table, sharing anecdotes over coffee. Pick this one up if you’re looking for something light and bright.

35297469Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett
1. Survival story. I especially love survival stories that have a strong romantic thread. Starry Eyes is a survival story set in the California backcountry starring two former best friends turned sweethearts turned enemies. So. Good.
2. Awesome characters. Zorie and Lennon are both a little bit eccentric. She’s into astronomy, planning, and nerd-chic fashion. He’s goth and loves retiles. Also, his moms own a sex shop, so that’s fun. Zorie and Lennon, despite some major complications, are so great together. Their banter and chemistry are incredibly well written, and made this book nearly impossible to put down.
3. Sex positive. I’ve read all of Jenn Bennett’s YA novels this year, and don’t even think about asking me to pick a favorite. Her books rock, and one of my favorite things about them is their candid, affirming take on sex and sexuality. I’m such a fan, and highly recommend Starry Eyes, as well as Jenn’s other books.

34810320Sadie by Courtney Summers
1. Brutal. Like the Courtney Summers novels before it, Sadie battered my heart. It’s visceral, suspenseful, gritty, and rich. It’s affecting and incredibly entertaining — a study in outstanding storytelling.
2. Unique format. Sadie is told partly through Sadie’s first-person perspective as she hunts down her sister’s murderer, and partly through the transcripts of a podcast called The Girls, which centers on finding Sadie. What a brilliant way to relay this riveting story.
3. Unforgettable characters. Sadie, Mattie, West have burrowed into my soul. I finished this novel weeks ago, but I’m still worrying for its characters, as if they’re real people. Courtney Summers writes about the challenges of being a girl in this cruel, callous world like no other author I’ve encountered. Sadie is a must-read.

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Story Genius by Lisa Cron
I’m not going to review this book with my usual 1, 2, 3 format because I can sum it up in one sentence: Writers, you need to read Story Genius. This craft book lays out the steps in creating a character-driven “blueprint” that will help you execute a truly satisfying story — one that will hook readers from the start. Story Genius has changed the way I think about crafting narratives, and I plan to use Lisa Cron’s strategies going forward. So glad I picked this one up!

Tell me — what’s the best book you’ve read this autumn?

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YA Scavenger Hunt – Team Orange 🧡

Welcome to YA Scavenger Hunt!

This bi-annual event was first organized by author Colleen Houck as a way to give readers a chance to gain access to exclusive bonus materials from their favorite authors… and a chance to win some awesome prizes!

During this hunt, you not only get to see exclusive content from participating authors, you also get a numerical clue for the hunt. Add up the clues, and you can enter for our prize — one lucky winner will receive a book from each author on the hunt in my team! But play fast: this contest (and all the exclusive bonus material) will only be online for 120 hours!

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There are seven contests going on simultaneously, and you can enter one, or all! I’m part of the ORANGE TEAM — but there is also a red teamblue team, gold team, green teampurple team, and pink team, all offering a chance to win different sets of books.

(To learn more about the hunt, find links for all the authors participating, and see the full list of prizes, visit the YA Scavenger Hunt page.)

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SCAVENGER HUNT PUZZLE

Directions: Below, I’ve “hidden” my favorite number. (Okay, hint — it’s highlighted in orange.) Collect the favorite numbers of all the authors on the Orange Team, then add them up (don’t worry, you can use a calculator!).

Entry Form: Once you’ve visited the blogs of all members of the orange team AND added up the favorite numbers, make sure you fill out the entry form HERE to officially qualify for the prize. Only entries that have the correct number answer will be accepted.

Fine Print: Open internationally. Anyone under 18 should have a parent’s or guardian’s permission to enter. To be eligible, you must submit the completed entry form by Sunday, October 8th, at noon PST. Entries without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered.

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SCAVENGER HUNT GUEST AUTHOR

I’m excited to welcome Dana Mele, author of People Like Us, to my blog! Dana is a Pushcart-nominated writer and a work at home mother. A graduate of Wellesley College, she is a former actor, lawyer, musician, and briefly, associate producer. She prefers tea to coffee, snow to sand, and stars to sunshine, and she lives in the Catskills with her husband and toddler.

You can find Dana at her website, on Twitter, and on Instagram.

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I’m kind of obsessed with the cover of her debut People Like Us

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So fantastic, right?! And here’s the story’s synopsis…

Kay Donovan may have skeletons in her closet, but the past is past, and she’s reinvented herself entirely. Now she’s a star soccer player whose group of gorgeous friends run their private school with effortless popularity and acerbic wit. But when a girl’s body is found in the lake, Kay’s carefully constructed life begins to topple. The dead girl has left Kay a computer-coded scavenger hunt, which, as it unravels, begins to implicate suspect after suspect, until Kay herself is in the crosshairs of a murder investigation. But if Kay’s finally backed into a corner, she’ll do what it takes to survive. Because at Bates Academy, the truth is something you make…not something that happened.

Fact: I love books set at boarding schools. I’ve wanted to attend one since I was, like, nine. And I’m getting glorious Gossip Girl vibes from those uniforms. Also, a scavenger hunt, tons of secrets,  girls desperate to protect their reputations, AND a murder mystery? Yes, please!

As a special bonus, Dana’s sharing the Spotify playlist she made for People Like Us. Guys, I’ve been listening nonstop — it’s so good! If you have a Spotify account, you can listen for free. If you don’t, signing up takes three seconds –> make it happen here.

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Okay, scavenger hunters! Don’t forget to enter the contest for a chance to win books from me, Dana, and many more authors! To enter, you need to have found my favorite number, hidden in this post. Add up all the favorite numbers of the authors on the ORANGE TEAM and you’ll have the secret code to enter to win our prize!

To keep going on your quest for the secret code,  check out the next author on the Orange TeamJennifer Digiovanni.

May Reading Wrap-Up

Yes — hit my five book goal for May. 🤗
(Links –> Goodreads.)

13508607The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton
1. Lush historical fiction. The Secret Keeper jumps timelines (“WWII England through the blitz, to the ’60s and beyond” as Goodreads puts it) but maintains a strong sense of time and place through the various narratives and settings.
2. Twisty turns. The story centers around a bizarre killing (was it murder? self defense?) witnessed by teen Laurel, and principle to her character’s decades-spanning arch. The mystery kept me guessing throughout, and its conclusion was really surprising and super satisfying. All the scandalous secrets in this one!
3. Sister story. While Laurel and her sisters aren’t necessarily central to the story’s main and complex plot, their characterizations and relationships jump off the page, and cemented my investment in the story.

34520598The Leading Edge of Now by Marci Lyn Curtis (September, 2018)
1. Perfect blend of light and dark. I’m in awe of the way Marci Lyn Curtis combines humor and romance with much more serious topics like grief, sexual assault, estrangement, and the child welfare system. This is a profound and important story, one that’s full of heart and spirit.
2. Extraordinary protagonist. Grace is a survivor in so many ways; she’s faced a seemingly unfair amount of adversity in her seventeen years, but she’s witty and independent and strong and compassionate. Her voice is both hilarious and heartfelt, and she’s so easy to root for. I think YA fans are going to adore her.
3. Owen, Owen, Owen. I worry that my thoughts here might be a bit of a spoiler, so I’m printing them in white. If you’re interested in reading, highlight… Grace’s longtime off-and-on love interest has faced challenges of his own, but he’s endlessly kind and supportive and wonderful. Plus, he has a hint of an Aussie accent, so that’s delightful… ❤

35098412The Queen’s Rising by Rebecca Ross
1. Sisterhood. My favorite thing about this beautifully written fantasy is its focus on female empowerment. Main character Brienna doesn’t have biological sisters, but she fosters bonds with her school mates (as well as another woman named *spoiler*) and I loved seeing how those relationships came to impact the plot.
2. Fascinating world-building. Author Rebecca Ross has done some unique things with Brienna’s world, beginning with the “passions” she studies at her school, Magnolia House. I thought the rival countries of Valenia and Maevana were distinct and well drawn, too.
3. Strong conclusion. The Queen’s Rising is the first book in a trilogy, but it ends in fulfilling way — no frustrating cliffhanger! There are plenty of threads left open for story to come, and I’m curious to find out what happens to Brienna and company next, but I appreciate the closure Rebecca Ross provided.

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Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi
1. A study in voice. I loved this book, but it took me three weeks to read because I was pouring over sentences and passages, studying their perfect combinations of words. Emergency Contact‘s prose is as full of charisma as its main characters.
2. All the feels. Parts of this book are hysterical and parts of in are heartbreaking, but it’s entirely relatable. I found myself cringing, sometimes, because I felt Sam and Penny’s emotions so viscerally. Also, their friendship and the tentative beginnings of their romance are, in my opinion, flawlessly written.
3. Set. In. College. Guys, I wish there were more books that take place during the years just after high school. The freedom a college setting affords characters is wonderfully conducive to self discovery, and all sorts of mischief. The dynamic that both Sam and Penny have with their mothers at this point in their lives is fascinating, too.

36575818Meet the Sky by McCall Hoyle (September, 2018)
1. Survival story. I love books (and movies) about characters who are stranded, forced to by mother nature to test themselves in ways that incite growth and change. Meet the Sky‘s Sophie is a selfless, resilient girl before the hurricane hits her island home, but after? Whoa. Her courage and resourcefulness make her a character worth cheering for. It doesn’t hurt that love interest Finn provokes change in her, too, as she challenges him. I love the intensity the storm brought to their fledging relationship.
2. Beach-set book. It’s no secret that I love stories set near the ocean, and Meet the Sky takes place on North Carolina’s Outer Banks. The scenery is beautifully and evocatively described, making the setting feel like a character all its own.
3. Powerful prose. McCall Hoyle has a gift with words. Every line of her sophomore novel is compelling and lyrical. I felt Sophie’s worries and wishes as if they were my own.

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

Upcoming Events

michal-grosicki-366027(Image by: Michał Grosicki)

Hi, friends! Below, find a couple of upcoming events I’ll be participating in. If you’re in the Philadelphia or D.C./Northern Virginia areas, you should check them out! 

Swoon Reads Author Showcase & Signing
w/ Karole CozzoSandy HallL.E. Delano, & Devon Taylor
Main Point Books
Wayne, PA
February 18, 2018 4 PM
(books will be available for purchase from Main Point Books)

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NoVa TEEN Book Festival
Washington Lee High School
Arlington, VA
March 10, 2018
(Schedule / Register (free!) / Preorder Books)

Hope to see you!

I ❤️ the Holidays YA Giveaway!

 

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ENTER GIVEAWAY HERE!

(U.S. only. Ends Friday, December 15th at 11:59 PM.)

Upcoming Events…

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(Photo by Brigitte Tohm)

So looking forward to these December events;
if you’re in the Virginia/D.C./Maryland area, come see us!

Museum of Contemporary American Teenagers
Lit Night
Contemporary YA Panel
w/ Christina June & Brigid Kremmerer
Bethesda Popup Museum
Bethesda, MD
December 8, 2017 6 PM – 7 PM

YA Author Game Night
w/ Leah HendersonChristina June, & Lisa Maxwell
Scrawl Books
Reston, VA
December 15, 2017 6 PM – 8 PM

Hope to see you!

October Events

20645250_10213835576221259_8156803949160231629_oYA Debuts Reading
with Meg Eden, Lisa Rosinsky, and Misa Sugiura
East City Bookshop
October 13, 2017 6:30 PM
“Come hear debut YA authors Misa Sugiura (IT’S NOT LIKE IT’S A SECRET), Katy Upperman (KISSING MAX HOLDEN), Lisa Rosinsky (INEVITABLE AND ONLY), and Meg Eden (POST HIGH-SCHOOL REALITY QUEST) read from their works and talk about the writing and publishing process. Then, stick around for the first meeting of W(h)ine & Angst, a YA book club for readers 21+, discussing AN INHERITANCE OF ASHES by Leah Bobet.”

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Fall For the Book Festival
In the Mood for Love Panel
with Ada Calhoun & Lindsay Detwiler
Merten Hall, Room 1203, George Mason University
October 14, 2017 2:30
“Ada Calhoun, Lindsay Detwiler and Katy Upperman chat about the art of writing about L-O-V-E across genres. In WEDDING TOASTS I’LL NEVER GIVE author Ada Calhoun is revered for her honesty, poignancy, and sense of humor in her memoir about the complexity of marriage. Calhoun is a contributor to the New York Times’ “Modern Love” column. Romance novelist Lindsay Detwiler shares the gripping tale of a married couple, fighting for their lives and their love in the novel REMEMBER WHEN. Katy Upperman continues the discussion with her debut YA novel KISSING MAX HOLDEN about a forbidden teenage romance with the boy next door.”

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Roundtable: A Conversation with Authors of Teen Fiction
Catonsville Library
Sunday, October 22, 2017 2:00
“Join 6 writers of fiction for teens (Faith Boughan, Meg Eden, Christina June, Kathy MacMillan, Sharon Huss Roat, and Katy Upperman) for a lively, interactive panel discussion about their inspirations, writing process, and the value of stories in the modern world. Books will be available for purchase and signing after the program.  This panel is co-sponsored by Baltimore County Public Library and the MD/DE/WV Region of the Society for Book Writers and Illustrators.”

Hope to see you! ❤