Reveling in 2019

My 2019 word is REVEL.

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In the waiting. In the necessary tasks. In the small successes and the tiny joys. I want to be present and patient. I want to appreciate. I want to celebrate. 💗

Tell me: Have you picked a focus word for the New Year?

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?

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!

KISSING MAX HOLDEN Preorder Incentive

Friends, preordering a book is an AWESOME thing to do.

First, preordering almost always ensures that you’ll pay the lowest price; many online retailers have a preorder price guarantee, meaning even if you order the book now at its full price, you’ll end up paying the lowest price that book might fall to. Win!

Second, preordering means you’ll have a brand new book delivered to your doorstep, very often on its release day. So, you don’t have to get dressed, or forgo your hot cup of coffee, or battle traffic to get that new book you’ve had your eye on. Again, win!

Third, preordering helps authors; when booksellers see preorder interest in forthcoming releases, they often purchase and shelve more copies of those releases, giving them more exposure and, hopefully, greater sales. And again, WIN!

Fourth, sometimes (THIS TIME!) there are incentives associated with preordering…

Upperman - Kissing Max Holden HI RES

If you have preordered or plan to preorder a copy of Kissing Max Holden, you’re eligible to receive the preorder incentives detailed below! 

Tier One
A gift for all who enter, while supplies last. Includes one signed Kissing Max Holden bookmark, one card featuring the secret recipe for Jilly’s *Best* Chocolate Chip Cookies, and one exclusive bookplate, personalized and signed, just for you! International.

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Tier Two
Three winners will be chosen at random to receive the gifts in Tier One, plus a cupcake notebook, nail polish in “Dream On”, a Lindt Caramel Brownie treat, and a Swoon Reads coloring book. U.S. only.

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Tier Three
One winner will be chosen at random to receive the gifts from Tiers One and Two, as well as a kissy lips cookie cutter, an arrow-heart spatula, a hardcover edition of the Cookie Love cookbook, and a “Happily Ever After” candle. U.S only.

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Here’s How To Enter

  1. Preorder a hardcover (ISBN 9781250111166) or eBook (ISBN 9781250111159) of Kissing Max Holden {UK edition hardcover (ISBN-10: 1250111161) or eBook (ISBN-13: 978-1250111166} from your favorite bookseller. For convenience, here are some quick links: AmazonIndie BoundBarnes & NobleBAM!TargetPowell’sOne More Page BooksAmazon UK, Chapters Indigo.
  2. Photograph or screenshot your proof of purchase.
  3. Fill out this KISSING MAX HOLDEN Preorder Incentive form, including your name, email address, mailing address, and preferred bookplate personalization.
  4. Email your proof of purchase to UppermanPreorders@gmail.com.

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Fine Print

Entries must be submitted via the linked form by July 31st at 11:59 PM. First Tier gifts are available to all entrants. Second and Third Tier gifts are available only to entrants with U.S. mailing addresses. Proof of purchase must be submitted for eligibility. Preorder incentive is open as long as supplies last. Gifts will be mailed on a first-come, first-serve basis, beginning in August.

Questions? Please email them to UppermanPreorders@gmail.com.

As always, thank you so much for your support! 😘

Bookanistas Rec :: THE EIGHTH GUARDIAN by Meredith McCardle

Today’s Bookanista recommendation is
The Eighth Guardian by Meredith McCardle (May 6th, 2014)

From Goodreads – Amanda Obermann. Code name Iris. It’s Testing Day. The day that comes without warning, the day when all juniors and seniors at The Peel Academy undergo a series of intense physical and psychological tests to see if they’re ready to graduate and become government operatives. Amanda and her boyfriend Abe are top students, and they’ve just endured thirty-six hours of testing. But they’re juniors and don’t expect to graduate. That’ll happen next year, when they plan to join the CIA—together. But when the graduates are announced, the results are shocking. Amanda has been chosen—the first junior in decades. And she receives the opportunity of a lifetime: to join a secret government organization called the Annum Guard and travel through time to change the course of history. But in order to become the Eighth Guardian in this exclusive group, Amanda must say good-bye to everything—her name, her family, and even Abe—forever. Who is really behind the Annum Guard? And can she trust them with her life?

I had the privilege of beta reading The Eighth Guardian for Meredith last year and have since reread the paperback (which I’m giving away today — see below!). Guys, this book is so cool. It’s time travel done right, full of twists and betrayal and fascinating historical reference; the stakes are unbelievably high.

Amanda (code name Iris) is exactly the kind of protagonist I love. She’s sassy and smart and doesn’t put up with crap from anyone. She’s so courageous, and she refuses to bow to those in positions of power, no matter the sacrifices she has to make to do what she believes in. I loved traveling through the decades with her. Oh, and Amanda has a really cute boyfriend, too. This romance lover’s a fan. 😉

The Eighth Guardian is a smart, smart book. It’s super fast-paced. The writing is top-notch. It’s a novel that makes you think. It makes you work for answers, and the payoffs are huge. Every chapter is a surprise, and almost no one’s who they originally appear to be. I love how Meredith plays with the past, bending important historical events to work with her plot. And I love how relentlessly she challenges Iris, who quickly learns that there are no easy solutions, especially when it comes to altering history.

I’m so, so happy that The Eighth Guardian is the first book in a series, and I can’t wait to follow Iris on more adventures through the past!

Want to win a signed paperback copy of The Eighth Guardian before its release? Well, lucky you, because I’m giving one away today!

To be automatically entered in the giveaway, leave a comment below telling me which historical event you’d travel to if you had a fabulous Annum Guard time travel watch…

(Giveaway is open internationally and will close Sunday, April 27th. I’ll announce the winner on Monday, April 28th. Good luck!)

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Don’t forget to check out what my fellow Bookanistas are up to:

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What’s Up Wednesday

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“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…And now, here’s what’s up with me this week…

What I’m Reading: I finished The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu (out in June) and totally dug it, and I read Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson and fell head-over-heels in love. I talked about both books in more detail in my March Reading Wrap-Up. Over the weekend, I read The Infinite Moment of UsSince reading Shine, I’ve become a fan of Lauren Myracle’s style and prose, and Wren and Charlie’s story really impressed me. This is one steamy book, friends, and I kind of loved it. (Though, the ending — I definitely could’ve used one more scene for the sake of closure!) Now, I’m reading The Symptoms of My Insanity by Mindy Raf and it is aWeSoMe! Seriously funny, and with a voice that’s just fantastically unique. How is this book not getting more hype?

   

What I’m Writing: Nothing, technically. But I am doing a lot of mental brainstorming for my Shiny New Idea, and I’m pinning all kinds of images and research sites to a (currently) secret Pinterest board. I’ve also been doing lots of beta reading, which has been a pleasure. I learn so much from immersing myself in the fantastic work of my talented friends.

What Else I’ve Been Up To: I’ve been weirdly sick over the last week. I’ll spare you the details, but it hasn’t been much fun. My girl and I have been laying low, watching a lot of The Voice and reading a lot of books. We did venture out of the house to see Noah, which sucked, frankly. There are fallen angels made of of stone, a creepy warlord who’s a descendant of Cain, plus a totally bizarre storyline involving Emma Watson (the movie’s only bright spot) and neonaticide. It’s not the kid-friendly Bible story I recall, so… Don’t take your six-year-old.

  
My girlie and I have also been doing a lot of doodling. As I mentioned above, I’m musing my next writing project, and drawing has been a sort of palate cleanser. I’m able to let my mind wander without any real commitment. It’s kind of fun!


And then there are my two furry friends. I’ve been spending a lot of time with them, too. Cuteness overload, right?

What’s Inspiring Me Now: The essay Nuts and Bolts: “Thought” Verbs by Chuck Palahniuk will be a year old in August, but I only just stumbled across it. I’ve gotta say, it’s one of the best “how to write” articles I’ve ever read, and it totally changed the way I think about point-of-view and showing vs. telling and the work required to truly paint a picture for readers. I think it’s a must-read for writers at any stage of the game. (I’ve already reread it!)

 
And… Shiny New Idea inspiration!

Tell me… What’s up with you today? 

Bookanistas Rec: LIVE THROUGH THIS

Today’s Bookanista recommendation: Live Through This by Mindi Scott (Simon Pulse, available now)

Live Through This

From Goodreads: From the outside, Coley Sterling’s life seems pretty normal . . . whatever that means. It’s not perfect—her best friend is seriously mad at her and her dance team captains keep giving her a hard time—but Coley’s adorable, sweet crush Reece helps distract her. Plus, she has a great family to fall back on—with a mom and stepdad who would stop at nothing to keep her siblings and her happy. But Coley has a lot of secrets. She won’t admit—not even to herself—that her almost-perfect life is her own carefully-crafted facade That for years she’s been burying the shame and guilt over a relationship that crossed the line. Now that Coley has the chance at her first real boyfriend, a decade’s worth of lies are on the verge of unraveling. In this unforgettable powerhouse of a novel, Mindi Scott offers an absorbing, layered glimpse into the life of an every girl living a nightmare that no one would suspect.

Coley is leading a double life. From the outside, things appear pretty great, but behind closed doors her world tragic, fraying at the seams. She’s very good at compartmentalizing, tricking herself into a normal frame of mind, and excusing away the absolutely unacceptable behavior of a family member. She lies often and to everyone — not something I normally tolerate in a narrator — but Coley’s lies are a survival mechanism, plain and simple. Instead of turning me against her, they helped me sympathize with her. And aside from sympathizing with Coley, I also just really liked her. She’s a smart girl, a caring girl, and real girl, someone I would have wanted to hang out with in high school.

Coley’s got a few great friends and she’s on the dance team, but the brightest spot in her life is Reece, a sweet band sort-of geek. Coley’s relationship with Reece plays out slowly and realistically, and I found myself wanting to hug him more than once. He’s thoughtful and funny and patient, romantic without being cheesy. He’s what high school boys should aspire to be.

Despite Coley’s likability and Reece’s charm, Live Through This is a rough read. It left me raw and sad and confused, much like Coley feels throughout the course of novel. That was okay, though, because this is a dark, serious book, an important book, one that might be capable of helping people who think they’re alone in the world feel a little less so.The subject matter is heavy. It’s dealt with in an unflinching manner that, while appropriate for this kind of “issue book,” sometimes made me uncomfortable. Mindi Scott’s clean, capable prose and Coley’s believable character arc kept me reading, though, as did the many adorable moments Coley shared with Reece.

One last note: I’ve read a few reviews that expressed displeasure with Live Through This‘s abrupt ending, but I think it works. Coley’s problems aren’t the sort that can be wrapped up neatly with a few hugs and an apologetic conversation. Mindi Scott gives her protagonist resolution, but not necessarily closure, and I found that courageous. I imagine Coley’s got a tough road ahead and to conclude this novel with a happily-ever-after would have, in my opinion, been inauthentic.

I applaud Mindi Scott for writing Live Through This, especially since (according to this letter) she has personal experience with the subject matter. And I thank Stephanie Perkins (who said: “Live Through This is by turns harrowing, sad, funny, and romantic. I couldn’t put it down.”) for sharing an ARC with me. And if you’re looking for another writer’s thoughts on this story, check out my friend Christa Desir’s post on culpability and the beauty that is Live Through This.

Don’t forget to check out Jessica Love’s recommendation of Time Between Us!

Tell Me: What’s the best “issue book” you’ve read recently?

C is for Cummings, E.E.

E. E. CummingsE.E. Cummings, 1894-1962

I’m a fan. His poetry is sparse and experimental and moving and, when he decided to become a poet as a young child, he proceeded to write a poem a day until he was twenty-two. Pretty amazing.

For more on E.E. Cummings, check out his biography at the Poetry Foundation.

One of my faves…

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i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)

i fear no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want

no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows

(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)

What’s your favorite poem?