It's a New Year! Let's Start It Off Right

In 2015, my word for the year was GRATITUDE. I knew the debut experience would be a whirlwind, and I didn't want to lose sight of how thankful I am to get to do this thing I love. (Writing books, if that wasn't clear...) I haven't picked my word for 2016 yet—stay tuned for that—but as I was thinking about making some changes to my blog, I decided I want to keep the gratitude party going. 

Last year, I reviewed a ton of books. In particular, I committed myself to writing up a paragraph about each and every fellow 2015 debut I read, to help spread the word about my peers' books. (This actually started in late 2014, with early ARCs, but continued through this past fall.) In the beginning, I was so excited to be book-talking SO MUCH. But, as life got busy and the stack of books I had waiting to be reviewed on the blog piled up, it started to feel a little like a chore. Plus, I missed blogging about other stuff! 

So, here's my new plan for 2016. Each Friday, I'm going to share my Friday Five: five good things from the past week (or things I'm excited about that are coming up). These good things might include books I'm enthusiastic about! Or they might include writing milestones, or fun activities, or a sunshine-filled day, or...whatever. I just know I want to take a step back and think about this space beyond being book promo (mine, and others). I also want to keep this project simple and fun.  

So without further ado, here's this week's Friday Five: 

1) I finished the first draft of my newest manuscript! I read somewhere that a first-first draft should really be called a "discovery draft," and this draft is 100% that. I figured out so much about the story and the characters just by writing it. And yes, I dropped threads that I have to return to and weave in through the rest of the book. I also have huge holes to fill, where I didn't quite know what happened next, so I skipped it and wrote the next scene I *did* know. But there's a beginning, a middle, and an end, and the main characters have roughly sketched arcs, and I can't wait to start making it a draft someone could actually read. 

2) After a crazy-busy holiday season and a sick post-holiday week (darn those adorable baby nephews and their adorable runny noses!), this week was back to business as usual—in the best way. I got my work done without feeling stressed. I took three dance classes and a yoga class. I ran some errands I'd been avoiding. I got a haircut. Life is good. 

3) I read some amazing books! (See—promised there'd be books in here!) Submitting high, high recommendations for ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE by Anthony Doerr and THE SACRED LIES OF MINNOW BLY by Stephanie Oakes. 

4) My new stocking-stuffer socks aren't just awesome because they're purple with stars and say "You're the Bestest" on them. They're also awesome because, as it turns out, they're perfect dance class socks. Just the right amount of friction. Score. 

5) There's Star Wars ice cream in my freezer. FOUR PINTS OF IT. 

What are you happy about this week? 


My 2015 Reading Review (Data! Charts! Yay!)

The grand total is in! I finished 117 books in 2015! 


In 2014, I read 94 books. I gave myself the goal of passing 100 this year. So...mission accomplished! Way to go, self. :) 

I've been keeping a running reading list all year long—and I've been logging a lot more info than simply what I read and whether I enjoyed it. I decided I wanted a glimpse of my reading habits as a whole. And long story short, I'm so glad I did this! Not only is it interesting to see the trends (or at least, it's interesting to me), this is helping me set new reading goals for 2016. 

So, without further ado: 

Clearly, this was a year jam-packed with YA. I read so many of my fellow 2015 debuts' books, and many of them write YA. Plus, I met so many other YA authors at various events this year, and found myself wanting to read everything they wrote! Luckily, young adult literature just keeps getting better and better. I don't regret any bit of that 78.6%. That said, here's goal #1 for 2016:

I want to read more adult literature next year. There are some amazing adult books on my radar—one of them, ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE, was a Christmas present, and I dove right in. Not that I plan to read less kidlit, but maybe I can strike a better balance. 


This one crosses all age demographics—and I'll say up front that there are a lot of genre-crossing books that I pushed into one category or another. Also, within that Sci-Fi / Fantasy pie slice, I've slotted books that are technically magical realism, steampunk, speculative fiction, and other subgenres. The pie chart was getting so unwieldy with all the tiny slices! But the clear winner here is realistic fiction—a minor surprise, given that I really do love the fantastic and magical. Goal for 2016: 

More nonfiction, for sure. Out of those 117 books, only one was nonfiction. I can do better! 

Moving on: 

2015 was the year of the ARC. Being in a debut group means having the chance to read your peers' books months before release. With my debut year over, that ARC access is about to dry up. So, I expect the library slice to grow in 2016. (After all, I don't have unlimited book-buying funds—or unlimited shelf space in my Brooklyn apartment!)

Those were the three charts I originally planned to make, but once I started parsing my list, I couldn't stop, so here are two more:  

As my bookshelves grow ever more packed, I've been making a conscious effort to return to books I enjoyed rather than always jumping at the newest thing out there. In 2015, I reread seven books that I loved the first time around—and I was pleased to love them again! I want to do more rereading in 2016, when I don't have a constant stream of debut ARCs landing in my mailbox. 

I was also very curious about the diversity of my reading list. I started by looking at the male/female breakdown and was pleased to see how many awesome ladies' books passed through my hands in 2015. But in terms of other criteria (for instance, books with non-white authors and characters), I didn't do quite as well. In 2016, I definitely want to seek out more diverse stories—especially "own voices" books (stories told by authors who share the protagonist's race, religion, sexuality, disability, etc.). My world has expanded so much through the characters I've met in literature—and I want that to happen on an even bigger scale. 

So that's it for now! Do you keep track of your reading habits? Do you have reading goals for 2016? (Oh, by the way—I'm not setting a numerical goal for the next year. I just want to see where the reading winds take me.) 

Here's to a wonderful reading year! 


Friday Reads: Announcing...My Top Ten Reads of 2015!

It's that time of year again! A chill is in the air, snowflakes are falling—no, wait, it's been unseasonably warm in NYC for the past week and a half. But December's almost over, which means it's time to recap my favorite reads of 2015. 

A few bits of business up front: 

1) This post includes only books I read for the first time in the past calendar year.

2) Wondering where your favorite 2015 debuts are? Since I read so many 2015 debuts as ARCs, a few of them made it onto my Top Ten Reads of 2014 list, which you can check out HERE

3) At the time of writing this post, I was reading my 114th book of 2015. This has been an unprecedented reading year for me, and who knows if I'll ever get through this many books in a year again! But suffice it to say, it wasn't easy narrowing down my list to ten standout books. 

So without further ado, here are my favorite reads of 2015, in chronological order of when I read them: 

CONVICTION by Kelly Loy Gilbert (original review HERE

UNDER A PAINTED SKY by Stacey Lee (original review HERE

MORE HAPPY THAN NOT by Adam Silvera (original review HERE

I'LL MEET YOU THERE by Heather Demetrios (original review HERE

THE WALLS AROUND US by Nova Ren Suma (original review HERE

BONE GAP by Laura Ruby (original review HERE

THE ROYAL WE by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan (original review HERE

DUMPLIN' by Julie Murphy (original review HERE

CARRY ON by Rainbow Rowell (original review HERE

STATION ELEVEN by Emily St. John Mandel (original review HERE

These books made me laugh, cry, and swoon. I fell in love with the characters and marveled at the prose. But you'll notice that in most of those posts linked above, there are other books reviewed as well—and I highly recommend checking all of them out! I read SO MANY wonderful books this year, from debut authors and veterans alike. 

And on that note, I'm going to do one last wrap-up post at some point before the end of the year. I've been keeping track of the genre, intended age, and more for all of the books I've read in 2015, and I'm going to make some...*drum roll*...infographics! So if you're into that sort of thing, keep an eye on this space in the coming weeks. 

For now, Happy Holidays—and Happy Reading! 


Friday Reads: A Roundup of Awesome

I've fallen behind on my book reviews once again, but I had to get in a few more shout-outs before I do my "Best of 2015" list (probably next week). So here we go! 

Julie Murphy's DUMPLIN' is amazing. I loved this book so much! I have gushed and gushed about it since reading it a month and a half ago. What's it about? Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson is full of confidence and sass, but when she strikes up a secret relationship with the hot jock at work, Bo, she feels herself start to falter. It doesn't help that her best friend has some new friends—girls who think of Willowdean as the joke she's never wanted to be. To regain her sense of self, she decides to do the craziest thing she can think of: she signs up for her town's beauty pageant, bringing several other "misfits" along with her. The fact that her mom—who gave her the nickname Dumplin'—runs the pageant is only the first hurdle Willowdean has to overcome. This book is sweet and funny and romantic and heart-wrenching and empowering and triumphant. Everyone should read it. 

If that seems like a high bar to set for the books in this post, it's a good thing my next one was just as awesome. Rainbow Rowell is an auto-buy for me at this point. I don't even need to know what the book is about—I'll probably adore it. But for CARRY ON, which is a spin-off of Rowell's FANGIRL (spoiler: I love that one, too), the anticipation was HIGH. This book is the finale of the fictional Simon Snow series Rowell invented for FANGIRL, except instead of being written by fictional author Gemma T. Leslie or FANGIRL protagonist Cath, it's Rowell's own take on Simon, Baz, and their friends' adventures. You don't have to have read FANGIRL to enjoy this one. It's a clever and magical (heh) twist on Harry Potter and other Chosen One stories, beautifully written and filled with wrenching emotion and epic romance. Highly recommended! 

Next up is what has become (sadly) a rarity on this blog: an adult book! (Hoping to rectify that next year, but that's a tangent for another post...) I'd heard wonderful things about Emily St. John Mandel's STATION ELEVEN, and it did not disappoint in the least. This is a literary dystopian that jumps back and forth between the collapse of modern society and a future generation of traveling performers navigating the devastated landscape of what used to be the United States. There are also flashbacks that examine the lives of the people whose descendants are facing this grim future—which includes a religious cult that's taken over a small settlement. I don't want to give too much more away, so I'll just finish by saying that STATION ELEVEN is absolutely gripping. 

I am still catching up on my Fearless Fifteener debuts, and I finally got my hands on one I was really looking forward to! Fonda Lee's ZEROBOXER is not my usual genre: a science-fiction sports book. That said, I don't care if you're into sci-fi or sports, this book is worth reading. Carr Luka is a rising star in the sport of zeroboxing, which is basically weightless combat in a cube-shaped arena. After several big wins, he becomes the face of his sport—and an inspiration to the people of Earth. But just as his career is soaring to the next level, he uncovers a criminal conspiracy that has implications not only for his own future, but for the future of Human-Martian diplomatic relations. The zeroboxing scenes are cinematic and beautiful, while Carr's personal struggles are rendered realistically and become truly gut-wrenching. This book will make you think and it will make you cheer. 

Courtney C. Stevens' debut, FAKING NORMAL, was among my top reads of 2014, so you can be sure I was eagerly awaiting her follow-up, THE LIES ABOUT TRUTH. Stevens is so good at digging around in the emotional guts of a story. She grabs you by the feels and squeezes. In this book, Sadie is living in the aftermath of a car accident that shattered her group of friends, killing her close friend Trent. She's physically and emotionally scarred. The only person she's been able to connect with is Trent's brother Max. They've been emailing for months, slowly opening up to each other. But as the anniversary of the accident approaches, Sadie has to decide how much more she's willing to open up and let go. Throw in a small mystery about secrets Sadie has long kept hidden starting to appear in her mailbox and you have a seriously engrossing read. Don't miss this one! 

Finally, I recently finished Dahlia Adler's newest YA, JUST VISITING. I love friendship stories, and this is such a shining example of that genre! While there is romance in it, the most important relationship in this book is between the two narrators: BFFs Reagan and Victoria. The plot centers around their college visits, as the two of them assess what they want from their future and begin to realize that their paths might not be as intertwined as they'd always believed. Reagan is studying and working tirelessly to get out of the small town where she was raised, which feels more and more like a prison. Victoria has big-city fashion-design dreams—but isn't in as much of a hurry to escape her home and her life. They plan to room together in college, but when everything they haven't said to each other starts to come out, things get complicated fast. If you like BFF stories, check this one out! 

Phew—that's the end of this post! 

Coming up: I'll share my Top 10 Reads of 2015. And as for 2016, there'll be some changes 'round this here blog, so stay tuned... :) 


It's December! If You're Holiday Book-Shopping, This Post Is For You.

I know my blogging has been sporadic at best recently, and I promise there are more book-recommendation posts coming your way soon. (Spoiler alert: I have been reading a LOT of amazing things!) However, today's post falls into the promotional camp. 

I've heard from several family friends that they're buying THE DISTANCE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND for people for Christmas—and I am so very grateful! As a way to say thank-you, I want to send anyone who buys DISTANCE this holiday season a signed bookmark and a DISTANCE sticker. I'll also give away up to five DISTANCE water bottles. (They're awesome—I use mine all the time!) Add the swag to your holiday gift—or keep it for yourself as an "I'm an awesome gift-giver" pat on the back. No judgment here! 

To collect your book swag, all you have to do is email me through this page. Tell me how many copies you're giving away and include your mailing address. You can also tell me who you're giving the book to—I'd love to hear all about it. Then, I'll get your items in the mail in time for holiday gift-giving! 

I'll keep the window open until December 15—that way, I'll still have time to get to the post office in time for a pre-Christmas delivery. On the 15th, I'll pick the water bottle winners as well. 

So Happiest of Holidays to all who celebrate, and thank you so much for making 2015 a wonderful, book-filled year! 


Friday Reads: A Few More Fearless Fifteeners

I can't believe it's been almost a month since I updated this blog! But what better to bring me back from a brief hiatus than two more Fearless Fifteener ARCs. I've been trying to keep up with the fall releases, since they don't get quite as much hype as their early-in-the-debut-year counterparts, and these two didn't disappoint. Plus, they're both vaguely Halloween-y! 

I read Jen Klein's JILLIAN CADE: (FAKE) PARANORMAL INVESTIGATOR while flying back from the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville earlier this month. It's such a fun, fast-paced read! Jillian Cade is paying the bills by keeping her father's paranormal private investigation firm open while he travels the world. The only catch: she doesn't actually believe in ghosts or anything else she handles for her clients. Then weird things start happening. She finds an obituary for herself—from the future—in her locker. Then a missing person case she takes on for a queen bee at her school takes a turn for the weird, seeming to involve succubi. Plus, new guy Sky Ramsey keeps tagging along while Jillian works—and he knows just as much about the paranormal as she does. This book is a page-turner, especially as you learn how much more there is to Jillian's world than even she knows. It reads like Veronica Mars suddenly started researching supernatural phenomena, and it's out now, so get thee to a bookstore! 

In keeping with the is-there-or-isn't-there-a-paranormal-explanation theme of this post, I just finished Alexandra Sirowy's THE CREEPING. It's a masterful, and yes, creepy book that keeps you on your toes the whole time, never certain if the monsters that set the story into motion are real or metaphorical. The plot: eleven years ago, Stella survived something in the local woods that she still can't remember. Her friend, Jeanie, never came back, and every year around the anniversary, Stella finds herself once again wondering what traumatized her so much that her memory is a blank. But when a new body shows up—a Jane Doe who looks remarkably like six-year-old Jeanie—Stella's memories start to return. With help from her oldest friend, Sam, and Jeanie's angry and distraught older brother, Daniel, Stella decides to investigate. But finding out what really happened could put her in danger again...and that's just about all I can say without spoiling the reading experience. THE CREEPING is also out now, so once again: get thee to a bookstore! 

I've read some other great books lately, so fingers crossed I'll have time to blog again before too long. Also, I can't believe the debut year is almost over! It's been such a pleasure to read so many of my peers' wonderful debuts, and I can't wait to see what they all write next. :) 


It's Time for the Fall 2015 YA Scavenger Hunt!

Are you ready to enter to win a WHOLE LOT of books? Here's what you need to know: 

Somewhere in this blog post, I've hidden my favorite number. Collect all of the favorite numbers of the authors on TEAM PURPLE and add them up. (Don't worry—you can use a calculator!) 

Once you've added up all the numbers, make sure you fill out the entry form HERE. Only entries that have the correct number will qualify to win a copy of every book from TEAM PURPLE. 

The contest is open internationally. Anyone below the age of 18 should have a parent or guardian’s permission to enter. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the completed entry form by SUNDAY, OCTOBER 4TH, at noon Pacific Time. Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered.

There are EIGHT contests going on simultaneously, and you can enter one or all! I am a part of the PURPLE TEAM, but there is also a RED TEAM, GOLD TEAM, ORANGE TEAMPINK TEAM, BLUE TEAM, TEAL TEAM, and a GREEN TEAM! Check out each team for a chance to win eight different sets of signed books!

If you’d like to find out more about the hunt, see links to all the authors participating, and see the full list of prizes up for grabs, go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page

Now that all the technical stuff is out of the way, I’ll introduce the author I am hosting on this hunt: Courtney Alameda! 

Courtney Alameda has spent her entire career trying to con and cajole people into reading great books. A veteran bookseller and librarian, Courtney now spends her days writing thriller and horror novels for young people. Her debut novel, SHUTTER, was hailed as a "standout in the genre . . . [and] sure to please thriller fans" by School Library Journal. Her forthcoming novel, PITCH DARK (Fall 2016), is a genre-blending science fiction/horror novel in the vein of Ridley Scott's film ALIEN.

Courtney holds a B.A. in English Literature with an emphasis in Creative Writing from Brigham Young University. She is represented by the talented John M. Cusick of Greenhouse Literary. A Northern California native, she now resides in Utah with a legion of books and a five pound cat who possesses a giant personality. 

Courtney made a video about a paranormal experience she had while researching SHUTTER. Without further ado: 

Oooh, so spooky! I have to confess, I am a wuss about scary situations, so I will not be following in Courtney's footsteps anytime soon... :) 

Here's what you need to know about Courtney's book, SHUTTER: 

Micheline Helsing is a tetrachromat—a girl who sees the auras of the undead in a prismatic spectrum. As one of the last descendants of the Van Helsing lineage, she has trained since childhood to destroy monsters both corporeal and spiritual: the corporeal undead go down by the bullet, the spiritual undead by the lens. With an analog SLR camera as her best weapon, Micheline exorcises ghosts by capturing their spiritual energy on film. She's aided by her crew: Oliver, a techno-whiz and the boy who developed her camera's technology; Jude, who can predict death; and Ryder, the boy Micheline has known and loved forever. 

When a routine ghost hunt goes awry, Micheline and the boys are infected with a curse known as a soulchain. As the ghostly chains spread through their bodies, Micheline learns that if she doesn't exorcise her entity in seven days or less, she and her friends will die. Now pursued as a renegade agent by her monster-hunting father, Leonard Helsing, she must track and destroy an entity more powerful than anything she's faced before...or die trying. 

Lock, stock, and lens, she’s in for one hell of a week.

Still on the YA Scavenger Hunt? There are two things you need to move forward. One: My favorite number—42. And two: Your next stop on the Hunt. Head to Gina Ciocca's website for more great book content and goodies! 

Still with me? I'm excited to be doing a giveaway of my own, as a thank-you for joining the Hunt! Happy reading... 


What's on the Horizon for October?

I can't believe it's fall! I can't believe September's almost over! I have no idea where the time is going. But at least October is gearing up to be an excellent month. Here are a few things you should definitely have on your radar: 

I'm participating in the YA Scavenger Hunt for the second time! Just to refresh your memory, this is the giant online event where a bunch of YA authors open up their blogs for readers to get sneak peeks of upcoming books, read deleted scenes from and learn other tidbits about published books, and enter for a chance to win a WHOLE LOT OF BOOKS. I'm on Team Purple, with 19 other amazing authors. The hunt is running October 1-4, so if you're interested in participating, check back here this coming Thursday to dive in! Each blog post includes a link to the next post and a clue to help you win the grand prize. Go HERE for more info.


The next thing you need to know for October is that the YA Buccaneers are hosting a month-long Fall Writing Bootcamp! More details will be announced on Monday, but I can tell you this: starting October 1, I'll be diving into a new project that I'm a bit nervous about, and I'd love to have other people bootcamping alongside me. Join us for writing and revising prompts, brainstorming sessions, word sprints, and much-needed writer camaraderie! More info will be HERE on Monday. 

Finally, I'm so, so excited to be talking about THE DISTANCE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND at the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville over Columbus Day weekend, October 9-11. My panel is on Sunday, 10/11, from 2-3:30pm. I'll be sharing the stage with fellow YA authors Helene Dunbar and Will Walton, with a signing immediately afterward. If you're in the area, please stop by and say hello! It's going to be such an amazing festival, with some truly spectacular YA events. For more on the Southern Festival of Books, go HERE.

(And on a personal note, my newest nephew is supposed to be born right around that time, so there is a great possibility that my visit will also include snuggling an adorable baby! Never mind the total adorableness of my other two Nashville-based nephews...) 

It's hard to be mad about how fast the year is moving when there are such good things on the horizon. Stay tuned for more! 


Friday Reads: Four More Fearless Fifteeners

The Fearless Fifteeners ARC tour is trickling down as the fall releases start to actually release, but that doesn't mean I'm done reading my fellow 2015 debuts' books! Over the past two weeks, I've read one ARC and three books that are already on shelves in my quest to catch up on everything my fabulous peers have been writing. Here's a brief rundown: 

Emily Adrian's LIKE IT NEVER HAPPENED is about Drama kids getting into very dramatic situations. Rebecca Rivers and her theater friends have named themselves the Essential Five. One of their rules: they can't date each other. But after Rebecca falls for handsome, overachieving Charlie, the rules start to change. Then someone at school makes an accusation about Rebecca and the Drama teacher, Mr. McFadden, and everything—friendships, relationships, Rebecca's acting dreams—starts to unravel. I loved this book's portrayal of Rebecca's passion for acting, as well as the sharp character dynamics among the Essential Five. If you like high school stories, check this one out. It's on shelves now! 

I have been waiting and waiting to read the final version of my friend Kim Liggett's romantic horror debut, BLOOD AND SALT! It finally slithered into my hands in late August. Here's what I can tell you about the plot: Ash has visions of a dead girl. She always has. And now that she's a teenager, the dead girl looks exactly like her. When Ash's mom leaves New York City to return to the spiritual commune where she was raised, Ash and her twin brother, Rhys, go after her. But in magical Quivira, Kansas, surrounded by a menacing cornfield and protected by Ash's powerful immortal ancestor, Katia, they find more than they bargained for. Including Dane, a boy Ash is immediately drawn to—and not just because he's super-hot. This book has a creepy cult, plenty of unrequited love, and lots of blood. If that sounds like your thing (especially getting close to Halloween), it's out on September 22nd!  

And now for something completely different! Lauren Gibaldi's THE NIGHT WE SAID YES is a dual-timeline romance about first love and second chances. One year ago, Ella met Matt. They and their two best friends spent a night saying "Yes" to every idea, with exhilarating results. Now, about to head to college, Ella sees Matt for the first time since he left and broke her heart. The story jumps back and forth between "Then" and "Now," and you gradually learn more about what brought Ella and Matt together and what tore them apart. But can they start over? Is what they felt before still there? This book made me smile so many times. Ella and Matt have such great chemistry—a must in a YA romance. But this book is also about friendship. I have to give a shout-out to Ella's BFF Meg, the other most important person in her life. THE NIGHT WE SAID YES is on shelves now! 

Finally, I am smack in the middle of Maggie Hall's THE CONSPIRACY OF US, and it is every bit as swoony and jet-set-y (I can make that a word, right?) as I expected. When Avery West finds out that she's related to the most important people on the planet—the Circle, twelve powerful families that control world governments, stock markets, and more behind the scenes—she's whisked off on a race around the globe. There are people who believe she's the fulfillment to a centuries-old prophesy—and people who want her dead. There are also two hot guys: steady, British Jack and Swedish/Russian bad-boy Stellan. I'm not far enough into the story to know which way the love triangle's going to swing, or how deep the conspiracy goes, but I am definitely along for the ride. THE CONSPIRACY OF US came out in January (I know, I'm so late on this one!) and you definitely want to read it before its sequel comes out next year. 

That's it for now! 


Friday Reads: YA Buccaneers Summer Reading Challenge Check-In

A quick post today, just to share the latest book I read for the YA Buccaneers' Summer Reading Challenge! It's a super fun one, not only in terms of the book itself, but also because it was edited by my editor at HarperCollins, Alexandra Cooper. I love seeing the results of Alex's work with other authors, and this book did not disappoint. 

KISSING IN AMERICA, by Margo Rabb, is about first love, friendship, family, grief, and loss. Eva Roth's father died two years ago in a plane crash, and Eva's relationship with her mom hasn't been the same since. While her mom seems to have completely moved on with her life, throwing herself into work and a new relationship, Eva still feels her dad's loss sharply. To ward off her grief, she's turned to romance novels—and when she's paired with heartthrob Will at an after-school tutoring session, Eva finds romance in real life. But Will moves to California, and Eva is left pining for him in NYC. So she concocts a plan: she and her best friend, Annie, will apply to be on a game show for gifted teens in L.A. They'll go on a cross-country road trip to get there. They'll win scholarship money, and she'll be reunited with Will. Of course, not everything goes according to plan... KISSING IN AMERICA made me laugh and cry. It's a vivid portrait of grief, but it's also filled with a spirit of adventure. I loved Annie and Eva's friendship so much. Highly recommend! 

I put it in the Road Trip category on my YAB Summer Reading Challenge bingo card: 

What have you been reading this summer? 


Friday Reads: Catching Up With Fearless Fifteener Books!

I've read four Fearless Fifteener books over the past two weeks, and they were all amazing! I'm so excited, over and over (so much that you're probably tired of hearing about it...), to be debuting in a year filled with so much talent and so many wonderful books. Here are my latest recommendations: 

BLACKBIRD FLY by Erin Entrada Kelly is a charming and powerful middle-grade novel about a girl, Apple, who immigrated to Louisiana from the Philippines with her mom as a child. Now in middle school, Apple is having trouble fitting in. Her friends are striving to join the popular crowd, and Apple—who doesn't have everyone else's All-American looks, or eat "normal" food at home, or have a traditional, PTA-style mom—isn't helping their cause. Apple is eager to shed her Filipino identity, but her mom doesn't want her becoming too American. She also doesn't want Apple pursuing her passion for music. But Apple is determined to become a rock star, no matter what else is going on in her life. Kept afloat by The Beatles and by a new friend, Evan, who accepts her as she is, Apple finally starts to thrive. I think every middle-grader should read this lovely book about belonging and standing out! It's on sale now. 

HOW TO BE BRAVE by E. Katherine Kottaras is a quiet contemporary story about Georgia, who is reeling after the recent loss of her mother and struggling to connect with her father, who has thrown his full attention into his restaurant instead of his daughter. Inspired by one of her mother's final notes to her, Georgia makes a list of things she's wanted to do but never felt brave enough to try. But as she checks items off that list, going outside her comfort zone for the first time, her world continues to change around her. A crush goes wrong. Her best friend seems to be pulling away. And all the while, Georgia is still grieving over the loss of her mother and wondering about the future—a future without her mom in it. This is a quick, powerful read. In fact, I only put it down halfway through to call my own mom. :) Check this book out when it releases November 3. 

THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS by Anna Marie McLemore is a gorgeous, lyrical fairy tale. It's Romeo & Juliet set among two rival traveling performance troupes. The Palomas do a mermaid act, while the Corbeaus dance high in the trees. When they land in the same small town to start an annual festival engagement, sparks fly. Each family is convinced the other is responsible for a tragic disaster thirty years ago—and that the incident was caused by black magic. To touch a member of the opposite family is to become infected with that black magic. But after a sudden and toxic storm throws Lace Paloma and Cluck Corbeau into each other's lives, everything starts to change. The resulting story is magical realism at its best, and the writing, tinged with Spanish and French for the respective families, is just beautiful. Don't miss this book when it comes out September 15!

Finally, I read DAMAGE DONE by Amanda Panitch, a psychological thriller that released this past Tuesday! Here's how addictive this book is: I bought it at Amanda's launch party Tuesday evening and was two-thirds of the way through the book by bedtime. DAMAGE DONE is about Julia, whose twin brother perpetrated a school shooting—of which she was the only survivor. To escape the hordes of reporters, as well as neighbors and former friends who now want nothing to do with them, Julia's family leaves town. In a new city, Julia Vann becomes Lucy Black and tries to move on with her life. But her fragile peace is shattered when a figure from her past shows up...and to say too much more about the plot is to risk spoiling its twists and turns. If you enjoy dark and dangerous books where not everything is as it seems, I highly recommend this book. 

As for the YA Buccaneers' Summer Reading Challenge, I was able to add one book: THE ROYAL WE by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan (aka The Fug Girls, whose site I have been reading for years...). I slotted this book into "Historical" because it takes place over about a decade, starting in the mid-2000s. Yes, I know that's a bit of a stretch, but how else am I supposed to finish my bingo board? And anyway, THE ROYAL WE, which is about an American college student who studies abroad and falls in love with the English crown prince, was fantastic. I highly recommend it. :) 

Here's the current status of my Summer Reading Challenge bingo board: 

YAB Summer Reading Challenge 7.24.15.jpg


This past week, I crossed two more books off of my bingo card for the YA Buccaneers' Summer Reading Challenge! Here's where my grid stands as of now: 

What's new since last week? First, after seeing tons of people raving about it on Twitter, I read Noelle Stevenson's NIMONA for the graphic novel category. What a delightful book! It's about a shapeshifting girl, Nimona, who apprentices herself to the land's leading supervillain, Lord Ballister Blackheart. With Nimona by his side, Blackheart is far more powerful than he'd ever dreamed possible. And together, the two uncover information that perhaps the heroes they fight aren't so heroic after all... NIMONA is a fast, fun read that I would recommend for just about every age. 

I also finally caught up with the rest of the YA world by reading Victoria Aveyard's RED QUEEN, which came out in February. It definitely didn't disappoint! RED QUEEN takes familiar epic fantasy tropes and spins them in new ways, keeping you turning pages faster and faster until the bitter end. I can't wait for the sequel, GLASS SWORD, which is due out next February. (In fact, I almost wish I'd waited longer to read RED QUEEN, if only because I could have grabbed book 2 right away!) 

Finally, I'm in the middle of Dahlia Adler's UNDER THE LIGHTS, the sequel to her 2014 debut, BEHIND THE SCENES. UNDER THE LIGHTS follows two secondary characters from BEHIND THE SCENES: Vanessa Park, a Korean-American actress trying to break out in Hollywood (and finding unexpected romance along the way), and Josh Chester, a Hollywood bad boy trying to figure himself out in front of and behind the camera. So far, it's funny and insightful and swoony (ahem...Van and Bri...). I went ahead and added it to my bingo card, since I will definitely finish it today. :) 

Anyone doing the Summer Reading Challenge with me? Whether you are or aren't, what are you reading right now? 


Friday Reads: YA Buccaneers Summer Reading Challenge (plus two ARC reviews!)

Happy Fourth of July weekend! Hope you're all off from work today and gearing up for fireworks, BBQ, etc. After a busy work-week, I'm definitely planning to enjoy a little relaxation time. And reading time, obviously. Gotta keep adding to and subtracting from that stack of books...

This summer, the YA Buccaneers are once again doing their Summer Reading Challenge, and although I got off to a late start in June (um, giant book revision, anyone?), I have now hit my stride. Here's my progress as of today: 

Want to get in on the oh-so-awesome reading action? The introductory Summer Reading Challenge post, complete with the empty bingo board for you to download, is HERE. We'll all be posting our progress each week, and if you join us there's a chance to win some great bookish prizes along the way!

As for my usual Friday Reads content, I have to give a quick shout-out to the two Fearless Fifteener ARCs I read this past week. MADE YOU UP by Francesca Zappia is about Alex, who was diagnosed at a very young age with schizophrenia and faces a daily battle to keep track of what's real and what isn't. As a reader, one of the best things about this book is doing the same thing—thanks to Alex's first-person narration, it's often hard to tell what's real and what's a symptom of Alex's illness, bringing a hint of mystery to even seemingly innocuous details. Plus, Zappia writes about schizophrenia with compassion and care, creating a wonderful portrayal of something I haven't seen in YA before. 

AFTER HOURS by Claire Kennedy offers mysteries of a different kind. Each of the four narrators—teens who work at the upscale Waterside Cafe and participate in the restaurant's long-running high-stakes game of Tips—is hiding something from the others. Part of the fun of Kennedy's book is seeing how the dares the characters create and participate in reveal more about them. AFTER HOURS is a quick read filled with drama, and I ate it up. 

That's all for now—see you next week! 


Friday Reads: Catching Up, Part 2

Remember last week how I said I had so many books I wanted to review? Here are four more wonderful books that I read during my trip into the revision black hole that was late April through early June. Pick up any one, and I doubt you'll be disappointed. 

I was so excited to read SOMETHING REAL, Heather Demetrios' debut from 2014. It's the story of Chloe Baker, born Bonnie™, who has lived almost her entire life on reality TV. Her parents' show, Baker's Dozen, chronicled every moment of her childhood—and after a few years of cancellation, it's about to go back on the air. Chloe hated the spotlight enough to change her name in an effort to become anonymous, but she's about to find herself back in front of the cameras whether she likes it or not. This book is a scathing takedown of Jon & Kate Plus 8–style reality TV, but it's also a powerful coming-of-age story as well as a sweet romance, as Chloe gets closer to Patrick, her longtime crush. Bonus: when you finish, you can dive right into THE LEXIE PROJECT, an interactive serial companion novel Demetrios is writing about Chloe's sister, Lexie! Learn more about that HERE

While I was home in Tennessee a few months ago, I read Laura Ruby's gorgeous BONE GAP. Everyone had been raving about it online, and I'm so glad I listened to the hype! When beautiful Roza went missing, Finn was the only person who saw it happen—and since he couldn't describe the kidnapper, no one believed him. Now Finn and his older brother Sean are on their own, heartbroken for different reasons at Roza's absence. Meanwhile, Finn just might be finding new purpose and life in his friendship-and-maybe-more with Petey, a local beekeeper who think's she's ugly until Finn finds her beautiful. This book is fantasy/magical realism, and the writing is lovely and dreamlike. As the magic and the darkness unfold, you have to keep turning pages to discover what, exactly, is going on. (And it might not be what you think.) I highly recommend reading this book! 


Sarah Dessen is pretty much the grande dame of YA literature, and her 12th book, SAINT ANYTHING, just came out in May. (Side note: I can only dream of a point in my career where I have 12 published books!!) This is one of my favorite Dessen books. It's about Sydney, whose older brother Peyton has always been the center of attention—lately for all the wrong reasons. Now Peyton's in prison after a drunk-driving hit-and-run that left a boy paralyzed, and Sydney's parents can't focus on anything other than their incarcerated son. After transferring schools, Sydney meets the Chathams, a family that's everything hers isn't: warm, enthusiastic, and loving. Thanks to her new friend, Layla, and a new crush, Layla's brother Mac, Sydney starts to feel like the world isn't such a bad place, after all. While Sydney and Mac were adorable, I loved how much focus in this book was put on family relationships, as well. A must-read for YA fans! 


Finally, I'm so glad I picked up Katherine Locke's SECOND POSITION, about two dancers who reunite several years after tragedy tore them apart. Yes, I gravitated toward this book because it's about ballet, and while I'm working on my dancer-centric second book, I'm trying to stay in that world. But I'd also heard amazing things online—and they were true. Zed and Aly were best friends who'd just become something more when they were in a car accident, which caused Zed to lose his leg and put Aly on the path to a devastating breakdown. At the start of the book, they see each other in a coffee shop. Zed's now teaching at a performing arts school in DC, and Aly's on a leave of absence from ballet while she deals with a serious eating disorder. The chapters alternate between their points of view, filling in their backstory and exploring their anxieties about rekindling what they lost. This is a story about two broken people deciding if they can make each other whole—if they should even try. It handles tough psychological issues beautifully. Definitely check it out! 

Read anything good lately? Let me know in the comments! 


Friday Reads: The 2015 Debuts I've Read Since My Last Post!

The month of May disappeared into a flurry of book revisions, but that didn't mean I wasn't reading! In fact, up until right before my deadline, I feel like I was reading more than usual. Reading awesome books inspires me and keeps my brain ready to pump out my own creative work. I've read about a dozen books since my last Friday Reads post, so I'm going to divide up my commentary. Today, I've got six Fearless Fifteeners debuts you should have on your radar! 

Kate Scelsa's FANS OF THE IMPOSSIBLE LIFE is about three teens working through their struggles together—until the cracks begin to show in their perfect friendship. Mira is recovering from severe depression. Sebby's life in foster care is starting to take its toll. Jeremy has retreated into self-imposed isolation after a bullying incident last year. Mira and Sebby are BFFs who understand each other like no one else does. Jeremy's the new addition to their group, awestruck by the magic they bring to his world and a little in love with both of them. This is a lovely, raw, and heartbreaking book about finding people who change you. It's out September 8. 

Marcy Beller Paul's UNDERNEATH EVERYTHING is about a different kind of friendship—a toxic one. Mattie is starting her senior year off a social nobody, having dropped and/or been dropped by her once-best friend Jolene after sophomore year. But Jolene's hold over Mattie is magnetic. A year apart and a host of hard feelings still can't keep Mattie from finding her way to Jolene at a party she never intended to attend. As the breadcrumbs drop about their former friendship and it becomes clear that Mattie is still very much under Jolene's spell, this book barrels forward on a powerful, intoxicating, inevitable trajectory. A haunting page-turner, out October 27. 

Sharon Huss Roat's BETWEEN THE NOTES is a lighter, more romantic YA contemporary about Ivy, who is forced to move to the wrong side of town after her parents lose their home. Ivy tries to hide her changed circumstances from her affluent friends while juggling a new crush and the unwanted attention of the bad boy next door, Lennie. Ivy's also mourning the loss of her piano, and one major plotline deals with her relationship with music and battle with stage fright. I read this book in a day, rooting for Ivy on her journey toward accepting her new life and figuring out what she wants from the world. It's available now!  

Laurie McKay's VILLAIN KEEPER is the only middle-grade on today's list, and it's a totally charming entry into the fantasy genre—and a twist on the fish-out-of-water trope. Prince Caden of Razzon is whisked out of his castle in the middle of the night. He thinks he's being sent on an epic quest to slay a dragon—but instead, he ends up in Asheville, North Carolina, where he's promptly picked up by social services, put in a foster home, and sent to school. But there just might be magic—and danger—in Asheville after all, and Caden might be uniquely equipped to sniff it out. This is the first in a series, and I can see 8- to 12-year-olds gobbling it up! It's out now.

Lance Rubin's DENTON LITTLE'S DEATHDATE is set in a world where everyone knows the day they're going to die. For protagonist Denton Little, it's…tomorrow. In a moment of crisis, Denton realizes that he's been playing it too safe for the past 17 years and tries to squeeze a whole lot of living into his last 24 hours. From waking up hungover in his best friend's older sister's bed to attending his own funeral (and delivering an epic eulogy) to discovering a weird rash that keeps spreading, Denton has his hands full. And then there's the strange man that says he knew Denton's deceased mom… This book is also out now, and if you enjoy laughing, you should buy it.

Mackenzi Lee's THIS MONSTROUS THING is a steampunk Frankenstein retelling set in 1818. Alasdair, a shadow boy who repairs people with clockwork parts, has done the unthinkable: he brought his brother Oliver back from the dead. When Alasdair's family and future are threatened, his only hope seems to be Dr. Geisler, who pioneered many of the clockwork procedures Alasdair practices. But when Oliver rebels against his maker and their former friend Mary Shelley returns to Geneva in the wake of Frankenstein's publication, the situation spirals out of control. A must-read for fans of historical fiction, steampunk/fantasy, and good books! It's out September 22. 

And…that's it for now! Six fascinating books that should appeal to a variety of readers. Read anything great lately? Let me know in the comments! 

Until next week, 


THE DISTANCE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND is three months old! Let's celebrate.

I can't believe my book baby is three months old!! How time flies. 

I've been wanting to do a giveaway for a little while now, and this seems like the perfect opportunity. There's a rafflecopter below with all of the details! What will you win? I'm giving away five DISTANCE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND water bottles. (They're great—I use mine all the time.) One lucky grand-prize winner will also get a signed hardcover copy of the book! There are several different ways to enter, and the contest runs through Friday, so you'll have lots of time to join in the fun. 

Now I have to get back to revising my next book! Happy reading to all! 


Friday Reads: Catching Up With YA Debut ARCs!

I am so, so behind on my book reviews. Between my book tour travels and having just received my editor's notes for Book Two, I haven't been able to stay on top of my blog. (And, full disclosure, I probably won't be able to blog as regularly for the foreseeable future!) But I couldn't give the awesome 2015 YA debuts I've read recently short shrift! Here are some books you should have on your radar: 

A WORK OF ART by Melody Maysonet (out now!) is about Tera, an aspiring artist whose father is arrested for a horrifying crime. As Tera struggles to resolve her conflicted feelings toward her father and her guilt about the role she played in his arrest, old memories start bubbling to the surface. She also gets into a new relationship with a rebellious guy, who helps her forget, if only for a short time, how her world is falling apart. This is a hard read, but a worthwhile one. Tera's family dynamics are as heartbreaking and as skillfully rendered as one of Tera's own paintings. 

DUPLICITY by N.K. Traver (out now!) is a hacker thriller with a twist. Brandon is a tattooed bad boy—until the day his reflection comes to life and starts cleaning him up against his will. Once the piercings and tattoos disappear, Brandon learns what's really about to happen: his reflection will be taking over his life and living it the way it should be lived. I don't want to spoil much about what happens after that, except to say that Brandon's computer genius skills will be put to the test if he ever wants to live in the real world again. This one is a page-turner!

THE WRATH AND THE DAWN by Renee Ahdieh (out May 12th!) is a lush, engrossing Arabian Nights retelling about Shahrzad, who willingly gives herself to Khalid, the ruler of her land who takes a new bride each night and kills her each morning. Her motive? Revenge—her best friend was one of Khalid's previous victims. But there's more to Khalid than meets the eye, and after she survives the first few nights, Shahrzad is surprised to find herself feeling drawn to him. I could not put this book down, and I cannot wait for the sequel, which is due out in 2016! 

ONE OF THE GUYS by Lisa Aldin (out now!) is a sweet story about tomboy Toni, whose best friends are all guys. After a prank-gone-wrong gets her sent to an all-girls school, she's flailing, feeling like her friends are pulling away. In a last-ditch effort to fit in at her new school and to keep her guy friends close, Toni launches a business venture: she'll "rent" her friends out to girls who need a fake date for an event, to meet the parents, or to get rid of an unwanted admirer. Hijinx ensue—and Toni learns what (and who) she really values along the way. A fast, fun read! 

LAST YEAR'S MISTAKE by Gina Ciocca (out June 9th!) is a romance as well, but in a much more dramatic vein. Kelsey hasn't seen David for more than a year when he shows up at her new school. They used to be inseparable; now, they can barely look at one another. But David's return throws Kelsey into a tailspin of memories about everything they shared. The book jumps back and forth between senior year and freshmen/sophomore year, filling in Kelsey and David's backstory gradually. By the end, I had ALL THE FEELS. 

DATING DOWN by Stefanie Lyons (out now!) is a verse novel about a romance gone very wrong. Samantha fell for X (she won't use his real name) because he was mysterious and edgy and bohemian—the opposite of how she sees herself. Plus, she feels like her politician father and his new wife could not care less about her needs. But when she gets sucked into X's party world, she discovers a darker, more dangerous side to this guy of her dreams. With striking images and a believable downward (and back-upward) spiral, this book is a quick and vivid read. 

And…that's all for now! Phew! 

Have you read any of these? Got any recommendations for me? As always, please share in the comments! 


Tennessee Book Tour Recap!

The past week has been pretty amazing, courtesy of my first-ever book tour. What started as wanting to do a single book event in my hometown turned into school visits, signings, a bookstore appearance, and more! I spent the first half of last week in Nashville, and then headed east for events in Knoxville and Maryville (where I grew up). And let me tell you, Tennessee rolled out the welcome wagon. :) 

Here's just a little bit of what I was up to last week: 

Monday 4/13: Flew to Nashville. Spent the day with family (sister, brother, sister-in-law, nephews, and even my uncle and aunt who live in town). 

Tuesday 4/14: Visited Nashville Public Library branch to talk to a librarian contact there. Also stopped by Parnassus Books to check it out and introduce myself. (What a beautiful store! Hope I get to do an event there in the future!) 

Wednesday 4/15: My first-ever school visit! I spent the morning talking to 9th, 10th, and 11th-grade English classes at Brentwood Academy, a private school in Brentwood, TN. We talked about how a book gets written and published, how to deal with writer's block, what authors inspire me, whether my book will ever be made into a movie…and John Green. Everyone wanted to talk about John Green. :) But in all seriousness, I had so much fun and the kids asked such good questions. Plus, the school librarians put up a nice display in honor of my visit and had me sign their library copies. School visit success! 

After I was done at BA, I headed into Downtown Nashville for coffee with two cool local YA writers that I know from Twitter, Ashley Herring Blake and Jeff Zentner. These two both have debut novels coming out in 2016, and I can't wait to get my hands on copies. 

Thursday 4/16: My brother, sister-in-law, and the nephews drove me to east Tennessee, where my parents still live. After a quick rest at home, my dad and I headed into Knoxville, where I had a bookstore event at Union Ave Books with Lauren Morrill (Meant to Be Being Sloane Jacobs). Lauren and I went to high school together, and she has been such an amazing champion of my debut. I was so excited to get to share a night with her and chat about our books, our writing process, and our high school memories! Plus, Lauren brought her adorable 6-month-old along—after admiring him online all this time, it was so fun to see him in person. :) 

Friday 4/17: One of the main purposes of my visit: I spent the whole day speaking at my high school, Maryville High School in Maryville, TN! I did four presentations over the course of the day for 10th-, 11th-, and 12th-grade English classes (plus a few students from other classes who were interested in hearing from me). I was pretty nervous about talking for more than 50 minutes at a time (the school is on block scheduling, so class periods are an hour and 20 minutes total!), but when I got into the groove, it went really well. Again, the students asked amazing questions and covered some things I hadn't even thought to include in my formal presentation—so I have tweaks to make for next time. I also had the pleasure of meeting some teens who had already read my book, which was super cool. Several pointed out lines that had resonated with them, or wanted to ask about Hallie et al's life after the book ends. One girl even called herself my first super-fan. So yeah—I now have super-fans. Yay! 

MHS 1st and 2nd periods.JPG

Look at all the high schoolers I got to talk to! A little bit intimidating, and a lot amazing. The top left pair was 1st period, the pair below that was 2nd period, the top right pair was 3rd period, and the bottom right was 4th period. The school was selling my book at a discount, so I got to sign a lot of copies. And a few students even stayed after for a reception in the library to chat with me further! By 4pm, I was exhausted—but thrilled with how everything went. 

Saturday 4/18: I'd wanted to sleep in on Saturday morning, but with two nephews under three in the house, that didn't happen. So, after some morning playtime and Curious George watching, it was time to head to my local book signing at Vienna Coffee House in Maryville. I was thrilled to see so many of my parents' friends—many of whom have known me since I was really little—show up to get their copies signed! I also sold copies to people who'd read it and wanted to buy more as gifts, or wanted to wait and buy it directly from my hands. So much hometown support for a debut author! I left this event feeling so grateful and happy. 

Sunday 4/19: Speaking of grateful, one of the last-minute things that came together for this trip was the Pie Party my parents' church decided to throw in my honor. Look at all that pie! I signed more books, talked about this book and my next one, and got a lot of hugs from people who—you guessed it—have known me since I was only *this* big and always knew I was going to grow up to do great things. I also ate too much pie, and completely spoiled my dinner. :) All in all, it was a lovely end to a lovely, exciting, exhilarating week. 

So there you have it! My first book tour is in the bag. And I talked to several teachers and librarians who want me to come visit them in the fall, so hopefully this will be the first of many southern book tours to come! 

Now that I'm back in NYC, it's back to the usual routine—which includes major revisions for my next book. More on that later… :)


Friday Reads: Dangerous Ballerinas Edition

I didn't plan this, I swear. But somehow, these two highly anticipated YA books featuring dangerous ballerinas ended up back-to-back in my reading queue. It must have been fate, because I LOVED them both. LOVED! 

And not just because I'm a dancer—though that certainly helped. :) 

TINY PRETTY THINGS is a debut by two of my fellow New School grads, Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton. It was pitched as Pretty Little Liars set in a prestigious ballet academy, and while I've never watched or read PLL, that feels pretty accurate. This book is dishy and dramatic. It's also an incredibly spot-on look inside elite ballet dancers' brains. I was impressed, page after page, at the authors' ability to capture the commitment, the neuroses, and the lingo of the ballet world. There was never a moment when I felt a detail didn't ring true—and I'm pretty picky about books featuring dancers. So what's this book about? Bette has always been top of her class—until new girl Gigi shows up and immediately lands a starring role. June, meanwhile, is stuck as perpetual second-best, and her mom is threatening to pull her out of the academy. Pranks are pulled. Plots are hatched. There are breakups and breakdowns. And at the end…let's just say I was screaming for Book Two, which is out next year. TINY PRETTY THINGS releases in May! 

Nova Ren Suma's THE WALLS AROUND US has been one of my most anticipated non-debuts of the year, and it absolutely did not disappoint. Nova's writing is beautiful. Her books are eerie and captivating. And the premise of this one put it at the top of my TBR stack. THE WALLS AROUND US is narrated in alternating sections by Amber, an inmate in a girls' juvenile detention center, and Violet, an aspiring ballerina. Their stories come together via Orianna, Violet's former friend who was convicted of a horrific crime and ended up as Amber's cellmate. That alone would have intrigued me, but the book is also a ghost story—you find out early on that Amber and the rest of the inmates died a few years before Violet's narrated sections take place. What happened to them unfolds gradually, in lyrical prose that is a pleasure to read. This book is out now, and I definitely recommend it. 

More book reviews next week! And as always, thanks for hanging out at my blog. :) 



Welcome to the Spring 2015 YA Scavenger Hunt!

Welcome to the 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 material from their favorite authors...and a chance to win some awesome prizes! At this hunt, you not only get access to exclusive content from each author, you also get a clue for the hunt. Add up the clues, and you can enter for our prize—one lucky winner will receive one signed 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 72 hours!

Go to the YA Scavenger Hunt site to find out all about the hunt. There are EIGHT contests going on simultaneously, and you can enter one or all! I am a part of the BLUE TEAM, but there is also a red team, a gold team, a green team, an orange team, a teal team, a purple team, and a pink team. Each team will be giving away a huge selection of books! 

If you'd like to find out more about the hunt, see all the authors participating, and see the full list of prizes up for grabs, go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page.

Here's How It Works:

Directions: Somewhere in this post, you'll find my favorite number. Collect the favorite numbers of all the authors on the blue team from their respective posts, and then add them up (don't worry, you can use a calculator!). 

Entry Form: Once you've added up all the numbers, make sure you fill out the form here to officially qualify for the grand prize. Only entries that have the correct number will qualify.

Rules: Open internationally. Anyone below the age of 18 should have a parent or guardian's permission to enter. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the completed entry form by April 5, at noon Pacific Time. Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered.

So Let's Get To It!

I am hosting author Colleen Houck on my website for the YA Scavenger Hunt! A New York Times bestselling author, Colleen is a lifelong reader whose literary interests include action, adventure, science fiction, and romance. Her first four novels, Tiger's Curse, Tiger's Quest, Tiger's Voyage, and Tiger's Destiny, were New York Times, USA Today, and Publishers Weekly bestsellers. Formerly a student at the University of Arizona, Colleen worked as a nationally certified American Sign Language interpreter for seventeen years before switching careers to become an author. Colleen lives in Salem, Oregon, with her husband and a huge assortment of plush tigers. 

Find out more by visiting Colleen's website! You can preorder her latest book, REAWAKENED, on Amazon HERE


When seventeen-year-old Lilliana Young enters the Metropolitan Museum of Art one morning during spring break, the last thing she expects to find is a live Egyptian prince with godlike powers, who has been reawakened after a thousand years of mummification.

And she really can’t imagine being chosen to aid him in an epic quest that will lead them across the globe to find his brothers and complete a grand ceremony that will save mankind.

But fate has taken hold of Lily, and she, along with her sun prince, Amon, must travel to the Valley of the Kings, raise his brothers, and stop an evil, shape-shifting god named Seth from taking over the world.

From New York Times bestselling author Colleen Houck comes an epic adventure about two star-crossed teens who must battle mythical forces and ancient curses on a journey with more twists and turns than the Nile itself.

Bonus Content From Colleen: 

Hello Tiger Fans! 

I'm so excited to bring not only one fun reveal to the YA Scavenger Hunt this season, but two! This first piece is a never-before-shared sneak peek of my new book REAWAKENED, which comes out August 25th! In this scene my heroine, Lily, and my hero, Amon, are in Cairo looking for clues as to where Amon's two brothers might be buried. It's his job to awaken them so they can help him perform a ceremony to align the sun, the moon, and the stars. 

Soon we came upon a building that had been made over into a club. Techno music blasted and beautiful young people lined up, waiting their turn to get in.
“What is this?” Amon asked.
“It looks like a club. A place where people dance and celebrate,” I added.
“My people dance?”
“Well, yes. People dance all over the world.”
“Then, come, Lily. We will celebrate with them.”
“I don’t think I’m really in the mood.”
“What do you mean? What is a mood?”
“Mood is a feeling . . . like when . . . ugh, it’s too hard to explain.”
Amon peered at me in the darkness, his eyes flashing. He tilted his head, then said, “You do not enjoy dancing.”
“As a rule, no.”
He continued to focus on me, quickly discerning more than I was willing to show outwardly.
“You believe it is a poor use of your time and you are . . . embarrassed.”
He’d pretty much hit the nail on the head. It was strange to have someone pick up on every little thing I was thinking. “Quit analyzing me, Sigmund Freud. I have my reasons and you don’t need to know every little thing.”
Ignoring my statement, Amon continued to address the issue. “Lily, first, there is no possibility that your lovely, soft limbs could move in any way that would cause you shame. Second, there is enough work in the world, Nehabet. What good does it do to excel if you don’t relish in your achievements? There must be a balance. Even a king celebrates. If he did not, how could he rule effectively?
“You must allow yourself to feel . . . joy, Young Lily. You must take pleasure”—Amon pressed his lips to one of my hands and then the other—“in just being alive.”
The irony was that I’d never in my entire life felt more alive than I did the moment Amon kissed my hands. He’d kissed my forehead before, but when he touched his lips to my hands, electricity shot through me. Even though I knew his passion was more about enjoying life than about me, it was still powerful, and there was a part of me that wanted to latch on to that. “All right,” I acquiesced softly. “We’ll dance.”
The inside of the club was dark and warm, but the music was fantastic—techno funk with a wicked beat and a slightly exotic sound. Immediately, I felt out of place since most of the women wore tight little dresses, high heels, and heavy makeup. Amon was leading us to the bar when I shouted above the din, “I’m going to the restroom! I’ll be right back!”
The atmosphere was pulse-poundingly hot, but when I finally found the bathroom, it was an almost frigid contrast. Air-conditioning blew onto the women standing in front of the mirror primping and I wondered if the men’s room had the same feature or if it was specially arranged to keep the ladies happy.
After removing my clunky boots and swapping them out for sandals, I quickly changed into the skirt I’d brought and then plucked at my T-shirt, wondering what I could do to make it look more like I was going to a club than to a farmers’ market. I was standing in front of the mirror frowning, when a girl applying lipstick asked me a question in another language. I just shrugged, lifted the hem of the tee, and made a thumbs-down sign.
The girl pursed her lips and raised her eyebrows, gesturing at herself, and when I nodded hesitantly, she pulled a pair of tiny scissors from her purse. I was even more hesitant then, but she didn’t make a move until I nodded again.
With deft hands she cut the neck out of the T-shirt, making a wider neckline so the shirt slipped off one shoulder. She then took the bulk of the T-shirt hem and tied it in a knot at my back revealing an inch or so of midriff. Finally, she turned me around to gather the hem of my skirt.
I was going to protest her cutting it, but she set down the scissors and wrapped the material around my body, tucking it in at the side so that I ended up with a sarong skirt that stopped just at the knee on one side and about halfway up my thigh on the other. I’d never in my life worn anything that left me feeling so exposed.
As a parting gift, the girl handed me her lipstick and rolled some of her perfume on my wrists and neck. The scent was exotic—a light floral and musk. I freshened my lipstick and fluffed my hair, said a quick thanks, then left the bathroom to seek out Amon.
After checking my bag and taking a claim ticket, I scanned the bar. Amon wasn’t there or seated in any of the sections around the dance floor. Deciding he must have gone outside for air, I headed in the direction of the door, then stopped when I heard a ruckus coming from the dance floor that was even louder than the music.
Nudging aside enough women so I could see what was going on, I was shocked, not at seeing Amon in the middle of the crowd or his skin gleaming as if he were under a spotlight but at seeing him dance. I’d expected his style to be exotic and very different from modern dancing, but I hadn’t expected that he would be doing a male version of belly dancing.
Amon had ditched his outer shirt, so the only thing covering his taut torso was the thin white T-shirt, which clung to him so tightly it looked like the seams would burst at any moment.
He turned in a slow circle, abs undulating and pelvis rotating in a way that was sensual enough to be illegal. Amon’s dancing was like a mashup of Elvis and the Chippendales. The human sun god was a stomach-dropping, chest-popping, feet-sliding, shoulder-swaying, hip-rotating, flutter-inducing, liquid locomotive, and I was surrounded by women who couldn’t wait to buy a ticket.
As Amon turned, his eyes took in his admirers and he paused. A huge smile lit his face as he shouted out to the crowd surrounding him, “Thank you, ladies, but my Lily has come. I wish to dance with her now.”
Amon held out his hand and I stepped forward, ignoring the gasps from the women around me. One by one, they turned aside, some good-naturedly, some with jealousy obvious on their faces.
As Amon took my hands and began moving his body again, I jerked awkwardly back and forth in small movements and then leaned close to his ear. “If you think I’m doing what you did, you’re crazy!” I said.
He drew me closer and then turned in a circle, matching each step with the beat. Then he slid his hand down my arm, took hold of my hand, and turned me, too. I was surprised I didn’t miss the beat. By the time a few songs were over, I felt much more confident and was actually having fun. Amon spun me around until I collapsed against his chest, dizzy and laughing.
Eventually, the music changed to something slow. Amon seemed confused at first, and he watched with a curious expression as the other dancers paired off. A woman who’d been watching him before returned and asked him to dance. He shook his head and answered, “I am not meant for you. I am dancing with Lily.”
As she left, I took a step forward, closing the distance between us, and ran my hands slowly up his muscular arms, over his shoulders, and around his neck. After standing stiffly for a few seconds, he relaxed and pulled me tightly against him. Slowly, we began moving together. His hands, splayed on my back, moved inch by tantalizing inch downward until they reached the bare skin at my waist. Wedging me even tighter against his body, he put his forehead to mine. The side of his mouth tickled my cheek.
If I shifted just a bit, I could be kissing him. But I was too much of a coward to make the first move. His hands slid to my hips and then back up to my waist. The tension and nervous energy I felt as his electric fingertips stroked my bare skin was driving me crazy. To distract myself, I stood on tiptoe and asked, “What did you read in her thoughts?”
“Whose thoughts?” he answered in a husky voice. His eyes, a darker shade than I’d ever seen them, glittered as they searched mine. “Ah, the woman who asked me to dance. She hunts for a companion to fill her lonely nights.”
“I imagine most of the people here are looking for that.”
“Yes. But she seeks for something empty. She holds out no hope for love.”
Tilting my head at an angle to see his face better, I asked, “Do you?”
“Do I what, Nehabet?”
“Hold out hope for love.”
Amon paused. His body froze in a way that anyone who’d seen him dance would have thought impossible. He didn’t answer but instead took my hand and said, “Come, Lily. It is time to go.”
He seemed impatient as he waited for me to retrieve my bag. When we stepped outside, I wanted to take a moment to allow the night air to cool my heated skin, but he tugged me along, not giving me a moment to think. We had barely rounded the corner of the club when Amon suddenly stopped and pulled me roughly against him. Before I could even form a question, he murmured some words in Egyptian and we were sucked into a whirlwind.

The second reveal is that I can now share with you the title of book two in the REAWAKENED series. Book two will be called...


If you're interested in a copy of REAWAKENED you can preorder it now on Amazon. You can also enter the rafflecopter on my website for a chance to win one of 12 prizes, including a copy of the book. Good luck!



Hi! It's Kathryn again. Don't forget to enter for a chance to win a ton of signed books by me, Colleen, and more amazing authors! You'll need to know my favorite number: 42. Add up all the favorite numbers of the authors on the Blue Team and you'll have the secret code to enter for the grand prize!

To keep going on your quest to complete Team Blue's hunt, you need to check out the next author, Lydia Kang

And finally, if you've made it this far, you deserve an extra chance to win a signed copy of my book, The Distance Between Lost and Found. Enter using the Rafflecopter below!