December Reading Wrap-Up

Five books in December!
{As always, covers link to Goodreads pages.}

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah –  This is the first Kristin Hannah novel I’ve read; it was selected by the book club I recently joined. I like historical fiction, and I’m a huge fan of books about strong women, so it’s no surprise I loved this one. It follows two sisters, Vianne and Isabelle, who are struggling to survive in WWII occupied France. Their challenges constantly test their strength, their morals, and the bond they share. This is a well-researched, hard-hitting story that is at times difficult to stomach, but I loved that about it — its unflinching portrayal of the toll war takes on unassuming towns and their citizens, particularly women. While reading, I frequently identified with different aspects of the sisters’ struggles, while at the same time feeling both awed and envious of their resilience. Pick this one up if you love accessible historical fiction, particularly stories about World War II.

Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven – So. I’ve read many reviews of this contemporary YA romance since finishing the book myself, and several of those reviews call this story troublesome for various reasons, but mostly because of its representation as far as the two main characters: Libby, a girl who is overweight, and Jack, a boy who has a cognitive disorder. And, yes, I get it — I do. But, but, but this book is worth reading as a study in voice alone. Libby’s is excellent. Truly, truly excellent. In fact, I adored her all-around. Her spirit and her strength of character, her positivity, her humor, her bad-ass-ness (she legit socks Jack in the mouth at one point, which he totally deserves). Libby. Is. Awesome. If you’re considering picking up Holding Up the Universe, I’d encourage you to do so solely because its female protagonist is an utter delight, though please go in aware of potential representation issues.

Definitions of Indefinable Things by Whitney Taylor (April 4, 2017) – I loved everything about this forthcoming contemporary YA debut, but particularly main character Reggie. She’s so dry and funny and sharp (a defense mechanism, but still) and I couldn’t help but be absorbed into her weird and wonderful world. See, Reggie falls for a boy named Snake (yes), but Snake’s fathered the town princess’s soon-to-arrive baby, so complications quickly arise. Whitney Taylor does a fantastic job of portraying Reggie’s strengths and soft spots, as well as her ongoing battle with mental illness. She also pens believably complex parental relationships. If you like slightly offbeat contemps with delightfully flawed MCs, Definitions of Indefinable Things is one to watch for this April.

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi – Such a gorgeous cover, right? It’s indicative of this fantastical 2016 debut’s dreamy, atmospheric setting and elegant prose. The Star-Touched Queen reminds me of stories like Beauty & the Beast and Hades and Persephone (girl kept by a possibly volatile dude who may or may not have a heart of gold). From what I’ve read, this novel is based on Indian mythology, which is absolutely apparent in its details. Cursed main character Maya finds herself unexpectedly married to enigmatic Amar, ruler of Akaran, a world of secrets and mysteries and magic. While Amar lavishes Maya with love and affection, she’s not sure she can trust him or his motives, making their relationship fraught with tension and, sometimes, danger. Pick this one up if you like fantasy rich in setting and full of intense romance.

A World Without You by Beth Revis – Guess what? A World Without You is straight-up contemporary, which came as a big surprise to me (because Beth Revis). That said, lot of it reads more as spec-fic because Bo, the story’s protagonist, suffers from severe delusions. He believes he is a time-traveler attending a special school for teens with “powers.” As the novel opens, his girlfriend, Sofia, has just died, though Bo is convinced that she’s actually in 1600s Salem, where he accidentally left her. He is desperate to save her, and for the better part of the story, believes he is very close. Because A World Without You is told mostly from Bo’s 1st person POV, it seems as if we really are manipulating time along with him, an unsettling experience because we also know that Bo is seriously ill. A harrowing, hard-to-put-down novel that addresses mental disorders in a manner unlike any I’ve read before.

What’s the best book you read in December?

What I Read in 2016 + All My Faves

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

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

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

Adult

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

New Adult

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

Middle Grade

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

NonFiction

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

Young Adult

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

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

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

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

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

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

Favorite 2016 YA Historical Fiction

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

Favorite 2016 YA Speculative Fiction


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

Favorite 2016 YA Fantasy Novel


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

Favorite 2016 YA Contemporary Novels

  
Wild Swans is so lovely. It’s a quiet story about a girl named Ivy who, thanks to her talented (and troubled) lineage, is striving to meet her granddad’s sky-high expectations. Give it a read the next time you’re in the mood for a heartfelt contemporary with gorgeous writing and a wonderfully relatable protagonist. The Last Boy and Girl in the World‘s main character Keeley’s lack of self-awareness made me cringe about a thousand times, but she’s absolutely charming and lovable, and its setting, a town that’s about to be sunk by a damned river, is super unique. Both of these stories surprised me in a lot of really great ways, and both Jessica Spotswood and Siobhan Vivivan are now among my favorite contemporary YA writers.

Favorite 2016 “Issue” Book

  
Other Broken Things is an unflinching exploration of alcoholism and recovery, narrated by Natalie, a seventeen-year-old girl who’s fresh out of rehab after a DUI. This story is so complex; I found myself desperate to shake some sense into Natalie while simultaneously wanting to give her the world’s biggest hug. Check this one out if you like stories about ballsy girls facing enormous challenges. When We Collided is an incredibly affecting story. It’s told from two points of view: Vivi, a girl with bipolar disorder who blows into idealistic Verona Beach like a tornado, and Jonah, a sad boy who gets swept up in her tumultuous wind. I never cry when it comes to books, but the conclusion of When We Collided ~almost~ got me. It’s so realistic, so perfectly bittersweet… I loved it.

Favorite 2016 YA Mystery


Fear Me, Fear Me Not is chilling in the best way! It’s part romance, part murder mystery, and it’s bursting with suspense. If you’re ready for a book that’ll have you searching for clues while giving you a few good scares, featuring characters who are easy to root for, plus some very well written swoon, check out Fear Me, Fear Me Not.

Favorite 2016 Family-Focused YA Novel 


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

Favorite 2016 YA Novel About Friendship


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

Favorite 2016 YA Thriller


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

Favorite 2016 YA Retelling


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

Favorite 2016 YA Romances

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

Favorite 2016 YA Magical Realism


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

Favorite 2016 Genre Bender


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

Favorite 2016 YA Series Wrap-Up


The Rose and the Dagger is a very satisfying end to an incredible duology. Renee Ahdieh pens some of the most beautiful prose I’ve read. Her descriptions are lush, and she has this way of relating her characters’ emotions that’s so powerful. This story is fantastical (flying carpets, fire manipulators, magic spells, serpents) and has some stunning twists, but it never gets lost in sensationalism. Its characters are layered and authentic, its relationships are real and often imperfect, and it’s grounded in feminism — a most excellent spin on The Arabian Nights: Tales From 1,001 Nights.

Favorite 2016 Debut


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

Favorite Reads Published Before 2016

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

Non-YA Favorites Read in 2016

 
 
I want to live in the beautiful, beautiful world that is The Night Circus. The spun-sugar prose, the lovingly crafted characters, the wonderfully vivid settings, the way multiple layers of story tie together in the end… I found it all to be perfection. Summer Skin far exceeded my sky-high expectations. It’s a college-set story about friendship and love, about learning and growing and changing for the better — even when that’s really, really hard. It’s a sexy book in all the obvious ways, but it’s the chemistry between MC Jess and trying-to-reform womanizer Mitch that makes this story sizzle. Rules For Stealing Stars tackles weighty issues (a mother’s alcoholism, most notably), but it’s a fairy tale as well, a book about sisters and magic and imagination and secrets and unbreakable bonds. Author Corey Ann Haydu combines protagonist Silly’s authentic, youthful voice with charming insight and lovely descriptions, while creating a world that is both vastly sad and infinitely hopeful. In the Unlikely Event is historical fiction set in Elizabeth, New Jersey, a town where three planes crashed in the space of 58 days in late 1951 and early 1952. I love how the fates of the fictional citizens of Elizabeth are woven together, and how each of their paths alters in the wake of the plane crashes. I also love how the early 1950s come to life within the pages of this novel. It’s all about the human experience, and it’s full of heart.

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

Authors-I-Already-Love-Must-Preorder-Can’t-Wait-For 2017 Contemporary Young Adult Novels

Laziness alert!

This morning I tweeted about some of my most-anticipated 2017 contemporary YA releases written by already-established authors. I wanted to share here, but I didn’t so much feel like drafting a whole post and searching for links and, you know, doing any additional work. Which is why embedded tweets are my friend.

Hopefully you’ll find some recommendations to anticipate right along with me!

Tell me!
What books are you most looking forward to in 2017?

November Reading Wrap-Up

I didn’t get to read as much as I wanted to this November, mostly because I participated in National Novel Writing Month, which sucked up tons of my time. Plus, it’s tough for me to get in to a story when I’m trying to draft my own. Luckily, I managed to get my hands on three totally captivating books…
{As always, covers link to Goodreads pages.}

Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson – Perfect for fans of the game The Oregon Trail, as well as those who’ve read and loved Stacey Lee’s Under a Painted Sky, Walk on Earth a Stranger follows Lee Westfall, who’s set on making it to California during the Gold Rush. She carries two secrets — first, the simple fact that she’s a girl (she’s disguised herself as a boy to make her trek across the continent safer), and second, the not-so-simple fact that she can sense gold when it’s nearby. Though Lee’s dealt a hell of a hand in the novel’s opening pages, she’s an awesome protagonist. She’s smart, brave, and driven, and there’s a sweetness about her, too, especially when she shares the page with children or her longtime friend, Jefferson. While there are threads of magic running through Walk on Earth a Stranger, it reads like historical fiction; there’s great emphasis on time and place, as well as many of the challenges travelers faced on the California Trail: disease, starvation, dehydration, theft, racism, sexism, childbirth, and power struggles. I couldn’t put this book down, and I can’t wait to pick up its follow-up, Like a River Glorious, which is out now.

Sad Perfect by Stephanie Elliot (February, 2017) – Sad Perfect is the story of Pea, a girl with ARFID, a little known eating disorder that not only makes her averse to the taste/texture/idea of most foods, but gives her great anxiety about eating new things for the first time. Stephanie Elliot does a fantastic job of describing the “monster” that lives within Pea. She made me feel Pea’s fear, and worry, and anger, and sadness in an uncomfortably visceral manner, which made me root for our protagonist all the more (though, I suspect this book could be triggering for ED sufferers and those recovering from EDs). For me, the brightest part of Sad Perfect was Ben, the boy who sweeps Pea off her feet in the most adorable and romantic ways. He’s the best sort of boyfriend: sweet and supportive and understanding, yet he challenges Pea, and always has her best interests in mind. I love how he helped her see that while seeking and accepting help would certainly be hard, it could also be worth it. Contemporary YA fans, mark Sad Perfect To Read, and keep an eye out for it in February.

Other Broken Things by C. Desir – I’ve loved Christa Desir’s writing since I read her debut, Fault Line, a few years ago. Her prose is some of the most unflinching in YA. Her third novel, Other Broken Things, is no exception. It’s an exploration of alcoholism and recovery, narrated by Natalie, a seventeen-year-old girl who’s fresh out of rehab after a DUI. She’s required to attend AA meetings, where she meets her eventual sponsor Kathy, who is both flawed and incredibly supportive, as well as Joe, a recovering alcoholic who Natalie’s immediately drawn to — regardless of the fact that he’s more than twice her age. This story is so complex; I found myself desperate to shake some sense into Natalie while simultaneously wanting to give her the world’s biggest hug. She’s dealing with a lot of heavy stuff: her addiction, a complicated relationship with her ex, distant parents, dissolving friendships, and the loss of her passion, boxing. Plus, there’s Joe, who Natalie leans on, then falls for, despite all the reasons she probably shouldn’t. I love the way this story wraps up — certainly not with a perfect bow, but in a way that feels authentic and true to Natalie’s journey. Check out Other Broken Things if you like stories about ballsy girls facing enormous challenges.

What’s the best book you read in November?

NaNoWriMo Win!

Saturday night, I won* National Novel Writing Month!

fullsizerender

What a relief to be done. And by done, I mean: done with the first 50,000 words of my very messy first draft. I’ve still got the whole third act to write, plus a bazillion hours of revising ahead of me, but this whirlwind month of writing at least 1,667 words per day is over. Phew!

I wish I could tell you more about this project of mine, but for now, holding it close feels right. I will say that I love it. A lot. It’s the first WiP I’ve drafted since The Impossibility of Us that has me feeling inspired and excited and like maybe one day, this thing could actually be a book.

Yay!

So, for now, congrats to those of who’ve already won NaNoWriMo! To those still climbing the 50,000 word mountain, you’ve got this! And to my friends who are revising or editing or brainstorming or drafting at your own pace, you are amazing and I’m totally cheering you on! ❤

*Won is a strange term. Anyone who writes any words during the month of November is a winner as far as I’m concerned.

October Reading Wrap-Up

Five books in October (one a reread)…
As always, covers link to Goodreads pages.

Wait For Me by Caroline Leech (January 31, 2017) – I loved this historical debut so much. Main character Lorna is living on her father’s Scotland farm in 1945, as WWII is winding down. When a German POW arrives to lend a hand with farm duties, Lorna is at once put-off. Her brothers are fighting for the Allies, and Lorna wants nothing to do with the perceived enemy. But as she gets to know Paul, she discovers he’s not the evil Nazi she initially took him for; he’s kind and smart and sensitive, and she begins to fall for him — a very understandable reaction because *swoon*. But being with a German soldier means that Lorna must choose between love and allegiance, Paul and her family. Author Caroline Leech does an amazing job of capturing the essence of her setting and the spirit of her protagonist — it’s obvious she’s got a deep well of knowledge when it comes to Scotland and its history — and she writes a very convincing romance, full of sweetness and steam. Mark this one To-Read now, and look for it in stores at the end of January.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini – One of my very favorites. My third read of this novel (this time I listened to the audiobook) and it was every bit as captivating and haunting as it’s been previously. If you haven’t read this Kabul-set story of friendship and love, I highly recommend picking it up.

After the Woods by Kim Savage – This psychological thriller reminded me a lot of Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects. The plots aren’t similar, but they share an unsettling sort of tension, and a cast of characters who are very hard to trust. MC Julia survived an abduction — one she became involved with because she sacrificed herself to save her best friend, Liv. Now, the anniversary of the abduction is approaching, and Julia’s grappling with resurfacing memories of her time in the woods with her sociopath kidnapper, as well as Liv’s increasingly destructive behavior. It’s obvious that something’s not right with these girls and their families and the case and the reporter who’s sniffing around, but it’s hard to pin down what, exactly, which kept me frantically turning pages. I’m a big fan Kim Savage’s writing style; Julia has issues, but she’s also got a super dry sense of humor, and I loved being in her head. I also really enjoyed Kellan — in fact, the only thing I might’ve liked to see more of is him. Check out After the Woods if you like tightly plotted, expertly written mystery/thrillers.

When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore – Everything that’s amazing about YA, basically: unique plot, gorgeous prose, unforgettable characters, plus threads of magic so strange and surreally beautiful, I couldn’t help but be absorbed into this extraordinary world. I absolutely adored The Weight of Feathers, Anna-Marie McLemore’s debut, so her sophomore novel was an auto-buy and, whoa, did it ever live up to my high expectations. It’s the story of enigmatic Miel, who grows roses from her wrist, and who deeply loves Sam, a boy who has a penchant for hanging moons about town, and who is keeping a potentially devastating secret. There’s a quartet of sisters, too, arresting mean girls with rumored preternatural powers, and they’ll stop at nothing to get their hands on Miel’s roses. When the Moon Was Ours blew me away with its twists, its reverential portrayal of LGBTQIA themes, and the lovely, tangible bond between its lead characters. All the stars (or moons) for this enchanting novel.

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley – Did I tell you guys I joined a book club? Before the Fall was our first read, a selection that had me rolling my eyes because, if I can be frank, on the long list of characters I find compelling, rich, white men are very near the bottom. I’m just rarely drawn to their narratives, and that was the case here, too. Luckily, this story of an unexplained plane crash with only two survivors has a large cast. While I mostly skimmed the sections about Bill, David, and Ben, I was completely drawn into the chapters told from the perspectives of characters like Sarah, Eleanor, and Rachel. I enjoyed, too, the complex backstories and the unique bond painter Scott shared with the only other crash survivor, little JJ. Before the Fall is wonderfully written, full of well-drawn (though at times off-putting) characters, and the way the mystery comes together at the end is satisfying. I’m glad I gave this one a read, even though it’s not a novel that fits comfortably into my wheelhouse.

What’s the best book you read in October?

Win an ARC of KISSING MAX HOLDEN!

It’s Halloween!

Today is significant for two reasons:

1. My daughter gets to dress up like an 80s pop star and collect buckets of candy from our neighbors.

2. Kissing Max Holden debuts in nine months AND its opening chapter takes place on Halloween. There’s kissing. Would you expect anything less? 💋

******

As my fingers drop away, he opens his eyes, catching my hand as it falls. I try not to fidget as he stretches it open, holds it close to his face, and studies my palm like he’s reading my fate. My fingertips are stained an odd carrot color because I spent Halloween the same way I spend most evenings: baking. The orange food tint I used to color marzipan for pumpkin cupcakes is evidence. Layered over the orange, accentuating the dips and valleys of my fingerprints, is the black liner I lifted from his pirate makeup.

He folds my palm into the web of his and drops our knotted fingers to his lap, like the two of us holding hands is the most ordinary thing in the world. “Why are you being nice?”

“I’m always nice,” I say, distracted by the heat of his hand against mine.

“Remember when we were friends?”

“Max. We’re still friends.”

“Not like we used to be.”

“Nothing’s like it used to be.” The admission makes my chest ache.

******

So, because this debut of mine hits bookstores in nine months, and because we meet Jilly and Max on Halloween, I thought a celebration was in order…

How about an ARC giveaway?!

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Guys, I’m giving away *one* advanced copy of Kissing Max Holden!

Entering is SO easy.

Be sure you’re following me on Twitter, and retweet this tweet.

That’s it!

I’ll randomly select one winner to receive an ARC of Kissing Max Holden — signed, if you want. The giveaway ends Thursday, November 3 at midnight. I’ll contact the winner on November 4. International entries are fine!

Best of luck, and Happy Halloween!